Friday, October 29, 2010

When Did Friday Get Here?

Oh boy, is it Friday already?  Blink blink.  Blink blink.  When the heck did that happen? 

Sigh, so the Rangers got absolutely creamed (again) last night.  I am so very thankful there is no game tonight.  I need a break.  So do the Rangers, apparently.  That eighth inning was just painful.  But we're still only two games in.  They just have to win four, right?  It's totally doable!  I remain positive.  No, really.  I swear. 

Um, moving on.  Hey, it is Friday, isn't it?  You know what that means?  There's a new Gronk up!  Yay!

Here you go, enjoy.  I love all of the costumes, but especially Kitteh's Cthulhu and Gronk's homemade R2D2.  Though sadly, that just reminded me I lost one of the legs of my poor Lego R2D2 key chain yesterday.  And apparently Lego doesn't make those anymore.  I've been trying to find a new one for a while, because almost all of his paint has rubbed off, but now with a missing leg, I may have to officially retire him.  My husband did find this really awesome global Lego selling site that had some though, so it may be time to make him call in an order.  (I don't remember what the site was, and he's temporarily stranded at an airport in Boston, so I can't ask him to send me the link, otherwise I'd share it with you.)

I finished the last Republic Commando novel, Order 66, last night.  I was going to try to go ahead and have my write-up for you today, but um, that didn't happen.  You can expect it on Monday though.  There is a follow-up book, the first of what was supposed to be a a new series, Imperial Commando, but then someone in Lucas' camp pulled the plug so it looks like only the first got published.  I have that and will be reading it soon.  But the next Wheel of Time book (Towers of Midnight) comes out on Tuesday (in fact, Amazon just emailed me earlier today to tell my my copy had shipped, huzzah!).  So instead of diving into the next Star Wars book, I have to take a break to read The Gathering Storm again so I will remember who the heck all of these people are and what the heck is going on.  I started it this afternoon.  Hopefully I can get it finished by Tuesday so I don't have to fight my husband for dibs on ToM.  Fingers crossed.  Also, Brandon Sanderson himself will be in Dallas doing a book signing at Borders next Thursday.  My husband and I (and a friend) are totally going to that.  Should be really cool or really crazy or both.

Also, Monday will be a big day because it officially kicks of National Novel Writing Month.  Six pages a day.  I can do it.  I can do it.  I've got an outline, I've got names for my main characters, I'm getting a general picture of what the world looks like (though I haven't drawn a map yet, I can't imagine that's far off).  The opening scene is kicking around in my head, but I am trying not to pay too much attention to it so I don't forget it all when I sit down to start writing and then get mad that I screwed it up. 

In fact, I am trying not to overthink any aspect of the story too much beforehand.  I had a mini-writing revelation the other night.  One of the big reasons I think that I get so bogged down and stall out when I am writing is because I have a tendency to go off on tangents describing stuff, or trying to figure out how to describe stuff (people, places, clothes, etc.) and end up wandering away from the story itself, without any idea of how to get back to the path.  I believe that is one of the reasons why I was usually able to do a pretty good job completing my fan fiction stories--I knew exactly who these characters were, and what their surroundings looked like.  I could focus on what was going on instead of worrying about making sure the readers could see the same picture I saw in my head, because the readers also already knew what I did.  My biggest job was to tell a good story and make sure I got the voice of the characters correct. 

Since the primary purpose of NaNoWriMo is to actually just get the story written, and the focus is on quantity not quality I have decided to try approaching the writing of this as I did with my fan fiction.  I am just going to assume that anyone reading the story already knows what I am seeing in my head and not worry too much about describing people or places unless it is necessary to the story.  After all, once I have actually gotten the whole thing written, I can always go back later and fill in any obvious blanks.  That's just a matter of rewrites and editing.

So I am off to have my weekend.  I'll be watching the World Series, watching Red:  Werewolf Hunter on Syfy, taking my daughter to Boo at the Zoo, giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, and working on getting any necessary (for me) background information for my story sussed out before Monday.  Also, I will be frantically reading The Gathering Storm in there as well.  Should be packed full of awesome. 

Have a fantastic weekend--and happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

That's Okay Rangers, You'll Do Better Tonight

Game one of the World Series has come and gone with a Giants win, sigh.  BUT, it was just game one after all.  We can still do this.  Watching the game last night I was struck by a funny realization.  I have crocheted in exactly two baseball stadiums.  And do you know which two?  That's right, the ballparks for the Rangers and the Giants.  I even have photographic evidence, see:

San Francisco Giants v. Colorado Rockies September 23, 2008

Right next to me that's my mom (knitting) and then my little sister (who lives in the bay area, which is why we were at that game).  I was making a shawl for one of my best friends for her wedding at this game.  AT&T Park really is a beautiful ballpark, especially at night.  Also, the seats in front of us had cup holders attached to the back that made a perfect yarn holder!

Of course, I have also crocheted at the Ballpark in Arlington, my home team's home:

Texas Rangers v. Boston Red Sox August 15, 2010

I was making a dish towel there.  I've done a few other crochet projects at that stadium (including my first pair of socks) but I can't find any other pictures.  It was frikkin' hot that day and we were directly in the sun, until about a third of the way into the game, after which it got much better.  This was Baby Girl's first baseball game.  You can see her on the right sitting in her daddy's lap, trying to chew her way through the cap on the Sprite bottle.

It didn't even dawn on me until I was talking with my sister on the phone today that it is both of our home teams going up against each other in this series, that's just crazy!  So naturally there's been a little bit of good-natured ribbing.  I have a feeling whichever team wins, one of us will have teasing ammunition for a while to come!  My poor mom doesn't know who to root for (though I think she's leaning towards the Giants) but my grandmother told me she's rooting for the Rangers for me.  It is possible we're a baseball family.

Adding to the blow of my team losing the opening game of the series, Syfy officially canceled Caprica last night.  Sigh.  Remember that rant from Tuesday, about how I am not too sure that Syfy actually cares about its scifi programming anymore?  Yeah.  They aired half a season, waited until the start of the next television season to air the back half, after moving it to a new night where it was up against some extremely stiff competition, and gave it four episodes before pulling the plug.  Way to show faith in your programming, Syfy.  They're not even going to burn off the remainder of the season and let us end the year with a bang.  Oh no, they're holding off the rest of the season until some unspecified time in  2011's first quarter.  Grr.  Argh.  Think happy thoughts Cori, think happy thoughts.

Hmm...happy thoughts...ooh!  I did get my new comic books for the month yesterday!

In the top photo, clockwise from the top left corner we have the newest issues of Dragon Age and Buffy Season 8, the first issue of Warlord of Mars (based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series), and the newest issue of Angel Aftermath (a.k.a Season 6).  In the bottom photo, clockwise from the top left corner we have issues 3 and 5 of The Wheel of Time:  The Eye of the World (they sent me issue #4 last month, ah WOT comics, you are eccentric), the newest issue of The Last Unicorn, and the first issue of Star Wars Knight Errant.

Ooh, I am excited to do some comic reading!  I realize I have absolutely no credibility as a comic book geek, since all of the series I read are either adaptations of existing novels, series set in various video games or scifi franchises, and continuations of canceled television series.  But that will not stop me from getting excited about my new comics nonetheless!  Maybe I should keep the stack close by during tonight's game to read in between plays, just to keep my spirits up....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stargate Wednesday: Cloverdale (2.5)

Spoilers for the Stargate Universe episode Cloverdale below! 

