Discovering Qualms

I have been accused of hate-watching Star Trek Discovery, and as much as I’d like to deny it that’s probably accurate. I love the actors and the clear skill of so much of the cast and crew. I can’t stand the writing and the narrative choices, especially in the last two episodes, and I cannot abide the clear breaks in canon. I’ve been having trouble with accepting that clearly since so many people disagree with me that the things I can’t stand aren’t broken but are just signs that this just isn’t for me, and that the fact that STD isn’t for me doesn’t invalidate anything else about Star Trek or “ruining my childhood” as it goes. And then there’s today.

I guess the argument “What I don’t like about discovery doesn’t damage what I like about other Star Treks” just died horribly.

The timing of this stinks of CBS trying to add more subscribers by launching this along side the next season of STD, seeing as the DS9 expansion Victory is Life is less than two months old and was only just released on consoles two days ago. We’ve had far less new content with the new expansion compared to others, but that ignores all the hard work the STO team did revamping existing content for the expansion. I’m still not happy about it, but this announcement is also thanks to a leak. This was supposed to be announced at the next big Star Trek convention, and while that might have only been another week away, it still would’ve made it a different week than the console launch of Victory is Life. My biggest issue with it is definitely that there was a crunch for the VIL PC release, with several aspects of the DS9 model & map revamp not guaranteed to launch if they weren’t finished on time. All I can think is if CBS didn’t want this Discovery content while the show was “airing” then the STO team could’ve taken their time with the DS9 sets and not had to worry about “If Ops isn’t finished in time we’ll just have to not put it in.”

So, aside from crowding freshly-released content and potentially making the dev team’s schedules unpleasant, why must I care (especially negatively) that this content is being added to the game? To me Discovery just doesn’t mesh with anything around it in a way that wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if it was its own universe AS IT SHOULD BE versus something that “definitely happened in the same timeline as the original series and the other shows.” I think that would fix almost everything I don’t like about the show (the Klingons bowing to a new ruler who will detonate the planet otherwise still doesn’t compute, but whatevs). It gives the freedom to change both the Federation and the Klingon’s cultural designs because they don’t have to line up with anything else. Starfleet’s court martials looking more like courts on Cardassia or in the Klingon Empire could also be explained away easier. I think you’d still have trouble getting all of Starfleet to agree that going Death Star on Qo’nos would be plausible, but getting ONE admiral to decide it’s a good idea isn’t hard.

Fucking hell, I just realized why “The Battle of the Binary Stars” bothers me so much as a title in-universe… BECAUSE ABOUT 85% OF STAR SYSTEMS HAVE TWO OR MORE STARS. Jesus Fucking Christ. Also this is a great example of what I don’t like about Discovery, where established science and canon are ignored because they think something is cool. And that is EXACTLY the vibe I got from the season 2 trailer. I feel I can definitely argue that some of these things are not okay and need to be course-corrected, and therefore the writing may not be objectively bad as I feel, but it’s definitely screwing up in at least a few places.

The biggest strength of Star Trek Online has always been tying everything together. And I would describe this as the biggest weakness of the STD team (not within their own story, but to the greater whole). This honestly means that the STD content for Star Trek Online will probably be the best Discovery content that will ever exist in my book, but I’m worried about how much of the STD team’s work they will have to use and how they will have to incorporate said work into the greater whole. It’s like trying to reconcile George Lucas’s fifth and final version of the Original Star Wars Trilogy with their theatrical releases #hanshotfirst. I look forward to seeing what the STO team does, but I’m worried what CBS and the STD team might have forced upon them.

 

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Taking a break

I’ve been depressed most of this week, and no matter what headway I made to deal with it the news has been an unending torrent of malicious human misery with severe Nazi deja vu. And now ICE. I need to unplug and hide in a hole. And if everyone wants to go to DC and drag Trump and the GOP out of their offices and throw them in prison I’m good with that.

Coffee Break Log 1

Forever ago I started a blog post about being on leave from work. I worked on it a little for about a week before it was clear the kids were NOT going to let me spend any time at all dealing with it while they were awake, which frankly proved what I’d written up to that point was mostly lies. So much for chronicling my time off.

This coffee tastes like ass. I guess that expiration date on the bottom does matter. This box is nine months past date, but I also think it’s the only expired coffee in the cabinet. That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself until it’s gone anyway, and then I’ll double check the rest of them. With 2-8oz cups a day I just have to get through four more drinking this caffeinated battery acid. One of the “joys” of not working.

