The Ethics of Solitary Confinement
Monday, March 30, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
This is an amazing article from the New Yorker about the psychological effects of long term solitary confinement. Is it torture? If you believe even half of what this article has to say, then yeah, it is. And it's something that literally thousands of American citizens are being subjected to right here in our own country. Scary stuff.

It's a bit wordy, but I urge you to read the whole thing.
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Farewell BufBloPoFo 2009 - We Hardly Knew Ye
Friday, March 27, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
BufBloPoFo Topic for DAYFOURTEEN

DUDES. One more post and you’ll have done it. You’ll have posted every day for FOURTEEN DAYS STRAIGHT. Or a fortnight, if you will.

So are you sad it’s almost done? Are you going to miss all of your fellow participants? Well, your assignment is to give us a farewell speech. I’m continually amazed that anyone decided to play along with the BufBloPoFo. I say you take it easy tomorrow for your last day and just post a quick “so long” to your fellow participants.

Okay, here goes. While I wasn't always great about posting on time, and often went off on my own personal track instead of following along with the topic of the day, overall this was a really fun experience. I hope that everyone found some new blogs to follow even after this event ends today.

Thanks to Mark, for letting me know about this cool event, and thanks to Mike for organizing this and allowing me to play along. Now gimme my completist badge!
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BufBloPoFo Day 13 - Time Capsule!
Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
BufBloPoFo Topic for Day 13

Holy crap you guys! Tomorrow is The Last Day Eve! YOU CAN DO IT.

I was going to finish with this question like last year, but decided I’d use it for day 13 instead. Link to whatever you posted exactly one year ago (or whatever’s closest), and give your readers an update on that topic. If you haven’t been writing for a year, give us a list of three or four things that are going on in your life right now that you’ll want to update one year from now.


Update: we're still in Iraq, not that you'd know that from the news or printed press stories lately. Luckily, for those of us still following events over there, as well as in Afghanistan, there are plenty of great bloggers keeping an eye on things.

I'd like to recommend the following blogs and sites to you all:
I'm hoping that things will be different with this new administration. I hope that next year I won't have much news to talk about in Iraq in terms of conflict between American troops and Iraqi militias.

So here's what I want to update on one year from now:
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BufBloPoFo Day 12 - Why I Enjoy My Barren, Childless Existence
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
BufBloPoFo 09 Topic for Day 12

Lisa, Maeve, Addie and I had Unkie BAStart and Auntie Outgrabes over for some vino and pastries last night. The girls, happy to have an audience, but happier to have cookies, took their time heading for bed. Parental wherewithal can come from years of childrearing, or it can apparently be pulled from a bag of goodies bought at Starbucks. That kind of knowledge doesn’t come automatically for parents, so for day 12 (three more days!) I want to hear your best advice for those of us raising kids.

First of all, those of you following this blog may be wondering what this BufBloPoFo business is all about. Well, the full details can be found here, but in short: the idea is to blog every day for a fortnight. It originated with a group of bloggers from Buffalo (hence the BufBlo portion). The leader of the group, Mike, posts topics for those afflicted with writers' block.

Anyhoo, while I'm usually good coming up with my own topics, today I feel inspired by the topic.

I have no children. I have no plans to have children. I am not, as they say, a "natural mother" and if I were to have kids, I'd probably be the person most likely to benefit from the advice inspired by today's topic. However, clearly I am unqualified to offer advice to parents about their kids.

Allow me instead to offer up some advice to those of you who are like me, and do not wish to have kids: it is a valid and rewarding life choice, so don't let those breeders get you down. There's a certain assumption that you're supposed to have kids at some point in your life. This assumption is particularly strong if you happen to be a woman. When you declare your intent not to have kids, a lot of people get all up in your grill, telling you that you'll change your mind eventually, etc etc. While I allow that it's always possible that I may someday change my mind, it's also equally possible that if I do have them, I'll regret losing many of the benefits my childless existence affords me.

Here's some reasons I enjoy not having kids.
  1. All my money is dedicated towards making life easier for myself and my boyfriend. The $100K I would've had to put aside for my child's college education? All mine. The cash I would have spent sending the kids to space camp? Squandered in a haze of alcohol and gambling in Vegas one weekend.
  2. With the extra cash I have available, I have purchased a big TV, an XBox360, a gaming PC and a Nintendo Wii. When I want to play with any of those toys, I do. I don't need to worry about whether Johnny wants to watch Power Rangers, or Susie wants to play Animal Crossing.
  3. I can leave my porn and handguns lying out all the time.
  4. I have a freedom with my schedule that just wouldn't be possible with kids. Tomorrow, if I were so inclined, I could toss my cats in a kennel and go to Europe for a month. Heck, if I want to go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesday till 7pm (which I do), I can. My cats can wait till I get home for their kibble. Kids - not so much.
  5. If I'm a jerk, only my own life is really affected by that. Yes, my boyfriend would probably be peeved, but I doubt I can cause him the mental trauma I'd probably inflict in a small child if I were to attempt to raise one.
  6. I will never, ever have to go to a Jonas Brothers/Miley Cyrus concert (or whatever the next incarnation of tween star is).
  7. The box of Animal Crackers is all mine, baby.
  8. All the sharp edges, fire hazards and steep staircases can remain untreated in my house.
Disclaimer: This is to all those angry parents out there about to write me nasty emails/comments about this post - obviously, I am not judging people who choose to have kids. My sister just had an adorable set of twin boys this past November, and I love them to pieces, so of course I'm glad she chose to have kids. I have many friends who have kids, and those kids are pretty neat too. This is merely my own personal choice for my life, so chillax.
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Timely BufBloPoFo Day 10 post
Monday, March 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
BufBloPoFo Topic for BufBloPoFoMonique Day (Day 10) On day ten last year, I found out about a girl named Monique who graduated from law school a year before me. She kicked cancer’s ass long enough to graduate, study for and then take the New York State Bar Exam. She passed away soon after that, cementing her status as one of my all time greatest personal heroes. I regret that I never met her, but I’m a better lawyer today because I know her story. For BufBloPoFoMonique day, tell me who inspires you. Who is your hero?

