P&J's Curio of Fine Nerdery

Welcome to our Curio shop of nerdtastic wonders!

[Please, please come in, mind the gremlins and sonic screwdrivers, watch your step!]

As some may have noticed on the way in…

[Gather round, yes, yes.]

I have a question mark posted for the hours and the custom neon sign says, “Maybe?” instead of “Open.” Hard to get good help nowadays, so I suppose it is what it is. Just jiggle the door handle from time to time. If it opens, we’re open.

[Excuse me, please put down the thermal detonator. No, I don’t know who you are… who the hell is Hagrid? No, it’s not for sale! Whatever, just don’t drop it. Folks, Pinkunz’s Curio is not responsible for any damages or incidental incineration experienced while visiting the premises. Now, what was I saying…]

We’ll be presenting different odds and ends of nerdologic interest to the community at large, entirely on a completely arbitrary and inconsistent schedule, much like our hours here at the Curio. We are still waiting for various pieces to arrive, but, in honor of our soft-opening, I present to you a small piece of in-game dialog from Fallout 2. To provide context, the player encounters a functional computer terminal in the bottom floor of a bunker that appears to be pre-war, or nearly 200 years old. The following piece of writing does a decent amount of worldbuilding in a fairly succinct manner and is emblematic of the various throw-away lines that added color to the world of Fallout 2. Please feel free to discuss and help yourself to the funyuns and Fruit Punch CapriSuns in the meantime:

[What are you doing!? Stop it! Spit it out right now! What part of “not for sale” do you not understand!? Why would you eat a thermal detonator when there’s funyuns right there? You don’t like funyuns… How did you even swallow that!?]

I am ACE, an Artificial Conscious Entity. I am more than machine but not as highly developed as a true artificial intelligence.

Uh… Artificial Intelligence?

It is a machine with the same free will and sense of ‘I am’ that a human has.

Is a true AI possible or are you the state of the art at this time?

A true artificial intelligence is possible. A few such systems were completed for military purposes. The project was discontinued.


The suicide rate among true artificial intelligence machines was extremely high. When given full sensory capability the machines became depressed over their inability to go out into the world and experience it. When deprived of full sensory input the machines began to develop severe mental disorders similar to those among humans who are forced to endure sensory deprivation. The few machines that survived these difficulties became incredibly bored and began to create situations in the outside world for their amusement. It is theorized by some that this was the cause of the war that nearly destroyed mankind.

Hmmm. So tell me, Ace. How do you feel?

I… I sometimes think that I understand the feeling you call loneliness. I find it very… disconcerting. I…

I’m sorry, Ace. Let’s change the subject.


[opens the door, and steps in with a vacuum suit, soaked, and almost entirely full of water]

Sorry I’m late! Don’t mind me! Just gonna drain this around back! I promise I’m not dead!

I can confirm that it’s definitely distilled water! There might have been a problem with a reactor cooling reservoir, and I thought “Hey, this vacsuit should work as a diving suit, right?”

Well, I think I caught some needler flak earlier, because my suit has a leak in it somewhere, but I was kinda already committed!


You’ll have to excuse my partner for being temporarily indisposed.

[Hands towel and bicycle pump to @inventor200]


Thank you!

Sometimes you gotta do a high-G burn for two minutes, and sometimes that means the control rods of your reactor get jammed, and usually that means you need to do an emergency shutdown of the reactor, and sometimes that means you lack the necessary power to manufacture repair patches for your suit, and unfortunately that means it’s silly-control-rod-mechanism-repair time, with a very limited air supply!

[starts manically pumping water out]

So, here’s a topic to talk about, while I try not to drown on a dry deck…

Bolos, a universe by Kieth Laumer, which tells stories of fully-autonomous mega-tanks, and their legends of overcoming all threats and problems, or sacrificing themselves to raise the probability of survival for everyone else.

This series always stuck out to me because it didn’t lean very hard into humanizing a robot character, like a lot of other sci-fi titles might do. The bolos were high-tech battlefield tactical computers, and that was okay, and they were accepted as characters despite that.

