Nerd Links

First, let’s talk about Pocket.  I mentioned it last week in my gushing about my Kobo Aura, and it deserves some explanation.  Pocket is a free service (with a premium tier) that receives URLs, and saves them for you to read later.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface, right?  How many browser tabs do you have open with stuff to read later?  How many times have you lost all of that in a browser crash?  How many times would you rather read that article on an eink screen instead of a backlit one?

For me, the answer to those questions is “lots,” “too many,” and “often,” in that order.  I found out about the service when I got my Aura, and sent a few tech articles, blog entries, and Tor short fiction pieces to Pocket.  I synced Pocket on the reader, pulled up an article, read it, and then immediately sent the rest of my open tabs to Pocket.

My browser crashes less, I enjoy reading articles, blogs, and short fiction more, and Pocket handles the varying queue like a damn champ.  You can also read from your phone (online or offline), tablet, and I think a Kindle model or two.

Next is Gravity Ghost.  From the game’s site:

Gravity Ghost is a game to soothe your senses. There’s no killing. No dying. No way to fail. Just hours of blissing out to buttery-smooth gravity goodness.

Featuring a dynamic new soundtrack from the composer of FTL: Faster than Light, Gravity Ghost is a headfirst dive into another world.

The elements of the game play with gravity, and the elements of the world tell a story of a passed-away girl and the animal spirits that are seeking to restore balance to this universe.  This is the kind of gaming ingenuity and storytelling that makes me squee.  Thanks to Jesse Cox’s Indie Weekend series for a peek at this one!

Updateriffic

When the weather has been good, I’ve been back out on my morning walks. I’m still besotted with the world around me, and have been updating the Flickr album accordingly:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1SAZ4i

I’ve also updated my San Francisco Wanderings album:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjSn4iT5

I’ve been listening to music in iTunes again, instead of streaming, so my Last.fm profile has been updating:

http://www.last.fm/user/davecrampton

I’ve been caught up on my YouTube subscriptions, my RSS feed, my podcasts, reasonably so on my email, my fiction reading list (yay Clockwork Century!), my DeviantArt friends, and my LiveJournal friends. I am ignoring G+ out of spite.

My Kobo Aura Scoffs at the Rain

I consider this an open letter to Kobo, and its parent company, Rakuten.

Holy, shit you guys.  Just holy shit.

After doing a lot of research on eink readers, I picked up the Kobo Aura as my birthday gift this year.  (The wife and I get our birthday gifts around tax return time, as we rarely have money to burn around our actual birthdays.)  My local independent bookstore was out of stock, and my OTHER independent bookstore was also out of stock, so I ordered it online and waited for customs to clear it from Canada.

It has a microSD expansion slot.  It’s compatible with nearly every major ebook format, as long as there’s no DRM.  The screen is incredibly crisp and clear.  The full-screen refresh only happens every chapter.  The back of the device is shaped to mimic a folded paperback.  When I got it, I immediately purchased the majority of the Clockwork Century (I already had Boneshaker in dead tree format) and Flex from the Kobo store.

I cannot gush enough about the difference between reading on a laptop/tablet screen and reading on this device.  I stare at screens for both work and pleasure, so when I felt most of the muscles around my eyes relax, without even realizing that they’d been tight, as I began to read, I fell in love.  And as I do with the things that I love, I ended up leaving it on the roof of my car.  (There will likely be an entirely separate post about my mutant power, regarding leaving things on the top of cars.)  I set it there when I lifted my daughter out of her car seat, and entered a friend’s house, and totally forgot about it.

I later drove home, halfway across town, and remembered that I’d forgotten it.  I called my friends and asked them to look around their house, to no avail.

The next morning, after a rainy night, I dropped the kids off at school, went back to my friends’ house to search for it.  Having had no luck, and with the rain starting again, I drove back home.

Nikki volunteered to help, certain that I’d left it on top of my car, and it was gone forever. I refused to acknowledge the possibility, so she went outside to drive my car back to the friend’s to see if she could find it (she also has mutant powers).  She looked my car over (which I’d done FOUR TIMES) and immediately saw it, still sitting precisely where I’d left it.  She rushed it inside, yelling for me to dry it off, which I promptly did.  I powered it down, and let it sit for the day to dry out.

