Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Slippery Slope

Oh man oh man oh man. Bioware released the "final chapter" for Mass Effect 2 this week, a mission called "Arrival" that sounds like it serves as a bridge between ME2 and ME3, which is due out New Year's Eve. Of course what they mean by "final chapter" is "last new content," meaning no more new downloadable content (DLC) for Mass Effect 2.

I am okay with this.

I only got into exploring DLC with Dragon Age, so I never bought any of the Mass Effect extra content. Heck, I never even bothered to install the DLC that came free with my purchase of the game.

But now that I've discovered the joy of expanding the in-game universe, I thought it might be fun to see what there was to offer for Mass Effect. (This is partly to stave off my rising urge to play Dragon Age II again already. Or to replay Portal, what with all of the excitement being generated by that game's forthcoming sequel as well.) So today I purchased "Arrival" as well as another DLC that provided an extra companion character. I also went ahead and installed all of the available free DLC. I figured I could play through the new chapter and all of the other extra content would be available to me later on in the year when I do my replay of the first two games in preparation for the third.

BUT. But. Imagine my surprise when I opened up Mass Effect 2 to play "Arrival" and, unlike how the extra chapters in Dragon Age work, found that I just had to hit "resume" and go back to my ship and pick up where I left off. Not only was the new mission post-endgame available, I also had the option to go ahead and play all of that extra content if I felt like it. Huh.

I should be playing Epic Mickey if I am playing a video game at all. It is next on my list. My sister got it for me for Christmas and she is coming to visit in two weeks, I'd like to be able to tell her I have had a chance to enjoy her gift. But...but no. I am running around the galaxy picking up mercenaries and thieves and trying to drive impossible to maneuver land vehicles and completely getting my butt kicked because I have so forgotten how the battle controls work for this game...

As an added bonus, now that my character has successfully romanced Garrus, there is now an intercom in her cabin she can use to "invite Garrus up."

They can cuddle on the couch:



Or they can snuggle up in bed:





This tickles me greatly.

Isn't interspecies love sweet?

Ah, well, the galaxy awaits...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Finishing Touches

Got a few projects finished up this week. Baby Blanket Alpha is done as of yesterday.

Heartfelt Warmth by Cori 2011.

Pattern: Heart Filet Afghan from McCall's Needlework & Crafts (January/February 1981 issue), heavily modified.
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Blackberry (five skeins)
Hook: H

I am really happy with how this came out, though I think that when I next make this pattern I will play with it to make it a bit wider.  The original pattern is actually all filet like the hearts picked out above, with only the hearts themselves in solid double-crochet, and with a different configuration of the hearts. But since this is for a baby, I didn't want it to be all holes. I thought a few outlining the shapes would be enough for a kiddo to play with but not so much she would get completely tangled up.

I'm still a little on the fence about the border I did--edging is so not an area where I excel--but I think it came out okay nonetheless. Now I just need to finish my next project, a fuzzy companion for the recipient's big brother, and I can ship it off to its future owner, yay!

I also made a second Jayne hat last week.

Jayne Hat II by Cori 2011.

Pattern: Jayne by Heather Hill (inspired by Joss Whedon's Firefly).
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Paprika, Gold, and Chestnut Heather (one skein each).
Needles: 10.5 (US) Circular and DPN

I have a friend and fellow Browncoat who celebrated a birthday over the weekend and I thought she might appreciate a Jayne hat for one of her gifts (she did). I went with the Wool-Ease yarn because she has a small child like I do and I would feel very guilty giving her any knit gift that was not machine washable and dryable. The colors aren't completely perfect, but I have seen Jayne hats in a wide variety of shades of the three basic colors (orange, yellow, and red), so that was really not high on my list of concerns for this project.

No, that was reserved for the fact that once I had assembled the yarn and my needles and sat down to start making the hat...I couldn't find the pattern. Anywhere. It is gone. Vanished. Vamoose. I started this on Thursday and my friend's party was on Saturday, so that meant I had a deadline. I mostly remembered the way the pattern went, and I had my first hat for reference, so I decided to wing it.

I actually think it came out really well. Compare with the original I made:

Jayne Hat by Cori 2011.

Honestly, the only thing I actually got wrong was the length of the earflaps. I made them a bit too short the second time around. They were still long enough, however, to cover one's ears, so I suppose that is all that matters, right?

And yes, if you are wondering, I did manage to get some progress made on my Doctor Who scarf this weekend as well. I am now officially at halfway done I believe. Geronimo!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stargate Tuesday: Hope (2.14)

Oh hey, guess what, there are spoilers in this post! Anything up to and including last night's episode of Stargate Universe is fair game, so stop reading if you want want to be spoiled.

Okay, are we all ready now? Cool. Onward.

What Happened
Plot A of "Hope" centered on the communication stones and gave us a new entry in the list of ways they can go horribly, horribly wrong. I mean, honestly, with the precedent set by these things on the two shows preceding Universe, I am amazed anyone bothered to complain that having them on board the ship would make anything "too easy" for our crew. Things are always going wonky with the communication stones. The Ancients, they were not perfect. Anyhoo, this time around, they apparently can raise the dead! Well, no, not really. We have long known/theorized that if two people are using the stones and one of them dies in the other's body that both people do, in fact, die. Therefore earlier in the season when Simeon killed Amanda Perry while she was in Ginn's body, they both died. But apparently their consciousnesses were stored in the communication device's buffer, unbeknownst to everyone else.

So. We open up the episode still dealing with the fallout of last week's events. Destiny still hasn't been able to make contact with anyone on Earth even though several days have passed. They have no idea whether or not the senator was able to diffuse the bomb or if Washington D.C. still exists. But they haven't quite given up yet. They have had someone hooked up to the communication stones nonstop since Wray and Greer got back, in case Earth tries to make contact. Chloe's turn comes around and just after she gets settled in, we realize a connection has been made, only not with anyone else on Earth. Somehow, Chloe has connected to Ginn.

Ginn is, of course, very confused and surprised that everyone is so shocked to see her. She is even more surprised to realize that she connected with Chloe's body instead of returning to her own. That is when the crew explain that she's kind of, well, dead. Eli is, as might be expected, falling all over himself with relief to be able to talk to his lost love once more. He is determined to find a way to preserve her consciousness because he refuses to lose her again.

Meanwhile, everyone is trying to figure out who Chloe connected with, since clearly it wasn't Ginn. They eventually figure out that she is actually still inside her body, but has been suppressed by the other woman's consciousness. Things get complicated when Ginn starts experiencing choking fits, mimicking how she was killed. I'll be honest, I totally missed the explanation for why this was happening, because I had a baby using me as a jungle-gym at this point and she was doing her best impression of an air-raid siren right in my ear. But everyone seemed to just roll with this and get right on trying to find a way to stop it without either losing Ginn completely or harming Chloe. Things get further complicated when the radio signal that is Ginn's consciousness begins to fade and Chloe starts periodically being in control of her body again, shifting back and forth between herself and Ginn at irregular intervals.

Then, just to throw another wrench in the works, a new consciousness takes over. None other than Amanda Perry, who was of course at the other end of the terminated connection when Ginn died. So now Rush is falling all over himself, delighted to have his dead girlfriend back in the picture. He and Eli double down on trying to find a solution to save both women's consciousnesses while Scott hovers nervously in the background making sure that whatever they do doesn't hurt Chloe. Oy vey.

Eventually Rush brings up the neural interface chair and confesses that he is pretty sure that when Franklin disappeared in the thing, what actually happened is that he uploaded his consciousness to Destiny and became one of the ship's programs, able to project himself to be seen by crew members and interact with them. He explains that while he was hiding his discovery of the bridge from the rest of the crew he had many conversations with Franklin there. Rush proposes to put Chloe in the chair and upload Ginn and Amanda to Destiny. This will allow them to appear to and interact with the crew, get them out of Chloe's head, and buy Rush and Eli time to figure out a more permanent solution (i.e. giving the women new bodies). All three women agree to try this (Amanda enthusiastically, Chloe resolutely, and Ginn reluctantly) and they give it a go. There is a scary bit toward the end where Ginn has another choking fit during the transfer and it shorts out the entire ship's systems, but in the end it all works out just fine. Chloe has her mind to herself and Eli and Rush have their girlfriends back, albeit in hologram form.

All of that, and we haven't even gotten to Plot B yet! While everyone is concerned about Earth and then the whole Ginn/Amanda thing, Volker starts to exhibit signs of illness. He reluctantly goes to T.J., saying he is sure it is just a return of his hypertension, since he stopped taking the medicine for it once it ran out. She scolds him for not coming to her sooner and decides to run some tests with the Ancient diagnostic equipment she now has access to ever since Rush gained control of the ship. Unfortunately it turns out that his kidneys are failing.

