Mini-review: Ex Machina (2015)

Up-front warnings: (1) This review contains spoilers. (2) I didn’t like the movie.

ex_machina_posterNot spoilers: The premise of this movie is that Main White Guy Character Caleb Smith (played by Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company’s brilliant and reclusive CEO, Antagonist White Guy Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test, charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan’s latest experiment in artificial intelligence — Sexy Fembot Ava (Alicia Vikander).

[Edit: A couple of friends have told me that Oscar Isaac, who is Hispanic, doesn’t read as white to them. That really surprised me, I read both the actor and the specific character of Nathan Bateman as white, but you may have a different impression. I have to add that if Bateman is supposed to read as a person of colour, it doesn’t help the movie for me, on the contrary.]

The movie tries to be a thriller but all the plot twists are predictable for science fiction aficionados. Nothing you haven’t read elsewhere. It also tries to be visually stylish and to feel intellectual; your mileage may vary. Mostly, Edmund and I spent our time asking the characters on screen: “Really? You didn’t see this coming?”

But I’d like to focus on the things that creeped me out, and not in a good thriller way. Spoilers begin here. Continue reading “Mini-review: Ex Machina (2015)”

A Full Chemo Cycle

cancer_the_crabI’m now on Day 3 of chemotherapy Cycle 2. (Day 1 is the infusion day, there is no Day 0.) I have been keeping a daily log of symptoms, medication, and food intake so I have a better idea of what to expect this time around, and things seem to unfold as expected.

  • On Days 2 to 4, I am relatively well (with anti-nausea medication), though my energy and appetite start decreasing. I have to take injections to boost my white blood cell count during those days. I may experience constipation thanks to the anti-nausea medication, but then it will swing to the opposite extreme.
  • On Day 3 to 7, I get joint pains in my hands and sometimes feet, particularly in the last two digits of my right hand. Same place I get pains sometimes in bad weather.
  • On Days 5 to 8, I will be very tired and have no appetite, to the point where drinking enough to down my meds is difficult. This time around I have to do better and stay hydrated, get more protein in, etc.. Last cycle I lost ten pounds and had to receive intravenous fluids. While I have plenty of excess weight, the medical team stresses repeatedly that maintaining weight during chemotherapy is very important.
  • Around Day 9 I should start recovering, and the progress should be quite satisfactory by Day 14. But I will not rebound to 100%, nor even to where I was at the start of this cycle; every cycle will bring me down more.
  • Days 14 to 21 are pretty good days if I remember that I’m not at full strength: limit walking, exposure to crowds, etc.

Throughout the cycle I also get itchy skin, hair loss, small sores; last time my tonsils got really bad during Days 5 to 8, I hope it won’t happen every time.

This is what the white blood cell count does.



Fiasco: Nextwave!

Tonight we played a Fiasco (Bully Pulpit Games) episode using the Heroes of Pinnacle City playset written by Ryan Consell, Josh Hoey, Anna Kreider, and Kit Kreider, to simulate Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

We had a blast. Several, actually. The characters were Aaron Stack, Elsa Bloodstone, The Captain, and Monica Rambeau. Here is a shot of the Roll20 board as we reached the tilt phase; we’ll have the second half of the game in a couple of weeks. Roll20 works really well, you can set the colour of your dice and then drag them on the board.

That was game no. 21 of #61in16 for me, and 22 players out of #36in16.

Fiasco: Nextwave!

Deaf as a stone

dice and pawns

An open letter to a commenter on this blog, and to the like-minded.

Dear Pierre,

FrankieYou are vocally against inclusiveness in games, as you have made clear both in your comments on my earlier post and in the discussion thread that had partly inspired it. When you started posting on my blog on Sunday, I allowed the comments through because I try to let the conversation flow as long as it remains civil, because I harbour silly hopes of good-faith discussion of serious issues, and because I don’t mind allowing people to be damned by their own words and deeds. I may also have been lulled into false hope because like me, you are French Canadian so I expected more meeting of the minds. But you’re skirting dangerous close to outright name-calling so I must attempt to bring this delightful exchange to a productive conclusion.

