You Belong Here

Co-Geeking is about the things we love: history, art, science fiction, fantasy, language, and so on. It is not about contemporary politics. We would rather just tend our geeky garden than get involved in the affairs of the big world outside.

But sometimes contemporary politics comes blundering through your garden gate and plomps itself down right on top of your petunia bed. And sometimes it proceeds to crap all over your tomatoes and puke on your antique roses. Then you gotta say something, so we’re saying it.

If you’re feeling threatened, worried, angry, or sad about the upsurge of hatred we’re seeing in current events, we’re with you. If you’re someone who loves the things we love but your history classes, SFF conventions, or geeky blogs made you feel like you didn’t belong, you belong here. If you’ve ever felt left out because of your race, religion, gender, orientation, or any other part of your identity, or if you’ve seen that kind of exclusion happen to someone you care about, we’re with you. If you don’t see yourself in the books, movies, tv shows you love, know that we want to see you there, too. If anyone has ever told you are wrong, bad, or dangerous just because of who you are, where you come from, or how you live your life, we stand with you.

Screw the fascists, racists, xenophobes, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, homophobes, sexists, transphobes, and all other flavors of bigot. Screw the people who believe that they are better than other people because of arbitrary details like race, religion, ancestry, sexuality, or gender. Screw the people are afraid of others just because of who they are. And double screw the ones who think that history supports their brand of hatred, or that they can drag it into the kind of stories we love, with a side of get stuffed.

We are in this together. Those who want to divide us will fail. Hatred and fear will fail. As we co-geeks carry on with our usual business of posting about interesting facets of history and squeeing over the latest movie trailers, know that we are here for you.

Babylon 5 s1 ep5 The Parliament of Dreams Selected Screencaps.
Selected screencaps from the Babylon 5 season 1 episode 5, “The Parliament of Dreams”, showcasing Earth’s dominant belief system: pluralism. (Delenn: What sort of demonstration does he have planned? Ivanova: He just said it’d showcase Earth’s dominant belief system. Sinclair: This is Mr. Harris. He’s an atheist. Mr Rosenthal, an Orthodox Jew. Sawa of the Jivaro tribe. Ms. Yamamoto, a Shinto. Ms. Naljo, a Maori…)

If want to get away from the problems of the big world for a little while, our garden is open. If you want to talk about what’s going on these days and how that relates to the art, stories, and history we love, we’re here for that, too. You belong here.

Image: Selected screencaps from the Babylon 5 season 1 episode 5, “The Parliament of Dreams”.

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Star Trek: Discovery Poster & Trailers

A whole slew of tidbits and sneak peeks for the upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery were unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con, including this GORGEOUS poster:

Tor com SDCC star-trek-discovery-poster

The official trailer was also released at the con:

Star Trek: Discovery – Official Trailer by Star Trek

It adds nicely to the first teaser trailer:

Star Trek: Discovery – First Look Trailer by Star Trek

I am getting chills every time I see either—definitely looking forward to Discovery! Who knows, it may even replace Deep Space Nine as my favorite Star Trek franchise.

Image: CBS via Tor.com

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Rating: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Season 1

Our rewatching-and-rating project has moved on to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a delightful Australian series about a flamboyant flapper detective from the roaring 1920s, based on the novels by Kerry Greenwood. We don’t get a lot of Australian tv on this side of the world, but Miss Fisher is a treat from beginning to end. The first season is the best-rating season of anything we’ve watched so far. (For an explanation of our rating system, see here.)

Here’s our ratings for the first season’s episodes:

  1. “Cocaine Blues” – 9
  2. “Murder on the Ballarat Train” – 8
  3. “The Green Mill Murder” – 8
  4. “Death at Victoria Dock” – 8
  5. “Raisins and Almonds” – 8.5
  6. “Ruddy Gor” – 7.5
  7. “Murder in Montparnasse” – 6
  8. “Away with the Fairies” – 7.5
  9. “Queen of the Flowers” – 7
  10. “Death by Miss Adventure” – 9
  11. “Blood and Circuses” – 5.5
  12. “Murder in the Dark” – 7
  13. “King Memses’ Curse” – 5

There are so many things to love about this series, from the wonderful characters to complicated mysteries. It explores both the Jazz-Age high life of the post-WWI bright young things and the workaday world of early-twentieth-century Melbournites. The main character, sparklingly played by Essie Davis, is always entertaining and she’s surrounded by an excellent supporting cast.

