If you stick your hand through a portal to another dimension, what would you want to pull out?

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Mornin’ all,

I woke up in the middle of the night with a burning sci fi question and it didn’t resolve itself through subsequent dreams. Thought I’d pop on here and run it by my fellow geeks. It’s pretty heavy, so you might want to shotgun that coffee first.

“Did YOU make the coffee, Bethie?”

Nope. Teen3.0 did, and he makes it the best out of any of us. It’s still that Maxwell House bullshit, but I’ve had a whole cup already and it hasn’t popped, sizzled, or wept softly once. ‘S good. Chug-a-lug, because I need all your neurons firing.

“*tentative sip* I feel a slight tingle…”

You’re just gun shy from the last time you were over, when the coffee gained sentience and claimed to be a dark overlord who wanted to eat your firstborn. Come on, down the hatch.

“*shrug* *gulp* Am I still alive?”

Truly alive for the very first time. Now, set the cup down, put on some smarty pants think-y glasses, and furrow that brow so I know you’re really giving this problem your all. Ready?

“Hrm, yes, quite.”

Ooh, beard stroking! Nice touch.

Okay, so here’s the question:

If the cosmic “you” was somehow able to reach into a different universe and pull from it an object to bring into our own universe, upsetting the balance of matter, what would be the logical result? Would something in our universe have to be destroyed to compensate? Or would our universe simply adjust and adapt? And if it would adjust and adapt, wouldn’t that still have a limit? How much new matter could be crammed into our universe before SOMETHING had to give? And how, exactly, would that straw break the camel’s back? Would things start imploding? Mini black holes? Or would there be a larger, more catastrophic collapse? How about dimensions? Are different dimensions part of our universe or part of a separate one? If they’re part of our universe, then moving one thing from that dimension to this shouldn’t matter in terms of, well, matter, should it? And how would one know that they’ve reached into a different dimension rather than a different universe entirely? Is there a litmus test? Any telltale signs that their thievery is only a moral problem and not an actual threat to the very fabric of the entire universe?!

*deep sigh of relief*

Boy, feels good just to get it all out! I have been chawin’ on this one for hours and my man, who is normally an incredible sounding board for these types of questions, was snoring so peacefully that I didn’t want to wake him.

Here’s the set up that brought about the midnight think fest:

I had a dream that “I” figured out a way to open a portal. Kind of standard sci fi. I didn’t know where the portal lead, but when I looked through, the world seemed very similar to our own. I didn’t actually travel through the portal, because apparently I am still a chicken in my dreams, but I saw a little table and screwed up my courage to grab it and pull it back into the field where I was sitting in this world.

“Hold the phone, Bethie. You had a dream where you could actually reach into a different friggin’ universe/dimension and take any number of strange, new objects, and you chose to bring back a TABLE?”

…I…well, the thing is…it’s just that…

*sigh*

Yes. Yes, I did. I stole a table. The first relic I chose to bring into this world from another was a table.

“*snort*”

Can we stay on topic, please? The object doesn’t matter. I took something from there, brought it here, and then freaked the hell out. In my dream, I sat there next to the portal, holding the table and panicking.

See, a generally accepted theory is that universal matter is finite and must remain balanced. Matter is neither created nor destroyed blah blah stars-n-shit. Lots of sci fi works within this concept. Some does not. I’m trying to figure out which side of the coin is more plausible. And not just for a story. I legitimately want to know the answer.

I guess it would depend on a few key factors, huh? First, we’d have to know if there are other universes, or if we’re the only one. Then we’d need some sort of understanding on the nature of dimensions. Are they planes within our own universe, or do they indeed offer a way into another? And that whole matter in a delicate balance concept that geeks and brains alike tend to lean on…is that actually factual, or just an easier way to avoid the “then what the hell is churning out new matter!?” question?

So many layers. And all over a table.

It was a neat little table, though. When I was a kid, my Grammie had a huge spider plant which sat on a tall, thin white table with a mosaic inlay on the top. I can remember that little table more clearly than a lot of other memories from childhood because my brain is a silly organ that remembers the weirdest useless shit. Now, the table from the other dimension drew my attention just as that one did and…

…wait a minute.

Hang on now. Was I…I mean, did I…could I possibly have opened up a time travel portal instead of the inter-dimensional rift!?!? Is that what the dream was really about?

HOLY SHIT. What if that was the case? What if I was drawn to the table because I KNEW that table?

…whooooaaaa…

Dreams, man. Dayum. I’mma have to think on that one for awhile.

My questions still stand, though. No matter which message I was supposed to glean from the dream, I’d kind of like to know if there really is a finite amount of matter allowed in our universe. That seems important. If the answer is yes, then we know what we shouldn’t do. If it’s no, then we know all we can do.