T.J. is unsure of her ability to perform a transplant due to the high improbability of finding a match on board the ship and to her lack of experience in such matters (she is, after all, only a field medic). With the communication stones out of commission, she can't even have a more skilled surgeon from Earth come on board to do the procedure. Still, she takes the situation to Young and he encourages her to start looking for a match. If one is found they will then assess the situation from there. It turns out she finds two matches, a random scientist whose name I don't know and Greer. Just as the scientist starts asking for reassurances before he will even consider such a procedure, Greer (who is a badass) steps in and says he'll do it, just like that, no hesitation.

So with Greer on board, T.J. says that she had come across some studies in the Ancient database about a supplementary procedure that will help reduce the likelihood of Volker rejecting the transplanted kidney, but she needs to take some bone marrow from him in order to do it. He tells her to go ahead and refuses anesthetic (because he is a badass), saying they need to save it for later on down the line.

T.J. has serious doubts about whether or not she can perform the surgery but both men and Young are encouraging, and they all know that Volker will definitely die without it, whereas he and Greer only might die if something goes wrong. Eventually she sucks it up and they do the surgery. Of course, while this is going on is when Ginn's choking fit in the chair shorts out the ship and the infirmary loses access to the database she is using for instructions, as well as to most of the fancy Ancient tech (like imaging screens so she can see what she is doing). Luckily, Amanda Perry appears to T.J. right before panic can really set in. With her consciousness uploaded to the ship, she has access to the database and walks T.J. through the procedure. Yay!

At the end of the episode Young is called to the communication stone chamber to find that Telford has connected to Destiny and reports that the bomb was diffused on time and all is well back home, they just had a few problems getting their own stones back online.

Thoughts
Bringing people back from the dead, while perhaps a given on any science fiction show, is always a tricky prospect. I generally tend to remain skeptical about such storylines until or unless they are given a reasonable explanation within the framework of the show's mythology. I have to say, what the writers did in "Hope" worked for me for the most part. I am very curious to see how Ginn and Amanda become integrated with the rest of the crew in their new non-corporeal forms. Also, yay, Ginn's back!

I do have to say, the choice of Chloe as the vessel for the two women was a little unsettling for me because she was hosting the loves of both Eli and Rush, two men with whom she shares already deep and complicated connections. It was just weirdness. I dunno, it didn't sit right. Also, Chloe's already the most popular girl in school, so to speak, having two extra guys fawning all over her was just a bit of overkill. Despite what we are seeing through the magic of television, sometimes it is very easy to forget that when Eli looks at Ginn-in-Chloe's-body, what he actually sees is Chloe. I mean, come on, tell me that doesn't weird you out? But oh well, it is what it is, I guess.

I loved the Volker story line because not only did we get wonderful character development for Volker (and T.J. and Greer), we also got to see the solidarity of our core science crew as Brody and Park rallied around T.J. to do everything they could to help with the research and the procedure itself. The moment where Brody tried to relax Volker before surgery by playing one of his favorite songs (in a callback to a discussion at the start of the episode) was a really nice touch. It was a masterful bit of levity in an episode dealing with some very heavy matters.

All in all, this episode was extremely well done and just left me wanting more, more, more. Grr, argh. The mythology of this show is getting so very amazing, and I am actually starting to get angry at the thought that there will be no more after this season. My fingers and toes are crossed that we get the TV movies that Brad Wright is fighting for, and also that Fandemonium decides to put out more stories for this series once its run has concluded. I very much want to know what happens to these folks.

Next week: MCKAY! MCKAY! MCKAY! Um, I may be just a teensy bit excited about next week's episode, y'all. Everyone keeps wanting to see the McKay/Eli showdown, but the preview has only given me hope that my desire to see McKay and Eli team up against Rush just might happen after all.

That is all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Downfall of Typecasting

First off, I apologize for no post on Friday. I just wasn't feeling it. I've been spending a bit less time in front of my computer since I finished my game. I guess I just needed a break. I'll try not to let it happen again though (probably more for me than for you, I am sure--you've got better things to do than sit around wondering why Cori didn't post a blog).

Anyhoo, yesterday afternoon I sat down to watch this week's episode of No Ordinary Family (it aired on Saturday night instead of this coming Tuesday for some weird scheduling reason). You can find a review here, but beware of possible spoilers if you haven't seen the episode. It was the next to last episode of the season (and probably the series). I have to say, all in all, it was pretty good. The show has steadily managed to improve over the course of the season and to build a truly interesting mythology as well as to develop some fun and engaging characters.

But I have one glaring problem with the episode, and no, it was not with a certain extremely puzzling (to me) aspect of Stephanie's newly enhanced super abilities. I decided to just let that slide due to the overall well-executed nature of the story.

~*~*~ Beware of spoilers after the jump! ~*~*~

Dragon
Guard dragon protects the unwitting from spoilers!
(Photo by UnorthodoxY via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License.)


No, my problem was with the casting of Raphael Sbarge as the dirty cop and overall bad guy of the episode. It's not that I don't like the guy. I have no personal problem with him, in fact, I would wager he is probably both a very nice guy and an incredibly talented actor given his long list of credited work. BUT in pretty much everything I have ever seen him guest star in, he has played the villain of the piece. And he pops up in stuff I watch a LOT. And he is always the bad guy. Often, he is not just the bad guy, but the wolf in sheep's clothing (he also played a dirty cop recently on Burn Notice, matter of fact).

But, you say, maybe he likes being the bad guy. Maybe so. He is incredibly good at it. I don't think I will ever forget his stint on Journeyman. In fact, due to the amazing performance he put in on that show, I now actually find him deeply unsettling. This bleeds over into my video game playing as well, believe it or not, because he does a lot of voice work in that industry. Unlike his usual television roles, however, he tends to play the good guy in video games. He is, in fact, the primary romanceable NPC for female characters in two of my favorite video games (he voiced Carth in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Kaidan in Mass Effect).

But Cori, you say again, doesn't this just refute your point that he always plays bad guys? Well, not really, because I am talking about his television roles. He is so good as the bad guy on TV that whenever I realize he is voicing a good character in a game I am playing, I get more than a little creeped out, and often start to unjustly suspect that character of having an agenda of some sort.

But all of that is beside the point, because all of that is about me and my reactions to his appearance on my television or computer screens. I don't begrudge him the right to play whatever role he wants to play, I really don't. My problem is this:

Every time I see his name in the opening credits of a television show, or see him pop up on the screen, I immediately say, "Oh, he did it!" And I am usually right. It kind of takes something out of the rest of the episode for me, as well as, I would imagine, it does for anyone else who watches the same shows I do. You see the same face in the same type of role often enough, then when they appear you already know how the story is going to play out.

So here is my open request to Raphael Sbarge and the people who cast him: Can you please find a few honest to goodness good guys for this actor to play? Because I can tell you, no matter what other twists the story has, that alone would be a hell of a surprise and would probably make for some awesome story-telling.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another One Under the Belt

My Hawke
(After a trip to the Black Emporium)

 Finished Dragon Age II last night. My first reaction upon completing the game?

When does III hit the shelves?

So, um, yeah, I liked it.

Real quick, my overall impressions were these:

Getting the negative out of the way first, I really feel like the relationships with the companion characters did not get a chance to be as fully developed in this game as in the first, and I felt the loss. I am sure it is the trade-off for having the player's character fully voiced, but it would have been nice to get to have more chances to actually get to know the rest of my party. As this was set up, with most of the characters it felt more like we were a group of people who occasionally work together rather than friends who have been to hell and back together numerous times.

That being said, the characters were all pretty cool, though a few of them were a little too stuck in their ways for my taste (this is where I would have liked more opportunities for conversations, to have a chance to sway them more to my side). I felt like parts of certain characters' stories were just out of my control and I could either play along with them and hopefully gain their friendship, or I could refuse to help them and lose out on a quest and the XP.

Still, I would totally invite Varric, Isabela, and Merril to my next party, were they real people.

I pre-ordered this game super early so that I could get the free upgrade to the signature edition, and I am very glad I did. Any other pre-order bonus content that was offered for the game was available in this edition, including the Black Emporium. The Black Emporium is an extra store with special items and also includes the Mirror of Transformation. This mirror is super awesome. Basically, when you start the game, you customize your character's appearance, but I know I can't be the only one who has done this and then halfway through the game gotten totally sick of looking at the silly hair or the horrible makeup choice I made. With the Mirror of Transformation, you can recustomize your character's appearance without messing up the game. Yay! I just tweaked Hawke's hair and makeup, because I feel that after six or seven years, she would not be wearing the same hairstyle. I realize I am a total girl. Unfortunately, I didn't get to find this until right at the end of the game, because my silly self forgot to actually install the bonus content until I was almost done playing. I was getting so mad that the Emporium and my extra companion character (The Exiled Prince, who is available as DLC but included in the signature edition as well) hadn't shown up yet. Sigh. Oh well, next play-through will be much more fun. Also, I might try harder to keep Sebastian on my side at the end, though when I alienated him this time, it was kind of like, "Dude, I've seriously only been playing with you for an hour, I really don't care if you want to have a pissy fit right now. Ba-bye." So, yeah.

