Friday, July 29, 2011

Consider Me Squished

Have you heard of Squishables? No? Then get yourself over to squishable.com immediately. It will change your world.

Basically, Squishables are pretty much what they sound like: super squishy stuffed animals (and other things). Someone must have been looking at a beach ball and thought to himself, "Hey, you know what would be awesome? A beach ball I could hug." Thus the Squishables were born. They come in many varieties (including Cthulhu and the little robot mascot for Android phones), and in a few different sizes as well (mini, regular, and the new line of "massive").

I first found out about these guys through ads on a couple of the webcomics I read. Then one or two of the webcomic artists started mentioning Squishables in their posts and my curiosity got the better of me, leading me to click over to the site and check it out. I have been coveting many of them ever since. Then Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics went and worked with the fine folks over at Squishable to design a squishy version of T-Rex. Then they went and made a mini Squishable T-Rex.

I finally caved in last month and ordered myself two mini Squishables, the dragon and the T-Rex.

Squish the mini blue dragon.

T.J. the mini T-Rex.

As you can see, I wasn't kidding about the beach ball thing.

Guys, these things are so freaking soft, it is amazing. Also, very extremely huggable. I literally had not even gotten the dragon out of the box before my daughter came and stole it from me. Sigh. I am a big girl though, and I can share. She loves these things, and I can use her as an excuse to justify them a little bit, so that works out.

The dragon was the first design to get launched in the massive size, which means there are two more sizes I need to get still. You know there is no way I am not going to end up with all three. The price tag on the massive Squishables is a bit steep though, so I am going to have to be patient. That massive dragon is one of three items on my "not gonna happen" birthday wish list.* A girl can dream, right?

I also really like this company because the people running it seem like a good bunch. They are one of the few companies I don't mind following on Facebook because they really understand how to use it as a tool to get people to love their brand without being annoying. They invite people to send in photos of themselves with their Squishables (or just of their Squishables doing interesting things) and post them on their site's gallery. In fact, right now they are donating a dollar to the Humane Society for every photo people send in. That is pretty awesome. On FB they will post some of those pictures and have caption contests, which is always a fun time. They have their own webcomic even, called The Fuzzy Five. When they hit a milestone number of likes they provide a coupon code for a decent discount.

In fact, it was those discount codes that finally made me cave and order my minis last month, and then made me cave again last week to order my first full-sized Squishable.

Maria (pronounced like Mariah) the manatee.

She arrived just the other day, and let me tell you, the timing could not have been better. Hugs have been needed around here lately, so she came in quite handy. Of course, even though when I started opening her box my daughter was in the other room, by the time I got the manatee out, Baby Girl had suddenly materialized to steal Mama's new toy. She's got a sixth sense, I swear.

Here's our whole squishy family together:

Caution: Extreme Cuddles Zone

And just so you can get an idea of scale, here is Baby Girl with the Squishables:

What do you mean, yours

I think not, Mama! Thbbt!

And just in case you wanted more scale, here's me with my daughter and the squishies.



I am sure these are only the first of many that will make their way into our home. Thankfully, they live up their name and are, indeed, quite squishy, which means that you can jam them into a tight corner if space is at a premium! So yeah, I am a total convert. These guys are awesome. If you have room in your heart and home for some soft squishy toys, I cannot recommend Squishable more highly. I am pretty sure they have something to offer everyone.

Have a fantastic weekend folks. Until Monday, I bid you adieu!

*For the curious, the other two items on my "not gonna happen" wish list can be found here and here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Thoughts On Dragon Age II: Legacy

So...the new downloadable content (DLC) for Dragon Age II came out on Tuesday. Called Legacy, it is a standalone quest that can be played at any point during the game. I had recently finished my (third) playthrough of the game, and after installing the DLC I only had to start up the game and press the "Resume" button to be taken to my character's home, from which point I was able to launch the campaign.

There were a few delays to getting my hands on the much anticipated release:
a) it didn't go live/become available to download until late in the afternoon on Tuesday, and
b) after I had downloaded and installed it, I couldn't get it to launch because I had forgotten to log back into my EA account from the game (doh!)

Once I got past all of that and actually started playing it though, I have to say I found myself quite delighted with the new content.

Mild Spoilers for the DLC after the pics.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~*~

My latest character, Wren.
(Thank goodness the dorky headwear can be hidden in-game!!!)

Here's a better shot of her face.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The basic premise of the new quest is that, sometime during the Champion's adventures in and around Kirkwall, the Carta (a guild of thuggish dwarven smugglers) starts hounding your character like there is no tomorrow. Ever the trusty ally, Varric tracks their activity back to an area called the Vimmark Chasm, which is basically in the middle of nowhere. Hawke and team go to check it out (yes, I named my character Wren Hawke, what can I say, it was a whim).

It turns out that this group of the Carta worship a darkspawn that has been imprisoned in an ancient and forgotten Grey Warden prison, hidden in the chasm. They want to release the darkspawn, and it seems that Hawke's blood is a key requirement in effecting said release. Ooh, a mystery. Of course, once the Champion's party enters the prison, they find out that it has been magically sealed. Much like the vaunted Hotel California, you can check in, but you can never leave. The doors are all one way. So everyone and everything that has ever wandered into the prison (on purpose or on accident) is either dead or trapped down there.

Luckily one of the people you come across is a former Grey Warden, and recognizing your character as a Hawke, he offers to help your party. The only way out, he says, is to break the seals holding the darkspawn captive and then kill the creature. So you have to make your way through the prison fighting all manner of things, mostly dwarves and darkspawn who have been drawn to the prisoner's call and want to see him freed. It's not just all fighting your way from point A to point B, either. There is also a little side-quest where you can learn more about Varric's lineage, and you get some interesting background on Hawke's family as well. Then there is a bit of Tevinter and Grey Warden lore thrown in there. There are even a few instances of puzzle solving, which is something I quite enjoy in my games.

I am almost done with this quest. I am at the final boss fight (so far I have died three times), which is FREAKING HARD y'all. There is a trick to it that it took me one and a half attempts to even figure out, and if you don't cotton on you will very quickly start losing party members. In interviews before the DLC's release, the developers mentioned that they tried to use this quest to address some complaints that the battles in DAII were too easy. Well, they succeeded. Exceeded expectations, you might say. Geez. Still, I have faith that a few more tries will get me through it. Now that I have figured out the trick, it is just a matter of keeping a close enough eye on my entire party to keep them alive for the entire fight. I am not gonna say any more than that on the subject, you'll just have to play it and find out.

I am definitely looking forward to getting to incorporate this in to my next full playthrough of DAII. There is a lot of loot to be found and sold, and you get a pretty badass weapon on the quest (integral to completing it) that you can then carry into the rest of the game. So, yeah, it would be helpful to have that. The weapon you get is also dependent upon your character's class, which is kind of cool. As you go through the prison you get the opportunity to enhance the weapon, too, and you get to choose what stats you improve, which is pretty nifty. I kind of want to play the quest through as every class just to see how the weapon varies for each one.

I wouldn't hit this quest up too early in the game though. As I said, boss fight. HARD. Worse than the high dragon. Maybe the end of the second act though.

A few other notes on Legacy:

I am glad they brought back the Grey Warden lore as part of the game. I know from a story perspective, there wasn't much place for the Wardens in DAII, but they were so central to the first game that their lack in the second was noticeable. It also reinforces my belief that the third game in this series is going to bring together the stories of the Warden Commander and the Champion. I have some ideas on how both of your characters might be in the same game, though I am sure Bioware is on a completely different page in a totally different book than I am on that one. Still, I do eagerly look forward to the story for the next game. I suspect it is going to be a big payoff.

Also, big golden griffon statues littered all about the background. Awesome touch.

Your party selection seems to be pretty important for this quest. I would be curious to play it through with a few different party configurations to see how each character reacts to what is going on.

There were some really cool tweaks to the game's design implemented in Legacy. (I tried to get some screenshots to post, but they apparently didn't take, either that or they saved in a place that is not the default screenshot folder). Most notably the Genlocks look totally different in the most awesome way possible. Even different from those that appeared in the main part of DAII. There were also some new items to loot--not just your random sacks, crates, and barrels (and yes, I giggle every time I say "crate and barrel" or every time there was a crate and a barrel in close proximity to each other in the game, I have issues, we know this). There were a few standalone bottles of health potion and injury kits, and they just looked spiffy. There were also "small purses" here and there. For those weary of repeating the same dungeons and caves, this map is totally new and that was definitely a nice break.