This week's installment of Stargate Universe was another entry along the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season episode "Normal Again" and Stargate Atlantis' third season episode "The Real World."  You know the formula:  one of our heroes is somehow infected by a demon/alien organism and as the organism begins to spread through their system, they find themselves in another existence, one in which their fantastical life is the dream and they are just your normal every day Joe.  "Cloverdale" was nice entry into this category, and it deviated from the formula just enough to be able to stand apart from those that came before and be remembered as its own thing.

The episode opens with Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Greer on a bus on Earth.  We know right away that something is not quite right because Scott is suddenly talking in a weird accent (I couldn't tell if he was trying to be from the northern midwest of the U.S. or from Canada).  The bus stops and we learn that they've arrived at their destination, a town called Cloverdale.  Colonel Young and Eli are waiting for them across the street, and as Scott runs over to greet them, he is hit by a car.  We are then given a quick flash of Scott in his usual uniform falling over and clutching his arm,which is looking seriously messed up.  Apparently, while off world, he's been infected by some sort of alien, and T.J. can't figure out how to stop the infection from getting worse.  Also, everyone has spiffy new camo jackets, even the civilians.  That's kind of random, but I'm just going to assume several crates of uniforms got tossed through the gate on the initial trip to Destiny and leave it at that.  Cue the title screen.

Returning from commercial break, we find ourselves once more in Cloverdale and we learn that in this little fantasy world, Young is Scott's dad (and he has the same bizarre accent, though thankfully, no one else in the episode had this problem).  Eli is Chloe's brother, and Scott and Greer are back in town so that Scott and Chloe, high school sweethearts, can get married.  Scott has survived being run over (by Brody, no less).  It's just a flesh wound, really, and he and his family head home.  We continue to follow Scott through the day before his wedding--he and Chloe go to a movie at the theater where they had one of their first dates.  The movie turns out to be a representation of what really happened to Scott on the planet where he's actually been infected.  He has a brief freak-out and they leave the theater early, where we find out that the whole plan behind them going to the movie was so that Chloe could deliver him to his surprise bachelor party.

I would like to take a moment to point out that this was the clumsiest execution of a surprise party EVER.  But I did like that Brody was the bartender (he runs the still aboard Destiny), and his line about the bar actually being packed, everyone was just hiding was actually pretty amusing.  I think that with Riley's death, I may now appoint Brody my new favorite non-main character (if you're wondering, my favorite main character is of course Eli, with Greer in a close second).

There's a weird little bit where Scott gets really drunk and hits on James, who is a waitress at Brody's bar, and in this little fantasy is his ex-girlfriend.  I wonder about the relationship timing a bit, since Chloe is supposed to be his high school sweetheart and all, but whatever.  Apparently he is only joking when he hits on her but she takes him seriously, which leads to an awkward moment that was really well played by Julia Benson.  Hey writers, can we get James an awesome guy sometime soon?  She kinda deserves one.  I was rooting for her and Eli to hook up, but apparently he's got Ginny the Lucian Alliance Science Girl aimed his way this season.  Sigh.  I haven't been on Area 52 in a few years, maybe there's some James/Eli fanfic running around...

Sorry, sorry, back to the story.  While Scott is dallying in his little fantasy world trying to decide if he actually wants to marry Chloe or not, T.J. and the offworld team are working frantically to save his life.  They only have three hours before Destiny jumps, and they can't take Scott back on board the ship until he's cured, in case whatever he has is contagious.  T.J. and Rush (and let's just take it as read that Rush does several things that make me like him even less, yet again) try everything they can think of to counteract the infection, to no avail.  There is even a halfhearted attempt to convince us that they might actually amputate Scott's arm, but we know that isn't going to happen.  It's never a real concern, even when they cut to a commercial right as they are about to make the first incision.  We come back to find out that, oh darn, it's already in his bloodstream, cutting his arm off isn't going to make any difference, no point.

Young grumbles that he doesn't want everyone making a mad dash for the gate at the last minute again, and orders everyone but T.J. and a defensive group (the alien who infected Scott has decided to attack them at the gate) to return to Destiny immediately.  Of course, everyone gets distracted trying to make sure they don't have any alien goo on them before they go back, and there ends up being yet another last minute mad dash through the gate.  I appreciate the writers trying to hang a lantern on the fact that it is always down to a wire, I really do, but I honestly would have been less irritated at the cliche if they hadn't drawn my attention to it.  So, you know, fail there.  Sorry guys.  Nice try though.

While Chloe is being all pouty that she isn't going to be allowed to stay with Scott on the planet, T.J. notices that she's got some alien goo on her shirt and freaks out, but it looks like it missed Chloe's skin so she wasn't infected.  Funnily enough, earlier in the episode, I thought it looked like the Chloe stand-in in the "movie" from Scott's fantasy got hit by the goo too, and in the same spot.  But I had forgotten about it by the time T.J. finds the goo on Chloe.  That actually was a very clever little bit of writing.  Bravo guys.  I forgive you for the lantern hanging.  Wonder Girl, of course, realizes that the goo must have touched her skin, but she is clearly not suffering any ill effects.  You'll remember that everyone but Rush thinks she was cured by the neural interface chair last week, but we know that she still has her weird alien powers.  She puts two and two together and realizes that whatever the blueberry aliens did to her, it made her immune to this alien.  So she wanders off to the edge of the perimeter to get stung and test her theory (and also so that, if she's wrong, at least they will let her stay behind with Scott).

Of course T.J. and Rush find out she got herself stung, and they realize she is immune and she talks T.J. into giving Scott an infusion of her blood to clear up his infection so they can all go home.  We're down to that last minute we were talking about earlier, and the alien is pretty much right up in their faces trying to eat them all.  Greer realizes that the alien really doesn't like the kawoosh when the stargate opens, so he sends everyone back and stays with Chloe and Scott, and they all lay on the ramp out of range of the puddle, just dialing the gate over and over until Scott wakes up and they run back onto the ship just as she jumps.  Of course, now everyone knows that Chloe is still all aliened up.  Young meets them at the gate and tells them they are headed for quarantine, since now that Chole's blood is in Scott, he's probably aliened up too, and that's the end of that.

Miraculously, though he was still a jerk and he was far too eager to cut off Scott's arm, Rush wasn't actually the cause of the problems in this episode.  In fact, he didn't actually mess anything up for anyone, really.  I predict this means he will be double the jackass next week.

"Cloverdale" gave us some really fascinating insight into Scott's character.  We learned in season one that his parents died in a car crash when he was a kid and he was then raised by a priest, who drank himself to death when Scott was only sixteen.  So, he didn't have the typical suburban childhood that his fantasy self clearly had.  He got his real life high school sweetheart pregnant and spent a good eight or ten years thinking she had gotten an abortion.  No wedding bells for him, no family, no loving dad.  But in his fantasy world, he's got the idealized romance and the happy little family, for the most part.  The whole town seems to be pulling for him--heck, his pharmacist (Volker) was part of the plot to get him to his bachelor party.

