So, my son Vincent decided that he was tired of playing the XBox One, XBox 360, the PS2 and the Nintendo 64 and the DreamCast, … and he had a Christmas gift card he hadn’t used yet. He decided on a new game console, suitable for 2018 gaming.
As much as I like Ghost In The Shell, in truth, the very idea of merging organic musculature and nerves with machinery has been something I’ve been having problems conceiving. Fortunately for the rest of the world, Japan is not limited by my knowledge of biochemistry and mechanical engineering. A robotic finger uses it’s lab-grown muscles to lift an object – which might not seem like such a huge advancement to people expecting, but most people don’t really think about how complicated joint control, muscle movements and neural signals are – until they lose the ability to use their hands. While primitive in appearance, the advancement in artificial muscular response to electrical stimuli is still a large step forward in not just partially organic prosthetics, but also potentially in purely organic repair of muscle function – at least in my view.
While full limb biohybrid mechanical prosthesises are still far off, this new development opens up the possibility of (relatively) small advancements that can be practically applied. As I’ve noted above… fingers are very complex, and you don’t miss them until you don’t have them any more.
I recently came across some very interesting articles, which I thought I would share with my readers and friends. While the articles are a bit old – a couple of years as of this posting – I still am delighted with the scientific discoveries.
Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.
An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.
Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.
How awesome is that? And seriously, how sci-fi is that to imagine? In my head, I see a a mini movie, complete with fwaaaaaaahhhh~~~ sound effect, the moment conception happens. And it seems to me very fitting, because how miraculous is life? How wonderous to behold. (And come on, it’s loads more fun to imagine it happens that way.)
First off, congratulations to the various authors who were nominated to, and are on the finalists for Dragoncon’s Dragon Awards! Larry Correia, who is a finalist, has a list of the other finalists on his blog. Another finalist, Declan Finn, has made comments about the reactions; apparently already there is at least one author recusing himself from the ballot, for whatever reason.
However, there is a diverse range of books and authors, as well as games to vote for. Go vote for the ones you liked, enjoyed, the most, or find worthy for whatever reason you wish to use. Don’t let anyone else tell you what to pick or to vote for; this is your vote! And it’s free!
Vote for and support the thing you love! THIS is the award that is really and truly BY THE FANS. This has NOTHING to do with politics, nothing to do with the judgement of the gatekeepers. That’s evident from the finalists that ended up on the ballot!
So go forth, and vote. And most importantly, have fun!
So, waiting the 30 minutes before New Year ticked over, we saw a short advert for Silver K Gallery’s current exhibition: Star Wars and Superheroes. So of course, being the huge fans of science fiction and fantasy art that we are, we had to go. Rhys and I took our kids with us, since they enjoy Star Wars and figured that they’d enjoy having a look at the art prints on display. After impressing on the children that they had to behave and not be wriggly energetic things, we paid the entrance fee and went in.
Vincent soon found himself upstairs, with his sister trailing behind, while we parents took a more leisurely look around. There was a delightful little print featuring Kermit the Frog and Yoda sitting side by side, which had me appreciating the meta joke, and several utterly breathtaking pieces that made me wish I had the money to buy the prints and room to display them on. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but I can appreciate the art. The pieces on display were limited signed print runs, most of them on canvas, and they’d also be framed for the purchaser.
Contrary to the limitation of Superheroes and Star Wars art, there were some pieces on display that weren’t from those franchises – there was a lone Firefly piece that would have been delightful on any fan’s wall, and a couple of Star Trek items that had my heart going doki doki doki – An Alex Ross signed artist proof’s print run, that had William Shatner’s signature as well. The Star Trek pieces were on the stairway wall, while the Firefly piece would surprise you on the way back out of the gallery.
Finally catching up to the kids, I approached Vincent and started to show him the flyer with the print prices on all of the displayed artworks, saying that people could buy them if they wanted to. He immediately turned to a piece and pointed. “How much is that one, Mum? I like it a lot.”
I looked it up and saw that there were two versions available: the canvas print version, which was on display, and the paper print version, which was much cheaper (more than half), and showed it to him. He was shocked at first, and taking my parental cue, I told him that’s why he has to be VERY careful and not touch or bump into the displayed artwork.
I went to look at a piece that Rhys called me over to see and admire. After a few minutes, Vincent came over and asked, “Can’t we get it? I really, really like it. Even if I gave up my allowance for it?”
I said, “We’ll see.”