I am not entirely sure how I felt about the story in this one, but I think that is more because it basically puts you between a rock and a hard place and says "choose." Either way you choose, you lose party members/friends/allies. Gah, I can't even imagine playing this through as a mage (which isn't to say I'm not gonna try). Being a "neutral" rogue, I still don't think I could have played it through and done all of the quests without alienating people from both sides. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is just that the right and wrong was nowhere near as clear cut in this game as it was in the first, and I have a feeling the story will stick with me for a while.

Now that I've completed the game, I feel like the narrative frame the story is set inside of was really just intended to set up the events for the next game though. It was kind of a cool conceit, but at the end, instead of finding out what happens to the characters, you just know that two people are still hanging out together, Varric is still alive (since he's the one telling the story), and no one has seen the Champion in a while, though the Templars are looking for him/her now. We kind of find out why the Templars are looking, sure, but then the game ends. Without that framework, it would have ended in kind of a blaze of glory (or gore) and you could have gotten your standard little "this is what happened next" blurb. But as it stands it really does feel something like an unfinished story.

But it is a story. This entire world, whether we get to see all of it in the games or not, has been thought out and fully realized by the writers. What you see comes completely to life on the screen, and the hints dropped about the places we don't visit made me really wish we could get the chance to do so.

Though I do have to say that if what I am reading into the ending is correct, the next game is gonna be frakking epic and will (hopefully) port over your Hawke from DAII and possibly your character from the first game as well (though I suspect you would play as Hawke, I could be wrong there).

So, yay! Done! Now I am gonna take a little break from video games for a while and do some reading, since I can do that outside and enjoy this gorgeous weather at the same time.

Laters.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chevy Chase and Some Dude

Because I truly have nothing I care to write about today, I give you my favorite music video of all time:



"You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon. 
(Featuring the impossible bass lick!)

This video is perfect in its simplicity. It absolutely never fails to make me smile. I always used to describe it as "Chevy Chase and some dude in a room with instruments." It is entirely possible that if you had asked me twenty years ago, I would have told you that this song was, in fact, by Chevy Chase. Most likely the video caught my eye because he is an actor I adored as a child and still hold a soft spot in my heart for today (I think it is because at some point when I was little I equated Chevy Chase with the TV version of my dad).

It wasn't until years later when I actually started taking an interest in music and musicians that I realized that the other "dude" in the video was Paul Simon, the guy who actually sings the song. Every now and then I try to be embarrassed about that fact (and I really should be given my insane level of fixation on music trivia), but it really is hard to do so, because it makes me think of the video again, and then I start humming the song, and well, it's hard to be embarrassed about anything when you are humming "You Can Call Me Al."

It does make me wonder, however. What innocuous little thing from today my daughter will remember without knowing some of the simple details, that she will later rediscover and love all the more for her early silliness?

That's all I've got, folks. Have a wonderful day! It is shaping up to be absolutely gorgeous here, so I think I may need to go take advantage of the lovely weather.

Ciao! (Insert imaginary moped sounds here.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stargate Tuesday: Alliances (2.13)

Veiled threats and insults! Bombs! Red shirts! Laughing medics! Spoilers!

Last night's episode of Stargate Universe was, I have to say, actually a pretty solid entry. Oddly enough, this comes from a story in which all of the really important stuff was happening on Earth, rather than on board Destiny. Our two primary protagonists this week? Camille Wray and Sergeant Greer. Yeah, you read that right. Wray and Greer. And I'll be darned if it didn't work.

Ming-Na at the premiere of Push
Ming Na, who portrays Camille Wray.

I have to admit, when the cast list for SGU started rolling out, Ming Na's name was by far the one I was most excited to see. Dude, she's freaking Mulan, I mean, come on. Her character on the show may not be my favorite, but I think you'd be hard pressed to deny the talent she displays in the role. So the fact that last night's episode highlighted her character as well as my favorite for the series, Greer, was just a lovely little happenstance for me. Add to it the fact that it was also a pretty darn good episode and well, let's just say I am, once more, even sadder to see this gem of a show go. But on to the episode!

What Happened
Sadly, despite the trailer's tease, we do not get much more explanation about how last week's episode actually played out, by which I mean, how the heck is alt-Telford in this timeline? But everyone is just going with the flow here, and I am glad Telford's not dead so I decide to do likewise.

Telford pops in to get a brief explanation from Young and then informs him that the senator who is in charge of deciding whether or not a new Icarus base will be funded is about to come for a visit, along with the new head scientist for the Stargate related programs (played by French Stewart, who was Kowalski in the original Stargate movie). The woman playing the senator looked naggingly familiar, but I am too lazy to look her up right now, so, yeah.

Anyhoo, the senator and French are coming to check out the situation on Destiny and decide whether the research accumulated so far on Rush's "signal from God" (as it has been dubbed back on Earth) warrants more funding towards the project. Wray volunteers to let the senator use her body as she feels like she needs to go report back to Homeworld Command (HWC) in the wake of the time-travel shenanigans. She recommends Greer be the man to switch with French because he still hasn't used the communication stones to go home in the whole time they've been on the ship (which this episode pegs at about a year now). Greer really doesn't want to go but Wray gets Young to make it happen.

They arrive back at HWC to find out that the base is on high alert. It seems that the Lucian Alliance attack on Earth that has been looming all season is imminent. Greer wants to stay and help but Telford shoos him out the door telling him they've got it under control and he is there for some downtime, may as well enjoy it. Greer chases Wray down the hall to yell at her for forcing him to come back to Earth. Before they can get a really good argument going, however, klaxons start going off and Greer grabs Wray, pushing her into a nearby office, declaring they have incoming, and just then there is a big kaboom and big chunks of the ceiling start falling as the building is hit by something.

Back on Destiny, there really isn't a lot of story going on, but there are several nice little moments. French finds Eli and sings his praises, only to then notice Brody and Volker in the room looking nonplussed. He then asks the three of them for their opinion of Rush's signal and everything they've learned about the ship and whatnot. Meanwhile, the senator seeks out Chloe, since she has been a close friend of the family and knew Chloe since she was a child. She is surprised to find Chloe on the bridge doing sciency stuff and seems to think that Chloe being trapped on the ship is a complete waste of her potential, with which Chloe vehemently disagrees.

We also see T.J. and Varro talking and laughing in the infirmary. Seems Varro has been volunteering there since he's been allowed to roam the ship, and he is clearly still pursuing T.J. romantically, a fact about which Young seems aware and displeased. I am just glad to see T.J. smiling. She's had a hell of a year, and quite frankly, she deserves a guy who isn't still trying to get back into his wife's good graces.

Back at HWC, we see that Greer managed to get Wray underneath a desk in time, and she crawls out to find him trapped under the debris, mostly uninjured. His (borrowed) knee is screwed up pretty badly but Wray gets all badass and uses random pieces of furniture and packing tape to make a split so they can get the heck out of there. They find a random airman and a radio and make contact with Telford outside. It seems the Lucian Alliance flew a cloaked cargo ship into the building, but they are pretty sure that there was probably a bomb on the ship because just flying into the building doesn't really do much good. The ship hit the part of the building that contained the communication stones but clearly didn't interrupt the signal since Greer and Wray are still there. They make their way to the nearest exit but find out it is blocked. Random airman starts to panic.

Wray and Greer argue about what to do next, and are interrupted by the airman who has heard something. Turns out to be a Geiger counter going off. Wray finds the Geiger counter and one look is enough to convince her that their bodies are done for. The airman begins to freak out and notes that she might be wrong, she's not a scientist. This earns an odd look from Wray but she brushes it off and explains that she's spent enough time around scientists to know what she's talking about here. The airman still wants to try to find a way out, but Wray decides that since they are stuck, they should go look for the bomb and see if they can't get Telford or someone outside to walk them through disarming it. Greer doesn't really have many objections to this since he is a man of action, but the airman is not in favor. Before they can make any further decisions, they find themselves back on Destiny.

Just before this, the senator and French had been in the process of telling Young that they are not inclined to suggest further funding for the project because by the time they have a new Icarus base up and running under the best of possible timeframes, they are pretty sure that Destiny and her whole crew will be dead. French also has little faith in Rush's research because he can't have his scientists back home working on it to confirm what the team on the ship has discovered, and it is too much of a political hot potato to be worth the trouble.