The average rating for this season is 7.4, which is a fantastic way to start. Most of this season’s episodes are good to excellent, with only a couple that come in a little underwhelming. The lowest of the season is the final episode, “King Memses’ Curse,” which is just a rather uninspired serial killer story. The entertainment industry loves its serial killers—especially, like this one, those that have an irrational obsession with the hero—but we’re just tired of the trope.

Fortunately, we have a couple of 9s tied for best episode to balance out the lackluster ones. The first episode, “Cocaine Blues,” starts things off with a bang, sending Miss Fisher into a murder investigation that leads to cocaine smuggling and a back-alley abortionist. Many of our favorite characters get introduced here: Miss Fisher’s timid but trusty companion Dot, the acerbic Doctor Mac, the sweet-natured Constable Collins, and Inspector Jack Robinson, who, though often aggravated by Miss Fisher’s insistence on thrusting herself into his investigations, also learns to value her input. The other 9 is “Death by Miss Adventure,” about a mysterious death in a factory which reveals many layers of intrigue and skullduggery. This episode gives Dot a chance to go undercover and also delves in Doctor Mac’s life in more detail.

You could hardly ask for a better first season!

Any Miss Fisher fans out there want to weigh in? Got a different pick for the best or worst episodes of the season? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Human Mistweaver Monk Transmog

My approach to transmogging is decidedly free-form: I typically dislike Blizzard’s ready-made sets and prefer to make my own, usually completely from scratch. The approach has both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, my mix-and-match style is limited by the design changes Blizzard has implemented over the 13 years (gosh!) of World of Warcraft. They show both in the quality of the graphics and in the style and color of the gear designs. On the other, I don’t need to hunt down every single piece in a pre-made set in order to build a transmog.

So far, the approach has worked pretty well for me; I like both the challenge and the freedom. Every now and then, however, I run into a conundrum.

Transmogging my mistweaver monk is problematic because I don’t have a clear idea of what I’d like to do with her. Well, except for one thing: I tend not to like the look of the Legion artifacts (see Erik’s quick primer here), so I pretty much always mog them.

I’ve tried several different looks for her, only to grow unhappy with them. The only constant between them has been color—the sets have been based on yellow or golden brown tones to go with my toon’s blonde hair. The most recent iteration is also color-driven, but this time I tweaked the golden browns into a clearly browner direction and added turquoise details.

WoW Transmog Human Mistw Monk Turq Golden Brown

Often when I don’t have a clear idea or a concept for a transmog, I browse through my wardrobe looking for interesting pieces of armor and try building a set around them. That was also the case with this current brown-turquoise set.

I first noticed the distinctive-looking shoulder armor. Once I found a belt and gloves that matched the shades almost perfectly, I knew I had a working solution. I deliberately picked more non-descript pants and boots, plus a simple staff for the artifact, to draw attention to the colorful armor pieces.

The final touch came from the combination of a chest armor that leaves my monk’s upper arms bare with a turquoise short-sleeved shirt underneath it, so that the shirt covers the bare arms and provides an additional pop of color.

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room. (Oddly, the pants don’t show in full. Hm.)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Artifacts and Transmogrification: Retribution Paladin and Arms Warrior

In my last post about transmogrifying with artifact weapons, I mentioned how, with my elemental shaman and arcane mage, I got lucky and the base artifact appearance fit very well with the looks I had already created for the characters. In other cases, the base appearance doesn’t suit my existing look, but one of the unlockable color variants does.

Here, for instance, is my retribution paladin. I had her in a blue and gold set that the red base weapon didn’t match, but the blue alternative suits perfectly.

