Jostens Breaks Through The Clutter

This afternoon, Olly Offal came home with this charming (and personalized!) flyer which practically promised eternal damnation and fewer college choices for not ordering a fifth grade yearbook.

Olly’s got many strengths, but communicating about school is not one of them. (The women’s national Olympic field hockey visited his elementary school a couple years ago, and didn’t crack his daily top three announcements, which were 1. What he ate for lunch, 2. How he did in kickball at recess and 3. If he got any strikes.) I give kudos to Jostens for effective flyer design because my child was panicked I did not order a yearbook that I didn’t know was available to order. (There weren’t any PTO announcements, which is how I learn about such things.)

Things That Got Olly in a Dither:





5. THE WORD DEADLINE (Mom’s a writer! She’s good with those!)

Other Documents I Wish Were Designed Like This

1. The dreaded reading log

2. Vocabulary and spelling lists

3. Permission slips

Jostens Breaks Through The Clutter

On Wednesdays We Use Mendelian Genetics to Try and Determine Our Blood Type

Oscar Offal doesn’t know his blood type, and he spent the last couple days researching genetic tables and trying to remember “that one time we did blood typing in freshman biology.”

After a day of furiously texting relatives, he came up with this chart:

We all have our guesses based on the above statistical analysis. Next, we’re going to try and predict Opal’s (I know my blood type, my mom’s and two siblings so we can extrapolate and figure my dad’s) and draw up a chart just for her.

Oscar ordered two blood type testing kits off Amazon because he was pledging a fraternity while taking freshman bio and is way too hazy on details to replicate the experiment.

On Wednesdays We Use Mendelian Genetics to Try and Determine Our Blood Type

Ugh, Travelers! (Spoilers Ahead.)

I just finished the third season of Travelers and I feel I’ve been emotionally manipulated.

The ending–that the Travelers program was a failure because even though people sent from the future prevented major environmental disasters couldn’t stop the original Traveler from sabotaging the entire scheme–was understandable, and it could serve as a series ending. But then we learn we spent the last three years watching the first version of a Travelers program and a second version was about to begin.

Black Mirror had an episode with a similar theme: a dating program went through many, many extremely realistic simulations to determine whether two people were right for each other. But! That same episode had the same people in all the simulations.

Throughout this Travelers season, the whole team has started to fray, so I can see how the Travelers program, or at least this team, could be considered a failure. At least two, Philip and Trevor, are falling apart, both physically and mentally. Marcy’s consciousness already had to be replaced once and her boyfriend stumbled right into a room with a nuclear bomb that he alone had to defuse. Mac’s wife figured out he wasn’t who he said he was. Carly lost custody of her child.

And I think it’s natural that the first person in the program figured out that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to go into the past based purely on the whims of a computer crunching out countless algorithms. However, this person had no way to go back to the future and give feedback. None of the Travelers have any idea if any of their missions succeeded in changing the future–and what it meant for the Director to completely abandon their timeline.

The final scene with David and Marcy (Marcy the nurse, who didn’t run afoul of the first Traveler and become disabled) was way out of left field for this show: These two people would have met and fell in love regardless of whether Marcy’s body was taken over by a person from the future. The whole point (and hope, really) of the show is that future events can be changed and nothing is static, and love (remember Mac and Carly were romantic partners in their future lives?) is beside the point.


Ugh, Travelers! (Spoilers Ahead.)

What I’ve Read (and Liked) This Week

Nearly four weeks after the New Year, and Online Offal finally gets around to her New Year’s resolution of Writing More.

Why haven’t I been writing?

  • My husband, Oscar Offal, took our youngest child Olly to the Farm Show and since then defense shields have been at full power against “We should look into beekeeping,” and the followup idea, “Fewer than 10 hives.”
  • One of our cats stopped grooming herself in the genital area and I’ve been at the vet describing stools in great detail.
  • I’ve fulfilled other New Year’s resolutions, including Trying to Cook More New Things (seriously, the Instant Pot lives up to the hype), which handily helps my family’s resolution of Rejecting New Things Online Offal Cooks.
  • I’ve been reading. I finished 44 books last year, not including books I don’t list on Goodreads because at points I needed the literary equivalent of food that was not good for me. I completed six books so far this year.

So as an end-of-the-week wrapup, before I start blogging more properly, here’s what I read online and really liked this week.

  1. Ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter Takes On the World’s Most Sadistic Endurance Race, by Sarah Barker. This race completely obliterates any solidarity normally found in typical extreme competitions. And as the article describes, you’re not only running against others, you’re running against yourself.
  2. Oregon Man Becomes First Person To Cross Antarctica Unaided, by Kate Davidson and Crystal Ligori. “I wanna prove that it’s not impossible,” O’Brady said. “Not just for myself but for others who are daring to dream greatly in their lives.” (I want to add that if Oscar Offal came to me with a dream of crossing Antarctica all by himself, I would pick out the 10 beehives myself.)
  3. The Weight I Carry, by Tommy Tomlinson. I thought Roxane Gay, in her memoir Hunger, did a better job explaining her body and why it got to be the way it is now, but Tomlinson is similarly adept at describing the basic indignities he suffers every day.
  4. My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley, by Shirley Wang. This gorgeous story is about an unlikely relationship that transcends Facebook friends and Twitter followers.


What I’ve Read (and Liked) This Week

Netflix and BBC’s Troy Falls Into Mediocrity


Image Source:

I have a deep love of the classics, although my experience skews toward Latin and the Aeneid, which are about the Romans. However, Romans were big fans of copying everything the Greeks did. Virgil, who wrote the Aeneid, was heavily influenced by the Greek blind poet Homer, and his Iliad and its sequel, the Odyssey.