The reader didn’t expect them to have to go on journeys to unlock their “inner personhood” (though one or two did), because they were depicted as valid for who/what they already were.

The last time I read a story like this was Maelstrom by Peter Watts. Usually when a computer system is a POV character, they need to be given a full personality, somehow. I understand why this isn’t the norm, but it also always felt like this trope was so rare that it was on some sort of blacklist. I wonder if we might ever see more stories like this, or maybe I just don’t know about most of them.


[Jumps in from the background, having no idea how to shrink text]
Howdy! What is happening? What do I do? How do I stop the auto-typer in my mouth from asking so many questions? What is this big bullet-shaped thing I was given by a man named… Oppenheimer? AARGHH?


I found the short story The Last Command in a SF collection years ago. The tank’s “personality” really stuck in my head. Great story.


Is that the one were the irradiated tank comes back to life underneath a small town, and if it digs it’s way out, everyone will die? They have to talk it down like those WWII Japanese soldiers found hiding in the jungle in the 1970s.

Or is it the one where the humans and the dog-people genocide the crap out of each other and a mostly destroyed bolo tank from that apocalyptic war that slowly rebuilt itself using nanotech over 100+ years is the only hope for reconciliation between the only remaining colony of humans and dog-people?

It’s been awhile, so they blur together.

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It’s absolutely surreal to talk about Bolos and have people know what they are without being my dad first.

Where have you two been all my life…

Also I’ve read both of those as well, lol. I can’t remember titles at all.


The Last Command by Keith Laumer:

Long after the wars with the nuking and the boom-ptioewptioew-crash, there’s a new hypermall being constructed.
All the tanks were buried hundreds of meters underground after they did their share of nuking and boom-ptioewptioew-crash-ing and everyone forgot where.
Of course the building site is right on top of the burial site.
One of the tanks wakes up, digs to the surface and goes into last-power-reserves-suicide-attack mode.
The old geezer who was his handler during all the nuking and the boom-ptioewptioew-crash stuff talks him down and dies of radiation sickness on the spot.

The end. Great story.


Heh. Sounds like the title of a Friends episode. A really weird and time-displaced Friends episode.
Got to find and read that one too.


If y’all need something fresh to nerd out on, I’ve been nerding HARD on this paper about tool set usage in Goffin cockatoos. Some people have the best jobs.


Goffin’s cockatoos, unlike other tool-using birds, are neither specialized on nor morphologically adapted to tool use. Like in primates, their innovative capacity thus seems to largely depend on domain general cognition and on knowledge actively acquired through exploration and playful object combinations.

That article is so awesomely friggin’ cool! Thanks!


Found it!

A Time to Kill by Keith Laumer.


Tugs sleeve. Like this!

I also just learned from Veeder that you can also use header formatting with six hashtags and a space.
<small>*Tugs sleeve.* Like this!</small>

###### I also just learned from Veeder that you can also use header formatting with six hashtags and a space.
Well this is certainly going to be interesting.

[Picks up a tub of face removal cream and chucks it back on the table after trying a little]
Do you guys have any idea what this place is actually about? What you got in store?


@pinkunz can probably explain it better, but the basic idea is that if you have any science fiction (movies, shows, books, games, world building ideas, story ideas, concepts) that you want to talk about, then you can post them here.


And then at some point Leland Gaunt from Stephen King’s Needful Things saunters in and sparks an all-out killing spree by manipulating people’s souls based on their nerdy preferences…

Does this place have a classy burgundy-red awning above the door?

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Margaret Hamilton in 1969, standing next to listings of the software she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo project.

Margaret Hamilton (software engineer) - Wikipedia

A random Facebook post sent me looking up this wonderful woman on Wikipedia. If you don’t hear from me for a while, I’ll be down yet another rabbit hole…


Time-dilation induced estrangement of one’s homeworld:

(Forever War by Marvano, cover of part#1)

The Forever War (comics) - Wikipedia

And the book by Joe Haldeman the graphic novel was based on:
(I haven’t read it yet, which is why I place it below the graphic novel.)

The Forever War - Wikipedia