Overall, I definitely recommend this DLC to fans of the series. Even if DAII left you a little disappointed, Legacy is worth it. It has the feel of playing Dragon Age: Origins while keeping all of the best parts of DAII.

In addition to Legacy coming out on Tuesday, the newest Dresden Files book, Ghost Story came out that day as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though I haven't visited with Harry and his pals in quite a while, I was able to jump right back into his world as if I had never left. I will be giving that my full attention after I finish up Legacy, and then, then comes the Mass Effect replay. It looks like I will be spending my birthday playing ME for two years in a row. Hmm. Can't complain about that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Underground

Hello and welcome back to my Stargate Atlantis rewatch! Today we'll be talking about the season one episode "Underground."

As always, spoilers for the episode and any that came before, with mild references (but theoretically no spoilers) to Stargate SG-1 from time to time. Now, on to the episode!

What Happened

The episode starts off with Teyla (with a lovely new haircut) briefing Weir and the team about a trading partner of the Athosians, a people who call themselves the Genii. She describes them as a simple, shy people, not very technologically advanced. They are an agricultural society. Basically, they are Amish. Atlantis is approaching a food shortage and the crops on the mainland are nowhere near close enough to being ready for harvesting, so Weir is very interested in seeing if Atlantis can broker a trade deal for food with the Genii. (Side note: That is an interesting aspect to interplanetary trade, you don't have to just depend on the growing seasons of your own planet, at any given time there is likely to be another planet with fresh food available for trade.) Sheppard and Ford both feel that they should be looking for allies who can help them defend Atlantis, but Weir feels that this mission takes precedence, so off they go.

On the Genii homeworld, they are met by a man named Tyrus and his (grown) daughter Sora, long acquaintances of Teyla's. Tyrus is suspicious of the Lanteans at first, especially because they are armed and he sees Teyla is dressing like they do now, rather than as an Athosian, but Teyla reassures him. She promises that she would not have brought them to meet the Genii if she did not feel them worthy. He agrees to take them to their village and while Sora is leading them on, he hangs back, speaking into a decidedly non-Amish communicator device on his wrist (which was hidden by his floppy sleeves).

The negotiations don't seem to be going very well. Atlantis is offering medicine in return for a portion of the Genii's staple crop, tava beans. The leader of the Genii, a man named Cowen, seems to be trying to make things extra difficult, stating they will need much more medicine than offered and telling the Lanteans they can just leave if they don't like the terms. Teyla is surprised at his unwillingness to bargain, as her people have always had very fair dealings with the Genii. Cowen explains that the Lanteans are asking for a substantial portion of their harvest, which means his own people will have to plant new crops, clear new land, etc. Very hard, laborious, time-consuming work.

Sheppard thinks to aid negotiations by offering the Genii a much quicker and easier way to clear their lands. They go outside to an old tree stump and Ford uses C4 to blow it up. Cowen is suitably impressed by the C4. He says if the Lanteans can provide a sufficient quantity, along with the medicine, they will gladly give them the amount of food asked for. Sheppard says he needs to go run the new terms by his boss and he and McKay head back to Atlantis to talk to Weir. Teyla and Ford stay behind to hold down the fort and Cowen says they will have a Harvest Ceremony that afternoon. Teyla looks nonplussed at this suggestion.

Weir is not happy that Sheppard has essentially made himself an arms dealer, but he argues that the intended use for the C4 is innocent enough and they do need the food. Weir reluctantly agrees and sends Sheppard and McKay back to seal the deal with Cowen. On the way back, Sheppard deviates from the path (preferring to go in a straight line) and they get lost. McKay's scanner picks up a strange energy signature and they go to investigate it. They discover a hatch hidden in an old barn, and the energy signature is coming from the hatch, so they decide to check it out. Down the hatch, they find themselves in what appears to be an underground bunker. McKay remarks that the construction is definitely beyond the capabilities of the Genii. As they explore, they wonder if maybe the Genii are unaware of the bunker, which leads them to a vast underground complex. Just as they discover the complex, they are surrounded by heavily armed soldiers.

Back at the Harvest Ceremony, Teyla lets Ford unwittingly take a big gulp of moonshine and she and the Genii laugh at his surprise. Other than that, it seems like a very boring event. Someone comes up to Cowen and whispers in his ear and he tells Teyla and Ford that he must excuse himself.

Back underground, Sheppard and McKay, under guard, speculate that maybe the two societies exist separately, unaware of each other's existence. This idea is quickly put to pasture when Cowen enters the room, dressed in the same uniform as the other soldiers. Cowen goes through their things, trying to decide what to do with them. He tells them that normally they would have already been shot for having discovered the complex, but their advanced weapons and possession of C4 makes theirs a unique situation (the Genii level of tech is about 1940s or so). Sheppard guesses that Cowen doesn't actually want the C4 to clear stumps, and Cowen agrees, stating they have a more "sophisticated" purpose in mind for it. Sheppard puts himself out there and says that his people are looking for allies against the Wraith, implying that the Genii might be as well.

Back on the surface, Teyla and Ford are starting to get a really weird vibe from their hosts. They decide to try to leave and see if they can make contact with Sheppard and McKay. Tyrus and Sora stop them however, stating that a Wraith ship has been sighted in the area and no one must leave or they will draw the Wraith's attention. Teyla, with her spidey-sense, knows this to be a lie. She and Ford try to leave anyway and the Genii start to surround them when Tyrus gets a call on their communicator. A shocked Teyla watches as all of the Genii pull out guns and tell her that she and Ford must relinquish their weapons. They are then escorted to the bunker where Sheppard and McKay are waiting.

Everyone is eyeing each other uneasily and trying to size one another up, deciding if an alliance will work or not. McKay deduces that the Genii are trying to build atomic bombs to use against the Wraith. They think the C4 will solve the current roadblock in their project. Cowen is surprised and impressed that McKay figured this out and asks if the C4 will do what he thinks. McKay says that it probably will, but it all depends on their design. Cowen takes them to the lab where the bombs are being built so McKay can check it out. He points out to Cowen that radiation is a risk they need to be aware of. Cowen seems flippant about this, says his scientists have assured them that it's not a problem. McKay tells him he is wrong, but assures Sheppard that as long as they are only down there a couple of hours the team should be fine.

Before McKay can go too far on explaining to the Genii what they need to do to fix their project, Sheppard asks if they are allies or still prisoners. A tentative alliance is struck between the two groups, but it is clear that there is still not a lot of trust on either side. Cowen and Tyrus reveal that their plan to defeat the Wraith is to sneak the bombs aboard all of their hive ships while they hibernate and detonate them simultaneously, vaporizing them while they sleep. Thinking they have decades before the next big culling, their plan is to test their first bomb in five years. Seeing the obvious flaw in this plan (the Wraith are awake), Teyla reveals to them that their plan may no longer be possible. She explains what happened and that the Wraith are now starting to wake up. Cowen is furious and storms out, with Sheppard chasing after him.

Sheppard manages to talk Cowen out of taking his team prisoner and interrogating them before leaving them out for the Wraith to find. He explains that what they have with them is just the tip of the iceberg in their arsenal. He still thinks they can take out the Wraith, but only if they work together. He tells Cowen about the puddle jumper (making it sound like they only have one) and believes that with that they stand a real chance. Mollified, Cowen returns to the meeting to find Tyrus and Sora arguing with the rest of Sheppard's team. Cowen tells them that Sheppard has convinced them that working together is still in everyone's best interest. McKay says he can help them get their bomb program back on track and easily make up for the lost time.

Cowen then shows them the crucial bit of the next step of their plan. Generations ago some Genii managed to shoot down a Wraith dart, from which they recovered a data device (the Wraith equivalent of a flash drive). Tyrus and Sora were able to access the data on the device using some really primitive computers. From the device they learned the location of a nearby hive ship, as well as its layout. Their plan was to infiltrate that ship, use the device to interface with the ship's mainframe, and learn the location of all of the other hive ships so that they would know how many bombs to make and where to take them. With the Wraith awake, infiltrating the ship would be almost impossible--except for the puddle jumper. Sheppard goes back to Atlantis to update Weir and get a jumper so they can do the mission. Weir is pissed, understandably, but realizes that at this point they really have no choice but to go through with it.

