SciFi Bites: Toy Maker

warrior queen toy

The cold crept in like a thief in the night. “Is that you Ian?” Toy Maker called from his workshop. “Close the door!” Ian walked in quietly and shut the door. The snow that sneaked in with him twirled at his feet before melting on the stone floor. The toy workshop was large but dark, lit only by the two power tables — one was the Toy Maker’s work desk and the other served as a kitchen table. Two circles at the center of each table glowed red-orange, giving the whole space a look of warmth…just not the feel of it. Ian shivered. Behind one of the glowing tables, there was a wall full of Toy Maker’s newest creations. They were arranged in rows on shelves, organized by species. There were about two hundred on display there, all still gray — the color didn’t come until much later. The maker first sculpted the essence of each figure and then scanned it into the computer. The final details were added virtually and then printed in 3-D. The painting was the last touch. Ian admired a shelf of warriors. They were lithe and tall, with elongated, almost wasp-like waists. Some had wing…

Inattention Errors in Extemporaneous Writing

Rapefruit

Automation provides many opportunities for inattention errors. Extemporaneous writing/typing is particularly prone to errors so egregious that they are funny… in retrospect. Here are a few examples of “scary” autocorrect mistakes as well as other problems caused by limited or spit [sorry, that was “split”] attention on the task of communication. 1. Everyone fails sometimes It is easy to fail when we are in a hurry, or are under pressure, or don’t proofread our work before it goes out. Some fails are the result of trying to be too clever and not getting a second opinion. Some fails are due to lack of process — a second pair of eyes on the copy would have noticed the “extra word” problem. Some fails are easily caught via a spellchecker… But in some cases, a spellchecker does help… And in many cases, spellcheck is the CAUSE of strange communications. I had a few of those myself… 2. Errors are different from mistakes Mistakes are things that we know are wrong the moment we notice them — the head-slappers! They are usually caused by inattention on the task. Errors are different. Errors result from true ignorance. But it doesn’t make the resulting fails…

Sci-Fi Bites: The Black Queen

The Black Queen

The Black Queen I’m a seed. Plant me. All night it called. A rat came by to investigate. It sniffed the small smooth sphere, but the object didn’t smell like a seed or food of any kind. The rat scurried away. I’m a seed. Plant me. The cat passed by without even a glance. A family of raccoons stopped by. Poked. Left. The sun came up. A fractional mind crawled over. It tasted and touched, walked about and left a pheromone trail for others to follow. Soon dozens of fractional minds surrounded the sphere. By this time, the object grew to the size of a very large marble. I’m a seed. Plant me. It kept repeating to them, flaunting itself for them. And they gathered in greater and greater numbers to roll the sphere underground. Just about the time small sinuous lines started to appear of its surface, a big black bird flapped over. I’m a seed. Plant me. The sphere called to the raven. The bird prodded the object, which was now the size of a tennis ball, with its beak. It wasn’t food, like it claimed. And it wasn’t one of those shiny, sparkly objects that the bird…

Sci-Fi Bites: The Boy Who Finds

Accident_with_Dog

Short Science Fiction Stories for Kids Timur has always been good at finding things. Need to find that screw that rolled under the desk? Ask Timur. Need to locate the missing reading glasses? Timur is on it. Lost some change in a couch? Timur knows just where it is. The boy had a gift. One day, he and his mother were driving to school and a large dog ran across the street. Timur’s mom veered and swirled and the car didn’t hit the foolish animal. But the mother was freaked out. Her body shook, her heart beat faster, her hands got sweaty. But most significantly, Timur’s mother lost something in that almost accident — she lost a day of her life. And Timur found it. At the time only six years old, the boy didn’t know what he found, but he carefully picked it up and put it away for safe keeping. Over time, he found more and more chunks of time, sometimes whole days, mostly an hour there, a few minutes in another place. But time adds up. As the world gently span on its axis, the people living on it marched steadily through time, spending the lives a…

Something from Nothing

Book_lover_Wikipedia

I like writing quite a bit — it is one of the few creative activities where we get to invent an entire universe without outside interference. Movies, plays, games — they all require teams of people and large budgets to get birthed. Written stories are not like that. We can control all of it — from each individual word choice, to how things turn out for our characters, to what font is used for the presentation, to how the story gets delivered to the readers. There used to be a time when one could program games (I used to do so) all by herself — code, graphics, ideas, even publishing. But that is not possible anymore. The skill set required to make something of quality is too wast. The same is true for movies. And plays can only be experienced in front of an audience with actors… But novels! There is freedom of creativity in writing stories. When I type “the end” something became that never existed before! Something from nothing — that’s creative writing! It’s like magic, only cooler. Particularly if the author enjoys the act of writing as much as having written…

Hacking Weight-loss with Brain Science

Fat women dancing chapter divider

Financial rewards for weight-loss and exercise work…but only if you take the money away at the end for non-performance. Rewards are just not as effective as punishments! [Study: Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial] This result is, of course, very consistent with Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s work in behavioral economics, memory, and our perception of happiness. One of the key points is how we assign value on items that we already owe versus those that we are considering acquiring. Consider your house (if you own one) or your car. Would you sell it for the same amount of money as you would be willing to buy it for? The answer is no! We value what we own far more than other people’s stuff. Our reaction to ownership is emotional. Mathematics of equivalence just doesn’t penetrate how we feel through to our judgement. Consider the following social incentive program: At the start of my weight-loss program, I get $50 to lose 10 pounds over a 6 months period. At the end of that time period, I only lose 4 pounds. I have to give back $30 — that’s the deal, right? I…

My First Three Science Fiction Books

First three books

I wanted to be a scientist and go into space. I got my B.A. from Columbia University in Mathematics and Astrophysics and I worked at NASA on the Pioneer Venus Project as a programmer. I received my masters from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology and went on to earn my doctorate in education. Together with my husband and business partner, I conceive, design, and create products, ideas, websites, and exhibits. Along the way, I’ve learned how to write. I’m also a binge reader — I find an author I like and I read everything they’ve ever written! I love science fiction. I have consumed voraciously thousands of books (some are neatly shelved in alphabetical order and some lie completely disorganized in piles on the stairs — my children now read science fiction too and it’s more difficult to keep things in place). I wrote my first story when I was about eight — I got hooked on a book series about an orphan boy who traveled the world with his uncle collecting animals for zoos. Unfortunately, only the first three books were translated into Russian. So I wrote what happened next (I didn’t have a choice,…