Long story short and a lay-by plan set by the delighted curator, Colin, we were given permission to take a photo of a determined soon to be 9 year old who wanted to invest in artwork by Japanese Artist Mimi Yoon, next to the print on display. He is going to get the paper print though, because there was no way he could afford the canvas print.
Rhys and I were able to work out arrangements for prints we fell in love with and were able to talk ourselves into setting down payments for. I simply could not pass up this artist’s proof print of Alex Ross’ The Final Frontier, signed by the artist and William Shatner. (Numbered 14/15!)
Now, prints aren’t really a big thing of mine; but I do understand the value and why people would collect them. My reason for not collecting them has to do with considerations of space and expenses; which is why I prefer to collect figures and art books. That said, I’m very happy to find a place for this breathtaking print. Colin said he was able to request William Shatner to sign the artist proof prints at a convention here in Australia, which is why they’re double-signature prints. Fangirl mode engaged!
Rhys got himself a signed canvas print of Jerry VanderStelt’s Black Heart. Rhys isn’t a very big Star Wars fan, but he really liked this piece and felt that he’d not regret having it up on his wall. (I don’t think he really knows the character either!) But as a work of art it’s well worth having and I was being the bad influence and encouraging him to get it. Colin was very happy to work with us on that as well. I think though, in the long run, I think Colin’s a fan who is happy to work with people in getting an addition to their collection that they will truly enjoy. The impression I got of him was that he really enjoys what he does, and gets pleasure from seeing other people enjoy what he enjoys too.
With the day’s outing though, my greatest joy wasn’t in the obtaining of artwork, but in seeing Vincent carefully think about buying the print he wanted very much. I talked to him for quite a while about it, saying that he’d be without allowance for months helping pay for the print, and that he’d not have money for things like books and other nice things that he might want later on. He would go quiet for a bit every time, and think, then say “I’m okay with not having allowance for a long time,” or “they look really, really cool though,” and repeat that he really wanted the Bad Girls print, instead of say, the various awesome Iron Man ones there (which he is a BIG fan of.) It wasn’t something I expected him to do, and be so decisive about. In fact, both Rhys and I are very proud that he wasn’t bored at the gallery (there’s lots of cool pictures here!) but he lingered the most at the superheroes section of the gallery, and chattered away with the fine lady who was minding the door for entrance fees, who was also quite impressed that Vincent was so determined to own a piece of art. “You’re raising them right,” she said. Well, we are raising the next generation of people who will enjoy science fiction and fantasy; though we’re also pretty pleased with how this one’s turning out so far! (Big thank you for being patient with their chatty friendly selves!)
The prints we will eventually own will also be framed, and since it’s likely we’ll be back here by the time we finish paying it off, we’ll probably pick them up then too.
If I’d been rolling in pots of money though, I would not have minded picking up this,this, this and this, simply because having them up on the same wall would make for a striking and awesome display.
I plan to save up for this piece at some point though, because the juxtaposition of the classic Japanese themes and style, plus R2D2 shouldn’t work, but it totally does and tickles my brain in good ways.
The Silver K exhibit, at 1092 High Street, Armadale, Victoria, Australia, runs until March 13, 2016. They also have various prints of other popular art pieces, as well as a number of certified original animation cels from Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures. They are open Wednesday to Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday. Check out their site for times (for most accurate and recent updates!)
First off: I’m home from the hospital. Yay. Not so yay: Blood pressure medications are making me rather useless – as in, I’ll be asleep most of the day, unable to do more than wake long enough to feed myself, then conk right back out again. This isn’t as nice as it sounds, because I still have to try pull together the brains to do some basic stuff like ‘what will I eat and how will I cook it?’ Yes, it’s that bad, but the dosage of meds are keeping my blood pressure somewhat stable and at least the bubs’ umbilical blood flow has normalized. He’s doing well, though sluggish in terms of movement. I’ll endure this for as long as I can / he can – which is probably the next few weeks going forward, if all goes well and nothing new crops up.
Secondly, and this is also big news: Thanks to Vox Day, the several years of harassment by Yamamanama, aka Andrew P. Marston, are over. The wonderful Kate Paulk was kind enough to message me on my phone while I was strapped abed to a ctg scan, and a quick glance at my email shows a number of emails from several other wonderful people who sought to inform me of the awesome news, including Vox himself assuring me that Yama is very unlikely to be able to continue his harassment and stalking. From the post, I gather though that Yama is still going to try circumventing his new restrictions so for the near future, if anyone spots comments from him and his usual list of spewdonyms, please note the following request from Vox:
While Yama did subsequently take advantage of what I suspect was access outside his home to post a short comment on Brad Torgersen’s blog under the name of Alauda yesterday, I have already reported it to the police and they are addressing the matter. If Yama posts additional comments anywhere else, please bring them to my attention right away so that I can report them. I expect there will be a few more minor incidents of a similar fashion as Yama attempts to evade his newly imposed restrictions.