It seems perfectly obvious that Young would fall into the role of father for Scott in his subconscious retreat.  Eli's role as Chloe's brother (which I am sure the real Eli would be less than thrilled about) also makes sense when you think about it.  Scott clearly likes Eli, but often feels like he's got to look out for him, like a kid brother, but Eli's concern for Chloe is so strong and evident (even though he seems to have moved mostly past the romantic feelings for her) that the more I think about it, the more I like him as her brother rather than Scott's.  Greer as his best man says a lot about his respect for the sergeant, and we even get Lou Diamond Phillips back for an episode!  He appears as another father figure and the town sheriff.  I found that really interesting, that Scott thinks of Telford as "the law."  The really glaring inconsistency here was Rush as the Justice of the Peace.  Seriously?  What, now?  I can't figure out what that says about how Scott feels about Rush at all.  I honestly would have thought that he would have put Wray in that place.  Maybe it's just my own feelings about Rush casting doubt on that decision though.  I don't know, it just seemed jarring in an otherwise perfectly cast fantasy.

While this episode was clearly designed to stand on its own, it does have some potentially huge future consequences.  I really hope Scott does start showing the effects of getting an infusion of Chloe's alien-morphed blood.  At the very least, he was the XO on board and now he is essentially out of commission until they can determine exactly what the blueberry aliens did to Chloe.  I hope they actually let this play out and don't just get it all cleaned up neatly by the end of the next episode.  SGU is usually pretty good about not wrapping things up in a neat little bow, but every once in a while *cough*"Lost"*cough* they do try to slip one by us.  I keep hearing that next week starts off a big multi-episode story arc though, so hopefully this won't be one of those times.

Hands down my favorite thing about this episode though?  Greer got to bust out his flame thrower again!  That boy loves his flame thrower.

Season one episode "Water"

Also, on a random note, one of the funny little side effects of watching SGU right after Glee on Tuesday nights is that I keep thinking that they need to find Cory Montieth a role on SGU.  He's already appeared in Stargate Atlantis and in Stargate SG-1.

Stargate Atlantis season one episode "The Storm"

Stargate SG-1 season ten episode "200"
I mean, he kind of looks like Scott a little bit.  He'd make a perfect long lost relative or, and I think this one is even better, a future Matt Jr. in some random time travel episode.  Who's with me on this?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Beuller?  Anyone?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Out With the Old, In With the New

TUESDAY PSA:  Don't forget, new episodes of Stargate Universe and Caprica tonight on Syfy starting at 8 p.m CST!!!

With The Guild wrapped up for another season, and the Legend of Neil series finale getting ready to air tomorrow, there is a sad empty spot in my heart that was once filled by web series.  But, never fret!  Syfy has the answer (scary as that may seem)!  A new web series is premiering today on the Syfy website called Riese:  Kingdom Falling.  Here's the "about" blurb for the series:

Riese: Kingdom Falling takes place in Eleysia, a dying kingdom where distrust and anxiety have clouded people's minds, causing a regression into primitive ways of thinking. Rituals and mythology have resurged, and the darker side of mankind has begun to reveal itself. Riese, a wanderer, travels across the decaying land with her wolf, Fenrir. Marked as a heretic by religious group The Sect and the new Empress, Riese must evade their assassins and discover their true intentions for Eleysia.

Narrated by Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary), the series stars a cavalcade of talent from the world of popular speculative drama including Christine Chatelain (The Bone Collector); Sharon Taylor (Stargate Universe); Ben Cotton (Harper's Island), Allison Mack (Smallville); Ryan Robbins (Caprica); Patrick Gilmore (Stargate Universe); Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica) and Emilie Ullerup (Sanctuary).

Of course, this isn't actually a new series.  Riese was running under it's own steam for at least one whole story arc before the creators brokered a deal with Syfy and pulled all the episodes off the air so it could be retooled and they could have exclusive rights to it.  I watched the first episode about a year ago and was very intrigued.  I didn't get a chance to delve too deep into it before it was pulled though, so I am really excited that it has come back.  I can only hope Syfy does it justice.

Though looking at their website I can already see a big issue.  They don't seem to understand that part of what makes web series so popular is that they don't follow the BS scheduling practices of network and cable television.  They've got its scheduled "air time" plastered all over the page--which isn't until 11 pm CST.  What the heezy?  Sigh.  Once the episode is up, it should be available for viewing at any time though (hopefully), but still.  Come on, Syfy, don't jerk us around and try to make us dance to your schedule--that defeats the whole purpose of a web series.  If I get excited because Tuesday is web series day, that means I get excited because I can hop on my computer at any point on Tuesday and watch my shows, not have to wait until the end of the day or the next day for you to get it put up.  At that point, you may as well just decide that Riese day is Wednesday, not Tuesday.  I really do want this series to succeed though, because it truly does have a fantastic cast--those listed above don't even start to list all of the awesome people involved. 

But this just reminds me again that the heyday of the SciFi Channel is long long gone.  There was the name change, of course.  I'm not going to get into my rant about that, it's been done already and often, and has been done well.  Plus, there's the wrestling thing.  Look, I am not a fan of professional wrestling.  I really just don't get the appeal.  Many people I know (my brother-in-law in particular) love it, and I am totally cool with that.  Not everybody enjoys science fiction on the level that I do, after all.  To each his own.  BUT.  Syfy is supposed to be a specialized cable channel.  Changing the spelling of your name doesn't change the expectations a name like "Syfy" is going to give your viewers.  The programming decisions that the network has been making over the last several years has made it very clear to me that the people now running the show don't believe there is an economically sustainable demand for a purely science fiction and fantasy channel.  So they've got this Ghost Hunters crap, and they've got wrestling.  And they keep making ridiculously substandard monster and disaster movies instead of devoting those resources to well-done series.

Update:  It looks like the first episode is already up and can be watched here.  Thank goodness for Ryan Robbins' FB account keeping us all in the loop!  Though, this does make me wonder, why the heck do you even have an air time listed on your website at all Syfy?  

The decision to move Stargate Universe and Caprica to Tuesday nights is another clue that the people running the show don't really care about the actual scifi programming anymore.  They moved the shows primarily because they got Friday night wrestling and didn't want to risk losing any of those shiny new viewers by changing the night of the program, so they decided instead to screw over all of the existing viewers by canceling the long-standing SciFriday and shunting our programming to Tuesday nights.  The argument was that this should actually help these shows succeed because their summer programming does so well on Tuesday nights.  Okay, see, here's the thing, summer programming that is original is going to do better simply because it isn't reruns.  But your fall shows?  Why would you put them on against such a seriously stacked existing Tuesday night lineup on other channels?  An io9 article yesterday stated that SGU and Caprica are "circling the drain" and it made me bristle--but it's true.  The ratings have been abysmal.  The shows themselves have been outstanding, but there is simply too much competition on Tuesday nights for anyone who isn't a straight up fangirl/guy to bother about watching the shows live in the days of DVR.  The +7 day numbers for SGU, at least, are something like an additional 70%.  What does that say when 70% of your viewers aren't watching your show live?  It says it's on at a bad day and time.  The end of the year is coming up, and along with it the decision of whether or not to give these two shows new seasons.  I think the yea or nay here is going to say a lot about the network's devotion to its scifi programming, because the move to a new date should definitely be taken into account when they start crunching numbers.  I try to keep watching this channel, because the genre shows it does air are a lot of my favorites, but it is getting harder and harder to trust the people behind the scenes to look out for my viewing interests, I'll tell you that.

Hmm, well, that was a kind of unintended rant.  Sorry about that.  I'll wrap up with some costuming updates.  I only ended up having one party to go to last weekend because one got called on account of rain and rescheduled for a few weeks from now.  As predicted, no one at the party recognized my costume, but that's alright.  Here's a reminder of what I was going for:

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond
And here's what I ended up with:

Cori as Amy Pond

Considering I am a bit shorter and quite a bit rounder than Karen Gillan, I think I pulled it off rather well.  I do think however, that when I do wear this to a convention, I'll probably just go ahead and invest in getting my hair colored, because when push came to shove, I couldn't bring myself to wear the wig.  Here's what it looked like with the wig though, in case you're curious:

This wig adds +6 to Silliness.