The mission does not go very well. Tyrus and Cowen go with Sheppard's team in the jumper. They get onto the hive ship alright and then split up: Teyla and Tyrus head back to the ship to keep an eye on it, Cowen, McKay, and Sheppard to go hook up the device and download the data. McKay manages to get the data they were looking for, but as Teyla and Tyrus are heading back to the jumper, one of the people coccooned for later feeding breaks through his containment and begs for their help. Teyla goes to help him but Tyrus stops her, stating that the Wraith can never know they were there. The man in the cocoon starts making even more noise and, irate, Tyrus shoots him to shut him up. Of course, this attracts the Wraith's attention (smart move, there, Tyrus). He is shot as they are running away and Teyla cannot get to him before the Wraith and she has to leave him behind.

Back on the Genii homeworld, Cowen pulls a double-cross as soon as they land. He tells Sora (already pissed that she had to stay behind) that Teyla killed her father and tells Sheppard that the Genii will be keeping the data device (which the two peoples were to share) and the puddle jumper as well. Sheppard, however, was ready for something like this and had two cloaked jumpers waiting in the air. He has them materialize and his team takes the data device and leaves. Cowen says that the Lanteans do not want to make an enemy of the Genii and Sheppard responds that it works the other way too.

Back on Atlantis, Grodin manages to crack some of the data on the device and finds that there are at least something like sixty hive ships, spread out all over the galaxy. Many of them are already on the move. Even if the ships had all been still in hibernation, there were far too many for the Genii to ever have been able to attack simultaneously. Their plan never would have worked.

The episode wraps up with Weir informing Sheppard that while he was gone Bates managed to secure a deal for food with a group of traders called the Menarians. They then discuss the implications of the information they found, worried about what they will have to face in the future.

Commentary

Amish Nazis. This is what science fiction is all about, folks. Make no mistake about it, the Genii were definitely intended to be comparable to the Nazis. From their level of technological advancement to their belief that they should be the ruling power in the galaxy. Even if the mission had gone off as planned, even if Sheppard had never woken up the Wraith, I doubt the Genii would ever have played nicely with the Lanteans. They are an untrusting bunch to begin with and their superiority complex would never have stood up well to being in the shadow of the Lanteans. They also come across as very isolationist, by choice. Even their closest trading partners (like the Athosians) know little to nothing about their true nature. Only when it is of benefit to themselves do they allow someone who discovers their secret to live.

Cowen's closing words? So true, folks. We have not seen the last of the Genii. Not by a long shot.

Hearkening back to my last post and all of the Star Trek references, "Underground" really ramps it up with the casting of Colm Meaney as Cowen. That was a connection that initially went over my head, as I wasn't aware that Meaney was a Trek alum until well after I had fallen in love with Stargate Atlantis.

Ah, and once more, we have Sheppard trying to solve the galaxy's problems with C4.

Another thing established in this episode is Sheppard's absolutely terrible sense of direction when on the ground. Guy can fly like it's nobody's business, but he can't get from point A to point B on his own two feet without a guide, I swear.

We continue to see the banter between McKay and Sheppard level up in this episode as well. It is also quite interesting to see how shaken Teyla is to discover how wrong she was about the Genii. I think this does a lot to establish how her character grows and progresses throughout the series, even though it is a small moment overall.

Favorite Quotes

"I know. It's getting desperate, we're almost out of coffee." (McKay)
"Well maybe you should stop drinking eleven cups a day." (Sheppard)

"You have no idea which way to go, do you?" (McKay)
"Just trying to get my bearings." (Sheppard)
"Translation: I'm lost." (McKay)

"Define strange." (Sheppard)
"You don't know what strange means?" (McKay)

"You know, if people could just learn to keep their secret underground hatches locked..." (McKay)

"You know how to make an A-bomb?" (Sheppard)
"Major, most of my high school chess team could design an A-bomb." (McKay)

"I built an atomic bomb for my grade six science fair exhibit." (McKay)
"They let you do that up in Canada?" (Ford)

And that's all for today. See you back here next Monday for "Home."

Also, in related news, Gateworld is starting its Stargate rewatch next week, with the original movie. So head on over to that site to find out what that's all about if you are interested. They aren't doing episode-by-episode posts, but they will be hosting forum discussions and having podcast discusssions and such. Their goal is to do a season a month, starting with SG-1 and then moving on to the other series after that. It's not a pace I could possibly keep up with, otherwise I would blog along with that, but if you just want people to watch the episodes at the same time you do and talk about them with afterwards, that is definitely the place to be hanging out!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Elephants, Ninjas, and Blankets, Oh My!

So, I sadly did not make any progress on my crochet-along project this weekend. That doesn't mean I didn't make any fibercraft progress, however. Oh no.

The reason my CAL got put on hold was because I encountered an unexpected deadline for the baby blanket I have been working on. I found out that I needed to get it done before Sunday if I wanted to avoid paying to mail it across town. Seeing as I had also intended to make a stuffed toy for the baby's big sister, this meant I needed to get my butt in gear. So I doubled down and finished the blanket on Friday.


Blue Rose by Cori 2011.

Border shot.


Detail shot.



Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Blue Mint (5 skeins)
Hook: G

For the most part I am very happy with it. It is just alternating rows of single crochet and double crochet with a scalloped border. If I had had a little more time I probably would have made it a bit longer, but it is still a good size for a baby. I really do just love the color of this yarn. I must find something fun to do with the leftovers! If you want to see the actual "pattern" I used, I detailed it on my Ravelry projects page.

I finished that up on Friday, which left me Saturday to make the toy for big sister. For one amigurumi, one day is plenty (even if that is a crazy baby shower and birthday party-filled day). Apparently, she loves elephants, and I just so happened to have recently stumbled across a really cute pattern for an elephant, so...

Ton of Toffee by Cori 2011.

Side view.

Look at that cute little elephant tush!

Pattern: Amigurumi Elephant by Ms. Premise-Conclusion
Yarn: Lion Brand Vanna's Choice in Toffee (1 skein) and Beige (1 skein)
Hook: G

Of course, I ran out of the Toffee yarn when I was almost done, which is what I get for using leftovers. But I improvised with the ears and tail and I think it actually came out really cute! I love this little guy. I did use a G hook instead of the F called for in the pattern, because I wanted it to be a little larger. I also had to wing it a bit on the legs because the pattern was written with the pieces worked inside out, and the complicated legs had to be worked inside out to follow the pattern exactly. But out of habit, I just make it so the fabric turns right side out as I work, which made things...interesting. Still, it all worked out quite well, I think. This is a great pattern for an intermediate or above crocheter!

Speaking of a baby shower and birthday party-filled Saturday, I can now show you what I made as gifts for those events. This was the project I hinted at in last week's post. It is full of win and awesome.

I think you will agree.

Party of Ninjas by Cori 2011

Ninja 1


Ninja 2

Ninja 3

Pattern: Amigurumi Crochet Ninja Pattern by Ms. Premise-Conclusion
Yarn: Lion Brand Vanna's Choice in Sapphire (1 skein) and Charcoal Grey (1 skein), Lion Brand Vanna's Choice Baby in Lamb (1 skein), black scrap yarn for the eyes
Hook: F

I mean, come on, how are these not awesome? Also, this pattern? SUPER easy! I may or may not have snuck up behind my husband and launched all three of them at him while simultaneously yelling, "NINJAS!!" Cuz, you know, why not?

So, I had a flurry of activity crochet-wise last week, but that is okay. My next project deadline isn't until the middle of September. So I am going to work on my CAL and then go from there.

Monday, July 25, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Poisoning The Well

Hello and welcome back to my Stargate Atlantis rewatch! Today we'll be talking about the season one episode "Poisoning The Well."

As always, spoilers for the episode and any that came before, with mild references (but theoretically no spoilers) to Stargate SG-1 from time to time. Now, on to the episode!

What Happened

We join our heroes in the process of getting a guided tour of an off-world facility, on the planet of Hoff. The people of this world have managed to reach a level of advancement about on par with early twentieth century Earth. Teyla asks if they are worried about attracting the attention of the Wraith by allowing their society to advance so far, but the Chancellor replies that to refuse to advance would be the same as giving up and letting the Wraith win. 

The Hoffans are a pragmatic people, however, and acknowledge that Wraith attacks, and even great cullings, will occur. They have built several archival vaults, deep underground, where they preserve all of their knowledge and discoveries. This way, in the event of a culling, the surviving generation will not have to start from scratch. 

One of these discoveries that the Hoffans are so diligently preserving, and working to advance, is a rare protein that makes humans immune to being fed upon by Wraith. Over one hundred and fifty years ago one of their scientists heard of a person who had survived being fed upon and the resulting research led to the discovery. Ever since then the Hoffans have been working toward creating a serum that replicates that protein, with the end goal to make their entire planet immune to the feeding of the Wraith. 

