Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Humming Bird Happy Hour Bouncer

6 Hummingbirds drinking together in my yard (1 mature Anna's, 2 juvenile Rufous, and 3 Anna's females)
30 minutes before sunset this evening, I sat down in my backyard to enjoy watching hummingbird happy hour.  Hummingbird happy hour is the bet time of the day to observe hummingbirds in a group setting.  The dimming of the sun's natural day light, combined with the abundant availability of established food (11 nectar feeders around the yard) and the inevitability of the arrival of total darkness, draw all the neighborhood hummingbirds together for one long, deep drink of high energy sugar water before the long night's embrace.  The diminished light makes the Brilliant plumage that the dominant males of all hummingbird species develop look much less spectacular, mottled, dull, which puts ALL the hummers -  the dominant males, the fearful juveniles who sport just a goatee, the confident mature females (who are the same size as the mature males, but look they a lot like juveniles) and the immature new fledglings - on nearly equal footing.

Mature Rufous Male Hummingbird
I've enjoyed dozens of hummingbird happy hours here in California.  In Arizona, I saw 2 Anna's hummingbirds at a feeder, once.  Here in California, I've relished dozens of twilights that included a dozen or more birds all sharing resources, before going into their semi-catatonic sleep for the night high up on a secluded branch that's strong enough to barely hold their own weight (less than 21 grams, in most cases).  Tonight was the First time that I observed a vociferous, possessive, pugnacious male Rufous dominant male who continued to chase all other thirsty birds from the 2 feeders right outside the living room window.  One of the 2 feeders is a 4 holed solar PV lit feeder without any perches, so the birds have to hover as they drink.  Six feet away is 10 holed feeder that has a circumferential perch where I've counted as many as 9 hummingbirds drinking at one time (but I've not been able to take a picture of them in this way, yet), sharing resources, peacefully, and making me a very happy & satisfied human that I could create such an environment where I could 'bring the hummingbird community together', and be lucky enough to see them sharing.

A yellow jacket trying to get into one of the 10-holed feeders
Generally, the 2 feeders outside of Dr Desert Flower's office's window in the front yard are dominated by Rufous hummingbird males.  They hang out in the palm trees looming above, or in the oleander bushes a few feet away, or on the top of a skyward pointing succulent frond, observing the 2 front yard feeders, chasing away any other bird who comes to drink, With The Exception of mature females who the males are trying to woo, court, convince, and then with whom they want to copulate for all of 2 seconds while in free-fall from 200 feet in the air.  So Much testosterone and energy goes into the male hummingbird's daily routine, to bully away, ward-off, intimidate all other males and all other species, and try to romance only the mature females of their own species... it makes the plumage and prancing and jousting of a male peacock look blasé in comparison.  The Rufous males don't normally intrude into the back yard... or so I thought.

This evening, I listened to a proud dominant male Rufous sit up in my neighbor's tree above my backyard, chirp and whistle, claiming his dominance over 3 feeders that could be seen from that high vantage point.  I watched as this proud dominant male Rufous would swoop in, and chase away single birds, groups of females who were sharing the feeder, any creature who came near to the fears he now claimed.  This was ruining my happy hour observations.  Twice, I got up from my chair, glass of wine in hand, and stood near to the feeders.  The mature female visitors, who have been around the block and understand better how the world works, did Not see me as a threat, and they drank nearby, almost within arm's reach.  They were wary of the large hairless ape drinking from a wine glass, and they would have flown away if I had made sudden movements, but the pugnacious Rufous male would still come swooping in, Past My Head, and scare them all off.  This could not stand.  No little Rufous male is going to ruin my evening.

2 hummingbirds enjoying the feeder under my suppressing cover-fire
I thought quickly... how could I ward off this mis-guided cretin who never learned how to share, or get along with any other birds?  I remembered a recent Luther episode where a killer wielded a large orange squirt gun full of acid and blinded witnesses around London.  I recalled I had a large un-used squirt bottle in my laundry room that I'd not filled with anything, and ran into the house to fill it with water (no, not acid...  I am not a monster).  I'd used squirt guns to dissuade naughty house cats in the past, before I realized I'd become intensely allergic to them.  I hurriedly rushed back outside to sit with my wine glass and squirt bottle.  My wait didn't take long.

