Monday, December 27, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x06 "Stormy Weather"

This episode was a tense one that had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what would happen next.

Adira is on the bridge for this episode! It's a temporary assignment, but I was still excited to see them in the midst of all the action. I wonder if they'll be back on the bridge at all this season.

While Adira is on the bridge, though, Gray is left by himself and wants to feel useful. I can understand that. It must be strange to have everyone else dealing with something big while you sit around. I love how they linked Gray's story to Zora's. I'm still a little creeped out by how human Zora seems to be becoming, but I think that has to do with how many science fiction stories there are of artificial intelligence trying to take over the world.

This episode did help humanize Zora in a way that put me a bit more at ease in some ways but made me more anxious in others. Zora's newfound doubt in herself seems to hamper her usefulness. It worked out this time, but it does scare me for what it means for the future. I can't stop thinking about that short about Zora and trying to connect this season to that story, which is a big part about why I mentioned earlier that I kind of wish I didn't know anything about that short. I feel like we're heading towards something inevitable instead of the future of Zora being more speculative.

Zora was definitely the star of this episode, and it feels like it's going to be that way for the rest of the season. I'm wondering how much Zora's story and the DMA are going to intertwine. Obviously both are now important, but I wonder if the stories will work together in a way where the explanation for the DMA also helps explore what's happening with Zora or something like that. I suppose I'll have to wait to see.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x05 "The Examples"

After being a little disappointed by the last episode, I did like this one more.

Even though it shouldn't be possible, the DMA suddenly disappears and then reappears a few minutes later. This makes everyone think that it might have been created by people, though they don't know who. I'm not incredibly surprised by that development, but it is exciting to see the mystery develop.

Tarka comes aboard in this episode to investigate the DMA, and he's an asshole. I feel for Stamets and the others having to put up with him, though I'm curious if he'll somehow become more endearing later on. Honestly, I don't trust him at all and part of me thinks he's a bad guy, but I have a track record of thinking that about characters that I eventually come to like in Discovery, which leaves me unsure what to think about him at all.

A planet in Emerald Chain territory is in the path of the DMA once it reappears, so Discovery helps with an evacuation despite the planet not being part of the Federation. They also end up rescuing some prisoners who have been left behind. The prisoners are referred to as the Examples, since they're meant to be examples for others not to break the rules. It's yet another show of the Federation being kind when others aren't that definitely feels as much political as it is a truly moral thing.

It's interesting to have the Emerald Chain mentioned for a second time in this season when they aren't as prominent now as they were in season four. Other than that and showing that the DMA is still a threat, I'm not really sure if there's a way the prisoners are going to connect to the larger story.

This episode focuses on Culber's mental health as well, since he's the only therapist on the ship. Discovery is focusing a lot on mental health in this season, and I'm not mad about it, though the sudden shift to seeing Culber providing a lot of therapy when we never saw it in the first three seasons does feel a little sudden.

At the end of the episode, we get a tense scene between Book and Tarka where Tarka seems to know who created the DMA, but when asked about it directly by Book, he claims he doesn't. As I mentioned before, I'm very suspicious of Tarka, and this scene solidified that for me. I don't trust him, though I accept that I may be wrong about him later. There's just something about him that I find very off-putting, and it's not necessarily that he's blunt and dismissive. At least, I don't think it's just that.

My distrust of Tarka also makes me excited for the next episode though. I really want to know what's going on with the DMA.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Book Review: Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu Miller

Published: April 14, 2020
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Received: purchased through Life's Library
Read from October 24 to December 12, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A wondrous debut from an extraordinary new voice in nonfiction, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a dark and astonishing tale of love, chaos, scientific obsession, and—possibly—even murder.

David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand of his discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered.

Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.

When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool—a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet.

Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist reads like a fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.


Why Fish Don't Exist is an interesting book as it's partially a biography about biologist David Starr Jordan and also partially a memoir about the author Lulu Miller. At first, this made it difficult to figure out what the book was trying to achieve, but as I read, I found that Jordan's and Miller's story's intertwined in a really amazing way.

Jordan was a taxonomist interested in cataloging fish species and determining where they fit on the tree of life. He also served as the first president of Stanford University. I had never heard of him before picking up this book, but the way Miller wrote about him quickly made me curious to learn more about him. That curiosity turned to disillusionment as the book went on and Miller herself discusses how she felt to learn darker truths about Jordan's life, including his enthusiastic support of eugenics and forced sterilization.