It’s arguable that these two epic poems are the foundation of Western literature. And I can tell you that like the Aeneid, the Iliad and the Odyssey are really, really good. So I saw there was a joint BBC-Netflix production of Troy and I was ready to dig into eight episodes of siege-worthy glory.

But, for the first time in a really long time, I’ve been sorely disappointed by a BBC production. (If you look at the IMdB reviews, you’ll see others are a lot more salty than I am.)

Here are my issues:

Factual errors

Everyone knows that the fall of Troy is about Paris, prince of Troy, and Helen, who abandoned her husband Menelaus and their daughter in Sparta to be with Paris, sparking an international incident that led to a 10-year-siege. The city eventually falls when Trojans, starving, encounter a wooden horse on the beach they think the Greeks have deserted. They determine the horse is an offering to the sea god, Poseidon, and contains grain and bring the horse into the city walls. The horse also served as a vehicle for a select group of Greeks, who were unknowingly and personally escorted into enemy territory by the enemy. The army returns to the beach and Troy is destroyed.

(That’s a simplistic overview, I know.)

Paris has several brothers and a sister, Cassandra. According to Greek myth, Cassandra is cursed with the gift of foresight–yet no one believes her and writes her off as a madwoman. Apollo, the sun god, cursed her after she refused to sleep with him. In the miniseries, Cassandra has visions of the future as a child. Her parents are indulgent and although she lives in isolation as a teen and young adult, her sisters-in-law and Paris eventually turn to her for advice when the war starts to go south. However, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, who portrays Cassandra, does an excellent job and is well cast.

Before the Greeks leave for war, they offer a sacrifice to the goddess of the hunt, because they were hunting Helen. The priest gets a visit from the goddess, who determines that the usual fare of doves and other small animals are not enough and demands the daughter of King Agamemnon. It’s easily the most striking plot development in the early episodes of the season, and Odysseus spells out why: By killing his own daughter, Agamemnon will be in such pain he will be utterly despondent to his enemy; it will make him that much more of a ruthless killer. The priest refers to the goddess as Diana, which is the ROMAN name for Artemis, who the Greeks would have been trying to appease. That’s just downright sloppy and there’s no way that should have made it into the first draft of the script, much less the broadcast.

The Amazons eventually join the Trojans in fighting the Greeks. The Amazons, fierce female warriors, were so dedicated to battle they all chopped off their left breasts in order to more accurately hold and fire a bow and arrow. All of the Amazons in the series have two boobs.

Agamemnon recruits his allies and their armies from different city-states across Greece. Every single one of them speaks with a British accent. So do the Trojans.


Paris, in the poem, is superficial and flighty. He’s visited by Zeus and three goddesses: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, and is forced to choose a favorite. Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman in the world and after about 30 seconds Paris chooses her. Although the Greeks treated their gods as mightier than them, they still had mortal characteristics. Hera is a jealous harpy; Athena is wise and shrewd; Aphrodite is seductive. But in the miniseries, the whole thing is played off like Paris meeting four strangers in the woods and settling a minor dispute instead of a showdown with catastrophic consequences. There’s really nothing to differentiate them from humans, except they randomly show up places and only certain people can see them. As battle begins, Aphrodite and Athena bless soldiers on their respective sides, but it’s nothing special.

When we meet Menelaus and his wife, I was confused as to how Paris could seduce Helen so quickly. She’s smothered in jewels and she and her friends throw sex parties. Her husband is a mite condescending but he’s young and handsome and clearly adores her. There was little to no chemistry between the actors who played Paris and Helen. He gives quite a speech at his death, telling Menelaus that although he has Helen back, he’ll never have her love like Paris did, but that was too little, too late. I can’t overemphasize how important it was to cast these two roles correctly. Their relationship destroyed a family, their city and its citizens. (For a master class in sexual chemistry between two actors, see Rufus Sewell and Caterina Murino in the miniseries Zen.)

The Horse

I was so disappointed in the final episode, mainly because a lot of time in previous shows is devoted to showing how savvy and shrewd and manipulating Odysseus is. When Achilles refuses to fight because Agamemnon takes a slave he claimed for himself, Odysseus finds a way around it. After Achilles kills Hector (in retaliation for killing Achilles’ lover in battle) he grants Priam an audience and allows him 12 days of mourning. Odysseus has one of his men kill one of Achilles’ soldiers and made it look as though a Trojan did it, all but assuring Achilles’ return to war.

Paris kills Achilles, and immediately the Greeks’ chance of winning the war plummet. Paris convinces his brothers to attack their enemy’s encampment and comes across an empty beach with a horse.

  1. We know nothing of how Odysseus comes up with this idea.
  2. How does he convince Agamemnon to sign on and the others to stay hidden inside?
  3. How do they build it without the Trojans noticing it?


Image source: Press Reader

I give the series 5 out of 10 stars (Benjen Stark is a good Odysseus) but 0 out of 10 stars for that horse.



Netflix and BBC’s Troy Falls Into Mediocrity

Sorry for the Late Notice But Season Three of the Expanse Starts on SyFy Tonight

A random Twitter account I follow recommended The Expanse, a sci-fi noir thriller set 200 years in the future, when the first two seasons of the show became available on Amazon Prime.

It starts slow but within three epsiodes I was hooked. It has everything I like in a show in general: well-written, flawed, complex characters; an engaging plot. It also has phenomenal space battles, futuristic but completely feasible tech, a pretty dim but realistic vision of the military-industrial-government complex and the future in general, and EXTRA-SOLAR ALIENS, which may or may not be human hybrids. 

This article does a great job in explaining the plot and characters. It’s up there with Battlestar Galactica, which is my favorite sci-fi show of all time.

Sorry for the Late Notice But Season Three of the Expanse Starts on SyFy Tonight