In reality, I’m not working any less, but now it’s all unpaid housework/childcare. However this does mean that all my energy is being poured into this instead of throwing 20-25 hours of SBUX work on top of it. I’m getting no extra rest what with one kid too smart for his own good and determined not to toilet-train, and the other teething, again. But it’s amazing how much a difference having time to keep up with housework makes. Also we actually watched a fucking hockey game. I can’t remember the last time I pulled that off.

I’ve also found I have far more brainpower available to actually problem solve at home. I actually have IDEAS on how to fix frequent problems. This past weekend my dad and I finally designed the access door/panel for the furnace in the attic and built the first “good-enough-for-now” version. I’ll need to reassess how it’s working before I finalize the hardware.IMG_7947.JPG

And that’s as far as I got. I’ll note that was not the only box of expired coffee, but it was the only one anywhere near that far gone. It had gotten buried after PAX last year and forgotten until a few days before I started writing this post… four months ago. I don’t think I’ve had coffee more than six weeks past the date on the box since then, and some of them didn’t taste as good fast enough to notice, but certainly no battery acid after that first batch. Since this post, I got the storage units in the attic finished (on the inside anyway), and between those and the access panel/wood I’ve noticed a huge difference in the attic temperature versus the outside. I guess that expensive insulation was worth it.

I used to need time off from work to recharge and just feel better about life, as people do in general. After four months of just having to parent, I think I feel as rested as about one week off from work before the kids would feel. That sucks, but hey it’s more than I’ve had in over three years, so it’s something. And hey, maybe with the backlog cleared I can actually start writing in here again. I’ve got a few different posts I can probably catch up with shortly now that I don’t have those DRAFT files taking up brainpower. But I should’ve been in bed 4 hours ago, which in itself is a story for another time.

Draft Archive: “Times Past”

I have no idea why this wasn’t posted back when I wrote it years ago, and I need to schedule another of the events that inspired it ASAP.

We’ve reached the time in our lives where we find ourselves going to weddings and baby showers left and right, and begrudgingly admitting “hey, I guess we’re really adults now.” People I’ve known for as much as TWENTY-FIVE years are getting married. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around, a quarter of a century knowing someone.

Naturally in that time lots of things change. Interests, politics, religion… and while some people you stay friends with through the decades, others fall away. Time has a way of sneaking up on us and a great deal of it can pass since we really knew someone. We go our separate ways intentionally or by circumstance, with a bang or a whimper. And before we know it, years have passed since we last saw someone.

Then I’m reminded that through it all while others have come and gone, there have been constants. Our lives have gone in such different directions and we’ve all left home on different vectors. Different schedules and long-ish drives prevent frequent gatherings, but one thing will always bring us together.

License to Kill, Throwing Knives.

Draft Archive: “Food Poisoning FTW”

Oh look this one is over two years old. I’m pretty sure this was supposed to become a more scathing criticism of the US health care system in general, considering how long we were paying bills for the fact that Liam was born at all. It’s amusing that in this story Bunny was pregnant and I think we noticed a few days later. Also I wish the kids would sit in the stroller long enough to do this walk with the dog again.

Sunday is the day where Bunny and I are both home from work. It’s a day to buy things we need to survive as well as catch up on things that need to happen around the house. In an attempt to give Bunny some free time to do her own thing, this past Sunday I took Liam and the dog out for a 3-mile walk. It’s a walk I used to do with the dog all the time and rarely if ever have the chance to these days. It was a nice walk and despite Liam’s best attempts we didn’t lose any of his belongings on the excursion. Upon returning home Bunny had accomplished something she’d been trying to do all week, and both kid and dog went down for naps. It was time for a late lunch.

Lunch did not go down so well, which became increasingly apparent over time. After lying down on the couch for hours I tried to go upstairs to use the bathroom. By the time I’d sat down I knew the battle had been lost, and the prisoner that was my lunch was about to make a jailbreak. That was about as fun as it usually is. However at one point there was fairly clear evidence of blood amid the chaos, and it was time to go to the ER to make sure nothing else was wrong.

Three hours and two tests later food poisoning is definitely the culprit and not the stomach flu the hospital is seeing A LOT OF and my brother is apparently coming down with at this same moment. We get anti-nausea meds and go to leave, where I’m asked if I want to pay the copay now or get a bill. Having just the night before made an emergency hardware purchase, I truthfully say I don’t know what’s in my bank account right now and to send me a bill.

I currently have the highest tier medical insurance offered by my employer, and I know last night will cost me $100 for just showing up. Then there will be (at least) two tests, two bags of IV fluid and two IV doses of the anti-nausea med they sent me home with. I expect the bill to be around $500-700. Seriously, fuck health care in this country.

The bill was something like $800. Stupid blood in my vomit from my throat being irritated.