It is their belief that if the Wraith are unable to feed upon the Hoffans, they will simply leave the planet alone. The Chancellor (and the whole planet) feels that the Wraith can't possibly perceive them as a threat. Teyla is impressed at the discovery and at their goals, but she still thinks they are kidding themselves. She suspects that the Wraith are far more likely to wipe the planet out of existence once they realize there is nothing of use to them on Hoff.

Based on previous culling cycles, the Chancellor tells them they should have another fifty years to create and perfect their serum before the Wraith turn up in full force. They are unaware that the Wraith have already woken and begun culling on a large scale. Feeling guilty that he was the one who woke up the Wraith, Sheppard volunteers Dr. Beckett to take a look at their research and see if it is anything worth pursuing. Beckett gripes about this quite loudly until he is introduced to the head of the Hoffan research, a lovely lass named Perna.

After looking at the research, Carson thinks that it does have some potential. Teyla is still cautious about helping Hoff develop the drug. She firmly believes that the Wraith will wipe out the planet once they realize they can no longer feed there and isn't sure that the lives lost in such a case wouldn't far outweigh the number the Wraith would normally cull. If the drug is to be worth it, it would only be so if made available to the entire galaxy. Sheppard agrees and thinks that is a plan worth pursing, and argues for helping the Hoffans as a result.  Carson needs some fresher Wraith DNA than what the Hoffans have on hand, or even than the hand he has from the attack on Athos, so they collect some tissue samples from Steve, their Wraith prisoner. Carson takes his more modern equipment to Perna's lab in order to speed things up and they begin their research together. Science montage!

Once Carson and Perna have a breakthrough with their testings simulations of the drug, the Chancellor and Perna are ready to move on to testing the drug out on a human. Carson  wants to back the train up, stating that there is still more research to be done before they move on to that point, but they talk him into it. A terminally ill Hoffan volunteers to be inoculated with the serum prototype. Of course, there's no way to know if the prototype works without having a Wraith actually try to feed on the volunteer....

So, throwing the Geneva Convention completely out of the window, Sheppard talks Weir into letting them take Steve to Hoff to test out the serum. Trying to get the most out of the situation, he offers Steve a chance to feed in exchange for information about the Wraith (Steve has, up to this point, refused to talk or give any information to the Lanteans). Steve doesn't give up much information, just that all of the Wraith hive ships have woken up, however many that might be. He does add that once they have gathered their strength by visiting all of their regular feeding grounds, they will gather in force and head to Atlantis (with the goal of finding the way to Earth and its rich potential feeding grounds). 

Initially the experiment appears to be a huge success. The Wraith is unable to feed on the volunteer. The Chancellor, bolstered by this, asks the Hoffan council to approve immediate mass production of the serum. Learning this, Carson objects vehemently, stating that they can't begin administering a drug to the general populace based on just one test. The Chancellor is hearing none of it, though, and neither is Perna. They want to just steam on ahead. Of course, right after we hear this, we learn that the test wasn't as successful as it appeared.

Steve gets very sick and dies shortly after his failed feeding. Carson's autopsy reveals that all of his internal organs shut down at once, and there was a large concentration of the serum in his bloodstream and organs. Turns out that feeding on an immunized human causes a toxic reaction in Wraith, one that is very much fatal. This means that the drug is not just a defense against the Wraith, it is a weapon. Learning this, Sheppard tries to convince the Chancellor to halt production of the drug and continue the research, trying to find a way to prevent the toxic reaction. To leave the drug as is would ensure that the Wraith will indeed wipe out Hoff the first time one of their own tries to feed and dies. The Chancellor thinks that the reaction is a welcome side effect rather than a danger to his people. He doesn't see the cause for fear. Besides, he tells them, it is too late. Inoculation of the Hoffan citizens has already begun.

The Lanteans realize there is no reasoning with the Hoffans any longer and decide to leave. Perna finds Carson packing up in the lab and informs him that the volunteer from the initial test has died. Carson begs her to stop the inoculations, but she argues that they don't know that his death had anything to do with the serum or the experiment. Even if the serum was the cause, she argues, it was worth it. He pleads with her to walk away from the project and have nothing more to do with it. She tells him that is not possible, she was among the first to be inoculated. Of course people who were inoculated then start falling ill and dying. The Lanteans stay to try and help them, to save any if they can, but there is nothing to be done. The serum proves to be fatal to fifty percent of everyone inoculated, including Perna. 

Again, the Lanteans try to get the Chancellor to call off the inoculations. They don't believe he is willing to risk fifty percent of his population to prevent a culling. When he refuses, he tells them he has taken the information to the population and put it to the vote. The vote is overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the inoculations, with ninety-six percent of the population voting yea. 

The Lanteans leave in disgust. Carson is utterly crushed, knowing the part he played in bringing this situation about. As they are leaving, the Chancellor stops them to say that the next time they meet, he wants to discuss methods of distributing the drug to other planets. Everyone just kind of looks at him in disgust and Sheppard tells him they won't be coming back any time soon. When they do, he adds, he doubts that the Chancellor, or anyone else for that matter, will be around to talk to.

Commentary

Watching this season again, I am amazed at how many of the episodes in the very beginning set up things that have repercussions throughout the entire series. This is definitely one of them. 

First, there is the illustration we are given of the consequences of meddling with less advanced societies, propelling them into further advancement before they are ready for it. The Lanteans' intentions may have been noble, but the outcome was quite dire. You would think this would serve as a lesson for them. You would be wrong. The Lanteans have quite a track record of thinking they know better than the Pegasus inhabitants, and it often gets them into trouble. Note that it was Teyla, the Pegasus native from the "primitive" nomadic society who pretty much called it on what a bad idea this whole thing was. Really, they all just need to listen to Teyla a lot more often than they do. I think the overarching theme of this series might be the appalling amount of arrogance our society possesses, and how it is that arrogance that causes and exacerbates so many of our problems today.

Hoff also brings up a startling contrast to most of the other societies in the Pegasus galaxy. As Teyla has noted before, the Athosians were once quite advanced, but after repeated cullings and destruction, they have made the choice to live in a nomadic society. It helps them to stay under the radar of the Wraith. Advanced societies draw attention to themselves. The Chancellor may have felt his people could not be perceived as a threat by the Wraith, but he was very, very wrong. They think any society that gets scientifically advanced enough poses a threat to them, whether that society intends to or not. Most planets in the Pegasus galaxy remain at about a medieval level of advancement at most. I suspect most of them do this willingly, whether that is a conscious decision (like in the case of the Athosians) or not. 

That isn't to say that there aren't some fairly advanced societies out there in the galaxy. They just go to great lengths to hide their level of advancement from the Wraith, or find other ways to avoid being culled. We'll meet several of them as the series progresses, one quite soon, actually. Like the Hoffans, most of those societies that tend to survive with an advanced level of technology all seem to have a specific purpose driving them. It is made quite clear throughout the episode that the entire society of Hoff now centers around developing this serum. Every generation is willing to sacrifice itself so that the next might survive and so on, so that eventually their people might see the end of the cycle of culling. On the surface this seems like a very noble and practical attitude to adopt. But the people of Hoff become so obsessed with that goal that they are willing to take risks, many that are often unnecessary and usually excessively costly, just to get there faster. The Lanteans may not have the right of it, but neither do the Hoffans. I don't really know what to do with that. Maybe we are meant to side with the Lanteans in this. I have seen the series in its entirety too many times to do so, I suppose. I can no longer remember my first impressions on that front. 

While the episode itself doesn't tell us the Hoffans' fate, I believe it is implied later on down the road that they were indeed wiped out by the Wraith. Those guys just don't mess around.

A few lighter notes on the episode: 

This is the start of Sheppard's habit of naming the various Wraith we encounter. Mostly it's just an amusing little character trait, but I also think it can be seen as his way of refusing to accept their terms in any encounter. To be sure, the Wraith never really seem to be quite sure what to make of John Sheppard.

The show's parent series, Stargate SG-1, had a habit of making references to The Wizard of Oz. I think in one of the DVD featurettes it is mentioned that it started out on accident but then they realized they were doing it and wanted to see how far they could take it (the answer to that is: very far). In Atlantis, however, we get a ton of references to Star Trek. Perhaps it is only natural, given that shows like Stargate could never have happened without the influence of Trek. I suspect that there are far more Trek references than even I ever caught, since my exposure to that franchise has been admittedly minimal. But I love that they are acknowledging their roots, and that as often as not it is Sheppard, the fly-boy pilot, as it is McKay, the quintessential geek, making the references.