I’m not sure why you’re posting here. Unfortunately for my resilient idealism, you don’t seem to be here to engage in a fair-minded discussion. It doesn’t look from your words like you read the posts you were commenting on, nor the points that had been presented by various commenters on the original thread. When one of your arguments is demolished, you continue just repeating it until people have so thoroughly beaten it into the ground that it’s embarrassing, then you move to another flawed argument but you don’t bother acknowledging that your points have been rebutted.

This shows that your conclusions are not based on your arguments, since the arguments can be rebutted and your conclusions are untouched. Instead, you use whatever you have at hand to try to prop up your conclusions, namely that making efforts to address gamers who are not able-bodied straight white cis men is an affront to the latter, the only “true” gamers. Is there anything anyone could say or do that would lead you to say “Oh, I had not thought of that, or I didn’t know that, you make a good point?” I doubt it.

So the very essence of good-faith discussion is missing. You’re not here to exchange, but to restate your grievances. Do you harbour hope of changing my mind, or any of my readers’? If you did, you would try to convince rather than ignore and evade, wouldn’t you? And that requires listening as well as talking.

GemmaBut not only have you failed to make any valid points; you have failed to convince me or anyone else of the importance of your cause (able-bodied straight white cis men) compared to mine (inclusiveness). You see, there is no shortage of games, books, movies, comics, television shows and other fiction and non-fiction showing your constituency in starring roles; in fact, it’s hard to find anything else. Why do you object to a few depictions and mentions of anyone else?

The form of your comments suggests that you don’t know anyone who doesn’t look like you and you have convinced yourself that they do not exist. But I know real gamers, real people who are hurt by this forced invisibility. You have spent your efforts trying to keep difference at bay; I’ve spent mine — years of gaming and organizing conventions in many cities — trying to open the gaming community to newcomers. I started on this path because I wanted to spread a hobby I dearly love; now it has brought me in contact with a vast circle of fantastic gamers and even more wonderful friends. I sit at the table with people who are disabled, trans, non-white, people of different orientations and genders and origins, and we have memorable adventures in our shared imagined worlds. Saying no to inclusive language and illustrations is saying no to real people.

Is this really who you want to be, the guy who holds the gate against women, minorities, and marginalized people? This is your cause? “At least I defended futuristic super-submarines from wheelchair users and trans people”?

Cancer constellation in a circleI don’t think you bothered to read anything on my blog, but if you did you may have noticed that in the weeks since you started this kerfuffle, I’ve had to face my own mortality. My treatment is proceeding but the carcinoma is described as “aggressive”, so I have to seriously address the fact that I may not be here for very long. I asked myself whether it was worth bothering with stupid little game-related flame wars with the rest of my time.

And the answer is “Fuck yeah.”

Every day of our lives, we must act as the people we want to be if we want to be remembered that way. If I’m going into the ground soon, I want to leave the memory of one who tried to hold the door open for others to get in, not the one who closed the gates.

It saddens me that you prefer to be “sourd comme les pierres.”

Day 12, Cycle 1: Food is complicated

Crowd-sourcing time! I need help tracking my nutrient intake and I’m looking for recommendations for a decent phone app or spreadsheet.

I’m slow at recovering appetite. Most days’ food consumption last week has looked like this:

Not a lot there...
Not a lot there…

Today I was brash and asked for salmon so Edmund made this lovely plate for me, but I think I’ll take in about half:


I’m looking for nutrient intake tracking, not just calories or weight. I don’t want miracle diets, foods that ward against cancer, or anything like that — just good simple data management that would allow reasonable guesstimates based on portion size for typical food without too much fiddling on my phone.

