Strange New Worlds


I can’t believe how nervous I am at the thought of a new Star Trek series. To explain why I need to return to Star Trek Online, as whomever is writing Star Trek Online these days is doing a hell of a job. This post will contain minor spoilers for STO.

As anyone who has seen the 2009 film knows, Romulus has been destroyed by a “natural” disaster.  In game this occurred over 30 years ago and has vastly influenced the present day, from the fall of the Romulan Star Empire and rise of the Romulan Republic to the return of the Iconians.

Through a blatant disregard for the Temporal Prime Directive, I found myself facing a (fake) choice  with the ability to restore Romulus. This felt like an overwhelmingly big choice with a real moral dilemma. Something had to be done, and on one hand I could erase a terrible disaster that cost billions of lives, but would also erase all the gains the survivors had made towards a free and democratic society. To save Romulus meant restoring the Empire and deleting the Republic, which if you’re playing a Republic character must be more interesting…

As I said, the choice was fake as this mission could only be completed one way, but the game gave you the choice and time to delve into the moral implications fully before continuing. Considering how central this kind of situation is to the Star Trek ethos as a whole, I am very pleased about the way it was handled and very looking forward to the “exploration” themed expansion coming up.

Which brings us back to the new show that we know almost nothing about. Who, what, where and when are all essentially unanswered. All we’ve been told is new characters. The prime universe can be assumed since Paramount would need a cut for any stories in the Abramsverse, but that doesn’t rule it out entirely. But my biggest fear (other than it will suck) is that it will negate any/all of Star Trek Online’s story.

Historically retconning has happened now and then with the live action product but hasn’t been too much of a problem, meanwhile any other media has been ignored. But STO has felt different. It has felt more true to the source material than any other entertainment product I have encountered. Not only has it told some great stories, but in the process it has tied up LOTS of loose ends from all the different shows. It has filled a need for five years with no TV product to back it up, and to negate any of it would be a stupid mistake.

What I would like to see would be something that starts either during the game or shortly after it. Where the game stands now, we have fantastic uniforms, (some) great ship designs, and as the map points out, most of the galaxy left to explore. Not only that, but with a big war over we have a class of cadets who were rushed through their final year with a focus for battle who now have to learn to be explorers again. Plus a show running during the game could easily have tie-in missions which would probably boost its numbers, a win-win for CBS. There is so much that could be done with this that I can’t stand the thought that they won’t do it. While I think a show about the Andorian Captain Shon and the Enterprise F would be a great fit, any other ship & crew from the setting would be fine. Follow Miral Paris as a Captain for instance, that’s only an easy promotion away.

“It’s true, all of it.”

Until trailers started coming out, I had only ambivalence about any more live-action Star Wars films. Really? original cast? Do they all have wheelchairs? This was Disney, who at the time had only made one decision I had seen since purchasing the IP and that was to cancel Clone Wars on the spot. Sure, take the only good thing out of lucasfilm in 20 years out back and shoot it. Nobody will mind…. Sure, Rebels is good, but killing Clone Wars to get it mid-season was still a jerk move.

And then this happened.

Hope is a dangerous thing. Until recently there wasn’t any. Now JJ needs to not screw this up. On the plus side, all indicators are that he’s going about this in all the right ways.

And then the silliness of the Boycott Star Wars hashtag started because GASP a Female AND a POC are featured prominently on the poster. In the words of Justin Trudeau, “it’s 2015.”

In other news some of the build-a-bears Bunny made for her nieces and nephews just came back to us as hand-me-downs, sans their outfits. I think I remedied the situation well… 

(Fake) Downtime

I have a spare moment to myself, and while I really should just immediately go to bed (work in under six hours) my brain is still in at least third gear and refusing to downshift. If I could remember what I’d thought of writing here earlier in the week I could actually be productive, but no dice.

Instead here’s a quick recap of shit you can see on twitter. Yes I managed to some how find time to see Ant-Man, and yes I mean it when I said I agreed with Scott Kurtz’s assessment of the film.

