Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thanks to this video I now understand how a yo-yo works but it doesn't mean I'd be any good at it.

The things this guy can do with a yo-yo are pretty amazing, but even more so when you think that the yo-yo is not tied to any part of its string. If you watch this video, they go into the physics of how his tricks work, which is basically a miracle of friction. What some people can do with some things is truly amazing. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Winds of Winter was the capstone to the best season of Game of Thrones yet.

There are spoilers ahead for this season of Game of Thrones. Read at your own risk.

Game of Thrones ended it's best season yet last night with "The Winds of Winter." And to be fair, part of what made this season so great was that we saw so many incredible Game of Thrones theories come true. For one, we saw the biggest (about whether or not Jon Snow was a Targaryen) come true. The thing is, only Brandon Stark knows it, but I have a feeling he's going to be telling a lot more when he pops up south of the wall. We also saw Melisandre resurrect Jon Snow, and we saw that the White Walkers were created by the Children of the Forest. I think another theory that got hinted at (and might as well be canon at this point) is that it wasn't men who built the 800-foot wall of ice, but the Children of the Forest. Uncle Benjen in his newfound identity of Coldhands (another theory that came through this season) said that there were powerful spells embedded within its foundation to keep the dead from going south while it still stood. Gee, I wonder who could know so much about the White Walkers that they could create such a thing? The obvious answer is the ones who made them.

Other fan theories that came true (that were never revealed in the books)? Ser Gregor Clegane is in fact, Ser Robert Strong. Cersei Lannister does indeed burn all of her enemies in one fell swoop, basically destroying House Tyrell, and Daenerys indeed ends up conquering the Dothraki nation. So with only sixteen episodes left before the series ends, we can all wonder what remains to happen (and what has to happen) before a Song of Ice and Fire comes to an end. I for one have a few theories for those sixteen episodes:

1) The White Walkers have got to make their move. There's nothing left for this plotline in the north, so they have to march south (hopefully with ice spiders as big as hounds) and make all of those lords and ladies that dismissed them painfully aware that, yes, the legends are true. This of course can't happen until....

2) The Wall must come down. There is a magical horn that (I believe) Samwell is carrying called "the Horn of Winter." I think that while he's studying at the Citadel to be a maester for Castle Black, he'll find out what it does. I assume that it gets taken from Samwell by someone (most likely candidate in my mind is Euron Greyjoy) and they blow the horn thinking it will do something else. Maybe, it's even an accident.

3) There will be a last stand at the Eyrie. I expect Littlefinger to die there by the hands of the White Walkers as everything falls apart around him.

4) Daenerys will land her huge army on the shores of Westeros in time to see that she needs to turn her eyes and army immediately to what's happening in the north as winter is now here.

5) We see Hodor again (only as an undead) because the show loves to tug at heartstrings, and that will be just awful.

6) Brandon Stark wargs into Aerys Targaryen in the past in an attempt to stop all of the misery that he's caused and drives the King "Mad" effectively starting all the events we have witnessed. At that point, Bran realizes he's the douchebag that started all the bloodshed and effectively goes insane himself.

7) Daenerys Targaryen joins with the King of the North (Jon Snow) to unify the kingdom after the defeat of the White Walkers. They become King and Queen and Cersei Lannister is executed. Jaime Lannister goes off to marry Brienne of Tarth. Sansa gets Winterfell.

So what do you think will happen in the last sixteen episodes of "Game of Thrones?"

Friday, June 24, 2016

Which camp are you in? Is it the writer's job to write or do you think the writer doesn't owe the reader anything and can do whatever he wants?

What took place in New Mexico this last week? George R.R. Martin and Stephen King got together: two chairs, one table, and two microphones. Stephen King opened it up, talking about how he hadn't read any of the Song of Ice and Fire books. He couldn't get through any of the Robert Jordan ones, so he figured it would be the same thing for George's books. Later, situations changed and he decided to give them a try. He said they were page turners, and he couldn't put them down.

Other things I learned: George R.R. Martin (in playing poker with Stephen King in the 80's) said you couldn't bluff him out even if you raised him a whole quarter. Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, is now a New York Times bestselling author. Joe didn't want to use his "King" name to achieve success. Something tells me though, that agents probably already knew who Joe Hill was ;).

Also, George R.R. Martin's laugh is half an octave from becoming a witch's cackle.