This one is really easy. I have many people I admire, many who qualify as a "hero", but this is the story I most enjoy sharing with others.

In 2005 when I was living in Hawaii, I decided that I was tired being exhausted by running 1.5 miles, and wanted to get into long distance running a little more. I joined up with Team In Training, an organization affliated with The Leukemia and Lymphoma society, which promises free training, swag, and group support for would-be marathoners, in exchange for fundraising activities. I wish I could say I had an altruistic reason for joining, but basically, I liked the idea of getting free training, plus I wanted to go to San Francisco. The fact that the money would go to charity (as well a fund my trip) was nice, but wasn't my main reason for joining. I know, I know... judge me if you will.

Part of the training regime included group runs every Saturday, which I attended religiously. After a group stretch, we'd all take off, naturally falling in with the people who ran the same pace as us. I met an older gentleman, who, despite his advanced age (over 70) still ran a faster pace than me, and constantly urged the group to push faster. 

I found out later that the reason he ran was to honor his daughter, who had suffered from leukemia when she was 17. She wrote a journal about her battle with the disease, which was later published into a book. Tragically, she died a year later. Even now, years later her father still runs in her memory.

So when I'm feeling tired, or when I feel like I can't keep running, I always think about him and how he always pushed himself to go faster, how he always challenged those around him to keep moving too, and it motivates me to keep going.
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Belated BufBloPoFo Day 9 post
Monday, March 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Today’s assignment was to talk about the BufBloPoFo participant below you on the list over there on the sidebar. Today, if the blogger above you on that list was kind enough to ask you a question, answer it! If not, either find a question that was asked of someone else and answer that or, you know, write a post about, um... soup. Look, these topics can’t all be winners, people.

Question from over at Blog, Pink and be Mary: Tell us about the best vacation you've ever had. Where would you like to visit next? Also, just because I'm nosey, how do you know Mike?


Best vacation I've ever had - boy that's a tough one to answer. Note that I used to live in Hawaii, so while I love that place, it doesn't really qualify as a vacation spot for me.

I'd probably have to say my trip to Portugal and Spain, senior year of college. I went with my girlfriend, and we pretty much bought a few guidebooks, bought a ticket to Lisbon and got on the plane. We had our first night reserved, but other than that, we had no concrete plans. It was exhilarating and terrifying to just let go like that, to have no idea where you might go next. We decided to change hotels after the first night, in order to be closer to the center of town. We found a place that seemed fine, based on the guidebook description. However, when we got closer, it was a little alarming that the entrance was in some back alley, and there were literally hordes of random guys just hanging around. Fortunately, some kind stranger grabbed my arm as we were approaching, said, "Oh, you two girls don't want to stay there. It's... not very safe for you." He then proceeded to march us down a few blocks to a lovely little hotel (very reasonably priced too!) and then disappeared back into the night. We never got a chance to thank him properly. The new hotel was a dream - clean, well located, SAFE, and our room had a fabulous view of the castle on the hill above us.

After we left Lisbon, it got a lot harder to find people who spoke English, so I got to break out my Tarzan Portuguese as I attempted to get us on the right bus from Evora to Seville, Spain. Luckily, we got there, and I must say that Seville was the highlight of the trip. We ran into two other friends who happened to be passing through the area, and we had a fun couple of nights going from tapas bar to tapas bar, drinking a lot of sangria, and being tourists. Also, my Tarzan Spanish is pretty decent, so I had a lot easier time getting around the city.

My big trip that I've got planned next is a 2 week excursion to Peru, to hike the Inca Trail, see Machu Picchu, etc etc. However, the most exciting trip that I'm planning one day is a month long boat cruise to Antarctica. I just need time and money (neither of which I currently possess).

To answer your final question, I don't know Mike at all. I got pulled into this little blogging fest via Mark B.
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Belated BufBloPoFo Day 8 post
Monday, March 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Take a look to the right over there and you’ll see a list of the “BufBloPoFo 09 Participants”. It’s pretty, isn’t it?!? Look at them all! Okay, now find whichever blog is below yours and talk about that dude. If you know them, tell us how you met. If you don’t know them, talk about something you read on their site. Whichever it is, end your post by asking that person a question. (That last part maaaaaaay be important later on...)

Wow, this is totally late. I had a brainfart this weekend, played a shit-ton of Persona 4 and totally forgot to post pretty much anything. My apologies to dhka, who apparently took my lack of posting as a slight. Blame the Japanese, for crafting an RPG so diabolically addictive that my weekend flew by before I knew what was happening.

Anyhoo.... I have no idea who dhka is. I assume he's Dave, of the DaveHoffmanKicksAss blog title. Two posts on his blog stand out for me in particular: he likes playing basketball, and he intentionally moved to Western NY, despite not actually being from there. He's that rare brand of salmon that says "fuck this noise, I'm going my own way." And his own way seems to include moving to an area that is slowly dying, just like the rest of the rust belt. He seems to be accepting of all people, as his post about hookers and Latino gang members indicates.

The post about basketball spoke to me, as I used to play, and I understand how lovely it is to have a brief moment in time where the rest of the world drops away and all you need to worry about is where the ball is, and whether you want to shoot or pass when you get it.

From his blogger profile, it seems he's a lawyer. It also looks like he only blogs when BufBloPoFo comes around. That's part of the reason it's hard to get a read on him - I'm not sure what he's interested in talking about on a regular basis.

I have a couple of questions for dhka: 1) Do you forgive my terrible tardiness in writing this post? 2) Why not blog more? You seem like a witty chap, and I'd be inclined to follow your blog if you wrote more stuff. 3) In an attempt to get to know your interests better, if you could work for any magazine in the world, which one would you choose?
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TV-a-palooza
Friday, March 20, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Tonight is an unusually exciting night of television, despite the long held tradition that Friday was where low budget comedies and shitty dramas went to die.