TLDR is I liked it but I feel guilty for liking it because I can see so many obvious flaws where the movie could’ve improved itself by leaps and bounds if the writers were only willing to go in the correct direction.

For a good long while I’ve been planning on replacing a bookshelf in my kitchen with a cabinet in order to have less things at dog danger level, and this seemed like a good idea to implement before I have a fully-mobile infant. Right now he’s only capable of R-movements (rotate, roll and reverse). Anyway, eventually I’ll do a proper write up on the cabinet’s journey from rectangle to trapezoid.

A Pregnancy Finished

A story two years in the making that I finally have remembered to share… I started writing this in the summer, planning to post it as a “we’re expecting” announcement and it just never happened…


In August of 2012 I was doing everything I could (and potentially not everything I needed to do) to get promoted at work. At the time there wasn’t a real position between shift supervisor and store manager, as the assistant store manager was a training position for store managers. The way that’s supposed to work is that you’d spend 7-10 months as an assistant store manager and then you’d get your own store.

The way the recession affected this is we had to stop expanding the way we were expanding and even close some stores that were in bad locations. This means we had far fewer openings for store managers, which in turn meant the field to become an asm was now far more competitive. This is why I had been trying to get this promotion for over four years, and I finally felt like I was close.

Then Bunny and I actually sat down and talked about kids. My life plan had always been to be a store manager for a few years, save up money, and then go down to part time so I could be primary caretaker and avoid expensive day care costs. The recession really fucked with that plan, but we sat down and decided we weren’t going to wait for that to happen anymore. Our life had been on hold for work reasons long enough. Now the issue with the way retail life works is timing: ideally we wouldn’t want her to have a baby only to return from maternity leave in the middle of the holiday season, so that meant we wouldn’t start trying until 2013.

Trying to plan for the worst has served me well over time. And I noticed that if I got promoted in September as it looked I might, at best I would only have been a store manager for a few months before Bunny would give birth if we got pregnant right away, and then I’d want to step down to part time. If I did that after all the money and planning that would go into promoting me I would burn the vast majority of bridges I had at the company, so I had to do what was right and take my name out of the running. My district manager at the time loved that I’d thought about it from his point of view and thanked me for being so considerate.

The difference between trying not to get pregnant and trying to get pregnant is poetically ironic. My high school education on the subject focused extremely on what could happen versus what was likely to happen, and when you’re in high school that’s really what you need to know. You don’t need to know yet that half of all pregnancies aren’t viable, because when you don’t want kids, any chance is too big a chance. For some reason there is this perception in our society that you don’t talk about miscarriages, and as a result you don’t understand how common they can be as well.

Bunny has RH negative blood, and I have RH positive. Only 15% of white people (and far less in other ethnic backgrounds) have RH negative, and in the cases like ours where the fetus has been RH positive, the mother’s immune system can attack the fetus and cause a miscarriage and other complications. This is what we think happened. We also had a “miscarriage” just after we bought our house, and this is the kind that happens all the time, so early on that the hospital was surprised the home test gave us a positive result. Tests are so sensitive now that you can catch these almost-pregnancies that don’t implant if you take them at just the right time. The real miscarriage was two months in and was not fun. Others with RH negative blood have had very similar experiences but we’re not sharing their stories without permission.

I’ve always thought of miscarriages as quality control, which with the whole RH blood thing is a grayer area, but even so, thinking soon you get to hear a heartbeat for the first time only to miscarry the next day is rather devastating. Being unable to get a hold of the doctor while it’s happening is even worse. Before that they didn’t have on file that Bunny was RH negative, so it wasn’t something they were looking out for. She was far along enough that she had contractions when she miscarried. So that was interesting. They started during her district holiday meeting, and that night she still held two store meetings because they had to be done.

After that we went a while without anything happening that we could detect. The big miscarriage let me know I wasn’t sterile, but it’s rather defeating to be trying for over a year and to have nothing good to show for it. When this round finally happened I found out on my father’s birthday, but after what happened last time we weren’t about to let anyone know for a good long while. Doctors had to tell us things were looking good before we even told our parents.

Apparently I never finished it either. But here is the tale of how we finally ended up with Liam.