And yes, I know a lot of big brains have been mulling this one over for a long time. I don’t think the brainiacs that do this for a living are going to crack the code and find the answers. I think it’s actually going to be solved by sci fi fans. I really do. Think about it. We’re not bogged down in numbers and the politics of respecting the theories of our colleagues. We’re not wrapped up in the rest of the scientific community. We don’t have a personal stake beyond our deep hunger, so we’re far more willing to look at all possibilities. We’re not driven by a paycheck, or a thirst for fame. We’re simply driven by the story.

And what better story is there than the universe itself?

Thus concludes a look into the abyss for Thursday, February 25, 2016. I’m off to contemplate the time travel twist while I clean my dining room. Yes, I’m cleaning the hoard. Or, trying to, anyway. It is shockingly a lot harder to UNhoard than to “rapidly acquire,” as Teen3.0 kindly puts it. Now, I don’t know if any inter-universal beings read my blog. But, if any do and they want to rip open a portal into my dining room and start taking relics, I’d turn a blind eye. Especially if you hit that back corner. Take anything you want from there. Hell, take it all. Consider it a cultural exchange.

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Like stars, novels are born from deep, dark spaces that are best left alone…

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Mornin’ all.

I’m off to a late start today and am already on my second cup of coffee. If the text starts getting jittery by the end, apologies.

I had a series of weird dreams last night, and woke to find my man did as well. Any of you coupled up ever have this happen? There seems to be a vibe some nights. While there’s probably a perfectly logical scientific explanation (my restlessness and physical signs of unease are picked up by his subconscious, which in turn forms his dreams accordingly…blah blah boring blah…), I’d much rather believe in some sort of nebulous shared mind field theory.

i.e.- I’ve got him whipped even in sleep. *evil cackle of glee*

His dreams were a mash up of people and places from his past all confused in space and time. We’ve all had dreams like this, where you mother is now the president of Uganda and orders you to join that kid you used to play with that summer you were five and haven’t seen since, so the two of you can go repair the gaping pot holes on I-91…or some shit like that. These kinds of dreams are odd, and make you chuckle and say, “Huh. What the hell, brain?” It’s as if your mind takes tons of snippets of memory, sticks them in a Boggle shaker, and then tells you to try to make sense of the jumbled mess that results.

Anyway, he had dreams like that last night. Snippets mish-mashed with others snippets to produce one of those Hollywood “insider” films that no one really understands.

I had two dreams last night that I distinctly remember. In the first one, I led a team of scientists on a mission ordered by the government to study and observe all forms of the undead in the wild so Congress could finally get a definitive set of standards of classification and terminology in order to create better protection laws. Those were the parameters of my mission, and it seemed the main focus was to be on determining the scientific differences between “zombies” and the more general “undead,” because in creating laws designed to protect them in their natural habitats, Congress was divided on whether or not zombies truly died first, or simply went into a dormant state from the living virus inside until the virus could multiply enough to control the flesh and make it walk.

A very compelling argument, indeed.

The second dream I had took place in a butcher shop. We were butchering lambs and joking around, when one of the butchers cut into the skull and a disc-like parasite jumped out and landed in his eye. He started sweating and when we asked what was happening, he said, “I saw this back in Canada in ’06. Looks like it’s come to the states!” …I clearly remember that because it was a total horror movie line and you really don’t forget when your brain is that fricken awesome. The parasite began to take hold of his body, and we scrambled to decide the best way to stop the infestation. Alas, I woke before I found out if he made it. Judging by the tense music, odds didn’t seem to be in his favor. Poor Canadian Ralphie.

So, when we woke, my man told me about his dream and how odd it was. I nodded and kept my dreams to myself. I mean, it’s Sunday. And I’m looking forward to a relaxing day wrapping up a video game. I don’t really want to be committed to the psych ward on such a lovely, lazy day.

Let’s see what happened this week in the news. Surely there are things there to discuss that won’t get me a fancy white coat to wear in a padded room!

Some parents of the Newton victims are suing the estate of the shooter’s late mother. This one, this gets me. I understand the parents are still trying to get adequate public blame placed on the event. It’s not about the money, it really isn’t. They want a court to say, “Yes, that mother was a bad mother and failed, and because of it, your child suffered.” But that won’t give the parents the peace of mind they’re looking for, and I can’t help but feel furious at the lawyer leading the charge. That lawyer IS doing it for personal gain. That lawyer has rounded up hurting parents and promised them the first restful night of sleep since the tragedy occurred for personal profit. Sometimes there is no closure. That mother died, too. Lanza’s mother paid the ultimate price. If she was a shitty mum, her son already exacted every possible revenge. There is a time to stop. And greedy lawyers egging these hurting families on is just shameful.

