Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dictonary of the Daleks

Back in 1964, during the height of the fabled "Dalekmania", the BBC published what was called "The Dalek Book". It was a collection of comics and short stories all about the Daleks and their various exploits. Few copies of it exist today but it offers some interesting insight into the inner workings of this superior extraterrestrial culture. Plus, it apparently came with a fold-out poster of a cross-section of a Dalek. Neat!

Probably the best part was the two page long dictionary from the native language of the Daleks. Like the snippets of Klingon speech in Star Trek it offers some insight into the ways of this warlike culture. But alas, despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to use any of these words in casual conversation mainly because they're words like...

All in all, I'm a little disappointed. Klingon is a constantly growing language with actual scholars and well established rules of grammar but poor old Dalekese has all but been forgotten in modern academics. Like ancient Latin it's practically a dead language. How do we expect to communicate to our future salt shaker overlords when the only idea we can communicate to them is "violent wind that rages through Skaro once every six years"?

Though I have to admit Oquolloquox is a fun word to say.


Who knew they were so poetic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rock Lobster

In my continuing search for the elusive Übermensch my thoughts often return to the sea. In those briny depths live a great many creatures that could be the progenitors of some bold new master race; the honorable Mantis Shrimp, the wise Octopus, the steadfast Barnacle even the Comb Jelly, who spends it's solitary existence contemplating the cold, inky darkness of the Challenger Deep. These are all organisms that, with some bio-engineering, could rise up and conquer the Earth, maybe even the stars themselves.

Except for dolphins, they're all douche bags.

Granted, the title of "Supreme Race and Masters Over All The Earth" are some serious shoes to fill. We can't let any old starfish claim this privilege and ab
dicate the throne when things heat up. What we need is a wise creature with years of experience. Nay, decades. Centuries.

We need Homarus americanus, the American Lobster.

At first glance the common lobster doesn't look like it's up to the task of world domination. It has a crippling disadvantage when faced with it's two greatest enemies: rubber bands and hot water. Surely such weakness brings dishonor to it's name and disqualifies it for a chance at being the Übermensch. Right?

Wrong. What the lobster lacks in fortitude and general intelligence it makes up for in sheer longevity.

First, we need to understand why animals die of o
ld age. Every time an animal's cell replicates it must copy it's DNA. Strands of DNA are "capped" with nucleotides called Telomere. Essentially, Telomere keeps the DNA strand from "unraveling" and losing it's precious genetic information during the act of replication (called mitosis). Therein lies the fatal flaw called the Hayflick Limit, with every replication the region of telomere gets shorter and shorter, like a roll of bubble tape slowly getting chewed to nonexistence. When the telomere runs out, the cell stops replicating, entering a period of senescence where it will eventually die off, never to share it's genetic material with a younger generation ever again.

A sorry state of affairs to be sure. But some cells manage to resist this biological death sentence and keep replicating ad infinitum to their tiny heart's content. Unfortunately these cells are more often then not cancer and this will not do.

We need a creature that can replicate it's cells forever, but we can't let it's cells conspire to kill it from the inside out. Again, we need the lobster. O
nly the lobster offers an elegant solution to the problem of the Hayflick limit: the enzyme telomerase. The enzyme's function is deceptively simple: it restores the telomere at the end of it's chromosomes, in turn allowing it's cells to replicate without limit, in turn allowing the lobster to essentially live forever.

Some lobsters have been captured and held in captivity who's age has been estimated to be over a hundred years old, such as George the lobster who lived in the City Crab and Seafood Restaurant in New York from December 2008 to January 2009. When was he estimated to have been born? 1869. This makes him well over one hundred and fifty years old, probably more since it's 2012 and we assume George is still alive down there in the murky depths (and I am most certainly going to assume that).

Plus, lobsters don't get decrepit with age. Research suggests that lobsters don't slow down, weaken or lose fertility as they get older. In fact, they become more fertile the longer they live. Lobsters are in essence, crunchy little dragons of the sea
in this regard. Or Highlanders. Barring accident, injury or disease Lobsters are effectively immortal, able to pass their wisdom down their ever expanding family tree and grow to truly immense proportions, able to crush entire cities with their enormous claws. Now that's an Übermensch.

Plus, in a little quirk of genetics, one out of every two million lobsters produce an excessive amount of a certain protien which interacts with a red carotenoid in their shells to form a molecular complex called crustacyanin, giving them a festive blue color.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Coverus Maximus

With the current economic crisis, the decreasing value of the housing market, political upheaval in Africa and the Middle East it's hard not to feel a little, well, hopeless. But don't feel entirely down and out, because there's a little ray of sunlight even in the grim darkness of this year, 2012. Can you guess what it is?


If you guessed "Album Covers" I have some bad news for you...

King Of All The Taverns by Little David Wilkins

Aaaaaaaah! People would take me more seriously if I didn't have to constantly hold my jacket closed so it wouldn't burst at the seams! Aaaaaaaaaah!

Cha Cha Cha!

Cha cha cha!?

Y Kant Tori Read by Tori Amos

This is a shot in the dark, but I'd say it's because the sheer weight of her hair crushed the part of her brain that remembered how books worked.

Stay in school kids.

Beserker by Gary Numan

Sorry Gary, but you have to play by the same rules as everyone else. If Ziggy Stardust couldn't make that look work then you can't either!