Funny note for you. In this episode, Sheppard teases Beckett that he is like Dr. McCoy (Bones) from Star Trek. The actor that plays Beckett, Paul McGillion, was actually considered for the role of Scotty in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. He lost it to Simon Pegg, which is hard to be mad about, but did end up getting a brief cameo in the movie. Now you know.

Favorite Quotes

"He's worse than Dr. McCoy." (Sheppard, about Beckett)
"Who?" (Teyla)
"The TV character that Dr. Beckett plays in real life." (Sheppard)

"Converting a human body into energy and sending it millions of light years through a wormhole. Bloody insanity!" (Beckett)
"Come on! How often do you get to travel to an alien planet?" (Rodney)
"I was already on an alien planet!" (Beckett)

"You know, we've been having these conversations for a couple of weeks now and I don't even know your name. You guys do have names, right? Let me guess...Steve?" (Sheppard)
"I am your death. That is all you need to know." (Wraith)
"I prefer Steve." (Sheppard)

"No offense, Doc, but had the Wraith attended the Geneva Convention, they would have tried to feed on everyone there." (Sheppard to Weir)

That's all for today, folks. See you back here on Wednesday for "Underground." 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bonus Post: Star Wars The Old Republic!!!!!!!!!

San Diego Comicon is underway, and in conjunction with that, Bioware has finally launched the pre-orders for Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR), the MMORPG that follows from previous RPGs Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.

I have already mentioned more than once how much I am looking forward to this game. I am sure you can imagine the squee of fangirlish delight I let out when I got that email yesterday morning from SWTORs website letting me know pre-orders had opened. I did not hesitate, I jumped right to their site and hit the big PRE-ORDER button looming on the page. I love how it is set up because form the SWTOR site you can pick the store from which you actually want to purchase your game, and it gives you links that take you straight to that ordering page. So I chose Amazon and headed on over to place my order for the super duper deluxe collector's edition. *grin*

It's a good thing I didn't wait, too. Pre-ordering the game gets you early access to it so there are only a limited number of pre-order copies available for each edition. By yesterday afternoon Amazon was saying that the collector's edition was already unavailable. Though I note that it is available again already. I get the impression a lot of retailers weren't quite ready for the rush of eager fans wanting to secure their copy of the game! If you have any interest in the game, I highly recommend going the pre-order route. You can buy online or through physical stores, whatever your preference. There are some pretty decent incentives for ordering early.

The game is set to ship on December 31, and all copies include 30 days of free game time. No word yet on the monthly subscription rates to keep playing. One of my friends in St. Louis is equally excited and is already talking about getting our guild together!

At Comicon, Bioware also released a new trailer for the game and it just got me excited all over again. Check it out, see if it doesn't make the fanboy/girl in you squee just a little.


This news by itself has almost been enough to make me stop wishing I was in San Diego this weekend.

Almost...

Mostly Worth The Lack Of Sleep

You may remember that a while back I mentioned that I had ordered a new desk, one meant to eventually become my daughter's homework desk. Well, it arrived some time last week, but unfortunately the perils of shipping had caught up with me (I order so much freaking stuff online it really isn't a wonder), and when I opened up the box and started pulling out the pieces to make sure they were all there and intact, well...yeah, not so much.

Everything was there, certainly. The problem was the top of the desk, the big huge massive piece that everything else attaches to. It was cracked in multiple places, including one very large line right down the middle. Sigh. Thankfully the company that made the desk gets that damage does occur during shipping and has a really efficient (and free) parts replacement department. So I went online to tell them I needed a new top as mine arrived mangled and the next day they shipped it out. Of course, now I have a big broken plank taking up space in my garage until the start of next month, but there are worse problems, I will grant you.

The replacement piece arrived on Tuesday and I decided to put the desk together that night once my daughter had gone to bed. Normally I don't mind, and even often enjoy, when she "helps" me, but I get, um, cranky sometimes when doing things like assembling my furniture, so I figured it would be best for both of us if I did that while she wasn't around. My poor husband wasn't so fortunate. He was gracious enough to allow me to totally disrupt his evening by making him help me by holding up various pieces as I put them together (and reattaching the feet after I put them on the wrong end of the legs). Once we had the basic desk put together and upright, I let him loose and he called it a night. I stayed up for another hour and a half or so getting the various drawers and sliding bits assembled. Was up until two-thirty in the morning getting it done, but I've got to say, I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

I even managed to pick one that doesn't cover the
oversized vent on the wall, go me!

Let's see, we've got an alien from Toy Story, a Lego alien from
Toy Story, Zeke from Ctrl+Alt+Del, Lego Indiana Jones,
coloring supplies, a box of notecards...

...a Lego TIE Fighter complete with Darth Vader, R2-D2,
and my daughter's Spongebob Squarepants coloring books.

The kiddo checks out her new domain.

Now it just needs a chair. Speaking of which...

My updated to-do list for around the house is now as follows:
  • Figure out how to refinish a wooden item.
  • Refinish the chair that will go at this desk.
  • Frame the various maps and convention art that needs to go on the walls (frames already purchased).
  • Hang up said maps and art.
  • Hang up the awesome Firefly, Star Trek, and Wheel of Time stuff we had professionally framed once it is ready to be picked up.
  • Hang up that blasted sconce my husband randomly brought home from the office.
  • Convert my daughter's crib to a toddler bed.

...and I think that's it. Refinishing the chair should be extra awesome, as I discovered when I finally got it down from the shelf in the garage where it has been living. I had forgotten that when my brother-in-law and his wife repainted some of our house's exterior while I was pregnant, I had let one of them stand on the chair, knowing I was going to be overhauling it anyway. So now there's big blotches of blue paint all over it that I get to sand off. Whee.

Oh, for those wondering, I know I mentioned that I was going to try to revamp a lamp that had belonged to my grandparents, but the lamp on the desk is not that lamp. I tried taking apart the old lamp and realized that I would need to tinker with the wiring to actually get all of the pieces separate, so I eighty-sixed that idea and just caved in and bought a new base. I will just tuck the old lamp in a corner in my closet for now until I either decide to send it to Goodwill or find a use for it elsewhere. 

I wish you all a fantabulous weekend! If you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some research on wood refinishing...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writing Is Kind Of A Bitchy Mistress

So, it's Thursday. Which means you should be looking at a new installment of Glyphs. Yet there is no new installment in sight. Sadly, there isn't going to be one any time soon either. Sigh.

I fought with myself about this all weekend and most of this week, but I finally had to admit to myself what I have  known pretty much since I started posting this story online. It just isn't happening. As of now Glyphs is officially on hold. I don't know when I will start it back up again. I certainly hope that I do, I can tell you that much. Writer's Podium Thursday is, in fact, also going away for the time being. I haven't quite decided yet what I am going to change my Thursday posts to. Until I decide, they are gonna be anything goes along the lines of the Friday posts. I've got a lot of great books waiting for me to read them, and I am hoping to finally be in a place where I can make myself take time to do that, so I might start doing more book reviews. It is one possibility I am looking at. In fact, let's just call it "Multimedia Thursday" and make that the home for all things TV, books, video games, or movies. Yeah, okay, that works.

I am truly, truly sorry to any of you who had started reading Glyphs and were looking forward to more. The story is there, in my head. I know what happens, I have the whole arc outlined and written out. I toyed with going ahead and putting that up in this space, but that would feel even more like giving up than just putting the project on hold, and I am not ready to give up on this tale just yet.

I follow the blogs of several writers, and many of them have expressed a philosophy that goes something along the lines of: "If you truly want to be a writer, you will make the time to write. You will find a way to do it."

I firmly believe that philosophy. And here's the thing, I do make/find the time to write, you are reading my blog after all, and it is updated five days a week. It's just that what I am writing these days isn't a story. I still have story ideas all of the time. Heck, the other day and idea came to me and I thought, hey, if I wrote Mass Effect fan fiction, this would be an excellent idea. That's just an example, by the way, not all of my ideas are for fan fiction. Not that I would be complaining if they were, because if I was writing fanfic I would at least be writing a story. It can be much less stressful to play in someone else's sandbox for a while, you know?