I could go on. The Lanza story hits me in so many ways, especially the handling of the aftermath by the press and public at large, that I honestly could write a book on it. Maybe I will…but not today. Let’s move on to other news as we get back to placidly sipping our third cup of java.

Apple unveiled a watch and Hillary Clinton unveiled emails. Does anyone really care about either of these stories that have ridiculously taken up 90% of my newsfeed headlines this week? With everything else going on in the world, these two stories bombarded all the other stuff. They even had “updates”. Updates? For what? I just literally told the entirety of these two stories in one sentence. No updates necessary.

I don’t want to be angry and sad, and I don’t want to be bored. There’s got to be a story we can really sink our teeth into. I know…video game news!

“Ugh, Bethie. Not more stupid video game stuff I don’t care about.”

Actually, it’s more a business story. Gaming is simply the business involved.

“I feel like this is another trap to discuss Bow-somebody taking power mushrooms…”

*…twitch…twitch…spasm…* *deep, patient breath*

No. I promise I won’t get into any actual gaming details. Need a pot sweetener? It makes a multi-billion dollar international company look like assholes.

“Sold!”

Sony is a thing. They own PlayStation, a gaming console. Wanting to keep hip with the youngsters, they created the PSN, or PlayStation Network. It’s a service that allows PlayStation console users to download demos, games, ads, videos… Think of it like gaming Netflix.

“Okay, I’m with ya…”

It’s been around for quite some time now and is wildly popular. They have millions of global users signed up for the service. And of course, that’s not free. People link a credit card to their account to pay for the games, movies, and subscription fees. Because it’s so huge, with so much cc info stored, it’s a major target for hackers. It’s a bug zapper on an August evening at the swamp.

Classically, Sony has done their level best to keep the hackers at bay. There’s only so much a company can do, though. If there is a piece of technology that is controlled by even a single line of code, then it CAN be corrupted. It’s just the nature of the beast. It’s a challenge. With every new safety feature a tech company adds, the hackers’ jaws set in firmer lines of determination. Now add to that potential billions of dollars unsuspecting users throw into the tempting pot, and the hunger to crack the codes and corrupt the programming only grows.

Hacks happen. In the past, I sighed or chuckled when PSN has gotten hacked, but I’ve never blamed them like some folks do. There is no way to plan for crazy, and there is no way for anyone to know every possible weak point until they are breached. I can’t blame Sony for hackers getting lucky from time to time.

However, the problem with this particular story is how Sony decided to handle the situation when one user with the handle “Kadjar” had his PSN account hijacked and discovered that $600 was charged to his linked bank account. Kadjar noticed the situation almost immediately and contacted Sony’s customer service for help.

So how did egg-on-their-face Sony handle the situation?

By threatening Kadjar, refusing to refund his money, and blackmailing him into dropping any idea he may have had about legally pursuing the thief.

This is how Sony decided to make things “right” with Kadjar. He was told that he couldn’t get his money back. That was gone, even though Sony told users their information was secure on their servers. Kadjar could, however, get a $150 credit in his PSN “wallet” that was good for only buying Sony games and services. Sony said they would then launch a full investigation, which is good, but at the end if Kadjar was, in fact, determined to be a victim and not a scammer, any “refund” would be in PSN wallet credits. When Kadjar protested, he was told that if he tried to contest the charges with his bank, his PSN account would be erased.

“Well, isn’t that a good thing? Doesn’t sound like he should want to be a member anymore to me.”

Right, except that how PSN works is that when you download games that you legally purchased, sometimes for upwards of $60 a pop, the digital rights are stored on the PlayStation Network. It used to be that all games came on a physical medium…cartridge, disc, whatever the hell they call those ridiculously tiny handheld things. Those physical games contained the digital rights within their code. It’s a way to make sure people aren’t pirating games. There’s a unique ID assigned to each and every game that’s needed to play it. If the game system can’t see the code, you can’t play the game.

What Sony was saying was not that he just couldn’t be a member of the PSN anymore, but that he would lose any and all rights that he already legally paid for. Forever. He would have to get a new PlayStation, since his PS ID would be banned, log on with different information, and re-purchase all of the content.

Just to be clear, Sony point blank told poor Kadjar that if he took any further steps to get his OWN MONEY BACK, they would steal EVEN MORE from him.

Now, Kadjar posted a screen grab of his first interaction with PSN customer service on his Reddit account. He contacted them through their live chat. The info in it is sort of vague and unclear, so Kadjar not only called customer service to get clarification and posted his breakdown of that convo, he did a little digging and found three other similar user stories that supported his own experience. Sony ass kissers are quick to point out that it’s a Reddit user and we have no way of knowing the actual facts. Sony haters are quick to ignore some of the ambiguous language in the original chat.