And, to close things out on a happy note, here's another picture of a baby dressed as a giraffe.  

Baby Girl checks out her costume.

Enjoy your Tuesday, folks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reading Recommendation: Star Wars Republic Commando: True Colors


T3M4 advises you to proceed at your own risk. 

As its title might suggest, Karen Traviss' third entry in the Republic Commando series, True Colors, is all about setting the stage for the final alliances of our various clone, Jedi, Mandalorian, and other friends from the series so far.  Those familiar with the Star Wars timeline know that at the beginning of the end of The Revenge of the Sith, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine orders the clones to assassinate, in its entirety, the Jedi Order.  Clearly, this order is going to cause a lot of problems for Kal Skirata's Null ARC Troopers, as well as his commando squads, particularly Omega Squad. 

True Colors gives us strong hints, however, that not all of the clones (or Jedi for that matter) will take this order without a fight.  Ever since meeting the six surviving clones from the Null batch at the age of two, and rescuing them from "reconditioning" (otherwise known as termination) by the Kaminoan head scientist Ko Sai, Kal Skirata has had his own agenda with regards to the clones.  In this novel we, the readers, finally get to see the entirety of that agenda, as well as read eagerly along while it begins to come to fruition.

Let me back up a little bit, because I skipped over this in my last review.  When the scientists on Kamino first started creating the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), they planned not just to clone Jango Fett, but also to tweak his DNA to make the clones a) more willing/able to work with each other (as Jango was something of a loner), and b) more obedient/loyal to their Republic masters.  The first batch of "prototype" clones was a group of twelve designated "Null" troopers.  Only half of those prototype clones survived the birthing/hatching process.  The Nulls, however, turned out to not be what the Kaminoans were looking for, and so subsequent clones were based on the next template they created.  This means that among the clones the Nulls are a bit different, both in physical appearance and in genetic traits.  

Kal arrived on Kamino when the Null clones were two years old (approximately 5 or 6 in appearance and development).  One of his first encounters on the planet, in fact, was with Ko Sai and the Nulls.  She had finally deemed them irrefutably flawed and scheduled them for reconditioning.  Kal, seeing only six very frightened little boys, stopped her from killing the children and took responsibility for them upon himself, along with the training of his batch of regular commando troopers.  He raised these boys as his own sons, and it was his interactions with them that shaped his opinions of the Kaminoans as well as his treatment of all of the commandos he trained.  The Nulls were classified as Advanced Recon Commando (ARC) troopers--though the ARC troopers from the subsequent template (the Alphas) were all trained by Jango Fett himself, and the Mandalorian mercenaries he hired (including Kal) trained the Commando troopers.  The "basic" model clone troopers were trained by a variety of soldiers, also hired by Fett, though they were not Mandalorian.

The Null ARC troopers are:  Prudii (N-5), Kom'rk (N-6), Mereel (N-7), Jaing (N-10), Ordo (N-11), and A'den (N-12).  In Triple Zero Traviss introduced Ordo and Mereel, as well as Kal's back story with the Nulls.  In True Colors we also meet A'den, though Ordo and Mereel both play very heavy roles in the story. 

There is a very very lot going on in this book, but the main plot(s) centers around the search for Ko Sai, who fled from Kamino when it was attacked by Separatists at the start of the Clone Wars.  The official line is that she died in the attack, but in truth she defected to the Separatists, and then took their money and ran.  She's been in hiding for over a year, and a lot of people are looking for her. The other Kaminoan scientists want her back because she is their best scientist (and she stole quite a bit of the cloning research when she fled).  Chancellor Palpatine wants her back ostensibly to deny her services to the Separatists and to ensure the continued development of clones for the GAR, the Separatists want their money back (and her research if they can get it), and Kal wants to find her to make her come up with a solution to the accelerated aging every clone is saddled with.

The Nulls spent the time since Geonosis doing odd jobs for Kal, technically classified as Special Operations, but really more to further his own goals of providing a solid future for his adopted sons once the war is completed.  One of those odd jobs has been tracking down Ko Sai, and in True Colors, Kal finally has a strong enough lead to actually go and look for her himself, along with the assistance of Ordo, Mereel, and, surprisingly, Walon Vau.  I say "surprisingly" because these two men do not like each other one bit.  But over the course of the novel, it becomes clear that they both resent the way the clones have been used by the Republic and want to secure the chance of a future for them.  Despite their very different approaches to training the men and to life in general, these men grow to grudgingly respect each other and recognize that they need each other to be able to do what they want to do. 

But, as I mentioned, Palpatine also wants Ko Sai found, immediately.  So he tasks Bardan Jusik and Delta Squad to find her.  Bardan, of course, is in on Kal's plans and realizes that he can't let Delta find her first.  So he works with Kal to delay Delta Squad's search, and in the end, Kal and his team do reach her first.  She is captured and taken to Mandalore, where Kal sets up facilities for her to start working on a way to end the clones' accelerated aging. 

I feel like the dichotomy of this particular plot point is a very important one that will have extremely far-reaching consequences.  For one thing, up until now Delta has been part of the inner circle with Kal, Vau, Omega, and the Nulls.  There have been differences of opinion, but they have been on the same side through it all, putting those differences aside to get the job done.  But from this point forward, Delta is outside the circle.  I foresee that leading to some nasty conflicts and/or some hard choices down the road.  For another thing, it has Vau actively working against Delta, and though he would never admit it, it has been made clear that they are his "boys" in the same way that Omega is to Kal.  Delta is given specific orders not to mention their assignment to Vau or to Kal.  While they have no problem keeping Kal out of the loop, it is interesting to see that, though they don't like it, they are equally willing to exclude Vau as well, because they are ordered to do so.  Kal's training methods brought up a batch of very competent commandos, but their loyalty is to him first, and then the Republic.  In Delta we see that Vau's training instilled loyalty to the Republic above all else--even if the Republic's actions aren't making any sense.

And make no mistake about it, the Republic's actions aren't making sense.  Not any more, not to anyone who is willing to look beyond the propaganda and the individual assignments to take a gander at the big picture.  The Republic is claiming that the Separatists have quadrillions of droids, but if they do, then they aren't using them--if they were, the Republic would have been overrun long before this point in the story.  The Nulls' forays into the various Separatist droid factories on sabotage missions confirm that the numbers are far less than what is being claimed.  But the leaders of the Republic military don't seem to care about this news that the enemy is much smaller than they thought.  They certainly aren't taking the advice of their generals to adjust their strategy to one that would bring about a swift end to the war based on the new and confirmed intel. 

In fact, the government seems to be doing the exact opposite, stretching their resources throughout the galaxy very dangerously and therefore stretching out the war unnecessarily.  Omega, for instance, is on an assignment during this story that they quickly realize makes no strategic sense whatsoever.  Treasury Agent Besany Wennen, who was more or less drafted into Kal's clan during their mission on Coruscant, has been doing some digging on her end of things and has made a couple of very interesting--and disturbing--discoveries.  First, it seems that the government has busily been setting up new cloning facilities on one of Coruscant's moons, but they're keeping it top secret and hiding the money trail.  Second, there is very little to no expenditure being allocated toward health care and rehabilitation for clones.  Put together an encounter of Omega's on their mission, Kal and his band realize that any clones who are too injured to be healed and put back into action immediately or at all are being euthanized.  And any clones that express a desire to leave the GAR are being executed by Covert Ops, which means it is sanctioned by the Senate.  Our motley little band is coming to the realization that something is very very wrong with the war, and that the Republic they are serving might be just as rotten as the Separatists they are fighting.