I got really excited about Glyphs and I jumped right into the deep end with it. Unfortunately I didn't make sure to stretch first, and I got all cramped up once in the water. It was easy enough to find things to blame for the lack of progress, to be sure. My playthrough of Dragon Age was certainly a distraction. But then I finished that, and I started finding other excuses not to work on the story. I randomly decided to start reading a webcomic with 1200 strips under its belt from the very beginning (um, in an entirely unrelated note, Girls With Slingshots is complete and total awesome-sauce, go check it out), I have assembled furniture, I started freaking exercising so I would have go to bed earlier (meaning I couldn't stay up to write after my daughter goes to bed). I mean, come on. When you start exercising to avoid doing something, that's a sign.

On top of all of that? I've been done with my playthrough of Dragon Age less than a week and I already kind of want to play it again. I also really want to start another playthrough of Mass Effect (which is why I was thinking about it enough to come up with a fanfic idea). Can't write and play a video game concurrently. At least I can't. For those of you wondering, the logic behind that is this:

When I write a story, I need to be able to just sit down and do it, with no distractions. The period of time in my average day when I can do this? When my daughter is a asleep, which means during naptime (when I do have other stuff I need to get done as well) and either staying up late after she goes to bed, or getting up early before she does (can't really do both of those).

When I play a game, I tend to get really into it and zone out most of what is going on around me. This is less than ideal if I am also supposed to be keeping an eye on my daughter. Thus, the time available for me to game is...when my daughter is asleep.

I think you see the conflict here.

Thing is, and this really was hard to admit to myself, right now I would rather play video games (or possibly reading a book) than be writing a story. I would rather get lost in someone else's world than try to create one of my own at this current stage in my life.

It makes me happier.

Do I expect this to last forever? Hell no. Do I still consider myself a writer. Yes. Very much so. Writing is an integral part of who I am. I don't think I will ever stop considering myself a writer. Like I said before, I do still make the time to write. Just because it isn't what I feel like I should be writing doesn't make it less valid. I am a grown woman (as much as I hate to admit it sometimes) and I am not only capable, but I am totally allowed to make these kinds of decisions for myself. As much as I believe the "if you really want it to happen, you will make it happen," philosophy I also very much believe that if something is just not there, forcing it won't make anything better. I still feel a bit like even just putting this story on hold is a huge failure on my part. When I told this to my husband he pointed out that if you never fail at anything then you aren't pushing yourself hard enough. He's got a point.

I truly believe I have another story in me that needs to be told. Glyphs is not that story. At least not right now. I don't know what that story is, but I am willing to wait for it to make its journey to me.

So, thanks for sticking around to read this. I hope no one is too disappointed that Glyphs won't be continuing here.

I'll try to come up with something interesting to fill its place.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Childhood's End

Hello and welcome back to my Stargate Atlantis rewatch! Today we'll be talking about the season one episode "Childhood's End." As always, spoilers for the episode and any that came before, with mild references (but theoretically no spoilers) to Stargate SG-1 from time to time. Now, on to the episode!

What Happened

The episode starts off with a nice visual shot of a puddle jumper flying over a forested landscape. Inside, Sheppard asks Teyla if she recognizes the planet, to which she responds in the negative. McKay picks up on an energy signature and as they approach it the puddle jumper just dies. They make a crash landing relatively unscathed, and subsequently realize that none of their electronic equipment is working.

They start heading back to the gate on foot and Ford remarks that even his compass is acting wonky. After mocking him for bringing a compass to another planet, McKay then snags it and realizes it is pointing them toward the energy field he had detected earlier, so they take a detour to check it out. The compass leads them to some overgrown ruins, but before they can really explore the area they are ambushed by a group of heavily armed (with bows) children. The kid in charge is surprised that they are something he calls "Full-Growns" and declares that they must see the Elders immediately.

While they wait for the Elders in the village, they notice a pile of Wraith bones, arranged in some sort of shrine. Ford is worried that the villagers might worship the Wraith, but the kid who brought them there quickly explains that the bones came from a "death ship" that fell out of the sky years ago. They keep them there as a remembrance of the way life used to be, "before." He doesn't clarify beyond that, but McKay pulls Sheppard aside and says they need to find whatever it was that took the Wraith ship (and likely their own as well) down, because anything that could take out a Wraith ship would be quite useful to them.

When they are taken to the Elders, Sheppard is surprised to be met with more kids. The head Elder, Keras, explains that no one in their villages is over the age of twenty-four. Long ago their people instituted a tradition that on the eve of one's twenty-fifth birthday, each villager takes his or her own life. They believe that this a) allows them into the after-life because that can only be achieved if one dies peacefully, and b) keeps the Wraith away by preventing a "crop worth harvesting" growing up.

An appalled Team Shep mulls over this while the Elders confer over what to do with them. Sheppard asks Teyla if there is any truth to the whole "Wraith don't like to eat young" thing and she does not believe that to be the case. The Wraith are equal-opportunity ghouls, folks. McKay chimes in that the whole area is inside an electromagnetic field and that is what is actually keeping the Wraith away. Without any of their tech working, they can only approach on foot and are at a huge disadvantage if outnumbered by the villagers. Also, any probes or ships they send never come back, so they probably stopped thinking there was anything worthwhile on the planet long ago. Teyla and Sheppard both want to tell the kids about the shield so that they can stop killing themselves for nothing. McKay says they should hold off though, until he has had a chance to find and examine whatever it is that is keeping the Wraith away.

Keras joins the group and explains that they may stay long enough to repair their ship and then they must leave, because the presence of Full-Growns in the village is making everyone very uncomfortable. His second in command, Aries, is in particular very concerned that the mere existence of Team Shep will bring the Wraith down on them at any moment. You can tell Aries is gonna be trouble right from the start. Teyla and Shep want to stay in the village to talk to people and get a feel for things, so Ford goes with McKay to look for the source of the EM field, telling Keras that there may be something in the ruins preventing them from fixing their ship. Aries demands that the Full-Growns must be kept under watch, and Sheppard says that is fine, so Keras sends two little children (maybe about six or seven years old) with Ford and McKay. McKay is completely baffled by the kids' interest in him and doing his best to be a prickly pear so they leave him alone. Ford distracts them by introducing them to the wonder that is chocolate.

In the ruins McKay finds the EM field generator, which turns out to be powered by a ZPM, the holy grail of the Atlantis expedition. He disables the field and removes the ZPM, then radios Sheppard to tell him he is taking it back to Atlantis to see if it is worth keeping. Sheppard tells him to hurry back. He has just learned that Keras's twenty-fifth birthday is tomorrow, which means he has do to his ritual suicide that evening. Sheppard really wants to stop that from happening. Teyla is very unhappy that they are considering stealing the ZPM from a group of children, taking away their only real protection from the Wraith. Sheppard reassures her that it is a last-resort option and that the Wraith haven't been there in so long, there's probably very little chance that they would come back to try culling again anyway. Can you say foreshadowing?

Back on Atlantis, Weir is on the same page as Teyla. She understands their need for a ZPM though, so she lets McKay get on with the testing. McKay flippantly tells her that if it is worth taking, they can just bring all of the kids back to Atlantis. Weir is shocked that he can so lightly suggest uprooting an entire culture and does her best to impart on him that that is not what the expedition does. She also wants to know more about the suicide pact. Evidence seems to suggest that it was implemented at the same time that the shield went online, and she thinks the two things might be related.

Back on Kid Planet, Aries is talking to the other Elders behind Keras' back, worried that Keras' interest in Team Sheppard will prevent him from going through with his Sacrifice. He is also increasingly concerned that letting the Full-Growns stay is putting the villages (we learn there are twelve in total) in danger. He suggests that a "forced" Sacrifice might be necessary, but agrees to allow Sheppard's group until that evening to leave before he and the other Elders take more drastic measures.

McKay's tests on the ZPM reveal that it is pretty depleted. It only has enough energy to power Atlantis' shield for a few hours. Weir asks about the energy field it was being used to power. He admits that it could continue to power that for quite some time yet. Deciding that the ZPM is of more use to the kids than to Atlantis, Weir orders him to take it back to the planet and reinstall it in the field generator immediately. He also explains that he has figured out how the suicide pact is related to the shield. The shield isn't powerful enough to cover the whole planet, only a small portion of it. The people who built the shield implemented the suicides as a method of population control, to keep the villages from ever expanding outside the protection of the shield.

