Archive for the ‘sf’ Category

Mayday 1990 – Leonard Nimoy and the Bank Stickdown

January 11, 2012

SPNN Entertainment, Harvard Square, North American Landmass, Sol III – My heartbeat quickened as I dodged and weaved across JFK Street (which many of the natives still called Boylston Street), avoiding the primitive manually-controlled internal combustion groundcars. But it was a one-way two lane thoroughfare, and they were moving slowly, towards the busiest intersection in this Earth town called Cambridge.

The non-digital traffic control lights overhead ordered stops frequently to allow the native hoards of students, workers, and non-native consumers and tourists to safely cross the street – a technology not much more advanced than bearskins and stone knives. The trinary fuzzy-logic green-yellow-red sequence of incandescent lights in the unnetworked controller were intended to be translated as move, prepare to stop, and stop, by driver and pedestrian alike. In practice, all the sentient lifeforms interpreted them as move, move faster, and rapidly decelerate.

It was difficult to ignore the heavy smell of incompletely burned fossil fuel in inefficiently tuned and maintained piston engines. This was ironic, since the bank’s building housed the famed automobile mechanics advisory firm of Click and Clack, producers of Car Talk on the third floor; confusingly, their office window was labelled Dewey, Cheetham & Howe

Reaching the odd-numbered streetside’s non-slidewalk, I turned right and slowly strode along the unpowered sidewalk towards the bank on the corner, trying to avoid drawing attention to myself. But the 2D movie company had recently finished filming its Harvard Square scenes and the additional native crowds of onlookers had left, and my long black hair covered my ears.

As I perambulated, my mouth was dry, and I hefted the light bag I was carrying. After all, I was walking with a note demanding a raising of hands and a transfer of cash. It was a crime to take money from a bank in this manner. But I had travelled through time to this May day in 1990 for a specific purpose, and was determined to go through with it, despite the risk.

Leonard Nimoy holding a cup of coffee

Leonard Nimoy in Harvard Sq directing "The Good Mother"

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“How About a Game of Thermonuclear War?” – DEFCON Steam Special

December 28, 2011

Steam Games has a mammoth two-week Christmas holiday sale with daily specials up to 75% off, and other sales ending January 1st 2012. Yes, you’ve missed the one day sales for 50% off strategy game of the year Shogun 2, and 33% off RPG game of the year Skyrim, but there is also a summer sale too.

The classic DEFCON is normally U$9.99, but is U$2.49 until January 1st [1pm EST Jan 2nd]. A Steam account is free, there are no monthly charges, and you can buy extra copies of DEFCON at the 75% off price and store them in your account inventory until you recruit other players or give them as birthday gifts later in the year.

DEFCON screenshot from Introversion Software

Remember the 1983 movie “WarGames,” in which a young hacker breaks into the central NORAD computer and is asked “How about a game of thermonuclear war?” DEFCON: Everyone Dies reproduces the look of the movie’s NORAD control room; NORAD’s comment was “their central command room looked better than ours.”

This is a fun and quick strategy game against the computer or up to 6 players allowed online, net or LAN, Mac and PC, and very accessible to non-hardcore gamers. Players of the Risk and Diplomacy board games would likely enjoy all the opportunities to betray your ephemeral alliances with other players. You can choose game variations and make many changes to the game conditions to enhance replay value.

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classic game Portal free through Sept 20th

September 17, 2011

Here’s a free Portal game offer from game publisher Valve for physics teachers – and everyone else, too!  Portal was published in October 2007, and went on to become one of the most popular and innovative computer games in history.  Its sequel, Portal 2, came out in April 2011.

Gamespot, a respected game review magazine, says “Valve is giving away original puzzler through Tuesday, hopes educators will use it to help teach physics, critical thinking to students.”   Portal free offer info at Gamespot

And Valve may possibly gain a few thousand or hundreds of thousands of new accounts to add to Steam’s more than four million existing users.  🙂

You awaken in a room at Aperture Science Lab as the game starts, and are equipped with the “Portal device” which can grab objects, and creates portals on most surfaces – an oval blue portal exit, and an orange portal entrance.  Using gravity and your wits, you are given a series of puzzles to solve; once you’ve solved all 18, which are a tutorial course in using the portal device, the game shifts into a more challenging time-pressured set of levels.

In gamer nomenclature, it’s a “first-person shooter” game.  But the distinctive difference is that you aren’t using a traditional gun.  The Portal device is a grappler, teleporter, and eventually can be used as a deflecting shield.  Read the Wikipedia article about Portal for a detailed summary of the way gravity, mass, and redirected momentum can be used by Chell, the player-character, to survive. Happily and refreshingly, Chell’s physical appearance is not the stereotypical video game’s big-chested woman, and she is expected to solve her own dilemma. (more…)

A Tourist MarsGram

August 3, 2011

Red Dragon passenger lander arriving on Mars-click for a larger version

A friend sent me a news clipping from his local Florida newspaper about a private-sector proposal for a one-way Marsbase scenario, and joked that he’d expect me to be one of them, sending a MarsGram back.  Then I saw a still from a SpaceX video in a Red Dragon Mars lander story.
So I sent him a MarsGram postcard.  🙂


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