That evening, it powered on and functioned perfectly.  Not a single glitch.  The next morning, it charged normally.  No excess heat, no funky spiking in charged percentage, just the usual smooth curve.  After several days of use, with and without the front-light, the battery discharge was also normal.

It survived riding round the top of my car, and spending the night and morning in the rain, and continues to act as if it was just taken out of the box.

HOLY SHIT, YOU GUYS.

And I haven’t even mentioned how sweet the Pocket integration is.

If you are in the market for an ereader of any variety, I urge you to check Kobo out.  They have my highest recommendation.

Writing Prompt

Here’s this week’s Prompted Word!  Read more here.

Writing prompt #5 – You have magic soap. What does it wash away?

Lamb’s Blood

“How good to see you again, Father. And so soon.” The tall woman toweled sweat off of her brow and out of her close-cropped brown curly hair. “I’m sorry for my state, but you’ve caught me during my workout. If you’d made an appointment, I could have worn my Sunday best.”

The Priest’s frown deepened. The wrinkles covering his gaunt face followed, as if his face preferred the expression. He glanced over the warehouse, noting the makeshift living quarters, a nondescript car just inside the garage door, and a few crates, bunched together haphazardly. The rest of the building was open and unused. “I wouldn’t ask you to change on my account.”

She smiled brightly. “So rare to hear from those in your profession.” She tossed the towel over her shoulder and stretched her legs. “What brings you to my humble abode unannounced?”

The Priest heard steel in that last word, but mentally shrugged it off. This girl would never threaten him; he was the customer. “I need more soap.”

Her eyebrows shot up and the grin dropped from her face. “Holy shit.” His frown became a scowl, but she didn’t seem to notice. “You had a case. You’ve burned through it already?”

He crossed his arms. “My congregation has more than recovered its population, in fact, attendance levels are requiring us to refurbish and re-open buildings that have been closed for decades.”

She nodded, her hands on her hips. “You have a problem of unexpected demand. I gotcha. I run into that all the time. You need to up your regular order, and get a filler shipment expedited to meet the immediate demand, and prevent your consumers from finding what they need elsewhere.” She cocked her head to the side. “That sort of thing runs expensive, but you usually make it up in the long run.”

The Priest sighed heavily, and the lines in his face relaxed as far as they were able. “Excellent, yes, let’s do that. I am ready to pay for expedited shipping, so to speak.”

The windows that lined the top of the warehouse lightened as the sun rose outside. “Aw, hell, Father.” His frown returned. “I’d love to do that for you, because more profit for me, but I can’t. There’s only one manufacturer for your… product… and I was able to get half of their last batch, which I sold all to you.”

The cold metal digging into the small of his back was starting an ache. “You’re saying that you can’t get any more? There are four group baptisms scheduled for next week alone.”

The woman smirked. It was not altogether unattractive. “Wait, wait. You’ve added the soap to your baptism ritual? They think that Jesus is washing away their doubt? Oh, Father, that’s slick.” The smirk widened back into a full grin. “And probably grounds for excommunication.”

The Priest’s right hand crept to his back. “Are you threatening me?”

The smile stayed on her face, but left her eyes. “No, sir. Just stating the obvious. The reality of the situation is that I have no idea when more will be available, or if more will ever be available.”

Fear mixed with anger on his face. “I don’t think you understand, little girl. Priests across the state are ready and willing to incorporate the soap into their rituals to revitalize their congregations. As you say, they are risking excommunication for the good of the Church, and I have made promises!”

“Father, I don’t have any to sell you.”

He pulled the gun and pointed it at her, hand shaking. “Then you will take me to this manufacturer. Now!”

She heaved a dramatic sigh. “Have it your way.” There was a white blur, and his left eye exploded into pain and darkness. He dropped the gun to cover his eye as something warm flowed down his face. He heard screaming. His legs were knocked out from under him, and he fell to the cold cement floor. Pain exploded again, this time in his hip. The screaming stopped and turned into a groaning. An old man groaning in terrible pain. The woman appeared above him, holding the barrel of his gun in the towel. “You want to meet the manufacturer? Fine, you dumb old shit.” Her hand, and the gun, came down, and everything went black.