Night has begun to fall and the village has started Keras' cleansing ceremony, leading up to his Sacrifice. He has asked Sheppard to stand witness. As the ceremony is getting underway, Sheppard notices that a transmitter of some sort on the Wraith bones is blinking that it is active. Realizing the import of this, he calls Teyla's attention to it and they disrupt the ceremony destroying the device. Rodney had arrived back on the planet and they tell him over their radios he needs to put the ZPM back immediately because they are in very real danger of a Wraith attack at any moment. Aires uses the destruction of the Wraith bones as an excuse to kick Team Sheppard off of the planet. He goes off on a tirade about how they have broken their laws and defiled the remembrance and are putting the villagers in danger just by being there. Keras steps in and calms everyone down, stating he will take them back to the gate himself, after which they will resume the ceremony. Aries isn't completely mollified, however, and sends a group after Keras and Sheppard to make sure they actually do leave.

At the ruins, McKay managed to break something while trying to put the ZPM back in place. Sheppard and Teyla arrive with Keras in tow, and McKay tells them he needs more time to fix the device and get the field back up. Keras, confused, says that this doesn't matter and they need to leave immediately. They explain to him about the field and that they cannot leave until it is back up and running. Keras is appalled to learn that his people have been sacrificing themselves for all of these generations because of a lie.

Aries people report back that Sheppard's people stopped at the ruins and are loitering, so Aries rallies the "warriors" of the village that clearly the Full-Growns have no intention of leaving and they need to just kill them and be done with it. They confront Sheppard at the ruins and he manages to buy a hidden McKay some time to fix the machine, claiming he is back at their ship and they are heading there now. Aries escorts them none-so-gently to the jumper. Of course, just as they arrive, a Wraith probe of some sort shows up. It scans the jumper and flies off. Sheppard tries to shoot it down but isn't successful. As he moves toward the jumper to go after it, Aries and his people surround the team and refuse to let them move. Aries doesn't buy that destroying the probe will keep the Wraith from coming and blames Sheppard for bringing the Wraith down upon them. Sheppard and team really don't want to shoot the kids, they know it will be a slaughter, but he tells Aries they will defend themselves.

Upon realizing that McKay was not in the jumper, Aries sent a group back to the ruins and they find McKay as he is almost done fixing the generator. He tries to explain to them what he is doing but they aren't inclined to listen. Just then, the Wraith probe makes it to the ruins and while they try to shoot it down with their arrows, McKay manages to get the EM field back online, disabling the probe. The kids run back to Aries to tell him that Sheppard was telling the truth, but they get to him a little too late. Keras is shot with an arrow (while defending Sheppard), but the wound is not too bad and he ends up being okay. Aries finally stands down in the face of the evidence.

The episode wraps up with the villagers seeing Team Sheppard off. McKay tells them that he managed to boost the field's coverage so that it can sustain a considerable population growth, meaning the kids can stop killing themselves. Keras says that much of their ways will need to change in the face of this discovery, but he thinks that all will work out. As a parting gift, and a birthday present for Keras, the Lanteans leave the villagers with a big bag of chocolate. Yay, chocolate!

Commentary

Considering the very dark concept of this episode, I am surprised by how light it comes across. Stargate Atlantis was always the lightest of the Stargate shows in tone, even when it dealt with some pretty heavy stuff, so I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. Still. I mean, this show originally aired less than a week before I turned twenty-four, so you can imagine how disturbing I found the whole thing, I am sure. I noted that the previous episode felt like filler, but I think this one really is a filler episode, more so than "Suspicion." It could easily be a stand-alone, viewed by someone who wasn't familiar with the rest of the story. Yes, Kid Planet is mentioned from time to time again as the series wears on, but nothing that happened in this episode, with one exception, holds any sort of bearing on the rest of the series, or even the rest of the season.

I have said before that the first half of season one does a lot of establishing episodes, setting up how things work in the universe of the show. What "Childhood's End" really does here is to establish just how far the expedition is willing to go to obtain a ZPM. They will consider uprooting an entire culture and smashing down its long-held religious beliefs if that will buy them the power they need to defend the city. It is the conundrum of Stargate Atlantis, I think. The show has a very light-tone, as I said, but the underlying themes actually tend to run toward the dark side of things when you actually stop to think about it. Season two will really ramp this up, but we're not there yet, so I'll just move on.

One other thing about this episode is worth mentioning, however and that is that I love how McKay managed to name-drop SG-1's Samantha Carter into conversation with the team at the start of the episode. He actually appeared on a few earlier episodes of SG-1, and he and Carter clashed like it was nobody's business. Despite that, he wound up carrying quite the torch for her, a torch that burned (and was referenced more than once on Atlantis) for quite some time. In this episode he does imply that he and Carter had something of a romance, though whatever romance they had was totally in his head.

Funnily enough, McKay was never meant to be a character on the spin-off. David Hewlett auditioned for a completely different role, but the show runners loved him so much, they decided to just bring over his previous character.  I have to say, I can't even begin to imagine what Stargate Atlantis would have been like without the character of Rodney McKay, whether David Hewlett had ended up on the series or not. McKay completely stole this series from start to finish. It's no secret that he is my favorite character on the show, but I am definitely not alone in this.

Favorite Quotes


"So, you think it's worth checking out?" (Sheppard)
"I'm sorry, yes. Energy field good." (McKay)

"You brought a magnetic compass to another planet in another galaxy?" (McKay)

"You don't think they worship the Wraith do you?" (Ford)
"That'd be a first." (Sheppard)
"It'd be disturbing." (McKay)

"You do know of the stargate?" (Teyla)
"It's a big round...thing." (Sheppard)

"You're mean!" (Castas)
"Thank you for finally noticing." (McKay)

"Far be it for me to cause a panic, but..." (McKay)
"What did you do? What did you do?" (Ford)
"There's the slightest possibility that in my haste I may have broken it." (McKay)

"Do you think I am a fool?" (Aries)
"No. I just think you're a little cranky." (Sheppard)

Here endeth the blog. I hope to see you back next Monday for "Poisoning the Well."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Plodding Merrily Along

The progress on my crochet projects has been something of a roller-coaster this past week, I must say.

The baby blanket is growing, but slowly. I found myself easily distracted from working on it most of the week, sadly. It has grown, but not enough to be photo-worthy. I am back on track with it now though and am kind of hoping I can get it done this week. We shall see.

I did manage to complete the yoke for my CAL sweater over the weekend though. It seems to fit properly and everything.

Finished yoke of CAL sweater.

For the curious, I left the markers in place so I would know which bit was the front and which bits were the sleeves. It can be tricky to tell with a work-in-progress. Next week's blog entry for the CAL over at Lion Brand's site will be about the underarms and body, which is a significantly larger chunk of crocheting. I will do my best to keep up, though! Besides, if I don't, the world really isn't gonna end, right? Right? I'll be able to give this a lot more focus once I finish that baby blanket though, so I am not too worried.

In the "completely" done category from this weekend is a project that I am really exited about! I am going to wait until next week to tell you about it though. I have my reasons. What? Don't look at me like that. They're valid reasons, I swear. Will be totally worth the wait, I promise. 

In the mean time, off I go to try my hand at being productive. Keep on crafting, folks!

Monday, July 18, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Suspicion

Hello and welcome back to my Stargate Atlantis rewatch! Today we'll be talking about the season one episode "Suspicion." As always, spoilers for the episode and any that came before, with mild references (but theoretically no spoilers) to Stargate SG-1 from time to time. Now, on to the episode!

What Happened

This episode starts off in a rather exciting manner, with Sheppard's team returning from an off-world mission gone awry, coming back through the gate under fire from the Wraith. Just as they make it into Atlantis, Rodney turns around to look back and takes a blast from a Wraith stunner. Full in the face. Ouch. Don't worry, he's fine. A bit paralyzed temporarily, and apparently with a lasting "tingly feet" after-effect, but otherwise fine.

We learn that Sheppard's team has encountered the Wraith on the last five out of nine missions they have been on. Weir tells him she thinks it is pretty clear that there is a spy on Atlantis. She calls a meeting with Sheppard's team (sans Teyla) and Bates, the head of security. It quickly becomes evident that Weir and Bates are convinced an Athosian has been leaking mission information to the Wraith. At Bates' suggestion, and despite Sheppard's protests, Weir implements a lock-down of certain areas of the city, making them "no-go zones" for unauthorized personnel (the gate room, control room, labs, jumper bay, armory, and infirmary, to name a few). The Athosians are also confined to their living quarters for the time being while Weir sets up "interviews" with each of them to "get to know them better." (If you cannot sense it from the gratuitous use of quotations marks, I am rolling my eyes severely at this. Weir deserves another smack in this episode, seriously.)

It probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. The Athosians are incredibly insulted by all of this. Not just by the lack of trust they are being shown by the Atlantis expedition, but also the fact that the Earthlings believe any of them willing to collude with Wraith. Halling says it best, I think, in this line:

"You'd be hard-pressed to find an Athosian who has not experienced loss at the hands of the Wraith. These are the people you accuse."

Weir is, of course, quick to explain she is not accusing anyone of anything, but Halling disagrees. He goes back to his people and starts to rabble-rouse. I am not sure what he is hoping to accomplish in this situation, but it is rather moot, as Teyla walks into the middle of the gathering, surprised that she was not informed about it. Halling is mad that she isn't standing up more for their people, and she tells him that he knows as well as she does that none of the Athosians are responsible for the Wraith attacks. Therefore, they have nothing to fear from the Earthlings. She says time can only exonerate them and she has faith that Weir and the expedition are good people and will see the error of their ways. Halling thinks that her faith is misplaced, but Teyla goes on that this expedition coming to Atlantis is the galaxy's best hope of actually defeating the Wraith, and that Atlantis is now a symbol of hope to all who will stand against them.

Meanwhile, Rodney and Zelenka have discovered that the roof of the jumper bay retracts. Sheppard and Ford eagerly take a jumper out to fly around the planet and they find a ginormous (fifteen million square miles, give or take) land mass. It's about twenty-five minutes away from Atlantis by jumper. Bates immediately suggests sending teams to take soil and water samples. McKay says this is a good idea, because the land could solve many of their supply problems (they could start growing their own food), but Bates says actually he was thinking it would be good to move the Athosians there. Sheppard and McKay are both appalled by this suggestion, that Bates would just dump them on the world before they had a chance to make sure it was survivable or safe. Even more so that Weir is considering it as an option.

Again, the point becomes moot, because once the Athosians hear about the landmass, they go to Weir and volunteer to explore it. Halling explains that they would rather make themselves useful on the landmass exploring the land and growing crops than being stuck in Atlantis unable to use the gate. As he says, they cannot leave, they cannot stay. The landmass presents a third option. Teyla decides to stay on Atlantis however (with Halling stepping up as the leader of the rest of the Athosians). She believes that she can help the expedition and that they are the best chance of defeating the Wraith. She also believes that she can best serve her people's interests with the Earthlings by remaining in Atlantis to work with them and build up trust, and to act as a liaison between them and the group of Athosians on the mainland.

Life returns more or less to normal on Atlantis and Sheppard's team goes on a mission, escorting a group of archaeologists to explore some ruins. Wanting to hurry things up, Sheppard thinks it would be good to talk to the natives, who can hopefully translate the writing on the ruins. He asks Teyla to talk them out of hiding, but she explains that they are very shy and unlikely to reveal themselves to strangers. She suggests that if she goes off alone they might come out to talk to her. Sheppard tells Ford to go with her. No surprise, they still won't come out to play, so Ford reluctantly agrees to hang back and let her forge ahead on her own for a bit.

Back at the ruins, surprise, surprise, a group of Wraith shows up and all hell breaks loose. The team has to fall back through the gate without Ford and Teyla. Back on Atlantis, McKay and Sheppard are trying to get Weir to let them go back for the rest of their team and arguing with Bates, who thinks it highly suspicious that the Wraith showed up after Teyla separated from the group. Just then the gate dials in and Teyla calls over the radio that she and Ford are pinned down and Ford is injured. She asks them to lower the gate's shield so they can come back to Atlantis, but Bates argues that this is most likely a trap. He thinks as soon as they lower the shield, Wraith will come pouring into the city. Sheppard overrides him, however, and Weir gives the order to lower the shield. Teyla comes back with an unconscious Ford in tow and is immediately surrounded by soldiers and taken into custody.

Bates has McKay go through Teyla's stuff to see if there is anything that might indicate she is the spy. To McKay's surprise he does find something. It turns out her necklace is actually a transmitter. It gives off a very low but continuous signal that, when in proximity with relay stations on planets around the galaxy, would alert the Wraith of their presence. Sheppard recognizes the necklace as the one that he found on Teyla's planet when she showed him the caves depicting generations of cullings. McKay realizes that it was designed to track the presence of Ancients, the Wraith's only true enemy. Sheppard's touch when he found it activated the device, and Teyla had no idea that the bauble she had lost as a child was really once a Wraith tracking device.

With Teyla and all of the Athosians exonerated, Sheppard decides to use the transmitter as a trap to try capturing a Wraith. They set up an ambush and all goes more or less according to plan, with Teyla instrumental in the capture of one of the scientist class Wraith. We also learn that every Wraith comes equipped with a self-destruct device. Seriously, what the hell is that?!?

Things wrap up with Weir and Teyla having a brief heart-to-heart. Teyla tells Weir she understands the demands upon a leader and she believes she would have done the same in Weir's position. She hopes that with time their peoples will be able to put the past week behind them and learn to truly trust each other.

Commentary


This episode more or less brings to an end the culture clash between the Athosians and Earthlings (gah, I wish there was a better term for them. They eventually start referring to themselves as Lanteans, so maybe we'll just start going with that, now that the Athosians are elsewhere). I feel like that was a overarching theme that fizzled out way too soon, to be honest, but I think the writers were starting to find themselves at a loss for where to really go from there. I guess I would rather they write the conflict out than give us several uninteresting stories set around it. Still, if done right, it could have been an underlying tension throughout the series that added a lot of depth to the story. Oh well. If wishes were ponies, right?

With Bates we get another example of a character that was introduced so strongly with just one note that it was hard to get past that in subsequent episodes. For Bates, that note was "paranoid ass." Unlike Kavanagh, however, Bates does get slightly closer to redemption. The writers were able to round him out a bit better as the series progressed, but his attitude regarding Teyla, sadly, never improves.

Speaking of Bates' attitude toward Teyla, it brings out an insanely protective streak in Sheppard. Sheppard might be willing to consider that one of the Athosians could be a spy, but I don't think he ever really believed it for a second. From the start he placed a great deal of trust in Teyla--which as the series progresses you come to realize is actually a huge deal for him. Once he made her part of her team, he made her family, end of story. Sheppard doesn't trust easily, but when he does give his full trust, he does so fiercely. In this episode we start to see just how quick he is to circle the wagons when a member of his team is threatened, even if it's by one of the "good guys."

Let me take a moment here to rant about that retractable roof in the jumper bay. It is not right at the very top of the tower. That means that when it is closed, there is basically a big well-like section at the top of the tower. A well-like section that, when the city shield started to fail and the city rose to the surface, all logic decrees must have become full of water. I watched closely on "Rising" and it clearly shows no shield on that part of the city before the tower breaks the ocean's surface. So. Really should be full of water. Yet when Rodney and Zelenka opened up the roof, there was no deluge of water pouring into the jumper bay. There's no way that much water would have evaporated in such a short time. So, and I ask this in all seriousness, because it has bugged me for years, where the heck did all of the water go????? Grr. Someone, somewhere, dropped the ball on this. Either VFX didn't think to make there be water, or the writers didn't think to have someone mentioned what happened to it. I realize this probably just didn't occur to any of the production team, but dude, that is so annoying. Sigh. </rant>

Overall, this mostly is a filler episode, and I have to admit I was kind of dreading it when it came up in the rewatch. But I was pleasantly surprised after I actually watched it to find that it holds up well as establishing a lot of the characters' staples and the internal conflicts within the expedition.

Favorite Quotes


"You enjoy military rations?" (Zelenka)
"I know, it's weird. Hospital food too. The only reason I don't like airplane food is you can't get seconds." (Rodney)

"Well, it's a command subroutine I've never seen before." (Rodney)
"What is its function?" (Zelenka)
"I don't know because I've never seen it before." (Rodney)

"The Wraith have awakened! No world is safe!" (Teyla)

"Anyone else call shotgun?" (Ford)
"Just gonna drive around the planet, check it out." (Sheppard)
"Oh. You're just checking out the planet? Ah, never mind then, that's cool. I've got better things to do than cruise around the planet in a spaceship." (Ford)
"You're like a kid, you know that?" (Sheppard)
"Yes, sir. I brought along something to eat on the ride." (Ford)
"What's that?" (Sheppard)
"How bout a nice turkey sandwich?" (Ford)
"Let's go." (Sheppard)

"I can't imagine it could be any worse than their original homeworld." (Bates)
"That could just be failure of imagination on your part." (Rodney)

"What am I, Answer Man?" (Rodney)

That's it for this installment! Join me on Wednesday for our next episode, "Childhood's End."