He was on track most of the way through, giving us a need to check his mass only in the last month. They can’t get this data accurately before birth, but our main ultrasound tech prides herself on having a margin of error of only half a pound. With a month to go, Liam was already at 8 pounds give or take, and the topic of cesarean delivery came up. Generally when the fetus is over 4.5kg (9lb, 15 oz) they encourage cesarean deliveries because the likelihood of something going wrong that has higher risk/worse recovery than a cesarean goes up exponentially.

We had another weight check scheduled in two weeks and with a different tech. This tech put Liam at 8.7 lb when we expected 9.8 at this point, so we looked in the clear, but she couldn’t detect as much amniotic fluid as she expected, so we had another ultrasound four days later with our usual tech. Again, this tech prides herself on her accuracy, and therefore trusts no one else’s data, so she checked the weight again, and found 10.2 pounds…..

The rest of that appointment was about options, but in no way pressured us to do the cesarean. The biggest indicator of how much the OB wanted to was that if we went for it, she would schedule it within 48 hours. The big reason for this is they prefer to do the operation before labor starts if possible. We thought about it a lot (since we hadn’t up to this point), and decided to go with it before the end of the day. When Bunny called her OB back, she had a massive sigh of relief over the phone, and we understood how much she hadn’t been pressuring us for an operation she thought was absolutely necessary.

The big thing with that as I said is that there’s no real way to know the child’s mass before birth. So while if the estimates were accurate this was definitely the best course of action, the OB has gone this route before only to have a normal sized baby come out of it. And at Liam’s weight deliveries can go smoothly, but the risks are just higher. She had done such a good job not pressuring us that we were worried the cesarean wasn’t going to be considered medically necessary, and therefore that insurance wouldn’t cover as much of the costs as it would for a natural delivery. Once we confirmed that it would be considered medically necessary we scheduled it.

It is very, very surreal for something you have been expecting to happen at any moment to suddenly have a scheduled appointment to happen instead. Excellent for planning for someone to deal with Willow, but still extremely surreal. Everything moved at that scheduled pace before the operation, and once they were all set up they brought me in, and I was only in the room for five minutes before Liam came Lion-King style out into the room (the OB did this on purpose so i could see from behind the screen). At this point it feels both so recent and also so long ago, and while the story doesn’t quite feel finished I think it’s good enough. Plus he’s waking up, and I want to go spend some time with my son.

Primary Caretaker

IMG_3255My life now consists of constant change, which remains in the forecast for at least two decades. I made the transition to “stay-at-home-parent who works half-days most of the week,” and the results so far have been interesting. Sure, it’s not like I hadn’t been taking care of Liam before a week ago, but being home alone with him and the dog really changes the perspective. The need to do yard work but being unable to do so is quite distressing.

The day tends to be spent prioritizing what needs doing the instant I can put him down, and trying to take care of that list in a mad rush every time it happens. Food tends to be interesting. Today, like last Monday, I have really lucked out in that he’s been cooperative in the mornings. I’ve been able to eat, do laundry AND dishes, and get all the trash out of the house before pickup tomorrow. Mondays also have the privilege of being one of the two days where I must bring Liam with me to work in order to get any hours, and Bunny must pick him up on her way home. We have a 45 minute window to make this happen. This means that twice a week the dog is left alone in the house, able to destroy whatever her heart desires without interference, so I have to get her favorite targets out of the line of fire before I leave. Usually when I have done so, nothing else is worth her wrath. Today I forgot to throw away a paper towel core, and she used it to illustrate her displeasure.

That being said, her wrath is something that has been growing of late. Liam is still too young to take with when walking the dog, so it just doesn’t happen. There’s too much going on before one of us leaves for work, and the skunks are too active (and the parent who has been home needs a break) afterwards. 70-80 degree days can’t get here fast enough, and I know that after a week it will be 80+ because we don’t really get spring or fall anymore. I’m trying to make do in the meantime of going out back and throwing stuff around for her during some of Liam’s naps, but anyone who has tried doing this with Willow knows that she gets bored within five minutes. Something here must change, and I haven’t figured out the fix yet.