The dominant male Rufous swooped down almost immediately to ward off a dominant male Anna's and an Anna's female, in the dwindling twilight.  His angle of attack took him around the back of the feeder where I did not have a direct line-of-sight, but after he ran off the two other birds, he tried to get a drink from his coveted feeders.  My aim was exact, and the first squirt of water sent the Rufous off the feeder and back up into his tree observation post.  Two more female hummers came in to drink, and as the male Rufous dove down from the tree, I blocked his descent with a barrage of squirts that the gave him pause, and he perched in the jasmine about 8 feet behind the feeders.  More females arrived, and joined their sisters drinking.  5 visible birds at the feeder... but the Rufous male couldn't contain himself, he tried to drive them off.  I sent a salvo of 5 or 6 squirts that sent him into retreat.  2 of the drinking females rose off the feeder to note what was going on, But Then Resettled onto the feeder to resume drinking!  A dominant male Anna's, the NBA players of the hummingbird world due to the fact that they are generally 20% larger than any other hummingbird, settled down at the 10 holed feeder along with the bevy of females and juveniles.  "Hello ladies!" was the look in his little black eye, as he figured he'd hit the happy hour jackpot.  But it was short lived.
A fully mature, dominant Rufous male, perched outside my office, who thinks he "owns" the feeder there.
A moment later, the stubborn Rufous male Again dove at the feeder.  All the birds scattered, and I zeroed in on the bright white collar the mature Rufous male wore and hit him at least once, got close 2 or 3 times, and he fled again.  3 of the 5 females Returned and resumed drinking, under my cover fire.  The Rufous took up station back in his high tree branch, and I aimed upwards towards the little miscreant, arching far over the top of the feeders where the girls were enjoying happy hour, and the mature Rufous found this rebuff to be "too much" and flew elsewhere.  Finally, success!

So if you're a female hummingbird, regardless of species, you're more than welcome to come drink in my yard at hummingbird happy hour.  If you're an Anna's, Blackchinned, or Costa's mature male or a Rufous juvenile, and you know some boundaries and how to act publicly and behave at happy hour, you're also welcome to enjoy delicious high energy, fresh nectar in my yard.  However, if you're a trouble maker, you will be ejected, and refused re-entry into my yard's airspace.  If you persist, you'll be targeted with squirted tap water, which will make flight more difficult, frustrate your petty attempts to monopolize the abundant nectar in the feeders.  The unexpected wetting at dusk, combined with being chased away form the public feeders, may make it more difficult for you to remain warm over-night, but having a warmer, more friendly demeanor will be in your favor going-forward (over-come your instinctual programming, little punk!)  ... or just stick to the front yard, where the Rufous battles are pretty much perpetual.  The backyard feeders have a happy hour bouncer, who is more than 4000 times your mass, and who enjoys having a peaceful, sharing, community atmosphere at dusk.

Wonderful White Wines from Trader Joe's

I have an enormous collection of wine bottles on my desk, that for months, I've been procrastinating in blogging about.  I've always had something else to do for the last several months that was more pressing, whether it was working out, going to physical therapy, having elbow surgery, going to job interviews, going to France with DDF for her work conference, going to Jackson Hole for vacation, post-op doctor visits, energy consulting on the phone with clients, cleaning out and refilling the 11 humming bird feeders around our yard, getting 6.29 kWHrs of solar PV panels installed on my roof, re-reading old Zelazny books, learning introductory Spanish, or reading a new Iain M Banks book... but I've grown so tired of all the bottles taking up space and getting dusty, that I am going to do a shot-gun blast review of all of them this afternoon, and toss the bottles into the recycling bin this evening.
First off, the Trader Joe's "Petit Reserve" bottles are not bad.  They're sometimes slightly better than the standard fare at Trader Joe's.  Sometimes they are slightly worse / less tasty / off-a-little-bit, but they're never "pour down the drain bad", as some low cost wines and poorly kept high-end wines can be.  Many of them are screw top, and I personally have No Problem with screw top wine bottles, since
1) they are easier & quicker to open
2) the wine never suffers from cork rot & the resulting spoilage
3) they are slightly less expensive to manufacture, and that savings can be passed on to me by responsible grocers
4) they don't deplete the cork rainforests of Portugal and the endangered cork monkeys who live there (Portuguese cork monkeys are a fictional invention from my old friend Todd, from more than 20 years ago)
5) convenience: anyone can open them anywhere, without having to hunt up a sommelier / cork screw (like when you're away from home, traveling, or in a hotel room)

The Petit Reserves from Trader Joe's that I have tried are as follows:
Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, 2016 - it was ok, drinkable, not bad for a Washington wine (and I am sure if you're from Washington that you Love your local wine, and that's fine.  I don't hate your local wine, it just didn't WOW me, or impress me, to the point of making a post all about it). For $7 a bottle, it was not bad.

Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, 2016 - For $6 a bottle, this was some dern good wine.  I hope the recent fires in Northern California didn't destroy the inventory or the vines, as not drinking this again would be a loss.  This wine has a light citrus note, but NOT anything like a puckering New Zealand grapefruit abortion that completely ruins my palate & meal.