Throughout the book, Miller ties Jordan's story to her own search for meaning in life, and she doesn't shy away from delving into her discomfort when she learns that this person who she's looking to for answers was a eugenicist. Miller does an excellent job of examining her own feelings about Jordan in light of the information she uncovers. Despite his abhorrent views, Miller ultimately takes meaning from his life in a way that I thought was done really well. As opposed to letting him off the hook, she explores his hypocrisies and finds what he failed to.

One aspect of the book that I was very thankful for was Miller's inclusion in the book of two victims of forced sterilization in the US. While Miller was swift in condemning Jordan's beliefs on eugenics, she wasn't a victim of them herself, and including the voice of actual victims isn't something that many people would have bothered to do. But Miller did. She got to know them and included their experiences in the book, letting them speak for themselves about what they experienced.

That chapter also serves as a potent reminder of just how recent forced sterilizations are in the US. In fact, they continue to happen today, and as Miller points out, the court case that paved the way for them to be legal has never been overturned.

Why Fish Don't Exist was an incredible book. It has science and history, but it's also very human as Miller explores what the meaning of life is or if there even is one. I'd highly recommend the book to everyone.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x04 "All is Possible"

Most of what happened in this episode still has me baffled days later, so this review is mostly going to be working through what I think.

At the beginning of the episode, the negotiations for Ni'Var to rejoin the Federation are about to end, and Michael and Saru are invited to the ceremony. Over the course of the episode, it's revealed that they've been asked there to help smooth things over and make sure Ni'Var does actually join, since there's been a snag due to politics.

On one hand, I get it. On the other... It seems odd that Michael and Saru, of all people, are the ones called upon in this situation. Then there's the whole thing between Saru and T'Rina, which seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere. If there were any clues about that before, then I missed them, and it left me feeling very confused. I'm not sure what to think.

The other big storyline in this episode is Tilly helping out on an academy training mission with some cadets. Things to wrong, and they end up in a life or death situation. Honestly, even though Tilly said at the beginning that it wasn't a holo, I thought she was lying at first because how does a training mission go that horribly wrong that quickly? It made the story feel unbelievable to me. If it had been a holo, I would at least have understood them seeing how the cadets fared in such a situation.

At the end of the episode, Tilly has decided to leave Discovery to teach at the Academy instead, and I also have mixed feelings about this. This particular turn at least doesn't feel as out of the blue as Saru and T'Rina at least. There was a line earlier in the season about Adira looking up to Tilly that kind of foreshadows Tilly becoming a teacher, but it still feels like a sudden decision. Yes, Tilly is struggling and searching for meaning, but she made a big decision really quickly. And it feels even stranger after the last season when the crew of the Discovery worked so hard to not be separated from each other. I know some time has passed, but it doesn't feel like they've been there that long.

Mary Wiseman is also a main cast member, and according to interviews, Tilly isn't leaving the show. So I'm curious about what that means and how we'll be seeing her in the rest of the season.

Overall, I'm not sure how to feel about this episode. It's probably my least favorite Discovery episode in a while. Or maybe at all. All I have to say, is that I hope we see Tilly soon because I'm going to miss her.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x03 "Choose to Live"

The story seemed to move just a little bit slower in this episode than in the first two. Which isn't to say that the episode was slow, just that I was less surprised by how fast things were happening.

A Qowat Milat sister named J'Vini is stealing dilithium, and at the start of the episode, she kills a Star Fleet officer. This leads Gabrielle to come and join the mission to track J'Vini down. It was nice to see Gabrielle again, even though there was some tension between her and Michael like there always seems to be.

It turns out that J'Vini was trying to save an entire species, which they do successfully do, but I'm curious about whether this has anything to do with the rest of the story this season. J'Vini is handed over the Ni'Var, and Michael worries that she won't actually be punished, but for the most part, that particular story seemed closed. It was kind of connected to everything else since J'Vini was worried about the species getting killed by the anomaly, but still, I just don't know how this was supposed to fit into everything else.

We get a lot of Ni'Var in this episode because Stamets and Book also go there to explore what happened to Kwejian. Stamets theory ends up being disproven, but while there, Book relives what happened, which seems to do him a lot of good.

Saru and Tilly have a really great moment in this episode that is yet another reason why it's so great to have Saru back with Discovery.

Gray gets his body back in this episode! Despite my earlier worries that the story would drag on with problems, I was actually quite confident during the episode that he'd be in the body by the end, and lo and behold, he was. Still, the scene between him and Adira towards the end of the episode, when Adira is trying to reach him and then Gray tells them that he heard them, was really sweet.