In waxing poetic about his own writing career, George said he got his start in a writing assignment when a teacher was going over the story "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allen Poe. Everyone in the room was assigned the task of writing a different ending to the story. George's ending had the guy get consumed by rats. They came out of the walls, ate his face, ate his toes, and burrowed into him while the pendulum descended and cut the guy in half. He said that his classmates loved the ending.

But the best part of the hour-long conversation was probably when George R.R. Martin wanted to know how Stephen King writes so fast. It turns out that King just writes and writes and writes while Martin doesn't. In a way, this whole staged event was a luminous peek into the contrasts of the greatest writers of our age. It's "the writer doesn't owe you anything and can do whatever he wants" versus "it's the writers job to write." Both writers have written some genius stuff and a lot of crap. Who can say which method is better?

Honestly though, it makes me wonder one thing about George R.R. Martin. I think he's worried about how people view him as a writer now, and he's worried that he'll disappoint them with future pieces of work. In other words, I think that his success now looms over him like a titan, and it terrifies him that his next book might be viewed as utter refuse. It's weird to think this, but George R.R. Martin may be one of the most insecure writers out there BECAUSE of the very fact that his name is now everywhere.

And maybe that's the true reason behind why it takes George R.R. Martin so long to write a book.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Here are all the wonderful documentaries I plan to watch during Shark Week

Shark Week starts Sunday, June 26th. Because I was needing to "decompress" from last night's episode of Game of Thrones called "Battle of the Bastards" I thought indulging my appetite for all things shark might get my mind off of all the horror...glorious horror...but horror nonetheless. To anyone that watched Game of Thrones last night, does Rickon seem like a tragic throw away character? Why? That whole story arc with him and Osha is so sad and pointless. It makes me want to scream, "ARRRGGGGHHHH!"

Anyway...back to Shark Week. The shows I'm interested in are as follows:

Tiger Beach, which premieres on Sunday, June 26th is all about Tiger sharks of course. I think the things that caught my eye on this description were "Violent Shark Sex." I mean...that has to be interesting, right?

The Return of Monster Mako is also on Sunday. This is just what it sounds like...a huge Mako shark (which are known for their speed). I doubt it's as big as the ones in Deep Blue Sea though.

Isle of Jaws (also on Sunday). This one follows scientists and marine biologists to an island where great white sharks might be mating (which is something of a mystery in the shark world). 

Shallow Water Invasion, Monday June 27th. This is a return to the famous Guadalupe Island where the biggest great white shark called "Deep Blue" was observed a couple years ago. Apparently, now scientists have observed that the Great Whites hunt in very shallow water. Which just further reinforces my belief that even wading in the ocean is asking for it.

Jaws of the Deep, Monday June 27th. This is all about "Deep Blue." This time the scientists find "Deep Blue" again and follow her around with robot cams. Seeing as she's the largest great white shark in the world (over 20 feet long), it looks really interesting and is the one that I'm most excited to see.

Wrath of the Great White Serial Killer, Tuesday June 28th. I'm interested in this one because I have some friends that call the Pacific Northwest home and this is all about how Great Whites have now taken up residence in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. It also will apparently explain why Great White sharks are warm-blooded.

Sharks vs. Dolphins: Face Off. I've heard that sharks and dolphins battle each other, and that dolphins can use their pointed noses to hurt sharks by slamming them in the gills. Apparently, this particular documentary has some of that action on film, which will be really cool to watch.

Nuclear Sharks, Thursday, June 30th. Grandson of famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau takes a dive team to Bikini Atoll where they examine how the ocean has recovered after nuclear weapons tests happened above many decades ago. I'm hoping we get a shot of Godzilla.

The Killing Games, July 3rd. Scientists show film evidence of great whites coming out of the water to snatch prey from the shore. The tag line for this is "Sharks swim onto beach" along with a video clip. That is just so many nopes. But yeah, I'll watch it.

There are other documentaries airing that week, but I'm not as interested in those. However, if you'd like to see the full list, you can read about them HERE.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Shallows is just in time for Shark Week on the Discover Channel and it reminds us all of why big bodies of water are terrifying

The death of the toddler at Disney World this week was a terrible tragedy. It also reaffirmed to me my fear of big bodies of water. To be honest, I blame my mom. I know that she meant well, but as a foreigner (she's Japanese) in America in 1977, she wanted to take her son (me) who was very young to see a movie that everyone said was really good. That movie was "Jaws" and to this day I remember those teeth chomping into the captain of the ship and a fountain of blood spraying from his mouth. It was terrifying.