My arms warrior, on the other hand, wanted the red alternative color to match his red and purple set.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Rosetta Stone Online in 3D

The British Museum has made a 3D-scan of the Rosetta Stone and released it for exploration, download, and sharing. The model is available at the museum’s Sketchfab site:

Sketchfab British Museum Rosetta Stone Screencap
Screencap of the Rosetta Stone 3D model by the British Museum at Sketchfab

I just love the effort museums and libraries are making to bring their collections online. Providing 3D models is another step in making the collections relevant to the 21st century life.

Visit The British Museum at Sketchfab for additional 3D models—over 200 at this writing!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

How to Helsinki: Last Call

Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.

Worldcon 75 is just a week away now. In case you missed any of our previous posts, you might want to check them out, too:

 

Here are a few last-minute tidbits, odds and ends, and random pieces of advice that might be worth knowing if you’re getting ready to head to Helsinki:

Low-alcohol beverages, like beer and cider, are available at most grocery stores. For harder liquor (22+ % alcohol), you’ll need to go to one of the state-run Alko stores; you also must be 20 years old and have valid government I.D. Anyone who looks under 30 years of age may be carded when buying alcohol.

Apteekki = pharmacy

Apua! = Help!

Ateneum Art Museum is one of the three museums forming the Finnish National Gallery and located conveniently on the south side of Rautatientori square close to Helsinki central railway station.

Flickr Alessandro Grussu Ateneum Art Museum

DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS. That creates problems for residents, outdoor sellers, and other visitors. The seagulls at Kaupptori, for example, are already quite adept at snatching food from people. (That means they will dive AT YOU and steal your food FROM YOUR HAND. I don’t know about you, but I find that intimidating and I don’t want it to happen to me! –Eppu)

Public drinking water fountains are rare in Finland, but tap water is clean and safe. Carrying a water bottle is a good idea.

Dual flush toilets are becoming very common, and they’re easy to operate: small button for small flush, big for large. Please do take part in our environmental efforts.

Electric sockets and plugs are Europlug type C or the grounded Schuko type F.

Elevator behavior humorously put: Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and for the sake of everything you hold dear, do not engage in small talk.

9gag Finland Elevator

More seriously: Elevator behavior shouldn’t be a problem; just be mindful that customs may be different than you’re used to and you’ll be fine.

The number for emergency services is 112. Also note that pay phones are almost non-existent in Finland because cell phones are so ubiquitous.

You may not be able to establish eye contact with strangers on the streets. This is perfectly normal in Finland; we love our personal space and want lots of it.

Gasoline is very expensive due to taxation—keep it in mind if planning to rent a car.

If you meet a Finn with whom you share a mutual acquaintance, you may be asked to take greetings to that person. It is vital that you follow through. Carrying greetings (the Finnish word is terveisiä, which covers the whole social scale from “Say hi to your buddies for me” to “Do give my sincerest regards to your honored great-grandmother”) is serious business in Finland.

Indoor spaces tend to be warm due to effective insulation. Dress in layers for the win!

With regard to the language issue, one of the most succinct answers is by author Elizabeth Bear: “[I’ve] heard some concern about the language issue. There is no language issue. If one of your languages is English […] you will have no issues at all navigating. (It’s sort of a running joke with my agent and I that while my books sell very well in the Nordic countries as imports, we can’t get a translation deal there. Because everyone speaks English […]”

Luggage storage is available e.g. at Helsinki central railway station and at the Kamppi long distance bus station.

Mosquitoes are the bane of the Finnish summer. (We actually joke about them being our air force. –Eppu) Current reports are that this has not been a bad mosquito year, but it’s still important to take precautions if you’re sensitive to bites and will be out and about in the late evening or early morning, which are the prime biting times.

The National Museum of Finland concentrates on Finnish history from the Stone Age to 19th century and has an extensive collection of objects. The building itself, of National Romantic style, may also be of interest. Free entry every Friday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; at other times, entry fees apply.

National Museum of Finland

Petrol is very expensive due to taxation—keep it in mind if planning to rent a car.

Pharmacy = apteekki

The word please (or the like) doesn’t exist in Finnish. Instead, the same function is embedded in the verb form of the sentence. This doesn’t mean that Finns are inherently rude; we may sound rude to native speakers of languages that use an explicit please word if we forget to use it in other languages, and we well might slip up since it’s not ingrained.