What's Next? by Foster Edward's Orchestra

You receive no points for guessing a stampede of angry elephants in Ringo Starr wigs. And no, I don't know how just two elephants count as a whole orchestra.

Mike Terry at the Pavilion Theater

Terry didn't want to rule out the possibility that he would have to use his costume to clean a toilet bowl at some point. (I've never seen someone work the Chris-Chan look so well!)

Gracias Pour La Musica by ABBA

No gracias a los monos. No bueno. :C

Dance by Gary Numan

Alright this is more like it Gary! I'm loving that polyester look, it really brings out your inhuman, robotic skin-tone. Seriously, we won't think you're less cool for going out during the day time.

Senor Coconut

Oh my god...they're called Senor Coconut? This...this doesn't look half bad actually.

Superman Every Night and Every Day by Alla Pugatjova

It's safe to say that Russian Superman leaves much to be desired.


Heino strikes again! No one can resist his greatest hits!

You know, Heino reminds me of somone...but who? I just can't put my finger on it.

Any ideas Huell?

"Gosh, I'd say it's just an amazing coincidence!"

Hmm, maybe you're right. How about you Duke, remind you of someone?

"Doesn't ring any bells."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tower Power

As I alluded to about a month ago, I've been helping Ramzca design a tabletop role-playing game, which takes place in the mystical city of Adelphon. The goal was to combine film noir-style detective fiction with a setting similar to the works of Jorge Luis Borges. The result I was hoping for was a setting that was at once dark and brooding but almost paradoxically bright and colorful. In my mind I imagined Adelphon to be constantly sunny, every street was a winding cobblestone path and every building was a beautiful French villa, their facades covered in lush green ivy.

At least that's why I hoped for. But alas, Adelphon isn't so much a city as it is a war zone now. See, Ramzca has been playing a lot of World War II games recently and it's obvious from talking to him in Steam Chat that it's affecting his thinking. As a result every question he comes to me with about the setting isn't about local culture or the history of the city. It's about how many pieces of military equipment he can cram into the campaign and how many landmarks he can demolish. Every discussion we have devolves into talk about nebelwerfers or battleships appearing to destroy the city in one fell swoop. He's even alluded to actual Germans invading Adelphon, which really has nothing to do with the story as I understand it.

Basically, he's systematically ignored every suggestion I've made. Plus, I'm all but certain he's forgotten that the main characters were supposed to be telepathic (he's actually told me he's removed some elements of gameplay involved with telepathy in order to focus more on gunplay). The result is less "Quasi-Mystic Detective Fiction" that I was promised and more "Alternate History World War II". At the very least I was able to convince him to make our version of The Germans into giant inter-dimensional crabs so at least there's that small victory.

His strategic undermining of my work is never more obvious then what he plans to do to the setting as a whole. I don't mind telling you that I spent a fair chunk of time coming up with a rough cosmology for this game, drawing maps of this city according to his specifications and giving it a personality, a history. He plans to ignore all that, totally remove the city of Adelphon from the game and have it all take place inside a flak tower.

It goes without saying that this is totally outrageous.

Granted, while this change flies in the face of everything I planned for the setting it's at least a change with some serious potential. For those not in the know, the flak towers, or die Flaktürme, were truly enormous concrete fortresses built in Hamberg, Berlin and Vienna around 1940. As Wikipedia will tell you, the flaktowers were used by the Luftwaffe as defense against enemy bombers and served as air-raid shelters during the war, arguably doing their job too well.

Hitler himself was deeply involved in their design and construction, insisting that they be huge and well armored. In a mere six months the first flak towers were built. It was such a Herculean undertaking that the entire national rail system had to be rescheduled to divert concrete, steel and lumber to the construction sites. The result? Huge, diabolical towers with walls of 3.5 meter thick concrete, bristling with anti-aircraft guns that could fire at a rate of 8000 rounds per minute from multiple levels of the tower with a full three-hundred sixty degree range of vision. Under extreme duress, the towers could house around 10,000 civilians and even a fully stocked hospital ward. They were for all intents and purposes nigh-indomitable.

When the RAF flew bombing runs over Germany they did everything they could to simply avoid the towers altogether. It was simply futile to try and crack through their superior armor. When the Soviets invaded Berlin they had to maneuver around the towers because they simply could not inflict any damage on them, not even with their cartoonishly oversized 203 millimeter howitzer cannons. Plus, the soldiers inside the towers eventually turned their anti-aircraft guns to fire at targets on the ground, turning the ground around the towers to a blasted wasteland from which there was no escape. Eventually, their reign of terror did come to an end, not because the Soviets were actually able to break through the concrete, but because they finally ran out of supplies and eventually surrendered on their own volition. It could only be assumed that if they managed to start pumpkin farms on top of the towers they might still be there today.

In fact, the towers are still there today, simply because the effort needed to tear them down would be too much work. Theoretically, an RAF Grand Slam bomb would be enough to tear down the G-Tower in Berlin, but the sheer explosive yield from it's detonation would probably be enough to demolish the rest of Berlin with it.

They were nothing short of modern-day castle keeps constructed from sheer malevolence.

So yes, I stand by my opinion that moving the game's setting from a sunny sea port town to an irresistible tower of doom to be deviating from the original plan just a bit.

But I know what you're thinking; "Where would this impenetrable tower of evil be exactly?". Space apparently. Not anywhere in particular in space, just floating around in a nebular void of some kind. One can't help but feel like he hasn't exactly thought this through. Much like another totalitarian dictator I can mention.