Sémillion, Napa Valley, 2016 - another $6 bottle that was not bad.  It had a nice buttery finish that some sémillions often do, but the long notes on the tongue were not as pleasing to me as the Sauvignon Blanc.

Pinot Grigio, Monterey, 2016 - fine for a $6 pinot grigio. Sweeter than the Sauvignon Blanc mentioned above, bit not riesling sweet.  If you like pinot grigios and don't want to pay $18 Santa Margarita prices, save $12 a bottle and buy this instead.

Other Trader Joe's wines that are not "Petit Reserve" that I've enjoyed, include:

Trader Joe's Coastal Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast, 2016 -
This $4.49 bottle is the staple that I
keep 6 to 12 bottles on-hand, in the wine fridge, at all times.  This goes with everything.  It's not too sweet, nor is it too dry.  It causes me to have zero hang-over the next morning if I drink the whole bottle (or more) the night before.  My liver likes it.  My tongue likes it.  I like it.  I've given bottles to the neighbors' before, and if DDF and I are invited over to a friend or neighbor in California and we bring wine, one or more of the bottles will likely be this one.  It is my inexpensive & delicious "go to" wine, that I buy by the 1/2 dozen whenever I go to the Bressi Ranch Trader Joe's here in Carlsbad.

Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc, made with organically grown grapes, 2016 - this $9 bottle was pretty good.  It had a smooth finish, light citrus notes, not at all overwhelming, and was enjoyable to drink; especially nice for an organic wine at a reasonable price.  If I was hard-core 100% organic all-the-time every-day, I'd probably switch to this, but since I am more than 1/2 century old now, and more than 1/2 of my life span is behind me, my passion for all-things-organic is more reasonable now.  If I can peel it, and I am not eating the skins, then organic is less important to me.  Yes, yes, I know biology experts, that what it is grown in and what it receives as nutrients during its life-cycle determines what its content is going to be.  I get that.  I also get that when I was a very young man (in my teens and 20s) I never thought I'd live past 40 or 50 at best, so now each day is sort of "bonus time" that I originally had not counted on ever reaching.  If this organic sauvignon blanc was AMAZING and Life Changing, I'd proclaim it from the roof tops, but to me, it was a good sauvignon blanc.  Enough to write home about, but not enough to turn into a short story or a novel.

I have several more bottles to write about, but one can only sit inside and blog for so long when it is 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside, with a light breeze, here in Southern California.  I know other parts of the country are experiencing a "normal November" of cold temperatures, cloudy skies, and frost each morning... but I blog today with my windows open, wearing shorts and a tee shirt, and I've not yet picked up my mail from the central mail down the street, so 'nuff for now.

Fresh Fish for Lunch

As long-time readers of JustJoeP are aware, I have an affinity for ospreys (links here and here).  They're the biggest raptors one can find at the beach here in southern California.  They successfully fish in both calm and rough seas, and they are as comfortable in the water as they are in the air, "shaking off" excess sea water after they've snatched an unsuspecting fish from the ocean.  While I've seen the occasional harrier hawk, red tail, and kite hunting at / near the beach and Batiquitos Lagoon, it's the ospreys that capture my attention and fascinate me.

Last April, when I had been notified that I was getting laid off after 20 years of devoted service, just so that Evil Corp could try and appease activist investors who demanded lower fixed over-head costs by letting go all of their experienced remote workers like myself, I had just finished practicing yoga at South Ponto Beach when I spotted this impressive osprey heading from the beach towards a high voltage utility poll near La Costa & the PCH, just next to the South Ponto parking lot.  Camera in hand, I took pictures for a solid 20 minutes as this successful apex predator enjoyed its lunch of fresh fish.  The fish was more than a foot long, and weighted enough that the osprey had to Really Exert Effort to fly with it to the pole.

I slowly walked up to within 100 feet of the base of the pole, snapping digital photos along the way.  A magnificent bird, eating a fresh meal.  Likely a juvenile who has not yet mated and built a nest to raise a family, or the meal would have been at the nest and not on the pole, above a busy intersection.

