Doctor Who: Army of Death
by Jason Arnopp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn't have high expectations of this going in - the "army of the walking dead" concept didn't really excite me. I was pleasantly surprised by the first half, which is a tense, fast-paced political thriller. I loved it. (Though I might also have been riding on the high of having just seen "Night of the Doctor", which had me basically bouncing around going, "Eight! Eight!! Eight!!!" for approximately 72 hours after viewing.)
I thought the second half let things down a bit. Act 3 has a lot of plot by convenient bad timing, while Act 4 suffers from a big baddie who apparently studied at the Brian Blessed School of Dramatic Subtlety.
I also had mixed feelings about the Mary-falling-in-love-with-the-Doctor subplot. On the one hand, it was handled in a way that I thought was both very character appropriate and the way I've always pictured many potential Doctor/companion "romances" resolving: Mary realizes that she's falling for the Doctor, confesses her feelings in an awkward conversation with the Doctor, and then comes to her own realization that Ancient Space Aliens Who Routinely Decide the Destiny of Civilizations Do Not Make Suitable Boyfriends. On the other hand, I think it's a unfortunate that this story happened to be written during an era of Doctor Who
in which we seem, on the whole, to be vigorously making up for all those years that we spent denying the possibility that any of the people who traveled with the Doctor might have had other than Platonic feelings for him. And so the whole subplot feels just a tad obligatory.
Anyway, I'm very happy that they've left the door open for more adventures with Mary Shelley, because she is a really fantastic companion. View all my reviews
Doctor Who: The Cold Equations
by Simon Guerrier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like the previous story in this trilogy featuring newly-created companion Oliver, this really captures the feel of Hartnell-era Doctor Who
. The meticulously worked-out details of zero-gravity navigation even evoke some of the show's original purpose as education television, without getting tedious.
I continue to really enjoy the relationship between Oliver and Steven, and this play does a lot to showcase it, since the second half is mostly a two-hander featuring the two of them. They present a nice contrast to each other: Oliver is shrewd, slightly devious, but very much out of his depth in the realm of time and space travel. Steven is much more open and plain-spoken, but comes from far in Oliver's future.
We also get to find out what Oliver's secret is. I think they made a smart choice to reveal it now rather than trying to string it out for suspense. I'd had my suspicions about what it was, and they happened to be correct. Oliver's confession and Steven's reaction to it were pitched just about perfectly.
I'm very much looking forward to the next installment in the trilogy. View all my reviews
So, today at my PT appointment, we measured my range of motion and compared the numbers with what they'd been on my first visit:
lifting arm straight up in front of me: range of motion increased from 130 degrees to 160 degrees
lifting arm straight up to the side: range of motion increased from 110 degrees to 160 degrees
holding elbow at side and rotating lower arm outward: range of motion increased from 30 degrees to 60 degrees
My PT doesn't record a numerical value for the "reaching up to scratch between your shoulderblades" motion, but he considers me now able to reach my "mid-back" rather than just "lower back".
I've still got some way to go, but that's a very nice rate of improvement!
As my reward, I get a new batch of exercises to add to the ones I'm already doing. Wheeee!
So, say what you want about Steven Moffat, but there's no denying that he is an old-school Who fan, and when he wants to, he can lay on the old-school fanservice thick. In just under 7 minutes, we've got a glimpse of the Time War, an appearance by the Sisterhood of Karn, an unambiguous nod to the Big Finish audios, and a proper regeneration sequence for Eight. Not to mention another plausible excuse to completely ignore the 12 regeneration limit - if Eight was technically *dead* before taking the Sisterhood's elixir, who's to say that it didn't kick off a whole new regeneration cycle?
I am curious about whether this mini-Episode has any resonance with people who primarily identify as new series fans. (Not that it needs to - that's why it's a web episode. But I'm still curious.)
So, having gone over my MRI results now with one doctor and two physical therapists, I now understand that while I do have a small rotator cuff tear, it's not really the problem. The problem is the inflammation that my doctor talked about, more properly known as "adhesive capsulitis" or, colloquially, "frozen shoulder". Which might be the result of the rotator cuff tear, or the cause of the rotator cuff tear.
One of the things that I've found funny is that both of the physical therapists I've seen have gone out of their way to tell me how awesome it is that I've started treatment this early. Having read this article
, I now understand why: by getting a cortisone shot and starting physical therapy early, I might have cut my recovery time down to months instead of years.
I'm trying very hard to look on the bright side of all of this. I think I'm mostly succeeding.
Had my first physical therapy appointment today. The good news: the therapist agrees with my doctor that I'm very likely to get better without surgery. The bad news: It's going to be slow (months?) and painful - the exercises he's given me basically boil down to "move your arm to the point where it hurts, and hold it there for a bit."
The therapist would like me to avoid overhead pressing and rock climbing for now. Other than that, I can do whatever.