Oh look, time to put laundry on a rinse. It’s actually kinda nice to do laundry pretty much every day. Sure, I have enough diapers and clothes that I don’t need to, but once I have enough for a full load I might as well get it over with. Also I prefer my bathroom/kid’s room/house to not smell like piss. I’m still wondering if I’ll get used to this before it changes. I’m at work so little that I just feel like I’m fucking around there versus actually working, especially since my reduced hours limits my ability to impact the store operations. It has suddenly become crystal clear why they require a minimum of 24 hours a week for my position, and I almost wonder if that’s even enough. Granted my boss was out last week so that may be part of that feeling. It’s also a very different situation to run the afternoon and close the store, versus coming in after 90% of business is done and close the store. I have to remember that others don’t do steps in the same order I do, and Task C being complete doesn’t mean A and B are.

“Leisure time” as it can exist when dealing with the kid tends to be reading/watching Clone Wars/playing one-hand or controller-based games. I am going to rip through “Lords of the Sith” faster than you’d believe if you knew my reading speed (clearly in a Star Wars kick right now but that’s a different post).

Also, in case anyone in the movie industry accidentally comes across this: I would like to see Avengers w/o the need for a baby sitter, since I’m not a big fan of the theater experience to begin with. Give me something I can watch in my own home (at my leisure and pause when necessary) for the price of two movie tickets or less like with The Interview, and you will have my money within 15 seconds.

Why I can’t stop playing Star Trek Online

2014-10-14_00005In many ways this has been a post I’ve been trying to write for a long time, but it clearly has been given focus by recent events.

Star Trek has always been a part of my life. I was watching The Next Generation before I was old enough to remember it (so probably as soon as it started). My dad had all (four) movies and two random original series episodes on VHS (the episodes were The Trouble With Tribbles and The Enterprise Incident, not because they were his favorites but because they were the ones in stock at the store).

I remember first using the porch as the bridge of the Enterprise. I don’t remember anything else about he porch on that house, but I started using LEGOs for Star Trek around the same time, and that pretty much never stopped. What started with a sister’s first attempt at building a starship lead to significant revisions and using the entire LEGO table as Earth Spacedock. Eventually I built custom classes of ships based on show designs and made my own decals in the computer and glued them on.

It wouldn’t take much investigating for you to discover that most Star Trek video games over the years have been garbage, with the big exception of the 4 (or 5 including Checkov’s Lost Missions)-disc CD-ROM classic Starfleet Academy. This had the proto-dialogue options you’d recognize today in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, with the main gameplay of a dogfight simulator. Fully acted out in computer generated environments (think Quake, not Avatar) it might have looked a little funny but the acting was solid and featured the talents of Walter Koenig, William Shatner, and George Takei. It became the standard I held as to whether a Star Trek game was any good, and pretty much nothing after it measured up.

NimoyAnd now let’s take some time to talk about Leonard Nimoy. We have been gifted with his work as Spock for almost fifty years. The 2009 movie is an enormous gift in that regard, and that is because Nimoy guarded Spock with such passion over the years. SyFy this past weekend highlighted his appearance in TNG (Unification), but what most people don’t realize is how often Nimoy was invited back to the franchise, and how regularly he turned them down. Time and again he was offered the part and he would look at the script. He protected Spock as a parent would a child, so when the scripts frequently didn’t matter if Spock were there or not he declined.

The first instance I’m aware of this was Star Trek Generations. The film starts out with Kirk, Scotty & Chekov on the ceremonial maiden voyage of the Enterprise B, but it was supposed to be Kirk, Spock & McCoy. Supposedly Nimoy pointed out that the script didn’t do anything with Spock or McCoy, and that you could swap them out with any other cast member and it still worked. This is why Chekov’s lines are reminiscent of Bones and why he’s playing medic when we’ve never seen that before. This is also why Kirk is running to Engineering instead of Scotty.

Given this dedication to the character, Nimoy’s presence alone in Abrams’ films was a stamp of approval for Spock’s journey in it. And while we have now been given that gift for the last time, Nimoy has done more in Star Trek in the past five years than many realize. He did a good amount of voice work as Spock in Star Trek Online.

