Thursday, July 30, 2015

Trek Thursday: Mirror, Mirror

#13: Mirror, Mirror

In case you forgot: Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura get transported into a parallel universe and an evil version of the Federation.

Just like pilots are fun to watch to see what the show could have been, "Mirror, Mirror" is fun to watch to see what the fictional Enterprise could have been. I like to think that everyone's evil counterpart is basically the same person, just in entirely different circumstances: Kirk might well resort to exploiting alien technology to climb ahead, Sulu might well be a spying rat and probable rapist (remember how he grabbed Uhura in "The Naked Time"?), but evil Spock remains dedicated to science and logic above all else, no matter what.  (Quite the "Sieg Heil" the evil Empire Starfleet has going on.)

No one really holds the idiot ball in this episode, either, which is rare for a TOS episode. Kirk and the gang immediately suss to what's going on and make plans to deal with it accordingly. Likewise, the Federation crew aboard the good Enterprise do the sane thing and throw the entire maniacal landing party in the brig, where they belong. The only idiot ball gets handed off to McCoy, arguably, when he insists on trying to save evil Spock, but sometimes being a good person and being true to yourself is more important than anything else. (I also like to think that deep down, Bones is so fond of Spock and his green blood and pointy ears that he can't bear to let even an evil version of him die.)

But the whole romance with Marlena is just ehhh.  I'm beginning to think that I'm just allergic to any romance in TOS at all, ever. I guess she serves a practical purpose in making Kirk aware of the Tantalus device, and in evening the odds in the fight between the good landing party and evil Sulu,

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trek Thursday: By Any Other Name

#14: By Any Other Name

In case you forgot: Aliens from Andromeda have hijacked the Enterprise to help them conquer and colonize (in that order) the Milky Way. The Power Trio and Scotty defeat them with the power of being human.

The episode gets off to a strong start and keeps it up. The Power Trio comes up with a whole host of plans that meet with varying levels of success: getting a hold of the Kelvans' weapon, getting Spock on the ship, the suicide trigger, and finally convincing the Kelvans that they're better off in their alien bodies. While Kirk seems to be the most essential part of the puzzle on that last one—by seducing Kelinda and making Rojan jealous—everyone else on the ship who isn't a styrofoam polygon helps, too. McCoy gets one of the Kelvans hopped up on stimulants while Scotty drinks another under the table. Arguably those scenes are comic relief and filler, but they do serve a purpose. After all, the more experience the Kelvans have being human (as opposed to the galactic octopi they apparently "really" are), the easier it will be for them to accept Rojan's new mission: peaceful colonization with the help of the Federation.

But instead of giving the rest of the crew their due, it's another episode where Kirk saves the day with the power of his mighty mojo. I like that the humans and the Kelvans come to a diplomatic and peaceful understanding, without the use of any weapons, but it would have been immensely satisfying for drunk Scotty to hand over the alien weapon to Kirk to use against the Kelvans. Or, in a nice continuity nod, some of the humans get crazy psychic powers (remember how they crossed the edge of the galaxy in "Where No Man Has Gone Before"? And Kirk even references it in the episode!) and use those to immobilize the Kelvans.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I'm Playing: Hatoful Boyfriend

I did it. I broke down and started playing Hatoful Boyfriend. I had added it to my Steam wishlist a while ago, and then JV surprised me while I was on my trip and bought me a whole bunch of those games for my birthday, including this surreal pigeon-oriented dating sim.

I'm late to the game on this one, but for anyone who hasn't played it yet, a summary: you are a human in the unnamed but not-too-distant future. There aren't many humans now. A deadly strain of avian flu devastated the entire world, but it made birds super smart in a relatively short period of time. Now almost all of the remaining culture and civilization on Earth is bird-based, with humans relegated to a second-class status and a strained relationship between the two prevailing.

You are a sophomore, and the only human, at the prestigious St. Pigeonation Academy for obscure political reasons. Everyone else is a bird. There are the typical shounen portraits for almost all of your suitors, but they are actually birds. You can even turn off the portraits if you want, for extra surreal effect.

Nor is the only joke in the game just, "Hah, hah! Everyone's a bird!" Pudding, mad science, snark, and puns abound.