The ship drops out of FTL, momentarily disrupting the signal to the communication stones. Wray seizes the opportunity to briefly update Young on what has happened at HWC before the senator and French are back again. They quickly run to the communication stones to try to connect with someone else and find out what the heck is going on. Unfortunately they are unable to break the current connection or to make a new one because it turns out that the attack, while not severing the actual connection between stones, did manage to sever the commands in place to override the connection. Rush thinks he can find a way around it but will need some time.

Back on Earth, the airman takes advantage of Wray and Greer's disorientation from their body-swapping to grab Wray and place a pointy object at her neck, threatening her life if they don't find him a way out of the building. Wray tells Greer to just shoot him and Greer balks, but she calmly explains that there is something wrong with this guy and there is no way he could have known she wasn't a scientist unless he was a mole or something. Greer shoots him and they find a Lucian Alliance clan tattoo on the airman's body. Wray theorizes he was the pilot of the cargo ship and had intended to just land the cloaked ship on the building and make his way out before the bomb went off. When his approach was detected he must have just decided to ram the building and try to escape in the ensuing chaos. (Wray has apparently developed psychic detective powers from the radiation.)

They make their way to the bomb and start trying to figure out how to stop it from going off, but are somewhat at a loss of what to do from that point.

Back on Destiny Varro shows up, having learned about the attack, and offers his assistance. He knows what kind of bomb the Lucian Alliance would have used and can show them how to defuse it. Since they can't yet break the connection on the stones, they decide to force the ship into FTL to bring Wray and Greer back momentarily and show them what to do.

He manages to convey almost all of the information to them in the brief moment they are back on board but not enough to finish the process, and Wray doesn't want to risk setting the bomb off early while Telford is still working to evacuate the surrounding area. So they sit down and just wait, and Greer offers to finally talk, since they can't do anything else.

Back on the ship Rush tells Young that he has figured out how to sever the connection with the communication stones and he would have been able to do it sooner but French has apparently been sabotaging his efforts. French confesses that yes, he did sabotage the efforts because when they dropped out of FTL he saw the radiation levels on the Geiger counter and realized that he and the senator have no chance of surviving. He wanted to put off going back, theorizing that maybe he wouldn't die when his body did, and could just stay in Greer's body. Everyone is pretty much appalled at this and the senator calls for Varro and has him show her what needs to be done to disarm the bomb and then has Rush cut the connection.

Everyone goes back to their own body and the last we see of the senator she is setting to work on disarming the bomb. The episode closes with Wray coming upon Greer on the observation deck and we learn that even though it has been several hours they have not heard anything from Earth or been able to make a new connection with the stones (though the stones in HWC were in the area that was hit by the cargo ship so the assumption is that hopefully no one back home has just been able to get to them yet). They talk about the people back on Earth that they are missing and hope that they will be able to get to see them again soon.

Thoughts
Wray seriously leveled up in this episode. From her insistence on getting Greer to take some R&R, to her handy field medicine skills with office supplies, to her insistence that they do what they could to stop the bomb even though there was every chance they would die in their borrowed bodies. I was just completely impressed with her from the word go. This was an awesome, awesome episode for her. Also, the huge rift that has been hanging open between Wray and Greer since the very first episode finally seems to be closing, and that is not a little thing, since they are each the representative for their people on the ship (Wray for the civilians, Greer for the soldiers) since Young has been thrown in the role of mediator.

Next week, Gin's back. Wait, what? How is that even possible? Did she ascend? But...her body was on Destiny, wouldn't someone have noticed it? Gah. I am so confused. Hopefully the episode will bring enlightenment. Until next week, folks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Emerging From My Shell (For a Few Days At Least)

Man, I kind of had a busy weekend. It was very unlike me, I have to say, considering I am the first person to describe myself as a hermit.

But this past week was Spring Break in Texas, which meant two things: my husband was out of town most of the week because he was playing at South By Southwest in Austin, and my friends who are teachers were free for daytime socializing.

So, with Hubby out of town, I was glad of the chance to hang out with people. And boy did I ever.

My "weekend" actually started on Thursday, when one of my friends came into town for lunch and she and Baby Girl and I enjoyed a fine meal at Riscky's BBQ (yum). If I am rating restaurants solely on the quality of their sweet tea (which I have been known to do), Riscky's is way, way up there, I have to say. Though I feel I must also mention that we decided to indulge in dessert (a first for me at this particular establishment, actually), and the carrot cake was also absolutely fantabulous. Even Baby Girl enjoyed it. After lunch, we hung at my house and played with Baby Girl in the backyard for a bit before walking up to Sonic. It was just too nice to stay indoors.

Friday I met up at the Fort Worth Zoo with a couple who are both teachers and who have a son a few weeks younger than Baby Girl. They had initially wanted to try going on Wednesday, which is half-price admission day, but I am thankful that we decided to move the trip to Friday instead. It was bonkers crazy crowded enough then! We mostly had a good time, wisely deciding to hit up the Texas Wild portion of the zoo at the start of our trip. It's in the very back of the zoo, and since we got there at opening and headed to the back first, it was not that crowded until we started making our way back to the rest of the zoo. But none of the three of us are very good with large crowds, and so we were quite quickly drained of energy and didn't hit up too many exhibits after that. We did get to check out the new outdoor addition to the penguin exhibit, and that was kind of awesome. Of course, then Baby Girl had something of a meltdown, which was less awesome. She desperately wanted just to push her stroller around and when I tried to put her back in it, she did not approve. Sigh. Usually I let her have a bit more free reign and wander around more when we go there, but usually there are not nearly so many other people we have to look out for, and she made it very clear that she did not appreciate not getting her way. She eventually calmed down once we started making our way through MOLA (Museum of Living Art, it is a really, really cool exhibit). But it was a pretty exhausting morning for all of us. Still, gotta love the zoo.

Baby Girl tries to catch some fish.

She enjoyed exploring the interactive displays.

Saturday was Super Social Day, to be sure. My super awesome mother-in-law came over to stay with Baby Girl and I got to go out and have some not-Mommy time. I met up with the friend I had lunch with on Thursday as well as three other friends at Grapevine Mills mall and we all had an absolutely fantastic lunch. Then we bummed around the mall for a bit (I found a super cute pair of flip-flops for Baby Girl for only $3. Okay, so I had a little bit of Mommy time).

Later that afternoon, three of us went to see the movie Paul and absolutely loved it. Seriously, this movie was hilarious. I was laughing pretty much the whole time. Almost as awesome as the good time with my friends and the incredible movie? The AMC at Grapevine now has a bar and kitchen--which means they now have iced tea! I was thrilled to learn this, as even as we were walking into the theater I was bemoaning the fact that there aren't enough theaters that sell iced tea. There really, really aren't. But now there is at least one more.

Yesterday was much more relaxed, though there was still some socializing. I slept in until I absolutely had to get Baby Girl up, and woke up to find my husband in bed with me (yay) as the band had taken a bus to South By and ridden home after the last gig Saturday night. I let him sleep in until I absolutely had to get him up for lunch purposes, and until then I hung out with Baby Girl and began watching the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (featuring Colin Firth, yum). While doing that I also picked up my Doctor Who scarf and made a pretty good deal of progress on it.

After lunch, Hubby's brother stopped by to say hi and visit with Baby Girl, and some of our friends (the couple I had enjoyed lunch with on Saturday but who had not been able to stay for the movie) stopped by as well to visit a little (and see Baby Girl). They walked to Sonic with us, and barring a few issues when our order was delivered (unsweet tea is a horrid, horrid thing, especially when you are expecting sugary goodness), it was a lovely way to wrap up the afternoon.

The evening was spent in much the same manner as the morning--with Baby Girl, my knitting, and Jane Austen. There was, of course, some tea involved. I could hardly be watching such a British show and making such a British thing as a Doctor Who scarf without having a good cup of tea, could I? Baby Girl thought she should be able to have a cup of tea as well (actually, she wanted my cup of tea), but I managed to distract her so I could drink it in relative peace.

All in all, I think it was a fantastic (and long) weekend. Now I am looking forward to a rather more normal and quiet week. Let's just see if that happens, shall we?

Friday, March 18, 2011

So Far In Dragon Age II...

I am really, really digging this game so far. When I am playing, I rarely want to stop. It has been a bit of a battle with myself to make sure I get a decent amount of sleep, because I have been staying up most nights playing, even though I told myself I wouldn't stay up late playing video games anymore except for a few certain nights a week. Sigh.

I am very curious to see where the story goes. I think that I like the episodic pacing it has going on, though I am reserving final judgment for once I have completed my first play-through.