Star Trek Online takes place in the 25th century, starting in the year 2409. However the latest movie in the in-universe timeline occurs in 2380, with the destruction of Romulus that Spock told us about happening in 2388. That’s a lot of time to catch up on considering we had at least one TV show running constantly set in the years of 2365-2378. So far removed from what the player knows, the game has a full history known as the Path to 2409, but you can’t count on players to read a summary of each year before they play a game to catch up.

Enter Leonard Nimoy. In character, Nimoy provides crucial context to what is going on in the game. As well as narrating the opening sequence for the Federation, Spock talks to the player about each new space map when you enter it for the first time, explaining the situation you’re flying into. Knowing that Nimoy had been part of the game was the only seal of approval I needed, especially after it went free-to-play. The game is certainly not perfect, and was definitively less so when it first launched, but knowing the stories and scripts had passed Nimoy’s quality control was telling.

2013-12-01_00031One of the big problems with the recent films has been the focus on action, but if you don’t get that right in a video game then you have failed completely. One needs look no further for proof of this than Star Trek Legacy, which had story but terrible gameplay. STO’s space combat is well-refined for this reason. Ground combat of the other hand didn’t start out well, and was still a big issue at launch. It’s come a long way since then, but is still inferior to the space-combat experience. However action is only one part of the experience.

conference Not every mission is purposefully a battle. Sure, most of them still end up that way at some point, but we get the full gambit of missions, from trade negotiations to scientific investigations to preemptive strikes on an enemy base. The stories have slight personal aspects depending on what you’re playing as, especially for the beginning of the game. As new content has been added, the talents of Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Chase Masterson, Robert Duncan McNeil, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Jerry Ryan, Tim Russ and Garrett Wang have all been added. While Nimoy gave the narrative for the original game, Denise Crosby as Empress Sela did the job for the Romulan expansion, and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine for the Delta Quadrant.

2409crewThe game is broken down into three different classes; tactical officers, engineers, and science officers. This in turn correlates with three main types of starships; escorts/warships, cruisers, and science vessels. The game has ship classes independent of Officer type, so one can be a science officer with an escort if desired. The game for Starfleet goes against established uniform codes and uses different colors for engineering and tactical officers. This is done to differentiate classes at a glance, and also I’m sure so that once again your no-name security officers are Redshirts. I have of course ignored this for my bridge officers on all characters and recolored them to gold, reserving red for command.

Sierra1 While the game gives you massive customization options (many of them as in-game-purchases), i cannot bring myself to deviate from established uniform code anymore. This however is significant, because when the game launched I couldn’t stand the way the uniforms looked. For the most part the standard uniform was okay, but i always had to recolor the grey to black before i was okay with it. However, the big issue was that there were TEN standard Starfleet uniforms, and aside from your bridge officers, you have no control over the uniforms of your crew. So if you decided you wanted to use the TNG movie uniforms, only your senior officers could follow suit, while the lower decks did whatever the hell they felt like. This finally changed with the introduction of the Odyssey uniform, where the developers finally decided that Starfleet should really have one uniform as standard and updated all the NPCs accordingly. I’d still love being able to establish “crew uniforms” just as guilds (fleets) can establish “fleet uniforms,” but that is a long way away if it ever happens.

Odyssey Uniform While the development team has done a wonderful job with the game’s missions, they also created The Foundry. The Foundry is akin to StarCraft’s map editor, letting players create and share their own missions. These are searchable and available by simply flying up to the planet or system where it would start. With feedback in both ratings and reviews, it’s fairly easy to determine what you’re getting into and if you’ll enjoy it. Between the community’s own creations and the constant stream of updates from the development team, Star Trek Online remains the one game I can’t stop playing. I haven’t touched it in about a week, but that’s because I don’t have the time to spend two hours with Captain Paris and his daughter on the latest mission unless Bunny has Liam, and I’m not going to play the other characters (yes I have 8 total) when there’s a new mission I’ve never done before.