My hope is to resume yoga practice at the beach once my post-elbow- bursa-dissection surgery wound is fully healed.  That Might be December... but it also might be later in 2018 some time.  I do hope to see my neighbor the osprey again soon.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Analytics & Payroll loses to Talent & Drive

Congratulations to the Houston Astros for their victory in the 2017 MLB World Series game seven last night.  I live in Southern California, but I've not embraced the SD Padres as my "home team" yet, since I am a life-long Chicago Cubs fan.  The Cubs won last year...  after 108 years of trying... which apparently opened a trans dimensional portal that let a racist, xenophobic, ignorant, non-reading 10 year old in a 70 year old's carcass, with Vladimir Putin's direct assistance, become President of the United States.  The Cubs can wait another few dozen years before trying to win again - I don't want them to become the universally hated NY Yankees who have been to 40 of the 113 World Series (winning 27 of them).  The Houston Astros had never won a World Series, and it'd been 55 years since they were formed as a team...  so it was about time (even though I will ALWAYS think of the Astros as a National League team, as they've been the majority of my 1/2 century of life).
My actual Cub's hat, bought before they won the World Series in 2016

While the Houston Astros Did rely partly upon analytics, they had been drafting and recruiting some of the best players in major league baseball for years.  They wanted it.  They worked hard for it.  And their manager "could talk analytics all day long, but more often went with his gut and what the situation required" (I heard during Game 6's broadcast, Joe Buck saying it, I think).  The Brooklyn Dodgers... I mean LA Dodgers, paid millions of dollars for analytics, had The Largest payroll in all of MLB, were in the 2nd largest media market, but had worked out a despicable cable deal that MOST of the Dodgers home games Could Not Be Televised in LA when the stadium in Chavez Ravine that seats 56,000 was not sold out - the largest stadium in all of MLB, beating the damn Yankees by 3000 seats.  When the camera panned over the crowds during foul balls, you could see 1/3rd of the most expensive box seats showing EMPTY blue seat backs during Game Seven of the World Series!  EMPTY Seats!?!?  Wrigley Field only had empty seats during the World Series in 2016 from people using the bathroom, and it was < < much less than 5% of all box seats, even when some of those seats were going for $2000 each.
Thanks Jen for the gif!

So the Cubs had been the proverbial underdogs, and they won last year.  The Astros were the underdogs this year, and they won.  I'm a habitual under-dog supporter...  which I partially attribute to going to more than a dozen games at Wrigley as a kid (two of the three games I went to at Comiskey Park ended up with our vehicle being broken into... and the third one, my older brother and his friends picked up a Ford Escort and turned it 90 degrees onto the side walk so that our car would fit... they were very big boys).

Now,  you maybe asking yourself: "Why does JustJoeP oppose analytics so much?" Well, I credit that to my 20 years of working at one of the world's largest companies, where we made model after model to predict how the systems and components would perform in the field, how well they would be able to be repaired, how many times they could be repaired, when they'd need to be repaired, and when they would stop working for our customers.  It was Big Data, little data, good data, bad data. comprehensive data, partial data... and all that data was scrutinized by dozens of mathematics PhDs, data analysts, and engineers to come up with complex analytics that were supposed to add tremendous value, both for the company I worked for And for their customers.  Sadly, after more than a decade of trying to apply these analytics, revising and revising them, combing and scrutinizing the data and transfer functions repeatedly... the analytics Could Not Replace subject matter expertise; AKA experience.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) like myself were leveraged to make better models, sort & parse data, review repair reports, outage reports, customer issues, design reviews, root cause analysis... but no matter how hard we tried, and how many times we revised models, they still were far off the mark, much too conservative, or far too liberal, rarely ever accurate on predicting reality.  It was a Very Complex environment, with a very complex product and no two customers were the same or operated identically, that the analytic models Could Not Cope With the all of the Variation accurately - much like MLB!  Sure, if you start and stop very few times, and operate in a gingerly, gentle, non-stressful mode, the models worked marvelously!  But that was less than 5% of the all the customers, so the models and their predictions were virtually worthless in the big picture.   But saying that, admitting it publicly, was as deadly as saying that the Emperor had no clothes, when 99.997% of the sycophants had been telling the Emperor how amazing and awesome his clothes really were.

On a post-script, I do not and will not watch Wisdom of the Crowd as Crowds, by definition, are pretty emotional, stupid / ignorant / misinformed, reactionary, and prone to herd mentality.  Similarly, the same goes for the majority of analytics.  In limited applications, for narrow goals, Big Data Can Be useful, and perhaps partially accurate.  But in the Vast Majority of situations, applications, and concepts, data analytics usually don't have accurate predictions or reliable results.  Junk in = junk out.  Getting all the data "in" to be pristine, relevant, and representative of what is going to happen in the future is expensive, time consuming, and virtually impossible.  Anyone who tells you differently, is lying.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Run Like Hell

Not only is Run Like Hell a great Pink Floyd song from their amazing album The Wall, it is also what Tormund Giantsbane shouted to all of his comrades at East Watch on top of The Wall that had guarded Westeros from the dangers of the north for more than eight thousand years, in that fictional world.
(again, spoiler alert... if you have not seen the season finale of Game of Thrones, season 7, read this post after you've seen it)

The season finale was epic, dark, beautifully done.  I won't go through everything here scene by scene, but it IS Worth watching, for all of the ends it ties up, and the new circumstances it presents to the viewer.  Jaime does the right thing. Daenerys still knows how to make a Grand entrance.  Cersie remains one of the largest forces of selfish evil in the world, perhaps equalled by The Night King?  The Hound becomes more likable.  Arya is lethal with her blade. Sansa embraces her family before sycophants.  Sam enlightens the all-seeing three-eyed raven, who needs to get better at predicting things and warning his family about them, instead of just looking all white-eyed in his wheel chair.  The door was held closed for you, FFS!  Do something useful with your new super power Bran flake!