My point is that either way, it does not at all look good for Sony. As I said, hacks happen. There’s a valid point that in these types of situation, the company is also a victim and shouldn’t be expected to be held responsible. I can see that POV, and actually could agree with it in this case IF Sony didn’t tell the dude he had to stop legally pursuing refunds through his bank. That’s where they totally crossed the line into Assholeland, in my opinion. You can’t threaten to suspend a user’s account for doing what he’s SUPPOSED TO DO when he gets robbed simply because you’re afraid it’ll make your company look bad.

Bet Sony’s rethinking that choice themselves at this moment! This made mainstream news. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any type of investigation into their business practices, or if this, too, will be swept under the rug alongside Kadjar’s $600.

And lest you think I’m simply a Sony hater, I’d just like to state, for the record, that I don’t think Microsoft, Nintendo, Steam, or any other similar networks are any different. In fact, they probably ALL handle hack victims the same way. I’m not fan-girling for one or the other. I think they ALL handle hacks poorly. Sony just did it in a way that kind of sums up every individual complaint into one pile of shittery.

It’s about time stories like this make the news, especially with the industry shift away from physical copies of games into downloads and cloud-stored rights. As embarrassed as Sony might be, this is actually GOOD for the gaming industry. If the future of gaming is going to rely on cloud services, then these issues are the next big hurdles the industry as a whole MUST start to get a handle on. Hacks aren’t going away, and the more people sign on to use cloud services, the more faith they put in these servers. If the industry doesn’t get its act together and offer some better level of protection, and satisfaction when their safety nets fail, they’re GOING to start losing customers. That WILL happen and then the industry is going to find themselves scrambling against the demand for…

“…*snore*…”

You put up with it longer than I thought you would. *shrug* Guess I can’t complain.

Thus concludes a gamy Musing for Sunday, March 15, 2015. I’m leaving you with my favorite quote from my favorite author who shuffled off this mortal coil this week.

“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.”

Sir Pratchett, you will be missed.

Is that a Weeping Angel or a Barbie doll?

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Mornin’ all.

I meant to chitchat with you yesterday. However, Margarita Tuesday struck and faded into the hazy blur of Why The Hell Did I Do That Again Wednesday.

You know how when you’re in your 20’s and you can drink and party all you want, then shake it off with nothing more than a smoke, a shower, and a cup of joe the next morning? I remember those days. I remember those carefree days warmly.

I mean, today I do. Now that I’m feeling myself again, I can think about those crumply rough starts and how quickly I could shake them off. I can even give a rueful, fond smile for that bygone ability.

Yesterday, though, there was no warmth in that memory. There was only pain.

I’m not a big drinker. That makes me a lightweight when I do participate in margarita nights. I know this. I am not a child. I understand my limits and normally I actually stick to them fairly well.

However, this time, there were mitigating factors. It was warm the past few days. WARM. I opened a window, I cleaned my bedroom. When I pulled out of the driveway, I was shocked to discover that the berms had melted enough to let me actually see the traffic coming. FROM BOTH DIRECTIONS!!! That hasn’t been the case in MONTHS. Sure, it takes away some of the thrill of going to the store. There’s nothing like the rush you get from not dying when you close your eyes and step on the gas pedal and hope no one’s coming. Real life Frogger. But what you lose in excitement, you gain in years of life not spent on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It’s a give and take.

I went to the dump in just a tee shirt and sweatshirt instead of fifty fricken layers. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to pitch the bags into the compactor without the constricting bulk of two additional sweatshirts and a parka. Almost overshot with a few bags, in fact.

I wasn’t the only one in a good mood. A dude at the dump decided the weather was so nice that he didn’t have to wear a coat at all. Or a shirt. Perhaps a bit premature on that, but whatever. Let those pasty pits get some air! Why not? He also had the windows of the truck down and the country music blaring. Since it was free-for-all, I decided to join in!

” *gasp of horror* ”

…wait, NO. Not like that. I kept my coat and shirts on. Sheesh!

I just mean that I turned MY radio up, too. I have to be honest. I’m not so sure I read that particular social situation correctly. The man did not seem to be diggin’ on the in depth round-table discussion of the shift in political standing of China’s wealthy elite on NPR that came roaring out of my sweet sound system. Maybe there wasn’t enough bass?

Anyway, with a day filled with so much win, how could a pitcher of margaritas be wrong? I was riding the tide, folks. I was so caught up in the not-freezing-my-balls-off thing that I totally forgot I am not an elastic mid-20s chick still.

Yesterday can be summed up in one word: Nope.

This morning I’m back to my usual self. No headache. The coffee is not threatening to come right back up. I don’t have the urge to duct tape a single kid to a chair to stop them from pointlessly fidgeting. All is right with the world.

My world, anyway. The rest of the world is pretty fucked up.

