This week's story on the Escape Pod science fiction podcast is a remarkable tale called "Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store" written by Robin Sloan and billed as a "short story about recession, attraction and data-visualization" and it is fabulous. It's a fantastic, magical realist tale about Google Book Search, magick with a K, an olde curiousity shoppe, and the power of data-visualization. The story was initially self-published on Sloan's blog and was recommended to the Escape Pod editors by a friend, who read it, loved it and bought it. If you enjoyed Ben Rosenbaum's The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale
, you'll love this.
IT'S 2:02 A.M. ON A COLD SUMMER NIGHT.
EP215: Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store (podcast)
I'm sitting in a book store next to a strip club.
Not that kind of book store. The inventory here is incredibly old and impossibly rare. And it has a secret--a secret that I might have just discovered.
I am alone in the store. And then, tap-tap, suddenly I'm not.
And now I'm pretty sure I'm about to snap my laptop shut, run screaming out the front door, and never return.
* * *
I SHOULD START AT THE BEGINNING.
I lost my job in the slumped-over spring of 2009. I applied for dozens of replacement gigs but was rebuffed, again and again. And I took only the coldest comfort when the companies doing the rebuffing were, themselves, forced out of business months later. I probably couldn't have turned them around single-handedly. Probably.
The job I lost was at the corporate headquarters of the New Amsterdam Bagel Bakery. I designed bagel marketing materials. Menus, coupons, posters for store windows, and, once, an entire booth "experience" for the bagel industry trade show.
I also ran the website.
Now, months into my unemployment, I'd started watching for "help wanted" signs in windows, which is not something you really do, right? I was taught to be suspicious of those. Legitimate employers use Craigslist.
Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store (text)
The Flux chair is a $130, 12lb “origami-style” polypropylene lounge chair designed by Douwe Jacobs; it sets up in minutes and is stable and lovely (there’s also a $65 kids’ version and a whole range of furnishings including a bar, coffee table, countertop, end-table, etc). (via Yanko Design)
The first time Merle Rasmussen played Dungeons & Dragons, he thought it was a Halloween game.
“It was October 1975, and I was an 18-year-old freshman at Iowa State University. My roommate got this game filled with skeletons and undead monsters. I had no idea.” The role-playing bug had bitten him, but fantasy wasn’t his genre. So that same year, he started writing a game set in a modern world, the spy game that would become Top Secret.
Janelle Shane trained a recurrent neural network with a data-set of more than 2000 ancient proverbs and asked it to think up its own: “A fox smells it better than a fool’s for a day.”
Despite the upfront cost, electric toothbrushes are much better at removing plaque than those freebies from the dentist’s office. For those who struggle to fill the American Dental Association’s recommended two minutes of brushing time, or anyone with limited dexterity, a sonic toothbrush can give your oral care routine a boost.To keep your chops healthy […]
Learning a new language will give your resume an upgrade, sure, but it will also provide a huge cognitive boost for mental tasks outside of translation and conversation. Bilingual brains have been shown to be better at handling multiple concurrent tasks, and gaining fluency in a new tongue is an amazing way to improve memory, […]
If you struggle to get a good night’s rest, consider replacing your pillows before dropping hundreds on a new mattress. You can give your tired neck a break with a 2-pack of memory foam pillows, available now in the Boing Boing Store.Each of these pillows is stuffed with cooling polyurethane foam that molds to your […]