Now, in a physics based world, The Wall was made out of indestructonium since it stuck out into the Narrow Sea at East Watch, and yet after 8000 years of the sea water buffeting against it, The Wall  Never eroded.  Therefore, indestructonium must be one of The Hardest, Most Erosion Resistant, Most Corrosion Resistant, Most Crack Resistant initiating & propagating substances to ever be written about, in any book.  Indestructonium has to be magic... created by magic... shaped by it... maintained by it... However, with such formidable strength and durable properties, there comes a price.  Action / reaction.  If a magic dragon, hatched from an egg that had turned to stone long ago, but when that stone egg was heated in a funeral pyre back in the season 1 finale... and then that magic dragon gets killed by a magic ice javelin... and the thrower os said javelin then resurrects the dead dragon as an undead dragon...  then the magical power of that weapon of mass destruction apparently can over-power 8000 years of ice masonry and indestructonium's use as a long-standing barrier.

As I watched what remained of Viserion repeatedly blast the architectural marvel that was The Wall on Sunday night, I thought to myself:
- is this hot blue fire?
- is this ice coming out of the dragon (like a Gygax dragon)
- is it some kind of psionic blast or energy beam?
- perhaps it is plasma, like that of a white dwarf star?  (but then the undead Viserion would have its own gravitational pull, since it would be far too dense)
... and it wasn't until I talked to my buddy Ryan when he explained to me that it was "magic" and that only magic could defeat magic...  um... ok.  Sure.  I won't think this through any deeper than I already have.

If it is magic breath from a magic beast that was impossibly hauled out of a semi-frozen lake north of the wall by the magical ruler of the magically animated and magically commanded undead, then why not let all that magical confluence take out a long-standing 8000 year old wall?  Sure. Indestructonium be damned!  There's magic at work here!

In that case, Daeneryrs and Jon Targaryen (yeah, He's not a Snow nor a Sand) and their remaining two dragons will likely / should likely be magically destroyed by the Night King and his undead Viserion WMD, and all the steel wielding soldier of Westeros be swarmed by the +100,000 horde of white walkers heading South.  Cersie and all of King's Landing should be wiped out by the undead horde, and all of Westerosy civilization should end as we know it.  I know that doesn't make for a good story or series finale... but if an undead Viserion can destroy an 8000 year old formidable piece of magical creation in less than 1 minute, then it won't take that much longer to kill both siblings, their riders, and let the ground army swarm anything that is still warm-blooded.  I am 99% certain that season 8 and all of GoT won't end that way... but if I was writing it, and I included The Wall coming down as it just did... then that's how I would end the series next season.  3 episodes at best... and then everyone is now part of The Walking Dead.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Whenever You Flash Those Baby Blues

(If you have not watched this week's Game of Thrones, don't read this posting, as it's full of spoilers)

As I accurately hypothesized, a month ago on July 18th (link here), the Night King did indeed kill one of Daenerys's three dragons, and he's turned it into a "wight dragon" or undead dragon, white walker / white flyer dragon.  He didn't need any of his 3 undead giants to throw a spear and kill the dragon Viserion, as I had theorized. No, apparently, the Night King is a Winter Olympic medalist in the javelin throw (I know the javelin throw is a Summer Olympics sport...  but it is still funny.. thank you my friend Ryan), and he has some wickedly powerful ice javelins at his disposal.

So now, for the first time in Westeros, there's a dragon under the power of the Night King.  This sure puts a massive twist into the plot.  Will the dragon breathe fire, as a living dragon would?  Will it breathe ice, now that it has been turned into a blue eyed thing of terrible beauty?  Will it not be able to breathe fire or ice, but still be huge, formidable, and destructive, and will it try and kill it's mother at the Night King's command?  We shall see (il faut voir).

