On a sand-swept wasteland, Horatio Nullbuilt, version 5, and his floating companion Crispin Horatiobuilt, v. 1, live in their broken rocket-ship of a home – until the day a big robot with laser-shooting claws steals their power core, leaving them with days or weeks to find a replacement before they and their home are left helpless and drained.
It’s MacGyver in the post-robot revolution-apocalypse, or Pajama Sam‘s more intellectual older brother, and a slow start didn’t prevent this point-and-click puzzle game from having a profound, slam-bang ending.
Plus, I and my “gameplay associate” completed it without consulting a walkthrough (ahem – personal achievement right there)! Continue reading →
The Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week is “Read In One Sitting Theme”. I’ve filed my choices into three categories: stories that drag you along, begging to be read all at once; stories whose length and format suit them to comprehensive reading; and stories suited to periods of interrupted reading time.
We used this as our bedtime story once. Mr. O’Brian puts his chapter breaks in exactly the right places – in a way. While we didn’t quite finish it in one read-through, the story pulled us along from chapter to chapter, long past when Dad had first said, “Well, just one more.”
I’ll admit Necromancer Awakening has one of the most gripping opening chapters I’ve seen. Nicholas Murray, archeology student, is getting ready for his adoptive father’s funeral – a man who took him on as a teenager and got him where he is now – when supernatural visions cloud his sight and he’s sucked into another world before his girlfriend’s eyes.
I’m afraid the first third of the book was a struggle to get through. While I acknowledge that being yanked away from everything you’ve ever known would be stressful and disorienting, the cliché of whiny, clueless protagonists and grumpy, impatient mentor-figures gets old fast. Continue reading →
In this episode of Dragnet, a military officer’s wife doesn’t see him for two years, and in her loneliness has a baby out of wedlock. To avoid hurting her husband, she decides to secretly give up the baby. It might not sound very profound explained like that, but the profound part is when her husband returns to the country, he not only forgives her, but takes the baby as his own. Now, that’s the kind of romance I can get behind!
2. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane — Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers
While irritating to the traditional romance lovers, I admire Peter and Harriet’s slow, cautious, intellectual courtship. They have emotional baggage and a rocky meeting to overcome, same as any classic lovers, but their relationship plumbs the integrity of their characters, without focusing on superficial aspects such as appearance or kissing. It may have taken three books to get to the engagement, but they did get to an engagement – which is of course the proper way to conduct a romantic relationship.
And when’s the last time a gentleman said it was the girl’s talent for telling the truth that attracted him to her? More, please.
3. Princess Irene and Curdie — The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald
Princess Irene (the young one, not the magically allegorical one) goes through a lot – from goblins attacking her mountainous childhood home, to the nobles of her father’s court conspiring against her family. One thing she can count on, though, is her good friend Curdie the miner coming to her aid. He does have his own struggles and faults, but his devotion to his princess (plus the help of her great-grandmother) carries them through.
Sure, the prince was smitten from the first moment they met, but as he says, “She wasn’t just a pretty girl…She was so much more than that.” One more reason the recent live-action movie was a positive improvement on the original animated film, in my opinion.
5. Jo March and Professor Bhaer— Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
I admit to having a soft spot in my heart for literary people and relationships, and I for one couldn’t be happier that Laurie recovered from Jo’s rejection and married Amy, and I think this arrangement of couples suits the participants best.
I always related with Jo, given our shared love of writing, and having her marry an intelligent, scholarly gentlemen who urged her to aspire to higher things in her writing just seemed most fitting.
(Same goes for Rose and Mac in Alcott’s Rose in Bloom. Bookish guys are the best.)
6. Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan — StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty & Heart of the Swarm
It’s hard to communicate the impact of this relationship in just a few words. When Sarah is taken by the alien swarm the Zerg and transformed into a genocidal monster, Jim chases to the ends of the galaxy to rescue her. Then, in Heart of the Swarm Kerrigan believes he’s been killed and takes back the power of the Zerg Swarm to avenge him. Even after seeing her undo his work – and embrace the power her hatred gives her – Jim, while knowing their chance at a relationship is done, still covers her back…’cause that’s what a gentleman does.
Writing for “lads”, G.A. Henty’s adventure stories didn’t usually dwell on a relationship with a female. There were exceptions; but for this example I’d like to mention Cyril in When London Burned, who early in the book met his landlord’s daughter, and even had an adventure rescuing her from a villainous suitor. Near the end of the book, they tell Cyril that she’s engaged. The young lady blushes heavily. Cyril smiles and asks who the lucky man is.