Ko Sai also reveals to Kal and Etain that the real reason she left Kamino was to get away from Chancellor Palpatine.  It seems he had been haranguing her to develop a means for him--not mankind,  not the clones, just him--to expand his life span well past that of an ordinary human.  If that isn't a sinister hint that things are in place to get much much worse, then I don't know what is. 

Adding to the growing discontent with the clones' lot in life, Darman's not the only one of his brothers who has found himself a girl.  Ordo has been seeing Besany Wennen and Atin has fallen for a Twi'lek named Laseema.  The clones who haven't found companionship outside of their brothers are looking to those who have and starting to think about what they want outside of service in the GAR.  Fi, in particular, feels the lack of a "normal" life imposed by the conditions of his creation.  The clones may have been trained only to serve in the GAR, but once exposed to the rest of the galaxy, it did not take long for many of them to realize that they are, in fact, still human men, and to crave the kind of existence, or at least choices, that other humans take for granted.  Jedi Knight Bardan Jusik is hit particularly hard by realizing his complicity in what has been done to these men, in how they are being used, and he faces a great struggle with himself over whether he still belongs in the Jedi Order at all. 

As I said, there's quite a bit going on in True Colors, and I haven't even begun to scrape the surface.  Traviss takes us into the real meat of the issues here.  The casual Star Wars fans who have seen the movies will come at this knowing all along that Palpatine is a Bad Guy, and therefore all of his calls in the war are subject to question.  We know, as the readers, that he is Up To No Good.  Traviss does an amazing job of taking that into consideration and managing to show us why Palpatine was able to pull off this grand deception.  We see these people living their lives as citizens or servants (or property) of the Republic.  We see the ideals that they want to believe they are upholding, and we see how separate from the reality of the war the Senate and the people of the Republic truly are.  And once we're sucked in, we get to ride along as a few of these people start finding the pieces and putting them together.  I am amazed by how well it is executed.  This series gets better, richer, with each new book.  Do yourself a favor and read it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Setting Goals is Important, But So Is Actually Reaching Them

Happy Friday!  Learn how to carve a pumpkin in today's Gronk!

So, I have an announcement of sorts to make.  I have decided to participate in this year's National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, each year in November, writers around the world get together and each of them write (or at least attempt to write) a 50,000 word (175 page) novel during course of the month.  That works out to about 6 pages a day, so all it really takes is an idea for a story and the dedication to actually make the time to sit down and do it.  The big selling point of NaNoWriMo is that it provides a community for writers to get together and help each other meet their goal.  The idea here is quantity, not quality.  Just get a first draft written.  Then, you can go back and fix it up all you want. 

So, I have my story idea, and I am starting to assemble my cast of characters and do a little outlining and world building--you can have all sorts of background material assembled beforehand, but you can't start writing the actual story until the first of the month.  I am officially taking a hiatus from video games in November so that I can devote that time to writing (and give myself a break to recuperate from the intensity of Dragon Age before diving into Morrowind).  I even have a local friend who has signed up to do it as well, so we are going to plan to make a few "writing dates" during the month to get together and just write sans husbands and babies.  I am super excited about this.  And I am sharing it with all of you, and planning to make frequent updates on Facebook so that I will actually stick with it.  My biggest obstacle in writing throughout my life has been just getting the story finished.  I usually start off pretty strong and then get stalled, wander away, and never come back.  I am determined not to do that this time.  I don't care if what I churn out is absolute crap (I hope it's not), but I am going to finish, dang it. 

If any of you out there have been kicking around the thought of writing your own novel, now is the time to give it a go!  Head on over to the site, sign up, add me as a buddy.  We'll keep each other on track!  My user name is AtlantisDragonGirl.  Let's do this, people!

In entertainment news, looks like the film production of The Hobbit is finally on track and moving forward.  It's been greenlit, with Peter Jackson officially directing (as he should have been from the beginning), and the cast is starting to be announced!  It is just flat out incredible--and I am in love with the idea of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.  Nothing but good can come of this, folks. 

And finally, for anyone wondering, today is the first (of two) Halloween party I'm going to this year, and I did manage to get my costume assembled in time!  My husband picked up the sweatshirt from American Apparel last weekend for me, it was even on sale.  I have to give Doctor Who's costuming department huge props on their taste in sweatshirts, too, this thing is awesome comfy (I may have "tested" it out on Sunday).  I found a skirt for $3 at Berry Good Buys.  It's not quite as mini as dear Amy's skirt, but it is about as mini as I personally should ever be wearing (and it has attached shorts inside, double yay).  I was a little worried about finding a pair of Chucks in a bricks and mortar store in the style and color I needed, but then I remembered that Foot Locker totally carries a big selection of Converse and I had success there.  I couldn't really tell from my reference photos if her shoes are navy or royal blue, but they had navy in my size so that's what I went with.  I found a red wig that (after a washing and thorough coming/brushing out) will do alright for now,  and I rounded the costume out with some black pantyhose, a black headband, black socks, and a gold watch (that I found on clearance for $7, score). 

Red sweatshirt and black skirt.

Blue hi-top Chucks.

Pantyhose, gold watch, headband, and black socks.

Red wig, pre-washing.

I will try to get some photos of me in the costume to post for you as well. 

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it is my alma matter's Homecoming weekend.  Go Frogs!  Also, go Rangers, you only have to win one more game! (Please do it tonight so I don't have to drive through game traffic on my way to Dallas tomorrow, kthxbye.) 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dragon Age: The Ultimate in Replayability

This post contains potential plot spoilers for Dragon Age:  Origins and Dragon Age:  Origins--Awakening.

My character, a female elf warrior.

So I finally finished playing Dragon Age the other night.  I would say it took me about a month and a half to play through the game itself (Dragon Age:  Origins) and the expansion pack (Dragon Age: Origins--Awakening).  I forgot to check the actual hours played log, but I get about somewhere between 2-5 hours of gaming in on most days (usually it's a solid 3), so make of that what you will. 

This was a bear, but oh man, it was a pretty fun bear.  For me, hands down the most important thing about a role playing video game (RPG) is the story.  If a game doesn't have a compelling story that keeps me wanting to find out what happens next, then there's no reason for me to play it all of the way through, now is there?  Of course, two of the key elements to a compelling story are world building and character development, and Dragon Age excels in both of those areas admirably.  More on this in a bit.

Game play itself, is of course, also very important to making a successful video game. I am sure there are all kinds of definitions of what makes up good game play, but for me it boils down to how quickly the controls/actions in the game become intuitive.  I tend to give most PC games a little more of an adjustment period on this front (past the initial "training" portion of the game) because I am still getting used to keyboard/mouse controls versus a joystick/game controller.  I had years of not being very good at console games under my belt before my husband ever convinced me to try a PC game that wasn't Zoo Tycoon.  Of course, even with my learning curve, I have still jumped head first into PC gaming in the last year or so.  My poor console games are sitting sadly in their coffee table cubbyholes wishing someone other than the baby would take them out to play once in a while.  But I digress.  My thoughts on PC versus console gaming are fodder enough for their very own post, I think. 

