Marvel Movie Marathon: Iron Man 2: I saw most of IM2 again a couple years ago and I thought it had held up a *lot* better than expected. My memory of it was that it really wasn’t very good, which is borne up by the fact that basically everybody seems to think it really wasn’t very good, but…actually, it’s pretty good.

It does, yes, have the problem of following very similar beats to the original film in terms of the Whiplash storyline, which ends with him in a giant mech just like Stane ended in. But outside of that…it’s pretty individualistic.

Tony’s storyline is…I mean, it’s a *disaster*. *Tony* is a disaster. He’s dying of palladium poisoning and he’s doing the world’s absolute worst job of trying to do right by people before he dies. He’s AMAZINGLY bad at it. SO BAD. It’s kind of wonderful. But you know what? Even if he’s a terrible person, a womanizer, a cad, insensitive, all of it…I would not be afraid if I was locked in a room with Tony Stark.

But Justin Hammer, in this movie? I would be terrified. He’s a lot of the reason I didn’t like the movie in the first place, because he’s SO unlikeable, so craven and glory-hungry and competitive. Tony without any of the charm or, frankly, the social skills. I would feel *threatened* by that man, if I was stuck in a room with him, because he doesn’t care at all about other people, only himself, and Tony, despite his flaws, does. Hammer would be perfectly okay with hurting me, deliberately, to get what he wanted; Tony would not. And in this #metoo era, that makes Hammer an *exceptionally* alarming villain, which I thought…really worked.

Mickey Rourke’s Vanko really borders on this side of tragic–I think with a little more finessing they could have made the character heartbreaking. It wasn’t what they wanted to do, but I think they *could* have.

And then there’s poor Pepper, who once again gets the rigid, upset thankless female part. A thing they did well in this one, though, was end up with Pepper and “Natalie” on the same side (a decision that I like but am not confident was well telegraphed in the actual movie; it seems like an abrupt flip on Pepper’s part rather than being organic). I just kind of wish there’s been a moment of softening or forgiveness toward Christine Everheart, who is, in her way, as caught up in Tony’s nonsensical world as Pepper is, and it’s not Christine’s fault that Tony is who he is. She just went with it, and really, who wouldn’t? I’d rather have seen Pepper sort of sympathetic to her than openly hostile.

Gosh, I forgot how very *bouncy* Black Widow’s hair is in the “I kick everybody’s ass in the hallway” scene. IM2 is my least favourite incarnation of Natasha (and holy god, she really slimmed down for that catsuit; she’s not as tiny in the other films, nor does she need to be), but it’s hard to not remember the sheer glee of seeing her just *waste* all those dudes, particularly with Happy in the background whaling away on the one. “I got him!”

I was pretty darn unhappy about the fact that Terrance Howard’s Rhodey was recast at the time, but I’ve come around to where I find Howard the anomaly and I now kinda wish I could’ve seen Don Cheadle as Rhodey in the first movie, because I do love him. (My recollection is Howard wanted more money, and my opinion was, and indeed is, that he probably deserved more, pretty well regardless of what he was getting paid, and that was BEFORE the revelations about how shockingly underpaid white actresses are compared to white actors, and how magnitudes-more-shockingly-underpaid actors of color are than white women started coming into the more general consciousness, but I’ve also since learned that he is apparently…not a nice person…at all…which I suspect may have had *more* to do with him being replaced than the money, which can often be a convenient excuse.)

So the upshot is that IM2 is really worth a re-watch, which is a pretty pleasant discovery!

My friend Chrysoula (you should read her books) notified me a couple weeks ago about this to-do/scheduling app she’d found, that she thought seemed like it had many of the features I’ve been looking for in a scheduling app. It’s called SkedPal, and it’s…it’s pretty good, guys.

It uses time blocking, which I’m…getting the hang of… :) …and it’s pretty flexible, in that you can plug a bunch of projects in and it arranges them into your work time block (or whatever you assign it to). You can teach it you’d rather do This Kind Of Thing Now and That Kind Of Thing Later, and it allows you to defer something or skip it for the day. It lets you mark projects as partially done, and it groups small tasks, like watering the plants and changing the kitty litter, into a block together automatically. You can set recurring tasks that happen daily, weekly, monthly, and anything in between. You can tell it how long you think it’ll take you to do a task, and it spreads the task out over your work hours for however long it takes (although apparently after about 20ish hours it thinks you should “break your project into smaller tasks”, which isn’t helpful when the project is “draft a book” which genuinely takes 120 hours or whatever). Oh, and to my delight, it has a little red line that rolls down through the day so you can see where in the day you are with regard to your tasks. :)

It syncs PRETTY WELL with Google calendar, which is a HUGE plus in my book, because that means I can look at my phone and have my calendar up and it’s got all the stuff I want to do that day, even the recurring “study spanish, meditate” etc kinds of things. I haven’t tried putting something into the calendar first and seeing if it turns up on SkedPal, but that’s a little less important to me.