Ha, ha! It’s some young man we haven’t heard of before! You didn’t think Cyril would marry her, did you? He ends up marrying a girl who was at least mentioned in passing; while her character was not really explored, he did rescue her from the Great Fire of 1666, so they at least have that…
It’s hard to call this one a romance, since he’s a human super-soldier and she’s an artificial intelligence (AKA computer program), but they do have some neat chemistry (when she’s not being annoying) and their professional relationship of mutual respect, trust, and care just sends shivers down the spine.
One of the disappointments in this book was the way it didn’t tie off its romance-string-art. The upside of this, though, is that every reader can pair off their own personal favorites with no canon to nay-say them. If I had my way, I’d marry off the tech wizard and the sniper chick.
11. Eris Morn and Cayde-6 — Destiny, Bungie
Eris herself has a tragic back-story. The sole surviver of a six-Guardian team that invaded the fortress of the evil Hive, Eris’s melancholy is matched only by her penchant for dire warnings about the Hive…and her disdain for Cayde.
In contrast, Cayde-6 is upbeat, energetic, and determined to get Eris to smile again. Of course, he did have her ship blown up – accidentally – while fighting the Hive…which led to an “awkward conversation.”
It could just be one professional – one soldier of the Light – trying to encourage another and goad her out of her despondency…or it could be Cayde teases Eris – and she loathes him – because of some other connection. Hey, a fan-girl can dream, right?
Kimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little. Join the mailing list to learn more about her upcoming cheerful post-apocalyptic series!
Ex-assassin Azriel Odin – who has been working with the police to counter organized crime – lands on the mafia-controled planet of Barracus to meet a friend from ten years ago – and his own brother – who now hope to defect to the police.
Meanwhile, a young man called Delta-Six wakes in a forbidding facility with no memory. He’s told that his memory was wiped after an escape attempt, and that if he cooperates with certain “tests” he’ll be released.
What can I say? This game’s premise grabbed me from the start, and with the gameplay, puzzles, characters, story, and ending, it delivered an experience that still has me in “game-hang-over.” Continue reading →
5 Ways to Fix a Little Brother Who Grew
The brother. At first he was a manageable size – perhaps bread-box sized. Next he started moving around, and was more dog-sized, but that was all right, since you’d grown, too. Eventually, he was allowed out of the high chair, because he was too big for that, but you didn’t need to investigate your options prematurely…
Then. Then you got up one morning and there he was: an enormous creature, towering over you. How? Why? And how was it you weren’t consulted?
Take heart – I’ve walked this path, too. I feel the trauma, and I have 5 solutions to offer the desperately out-grown:
Bricks on his head.
Ideally, this should be done before the growth takes place, but if you are at a stage when slowing him down won’t help, the best you can hope for is that they’ll 1) telescope his spine, or 2) give him a bad stoop, bringing him back to eye-level.
2. Platform shoes.
The poor girl’s solution, and not really feasible if you are a short older brother.
3. Instill in him a proper respect for authority.
Again, this is ideally begun at an earlier stage, but there’s no harm done in attacking the root of the issue. Young men who respect their elders and betters will naturally refrain from dominating the head-space.
4. Only appear next to him in forced perspective.
This might seem like a band-aid solution, but if it protects your pride, that’s a vital organ to protect.
5. LAST RESORT SOLUTION: Bludgeon him into submission and make him crawl on his hands and knees.
This should only be undertaken under the most drastic of circumstances. Tip: if bludgeoning is not an option for moral, physical, or financial reasons, hiding his game controller or unplugging his computer might yield similar results.
(If you succeed in subjugating him, congratulate yourself! You may have lost the height battle, but you’ve gained a minion, and the usefulness of those as cannon fodder and hero-distractions cannot be minimized.)
Kimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little. Now she writes to give the people living in her head a chance at life, and to make beautiful things with words.
Her wonderful little brother turns 19 on February 8th. 😊
I’m pretty excited. This past week I finished what was essentially my first wood-working project ever: a shoe shelf to help clear our coat room floor of the jumble of shoes.
To imitate my process and make your own beautiful log shelf, just follow these steps:
Select a log roughly as long as your shelf will be wide. Also select a thickish branch to serve as the supports on either side.
Decide the log is about four inches too long, and start to saw off the end with a hack-saw. Either at this step or later, begin to de-bark the log (I preferred using a hatchet for that).