I definitely feel like this game has more humor than the first one did. Part of this is that, with your character actually having a voice this time, your dialogue options have a tone to them, and one of those tones is "smartass," which is usually the one I opt for unless I really feel like it is inappropriate (like when my character's mother is being all sad and stuff). Even more so are the little throwaway references to pop culture that the designers managed to work into the game. While running around various parts of Kirkwall, I heard one citizen complaining to a friend, "I load sixteen tons and what do I get?" I don't know if the line gets completed, I ran by him so fast that by the time the reference had registered I was already out of hearing range. I also had heard (a couple of times) part of a conversation in which one person says to the other "Can you hear me now?" And of course there was Varric's reference to the one-armed man during my session yesterday.

But what really has me cracking up most of the time? Hands down, it is the interaction between my character and the companion characters, and just between the companion characters themselves. I have been having a really hard time picking a set group of three to accompany me because I have been so enjoying playing with the combinations. Varric and Isabella are arguably the best at ribbing the others, and when you have them both in the party (which I don't do often because, with me being a rogue, that means three rogues in a party of four people) they each give as good as they get. They both enjoy teasing the moody emo elf warrior, and Isabella's more worldly ways are a source of many amusing conversations with the very innocent elf mage. She also likes to give Varric crap about the fact that he named his crossbow (Bianca), and won't tell anyone the story behind that. Quite often I will be headed from point A to point B with a firm purpose in mind and get sidetracked halfway there because I stop to listen to the conversations my companions are having with each other. I think for that reason alone I may have to place DAII above the original in the rankings.

So far my character has romanced/made overtures toward Isabella, Anders, and Fenris (not all of those were intentional, which is another often amusing quirk of the game). It just dawned on me that those three make up a full party (rogue, mage, warrior). I wonder what would happen if I went on a quest with all three of them at the same time.... I suspect a major snark-fest would ensue. Hmm...

One interesting change that has been made to this game from the first is the way the inventory works. As I suspected from the demo, once I got used to it, I enjoy it a lot more. The approval of this new system is not very universal though. Armor can no longer be equipped on companion characters. Instead, any armor you find is for Hawke only, and throughout the game you can find or purchase various upgrades for your companions' armor. Personally, I LOVE this. It makes my life much easier. If I personally can't wear a certain kind of armor (i.e. if it is for a warrior), I no longer have to save it until one of my companions that can has leveled up enough to use it, I can instead just sell it and use the money to buy cooler daggers. I have seen it voiced in a few places that this is one of the places where the game has been "dumbed down" from a traditional RPG to be more accessible to casual gamers and that real hardcore gamers should disdain this system. Whatever. Look, I never claimed to be a hardcore gamer, and I guess this makes it clear that I am not. I don't have a problem with being required to equip my party's armor manually. BUT, do I have a problem with the system being made easier and allowing me to have less clutter in my limited backpack space and more money in my pockets? Heck no.

Another complaint I have seen is that all of the "dungeons" (which in the case of this game are the Deep Roads and various tunnel/cave networks) look the same. While this is true (after your first couple of tunnel runs it is quite clear that they are only using two or three layouts), it doesn't really bother me. There are enough differences in which parts of each tunnel you can access that I still have to look in every nook and cranny in each cave and tunnel just in case there is treasure or a quest item hidden there. The artwork more than makes up for this in my books.

In fact, to be quite honest, my only real complaint about the game is the elimination of the party camp. In the first game, the camp is where you could go to relax and talk to each member of your party (and equip them all or give them gifts) and deepen your character's relationship with them, as well as to get your companion quests (and initiate romances). Furthermore, you could initiate conversations with your companions outside of camp, they would just be less willing to talk about certain things in that case.

Now instead each companion character has their own hangout somewhere in Kirkwall. They are scattered all over the town. You can only initiate a conversation with a companion in his or her hangout, and you can't even do that all of the time. Conversations are only available once certain story lines or quests have been triggered. It makes me feel like I do not have much opportunity to get to know my party, and I don't like that. In the first game, I could spend an entire gaming session in camp talking to each (or sometimes just one) member of my party, finding out everything about them available up to that point. Also, now there is no one central place where I can access all of my party through the inventory at once (companions don't get armor, but you do still have to equip their weapons and accessories), and that drives me bonkers.

I realized the other day that this is very similar to the setup in Mass Effect 1 & 2, which never really bothered me that much. But there were a few key differences that they left out of DAII. In ME everybody has their own haunt, but they are all on the Normandy, your ship. You just have to run around the ship to talk to each member of the crew, not have to go from location to location (often requiring you to gather your party up each time) to talk to more than one person. It was still one contained space, they were just in different rooms. Also, there were "equipment lockers" which allowed you to access your entire party's inventory and get everyone equipped in one convenient place. There's really nothing like that in DAII.

But other than that, as I said, I am having a hard time not playing. When I do sleep, I dream of shimmery loot.

I have been getting slightly better about screenshots (though I will admit that I often get so wrapped up in the game I still forget). Here are a few for you:

Like I said, gorgeous artwork. Just look at that sky.

The Chantry is pretty impressive too.

As are the dwarven Paragons.

The first two companions I got in the game were female, and because my Hawke is also a female, I had a fun little girl power thing going on for a while:

Aveline, Hawke, and Bethany.

The character you play is Hawke. Here's my portrait:


And here are the rest of my companions:

Anders, a human mage.

Fenris, an elven warrior.

Isabella, a human rogue.

Merrill, an elven mage.

Varric, a dwarven rogue.


It is so hard to decide between Varric and Isabella in my party...

So yeah, so far so good. Two big thumbs, way, way up. :o)

And now my friends, I shall bid you adieu. I am meeting up with some friends at the zoo to enjoy this gorgeous weather we've been having.

Go check out today's Gronk (Katie is at a con, so it is a really beautiful piece of fan art this week), and have yourself a fantabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Year of Multitasking

It all started innocently enough. I decided that 2011 would be the year that I finally jumped into the craft of knitting, in addition to my already existing mad crochet skills. I already have two completed projects (a pair of slippers and a hat) under my belt. I thought the easiest way to maintain balance would be to alternate between knitting and crochet projects. This worked for a while.

But then I started on THE project, you know the one, I've mentioned it often enough. Yes, I am talking about the Doctor Who scarf. Good lord, for such a simple and straightforward pattern, this thing managed to completely derail me. I would find myself going for a whole week without doing any knitting or crocheting, pick up the scarf for a day or two, and then more days of not doing anything. Blame it on the tediousness of the super simple pattern, blame it on February, whatever the reason, I was not happy with my crafting lethargy.

THEN I looked at a calendar and realized, holy cow, there are quite a few people in my life having babies in fairly short order! People that I actually do want to make baby blankets for. (The count is now up to five, good gravy.)

I have always preferred to just work on one project at a time, only occasionally taking a break if I had a specific very small and quick project that needed to get done, and then going right back to the main project once finished. But I finally had to face facts and admit to myself that a) if I want to ever actually finish the Doctor Who scarf, I can't just put it in a drawer until I feel like picking it back up again, I need to keep it going, and b) if I want to get all of those blankets done in a timely manner, I needed to get started on them pretty much nowish.

So, I have come up with a solution. Monday through Friday I will work on baby blankets. Saturday and Sunday I will work on the scarf. I put this plan into action a week ago, and so far I am pretty pleased with the results. This past weekend I made some decent progress on my scarf:

Doctor Who scarf as of March 17, 2011.

I felt much less pressure while working on it this weekend and once more found myself actually enjoying the project. Excellent. Goal achieved, huzzah! I have come to terms that this is a project that will get done when it gets done, and I am okay with that. Besides, it is starting to get warm here anyway, I won't need it until October at least.

I also have been plowing along with Baby Blanket Alpha:

Baby Blanket Alpha as of March 15, 2011.


This photo was taken Tuesday night, so I have actually made a bit more progress than what you see. It is about a third of the way done after less than a week of work. This bodes well for baby blankets!

Speaking of finished knitting projects, that hat I mentioned earlier is indeed the Jayne hat that I took with me to Seattle to work on. I started it on the plane on Friday morning and finished it as we were leaving the airport Monday night. I worked on it in between panels on Saturday and while waiting in line for our photo op on Sunday (causing me to now really want a couple of these). I am pleased as punch with how it came out, even though the entire time I was making it I worried that it would be too small. But it actually fits just right!

Jayne Hat by Cori 2011.


Pattern: Jayne by Heather Hill (inspired by Joss Whedon's Firefly)
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky by Brown Sheep in Autumn Harvest, Sunburst Gold, and Rust
Needles: Size 10.5 (US) Circular and DPN


Modeled by moi.

Note: Jayne hat also looks good on mini-Browncoats.


So, I have already been discovering the necessity, benefit, and possibility of multitasking in the crafting aspects of my life. If you had asked me a week ago I would have told you that was more than enough, thank you very much. I have enough going on in general without doubling up in each different area.