That was definitely the highlight of the episode for me. I'm excited to see where Gray's storyline goes next now that he has a body.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Book Review: A Native Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Published: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Beacon Press
Received: purchased
Read from October 17 to November 28, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.


This is the third book in the ReVisioning American History series, and it's also my favorite that I've read so far.

Only the -beginning of the book discusses Native cultures before colonization. The majority of the book is devoted to Indigenous history since colonization began. That fits with the idea of the book as it's about the history of the United States, and there was no United States prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America.

This focus on more recent Indigenous history also felt important because Indigenous people are so often talked about in the past tense when discussed at all in US history. It's important to have books like this that center Indigenous people throughout the entire course of US history and don't treat them as people who disappeared long ago.

While the earlier books in the series seemed to suffer from how much they were meant to cover, I didn't get that sense from this book. That's impressive to me considering how many Native nations there are across the present-day United States. While certain nations definitely were mentioned more than others, the book flowed very cohesively and what was covered seemed to be chosen for a good reason.

The end of the book also included a "suggested reading" section, which I loved. I added a lot of books to my TBR. I think this is excellent because one book is always going to be limited in what it can cover, and a section like this helps keep information flowing and expands what the book can do. I mentioned in my review of A Disability History of the United States that the book had made me want to dive deeper into the history of different disabled groups. A suggested reading section in that book would have been a great head start for me doing just that.

Indigenous history deserves far more focus in the US. This book is only a starting point to that, but it is a great starting point that I would recommend to everyone.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x02 "Anomaly"

Discovery always jumps into stories faster than I expect them too. Lots of things that I think will happen later in the season instead happen within the first couple of episodes.

In a perfect example of what I mean, we get to see what will hopefully be Gray's body in this episode! I thought they would still be searching for ways to even give him a body, but nope. We still don't know for sure that it will be successful, but they're much further in the process than I expected. I'm excited but also nervous that this means that something will go wrong in transferring Gray's consciousness to the body, as that would draw out the storyline until later in the season.

Saru also arrives back on the Discovery in this episode! An example of yet another thing that happened faster than I thought it would. Though I thought he might come back relatively early in the season, I thought we'd see a bit more indecision from him about leaving Kaminar first. Instead, he was right back at headquarters in this episode. Not that I'm complaining. (Though I would have found it cool to see more of what Kaminar is currently like too.)

This episode was an excellent reminder of the important role Saru plays among the crew. It was wonderful to see him comforting people and offering guidance. Discovery just isn't the same without him, and I'm so happy he's acting as Michael's number one. Even though they sometimes have conflict between them, I think they work well together and help compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses.

A dynamic that came out of nowhere this episode was Samets and Book. We get a lovely scene between them after they're able to complete their mission. I hadn't considered how Stamets would feel about Book's role in rescuing Culber and Adira (and Gray), but it makes sense that he would feel indebted to him in a way. I loved his promise to figure out what happened to Kwejian for Book's sake. It makes me excited for the possibility of a future friendship between them and perhaps Book becoming closer with other members of Discovery's crew, not just Michael.

Tilly and Culber have a scene together where Tilly opens up about not feeling like herself and asks to have an appointment where they can talk about it. I felt as awkward as Tilly while watching that scene, but I'm happy it was there. Detmer didn't seem all right last season either, but then that was kind of brushed aside later in the season and not dealt with again. I'm a little sad that Tilly is getting that storyline now. Though I love Tilly, we don't get to see Detmer that often, so it would have been nice to have that storyline with her. However, I'm glad the mental health of the crew is still being addressed somehow.

This is a small detail in the episode, but Michael reveals that the computer has named itself Zora. I do know of the short film about Zora and the theories surrounding that, so this moment was yet another connection between that short and Discovery. I kind of wish I didn't know about the short though. On one hand, it's fun to theorize, but on the other, I feel like I know too much about where the story might be heading. If you want to know more about that theory, then you can look it up yourself, since I don't want to reveal too much to people who might rather stay in the dark about it.

The data that they've gathered tells them that the anomaly is randomly changing direction in a way that they can't explain and that is unpredictable, so I'm guessing that will be the big mystery of the season. I'm curious to see where it goes. I've seen some suggestions that the anomaly could be alive. Between the tardigrade and the sphere or even Su'kal being the source of the Burn, that feels similar to what they've already done, but I'll wait and see.