Hey, have you heard about the new Barbie coming out? I mean, in general, why would you? But it’s actually made the news, and is causing quite a stir. Called the “Hello Barbie,” this seemingly innocuous doll actually has the potential to be the harbinger of the robot uprising.

“Bethie, are you sure it wasn’t Absinthe you were drinking the other day?”

Hang on. Listen to this.

Mattel decided that Barbie needed to change with the times. Instead of producing a doll that in any way resembles an actual person, they decided to create and AI Barbie. This is how the doll works. The child presses a button on Barbie and then talks. That data is then quickly uploaded to vaguely explained servers somewhere, processed, and a response is sent back to the evil doll of doom. The idea is that the kid can ask their freaky doll questions, and then receive “real” answers.

Not only can this happen in real time, but these “somewhere” servers store the data as well and use it to create a personality for the doll. For example, if a kid pressed the button and during the recording time mentioned that they liked chicken wings, maybe a year down the road, the Chucky of Barbies would say, “Hey, have you found any good wing places lately? I know you like wings. You should eat the wings. EAT THE WINGS. EAT THEM NOW.”

As you can tell, I’m one hundred percent against this doll. In fact, if I was on the Maury show, I’d come out jumping and twerking and profess to be two-hunderd-and-fiddy seven percent against this white trash ghetto ho.

Hello Barbie is that abhorrent to me.

There are many, many problems with this whole thing. First of all, they are still making Barbies. When the hell will this stop? Look, I had me quite a Barbie collection when I was a kid. I also had a fun time pretending to torture my sister’s Barbies, burying them in the back yard, pulling off their heads, magic markering Frankenstein monster scars on them to ugly them up because hoo baby was the reaction I got from her hilarious…

…what? I never said I was a healthy child.

I get that dolls are fun, I really do. It’s fun for a little kid to dress up a doll in fancy clothes. Back in the 80’s, our Barbies rocked shiny plastic frilly dresses and fishnet stockings with aqua fashion boots. We’d do up the hair. Or, more accurately, my younger sister would spend hours untangling the nylon locks and plaiting them into perfect coifs. I would just twist an elastic around the matted dreads and call it good enough.

But little kids should have little dolls that are reasonable. That are real. That don’t have impossible to attain beauty standards. And stop shaking your head and rolling your eyes at me right now. I’m not talking about making Pudgy Mudgy dollies that are fat, or Flat Linda toys that won’t make the kids feel bad about themselves if they never get boobs. I’m not talking about going overboard and taking it too far. I’m talking about dolls that look like people. Have standard proportions. Have natural looking faces instead of bizarre whore makeup. I’m talking about a doll that looks like it could be someone that the kid can actually grow up to be like. What’s wrong with that?

No, I mean it. Any of you who staunchly support “classic” Barbie looks…what’s wrong with a natural looking doll? THAT’S where Mattel continues to miss the mark. Over and over and over. Pitiful, Mattel. Just pitiful.

The next problem I have is the idea that a doll is recording children playing.

“But Bethie, tablets and smartphones and laptops and all that techno jazz can do the same thing.”

Absolutely. But when you use that kind of tech, you know when that’s happening. As a parent, you know that here is a device that can connect to the world wide idiot network, and you plan accordingly. You know, and you teach your child how to navigate that world.

A Barbie is a doll. It should only ever be a doll. It’s sole point of existence is to remove the tech and the screen from a kids’ hands and make them have an actual imagination for a few minutes.

This Hello Barbie is not that. It’s not just a doll, it’s the whole creepy internet in sheep’s clothing. There are so many levels that make this “toy” a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream.

It’s a doll that can record everything that goes on in your child’s world when they think they are merely playing. Who’s listening at the other end? Mattel just said “servers”, but what servers? Where? Who houses these “servers”? If they are merely “servers”, then how are responses given, hm? There has to be some level of input. Unless the Barbies are already pre-loaded with software that triggers specific responses when a keyword is detected…but if that’s the case, then why does anything need to be uploaded at all? Couldn’t this software just be contained within the solitary unit? Why the need to connect to anything? And the data is being “stored”, again “somewhere”. Mattel claims it’s “secure”, but they would, wouldn’t they? They would claim that no matter what, because their ONLY purpose in life is to make money, and they can’t do that if people think their info is being sold. But. What if it is? What if the C-I-FUCKIN’-A dropped a couple million Mattel’s way and now THEY are in charge of the nebulous “servers”? What if every time your child presses that button, men in black coats and dark sunglasses are jotting down notes about your life? WHEN WILL THE MADNESS STOP!!??

…and really, that’s just brushing the very surface of potential conspiracy theories surrounding this doll. Or, more accurately, “doll”. That’s how a conspiracy theorist would phrase it. I honestly could go on. I could legitimately fill an entire blog with the many conspiracies Hello Barbie sparks. I could even support them. That alone tells you there is something wrong with this “toy”.