Draft Archive: “From my cold, dead hands”

Having trouble sleeping, I figured I’d clean out some drafts. Most of it is half-finished posts long past their relevance and can just be discarded. This one is unfortunately likely to be relevant for quite some time.

Another day, another shooting. Another AR-15 purchased legally by someone who really shouldn’t have been able to legally purchase a firearm. Oh great, this one happens to be a Muslim. Now it’s “terrorism.” Mass shootings are always terrorism, but not in the way the term is used by the media. Homophobia is not remotely an Islamic trait when you look around. Christians are really good at it, especially in this country. Look no further than the pray-away-the-gay initiatives that were only just banned [and sadly aren’t banned everywhere]. 

Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes and corners of the world. But we like to label Christian terrorists as mentally ill or mad gunmen. We don’t demand white dudes condemn the actions of murderers in their ranks, and we have no business lumping in Muslims with ISIS and Al Qaeda. The phrase “radical Islamic terror” is designed to equate Islam and terrorism worldwide by cowards trying to score political points, as the politics of hate are powerful. After all, that’s how those terrorist organizations tend to get recruits. When it’s worked so well here to divide us, we really shouldn’t be surprised others are using it too. Sure, it’s a time-honored practice, but as long as we continue to demonize and otherize those who disagree with us, nothing is going to change.

Islamaphobia aside, let’s look at the real issue for a damn minute. Mother fucking GUNS. The pillars of our society are the crown, the church, and the gun. There’s something very fucking wrong with that. Guns are so ridiculously American that when I wanted to watch a movie today that didn’t have any guns in it I had very little to choose from. Presidential candidates tweeted pictures of their guns to try and win votes.

The NRA has made it near impossible to get any common sense laws passed. Gun control, like global warming before it, has become a dirty word. Class warfare. There’s a way to make any sensible idea sound like a sign of the apocalypse.

A very long time ago when the laws of the country were first being written, people wanted state militias to exist to keep the government honest. Armed rebellion was literally left on the table, just in case. For the record, the Civil War (regardless of SLAVERY being what they thought was worth doing this over) pretty conclusively proved why this was a bad idea, but let’s stay on track. For the first 75 years our country existed firearms didn’t get terribly more sophisticated. They were good for hunting, and in battle they were deadly, but slow and inaccurate, coming with blades attached to them because you couldn’t possibly hope to reload in close combat.

Today, guns are entirely different beasts. Pistols, semi-automatics, full automatics, and machine guns. All of these would decimate a force using revolutionary weapons [Go ahead and watch season 2 of Westworld for examples]. One person should not have the power to kill hundreds. Now, what are legitimate uses of guns? Self defense? Maybe. Law enforcement? As legit as self defense is at least. Hunting? Definitely. Next, which weapons are appropriate for these uses? Handguns and/or hunting rifles are legit for self defense and hunting. It’s absurd to make anything more powerful available to the common citizen.

What about armed insurrection? Don’t we need to be able to buy what the military uses to defend ourselves, just in case? When is the last time you saw the Defense Department’s budget? We like to boast about being the best at everything, but if our budget is any indication, then we have the greatest military on the planet. And the citizens of the U.S. Would have Zero Chance in an armed conflict against the military.

That’s as far as I got. The odds are another mass shooting happened before I could finish this and I didn’t have the stomach for it. The Onion also really has it covered with it’s “‘No Way to Prevent this’ says Only Nation Where this Regularly Happens”. So that doesn’t leave much to say really, other than gun laws in this country are royally fucked, and our inability to do anything about it is killing us.

Star Trek: Discovery first thoughts

The pilot is out in the wild at last, and it’s time to tell you what I think. There be spoilers below.

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This was very much a mixed bag for me, and it’s really too early to tell what I really think of the show. What was executed was executed well, but is it Star Trek or ActionTrek?  I hate a lot of things because they are different than what had been rather firmly established. Luckily for me, I knew about pretty much all of it going in, so there were only a couple unpleasant surprises. However, I do really hate the things I knew I would really hate, so to get that all out of my system first I’m going to go into deep spoiler territory and do lots of complaining, so this is your last chance to turn back. Basically everything from a visual design standpoint that’s different from the original series and Enterprise without looking like an evolutionary link between the two bothers me. (The hand phasers look fine.)

The Klingons are the biggest problem. Their ship designs and physical appearance are vastly different in every way from what we’re used to. Everything looks wrong, and supposedly this was going to be because these Klingons were isolated and on their own following ancient customs and whatnot, but the rest of the Klingons barely look any different. They’re all bald, and absolutely none of them wear the style of clothing that we’re used to from other shows. And the prosthetics are so thick and covering that it makes the actors’ jobs harder.