Back to the game play in Dragon Age.  I would definitely give this a thumbs up.  It probably helps that three of the five PC games I have played prior to Dragon Age (Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic II:  The Sith Lords, Portal, Mass Effect, and Mass Effect 2) were made by the same company (Bioware), and a fourth was made by an offshoot of that company.  But either way, I was able to pick up the controls fairly quickly and figure out how to access/use the items in my inventory, read the codex entries, find my active quests, and level my characters with relative ease.  Actually, once I got used to it, the character leveling process in this game is probably one of the best I've used so far. I don't know if that is because I am finally starting to figure out how I should be leveling or if it was actually a really good design though.

As far as combat goes in the game, however, well, I will admit I had to change the difficulty level to "easy" pretty early on and may have left that setting stand for the rest of the game.  Again, I am not sure if this was a reflection of the game itself or of my skill as a gamer.  I hate needing to put a game on the "easy" setting, because it does feel a bit like cheating to me, but with this game, I kind of needed it.   Even with the difficulty level turned down, there were still some places where I felt overwhelmed, though I will admit there were also many places where I could totally feel the "easy" kicking in and wished for a bit more of a challenge.  Having played through it once though, and having a better idea of how the leveling works and which skills/spells/specialties do what, I am looking forward to making it through the next time without readjusting the settings. 

The only aspect of the game play I really have to complain about was the maps.  They weren't even that bad, I just felt like they didn't give the level of detail I would have liked, especially compared to some of the previous Bioware games I've played.  I really think it is more that I didn't so much care for the artistic choices they made with them than that they were bad maps though.  But given the consistently insane amount of detail throughout the rest of the game, crappy maps are a price that I am perfectly willing to pay.

The basic story of the game is this:  The land of Ferelden has come under a Blight--a plague of darkspawn controlled by an archdemon.    Your character is drafted into the Grey Wardens, the military force specially charged with fighting darkspawn and ending the Blight.  Shortly after you join the Wardens, however, there is a battle with the darkspawn in which not only does the nation's king die, but so do all of the Grey Wardens save yourself and one other, Alistair.  

Alistair the Grey Warden

Together, you and Alistair must help reunite Ferelden in the wake of the king's death, and assemble an army to fight off the darkspawn horde so that you can slay the archdemon and end the Blight.  Piece of cake, right?  Of course, no one expects the two of you to do this alone.  So along the way you pick up many allies, forming a fairly formidable party.  

Morrigan, a witch of the Wilds.

Leliana, a member of the Chantry and former Orlesian bard.

Sten the Quinari

Wynne, a mage from the Circle of Magi.

Zevran, an Antivan assassin.

You get a puppy!  A mabari hound, I named mine Sirius.

Oghren the dwarf.
The story continues in the expansion pack, Dragon Age:  Origins--Awakening, and gives a nice little epilogue to the events of the main game.  You should, of course, import your character from the main game into the expansion pack, it's just silly not to (for one thing, you start out at a higher level, with more money, and with most of your inventory from the previous game).  In Awakening, your character has been sent to Vigil's Keep in Amaranthine to take over the lands forfeited by the traitorous Arl Howe during the events of Origins and to serve as the Warden Commander for the about to be rebuilt (by you) Grey Warden forces in Ferelden.  You quickly learn that while killing the archdemon did indeed end the Blight, it did not, unfortunately, cause all of the darkspawn to retreat.  Many of them are still roaming Ferelden (and Amaranthine in particular, of course).  Through the course of the game, you find out that some of the darkspawn have become sentient and there are two different factions, led by the Mother and the Architect.  It is up to you to rebuild the keep, recruit more Grey Wardens quickly, and to put an end to the darkspawn threat once and for all.  Your good pal Oghren is back for the new adventure, as well as some new friends.

Anders, an apostate mage.
Sigrun, a dwarf.

Justice, a spirit from the Fade pulled into this world by a demon.

Nathaniel Howe, trying to redeem his family name.

Velanna, a Dalish mage.
A large part of the game is, of course, developing relationships with the different members of your party.  As you gain their trust and loyalty through your in-game actions, companion quests open up for each character.  In addition to earning their approval or disapproval through your actions, you can also gain influence with members of your party by giving them gifts.  Throughout the game you'll find many items in stores or while looting that are designated in your inventory as "gifts."  Some of these might hold special meaning to party members--which you won't know unless you actually take the time to talk to your party members.

This is the first game I've played with the gift mechanic.  I was kind of annoyed by it at first (I may have given several items to the wrong people before I figured the thing out), but looking back now, I do like the idea of it.  The big advantage is that it allows you to gain approval with members of your party even if you don't ever actually take them with you on quests.  I, for one, tend to figure out a specific group for my "main" party and then only use those characters unless the story requires a different configuration.  This way, I still got to get to know the other characters, even if I didn't want to use them in my group.  That was nice.  (It also opened up their companion quests without taking them with me all of the time, allowing me to rack up more XP and therefore reach a higher level).

I think that by far the coolest thing about Dragon Age though is the fact that it lends itself to well to replayability.  I've already mentioned that I want to play it through again on the "normal" difficulty setting, but I also want to try out both the Rogue and Mage classes.  I might try it as a human, instead of an elf, and I might play through as a guy instead of a girl--I have a feeling that final conversation with Morrigan before you face the archdemon goes a lot differently if you are not a girl!  Honestly, I'm curious to see how the relationship dynamics with every character change based on your class/race/gender.  

Yeah, I know,  a lot of games give you this kind of versatility--I've been pondering a replay of Knights of the Old Republic as a guy for a while now, because then I won't feel so compelled to put up with Carth's whining--but Dragon Age went an extra step on this front.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, while you are given many options for your character's background, you actually start the game in the same place no matter what you choose.  You (maybe, depending on the scenario) get a little blurb about what incidents shaped your character based on your choices, and often dialogue options will come up based on your background, but you still always start the game in the same place regardless.  Dragon Age, however, has six different starting points.  The class and race you choose decides where you start the game (and the events are further shaped by your gender, I am sure).  For example, I chose Warrior for my class and Elf for my race.  This gave me the choice of my starting points:  City Elf or Dalish Elf.  Had I chosen Dalish, I would have started off with the traveling elves, and I am sure my interactions when I met up with them later in the game would have been quite different.  I chose City Elf, and so started in the Alienage in the city of Denerim, and got to have my wedding interrupted by the Arl's spoiled son.  This then had an effect on my game experience later on when I returned to Denerim and was tasked with solving some unrest in the Alienage--and gave my character a chance to be reunited with some of her family. 

On top of the chance to have at least six different game experiences, there is also quite a bit of downloadable content (DLC) for the game available.  I didn't purchase any of it this time around because I had the expansion pack, but I have already decided that when I do my replays, I will want to invest in that DLC to add yet another dimension of "new" experiences to the game.  They've even added a quest where you can go hunt down Morrigan after the original ending to find out what came from that pre-battle discussion.  Which, yeah, I totally want to do.  Heck, I might buy that at some point and play it through with my original character, just out of curiosity.  That plot twist just caught me off guard, and I want to know what happened, dang it!

So all in all, I would definitely say I am a fan of Dragon Age.  I thought Mass Effect had tied Knights of the Old Republic for my favorite PC game thus far, but (and I hate to say this, being the Star Wars fangirl that I am), I am pretty sure Dragon Age blew them both right out of the water.  While I am pretty sure I will play KOTOR again, I know I will play Dragon Age again, and multiple times.  Heck, after I got well and truly done playing, I got right on the internet to see if there really was a sequel in development, or if I had only imagined hearing that.  Not only is there a sequel, it's already scheduled for release (March 2011), and available for preorder.  In fact, if you preorder it through one of Bioware's approved vendors before January 2, you automatically get your version upgraded to the signature version for free, with lots of extra goodies.  So, um, yeah, I went ahead and preordered.  Man, I am psyched for March!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stargate Wednesday: Pathogen (2.4)

Oy!  Spoilers!  