This is my first and probably only foray into the world of anime dating sims. While Hatoful Boyfriend is consistently hilarious with its bizarre interspecies romance, the normal sort of dating sim isn't really my thing.

I haven't played through to all of the endings yet, but I've done almost all of them, and I've romanced every bird (just some have multiple endings). I think my favorite suitor is Okosan (pictured above, demanding to fight in the nude).

Have you played Hatoful Boyfriend? Do you have any other humor/parody games to recommend?

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Design: Woven Hemp

Go on, who among you didn't hit a hemp and/or friendship bracelet phase in your youth? I know you did. I did, too.

After I bought some hemp for my knotted twine and (faux) pearls idea, I had a lot left over. Like, a lot. And I could have done more, but I wanted to branch out. My big issue with that design is that twine and hemp are too heavy to string through actual pearls, in addition to most conventionally-drilled beads, so if I wanted to go for that look I would have to use something imitation. (The ones pictured in that image are plastic.)

Rather than use imitation pearls, I decided to see what else I could do with these supplies. I've made a few wrap bracelets, like this blue and black pi piece, but that was about it. Then I remembered all the bracelets I would weave over a couple of summers at the beach. A bit of Googling over how to make a square knot, and I was back in business, though I was surprised at much I remembered!

A black and gold woven hemp pi bracelet. Math jewelry is a unique gift for graduation, birthdays, or teachers!
Pi. My square knots need a little practicing, though.

A black and hot pink DNA double helix spiral bracelet. Science jewelry makes a unique birthday or graduation gift for biology teachers or geneticists!
Yet another DNA bracelet. I'm just seeing double helix spirals everywhere!

I don't know if this is a style I want to continue to offer. I like the wood and hemp look but I wonder if it's too much of a departure from my usual style?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Science Saturday: The Power of Writing

Of course, this is a very particular kind of writing, but it goes to show how being able to express yourself with words, even at a basic level, can help focus your thinking and build focus towards personal goals.

NPR: The Writing Assignment That Changes Lives

A summary, for the link phobic:

Jordan Peterson teaches in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto. For decades, he has been fascinated by the effects of writing on organizing thoughts and emotions.


"The act of writing is more powerful than people think," Peterson says.

Most people grapple at some time or another with free-floating anxiety that saps energy and increases stress. Through written reflection, you may realize that a certain unpleasant feeling ties back to, say, a difficult interaction with your mother. That type of insight, research has shown, can help locate, ground and ultimately resolve the emotion and the associated stress.

At the same time, "goal-setting theory" holds that writing down concrete, specific goals and strategies can help people overcome obstacles and achieve.

Peterson's class based around this subject has had significant benefits. These same concepts have been applied in universities in the Netherlands, leading to a near-complete closing of the performance gap between foreign students at risk for "stereotype threat" and native and/or Western students.

I'm not at all surprised by these findings, though I do think there probably needs to be more research done? But speaking from personal experience, I've found that journaling about fears, goals, and anxieties helps me see them for what they are and develop strategies for accomplishing/conquering them. Not to mention I am an incorrigible list-maker, especially when I feel stressed and overwhelmed. There must be all kinds of stuff that lights up in your brain while you write—arguably even more when you write by hand, though of course not everyone enjoys writing by hand as much as I do—that help you calm down and think of creative solutions.

Dr. Peterson has done a lot of interesting work, but these above ideas of "self-authoring" are explored in material he has for sale (I guess you gotta make a buck where you can).

Do you do much self-reflective writing? Do you think it's helped you succeed?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Empath

#15: The Empath

In case you forgot: The Power Trio are trapped in some weird lab with aliens and a woman who can't talk.

This episode gets a lot of flak, but I really like it. I'm not afraid to admit it! The twist that the aliens are running an experiment to see if the mute woman's race is worth saving is some nice piece of philosophical sci-fi. The way that episode builds to that reveal is nice—for a while it seems like the aliens just might be sadists without any kind of purpose—as is Kirk's speech to them at the end. Hero points also go to McCoy for refusing to let the empath heal him, preferring to die himself than to put her in danger. He takes that Hippocratic oath pretty seriously.

A race of beings who communicate through pure feelings and sensations without the use of any intermediaries like language is also a cool idea (that doesn't get explored at all, but still). What would they do for fun? Would they have anything resembling art or music? Would their entertainment be something like "emotional concerts" put on by beings of unusually strong feelings?