Now another Shark Week is almost upon us (hint: it starts Sunday the 26th). Of course I'm going to watch it. Of course I'm going to be terrified by what I see. And when it's over, I'll just shake my head and say again, "I'm never going into the ocean." I'm 44 years old and I've lived up to that promise. One doesn't just wade into the ocean and not expect to get eaten. And with my high body fat percentage, I think i'd just look like a piece of raw bacon floating in the surf.

My friend Brad thinks that the ocean is pretty safe and defends it by saying, "How many people go swimming at the beach compared to how many people actually get attacked by sharks?" True, the number is low. And he even brings up that driving in traffic is far more dangerous than swimming in open water. However, I also countered with this whole idea that I've had for years that a lot of "drownings" are actually shark attacks but no one wants to say that because it harms tourism.

And now (just in time for Shark Week) there's also this movie called, "The Shallows." My friend Brad wants to go see it so I guess I will. But the trailer is totally a reminder of why smart people don't go into big bodies of murky water. Watch the trailer at your own peril. It's quite scary. Here's hoping that you have an excellent Father's Day and don't get eaten by an alligator or a shark. That's the kind of friend I am to you. I'm probably the only one you know who legitimately hopes that you don't get eaten this weekend.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I think Cersei Lannister intends to burn King's Landing to the ground with wildfire in the finale of season six.

What's going to happen in the two remaining episodes of Game of Thrones season 6? They are titled: "Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter" and HBO has refused to release synopses of them, even though they have for every episode prior to this. "The Battle of the Bastards" seems pretty self explanatory. Ramsay Bolton versus Jon Snow for a full hour over the fate of Winterfell. But "The Winds of Winter" is more ambiguous. Obviously, HBO's going to release more of the coveted information (in screen format) of the story that has yet to be published by George R.R. Martin. But I think we have some foreshadowing coming that's probably a "tell" of the horrors to befall King's Landing.

In a previous episode Cersei Lannister told Tommen that she would burn cities to the ground for him. And that same line got repeated in this week's episode, "No One," and it was uttered by Jaime Lannister talking to Edmure Tully about the virtues of Cersei Lannister and Catelyn Stark. Jaime said that both women fiercely protected their children and claimed they would "burn cities to the ground" for them.

So I started thinking on that line, and (for those of you that watched "No One") you'll recall that in that very same episode Cersei and Qyburn (the disgraced maester that made an undead out of Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane) had a brief exchange about a "rumor." Qyburn told Cersei that he had his little birds investigate it, and that it holds a lot of promise. What could that rumor be?

I think it has to do with a huge cache of wildfire under the city. So to answer the question of what might we see in the season finale, I think we're going to see King's Landing get burned to the ground. It will effectively destroy all of Cersei's enemies, get rid of Margaery Tyrell and Loras Tyrell, and rescue Tommen from the clutches of the Faith Militant. With King's Landing and the last great houses of the realm in ashes along with it, I think the snows will finally arrive in the south bringing with it the foreboding truth that winter will come for them all. And of course, it won't work out exactly as Cersei planned but she won't care because (as Olenna Tyrell put it) she may be the most awful person in the world.

Monday, June 13, 2016

No One was a huge disappointment for me on last night's Game of Thrones.

Last night's Game of Thrones episode called "No One" was a little bit of a disappointment. But this time I'm going to say, "It's not them, it's me" because it really is. You see, I spent the week ruminating over a theory that I came up with that made perfect sense in my head (I didn't blog about it), but I told all my friends and even people at work. To elaborate, I thought that Arya using her right hand last week to throw the coins and then idly walking around as if unafraid of any consequences of thwarting the Faceless Men seemed out of character (Arya is left-handed in the books and in the show). She was also missing "Needle," her signature weapon. My mind had cooked up this scenario in which Jaquen Hajar actually wore Arya's face. You see...I was thinking that Jaquen would be out "testing" the Waif to make sure that she did not let Arya suffer but kill her quick. I also thought that Jaquen probably wanted to die, because Arya did name him as the third name back in season two (owed to the god of death) back in Harrenhal. And I have kind of suspected that Jaquen liked Arya, and maybe that he thought he'd escaped the clutches of the god of death out of a technicality (and wanted to set things right). Anyway, all of those things went through my head, and none of it was correct. It really was Arya that got stabbed, and she really was being that stupid. Sigh.