For all of the positive points in last Sunday's episode,
- massive numbers of white walkers torched by 3 dragons
- Arya recounting the story of her father watching her archery practice
- Thoros explaining how drunk he was when he stormed Pyke with a flaming sword (back from a Season 1 reference)
- Tyrion giving counsel to Daenerys to not be like her father and other tyrants before her
- a white walker polar bear, killed by an obsidian dagger (dragon glass)
- lots of flaming sword action
- Arya not killing Sansa and taking her face
- Jon Snow trying to give Jorah back his sword and Jorah respectfully refusing to take it

... there were some MAJOR plot holes & inconsistencies that didn't make much sense to the logical thinking viewer.  Sure, they were necessary to move the story forward, but things like:
- The Flash like capabilities of Gendry to run massive distances ALL the way back to East Watch in just a few minutes, in what took the group hours to traverse
- the existence of a non-frozen lake, north of The Wall (why hasn't the ice wall melted, if a simple lake remains un-frozen?)
- why use steel swords to fight white walkers when steel doesn't kill them... obsidian does (Jorah has this Down, he gets it)
- the apparently "light speed traveling ravens", who could get from East Watch to Dragonstone instantaneously, and then the light speed flying dragons who could get from Dragonstone to East Watch in just a few minutes (perhaps the dragons can teleport?)
- the failure of any of Daenerys' dragons to take out the white walker leadership (pictured above) before they could kill one of them (dragons are supposed to be smarter than most humans, per Tolkien et al)
- Jon Snow's ability to hold his breath in freezing cold water, and swim while clothed in soaking wet furs, climb out of the lake and onto thin ice that doesn't continue to break (I spent alot of time out on frozen Big Pond between Highland and Hammond in the winter when I was a kid... ice doesn't freeze THAT irregularly, to be able to support men and horses, and then just break, willy nilly, with solid edges strong enough to support the weight of a man climbing out... that's why you need a rope or a ladder to extricate someone who has fallen into a frozen lake)
- the sudden convenient plot device of undead-but-still-pure-of-heart Uncle Ben Jen Once Again, appearing out of no where to save the day
- the sudden appearance of two MASSIVE ship chains, in the middle of No Where, north of The Wall, with which to hoist out a dead Viserion from the semi-frozen lake
- the appearance (off screen, not shown) of incredibly strong, white walker cold water divers, who could jump into the lake that had previously wiped out many of their numbers, wrap the mysteriously appearing massive ship anchor chains around Viserion's punctured neck, so that the dead dragon could be hoisted out of the water (maybe the Night King used his 3 undead giants for the underwater work, and then didn't bother to use the giants to pull out the corpse, instead having 100s of frail & decomposing wights pull on the massive ship anchor chains instead?)

So now, the questions I have are as follows:
1) will the wight dragon formerly known as Viserion be used to melt a hole in The Wall, through which the horde of White Walkers will pour through?
2) if the undead Viserion can no longer breathe fire, will the undead giants be used to bash down the rickety, poorly maintained tune, door through which Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane's party passed through, so that the horde of undead can pour South?
3) When Daenerys and Tyrion sit down with Cersie for parle, assuming they bring the writhing white walker they captured (if the Night King doesn't just make the captive die or shatter), will Cersie be convinced that the threat from the North is real?
4) will obsidian weapons be distributed to everyone, or just Jon Snow's army and the Free Folk get them in order to dispatch white walkers?
5) Since geography doesn't matter, ships can sail around a continent in less than a day, ravens and dragons can traverse 100s of miles instantaneously, Lannister armies can march on and destroy High Garden in just a few days... how many hours or days will it take for the Night King and his horde to reach King's Landing?  It Should Be just one or two days, like "the next episode" and not "next season", considering all the previous precedents around geography & time set by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff.  Perhaps old Walder Frey's "The Twins" can be destroyed by dragons so that will stall the horde slightly.

I'd really hoped that the 3 dragons would torch all the white walkers, and this would be the last season of Game of Thrones... but Weiss and Benioff love money so much, they're going to milk the series for all it's worth.  Dethrone Cersie, put Daenerys on the throne like she's always wanted, draw & quarter Euron, let Jon Snow and his 1/2 sister Daenerys rule happily ever after. Conflict resolved, game over... but... that's why I am not a Hollywood producer or multi-millionaire; il faut voir.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Wire's Lester Freamon

Over the last month I watched all 5 seasons of HBO's The Wire (music post here: link) and really enjoyed it.  Each season focusing on a different aspect of life in and around Baltimore.  Written, vetted, acted, filmed, directed really well, with an excellent pace, rhythm, focus; I highly recommend watching it, and not just saying "I love the wire... but I don't know any of the episodes" as most Umerikuns have stated at some time in the past.  I'd only seen bits and pieces when staying in hotel rooms, disjointed, I could not appreciate the magnitude of the series.