That said, I can see why this episode's not a beloved fan favorite. "Gem"? Really? Aside from the rather lackluster set, the aliens are also kind of needless jerks at the end. Gem's obviously passed the test as they initially set it to be: she was willing to sacrifice herself to save someone else, and it was pretty much McCoy's doing that prevented her from sealing the deal, yet they still insist that she failed? But it gives Kirk a chance to make a nice speech, so, not too bad.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

DNA Maille Bracelet 3.0

Earlier this year, I started looking at maille projects and thinking about how I could use them for my own nerdy purposes. I love beading and all, and I always will, but I think it's important to branch out and try new techniques and styles. It's the mark of a dedicated artist and it's also just good for business. After all, not everyone is into beads!

I decided on maille because I had a huge surplus of jump rings (not so much anymore...) and because it's a totally different look from beads. Plus, one of my partners in craft is huge into maille so I had a personal resource I could tap any time I had questions or problems.

One of the first weaves I came across was the 4-in-1 spiral, which I loved because it looks exactly like a piece of DNA. But the spiral shape of that weave is difficult (impossible?) to maintain unless you lock it somehow—that is, unless you make it one loop—so I looked into other spiral weaves, and came up with DNA bracelet 1.0 and DNA bracelet 2.0 using "This Is Not Food."

DNA bracelet 1.0 (left) and 2.0 (right)

I was happy with them, especially 2.0, but the 4-in-1 spiral still had a hold on me. I was busy with other things, though, so I had to put solving that particular problem aside.

Now I'm not as busy, though. A couple nights ago I decided to sit down and see if I couldn't try out a simple solution: make a large spiral loop that would lock the shape into place, then add a clasp at either end (effectively making a double-stranded bracelet).

DNA biology genetics bracelet jewelry gift
DNA bracelet 3.0

I think it turned out fantastically! Though I still have a few jump rings to tighten up, of course.

DNA biology genetics bracelet jewelry gift

Here it is in action. Even from a distance you can see that the spiral is maintaining its shape.

The whole thing took around two hours, from opening all of the rings (I used 170!) to adding the clasp. My goal is to trim that time down to an hour and a half. It should be achievable; I spent a long time figuring out the best way to close the loop. I did it incorrectly the first couple of times, meaning that half of the bracelet spiraled while the other half kept twisting into Jens Pind Linkage, which I think is kind of ugly.

What do you think? Which one do you like better: bracelet 1, bracelet 2, or bracelet 3?

Monday, July 13, 2015

101 in 1001: Round 3

My second 101 in 1001 list sort of petered out towards the end. I was updating it for a month or two after it was over—that's how well I was keeping track of time!

For those of you new to the concept, 101 in 1001 is simply a list of 101 things to accomplish in the next 1001 days. Them palindromes. I've done two of these lists so far and I think it's a good way to give myself direction and goals in life. I don't know about you, but I'm really bad at setting goals for myself—syllabi and reading lists are some of the biggest things I miss about being a student. Sitting down and writing goals for myself is a really useful organizing experience.

You'll notice that the list (after the jump) is only halfway complete. My first list taught me that it's better to keep your options open rather than rush to fill up the list with 101 goals right away. You're going to be working on this project for something like three years—there will be things that no longer work for you by the end of that time frame. There will be others that weren't important when you wrote the list but will become important over time.

I've already finished one goal, which is promising! In the time between the end of my last list and the beginning of this one, I finished cycling to Rauros Falls! I ended up deciding to go to Mordor first, and I'm about 70 kilometers in (out of 700+).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Science Saturday: Avogadro Bracelet

I'm back from my trip and feeling refreshed! Before work picks up again, I'm taking the time to get some crafting done. Here's one bracelet I finished:

Light blue Avogadro's Number chemistry science bracelet from Kokoba.
Avogadro's Number in light blue.
 I also got a new camera while I was on vacation. I don't know if you can tell from that end, but it's now much, much easier to take pictures. The photography still isn't my favorite part (if it were, I'd be a photographer) but after playing around with the new camera, it's safe to say that I'm not going to dread taking photos anymore!