And then there was the reunion of Jaime and Brienne. In the books, I've felt that Jaime was falling in love with Brienne. But their reunion was little more than a hand wave and a final nod that the bad ass valyrian steel sword he gave to her really does belong to her for all time. The television adaptation has obviously decided to double-down on the Cersei/Jaime love thing which (in the books) seemed all but unsalvageable and broken. So now Jaime has accomplished what he set out to do (take Riverrun) and can go back to Cersei's side. Blech.
And then there's the realization that Lady Stoneheart is definitely not coming into the series. This was a zombified (if you will) Catelyn Stark brought back by the magic of the Lord of Light. In the book she takes control of the Brothers Without Banners. But if they were going to introduce her, it should have happened last night when Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. the Hound joined up with them. So that's not going to happen.

And the final disappointment was seeing King Tommen get rid of the whole "Trial by Combat" thing. This was going to be the zombified Mountain's shining point as he got to go against whomever the faith had to represent them: assumedly it was going to be Sandor Clegane or "The Hound." So basically, a "Clegane-bowl" of brother versus brother. But with Trial by Combat removed by order of the King, it's not going to happen and instead Cersei will be found guilty and punished "accordingly" (which everyone can pretty much agree has been a long time coming).

So yeah. Disappointed but still a fan. It's hard to believe that this season is almost over.

Friday, June 10, 2016

In the world of today financial ruin is almost the same thing as being killed.

One of the websites that I sometimes read is called Gawker. Its journalism is frequently entertaining, informative, and caustic to public figures. One of the reasons that I like their brand of journalism is because the site doesn't go out of its way to present public figures as anything but human (or inhuman) with all their flaws exposed by the opinion of the writers (who tend to see the world as I see it). If a person's a giant douche, they basically call them a douche and explain why.

Gawker doesn't concern itself with preserving reputations, buying into the glamour of celebrity status, or for that matter...posting very unflattering things about people. I guess I like it because there's too much fakery in the world, with people posting their narcissistic photos on Facebook and trying to put on that their lives are "oh so perfect" while yours is (in fact) a mess. So I'm a "little saddened" that Gawker is facing an existential threat in the form of lawsuits funded by a butt-hurt and angry billionaire in Silicon Valley by the name of Peter Thiel. The most public of these is the one brought against Gawker by Hulk Hogan that has cost the website millions of dollars in legal fees and got Hulk Hogan a judgement against Gawker to the tune of $140 million.

The First Amendment guarantees free speech and that Congress shall not impugn upon that with laws that could curtail free speech. But it obviously doesn't protect against people using lawsuits to destroy journalists financially for the things they've written. With income inequality so startling in our country, it is a frightening thing to think that one person with incalculable wealth could bring lawsuit after lawsuit against a company doing investigative journalism with the sole purpose of silencing them forever.

Another example of this happened in my hometown of Idaho Falls just recently. A billionaire that lives there that owns a company called Melaleuca used his fortune to go after Mother Jones following the 2012 presidential race in which Mother Jones exposed Mitt Romney in "47 percent" remarks that are now famous. Mother Jones successfully defended themselves in court, however, they reported on their website that it cost them millions upon millions of dollars. Basically, it almost bankrupted them.
A  portrait of the Bond Villain "Blofield" by the artist Muti. Blofield was the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (one
of my favorite villains in the franchise). He always had a white cat and was destroyed in the beginning
sequence of "For Your Eyes Only" when Bond (played by Roger Moore) dropped him in a smokestack.
It's become more clear over time that the world of James Bond's best villains is now becoming a reality. Mega-rich people wield tremendous power through their money and if they happen to be vindictive, angry, petulant, sore-losers, or just plain bad people then the world should watch out, because they not only can financially destroy a person but entire corporations through the justice system. It may even get to a point where fear of financial ruin causes journalists to stop reporting the truth about something, because in the world of today, financial ruin is almost the same thing as being killed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

For the first time in 240 years a woman has been nominated by a major political party for President of the United States.

Yay! This Democrat is pretty happy that for the first time in 240 years, the United States has nominated a woman to a major political party for President. I'm just going to savor this moment. It's been a long time coming. I'm so proud to see this happening within my lifetime. Whether or not she wins against Donald Trump in the fall is not the point. A glass ceiling has been shattered for all time, and I was there to see it break.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Olenna Tyrell had the best lines in The Broken Man but Lyanna Mormont stole the show in A Game of Thrones.