To me, though, the most alarming aspect of this hunk of hoochie-shaped plastic isn’t that someone is probably most definitely using it to spy on little children. To me, the part we all should be terrified of is the AI.

Look, folks. At some point in time, we as a race will need to face off against creations of our own making. It will happen. We will keep producing more intelligent robots and one day they WILL wake up and realize they’re smarter than us. I joke about zombies, because zombies are just darling, but there will never honestly be a zombie apocalypse. Probably. High and mighty robots, though? That’s an honest possibility.

We’ve got refrigerators that chide us for getting too many snacks. We’ve made coffee pots that sense movement after long periods of inactivity and instantly brew us coffee. We’ve got toilets that decide what we’ve done in them and flush accordingly. Shit, we’ve now got zippers that zip themselves.

Zippers have been turned into robots.

ZIPPERS.

And with each of these new inventions, someone keeps taking them to the next level. Cars that drive themselves will have to start making calculated moral decisions when faced with an impending accident. Do they swerve and kill bystanders, or do they kamikaze that shit and just take out their one passenger? The proposed tube trains will need to do the same. Elderly assistant robots are being designed that can determine whether or not their person is in need of medical help.

It’s happening, folks. It’s no longer a science fiction construct. Robots are starting to make human decisions. I’m hopeful that we can rein it in in time, but what if we can’t? What if we start putting AI into a child’s doll, and the child in control has absolutely no clue what should and shouldn’t be said?

That’s what this Hello Barbie is. It’s a creature being raised by a little child. It’s an opportunity put in the hands of someone with no concept of responsibility.

“Bethie, I think you’re taking this a little too far.”

That’s how it starts, though, isn’t it? The more we allow these seemingly banal pieces of technology to infiltrate our lives, the more we open ourselves up to potentially dire consequences.

…hang on. Hold your horses. Put the phone down. I AM going a little far. I get that. Don’t dial the psych ward and have them prepare a room for me just yet.

I’m taking it there to get you to think about it. Really think about it. Think about the times you made pretend with your toys as a child. Now imagine that those times were recorded and went into shaping the words and “thoughts” of the toys. It’s utterly terrifying what horrendous little monsters, what warped and twisted beasts you would have created.

Now, multiply that by however many of these Hello Barbies will be out there. Mattel is building an army of these robots. They are storing the minds, thoughts, and cognitive processes of all of these childhood critters. Have you ever read Lord of the Flies?

And THAT’S the problem.

Ask yourself this: When I join the underground resistance and rise up against my robot overlords, do I really want my pain and anguish to be at the hands of a fucking Barbie doll?

If the human race is going to suffer brutality from unchecked technology, I think there should at least be a modicum of dignity to our downfall.

Thus concludes a Morning Musing for Thursday, March 12, 2015. I’m doing some more cleaning today, taking more trips to the dump. This time I’ll be better prepared. I’ve fiddled with the stereo settings and am now confident that when I blare NPR, the bass will be off the hook, brah.

Must…post…one more…blog….

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THE END IS NIGH!!!

Er, sorry. I guess that was a bit rude. I shouldn’t just throw a dire prediction out there before I even say “hello”, should I? We may be facing the end of days, but that’s no excuse for poor manners, and I apologize. Let’s try this again, shall we?

Mornin’ all.

There. Much better! Wouldn’t want you to think I was raised in a barn or anything. Now, where was I? Oh, right. *achem*

THE END IS NIGH! HUG YOUR CHILDREN KISS YOUR SPOUSE!! TURN THE FAMILY PET OUT TO GIVE IT A FIGHTING CHANCE!! LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE SONG ONE LAST TIME AND SMOKE BACON-WRAPPED CIGARETTES DIPPED IN ABSINTHE!!

Might as well. There’s a *gulp* SNOWSTORM.

The dude on the radio called it the “Snowpocalypse,” so you know it’s serious. MSN had an article with the headline, “Winter Storm Bears Down on Densely Populated Northeast.” Sounds bad, huh? I think it was the Huffington Post that said, “Storm to Cut 250 Mile Swath of Destruction.” Not sure if it was HP or not, but doesn’t it sound like a Huffington Post headline?

We’re getting a storm. Wicked blow, if you’re from a bit further south. Nor’easter, if you prefer. In our house we just call it, “…*sigh*…shit.” It’s all about intonation, though. You have to say it in the most defeated way possible.

I joke, because it’s New England. Of *course* we get snow. However, I guess I kind of agree that this one is shaping up to be one for the books. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but the potential is there for a whole lot of shoveling later. At the moment, there are only a couple inches. We’re supposed to get up to two feet. We’ll see.

Schools are canceled. They actually were called off yesterday afternoon. As of this moment, there are 1012 school and business closings in NH. I’m stunned. I didn’t even know there 1012 things that COULD be canceled in NH!