Day 10, Cycle 1: Slowly, slowly…

2016-04-09 19.28.46Feeling a little stronger, able to sit up for an hour or two at a time between naps, trying to drink at least two litres of liquids a day, still struggling with appetite. But I boldly requested an omelette for dinner and Edmund made this for me.



Day 9, Cycle 1: Stab!

My energy and appetite tanked throughout the week. by Wednesday I had trouble making myself eat or drink, even to swallow medications. On Thursday I received a litre of fluids and some Zofran intravenously. (Zofran the better-known brand name of the anti-nausea medication most likely to be confused with an Electric Six tune, ondansetron.) Blood samples were eventually obtained despite collapsing veins, revealing low white blood cell (WBC) count. So today I learned to stab myself in the abdomen for subcutaneous injection of a WBC production stimulant.

Did you know that four pre-loaded syringes of this stuff is $2,286.50? It’s true.

2016-04-08 16.52.47



Day 6, Cycle 1: Scarves!

Friends have started sending me all sorts of lovely scarves. I am feeling too exhausted for a photo log but here is the one I pick for my Night Witches character. It was sent by Ysharros.




Day 4, Cycle 1

I had a pretty decent first weekend after chemotherapy, still feeling good if a little tired. The anti-nausea medications worked and I try to be a model patient. This is the summary:

Morning felinotherapy with Valentine
Morning felinotherapy with Valentine


Playing a scenario of Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Playing a scenario of Star Wars: Imperial Assault


Playing Downfall
Playing Downfall

Day 2 of first chemo cycle

Chemo haircut and #FlannelFriday
Chemo haircut and #FlannelFriday

TL;DR: I’m feeling well. No foolin’.

Pre-Treatment: I have been kept busy non-stop with medical appointments, bureaucratic processes for medical and disability insurances, and looking up information and resources. But I did schedule a haircut; this is what I look like and it’s taken the day after treatment, to prove that I’m doing well.

In the big chair: Yesterday I had a MUGA scan at the Nuclear Medicine department to check whether I had a heart, then I went to the Infusion Center for my first chemotherapy treatment. I was conscientious about following instructions on medication, hydration, food intake, etc. It was a long session because the first time the medical personnel administers each of the four medications at a reduce flow rate to monitor for adverse reactions. They provide you with pillows and pre-warmed blankets, juice, soups, etc. They are very attentive, friendly and professional.

Edmund had brought board and card games; some turned out to require too much space but we did play Race to Adventure! (Evil Hat Productions) and Mint Tin Pirates (subQuark Games). Having something to do not only passed the time faster but it really helped me not think about being sink. You know how when, getting on a boat, you sometimes start getting seasick just from worry about it or from seeing someone else ill? Keeping my mind occupied saves me from that.

The biggest hassle is when I have to go to the bathroom during infusion; I have to roll the whole IV drip and its attached monitors with me (they’re on batteries). The thing is heavy, cumbersome, and it moves like one of those damaged shopping carts at the grocery store. Do not like.

Cancer pagurus Linnaeus

Food and appetite: I went with some of dear friends for sushi farewell earlier this week because I’m forbidden from eating it during chemotherapy (depressed GI tract flora and immune system become more vulnerable to bacteria, etc.) I did order rolls that contained crab but refrained from making references to genus Cancer for the benefit of my table mates. I have not had any nausea or other unpleasant symptoms yet, except perhaps an early warning of acid reflux a few moments ago (the kind that usually don’t come to anything for me, but I will keep alert.)

Dumb luck, smart phone: I really appreciate having a smartphone right now, more than ever with the dumb luck of illness. I’m looking up information on treatment and funding, scheduling appointments, finding my destination for office visits, coordinating with friends, tracking my health record, snapping pictures of important documents, looking up personal information, showing my mom I’m doing well, playing silly little games to relax, and so much more.

Support network: I am so, so grateful for my husband and for my friends. I’m receiving wonderful help in so many forms. You have no idea how much even just well-wishes mean until the day you need to hear a friendly word. I love you all.