A few things to bring to your attention:
  • Tonight is the fabled episode 6 of Dollhouse, a.k.a. "The One Where The Show Finally Gets Good". In the episode's favor is a guest star appearance by one Patton Oswald. (FOX 9pm)
  • It breaks my heart to see it go, but tonight is the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. I've got my fingers crossed that our favorite heroes come out on top in the end. Note that this episode runs 2 hours long. (SciFi/Syfy 9pm)
  • Starz airs its second original series tonight with the series premiere of Party Down. This one's chock full of great comedic "Hey, It's That Guy!" actors, including the excellent Jane Lynch and Ken Marino. I've heard great things about this show (though I hear the first two episodes are a tad weak, apparently it really picks up). (STARZ 10:30pm)
  • Cartoon Network's new Friday night lineup launches tonight. The Venture Brothers is a favorite of mine. Check it out at 11pm.
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Welcome to My Personal Nightmare
Thursday, March 19, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist


Courtesy of the always excellent xkcd.com, I present to you this very funny strip. The weird part is, I have had literally this exact dream at least twice in the past month. Eerie!
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Shiny new things
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Just wanted to let you know about a new show on ABC that has piqued my interest. It's called Better Off Ted. The blogger over at Televisionary really liked the pilot episode, while the reviewer at Slate hated it. I checked out the pilot tonight at 8:30, and I'm happy to report that it was a peppy and fun show. I laughed out loud a bunch of times and am really looking forward to more episodes. Portia di Rossi was particularly great, though the whole cast was endearing. The show is from the same guy who brought you the excellent and bizarre Andy Richter Controls the Universe (one of my favorite sadly dead before its time shows ever), so if you liked that, you might want to check this show out.

I'm pretty sure you'll be able to catch the pilot online. Enjoy.
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Why AIG Are Bastards - the For Dummies edition
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
So while the current economic situation is horrifying to me, and makes me stressed all the time about various scenarios where I lose my job for some reason, and am reduced to living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere, clutching my Xbox that I can't plug in because I have no television or power outlets to plug it into because I am fucking destitute, I must admit that my understanding of the nuances of how it got this bad so quickly is fairly limited.

The current kerfluffle over the AIG bonuses, after AIG received approximately seventy gadjillion dollars of US taxpayer bailout money, is again something that I feel pissed about, but can't really argue about with anything more sophisticated than, "Well, they fucked up. Don't ask me how, but I'm pretty sure they did. And if they fucked up, they shouldn't get bonuses."

If you're like me, allow me to direct you to this excellent post by The Anonymous Liberal, who does a great job breaking down exactly how AIG contributed to the economic meltdown. It's explained in very clear terms that even an economic neophyte like myself can understand. Enjoy.
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Sci-fi Channel Lamely Attempts to Get Hipper
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I still remember the day that the Sci-Fi channel made it's television debut. For a sci-fi fan like myself, I was pretty thrilled that there would be a channel out there that focused on a genre that I loved, and that never got a lot of play on "regular" television channels. "Finally,"I thought, "a place on TV where shows like The X-files will be the norm, not the exception. " While their offerings were sometimes hit and miss, overall, it was nice to have the channel around.

Well, now it's been announced that the channel has decided to rebrand itself. What fabulous new moniker did the channel choose? "SyFy". Yeah. You read that right. No typos there. And just why did the network feel compelled to change the name? According to this article:
[T]here was always a sneaking suspicion that the name was holding the network back.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

“We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”

Blarrgh. I love the implication that the very notion of sci fi is something only geeky boys living in their parents' basement enjoy. I also like how self-congratulating Brooks sounds at using the "hipper" moniker Sci Fi. I hate to break it to the guy, but I suspect most people use the shorter term "sci fi" most of the time, because it's just fucking easier to say, not because we find it more hip than saying the phrase "science fiction."

Moving on, here's a quote from the current Sci Fi channel president.

The network worked with the branding consultancy Landor Associates and went through about 300 possibilities before selecting Syfy.

“When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it,” Mr. Howe said. “It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.”

Really? Because that's how'd you text it? Allow me to respond with a channel name suggestion of my own, then: the WTF Channel. Because if you're not focusing on sci fi, then what exactly do you want to capture?

Let's start with the new name. It's stupid. It's jibberish. Saying it out loud still automatically invokes the same connotations as the word "sci fi." Reading it, it looks ridiculous. What the hell is supposed to be on that channel? I wouldn't know.

If they wanted a broader appeal/image for their network, I don't know why they just didn't pick a completely new name for themselves. For example, Tech TV was rebranded as G4. The old channel I associated with a slightly dry, very tech oriented sort of channel. Now, I don't even know what G4 stands for, to be honest, but today I automatically associate that channel with a male-oriented, young demographic that caters in hipster, slightly nerdy stuff. That was a great re-branding campaign, and the channel established that identity with a sharp and distinctive visual and audio style to their advertisements.

Here's a suggestion for Sci Fi (or SyFy or whatever they want to be called next): instead of wasting money on branding experts when your current name seems just fine, how about you invest in more shows, and stop putting out crap like "Mansquito" and "Dark Storm" (starring Stephen Baldwin!)? If you want new viewers and you want to be more hip, then go out and get CONTENT that sells that idea. Have some original talk shows, like G4's excellent "Attack of the Show". Produce more good things like Battlestar, and work to score more hot shows reruns, like Lost. Don't waste time and money trying to dazzle us with new and inscrutable names.
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BufBloPoFo 09 DayThree - You too can be Neil Peart
Monday, March 16, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
If nothing else, BufBloPoFo is a learning tool. Last year, we learned how to load a dishwasher, how to take a leak, etc. Let’s keep that going this year, but instead of focusing on what people are doing wrong, tell me what you think you do right. Walk me through a process. Give me the step-by-steps. Can you make damn good baba ganoush? Can you tie a bow tie? Can you pour the perfect Guinness??? Teach me how, perfesser.