Science chemist chemistry unique birthday graduation gift
 The toggle is secure, but easy to put on one-handed. It seems like people never think about "ease of use" when designing bracelets!

This was almost another pi bracelet, but I decided that I have plenty of pi jewelry in my stash for now. Aside from experiments with double helices reminiscent of DNA, I've been neglecting the sciences recently. So, I decided to change things up and go with some chemistry: Avogadro's number, to be precise. 

In case you forgot: Avogadro's number is a physical constant; the number of constituent particles (atoms or molecules), that are contained in a mole of a substance. Since it is a physical constant, its value varies a bit; rather, there comes a point where it is difficult to calculate. The official CODATA value is 6.022140857 x 10^23. This bracelet uses a truncated version (6.0221419) though I can't seem to find my source for that. Anyway!

blue bracelet science anniversary jewelry gift
The smaller beads are faceted little 4 mm blue lace agate, while the larger nuggets are blue chalcedony.

Working with physical constants (which is what Avogadro's Number is) (my fingers keep wanting to type Avogadrio and I don't know why!) can be tricky, since the digits are limited. Physical constants aren't like mathematical irrationals and they don't conveniently go on and on forever, so I can't really just pick and choose where I stop. Sometimes I need to play a lot with bead size and patterns to get an acceptable length, and this time was no exception. You're looking at the third pattern I worked with, but it comes together nicely at a total length of 21 cm, or just around 8 inches—a little longer than standard bracelet length, but not awkwardly big. It's a great gift option for someone who's usually sized out of bracelets, or to wear as a stackable.

For sale as of now; to be coming to my currently-empty Etsy store by the end of the month!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Spinoffs I'd Like To See

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade

It's that time again—5 Fandom Friday! This week's questions are about spin-offs. Let's just say that I have some opinions...

5. Anything else in the Jade Empire universe. Literally anything.

I love the hell out of this game. How many times can I say that? Infinite, I guess. This one would be more of a sequel than a spinoff but I don't even care. BioWare needs to back off the Mass Effect/Dragon Age/KotOR cash cows and do more with this brilliant world/combat system they created...ten years ago. *cries into her beer*

4. Gamora's origins story (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Though without the "rape as a tragic back story" trope, please.

3. Speaking of ensemble movies, can we please just have a fucking Black Widow movie already? (Avengers)

I'm counting it as a spinoff since it would be a standalone movie after the ensemble one.

2. Whatever the hell Troy is doing (Community)

He's on a boat with LeVar Burton, after all. They must be getting up to some wacky adventures (besides getting captured by pirates).

1. Also, whatever the hell Shirley is doing (Community)

Or the parody spinoff they proposed at the beginning of season 6. I'd watch that, too. (I can't watch the new Odd Couple reboot, though; I love Yvette Nicole Brown but not enough to beg for crumbs of a bit part in a show that's painfully unfunny.)

What spin-offs would you love to see?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Trek Thursday: Mudd's Women

#16: Mudd's Women

In case you forgot: The Enterprise saves Harvey Mudd and his cargo of lovely ladies, intended to be colonists' wives, from certain doom. Mudd and his mail-order brides decide they'll make more money marrying the miners on Rigel 2, Enterprise's new destination to replenish their cracked lithium crystals. After some drama—the women are apparently hideous without a "Venus drug"—or are they really?—the miners get wives and the Enterprise gets lithium crystals.

Harvey Mudd is the only non-Enterprise character to appear in more than one TOS episode, and it's easy to see why. Roger C. Carmel takes what would have been moderately entertaining, potentially irritating role as a sci-fi/swashbuckler crossover character and makes it great. It's nice to have someone else around to be sillier than Kirk and, really, more palatable and likable in the process. Contrarily, if you don't care for Mudd, this episode isn't going to be a whole lot of fun. The rest of the episode takes itself about as seriously as Carmel takes himself; the stripper-esque saxophone music that accompanies all of the women in Mudd's cargo is the perfect touch, and Spock's growing frustration with everyone's infatuation with them is great to watch. In a surprising twist, though, it's not the ultra-logical, ultra-objective Vulcan who questions the women's inexplicable magnetism, but my boy Leonard (with some help from his medical scanner).