Decide that this is taking too long, and that you don’t actually need the end sawn off. Measure and mark off three demarcations (in preparation for sawing the log into four boards, for four shelves).
Begin sawing the first board down vertically – with a hack-saw.
Decide this is taking much too long, and you need help. Get Dad to teach you to use the electric straight-saw.
Start cutting out five boards instead of four – the branches as walls/supports idea wasn’t that good, so you’ll use the three internal boards as shelves, and the two outer ones (after you finish de-barking them) as the sides of the shelf. Brilliant!
Decide this whole sawing thing is taking altogether too long, and convince Dad to teach you how to use the electric chain-saw.
Saw your five boards with the chain-saw. This will take a few sessions; also, cut as straight as possible so one of the boards doesn’t come out with weird gouges where you had to correct your path…ahem…
Once the boards are finally cut, you can use the sander and sand them! This is a good step to make sure the two ends are as de-barked as you want them to be. (I didn’t bother de-barking the shelf-boards, but I did remove any loose, dirty-looking bits with the hatchet.)
This lumber is not from a store.
After sanding, ask Dad’s help holding the pieces together while you pound in the nails.
Find out it’s better to put the heavier ends of the support boards on the bottom. Also, please note that your log was not straight up-and-down, so all your boards have cunning curvature to them now.
After Dad has pounded in some of the nails, change your mind about how you want the boards to be arranged (after you find out the one for the middle shelf isn’t a proper size, the one for the top shelf isn’t the proper size either, etc.).
With the help of your charming and obliging brother, nail the rest of the boards together, with the two curved sides arranged vertically as the supports/walls/ends (so, I hope you have something else to do with that branch…ahem). Also, this step will teach you that driving nails into a raw log isn’t nearly as easy as Dad made it look. Many nails will be bent, most likely.
The shelf is assembled! Time to varnish it! If you’re following my process exactly, you won’t have any varnish in the house, so will have to wait before proceeding.
Coat the shelf with water-soluable, clear-drying epoxy varnish to protect it from bugs and dirt, while preserving the nature look of the wood. (Bonus points if your basement – or wherever you’re doing this project – floods with ten inches of water at around this step.)
At least it still matches the aesthetic.
Remember the curvature we mentioned in Step 11? This has make your shelf tilt backward, meaning that if you set any shoes on the top shelf, it might fall over. Fortunately, we have a section of this very log that we sawed off in Step 2 (back when we still thought the log was three or four inches too long). Using the natural curvature of the wood, use this piece to fashion shims under the backside of the bottom shelf.
Varnish the shims.
Get a piece of felt big enough to cover the whole bottom of the shelf. Glue the felt (I used hot-glue) to the shims and the front part of the bottom shelf where it will touch the floor. You can then trim off any felt that would show around the edges, and some of the felt that won’t actually touch the floor because it’s above the level of the shims.
Set the shelf in its place, felt-side down.
Put shoes on the shelf. HOORAY!
The shoes are not on the floor. Mission accomplished.
I haz rifle – and a pet spider. Ergo, I’s awesome.
Rangers Apprentice, by John A. Flanagan, is a series highly recommended to me by a good friend of mine. It follows the adventures of a group of characters in a quasi-mystical land where “Rangers” (Rogues, Hunters, Hide-in-shadows-shooting-with-deadly-accuracy-awesome, whatever the name is) train and serve the king of Araluen.
Sadly, it is also the series I think back on when I think of the wrong way to do cliffhangers. Differences in fiction taste aside, here’s why I loved the first book, but finally gave up on the series.
The Case Studies
1 The Ruins of Gorlan: They have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied…
On the planet of Netaia, Firebird Angelo comes from a royal family that rules the stratified civilization with a rigid tradition of honor and detailed religious code. As an extraneous heir, Firebird faces the obligation of suicide once her older sister delivers a second child. Meanwhile, her planet nation prepares for war against the nearby Federation of planets.
While easily melodramatic, this sci-fi culture is handled well, the characters are nuanced and compelling, and the book overall was one I enjoyed. Continue reading →
If you’re like me, you’re pretty familiar with the mythos of A Christmas Carol, but have never actually read the original. This year, I remedied that.
Charles Dickens’ original story of rich, cantankerous, “Bah-Humbug” Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas, and the joy of celebration is available on Project Gutenberg and on Amazon as free ebooks (or as an audiobook!), so there’s no barrier to enjoying this classic tale.
As I read Dickens’ version of the story, three things jumped out at me. Continue reading →