You know, this episode turned out to be a lot less about Chloe's "transformation" and a lot more about Rush being a complete and total A$$#@!& than I expected it to be, I've gotta say.  Seriously, Rush is the jerkiest jerk that has ever graced my television screen.  And while I am loving Robert Carlyle for his insanely well done performance, I am really really ready for Rush to get his comeuppance (again).  And can we have it actually stick this time, please?  Or at least have him learn something from it, jeez.  Clearly, being stranded on an alien planet wasn't enough of a hint to the man that he should be rethinking his life choices.

Possible alternate title for this episode:  Chloe Goes Nuts and Rush is a Bastard

Alternate possible alternate title for this episode:  Chloe Is Clearly Having Issues So Let's All Talk About Her Behind Her Back

This week's installment of gatey goodness starts off with Eli wandering around the ship (presumably) late at night and stumbling across Chloe at a control station.  She is clearly disoriented and has no idea how she got there.  Eli suggests sleepwalking, but this is apparently not the case.  Cut to a scene of Eli and Scott in the mess discussing the incident and how clearly something is amiss with their favorite gal pal these days.  Apparently ever since her abduction and/or the attempted civilian coup, Scott has totally become the girl in this relationship.

Rush is still sneaking off to the bridge every chance he gets and messing around, pushing buttons, trying to figure out how to make the ship work.  He's also still seeing hallucinations of his dead wife and of Franklin.  He seems to think that Franklin is actually the ship trying to communicate with him--which would lead me to then wonder why the heck he is so argumentative with Destiny/Franklin, except he's Rush.  But, as we soon learn, his messing around has consequences.  One of the things he is trying to do is learn how to control the timer for when the ship drops out of FTL so that they don't have to worry about being left behind by the ship anymore.  Whatever he's doing keeps making the ship drop out of FTL prematurely, with no stargates in range, and this is making the other scientists (particularly Park and Brody) suspicious.

Young has finally agreed to let the Lucian Alliance (LA) members out of the brig and more or less gives them free reign of the ship--though it does not come without "strings" (i.e., a military escort at all times).  Greer makes his disagreement with this plan known, but Young goes ahead with it.  So of course, the first thing Creepy LA Guy does is head to the mess and make some apparently very lewd or suggestive comment to Park.  Either I am just deaf and missed it, or we don't actually hear what he says, but Volker gets pissed and it looks like there's gonna be a rumble.  Greer then shows up to break up the fight, but gets super protective of Park.  This meshes nicely with the hint from last week that he has more than just lusty thoughts about her.

But Greer's not there to deal with the LA.  It seems Chloe has gone missing so he's gathering help to form up search parties to look for her.  At this point I was thinking it would be completely awesome if Chloe managed to wander into the bridge and discovered Rush messing around in there.  But those two have had a weird relationship ever since the abduction.  Would she tell anyone or would she keep Rush's secret?  Would anyone believe her if she did spill, as crazy as she's been acting?  It turns out to be a moot point though.  James finds her spaced out in the cargo hold and off she goes to the infirmary.

We get a quick scene where Creepy LA Guy apologizes to Young for starting trouble and says he will do better, he just needs another chance.  Young is less than believing but he's got bigger fish to fry.  Back in the infirmary, we learn that Chloe has been having blackouts for a while now.  T.J. decides to keep her under observation for the time being.  Meanwhile, Scott goes poking around in Chloe's things and finds her diary, which is full of writing in an alien language.  He takes it to Young and T.J. and everyone stands around and gossips about Chloe some more.  Then, you can actually see the wheels start turning in Rush's head as he a) recognizes the language in the diary as that from the blueberry aliens' ship, and b) tries to figure out a way to turn the situation to his own advantage.

T.J. persuades Young that they can't keep Chloe locked in an observation room forever, so he agrees to let her back out, but with the caveat that she is never alone.  Rush comes to relieve Scott of babysitting duty and seems overly eager to be doing so.  He quickly takes Chloe into a closed off corridor with equations written in chalk all over the walls.  This is apparently Rush's "thoughtful spot."  He hands Chloe a piece of chalk (and I don't know what it says about me, but this really bugged the heck out of me--just where did he get chalk?  Surely he didn't have any in his personal gear that he brought through the gate with him?) and she quickly begins to fill in the gaps in some of the equations.  Later, Chloe tells Scott about the equations and that Rush wanted to see if she understood them.  When he asks if she did, she says she doesn't know.

Cue another quick little LA scene in which T.J. shows up to visit Varro in his new quarters.  They have some awkward small talk and then she tells him about the incident with Creepy LA Guy.  He says he heard and apologizes and swears he'll get the guy to behave himself.  Varro goes to confront Creepy LA Guy and tell him to get his act together.  We learn that Creepy LA Guy assumed they have all been giving the SGC false information about the LA to just buy a little bit of freedom, so he is just living it up until their ruse is discovered.  But Varro tells him, no, they've all been telling the truth.  Hmm.  I see this having some interesting repercussions down the line.

Rush's fiddling in the bridge causes the ship to drop out of FTL prematurely again and Brody and Park  decide to bring Young in on their suspicions about Rush's involvement in these incidents.  When Rush shows up and says he didn't answer his radio because he was asleep in his quarters, Young calls him on it and says they sent one of his men to check on Rush and know he wasn't there.  He demands to know where Rush has been, so Rush, in true bastard form, takes them to the Corridor of Math and shows them the equation that Chloe completed, pointing out that it had stumped him for ages.  Now, we all know that Rush admitting something is beyond his comprehension is a Bad Sign, because it means he is about to do something truly dastardly.  True to form, he states that Chloe must be undergoing some sort of metamorphosis, and whatever is taking over her is "studying" the ship, and probably causing the FTL problems.  Holy crap, WTF????  Seriously?  Oh you evil, evil man.

So, they take Chloe back into custody, and Scott gets all girly on her again.  Rush comes up with the plan to "cure" Chloe by putting her in the neural interface chair.  Again, I say, WTF???  He says that since the chair is programmed to only work with human DNA (which is weird, because it is an Ancient chair, and the Ancients, while very close to us genetically, were still different), and is also programmed to kill any alien life forms it detects attempting to use the chair, it will kill off the alien part of Chloe and leave the rest of her unharmed.  Um, hello, table for Crazy?  Seriously, we're buying this?  While there is some vocal dissension to the plan (mostly from T.J.), in the end Young and Chloe agree to it.  And honestly, even though for the most part, in this episode Young seems to have it together way more than he has all season, he really should be asking some tough questions at this point.  He knows by now that Rush never does anything without an ulterior motive, but he doesn't try to find out what it is here, and that vexes me greatly.

Everything seems to go to plan, and Rush tells everyone he believes that Chloe is cured and we all go back to being shiny happy people.  I am thinking to myself, well, Rush, you know this whole "blame Chloe" idea of yours only works if you stop messing with the ship now, right?"  But no.  We get a brief montage of sad face and then Rush shows up in Chloe's quarters.  She takes one look at him and says, "I'm not cured, am I?" and he acknowledges that she is correct.  Seems he bought her freedom from observation so that he could blackmail her to use her new alien math powers to help him figure out the bridge.  Sigh.