Yet, as unabashedly silly as the episode starts, it still manages to talk about the relatively heavy issue of social expectations of beauty and the price women pay for not conforming...kind of. I wouldn't expect a series as chilly towards women to have a really nuanced "space sexism is bad" episode (contrast all the "space racism is bad" episodes), but whether or not Roddenberry wanted to talk about that, the topic comes up kind of out of necessity. Plus Eve and Childress exchange some really great lines that feel very natural and not at all as melodramatic as they could have been with other actors. The two of them interacting make for some very real, very human moments.

The Venus drug is such a frustrating plot point and, for me, is where this episode goes down the drain. Obviously the drugs do something—they set off McCoy's medical scanner—so the idea at the end that merely having a little confidence is just as effective falls pretty flat. If you pretend that the ugly make-up the women get when the drugs wear off is supposed to be a visual representation of how they feel (or how they feel like they look), it makes a little more sense, but that seems a bit of an artsy stretch.

Childress's refusal to hand over the lithium crystals in the middle of the little cocktail party mixer they have going on borders on incomprehensible and seems nothing more than a plot necessity to keep the Enterprise (and therefore us) there long enough for Eve's hit of the Venus drug to wear off. What's backassery doing in an episode as good as this?!

While above I mentioned I was happy to see an episode address feminism and gender issues at all (and I am), the fact that Eve still has to be pretty at the end (even if it's only due to her own confidence) is disappointing. But—it's TOS, I'll take what I can get.

Speaking of Eve: would the men of the Enterprise really be that taken by Mudd's women? The ship is a coed workplace, so it's not like they haven't seen a woman in years and years.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Read: The Martian

In the not-too-distant future, NASA (and other national space agencies?) have solved the problems of manned missions to Mars. Mark Watney is a member of one such mission, stranded on Mars after some patches of bad luck. The Martian concerns Watney's attempts to keep himself alive and an international mission to bring him back. (Um, spoiler I guess, but they figure out pretty quickly that Watney's alive.)

The Martian, originally a thing Weir wrote for shits and giggles and only put out on Amazon because people asked him to, has been blowing up in certain areas of the book blogosphere. It won a GoodReads Choice award in 2014, became a national bestseller, and is now slated to hit the big screen (starring Matt Damon, natch).

Good on you, Weir. You're living the dream.

Out of the scant few self-published novels I've read, The Martian definitely outclasses them all—probably because once it got picked up by Crown/Random House it was subjected to competent, professional criticism. That said, "the best self-published book I've read" is a pretty low bar. If The Martian stands out in that respect, it's otherwise much overhyped.

My biggest problem with The Martian is Watney. He is obnoxious and lacking in any emotional development, which I guess when you're reading a novel written by a space travel nerd is bound to happen. Don't get me wrong; I admire Weir's commitment to accuracy and detail. It's obvious that this is his jam and I can get behind that. But we never see anything beyond Watney's unflappable exterior, mostly because it seems like there's nothing there. There's never much HOLY SHIT I'M LOST ON MARS despair, just snark over his crewmates' poor taste in music and television. He treats the problems that could leave him to face a slow, terrifying death with an engineer's detached interest. And I don't think it's because Weir wanted to write that kind of character, as some people may argue; it's because Weir himself was more interested in solving hypothetical problems than writing about someone's inner journey, and the novel suffers because of it. Someone should have stepped in and managed that during the revision/editing process, but no one did. I guess they thought the book's target audience would be a bunch of other proto-autistic space nerds who find technical problems more interesting than people problems?

It pains me to write all of that because really, this should be the kind of hard SF that would have a perfect home on this blog. I really, really, really wanted to like it. But as someone who is just as invested in good writing as good science, I can't.

On the other hand, I'm glad that I can take this time to pimp out a short story from a back issue of Analog (November 2014), "Persephone Descending," that deals with more or less the same concept. It's the near future and countries have begun colonizing and mining planets and moons. Newly-formed Quebec (the separatists finally won) have decided to take the hostile and unprofitable Venus for themselves, to make a name for their new country. Without any valuable resources to mine, Quebec sets up research stations in the high atmosphere, opting for "contributions to science" rather than "profitable raw materials."