This challenge bums me out, as it makes me realize just how little I actually know how to do. But, here goes nothing.

How to play a drum set:

This lesson assumes you have some semblance of rhythm, but no actual experience playing the drums. You don't even need a drum set to start this lesson. You can learn this lesson at home, at the office, on the metro... basically anywhere you can sit down. The idea is to get all 4 limbs working in unison, each tapping its own distinct pattern.
  1. First, tap your right foot in a steady pattern, counting out 1 - 2 -3 - 4 as you tap. In other words, for those of you with a music background, you're counting out quarter notes, in 4/4 time.
  2. Once you get that foot going, add the second foot into the picture. On your left foot, tap only on the 2 and 4 beat.
  3. After both feet are happily tapping together, add the right hand into the picture. The right hand will be playing 2 notes for every one tap of the right foot. Go ahead and just drum on your thigh. Count it out as "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and", tapping on both the number and the word "and." Again, for those of you who know music, you're playing eighth notes on the right hand.
  4. If you've gotten this far, congratulations! You're 3/4ths of the way there. Now one final limb to add in. This one should be easy. Your left hand should tap on the 2 and 4, along with your left leg.
  5. If you have trouble getting all the limbs working together, try working on combinations of just 2 at a time. I recommend starting with the right leg keeping the 1 2 3 4 beat. Then just practice with each of the other limbs in order.
There you go. If you can do that with just your hands and feet, you can sit down at a drum set and pretty much play. Your right foot will play the bass pedal, the left foot will press the pedal of the high hat cymbal, your right hand will hold a stick and strike the ride cymbal, and your left hand will hold a stick and strike the snare drum.

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What the Hell Are the Broncos Doing?
Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I'm completely baffled by the whole drama-rama going on over in Denver right now. To recap: the Broncos decided that Jay Cutler their first round pick in 2006, a Pro Bowl QB in 2008 (throwing a gaudy 4,526 yds, 25 TD) maybe wasn't who they wanted, so they went ahead and tried to arrange a fancy three-way deal with the Bucs and Pats that would have sent Cutler packing to Tampa, in exchange for Matt Cassel. Well, that fell through, Cutler got wind of it, and he got a little upset at what he perceived was a back door attempt to get rid of him. Things have escalated from there, and the latest report is that the face-to-face with Cutler and Josh McDaniels (the new head coach) went badly, and Cutler put his house, as well as his parents' house up for sale, in anticipation of being traded.

Yeah, technically players should realize that they can be traded at any moment. However, normally there's some kind of sign the year before - a player has a lot of conflict with the head coach, doesn't put in the kind of performance expected of them, whatever. In Cutler's case, he put in a great individual season. While he did throw a lot of INTs, part of the problem was that he was often forced to put the team on his shoulders and take chances, since he had no consistent running game (8 different RBs started for the team this past season) and a terrrrible defense (giving up 52 points in the final game of the regular season, costing the Broncos a playoff spot).

Maybe McDaniels didn't want to break in a new QB when he could have possibly had Cassel, who already knew the system he wanted to run. On the other hand, it doesn't impress me that a new coach never (to my knowledge) really sat down with Cutler to talk about the direction of the offense. How can you give up on a Pro Bowl QB without talking to him and seeing how he reacts to the new system? 

The truth here is, the Broncos need Cutler more than Cutler needs them. The available QB free agents are lack luster at best. The passing game was potentially in trouble anyway because of WR Brandon Marshall's recent run-in with the law that might result in a suspension. There's no real sure thing available in the draft. Basically, whether they pick up a journeyman QB or a rookie QB, the Broncos will be starting from scratch. They'd be a good 2-3 years away from being a legitimate playoff team.

Teams that Cutler might go to include Tampa Bay, Detroit and New York Jets. 
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BUFBLOPFO Day 1
Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
A day late (I thought this shindig started today, not yesterday) but here's my response to the first BUFBLOPOFO challenge.

BufBloPoFo Topic for Day 1:

Let's start it off easy. Hi! How're things? Remember me? Remember when we were blog friends? What's new whichu? For your first day of Blufporbfofoing, tell me the three biggest things going on in your life right now. If you have fewer than three things going on in your life right now, then your assignment is to come over to my house and pack. (Ahem *slacker* cough...)


Biggest things going on in my life right now
  1. Self-improvement. Specifically, losing all this weight that I've accumulated over the past 3 years since I got out of the military. I've been doing a program called TNT, which is like semi-personal training. Basically, you have a trainer and you attend sessions with between 2-6 people, doing a weight lifting routine. It's a lot cheaper than having a dedicated personal trainer, but you get pretty much the same workout. I'm loving it so far, and I'm definitely a lot trimmer than when I first started. 
  2. Across the Nerd-a-verse. I'm really enjoying my new podcasting adventure with fellow BUFBLOPOFO'er Mark. I think that Episode 3 (which was in the can this Thursday) was the best show yet, so hopefully people will stick around, and the show will continue to grow in listenership.
  3. Family stuff. I'm super psyched to be the aunt of 2 adorable twin boys (born this past November). I find myself perusing the Toys R Us website all time, in anticipation of all the awesome toys I'll be able to buy them in a year or so. I'm also enjoying time with my boyfriend of many many years, doing the domestic thing.
Okay, that's me. 
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Every Parent Needs to Read This
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
In many ways, I'm sorry to inflict this article upon my friends out there who are parents of young children. I know that many close friends have related to me that upon becoming parents for the first time, they find themselves unable to cope with stories (even fictional ones) involving injury or death to a child. Nonetheless, this is an incredible article - compelling, well-written, and hard to put down once you start reading.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/27/AR2009022701549.html

To me, the most important point the article makes is just how easy it is to have something like this happen to you. It also makes me realize that people with young kids need to be very aware of what sort of patterns they fall into during their daily routine, so that they are conscious of how that impacts their behavior on a subconscious level.
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Holy bionic man, batman!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
From over at Engadget, behold the amazing site of a guy who had an actual working USB drive installed inside his prosthetic finger, after his finger was lost in a motorcycle accident (full set of his photos at Flickr can be found here):

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Dollhouse Episode 4 Review
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I have decided that Eliza Dushku is probably limited as an actress. However, there are a few roles that she does really really well, and episode 4 ("The Grey Time"). She always shines as the rough and tumble bad girl, a la Faith, which fit this week's persona "Taffy" (yes, that was her real name) perfectly.