It has some issues that frustrate me. I haven’t been able to figure out how to properly get it to have a Project Deadline that…IDK, like, agrees with? the individual task deadlines? It seems like if it’s got a project deadline it gets caught up in THAT being the end-all-be-all deadline even if the smaller tasks within have sooner deadlines. It’s confusing to me, anyway. And it doesn’t seem to update across platforms very well, although it’s supposed to ‘instantaneously’, and it appears to need to be restarted daily in order to know what day it is. If I try to scroll up on my tablet, which obviously has a touch screen, it drags things around and doesn’t ask if that’s what I want to do, and leaves me with no obvious way to undo it, which is very annoying.

There are many things I wish it did, but honestly, it covers a *lot* of the territory I wish-listed in I need an app for this. I’d absolutely freaking LOVE it if it would ding pleasantly at the end of a scheduled window, or–and this would probably require a higher level of AI than we’ve got right now–if it would say, “Your time for this project is up. Would you like to finish, or continue for another half hour?” and then automatically reschedule everything if I said “gimme another half hour”.

The latter is probably asking too much, but the former–a sound effect that I can enable or disable as I wish, to announce the end of one project window and the start of another (ideally different sounds, individually programmable, IN MY DREAMS with something that encourages me to schedule a break between projects (“We’ll start your next project in 15 minutes!”)–seems well within the bounds of possibility, and I think it’s potentially awesome.

It’s not quite as pretty as I’d like, although as I’m getting more projects in and assigning them individual colors it’s getting prettier. I’d like round corners, is basically what it amounts to. :)

Oh, and I can assign colors to each project, and then the project is presented on the calendar in those colors, but I’d like it to also have the project NAME in the colored columns. For example, right now I have a pretty blue “write chapters” which is…actually not super great. I’d like it to have Timestamp: Project Name: Task all in the pretty blue window, because if I’ve got 15 projects and “write chapters” is necessary for 4 of them, it’d be really a lot more helpful to glance at it and have it say “11:30am: SORCERY & SOCIETY : write chapters” than for me to have to label each “write chapters” with the book it’s part of. I mean, the fact that it’s in the project folder, to me, is the information about what book it’s part of, so the project needs to be labeled on the calendar.

Now: this sounds like a very complainy kind of post, but that’s because I’m nitpicking. It is genuinely the closest thing I’ve found to my wishlist scheduling app. It’s insanely robust–I haven’t covered the half, or even the quarter, of what it does, really–and the guts of it are really solid. I think this thing is going to be really good for me. I think it’s…helping me to grasp the idea that I can’t actually do everything This Month, which is my perpetual belief. I mean, I know I can’t, but seeing the little calendar go “you’ve got a conflict! Is the plan changing?” is…useful. It’s…I’m really still getting the feel for it, but if I continue to use it I think it may be *really* good for me.

I am, in fact, sufficiently convinced of that that I’ve anted up for the *not inconsiderable* expense (it comes out to about €16/m) of a subscription. If I actually continue to use it past 6-12 weeks, I’m very likely to go to the year-long subscription, which is quite a lot cheaper. I’m, like, tentatively super excited about it, and I really kinda can’t wait to see how it works out over several weeks instead of just a couple.

Also, I’ve had a few questions–for one thing, it kept assigning “w/o” to things, which UTTERLY BAFFLED ME, because to me “w/o” means “without” and it made No Sense At All, and then it turned out their subscription system assumes the email address you’re paying with is the one you’re using as your SkedPal account, which is not true in my case–so I’ve contacted their support, both on Twitter and via their support email, and it has been EXCELLENT. They’ve responded quickly and throughly and sorted the questions/problems out swiftly. (It turns out that in Business Speak, “w/o” means “week of”, which is obvious now that I know it but which was truly bewildering before. Given my druthers I would not have a “week of” option in it, because I’d rather it just popped up on the appropriate days saying “get some reading done today!” or “write your Marvel movie blog post today” for things that are scheduled weekly/multiple times during a week, because I don’t like how it lays out the “week of” tasks, BUT AT LEAST I NOW UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS. :))

It looks like this, which should let you see what I mean by “project name isn’t in the timestamp so there are random “write chapters” things in there” and stuff. There are also smaller tasks like “marvel movie blog post” which look like they’ve got all the information they need, but in fact they go under the General Work project and I’d like it to say that, too, y’know?