Marie-Claude is an engineer who ends up stuck in the unexplored lower atmospheres of Venus. She has the same engineering genius as Watney, and none of the snark or unbelievably cavalier attitude. "Persephone Descending" is everything The Martian should have been but isn't. The link I gave above has an excerpt, but not the full story. I don't know where else you can fin the full story except to try to find this particular Analog back issue.

But, back to The Martian. Don't go in expecting any kind of character study or serious drama. Go in expecting Weir to set himself up with a bunch of problems, all of which have feasible though impossibly clever solutions. Like a whodunit or a logic puzzle. Anything more than that and you're bound to be disappointed.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Favorite Aliens

Oh man, where to start on this?? I'm actually starting this early so I have time to think about it.

(I'm also back from vacation! Hi!! Back to commenting more and reading more now that I have solid Internet.)

5. Klaatu (The Day the Earth Stood Still)

There are a lot of mid-century science fiction features I could have picked, but my pinko radical pacifist politics means that The Day the Earth Stood Still, despite being rather anvilicious, is one of my favorites. Sure, it's born of typical science fiction egotism (humans are so important that alien races give a shit about us! we are capable of being a threat to alien life that would no doubt be intellectually and technologically superior to us!), but I appreciate the fact that filmmakers pressed on with the project even though the Army refused to help them because the movie was too pacifist or un-American or whatever.

Finally, though, I like Klaatu. For a guy who had to deal with a planet full of idiots, he handled it with tact, patience,

4. Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy)

AxelBorsch, via DevArt

I started this list on Thursday night, and didn't come back to it until after dinner on Friday. Now, dinner is always accompanied by a movie or TV show with us, and this week JV decided on Guardians of the Galaxy. I am slow to a lot of things, including superhero movies. I also haven't read the comics (if it's not self-contained graphic novel or collection, I'm not interested, sorry). I went into the movie not expecting much, and it delivered basically what I was expecting, but I loved the character design and personality of Groot.

3. Spock (Star Trek)

I mean, it's Spock.

Only semi-related to Spock, t's time for Kill Fuck Marry, ladies. Your choices are Spock, Picard, and Riker (beard or no, it's up to you). Who do you choose?

2. Observer/Brain Guy (Mystery Science Theater 3000)

If there's a chance for MST3K to make it on a 5 Fandom Friday, it'll happen. I think Observer is a great mad and the comic timing between Bill Corbett's Brain Guy and Mary Jo Pehl's Pearl is great. (I love Kevin Murphy, and Tom Servo is my favorite bot, but Professor BoBo ground my gears ever since I was kid. Sorry, Kevin!)

1. Ford Prefect (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

From LouiseDade on Flickr

What else can I say? He's Ford fucking Prefect. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy blew my mind the first time I read it (middle school, as part of my aforementioned Reading Olympics activity) and...that's all there is to say? Unflappable, competent, but nice enough to take Arthur Dent with him before the world ends. He edges out Observer/Brain Guy, though just barely, by virtue of being a little cooler and a little more adventurous. If you had to break down my friendships in terms of a Ford Prefect/Arthur Dent relationship, I'm much more like Dent—I guess that's why I like Ford so much?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Naked Time

#17: The Naked Time

In case you forgot: Most of the crew is drunk and the Enterprise is spiraling towards a fiery oblivion.

Watching much of the expendable crew go a little wacky is good for a few giggles; this episode may be Sulu's shining moment. (The dude is ripped!) So is watching the deadpan Power Trio try to manage a crew full of drunks. Literally, they're drunks. McCoy figures out that something on the planet basically turns water into wine, including the water in the human body. Spock's emotional breakdown after he catches the condition from Nurse Chapel, where he reflects on the kind of life his human mother must lead on Vulcan, tugs on those heartstrings and plays them like a fiddle.

On a lighter note, the running gag about Riley's incessant singing of "Kathleen" is a nice touch, too, though again I ask: what does TOS have against the Irish? Also, I don't know about you, but having a few syringes of McCoy's Insta-Sober cure on hand would make life a lot better.

Spock's breakdown is solid character development with a good deal of emotional gravitas, but Kirk's is just awful. Something about his hidden feelings for Yeoman Rand doesn't really ring particularly in character, maybe because they're all mixed up in his feelings for the Enterprise.

Also, what's with the random bit of time travel at the end? It comes across as tacked-on episode filler, but since it's not singing space hippies, I'm not going to complain.