When the episode first started, I feared it was yet another case of Echo being hired out as a whore. And while the episode began with her literally acting like a prostitute, lap dancing with a guy and going off to his room for some good old fashioned boning for pay, it's quickly revealed that "Taffy" was just faking it, in order to trick the security guard into taking her to the locked security office after she was "attacked" by the 3 guys she was with. In fact, the Taffy personality is apparently the designated leader of a team of art thieves. Echo is the designated safe cracker/team leader, along with one tech guy along to track the guards on his laptop, one antiquities expert to identify the item they're there to steal from the adjoining building, and one explosives expert to blow up the wall between the hotel and the vault next door.

Unfortunately for Echo (but fortunately for us the viewers), just as she's about to wrap up the gig, the antiquities expert realizes that splitting the payday with just himself is better than splitting it with the 3 other people on the job, and he absconds with the item while locking the rest of the team in the vault. Echo calls back in to report the situation to Boyd, but someone (presumably Alpha) sends a signal over the line that "resets" Echo back to her default doll state, essentially turning her into a helpless "talking cucumber," as one character astutely observes. In a nice touch, Echo gets more and more visably freaked out, as no one returns her "Did I fall asleep? Shall I go now?" with the expected response phrases.

This kicks off several great moments that not only showcase Eliza's growing comfort portraying the default doll state, but also provides us with additional information about the technology and protocols behind the Dollhouse. It also provides the show with an opportunity to get Sierra in on this week's action, as the Dollhouse imprints Sierra with the same Taffy personality that Echo got, hoping that she'll be able to rescue the team. It was fun seeing Sierra parrot the same exact lines and stories that Echo's Taffy did, plus Dichen Lachman totally cracked me up when she bitched about learning to lap dance for nothing. Sierra is totally growing on, so I'm hoping we'll get to see a lot more Dichen Lachman in the future.

Long story short (get the full recap here if you want the play by play), things go bad for awhile, but eventually Echo manages to flee the vault with the one nice bad guy on the team, while Boyd is his usual kick ass self and shows up just in time to help his wayward cucumber get back to the crisper (I mean "Dollhouse").

Meanwhile, in the B plot, Paul Ballard's story unfortunately takes a turn towards Lamesville, as the show has him flounder around a little more and inexplicably decide to set up Lubov (nee Victor) instead of helping him. One, this seems out of character for Ballard. Two, I'm just not clear on how letting the Russian mob kill Lubov is supposed to help him get closer to finding the Dollhouse. The more I see of Agent Ballard's handsome sculpted face, the more I realize just how unnecessary he feels to the action week after week. I don't care if he "rescues" Echo. I'd rather have Echo either rescue her own damn self, or at least to have someone with a legitimate bond to her rescue her (either Boyd or Alpha spring to mind right now, though I could also see Claire, Victor or Sierra being involved). There's no need for an external force like Ballard to come into this story. The show has set up enough players for the Dollhouse situation to resolve itself internally already.

Things we learned this week:
  • One of Taffy's catchphrases, stated by both Echo and Sierra, was "always wear comfy shoes." Apparently, Taffy's idea of "comfy" is a knee high leather boot with a spiked heel. Yeaaaahhh... so what we really learned was this: wardrobe on this show does not get very good show notes.
  • Being rebooted in default doll state is actually quite traumatic, akin to being born according to Topher.
  • Alpha is at least as smart, if not smarter, than Topher when it comes to understanding how the mind mapping works. This complete speculation on my part, but I wonder if Topher had a narcissistic moment when programming Alpha, and included a part of his (Topher's) own personality or know-how into Alpha at some point.
  • Topher has rivals in the geek world who desire to take his position as lead (and apparently sole) programmer at the Dollhouse. Topher also has an underling who hopes to study at his feet, but who also must submit herself to Topher's demands that she fetch him snacks and juice boxes.
  • Echo and Sierra continue to have a bond in their default doll state. Victor is also starting to become one of the group, as we learn that the three have been eating together and even choosing the same table each day for lunch.
  • Topher has now been cleared by Adelle DeWitt to know the truth about Alpha's "death" and so forth.
  • Dolls CAN defend themselves in their default state, as we saw Echo stab her explosives expert with a hypodermic needle in self-defense after he threatened to kill her if she didn't fire on the guards. However, it took awhile for Echo to get to that point, so perhaps the reason the other dolls didn't fight back when Alpha attacked was that it just happened to fast for them to comprehend the danger they were in.
Things I want to know moving forward:
  • Adelle seemed distressed at the thought of losing Echo this week. That made me think back to the pilot episode, where it almost seemed like Echo (Caroline, at the time) knew Adelle prior to that meeting we saw. Is it possible that Adelle and Caroline knew each other in real life, and perhaps have a deeper connection than we're aware of at the moment?
  • How long has Victor been undercover just to cover the Ballard investigation? Why do they keep wiping him in between missions? Shouldn't he be busy actually working as part of his cover story? Because this week made it seem like he comes "home" to the Dollhouse every day to each lunch and shit.
  • Why did Alpha spare Echo's life, only to put her at risk twice now? Again, if it bears out that Adelle does have some sort of attachment to Caroline, then maybe it would make sense that Alpha wants Echo to die more slowly and dramatically, in order to get back at Adelle.
  • Can we get a lot more Dichen Lachman, please? I'd like to see an episode where the job requires two dolls, in order to get more Echo/Sierra action.
  • What was the point of that midwife scene at the beginning? Was it to show the range of jobs dolls are hired for? Or was it merely to set up Topher's dialogue later in the episode comparing wiping to being born? Either way, it felt odd and out of place.
Overall, I really really enjoyed this episode. It was a great stand alone piece. I give it a solid B+
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Uh oh. Here comes T.O.
Monday, March 09, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Welcome to the sports fan's dilemma.