Markku kindly attributes that I “was integral in bringing Yama to justice”, but I humbly submit that it is far more likely due to Vox’s efforts, as well as my dear friend, housemate and resident web admin, Aff, who was instrumental in helping this end (since, y’know, Aff is the guy who handles the back end stuff and I’m just the writer who doesn’t manage site administration…) Read the whole post and the comments. It’s interesting, to say the least.
There are some details which, I grant, have me very curious about the affair as a whole, but I doubt I’ll ever have my curiosity satisfied (blame the curiosity about the details on the analyst in me) and if I am ever informed it’ll be months down the track. As the case is still ongoing it would be irresponsible of me to say more, but suffice to say there are a number of odd little twists in this that I think none of us involved ever expected. So for the time being, it’s a wait and see what happens.
Allow me to express bogglement at the trolls who are somehow certain that ‘this didn’t happen, it’s all a bluff’ over at Vox’s blog.
For now my current focus will be, as it has been for a while, the health of my baby and bringing him to this world.
Say hello to my little friend.
Sorry, crappy cellphone pic, but she’s one of the Christmas presents I got from Aff. The fun part is, this didn’t cost him any money. Yep, you got that right – my new portable lappy was a freebie – a prize actually, that he won from a gaming competition. She’s lightweight and runs cool, and has the keyboard type that I like and Aff finds uncomfortable. And she’s an ASUS! She comes in just in time because I’ve completely burned out my poor old netbook, which I used largely for writing on. Sadly, I don’t know if he can be revived. It may be that he just couldn’t handle the heat of local weather.
It needs requoting, but you should also read the original post on his LJ.
“Still mortified about our fallen cartoonist colleagues, but free speech will always win.”
No it won’t.
The history of the human race demonstrates /very/ convincingly that free speech is the /exception/ to the human condition, not the rule. For millennia, those who spoke out were imprisoned or killed. Hell, you could say something that wasn’t even subversive, just inept and stupid, and be destroyed for committing the crime of lese majeste.
Make no mistake. What we have today is a level of freedom and self-determination on a scale unparalleled in the history of our species. We live in what is, in many ways, a golden age. So much so that we give tremendous credit to the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
But everyone always forgets the first half of that quote:
“Under the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword.”
I’m not sure I know of anyplace that’s ruled by anyone “entirely great.” That adage wasn’t a statement of philosophy, as it was originally used: it was a statement of irony.
Don’t believe me? Look around. Notice that everywhere you go in the world, whoever happens to be ruling seems to have a great many swords.
Still, the idea contained within the quote is a powerful one–that intangible ideas, thoughts, and beliefs can have tremendous power. And that’s why we should be paying close attention.
After all, intangible fear can be mightier than the sword, too. Hell, it has been for quite a while now. Don’t believe me? Try getting on an airplane without taking your shoes off in the security line. While you’re doing that, try cracking a joke about having a knife.
That’s the power of fear, guys.
We. Are. In. Danger.
The threat isn’t aimed at our government or our borders or our resources. It’s targeting something far more precious–our identity. It’s changing us, who we are, how we live, and not for the better.
The Western world has got the biggest and sharpest sword the planet has ever known, yes. But the extremists are armed with a weapon just as powerful: Fear. And these nuts are really good at using it.
There is /one/ way that freedom, freedom to speak, to choose, to grow, to believe, to improve, survives in the face of violent attack.
Free men and women defend it, violently if necessary–or it dies.
It’s that simple. It really is.
If we forget that, if we forget that there are predators in the world who very much want to destroy those freedoms in the name of their god, their philosophy, their politics, if we forget that our freedoms /can/ and /will/ be taken away if we sit staring and do nothing, they are as good as gone.
Freedom doesn’t defend itself.
We have to do it.
That’s a huge contrast to Scalzi apologizing to Muslims for what happened over in France. Hat tip to Vox Day on that one, since I don’t keep track of Scalzi.
Respect for Butcher, Correia, Hoyt, and so many others +++++++ infinity. This is a freedom of speech issue. This is a Western Civilization issue. It needs defending, or we lose everything.