Overall, though, man, Skedpal is a really strong contender for my I Need An App For This scheduler.

Frosty Cross

Today was hard. It would have been my mom’s 69th birthday, her second since her death. This year was actually harder than last year, possibly because my entire friends list was overwhelmed with tributes and sorrow over Ursula Le Guin’s death, and, as someone said, grief stacks. It’s also that I miss her terribly, every day, and it’s just been…hard.

Since it’s her birthday and everything, I thought I’d mention the dance scholarship fund we set up in her name. Our goal now is $4000, an additional $1500 above where we are, which would extend the scholarship for another three years. I have to update the goal there, but $4K is our goal now.

We gave out the first scholarship last year, and the next one will be given out in May. We got pretty emotional about it last year, and I’m glad it’s something we’re doing. If you can, and are moved to, help out, that would be…a really wonderful, generous act. Thank you all. ♥

I’ve been threatening for many years to dye my hair blue. Last week I picked up a bottle of temporary hair dye. I had hopes it would stick mostly to the grey, of which I have plenty:

although I had been totally unable to find anything on the internet which suggested it might. After some dithering, I applied it:

i think it's a good look

To my delight, it in fact did a pretty damn fine job of sticking to the grey without blueing the rest of it up much:

Also to my delight and relief, it does appear to be temporary. Two washes and it’s almost gone (it’s supposed to last 7-12, but I’d rather have it gone faster than not at all). I don’t know what my long term plans are for it, but it was interesting to try and kind of a neat little effect for a couple of days.

Unrelatedly, I popped by the Disney store in Dublin while birthday shopping for my husband and found that their Black Panther figurine set features THREE WOMEN!!!!!

I may have made a noise normally only audible to dogs. Or, in this case, perhaps cats.

They also had individual T’Challa and Shuri figures:

*screams gleefully*

We had a small but pleasant birthday for Ted, in which German chocolate cake and Marvel figures featured heavily, and I began knitting a scarf I owe someone.

I did not own a cat, the last time I knitted something….

Recent Reads: Strong Female Protagonist (Vols 1 & 2)

I got volume 2 of SFP for Christmas, which totally surprised me, even though months ago (perhaps longer) Ted had said to me, “SFP Kickstarter! Should I? It won’t be out until December!” and I said, “Oh, yes! It can be a nice Christmas present for me!” And it was! A very surprising one! :)

I re-read the first one leading up to v2, as it had been a while. One of the things I enjoy about sort of…early career comics? is watching the art style develop. (This is why I ended up reading Questionable Content, and why it makes me want to do SOME kind of little web comic of my own…) SFP’s art is still pretty rough at the end of v1, but it’s matured a *lot* by the end of v2, so that was kind of fun and exciting to watch.

To be frank, I liked the story of v1 better. V2, *especially* the first half, felt very didactic to me, and specifically didactic toward an audience that I presume is already predisposed to agree with its thesis. Very much a case of “the people who most need to read this probably won’t,” although, I don’t know, perhaps–hopefully–it is in fact reaching people for whom its thoughts are important and revelatory.

That said, halfway through v2 there’s a marked improvement. Honestly, v2 feels like v2 & v3, but left on its own the first half is *so* lecture-y I can’t imagine many people picking up a third volume voluntarily. They wisely avoided that problem by making it all one book, and the second half was quite enjoyable, especially the philosophical arguments chapter, which I enjoyed enormously both in content and in structure (I can’t remember which philosopher’s strategy they employed, but I recognized it as a philosophical structure and was ridiculously pleased with them).

Overall I…I appreciate what they’re trying to do. They’re taking the idea I played with in Take A Chance, which is: “what if superheroes were real, how would they deal with actually functioning in the real world?” and have pushed it much, much farther than I was interested in doing. They’re tackling a lot of big ideas and trying to push a narrative that tells us, simply, that we can be heroes. All of us. And I love that. I love what they’re aiming for, and so although I feel that they stumbled somewhat in implementation with volume 2, they’re offering an inspiring message that I believe strongly in. Ultimately, I look forward to more.