When the blackness receded, he felt like he was sliding off the edge of a cliff. One eye throbbed, and the other opened. The light was bright here, too bright to make anything out. There was an antiseptic smell, like a hospital. Two women were speaking quietly nearby. His hip ached as badly as his eye, and there was a burning pain in the side of his neck. He tried to raise his arm to wipe at his eye, or feel his neck, but it wouldn’t move. Neither would his left. Something was holding his legs down, too. Panic struck his chest and he started to struggle. His eye adjusted to the room’s light, and he saw the floor above his head and the lights below his shoes. He was strapped down to a bed or table, angled upside-down, and a red tube was hung from his table to the middle of the room, where the two women stood.

Other beds were arranged around the room, sporting clear tubes coiled on their sheets. Twelve or fifteen of them in total. Why were the other tubes clear, while his was red? Oh, God…

A familiar voice called from the center of the room. “Looks like Padre Wrinkleyface is awake!” Footsteps echoed in the room’s emptiness, and then a kind, middle-aged face appeared above him. Her black hair was shot through with gray, and she had amazing laugh lines at her eyes. He immediately relaxed.

“Father, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you wanted to visit my little facility. I have to admit, even though it’s a sin, I’m proud you get to see my new setup. The last one was just dreadful.” She checked something at his neck, and the burning intensified for a moment. “Oh, honey, don’t try and talk. You’ve been gagged for safety’s sake. And you’re such a brave shepherd. Our mutual acquaintance here has been telling me about all the good work you’ve been doing for the Church with my soap! And there are others that want to do the same!” The Priest saw her eyes gather tears, and his own started to do the same.

“Isn’t it great, Padre?” The other woman’s face pushed into view, devilishly amused. “The churches are going to get their soap after all!”

“Oh, dear, you won’t be conscious for much longer. I’m one of the faithful, Father, and what you’ve done with my soap is beyond my highest hopes. I’m going to make sure that your work continues, and that the other Priests get their supply. The blood you’re sacrificing is an essential ingredient. With as many times as Jesus has sacrificed His own blood through you, I hope that this carries personal, if not spiritual, meaning.”

The Priest’s eye slid closed, and he felt like he was floating. Her last words were so far away. “I have to prepare the other ingredients. Drop his body off at his Church; he deserves a proper burial.”

Writing Prompt

I’ve joined the Prompted Word! The goal is to complete a writing prompt every week, and then to post it (optional). Enjoy my brain gushings!

Writing prompt #4 – In what way do you not fit in with the family you grew up with?

The Sinestral

The wiry man sat with his legs crossed on the uncomfortable chair in front of the clerk’s desk. A single sheet of paper lay in his lap atop his hat, and he couldn’t resist running his fingers along its edges. Holding real paper, made from trees, was exceptionally rare. The FPO was known for its love of both bureaucracy and tradition.

The clerk returned to her desk carrying a steaming mug of coffee, and eyed him up and down. She heaved a sigh, and sat heavily in her chair. He felt the blush fill his cheeks and warm his ears. She’d definitely recognized him.

Skipping past the usual pleasantries, she held out her hand and raised her eyebrows. “Another complaint form?”

“No, ma’am.” He handed the sheet over, sad for the paper’s loss, apprehensive for the clerk’s reaction.

Her eyes scanned it, blinked, and then scanned it again. Her right hand wandered over to a cup of pens, grabbed one, and tapped it repeatedly on the worn desk top. “This form requests deployment?”

He nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

She set the pen and paper down, and then retrieved a file from her cabinet. She dropped it onto the desk, rattling her pens and attracting everyone’s attention. The monstrous stack of papers was over five inches thick. “You know what this is.”

“My file, ma’am.”

“Your file.” She opened it, and scanned the top sheet. “Seventeen deployments terminated early, twenty-three denied deployment requests, and more complaint and suggestion forms than any other applicant.”

He fought the compulsion to draw in the file’s dust with his finger. “Yes, ma’am.”

She flipped the file closed and glared at him. “Please tell me why the good clerks of the Family Placement Office should curse another group of breathers with one of your kind?”

The man’s posture straightened. “My kind, ma’am?”

“Yes.” She gestured to the hand that had handed her the paper. “Lefties. Southpaws. The Sinestral.”

The man stood up, and the clerk leaned back in her chair. As slight as he was, his presence suddenly filled the room. He smoothed his shirt and looked her square in the eyes. “Ma’am, I’m sure I don’t know.” With that, he turned around and left the office, followed shortly by the building.

He bathed his face in the eternal sunlight for a few moments before placing his hat on his head. If the FPO would not help him, he’d simply have to find another way.