Doctor Who: The Witch from the Well
by Rick Briggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had decidedly mixed feelings about this one. Some of the pluses: Mary Shelley continues to be just about the perfect Doctor Who
companion, demonstrating an ideal blend of curiosity, resourcefulness, and fearlessness in the face of the unknown. I wish she could be a companion on the TV series. I enjoyed the two time-zone nature of the story. I know that lots of listeners have complained that it deprives us of Doctor/Mary interaction, but on the flip side, it gives Mary a chance to shine. I also quite enjoyed the characters of Beatrice and Agnes, who could both have easily been stock characters straight out of central casting, but who, thanks to some combination of the acting and the writing, really come alive.
Some of the minuses: The plot is only sustained by our heroes being idiots at key moments. It starts with the Doctor's willfully ignoring the signs that anything odd is going on with the twins. Not only is this rather at odds with his usual attitude towards new people, but you'd think that the Doctor would at least pick up on the hint that he's crossed his own timeline. When you write an 8th Doctor audio, you really don't get to pretend that he's unfamiliar with how time travel works. And then there's the long stretch of time during which the Doctor and Mary are separated in two different time zones, during which the listener is wondering when it will finally occur to her to use the fast-return switch which was carefully explained in episode 1.
On the whole, the pluses just outweigh the minuses for me, making this a reasonably entertaining if imperfect story. View all my reviews
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
by Roger Crowley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very vividly written account of the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Crowley has a knack for vivid writing, and can really make you feel as though you were there.
Crowley is particularly good at explaining military tactics and the technology of warfare. And the technology of warfare was particularly remarkable at the time. For example, the Byzantines protected the entrance to the harbor of the Golden Horn by stringing a giant chain across the mouth of the harbor, preventing ships from entering. So, what did Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottomans, do when he couldn't break the chain? Well, he had his men carry a bunch of war galleys overland and rolled them into the water on the other side of the chain. I also hadn't known that the Ottomans were early adopters of field artillery. Crowley's description of how they forged immense cannon in an attempt to bring down Constantinople's land walls is fascinating. As is his description of how the defenders of the city made a virtue of necessity - when the Ottoman cannon smashed their stone walls, they rebuilt them as wooden palisades with dirt piled between them - which did a much better job of absorbing the impact of the cannon balls.
Overall, the book is a great read, both informative and suspenseful. Though, be warned, it is a book that will make you want to read lots of other books, starting with Crowley's Empires of the Sea
, which appears to be something of a sequel to this one. View all my reviews
So, often when I read articles about sexism in the workplace, I find myself saying to myself, "Of course, I know this stuff happens, but I'm very fortunate to not have to deal with that."
And then articles like this Guardian piece
come along, and I'm like, "Oh. That. Yeah."
...almost everything a woman does at work is considered "a favor" that is off the clock. To put it another way, when a woman takes on a project no one else will, or does something helpful or thoughtful, it's seen as something she does for fun. When a man does it, it seen as real work.
The revelation of this structural ingratitude explains a lot. It's a pivotal point in understanding a key issue in workplaces: why can't women form lasting alliances, even though they spend more time contributing to their organizations by mentoring?
Alliances are often based on favors; if a favor is not counted, a potential ally is lost.
This plays out in complicated ways - I've actually made a lot of progress in my career by volunteering to do stuff that other people wouldn't or couldn't. And it's not like I'm never thanked or acknowledged for going the extra mile. But I have observed that merely "being helpful" often doesn't buy you as much as saying, "Sure, I'd like to contribute to your project - let me talk to my manager to see if she can spare some of my time for this." Or asking people to help me and then making sure their contributions are publicly recognized.
Younger Nephew Critiques the Historical Accuracy of My Costume
Went trick-or-treating with my nephews and niece. (Why doesn't the English language have a single non-gendered collective noun for "the kids whose aunt I am?") I wore my fuzzy Warrior Dash helmet as a token "costume".
Younger nephew: What's your costume?
Me: I'm a Viking.
Younger nephew: You can't be a Viking, because [insert unintelligible 4-year old explanation here, that I think involved Viking helmets not being furry.] (thinks hard) You could be a buffalo, because they have horns and lots of fur.
Me: Okay, I'm a buffalo.
Older Nephew Educates Me on Pop Culture
At one point when we were out trick-or-treating, one of the houses that had a big soundsystem going took a break from playing "Thriller" on infinite repeat to play "I'm a Believer".
Older Nephew: I know this song!
Me: Yes, it's by the Monkees.
Older Nephew: Noooo, there aren't any monkeys in Shrek!
Youngest Niece Demonstrates a Positive Attitude
Youngest Niece, who will be two in January, unexpectedly refused to put on a costume at the last minute, but thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of walking up to people's doors and receiving candy. However, my favorite part of the evening was probably reading her Green Eggs and Ham, because she responds to every question uttered in the text with a tiny enthusiastic "Yeah!"
"Would you, could you, in the rain?" "Yeah!"
"Would you, could you, on a train?" "Yeah!"
It would have been a very short book if she'd been the protagonist. Sam-I-am would come along and say, "Do you like green eggs and ham?" and she'd reply, "Yeah!" and we'd be done.