All that, and I haven't even gotten to the B story yet.  At the very beginning of the episode, we learn that Eli's mom (who, you may remember from last season, is suffering from H.I.V.) has taken a turn for the worse and so he uses the stones to go to Earth and see her.  Wray is also on Earth visiting her girlfriend, Sharon.  Sharon doesn't seem to be doing so well either, though she's not so much sick as possibly becoming an alcoholic or losing her mind a little bit.

Even though Eli was given clearance to tell his mother about the Stargate program and his predicament, so that he could have actual visits with her using the stones, he chickened out and hasn't actually told her it's been him visiting her in other people's bodies.  But now is pretty much the time.  She's kind of fallen apart in his absence and thinks the government took him away and won't let her see him, and she's stopped taking her medicine.  So Eli finally spills to his mom about where he is and what he's actually doing, and that it is actually him there, in someone else's body.  She of course, doesn't believe him, and throws a fit and kicks him out.  Poor Eli's barely had any screen time this season, but it has all been hella rough on him.  I just want to give him a hug.

So Eli calls Wray in his distress and she comes to the hospital to comfort him.  I really do like these little moments between these two characters.  They are always very sweet and believable, even though these are two people who normally would never have anything to do with each other.  Anyway, while Eli is pondering what to do about his mom, we see that Wray is really starting to get worried about Sharon and finally confronts her about her changes.  Sharon confesses that she is having a really hard time with the stand-ins that Wray has to use to visit, and just wants to see her again.  They have a nice heartfelt conversation in which Wray tells Sharon that these little visits are the only thing keeping her going.  They seem to work things out for the time being.

I have to say, I know that a lot of people don't like the screen time devoted to this relationship, but I really like this couple, and I think we need it to have even half a chance of understanding Wray.  When she's being Ms.  Human Resources and trying to pretend like she should be running the show on Destiny, I cannot stand her, but when I see the off-duty, human side of her, I at least understand her.  I even kind of like Camille the person, whereas I really don't like Wray the HR chick.  It's a very interesting dichotomy, and I think Ming Na plays it absolutely beautifully.

But back to the story.  Eli decides to make one last-ditch attempt to convince his mom of the truth and get her to go back on her meds.  He appeals to Wray, and in a completely freaking AWESOME move, she pretty much demands the SGC let Eli's mom use the communication stones to visit him on Destiny.  Considering Wray's usual tendency to try to stick to the rules and not make exceptions, and especially given what is going on in her life and how much it would mean to be able to have, say, Sharon do the same thing, it is amazing that she does this for Eli.  I love her for it.  After really coming to believe Eli's story, his mom goes back on her medication and starts to improve immediately.  Eli also recommends that maybe she and Sharon get together every once in a while to serve as a sort of support group for each other, which was an interesting little twist.

And that was this week's episode.  It certainly wasn't what I was expecting, and given the trailers for the season, I assume we've got a lot more of the "Chloe's transformation" storyline headed our way.  But still, it was a very good episode in the realm of character development.  There were some big things (Rush's headlong dash to the Dark Side, Chloe's changes, the LA, Eli's struggle with his mom, Wray and Sharon), but there were also some nice smaller moments as well--like the continuing growth of something between T.J. and Varro, and Greer's feelings for Park.  This was definitely a solid entry.  I will be curious to see how well it leads into next week's episode, which looks like another hallucination/altered reality type of story.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kitties! Crochet! Life in General!

Okay, first things first.  *cough* Ahem.  *cough*

Don't forget to watch tonight's new episodes of Stargate Universe and Caprica on Syfy starting at 8 pm CST!!!

Right, then.  Getting on with it.

I've got a couple of finished crochet projects for you today.  Here's the birthday present I was working on week before last.  It was a poncho for a good friend of mine, her birthday was this past Saturday.  

Poncho of Happiness by Cori 2010.

The pattern I used for this was the Groovy Granny Poncho from Lion Brand's free pattern database.  (To see the pattern you may have to register with the site, but that's free, it just gets you a newsletter, which you can even opt out of.)  I love LB's pattern database.  Because one of their big lines is Vanna's Choice, designed by Vanna White, who crochets, they have a ton of crochet patterns as well as knitting.  And they have patterns for all sorts of different fiber types. 

For this project, I used their Homespun yarn, in Baroque, Amethyst, Edwardian, and Black.  I absolutely hated Homespun the first time I tried to use it because I am really just not used to the bulkier yarns, but now that I've worked with it a bit, I have to admit, I kind of love it a little.  It is so soft and warm.  The pattern called for one skein of each color, but didn't use it all up, so I ended up having enough left over to make one (with a few modifications to the pattern) for my daughter as well.

Pint-sized Poncho by Cori 2010.

Baby Girl models her new duds.
I am now hard at work on my next project, another birthday present, which I'll post more about once it has been given to its recipient.  

In other news, I thought I would share with you some photos of my kitties, since I am bound to mention them from time to time.  They are my furred children, so I thought you should get to know them a bit as well.  I have two kitties that live inside with us and suck up all of the love that I don't give Baby Girl.  They've done a pretty good job of adjusting to her arrival over the past year.  Wally pretty much took to her right away and has adopted a "big brother" attitude of sorts.  He is extremely patient with her and endures her vigorous "petting" attempts, because he knows he will be well repaid with love from me after the baby has gone to bed.  Also, they both love to play with my yarn when I am right in the middle of the tricky part of any given project.  Tony finally seems to be warming up to the newest addition to the family.  He no longer flees the room when she enters it, and will even let her touch him occasionally--though not without flinching.  I think a big part of his deciding to come around (aside from the realization that she is clearly not going anywhere) is that now that she is feeding herself, there is a lot more people food being dropped on the ground for him to get to.  

I do also have two stray kitties that I have more or less adopted, though they stay outside.  One of them, a Siamese that I have oh-so-cleverly (insert sarcasm) named Sy, is very personable and sweet.  Part of me really wants to bring him inside to live with us (after a visit to the vet and a bath, of course), but I know that wouldn't be fair to him, because he is so completely an outside kitty.  So for now I am just doing my best to make sure that he has a safe and comfortable place in our backyard, as well as a regular food supply.  The other stray (who I don't have a photo of) is definitely Sy's companion, and I know he eats the food I put out, but I only see him very rarely.  He is extremely skittish around people and tends to dash off the moment he realizes he's been spotted.  I have dubbed him Skittles. 

Sy, the stray Siamese.

Tony, who will be 6 in December.

Wally, at 9 years old.
I started playing Star Wars Republic Commando last night, but alas, I don't think that I am going to be able to play this one all of the way through.  It is in the first person point of view, and you're looking out through your character's helmet display, which is just crazy.  It made me a bit nauseated.  I had this same problem when I played Portal, but that didn't have the added craziness of a whole slew of control buttons to remember, so I was able to adjust to it, though I had to limit my playing to only about an hour at a time.  I don't think I'm gonna make it through this game though.  It's sad, because I really really love the books and was hoping that playing the game would add an extra dimension to my enjoyment of them.  But it doesn't really have the RPG aspect I prefer in my games, and with that plus the controls just totally throwing me off, plus the POV, I may just have to set this one aside.  At least for now.  On the plus side, I only paid $6 for it, so I don't have to get mad at the waste of money.  So it looks like I might be finally diving into Morrowind next instead, to my husband's great excitement.  He has been trying to get me to play that game forever