There I was, composing a post a few days ago that started like this:
Please DO let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. First of all, allow me to say in my best Nelson Muntz voice, "Ha ha!" to the news that Terrell Owens has been cut from the Dallas Cowboys. I can't say that I'm sad to see him go (though I hate the Cowboys, so it was a nice bit of synergy having a hated team AND a hated player together, so that I might better focus my laser-like hate).
I was planning to speculate on where he might go next, with the toxic Oakland Raiders as the most likely destination. However, I was busy and I put off posting that because I got distracted. I was about to pick it up again, when I logged on and saw this news: "Terrell Owens shuffling off to Buffalo" on Sports Illustrated.

After I finished running out to my front yard, dropping down on my knees and screaming "Noooooooooooo!" to the heavens, I tried to contemplate how this would affect my fandom in the coming 2009 NFL season. Now, my analysis of whether this is a good signing, strategically speaking, for the Bills and TO is one matter (which I'll do at the end of the post). But what about the larger issue of TO's continuing dickitude over the course of his career and the fact that I took great pleasure in mocking fans who blindly embrace jerk players the minute they sign with their club?

It is the nature of fans, I suppose, to blindly love their team. It's an attitude of "He may be a villian, but he's OUR villian, god dammit." Hence, the love for Barry Bonds in San Francisco, TO for the first few years of his tenure with the Cowboys, and so on. Still, even as villians go, TO stands head and shoulder above most of the usual suspects in the league. At least if a guy is being villianous, it's usually in the service of the team. Dancing on the star at Dallas may have almost provoked a riot, but ultimately it was an insult to the enemy, not to his own team. Others may hurt their team by getting unsportsmanlike penalty flags, but they are at least providing a small mental boost to their team if they acquire that penalty with a particularly hilarious and inspiring celebration (think the popcorn stunt, or the sharpie in the sock stunt, that TO has pulled in the past). With Terrell Owens, however, the ultimate sin he has committed 3 different times now has been the utter destruction of team cohesion, as each time he ultimately attacked his QB verbally in the press and turned teammates against one another in the locker room. How can a fan truly support a player like that, when deep down, we all sort of think it's only a matter of time before it happens again? How can you support a team that's stupid enough to think they'll be the exception instead of the rule this time around?

All these concerns aside, here's why it'll probably work out for the Bills:
  • Terrell Owens has only been signed to a one year deal. He usually takes 2-3 years on a team before he really starts acting up. I assume TO will be on his best behavior for the first year. If he sucks, it's very easy to just cut him next season.
  • They desperately needed to inject life into the offense. This is a team with only 26 TD passes in 2 YEARS, with only 15 of those going to WRs.
  • Not only is the offense bad, but the club suffers from being in a small market, and therefore they desperately need some excitement on the team in general. The team has struggled since the hey-day of Jim Kelly and company, and outside of Western NY, no one really cares about the Bills. This signing brings national attention to the club, so Bills fans outside the state now may actually get to see the Bills broadcast as a featured game of the week more than once this season.
  • Even though his skills are dimished, TO still needs to be respected by opposing teams. This means that Lee Evans will be open more. Evans has struggled with no other quality WR to take the pressure off him.
  • Owens is a physical specimen, and he gives young Trent Edwards a huge target to throw at. This is a big deal in the AFC East, where the NY Jets are starting to look like a very dangerous defense under new head coach Rex Ryan. Edwards will need all the safety valves he can get in the face of pass rushers like Bart Scott.
The Bills have been so lowly, it's tempting for a fan to want to see them succeed at any cost. Doesn't poor old Western NY deserve something good for a change? I can see why fans find it in themselves to embrace the most unlikely "heroes". Ultimately, though, for me personally, there's still some lines I can't cross. While I still hope that someday the Bills get their sh*t together and win the big one, while TO is on the team, my affections shall lie elsewhere.

Just say "No" to T.O.

Edit: the always excellent Peter King over at Sports Illustrated has a great article up about the Terrell Owens/Bills situation.
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According To My Study, You Are A Freaking Moron
Thursday, March 05, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Okay, allow me to quote liberally from this Yahoo article that caught my eye. The headline was provocatively titled "Did Palin's looks hurt?"

A new article in the Journal of Experimental psychology makes the case that Sarah Palin's looks -- and the focus on them -- hurt her and John McCain in November's election.

The study is behind a pay wall, but Tom Jacobs summarizes the findings:

They took a group of 133 undergraduates and assigned them to write a few lines about one of two celebrities: Palin or actress Angelina Jolie. Half of the participants in each category were asked to write “your thoughts and feelings about this person,” while the other half were asked to write “your thoughts and feelings about this person’s appearance.”

The participants were then asked to rate their subject (Palin or Jolie) in terms of various attributes, including competence. Finally, they were asked who they intended to vote for in the upcoming election.

Those who wrote about Palin’s appearance were more positive in their assessments than those who assessed her qualities as a person. But they rated her far lower in terms of competence, intelligence and capability, and were far less likely to indicate they planned to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

“It wasn’t her appearance per se” that soured people on Palin, Heflick said in an interview. “It was the effect her appearance had on their perception of her competence and humanity. Those variables made people less likely to vote for her."...