Finnish does not have gendered pronouns. The word hän means both ‘he’ and ‘she.’ It’s not unusual for Finns, even Finns who speak English very fluently and are highly aware of gender identity issues, to slip and use the wrong gendered pronoun when speaking English. (It’s a little like English speakers learning Spanish and having to remember that forks are masculine but spoons are feminine.)

Recycling is becoming very common. Your hotel room and Messukeskus might have containers for different types of trash. Please do take part in our environmental efforts.

If you bump into someone by accident, just saying “Sori” (comes from and sounds pretty much the same as English sorry) is usually sufficient. Finns don’t really do apologies for small accidents.

Towel hooks in bathrooms are only for storing the dry towels. Spread towels to dry elsewhere (rack, over the shower stall door / shower curtain bar) and hang to store.

 

Some additional reading & browsing

Images: Ateneum Art Museum by Alessandro Grussu on Flickr. Finland elevator behavior via 9gag. National Museum of Finland by Eppu Jensen

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

The Secret of Roman Concrete

Trajan’s Market, Rome, with a vaulted concrete ceiling over brick walls, photo by Szilas via Wikimedia

Roman concrete is an architectural marvel. It made it possible for the Romans to build structures unlike any built with the techniques of stone masonry. It turns out Roman concrete is also a chemical marvel. The combination of volcanic ash and rock, lime, and seawater gradually becomes stronger over time as the interaction of the volcanic components and the seawater forms new minerals that fill up cracks and reinforce the structure.

An article from the Guardian explains the process:

Over time, seawater that seeped through the concrete dissolved the volcanic crystals and glasses, with aluminous tobermorite and phillipsite crystallising in their place. These minerals […] helped to reinforce the concrete, preventing cracks from growing, with structures becoming stronger over time as the minerals grew.

Given the limitations of Roman science, it’s doubtful that an ancient Roman concrete expert could have explained the chemical processes that happened in concrete, but that doesn’t mean that Romans just stumbled onto this formula by accident. Even with a limited theoretical understanding, smart people can acquire a lot of practical knowledge through experimentation and careful observation.

Thoughts for writers

Something to keep in mind when worldbuilding: practical knowledge doesn’t have to come from theoretical knowledge. In fact, it is often the opposite: theoretical knowledge develops from an attempt to explain what we already know practically to be true. If you want your fictional cultures to be able to make sturdy concrete, or airships, or vaccines, that doesn’t require them to have a modern understanding of chemistry, physics, or biology. Pre-modern peoples discovered lots of useful things by trial and error and paying close attention to the world around them, even if their attempts to explain why those things worked were sometimes wide of the mark, or they never attempted to explain them at all.

History for Writers is a weekly feature which looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write. Check out the introduction to History for Writers here.

Black Panther Poster & Trailer

A little more news on the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Black Panther trickled out from San Diego Comic-Con. At this writing, the SDCC trailer hasn’t been released outside the con yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be out soon.

Meanwhile, we have this gorgeous poster to tide us over:

Tor com BPPoster

And, since apparently I didn’t post this before, here’s the teaser trailer:

Black Panther Teaser Trailer [HD] from Marvel Entertainment

It looks so amazing! Good thing February 2018 is just six and a half months away.

Image: Marvel Studios via Tor.com

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: A Question that Pretty Much No One Actually Asked to Be Answered

Aaron Pound at Dreaming About Other Worlds reviews the Star Wars movie Rogue One and includes this delicious bit of analysis:

“The obvious slicing and dicing of the intrigue and adventure in the early parts of the movie would be forgivable is [sic] one were able to think that it was done simply to try to cram as much of that as possible into the story, but instead the movie keeps shifting away from Jyn, Cassian, K-2SO and the rest of the intrepid rebels to focus on what can only be described as the deadly dull office politics of the Imperial Officer class. In large part, all these scenes really do is provide a really long-winded answer for the question ‘How did Grand Moff Tarkin become the commander of the Death Star’, which is a question that pretty much no one actually asked to be answered.”

– Aaron Pound

Reader, I LOLed. 🙂

Pound, Aaron. “Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. Dreaming About Other Worlds, June 01, 2017.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.