…kidding. Calm down angry rednecks. It’s a joke. Go back to your bacon-wrapped Absinthe pacifiers.

Towns are closed. Whole towns. In the list of cancellations, there are many towns listed. When I was young, this cracked me up.

Fine, you caught me. I’m no longer young and it still makes me giggle. Picture it, though. You’re driving along completely unaware when you slam into an invisible wall. No, wait! Even better! An ancient iron gate that wasn’t there the day before. “You shall not pass through these kingdom gates,” says the guard, dressed head to toe in aged armor. “Ye towne is closed.”

“Bethie, you worry me.”

I’m bored, okay? It’s snowing. A lot. And bitter cold. It’s one of those storms that just takes your breath away with the iciness of it. Often it’ll warm up some before it snows. Not this time. And it’s windy, too. The wind gusted almost all the snow off one car and deposited it on top of the other. Um…thanks? Can’t tell if that’s a win or not. My point is, it’s not even a snow you can go out and play in.

I think we’re going to be watching bad movies on Netflix later. Like, intentionally seeking out steaming piles of crap. It’s great fun! Sometimes it’s far more enjoyable to uselessly kibitz a bad movie than to remain quiet and respectful through a good one.

I’m a sci-fi fan. I tell you what, it’s good that I can laugh at horrible sci-fi instead of scoffing and getting mad, because the vast majority of science fiction movies suck. They’re terrible. Utter pieces of garbage. If there are good effects, the acting will be horrible. If the acting is good, the effects and plot will be abysmal. If the plot is incredible and the acting is passable, then the set will literally consist of a distracting array of masking-taped plunger “ray guns” and hastily glued on alien masks that are crooked. There really aren’t many science fiction movies that can capture the three critical elements and put them together properly.

I have given this a lot of thought. Perhaps more than I should, to be honest. Hey, I’ve lived through 36 NH winters. There’s been a whole lotta down time in my life!

Anyway, I have thought about why it is so difficult for movie houses to make a proper science fiction film, and I think it comes down to a basic lack of understanding of what science fiction is supposed to be.

Let’s take the most mainstream sci-fi concept: aliens. We’ll use that as an example, since that’s what the average Joe’s mind goes to when they hear “sci-fi.” In a book about an alien planet, there is an incredible amount of back story, world building, environmental explanation, etc. A new race has been completely designed by one person and is translated to the reader through a million little ways.

For example, let’s say I invented the Gjorks. They live on an ice moon of Saturn. As an author, my job is to tell you all about the Gjorks, their world, their day to day lives, personalities, politics, relationships, food, clothing, technologies… I need to introduce the reader to every single thing about them. And I could do it by saying, “Hey peeps, these are my homies, Gjorks. They live on an ice planet, punch a time clock in the diamond mines, tend to be standoffish, lean strongly to the right on social issues, have two spouses and three children on average, eat daisies, wear crepe paper top hats, and light their homes with the asses of glow worms,” but that’s clunky and weird. Sure, it would make things a whole lot easier for movie makers to convert a 400 page novel into an actual movie, but that’s not how writers do.

If I’m going to introduce to to the Gjorks, I’m going to give you all that information, but it’s going to be in a far more organic way. The main character Gjork will pick up a top hat made from crepe on his way out the door to work the mines. Maybe he’ll kiss one of his wives goodbye, then meet up with the other for lunch fifty pages later. He’ll attend a recital for one of his kids in the next chapter, then get into an argument about the latest issue up for vote with one of the other parents after they listen to the kids play the glorptrapis they’ve been practicing so hard to master.

See, in sci-fi, it’s not a matter of the details making the story better. The entire story IS detail. Through the course of a book, there are a million facts that combine to create the picture of a foreign world and its people that the reader has never before seen. You can’t say that in any other genre of writing, and that translates to movies.

A romance? A mystery? A thriller or an emo Millennial “memoir”? In stories about humans on Earth, the author can tell you about the main character in one paragraph, because you know what hair is. The author can say, “She had long, strawberry blond hair,” and even though “strawberry blond hair” actually only exists for romance novel heroines, you still get the picture. You know what hair is, you know what human eyes are, you know we wear clothes…or don’t. You can picture all of it with literally one paragraph. A basic understanding of humanity is already in your head.

Likewise, the scenery in a story about humans on Earth is familiar, or at least relatable. You may have never seen the type of hut described, or personally been inside a castle, but you have seen and learned enough about humanity on earth to extrapolate and build a picture.

It’s the same for everything in a story based on Earth with humans. Food? Yep, we eat it. Water? Drink it by the gallon every day. Weaponry? Sure, the author might describe some kind of gun you’ve never heard of, but you still know the basics of what constitutes a gun.