In retrospect, when I look across all the 100s of characters presented throughout the 5 seasons, the one character who stands out as the most likable, most relatable, least flawed, in my perspective is Lester Freamon, played by the excellent actor Clarke Peters.  Lester was one of the oldest & least appreciated detectives on the BPD.  Politically incorrect, doing "what was right" before considering how it would damage his career's trajectory, Lester's steady hand and clear mind was refreshing in each scene in which he appeared.  Fastidious, meticulous, tenacious, passionate, determined, driven, mentoring, patient, enduring, curious, insightful, intelligent, level headed (usually), deductive, adept, and righteous.  He was "good police".  As the 2nd oldest member of the last engineering team I led (with most of the other team members being 20 to 25 years younger than me, who looked up to me) and mentored, it makes sense that Lester is the one I could identify most closely with and with whom I could empathize.

Yes, in The Wire, Lester sometimes drank too much, but who doesn't drink too much sometimes? (Ben Franklin always said not to trust the man who drinks water when everyone else is drinking ale... and I do not disagree with old Ben).  Lester had quite an R rated vocabulary and tone, especially when he was justifiably incensed, but again, that's a common human trait.  I know I have from time to time.

The other character I could closely relate to, ironically was also played by "a Clark" - Clark Johnson played the city desk editor Augustus (Gus) Haynes.  Gus worked for metric driven stuffed suits who placed morality & honesty on a much lower priority than glowing recognition and public perception.  Sadly, I've worked in roles like that as well, far too often in the past.  Gus was only in the final season, and not throughout the entire series, so I didn't have enough time to relate to him, and how he dealt with tools like Scott Templeton... but I have a personal appreciation for Gus's daily struggle.

If you've not watched The Wire, you really should.  Especially if you are stuck in a airplane, a hotel, or on a couch recovering from an orthopedic injury that limits your mobility.  It'll be time well spent, eye opening, enlightening, and informative.

National Pine Cone Reserve

When I was a kid growing up in Highland Indiana, every year my parents worked diligently in preparing for our parish's "Christmas Bazaar" where arts and crafts and all sorts of Christmasy goods were sold to raise money for the church and school.  My mom would work with the volunteer ladies who made crafts.  My father would work throughout the year in his workshop in the basement, sawing, coping, gluing, clamping, painting various pieces of woodwork (bird houses, paper towel racks, etc).  Most of the goods had a Christmas theme to them, and wreaths, holly, and pine cones were common-place.

So imagine my surprise when I ascended the hill across the street from my home, and found the drainage culvert up there FILLED with beer-can sized pine cones!  As I walked further along the hill-side, I found hundreds, if not thousands of pine cones; many wheelbarrows worth of pine cones.  If mailing goods was cheaper than it is (I recently mailed a very light package to Chicago, via slow snail mail, and the postage costs were almost as much as the contents of the package!) I would send mass quantities of pine cones back to Highland so the church volunteer ladies could craft them into various & sundry Christmasy goods.  Also, geography conspires against us.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Torrey Pines Beach Yoga

Back in June, I drove Dr Desert Flower down to Otay Mesa so she could get a Fast Pass Global Entry and bypass the log immigration ICE lines that always exist when crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.  After I dropped her off at work, I stopped off at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, just off the PCH, with my State Park annual parking pass & yoga mat in hand.  It was a sunny day, when I parked at the beachside parking lot, and crossed the steep road that ascends up to the top of the Torrey Pines bluffs, located a mostly-flat spot that over looked the beach, and I rolled out my mat.  It was a new place in which I've never practiced yoga before.  I thought it would be a good morning.

Within about 10 minutes of beginning my practice, a thick marine layer began rolling in.  By "thick" I mean the 50 yards between the water's edge and I became occluded by mist to the point where I could no longer see the sea.  I could hear the waves... and the mist made me pretty damp and sticky, but I could not bask in the warm sun nor see the waves rolling in and crash on the beach.   (These were 3 to 4 foot waves, that made quite a crash, when they rolled in)

After more than 1/2 an hour in the wetting mist of the thick marine layer, I called it quits, rolled up my mat, and headed home.  (the gray backpack pictured here, was the last time it was usable... more on that in a future post).  It was interesting to note that the marine layer marched in from South to North.  Right Behind me, was a steep incline that lead up to the Torrey Pines bluffs, more than a 100 feet above where my mat and I were.  I could visibly see wisps of mist condensing as the wind drove the moist air against the cliffside and spiraled past me, within just a few minutes of taking this photo.