OH AND LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT CLOAKING DEVICE. I was really annoyed when I saw it. For those that are unaware, during the run of the original series, Romulans traded the Klingons cloaking technology for their D7 Battlecruiser design. The first time we see a Klingon ship use a cloak is during the Animated Series. Sure, Enterprise played fast and loose with cloaking technology thanks to time travel, showing that Romulans had at least primitive cloaking tech a century before Starfleet was supposed to encounter it. Since most of this is only conjecture from Spock, they’re probably retconning it because it’s a more loose fact and I’m sure helps them tell the story they want to tell or there’d be no point. This could easily be an old Suliban or Romulan cloak scavenged and eventually spread amongst other ships. Here we’re really not messing with anything Enterprise didn’t.

Now that I’m done dumping on the Klingons problems, it’s time to switch to Starfleet. Their ship designs start out close to the norm and quickly deviate heavily into unfamiliar territory in ways that don’t make sense for objects in space. Lots of hard angles, busying up the hull, and oh yes Discovery having instead of a saucer, a sphere within a saucer, within a saucer, with at most 4 narrow hallways connecting one section to the next. This GREATLY increases the surface area of the outer hull in ways that reduce the volume of the ship. Any attempt to make sense of that is bound to be extremely convoluted. Unless it’s a prison ship… which makes no sense in Starfleet….

Next up is a quick stop to the uniforms. I get why you’d want something flashier than the velour shirts of the original series, but to make something so vastly different than anything we’ve seen is frustrating. I know I can’t tell gold from bronze on that outfit. Now while that is what it is, the thing that really annoys me about them are the tiny rank pins on the chest insignia. They’re almost impossible to see, AND they’re a rank style used first in TNG (and then also for Enterprise because it was just so much clearer than the cuff bands). Not only does this deviate from cuff-band ranks we know are used before and after these uniforms, but the pips on the insignia are even HARDER to make out than the cuff bands had been.

My last real gripe with the show is that Sarek of Vulcan is in it at all. The premise is that the main character lost her family in a Klingon raid many years ago, and for some reason instead of returning the orphan to Earth, Sarek decided to raise this emotional and traumatized human himself. The big continuity problem here so far (they claim they’ll take care of this) is not that Spock never mentions she exists. It’s been well established that Spock, like many Vulcans, does not divulge pretty much any personal information unless it’s necessary. The problem here is that when we first met Sarek fifty years ago, he and Spock were not on speaking terms because he was in Starfleet. Now, would a father so unhappy with his son’s choice of vocation adopt a human & then throw her at Starfleet as an adult?

MIND MELD TIME. Okay, Vulcans tend to greatly distaste using mind melds with emotional races. Now if her life were on the line it would make sense, and I believe it’s what they were going for when they depicted it, but I don’t buy it. That wouldn’t be the FIRST THING Sarek tried unless we knew everyone else was dead and there was nobody to provide basic medical attention. BUT THEN USING THIS CONNECTION TO HAVE A TELEPATHIC CONVERSATION ACROSS LIGHTYEARS?! REALLY?! This must be something they’re going to use repeatedly in the show because the one instance we’ve seen of it so far would have just been as easily done with the fragment of his katra left behind from the initial meld, with her meditating to reach it. I trust them to have done their homework enough to know not to make stuff up just because they feel like it, but instead because there’s a story purpose behind it.

Okay. I don’t feel any better getting all that out, but it’s out in the open and now I can focus on the rest of the show. Ignoring everything I think about the Klingons, this could easily be the strongest Star Trek pilot ever. Encounter at Farpoint has the best argument, but once you go there you have to deal with “PAIN. SUFFERING.” Farpoint did have a more “Star Trek” versus “Action Trek” story though. And again if I think about the Klingon stuff it probably loses solidly to TNG. Michelle Yeoh is an amazing captain and I’m not surprised they killed her off because she would’ve stolen the show. The cast is great, they do a great job, and even though you can feel the show careening into ActionTrek territory, it did a great job of being about the exploration of the unknown where ever it fit. The Klingons were all well acted and their story was absolutely fine. I just hate their outward redesign, but it’s nice to see there are actually still Klingons under the hood.

I’m not gonna lie that seeing the lead black woman at the end get court-martialed and imprisoned for shit Kirk & other guys would do ALL THE DAMN TIME kinda pissed me off. Granted, her captain wasn’t around to offer any defense on her behalf, but still… Discovery may be a world where that doesn’t happen unjustly anymore, but today was full of reminders in the real world of how much a problem that is for far too many people.

I’m very curious to see where Discovery goes from here. This is one of those things that I really can’t judge properly until I’ve seen more of the show, and where it goes from here could be handled very well or very poorly. And since it’s 100% relevant, here’s Axanar’s review of Discovery.