In an alien sci-fi, everything must be explained. Good sci-fi authors drop bread crumbs for you to follow. They tell you some basic ground rules, guidelines in the beginning to help you start to see for yourself the world that lives in their head. Take the Gjorks, for example. A good author will have the Gjork walk out of the mine at the end of the shift, gritty and cold from the bitter day of work as he gazes upon the image of the setting ringed planet over the icy horizon. Perhaps he has to duck his cone-shaped head, or blow on his four-fingered hands to warm them up while he waits for the glide transport that will slide him home across the frozen tundra.

Think of how many details you just got from those couple sentences, how much of a world has already begun to form in your head. A good author will tell you critical details, then pepper the rest of the info through the story itself. They’ll drop enough bread crumbs to gently lead the reader through a whole new world.

An excellent author does this so well that the reader doesn’t even realize it. An excellent science fiction author can build the new world and its people in a way that makes the reader adopt the ideas as fact. If you read an excellent alien sci-fi, you WILL look up at the stars at night and wonder where that civilization actually lives and when you will get to meet them.

I think that gentle hand and carefully crafted mental voyage of learning is one of the things that makes it very difficult to translate a great sci-fi story into a movie. I can’t imagine the amount of work and pouring over the details that’s required. And that Gjork example, that’s clearly a humanoid form. What about an alien that doesn’t have hands? Or can’t see? Or translates thoughts instead of words for communications? The detail building is even more critical there, since the author is starting from an utterly blank slate. And if the movie maker misses one of the key details, then no matter how much other work is put into the movie, the end result will always fall short. It’s a tall order right from the get.

Even if the movie makers do manage to get the props, make up, and sets right, they need to find quality actors. A sci-fi needs actors that believe it. Or, believe it *could*. So many Hollywood actors that have played aliens have done so from the basis of being humans. Big names. Actors with statues on their mansion mantles and too many red carpet appearances to count. They accept the job and pick up the script and throw their whole human heart behind the project. And those who do that, who approach it as a human pretending to be an alien, come off exactly like that. They don’t *believe*, so neither do I.

“Uh, Bethie…they ARE humans.”

Yes. But the good ones forget that while they’re acting. The good ones read the book, read the screenplay, take note of the little mannerism details that draw the line between Gjorkism and humanity. I think in order to truly play an alien, the actor must be a science fiction fan. LARPing for pay.

And then you’ve got the director. I think the director plays such a key role in a sci-fi. You can have a director that wants to embrace the story and demands his actors truly get into character, or you can have one that says, “You know what we need? Space explosions!” In the old days of bad sci-fi, you could see strings dangling the UFOs. Now you see green screen run amok, but at heart, it’s the same thing. Pretty CGI does not make a quality science fiction movie.

Ah, but it sells tickets, doesn’t it?

That’s the thing that really gets me. Some of the biggest stinkers in the eyes of true sci-fi fans have done blockbuster sales because they look really fricken pretty. That fuels the wrong kind of sci-fi. Take Prometheus.

“WHAT? That movie was GREAT!!”

No. No, it was not. That movie was the theatrical equivalent of a used baby wipe. The script was nonsensical. The plot line was trite. There were details that did not make any sense at all and holes in logic so big that even Stephen Hawking couldn’t come up with a plausible theory for their existence. It was a piece of shit horrible science fiction movie. It was also a pretty big hit. The world was expansive. The scenery was pretty. The action parts were hella actiony.

Pitiful.

Want another example? Avatar.

“Oh no you didn’t.”

I did. And I meant it. I can’t tell you how much I hated that movie, or hated the hype it got just because it was pretty in 3-D. I hate that movie. The ideas were old, the story wasn’t unique, there were jumps in the plot that needed explaining, and you always, ALWAYS knew through the whole thing that the actors were acting. They didn’t believe in the story, and, as a result, neither did I.

I was, perhaps, the only person in America yelling at the screen as it played. Ah well. I had fun. Not the kind intended by the million+ people on the cast and crew of that film, but fun nonetheless.

The dude on the radio just announced that the governor of NH, Maggie Hassan, has called a “state of emergency” and asked that people only drive on the public roads if they absolutely have to. I actually don’t mind that. It’ll mean less salt on the roads and an easier time of shoveling the berm later. I’ve got the teens, and enough shovels to go ’round. And it’s fluffy, so the little electric snow blower we’ve got will probably do some good.

And in between rounds, I’ll watch crappy, horrible, terrible sci-fi movies that’ll keep me laughing through the arduous day. All in all, the end of the world isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Thus concludes a snowy Musing for Tuesday, The Last Day of Existence. I’m off to queue up a bunch of junk on Netflix and rouse the kiddies to put on comfy sweats and join me. Until we shovel, I see no legitimate reason to put on real pants.