Heflick noted that all the self-proclaimed Democrats participating in the exercise indicated they were voting for Obama. So at least in this sample, it was Republicans and independents who were internally debating Palin’s suitability for the job. The study suggests that their confidence in her abilities may have decreased the more they focused on her looks – and thus, in feminist terms, objectified her.

Now, this is a perfect example of twisting the results of a survey to get the outcome you want. Are we to assume that all 133 people involved in the survey have no pre-knowledge of either Angelina Jolie or Sarah Palin? Because one would suspect that having any awareness of Sarah Palin's performance as a political candidate would have a lot more to do with a person giving negative ratings than how she looks. I mean, yeah, we all get that she's a good looking lady, and we'd lying if we didn't give her high ratings for that. On the other hand, her obvious failure to grasp the most basic political ideas and to give a coherent answer during the Katic Couric interview, plus her vicious and untruthful campaign speeches are what I'd draw upon when looking to evaluate her suitability for the job.

Even if we assume that these people had only just emerged from a deep cryogenic sleep that lasted 20 years, thus ensuring their total lack of awareness of who Sarah Palin was, there are still important details left out of the article above. Where the people surveyed shown pictures of Palin and Jolie, and if so, which pictures were they? Was Palin smiling idiotically? Was she making a crazy angry face? Was she nervous looking and covered in flop sweat (which would I assume be a picture from the Couric interview)? This is important, because the smallest details can subconsciously prejudice a person's perception of another. Take the following two pictures for example:



Let's pretend you had no idea who either of these women were, and these were the only two photos I showed you of them. Would you trust either of these crazy bitches to hold high office? No. The one on the left looks like a crazed PTA president who wants to sell you Girl Scout cookies. The one on the right looks like a victim of The Joker's laughing gas. Based solely on these pictures, I would say neither of them are qualified to be either the Vice President or Secretary of State of the US.

I have no idea how the actual results of the study were written up and presented. My beef here is with the lazy way the article is written, and how it comes to apparently false assumptions about what the survey results mean.
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Reaper returns! Plus stuff to spend your time and tax refund on
Tuesday, March 03, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Spend a little time getting to know The Devil....
For us loyal Reaper fans out there, we've all been in agony waiting for this show to finally return. Well, after 9 long months, the CW has FINALLY gotten around to putting Reaper back on the air. If you haven't seen the show (or have forgotten all the important plot points in the interim), here's a quick summary of what it's about:

Lovable slacker Sam finds out that his parents sold his soul to the Devil. Yes, the real Devil. The Devil is played by the excellent Ray Wise, who really does a great job being alternately charming, hilarious and out-right terrifying (as one would imagine Satan would be). As part of his new servitude for the Horned One, Sam has been tasked to serve as a "reaper" - collecting souls that have escaped from Hell and are now wandering around Earth fucking shit up. Joining him on this adventure are his on-again/off-again love interest Andi (played by the ab-tastic girl from Stick It), and his two goofy friends Sock and Ben. While the show started in more of a "Monster of the Week" format, it gradually introduced some longer plot arcs, including an excellent storyline involving demons attempting to rebel against the Devil (with guest stars Michael Ian Black and Ken Marino as gay demon husbands who happen to be leading said rebellion). Another long term arc involves the question of what exactly was in the contract allegedly binding Sam to the Devil, and whether Sam himself might be the actual biological son of the Devil.

I highly recommend you check out this show. It's very charming. If you enjoy shows like Chuck or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the show for you. Mild spoilers and a recap of where all the characters are at can be found here at zap2it.com. You can also go through the recaps on Television Without Pity, if you want a more in-depth recounting of the episodes aired so far. It airs (starting tonight) Tuesdays on the CW.

Who watches the Watchmen? We do! On this week's podcast, my co-host and I dissect the Watchmen graphic novel and discuss whether or not the movie can possibly live up to expectations. For those of you planning to go see the film, I highly recommend you check out the graphic novel ahead of time. Actually, even if you don't see the film, I recommend you go read the graphic novel. Time Magazine describes this work in the following way: "A work of ruthless psychological realism, it's a landmark in the graphic novel medium. It would be a masterpiece in any."


Other nifty toys and games:
  • This month, MadWorld releases on March 10th for the Nintendo Wii. I got a chance to do some hands on with this game at last month's comic con, and let me tell you - this makes me actually want to dust the old Wii off and actually turn it on for the first time in 4 months. Ultra-violent, fun control scheme, interesting black, white and red graphic style - a real adult game for the normally kid-oriented platform. Amazon is having a minor sale on pre-ordered copies of the game.
  • The new Neko Case album is out. If it's anything like her last effort, I'm pretty sure it's going to be awesome.
  • Did you know that Roger Rabbit was originally a book? I didn't until today, when I read a great article on the Onion's AV Club about it. It is now my mission to acquire a copy of the two Roger Rabbit novels.
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Nifty new web series: Angel of Death
Monday, March 02, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Courtesy of Pop Candy, check out this cool new web series by Ed Brubaker. It stars Zoe Bell (who you'll remember from the Tarantino portion of Grindhouse as Zoe the stunt woman), with appearances from folks like Lucy Lawless. So far, the first episode has my attention - it has a fun bombastic quality and the ending definitely makes me want to know what happens next.

Warning: it's pretty violent, so it's semi-NSFW:
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Dollhouse Episode 3 Review
Monday, March 02, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
This episode could have been called "The Bodyguard 2: Electric Bugaloo", because it had a lot in common with the Costner/Houston magnum opus. The basic plot of the week: a pop star named Rachel Marro-... oh, I mean "Rayna Russell"- is in danger from a crazy stalker fan who wants to love her to death, literally. So, her manager (a repeat customer of the Dollhouse and apparent close friend of Adelle DeWitt) hires the Dollhouse to provide a bodyguard. However, to keep things interesting - and to give the show an excuse to put Eliza Dushku in hot pants - the manager wants a bodyguard who isn't aware that they're actually a bodyguard. Rayna is a queen diva who will reject any obvious attempt to latch a bodyguard onto her, so the Dollhouse programs Echo to believe that she's a backup singer (her "persona"), while secretly embedding bodyguard tendencies deep into her brain so that she inexplicably feels compelled to protect Rayna (her "parameter"). Echo is configured with a personality that guarantees that Rayna will choose her as the new BFF of the week, and sure enough, the girls bond (however, sadly there is no sexy foreplay over a razor sharp samurai sword).