Then Leigh Butler announced that as of tomorrow she will be starting a new series of posts for Tor's website. I have long enjoyed her Wheel of Time re-read posts, and she has captured my interest with her writing style and turn of phrase. Tor is apparently pretty pleased with her as well, because they asked her if, in addition to her weekly Wheel of Time posts, she would be interested in doing a series of re-read posts for George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Here's the thing though: Leigh has never read the series. Not because she didn't want to, but because her devotion to Wheel of Time has sucked up enough of her time and energy that she didn't want to dive into another vastly epic and intricate series that is sort of taking its time to get finished. It's a testament to Martin's writing that fans are so vociferously annoyed at waiting for the next book in the series (which finally has a hard set release date for this summer), though it would be nice if they would go about expressing their desires in a more polite way. But I digress. The point is, Leigh decided she would be willing to give it ago, though instead of a re-read series, her posts will actually be a read-through. Two chapters a week.

Now I, like Leigh, have also had this series on my radar for quite some time. I too have hesitated to jump into it, though unlike Leigh this was because I already have enough other books to be reading that I don't need to jump into yet another big long addictive series (sadly, even though I have been reading at a pretty steady pace this year, my book pile has still only grown larger since last I showed you a picture). But. Two chapters a week? That really is not an unreasonable task. I read way more than that even on my slowest reading weeks.

So, I have finally, at long last, broke my hard and fast rule about reading more than one book at a time. Going forward, in addition to my regularly scheduled reading pile reading, I will also be reading A Game of Thrones (the first book in the series) along with Leigh. If I enjoy it enough, then I will pick up the next book when I am done.

My copy came Tuesday morning and I read through the prologue and first chapter that day. Can I just say, I really kind of want a direwolf now.

This also has the added bonus of ending up saving me about forty-five bucks (well, thirty six if you subtract the cost of the book) next month. I was planning to subscribe to HBO's forthcoming television show based on the series on iTunes (we haven't had any of the premium movie channels since I stopped working for the cable company and I refuse to add any just for one series). But since the first season is supposed to roughly cover the first book, I don't want to watch until I have read the first (and maybe the second as well) book completely through. So, I will probably just end up watching it on Netflix instead once I've finished my reading. Huzzah!

As a second added bonus, I won't be tempted to read the comments section on Leigh's posts (something that can suck up a great deal of time and often make me quite irritated at other people and the world in general). Since most people who will be reading her posts will have already read the entire series so far, she hasn't forbidden spoilers in the comments. So in order to avoid the risk of finding out something I don't want to know until I read it, I will just know to stay away. Excellent.

Hmm, maybe this multitasking thing is gonna work out for me after all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I Am Really Still Watching Glee

I'll let you in on a little secret, it's not the music. Sure, that might have been what got me hooked in the first place. I defy any fan of Journey not to have been sucked in after the ending of the pilot episode.

But as the show has worn on I have found that only a third to half of the songs of each episode are songs I even recognize, let alone like. Yes, I have a top forty radio station on my presets in my car, but I am a rampant station surfer when I drive. The stations that get left on for any length of time are the country stations and the classic rock station, and the station that "plays what we want" which is usually a random mix of new and old and generally not the superstar of the moment. I only stay on the top forty station if I land on it when it is playing a song I already know. I like to sing along in the car. It's hard to do that to songs you don't know.

Anyway. While the music aspect of the show is still (mostly) fun, it hasn't been the driving force of the series for very long. Though I did enjoy last night's move of using original songs for the big competition. I could, however, totally have done without the writers forcing the glee members' failed attempts on us (show stopping numbers such as My Headband, Only Child, and Trouty Lips). That was more tedious than amusing. I will forgive them though because the show opened with a pop tune that I do love, followed up shortly thereafter by my favorite Beatles song of all time.

But really this show has been more about the characters and their various journeys for some time now, and I am okay with that. As I said in a previous post, when they get an aspect of real life right on Glee, they tend to really nail it.

But at some point over the last season this show has found its footing as a very real and unabridged, unabashed, honest look at what it is to be a gay kid in high school these days (or to be realizing you might be gay and figuring out what the heck to do next). I am absolutely amazed and delighted at the progression Kurt has gone through over the course of the series so far, and I feel like the writers are taking him down a very true path. with more still to come. A recent episode found him resolutely refusing to engage in sex ed of any sort because, as he put it, he prefers romance and didn't want to think about all of the other stuff just yet. His friend's concern over this lack of knowledge, and lack of desire to gain knowledge, was amazing and touching. The conversations between Blaine and Kurt's father and then Kurt's father and Kurt himself were heartfelt and perfectly done.

After last night, Kurt looks to be embarking on his first real relationship, and with a trusted and reliable friend. I cannot even begin to stress how important this is. If the writers handle this correctly, whether the relationship has a happy ending or not, then there are so many scared, confused, and lonely kids out there who will benefit from this story arc in their own lives.

The writers aren't just confining the explorations of sexuality to Kurt either. The story line unfolding with Brittany and Santana also rings very true and has potential to lead many teens out there to ask themselves some important questions about their lives, and hopefully point them in the right direction to safely find the answers.

I also have to say, I was very impressed with the final original number, "Loser Like Me," because it conveyed a truth that I have been shouting at the bullies on this show since it started. Every superstar that these high school kids look up to started out pretty much just like the gleeks, AV nerds, drama club kids, etc. When they announced earlier in the season that the theme for regionals was "anthems" my first thought was that the perfect song for them to do would be Good Charlotte's "The Anthem," but I think they did even better with their own song.

So yeah, I know that a lot of people see Glee as a silly little show, and it is quite often that, I won't even try to deny the fact. I know there is mainly a lot of focus on the musical aspect of the series, and that some people feel like the characters' stories get in the way of the "real" show, or are just set pieces to provide an excuse for singing. But Glee is so, so much more than that, and the longer it can keep flying below the radar shielded by silliness and musical distraction, the more people will have a chance to hear some of the actual messages this wonderful show is sending out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stargate Tuesday: Twin Destinies (2.12)

Oh, hey, what was that sound? What's that you say? Spoilers on a collision course?!? Better brace for impact then! Or, you know, go elsewhere if you wish not to be spoiled on the goings on of Stargate Universe up to and including last night's episode.

LouDiamondPhillipsByPhilKonstantinPublicDomain
Lou Diamond Phillips is badass. Period.

Still here? Yay! Welcome. Now, on to the episode!

What Happened
Following on the heels of last week's episode, "Twin Destinies" opens with another war council wherein Park, Brody, and Volker are recounting to Young, Telford, and Wray all of the damage that Destiny has sustained while Eli and Rush look on in stony silence. It basically boils down to "we are so screwed." The ship took on major damage in its multiple battles with the drone ships and is now limping along pathetically toward the nearest star to recharge, but unfortunately that won't be enough because so many systems are damaged that they are pretty much down to their "last one of everything."

Young and Telford want options on what they can do to solve this problem and the scientists basically reply that there aren't any. Someone wonders aloud what they can do next, and Eli suggests they go home. He starts to explain that he and Gin had figured out a way to dial Earth while Destiny was in a star but Rush immediately overrides him and starts ranting off a long list of reasons why that just isn't gonna work. He is resolutely against any attempt to go home. He gets extra pissy when Young sides with Eli, citing that his first concern has to be for the people aboard the ship and that right now an attempt to gate home, as dangerous as it might be, is the only alternative to just hanging out on the ship until it just stops working completely (to be followed shortly thereafter by the certain death of everyone). So Young makes the call for Eli to use the communication stones to run the plan (and the math) by the people on Earth and when it all seems to check out, gives the attempt the green light.

Everyone gathers in the gate room while Rush resolutely tries to convince Young to forget this idea. Young is steadfast, though he does agree to let Rush address the crew and ask for volunteers to stay behind to continue the mission (to locate the signal of the source code of the universe). He even agrees to stand beside Rush and support the request, saying he will allow anyone who really wants to stay to do so, but only if the minimum number of people required to run the ship (twelve, including Rush and Young himself) volunteer to stay. Otherwise, they are all going home. Right after they have that discussion, they are called up to the bridge for an urgent matter.

The urgent matter turns out to be a shuttle approaching Destiny broadcasting a transmission by someone claiming to be Rush (henceforth to be known as Rush Beta). The shuttle is, in fact, the same shuttle that is docked on the ship at that moment. Rush Beta claims to be from twelve hours into the future (wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey!) and that he is the only survivor of the attempt to gate back to Earth, an attempt which caused the Destiny to suffer all sorts of overloads, and, apparently go back in time.