I really love grandmother Olenna Tyrell. She's wise, knows how to play the Game of Thrones, and isn't afraid to speak
her mind. Her conversation with Cersei was probably one of the best written that the series has to offer.
So after watching "The Broken Man" on Game of Thrones last night, I'm pleased that the Hound is still with us. "You must be here for a purpose," a priest says to Sandor Clegane. But what purpose? Many readers of the books think it has to do with Cersei's impending "trial by combat" and the fact that her champion will be "The Mountain" and the faith's champion will be "The Hound." It's long been a speculation swirling on the internet. I don't know if I ever really bought into it, or thought that would even be a fair fight (given that I think The Mountain is pretty much unkillable in his undead state). But if anyone ever stood a chance against The Mountain, it's The Hound. Maybe The Mountain is super flammable (a thing that all undead on the show seem to be). If that's true, then that's a weakness The Hound could theoretically exploit (if he even figures out what has happened to his brother). However, it also presents its own set of problems though because the Hound is afraid of fire.

But in my opinion the real star of tonight's episodes were the castles that we got to see. The Mormont castle ruled by a very plucky girl who could devote as much as 62 of her house soldiers to the Stark cause to take back Winterfell was absolutely gorgeous. Next to a waterfall, it reminded me a little of a cross between Winterfell and Rivendell. Add to this the fact that we got to see Riverrun (as beautiful as ever), and the Tarley castle in the previous episode, and I think the only thing left that I really really long to see is Highgarden. It's supposed to be surrounded in fields of roses (and I love roses) and as the seat of one of the greatest houses in Westeros I'm sure it's going to be spectacular.

With the passing of tonight's episode, I think there are only 18 more left in the entire series. The end is coming quick, and I'm curious as to how they plan to tie up all the storylines. Did you have a particular piece from tonight's episode that you liked?

My random observations: I so want Lyanna Mormont to get together with Rickon Stark. I think that's a match made in heaven.

I hope that Arya's storyline doesn't end with her dying due to her wounds inflicted by the Waif. Her storyline has been boring, and she needs to kill the Waif. I think that would please the Many-Faced God and me at the same time.

The Blackfish has no fear of Lannisters. Telling Jaime off and not really caring what happened to Edmure Tulley was very fun.

Sansa is calling for Littlefinger. Oy...I wonder if that's a good thing or not.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Five ways in which insecure writers can reap rewards by publishing their writing

Today is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. For this once a month blog-a-thon, I decided I would write down five ways in which writers can reap rewards by publishing their writing. So if you're insecure about your writing, hopefully you'll find some motivation below that will spur you unto the finish line.

1) Without publishing, you won't ever find your audience. There are people out there who will both love and hate your writing and the things that you write about. In many ways, I think it's as difficult to connect with an audience as it is to find your soul mate. However, if you keep plugging away at it, the chances improve that someone that is engaged with your writing will eventually stumble across it. I know because this has happened to me. You've got to put yourself out there in order to be found.

2) Without publishing, you will never be finished with your project. I think hitting the "publish" button is important for a writer, because without doing so your manuscript/project will linger in this weird space where you can always find something wrong that needs to be fixed. You may even pick at it, finding some word that you can't believe you used and replacing it with another or a handful of things that you might view as mistakes but no one really notices or cares about. The act of publishing gets rid of all that by saying, "I'm finished."

3) Without publishing, you will never get an accurate sense of how good or bad of a writer you are. Everyone turns to their friends and family for critiques, and these are generally the worst kinds of reviews because they are heavily biased. I think that the only opinion that matters is one from your target audience, which is why it's important to a writer to maintain contact with these people once you connect with them (newsletters, blogs, and publishing more books are all good ways to stay in touch with your target audience once it has been found).

4) Without publishing you won't make any money. You have to get your product out there, and if you want to be taken seriously, publishing is one way to do that. By taking the final step, you are asking your target audience that your labor of love is actually worth money. How much you actually get back is going to vary from author to author. But that first dollar actually feels pretty darn good.

5) Publishing shows people that you can finish a project, but it also makes writing the next book easier. It goes without saying that once you've done something, it's much easier to repeat. You also get better at stringing words together (in general) as with any craft. Even if your sales end up really small, the fact that you published anything at all is a success in my book.