The twist comes when it's revealed, via incredibly hamfisted dialogue meant to echo Echo's own predicament (no pun intended), that Rayna feels trapped by her life and has been intentionally conspiring with the stalker to arrange her own death. Echo screws all that up by saving Rayna from the stalker's bullet, which just pisses off Rayna AND the stalker.

Also taking part in this week's A plot is Sierra, who has been programmed with her own persona (squealing, giggling OMG #1 Super FAn!!!!!) and parameter (unclear, but either the worst bodyguard ever or intentional stalker bait). She's allegedly there as the winner of some "#1 Fan" video contest, in order to give her a reason to follow Rayna around. Also of note: the persona is from Australia, giving Dichen Lachman an excuse to break out her real life (and totally adorable) Aussie accent. Anyhoo, the stalker, pissed that not only did he not get to kill Rayna, but also that someone else has been crowned Rayna's #1 Fan, goes ahead and kidnaps Sierra, and here's where things get interesting. One, it leads to a gross and creepy scene where he forces Sierra to duet with him on one of Rayna's songs. Two, it leads Echo to take drastic measures to resolve the situation. She kidnaps Rayna herself, summons the fan to the scaffolding above the stage, where she then THROWS Rayna off (no worries, Rayna is tied to the scaffolding). Stalker guy doesn't really want Rayna dead (he just believes he's fulfilling her wish), so he freaks out, and Echo disarms the situation. Meanwhile, truly facing death shocks Rayna out of her funk and at the end, she realizes that she does want to live, but on her terms now (versus what her handlers want).

The big question is: who was Echo really trying to save here? Yes, you could argue that Echo (as Adelle DeWitt does) was simply being creative in her interpretation of her parameter, since she was saving Rayna from herself. However, you could also make an argument that while Echo wasn't looking to hurt Rayna, per se, her real goal was saving Sierra. At the beginning of the episode, we see Echo and Sierra sharing a stitled "friendly" moment, but it's clear they're just two empty vessels reciting rote dialogue to each other. But at the end, we see that something has changed - Sierra clearly recognizes Echo and sincerely smiles and waves at her. We also see that not only does Echo also remember Sierra, she's also becoming more aware of how dangerous that fact is, as she hurriedly signals to Sierra NOT to show signs of affection. That's a good thing, as Laurence (the creepy head of security) is clearly looking for an excuse to send Echo to "the Attic", whatever that means.

Meanwhile, Boyd and Claire both observe that Echo is special in her ability to "think outside the box". Apparently, most dolls will just rigidly follow whatever parameters are in place, but Echo can do the lateral thought process that allows her to come up with solutions like "throw client off scaffolding in order to save her". This may be why Alpha has an interest in Echo - does he possess the same lateral thought ability as well?

In other twists, we learn that the bumbling Russian mole that Paul was working with is actually a doll named Victor! Victor sets Paul up for some good old fashioned murderin' at an abandoned building. However, instead of just shooting him right away multiple times, the bad guys talk a lot and then only shoot him once in the stomach, allowing Paul to kill his assailants and call for an ambulance before he passes out. Good stuff there - where will Paul go from here, how will Victor be used by the Dollhouse to further thwart Paul's efforts?

My main problem this week was that the A plot was annoying as a stand alone episode. Rayna was... kind of an asshole. Echo's persona was also sort an asshole when she was hanging with Rayna. Therefore, I didn't really care if Echo saved Rayna, nor did I get a warm and happy feeling at the end when Rayna decided to change her life. Like, do you want a medal for deciding not to be a snipey jerk?

However, the B plot was good, and we got lots more good info about the Dollhouse, so from that perspective I was happy. Next week's episode looks exciting - Echo reverts to doll form in the middle of a mission. Ooh! Anyhoo, this week's episode gets a B grade from me.

Things we learned this episode:
  • Eliza Dushku can really sing. Damn. Now I'm upset that Joss didn't find a way to work Faith into the Buffy musical episode.
  • Sierra's handler isn't the nicest guy in the world. He didn't seem too concerned that she was kidnapped.
  • Boyd is awesome and adorable. His father-like fretting about Echo's performance at her first concert was sweet and touching. He once again showed his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, and seeing him alongside another handler just emphasized how Boyd is willing to do things other handlers won't.
  • Boyd and Claire get a good scene together, with hints of some sexual chemistry there. This also sets up Topher to get the best line of the episode (suggesting that Boyd and Claire get married and have a litter of "frowny babies"). I approve of this potential storyline. However, since Amy Acker just got cast in a new pilot, does this mean that Claire may become the tragic Jenny Calendar to Boyd's Giles?
  • Sierra may herself be experiencing some kind of composite event, as she clearly recognized Echo at the end of the episode, and was conscious enough to recognize Echo's warning about not appearing too friendly while others were watching.
  • The Dollhouse has at least one set of twins, which they pimp out together for sex. Which... gross. Just gross.
Things I want to know moving forward:
  • Who authorized the insertion of Victor into Paul Ballard's case? Is Adelle DeWitt behind it, or is Laurence running his own shenanigans on the side?
  • Why didn't Sierra's parameter kick in? I mean, once the stalker revealed himself, wouldn't it have made sense for Sierra to snap into ninja mode and take the guy out?
  • What is the point of Mellie, Paul's neighbor? We saw her rushing to his bedside at the end of the episode, but didn't get to see Paul's reaction to her. Is she just there to get her heart smashed to pieces once Paul starts to fall for Echo?
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