After some "I know something that only two of you could know because it just happened" shenanigans, Rush Beta is allowed on board to tell his story. Upon seeing Telford, he immediately lunges at the man claiming he is responsible for the death of everyone and that he's going to try to kill them all. He is restrained, there are a lot of "what the hell?" looks exchanged, and then he tells his tale. Everything up to Rush's conversation with Young about numbers is the same, but then they did address the crew to ask for volunteers to stay. Amazingly enough, they do get their ten volunteers (and then some). Once that was established they went ahead and dialed the gate. Telford went through first to let Earth know that they were coming through (since radio signals don't transmit over a ninth-chevron connection), but after he left the wormhole destabilized. Rush Beta and Eli did what they could to stabilize it and everyone pretty much stampeded through the gate. While this was going on, the ship's various systems started overloading and the place pretty much started falling apart. Young called off the "staying behind," and ordered the group to hightail it through the gate to safety. Rush Beta stayed behind to hold the wormhole connection and didn't make it through himself.

Rush Beta immediately ran to the communication stones to ensure that everyone made it through, only to learn it had been hours since Telford had come through and no one else made it. Everyone else, it appears, died in transit. Then, somehow, the Destiny Rush Beta was on was sent back through time (he posited something to do with a solar flare and the wormhole connection). When he saw a second Destiny appear, he realized what must have happened and raced to the shuttle to warn the crew.

So, Young calls off the attempt to gate back to Earth. Wray wonders if there is any way to compensate for the problem, now that they know what will go wrong, but Rush and Rush Beta don't think that is possible, as it was too unpredictable of an issue. Or something. As they are passing the wreck of the first-timeline Destiny they realize that they can strip it for parts and supplies and hopefully repair their own ship. The damaged ship is too close to the star for them to take a shuttle or to fly their own ship over, but in a very neat piece of writing, they figure out if they make a short FTL hop, they can gate onto the damaged ship. Eli and the two Rushes are left to make the calculations to make it happen.

So they arrive on the damaged ship and once there are able to assess that they have forty minutes to get in and out before it can no longer support life (it is falling into the star). They very efficiently split up throughout the ship and strip it for everything they can. Everything actually goes really well until Rush Beta sees a power source on the way out that could greatly improve the surviving ship's weapon's capability. Rush warns Rush Beta to be careful in how he handles the item or he could electrocute himself. So everyone hightails it back through the gate except for Telford, who goes to look for Rush Beta and hurry him along.

Meanwhile, back on our Destiny, Wray has decided to use the stones to update Earth on what's going on and why they didn't gate back as planned. She is surprised to find that the Telford from the original timeline is there and waiting impatiently to find out what the hell is going on. He demands to use the stones himself, preferably switching with his own, alternate, self (which, as one of the scientists points out, is weird). Cut back to the damaged ship and Telford has confronted Rush Beta, wanting to know the real story. He doesn't for one second believe that Rush told them everything, or that he was as valiant as he claimed. They get into an argument and there is a shoving match, and Telford is shoved right into the metaphorical live wire, electrocuted on the spot. Rush Beta freaks out and takes off. Scott and Rush realize that he isn't back yet and now Young has ordered them to find Telford so he can switch with his other self. They find Telford's body but no sign of Rush Beta. Rush claims he knows where the man went though and takes off, Young orders Scott back through the gate because they are almost out of time.

Rush finds Rush Beta at the Ancient chair room, and they have a brief discussion about how Telford's death was an accident but now Rush Beta feels like he can't go back. He has decided, instead, to go out in the chair, gaining as much Ancient knowledge as he can before the ship is destroyed--simply for the sake of knowing it. Rush asks him what really happened (see, even he doesn't trust himself), but Rush Beta is adamant that he told the truth.

Rush runs back to the gate, which Scott is holding open, and says he couldn't find his other self, and the Destiny jumps away.

Thoughts
Boy oh boy do I hope the teaser for next week was not so much a teaser as a promise. Surviving Telford shows up on the ship via the stones and asks "What the hell happened," to which Young replies, "That's going to take a lot of explaining." God, I hope so, because I have no idea how other Telford made it back to Earth in this timeline. It seems to me that our Telford not going back in this timeline would have negated the other one. Please, do explain. I do find it interesting that the only member of the crew to survive the first timeline is the only one to die in the second. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey indeed. But I am glad that there is still a Colonel Telford around. Again, to kill him off is a waste of a perfectly good Lou Diamond Phillips.

Of course, it would be another time-frak episode that leaves me so totally blown away and with a million questions. I love it.

I did spend most the episode waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like Telford and Rush, I never for one second believed that Rush Beta was giving them the true story, or at least not the whole story.

Did you notice how they managed to sneak in another nice shiny peak-condition shuttle to the ship? That sure was nice of The Powers That Be, wasn't it?

Once more, I loved the Park/Volker/Brody dynamic going on. When this show goes off the air I may have to hunt down some (gen) fan fic about their furthering adventures. And if I can't find any, I'll have to make my own. Volker's little tutorial on what parts to look for on the damaged ship was pretty darn amusing.

Eli's doubt that he would be asked to remain with the SGC once they returned to Earth was sweet. Though James and Chloe were right, there is no way they are letting him go. Also, I liked they way James was rattling off the scientists and her reaction to McKay. Perfect.

My only real quibble with the episode (other than my confusion about how alt-Telford exists) is that of all of the people to volunteer to stay aboard Destiny in the first timeline, Greer was the first to step forward. I don't even know if it is a quibble, really, it was just utterly unexpected. Although, he has shown such a strong loyalty to Young throughout the entire series, and his distrust of Rush had caused him to develop an intense resolution to protect his CO from the scientist's snaky ways. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, but I really, really was.

So, there we go. All in all, I felt that it was another solid episode. The pacing was pretty much spot-on, I felt, and the story truly interested and surprised me (for the most part, I did call that they would strip the damaged ship for spare parts). I cannot wait until next week, and I am once more incredibly sad that we only have eight more episodes to go of this amazing series.

Also, I am incredibly ticked off because I know that Robert Carlyle will never get even an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Rush, and that is a damn shame.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Morning Drabble

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend, and that Daylight Savings Time didn't kick your butt too badly (like it did with me). Over the weekend I got struck by a scene in my head of a girl running through the forest from a dragon who only wanted to be friends with her, and it turned into a nice little drabble I thought I would share with you.

Enjoy!

The Dragonmistress of Thuvas Valley


Ress was almost certain that the hatchling was following her. Between that and her ankle (she did not think it was broken but she had still wrenched it quite painfully when she tumbled into that ditch), things were shaping up into one hell of a day. She wanted to stop, and desperately so, but she knew that to do so would be catastrophic. She had only been trying to help the hatchling, but in doing so had called its attention upon herself, and now it gave chase. So she ran, well, limped, on, praying to any god that might be listening to allow her to win this race.

She barely averted plowing through a patch of thorny bramble. Relieved she had seen it in time, Ress continued on and a few moments later a loud yelp told her the hatchling had not been so fortunate. The yelp was followed by a whimper that stopped Ress short. To her ears it sounded as if the hatchling was stuck in the bramble. Those thorns were insidious--long barbed things that could sink in and grab hold if one did not take care where to step. A hatchling would have been running on four legs, not two, which meant that if the creature was stuck, it had no real way of unsnaring itself. She should keep going, run all the way to the village and bolt herself inside her parents' home. This was her chance. If the hatchling was truly caught, then it could no longer hunt her.

Yet still she stood there, listening to the whimpers of the creature she had been trying to evade, caught up in indecision. It was entirely the wrong season for dragons in the valley. They usually appeared in the late spring and stayed through autumn, meaning they were not due to return for another two moons at least. Surely someone in the valley would have noticed if a breeding dragon had arrived early. She had never seen one so closely, let alone one so young as the hatchling, but she had studied the creatures. When one lived in a valley that played home to the beasts it was, in her opinion, quite foolish not to. Her studies led her to believe that the hatchling was only a few days old, which meant its mother should still be around. But there had been no signs of such...its presence was a mystery. The evidence suggested that the hatchling had no one to take care of it. If she left it where it was, tangled in the bramble, some larger creature would surely come along and kill it before long. Her blood sang with generations of villagers who had been plagued by the dragons and cried out that this was a perfect solution to her problem. And yet...

Her indecisiveness gone, Ress whirled on the spot, and almost fell flat on her face as her injured ankle gave out in protest. She managed to catch herself and fought down a blush, glad that no one had been around to see that moment of glory. Straightening up, steeling her spine, she marched (gingerly) back to the bramble patch. The hatchling tensed when it heard her approach, but as Ress came into its sight, she saw it relax a bit. The look it gave her was almost painful to see, the poor thing seemed relieved and ashamed, and yes, hurt. She took a cautious step closer and it whined, trying to pull its front foot out of the patch and failing, yelping once more in pain.

