Roleplaying Science Fiction and Fantasy

Powdered Water!

From the Wikipedia entry on William Hope Hodgeson’s 1912 far-future SF novel, The Night Land:

Powdered Water and Food Tablets
Hodgson’s hero sets out into the Night Land carrying lightweight food tablets and a sealed tube full of “water-powder.” When a small quantity of this powder is exposed to air, it absorbs water rapidly from the air, reacting rapidly and producing drinkable water. While lightweight dehydrated foods exist, water-powder is scientifically implausible (though see deliquescence), but together these serve to explain how the hero can carry enough food and drink to survive his journey in the inhospitable Night Land.

Great minds, Bo, great minds.



I cut my hair. Took a pair of scissors, grabbed a fistful of the hair on the right of my head, cut it, grabbed a fistful of hair on my left and cut that too. Between the right and the left, I realized I’d cut too much. This wasn’t shortening the tips. My hair was shorter then it’s been in twelve years. And because of the way I cut it, I can’t tie it back to keep it out of my eyes, until it grows at least a finger’s length more.

I tried to figure out who this silly seventies/eighties hair style looks like, and I think it’s sort of what my nephew has.
Goodbye Robert Plant, hello Tom hpvphvhpv!!!.

me, after
my hair, after

Blather Software and Programming

Sweet, sweet /dev/null

Dada spam word of the day: tuberosity boudoir.

Talk about statistical improbabilities.

More then a year ago, I complained about spam-mail bounces cluttering up by inbox. But I didn’t really bother doing anything about it for a long while. And in recent months, the weekend spam-bounce-storms have gotten very bad.

So this Saturday, on a whim, I added a small rule to the bottom of my .procmailrc file, dropping any message sent to the SF society domain that wasn’t specifically filed elsewhere into the dark oblivion of /dev/null.

Ah, blessed silence.

Oddities Software and Programming

Genomic Music and Greasemonkey

Here’s an article by some folk who’ve made a tool for converted protein sequences into musical tones:

We have converted genome-encoded protein sequences into musical notes to reveal auditory patterns without compromising musicality. … The conversion will help make genomic coding sequences more approachable for the general public, young children, and vision-impaired scientists.

You can go to the article page and listen to an MP3 of Human thymidylate synthase A.

And, to prove that bioinformatics geeks are as geeky as they come, you can install a Greasemonkey script that lets you play any sequence in a webpage.

Blather Science Fiction and Fantasy

Pan’s Labyrinth

I saw Pan’s Labyrinth on the Saturday evening just before national Holocaust memorial day. After seeing it, I found the timing fitting.

Pan’s Labyrinth isn’t about the Holocaust, but it is set during World War 2, although in the isolation of post-civil-war Spain, the one country in Europe where the fascists actually won. And it has a lot of the imagery we associate with WW2/Shoah stories – an oppressive fascist army lead by a sadistic captain, partisans in the woods, an atmosphere of fear , hunger and the hovering shadow of death. The heroine, Ofelia, and her mother are in a very real sense refugees, moving to live in the country with the mother’s new husband, the aforementioned sadistic captain, after Ofelia’s father died in the war.

As a child protagonist, Ofelia is refreshingly mundane, and although the world of fantasy she escapes to is rendered in glossy CGI, the character and her story remain firmly grounded in the grim reality of an ordinary withdrawn and imaginative girl struggling to escape a terrifying and oppressive world. I suspect there’s a bit of sleight of hand here regarding the weaving of the fantastic and the real – the viewer’s expectations are focused on the distracting “goth muppets” and it’s only gradually that we understand how closely the fairy elements reflect and comment on the harsh state of affairs around Ofelia.

A little detail that struck me was a scene where Ofelia is tempted by a forbidden fairy feast. The temptation of food doesn’t seem like much to us, I think, not when you match it with the threat of a very real supernatural wrath; but for someone who suffers from real hunger, like a medieval peasant or a child in wartime, food is a strong lure.