"Oh, what have you gotten yourself into, you poor wretch?" Ress said quietly. She continued to approach the creature and saw that it was quite tangled within the bramble. Sighing almost inaudibly, she pulled her belt knife slowly from its sheath. Sure she was making the biggest mistake of her life, she reached for the young dragon's foot to hold it in place and carefully began cutting away the thorns. The hatchling surprised her by holding very still as she cut away the bramble from each of its feet. She had always known dragons were intelligent creatures, but she was impressed at how quickly it seemed to have grasped the situation. Ress had quite a job keeping herself from getting caught as she worked, but she managed it with only a few pricks from the tips of the thorns. She could feel its eyes on her as she finished freeing the last foot. She stood up and backed away slowly, the hatchling remaining where it was, eying her with a questioning gaze. She surveyed the young dragon with no little bit of awe, and it stayed where it was, watching her. She realized it was afraid to move, lest it step in more of the brambles and get caught once more. "So, now you know how dangerous that bramble is," she said, at a loss for how else to respond. She shook her head and walked forward again, one hand extended, palm straight up, indicating it should stay for another moment. "Maybe now you will see that you avoid it in the future, eh?"

When she reached its side once more, the hatchling surprised her again by bumping its scaly nose up against her hand, just like a cat trying to get petted. She stroked its nose gently for a moment, amazed at the turn her day had taken. She then rested her hand on its neck, just behind a bumpy ridge she knew would grow into a crest before too many moons had passed, and moved so that she and the hatchling were eye to eye. "Now," she stated, as calmly and as firmly as she was able, "we are going to move very carefully to get you out of this patch. Just remember, if you eat me once you are free, there will be no one to pull out those thorns that are lodged in you, alright?" The hatchling blinked once but made no other movement or response. She sighed in exasperation, unable to believe this was really happening, and slowly led the hatchling out of the brambles and into a space between trees that held enough light for her to examine her new charge.

Once free of the patch, the hatchling stopped where she indicated and very gingerly sat on its haunches, wrapping its tail around its forelegs, again very much like a cat. Ress knelt beside it and began pulling out thorns, trying to cause the creature as little pain as possible. She could only hope that if she did not anger it, it would refrain from attacking. It gave the occasional whine when she found one lodged particularly deeply, but otherwise remained still. Eventually, she was finished. "Done!" she declared, standing back and looking over the hatchling once more.

The hatchling definitely looked the worse for the wear, in her opinion. There were several scratches along its scaly hide and dark blood was beginning to flow freely from the places where the thorns had been lodged. Beneath the blood she could see that its scales were a deep green. In the low light they looked almost black. She was surprised to realize that the hatchling had no wings, until a closer look revealed two bumps along either side of its ridged spine, covered by a thin membrane the same color as its scales but smooth, like her own skin. The bumps were in the locations where she would have expected the wings to be, and she suspected that perhaps those membranes were in fact covering up the young dragon's still-growing wings. The dragons that arrived in the valley late each spring all flew, even the hatchlings, so she surmised that it would not be long until those membranes fell off, allowing the creature to take to the skies like the rest of its kind. How curious. No one in the valley had ever seen such a young dragon before, which she supposed explained why none of the scrolls she had studied or stories she had heard had mentioned this aspect of hatchling development.

Ress had moved in closer as she examined the dragon again, and so intent was she on her study that she was caught completely off guard when it butted its head up against her stomach, nuzzling her, she realized after a moment. It dawned on her then that she was standing alone in the woods with a dragon, young as it might be, still a dragon. The very same dragon, in fact, from which she had spent a good part of the afternoon running away. Once more her instincts were screaming at her, and one more she decided to ignore them. The hatchling had made no move to hurt her, in fact, it seemed quite grateful for her help. When she had first come across the poor thing earlier that day, it had been tangled up in the ivy that grew upon many of the trees this close to the foothills. It had clearly been hopelessly stuck (she briefly wondered if all hatchlings were so clumsy or if this one was an exception) and had, apparently, exhausted itself struggling for freedom, because it had been fast asleep. The beast's awkward position alone had been enough to make her wish to help it. She had approached as silently as she could manage and carefully cut it free, trying her best to lower it gently enough to let it continue sleeping. But the hatchling had been far too heavy for her to hold up on her own, it was already the size of a full-grown pony, and once she had cut enough vines, gravity had simply taken over and it had fallen to the ground in a very quick, very loud crash. The hatchling had woken with a loud cry and Ress had not waited around to see how it would react to being free, she had simply run away as fast as her feet would carry. The beast began to pursue her as soon as it had freed itself from the remaining ivy and she had simply assumed that it was hunting her down to eat her. But...what if...what if she had been wrong?

Deciding to test a theory, she abruptly stepped back and walked several paces away from the nuzzling hatchling. It looked up and whined, and when she stopped it shambled over to her quickly, giving her a look that she could only describe as pleading.

"You were not chasing me to eat me at all, were you?" She could have sworn that the hatchling's eyes widened in surprise at this--just how well did it understand her, she wondered. "You were following me because you are lonely. You do not have anyone else." At this the hatchling nudged her hand with its head once more and she sighed in resignation before scratching its nose again.

It seemed Ress had made herself a new friend.

"Oh dear." She said aloud to no one in particular.

~*~*~

Clearly she could not walk back into the village in broad daylight with a dragon in her wake. The other villagers would not care that it was a baby, or stop to ask questions of Ress. They would almost certainly attack first. It was going to take some doing warming them up to the idea of letting a dragon stay in their village, at least until the other dragons returned in a few moons' time. Surely it would want to rejoin its own kind when they arrived. When she paused to think back on that day later, Ress was highly surprised at how quickly she had accepted the care of the hatchling. She decided to hold on returning to the village until night had fallen.

To pass the remaining hours of the day, she led the dragon to the river upon which her village sat. There was a place nearby where the woods ran to the bank, and it was out of sight of any habitation. She had spent many of the summer days in her youth watching dragons swim in the lake from which the river sprang. She thought it might be a good idea to clean up her hatchling a bit before taking it home with her. When they got to the river she had little trouble coaxing the creature into the water, though it would not venture far from her, and she had to remove her books and stockings, sitting with her feet in the water, before it would fully immerse itself.

The river, as it turned out, had been a very good idea, because just as she was wondering how in the world she was going to feed a dragon, she realized that it had been taking care of that very need while swimming. The hatchling emerged from the river looking rather pleased with itself, and with several fish dangling from its not inconsiderable jaws. It dropped a few at her side and then made itself comfortable not far off, eating the remainder of its catch. Ress, however, was distracted from this development by something she had noticed on the hatchling's hide. Or rather, something she had noticed was missing. Every scratch and laceration from the bramble seemed to be completely gone. She could see one or two thin lines of white where the deeper scratches had been, but other than that the glistening scales were unmarred. It seemed that dragons healed at a remarkable rate.

~*~*~

As expected, once the village found out about the hatchling, whom Ress had christened "Pony" for no real reason but a need to call it something other than "Dragon," there was an absolute uproar. She had managed to keep Pony hidden for only a day or two, but it really did not like being separated from her for any length of time, and it also did not care much for the unused storage shed in which she tried to hide it. Later, she could not have answered anyone who asked how she convinced the village council to let Pony stay under her care until the rest of the flight returned to the valley. But somehow, she had.

At first the other villagers watched their children and livestock vigilantly, waiting for Pony to slip up and make any move of aggression toward either. But in the latter it showed absolutely no interest, preferring to swim in the river and eat the fish it could catch there. With the former, it showed great caution and respect, and it was not long before the village children could frequently be seen riding on the back of the beast throughout the village square (under the watchful eyes, of course, of both Ress and the parents). The villagers were quite impressed to find that the vicinity's wolf packs now stayed well away from the village, and foxes no longer raided the coops.

As expected by Ress, about a fortnight before the rest of the flight returned, Pony's wings broke through the membranes, and it was not long before the hatchling could be seen soaring overhead. Each day after, she expected to wake up to simply find the young dragon gone, but each day Pony greeted her enthusiastically before taking off for its morning swim. It began to venture often into the woods surrounding the foothills, and Ress waited sadly for the day Pony did not return. But that day did not come.

When the flight of dragons arrived that spring she thought for sure that her constant companion would make its leave. Indeed, Pony seemed quite eager to investigate the new arrivals to the valley when they appeared. But contrary to her fears, it did not remain with the other dragons, returning once more to the village, clearly intent on staying. The villagers found themselves surprisingly relieved that their guardian had chosen to remain. And Ress? Well, she found she did not mind it so much herself. Not at all. 

And so was the legend of the Dragonmistress of Thuvas Valley born.