I'll practice there again, as it was scenic, natural, and inspiring... far better than any flatulence or sweat scented yoga studio.  Beach yoga studios are the kind of environment I call "my happy place".
= )

The Allure of Organic Tomatoes

Dr Desert Flower loves fresh tomatoes.  I prefer my tomatoes cooked... but I will tolerate a fresh tomato sliced on a burger if it is an option.  DFF has been trying to grow tomatoes on the East side of our home, where the side yard gets about 3 hours of intense late morning sun after our M class star claims high enough to shine over the 5 foot tall masonry border wall.  The eastern garden was not very fruitful.  Either because of the limited UV window, or the poor soil, and poor drainage... or the legacy of the cornucopia of chemicals (both pesticides and fertilizers) that the previous homeowners left us in the garage's "cabinet of death" we found when we moved in... we were not sure.  But we gave up on the side yard, and moved a large potted tomato plant to the sun drenched court yard at our front door.

The front door court yard BAKES in the mid-day.  The 2 story southern facing house wall reflects a good deal of heat energy, the concrete warms up considerably, and the tomato plant basks in all of this solar radiance.  Tomatoes have been plentiful, producing almost 1 a day (6 to 10 a week) over the last month.  Then... we started seeing little black "rice grains" on the concrete around the base of the plant, and many of the leaves were completely eaten.  Turns out, the "rice grains" were "castings" (not inconel castings... insect larva poop, caterpillar droppings), and DDF identified the perfectly camouflaged caterpillars as cabbage loopers, laid by a moth who loves tomatoes.  These loopers - which look like Sesame Street Inch Worms when they are young and little and cute - can grow to the size of an adult human's pinky.  They are relentless.  They are perfectly hidden on the plant, mimicking the exact same green color, latching on underneath a large leaf, gripping the stems with their multiple caterpillar legs tenaciously, and chomping into the plant viciously with 4 alien-like jaws.

Each day I water the tomato plant as a good unemployed husband, after applying for 3 to 5 jobs.  Each day I look for the tell-tale black "castings" laying around the plant, and if I find any (as I do about 1/2 the days I look), then I closely inspect the plant, looking for the devious little critters who love tomatoes as much as DDF does.  When I find one, I toss it out into the lawn (previously using my fingers, but I've placed a small pair of needle nose pliers out on the table in the court yard, as the loopers put off a green defensive slime when gripped between fingers... and I don't need any more inflammation in my life) and let the birds eat them; peacocks and peahens are frequent visitors to our front lawn.

The interwebs told us to use dish soap solution, sprayed on the plant, to discourage the loopers, as a way to not harm the fruit or plant.  Yes, a bubbly dish soap (we use Dawn) DOES make the little young loopers fall off in distress, and one can easily find them on the concrete.  But the fat, puffy, fully-grown adults completely ignore the dish soap sprayed on them, even when I spray it DIRECTLY on them, leaf inverted, directly impinged, 10 or 20 squirts, all of its little feet tenaciously gripping the poor little tomato plant, undeterred.  All of this caterpillar assault has left the tomato plant undaunted.  In fact, the tomato plant has re-doubled its efforts in producing fruit, as if to raise a big middle finger to the insects who are trying to destroy it.  That's good news; more tasty tomatoes chez nous.

Anatomy of a Volvo Headlight Assembly

Last month I was driving to Pep Boys in Encinitas, when all-of-a-sudden, my Volvo C70 dashboard told me that one of my head lights was out.  I'd never had a car tell me, as the driver, that the head lamp was burnt out.  Convenient and serendipitous that it happened on the way to the auto parts store.

I purchased (2) replacement lamps, figuring that if one burnt out, the 2nd one would likely burn out sometime within the next year, and headed home to figure out how to change it.  Volvo was Way Ahead of me, and had already designed in an extremely simple & straight-forward mechanism "designed for maintenance".  Unlike most engineers, I took out the instruction manual (age has proven to refer to the directions first, before breaking something additional in ignorance) and found that Volvo had implemented a 3 sided alignment pin that was a small aluminum spike.  Withdraw the spike, and viola, the entire head lamp assembly easily slid forward to allow bulb replacement.

On Hondas, Chevrolets, Infiniti, Fords and Mazdas, I've struggled and strained to get head light bulbs out of blind or hidden assemblies, by feel.  With the Volvo C70, it was incredibly simple.  So simple in fact, that when I had to return to Pep Boys (because they sold me the wrong model head lamp the first time... from a counter person who didn't understand the specificity of exact part numbers... but the manager corrected the error on my return) ... I was able to replace the head lamp In The Parking Lot, easily.

I was very impressed.  If only all car makers and all consumer goods manufacturers had thought this through as thoroughly as Volvo has done... servicing their products when parts need to be replaced would be So Much easier!  Now.. if the same care could have been applied to the location of the oil filter... instead of being buried behind the engine and above the hot exhaust manifold, then That would have been awesome!

Finally, Eastwatch

Game of Thrones season 7 episode 5 last Sunday helped close some loose ends, but opened up a few new ones.  As always, if you have not yet seen the episode, stop reading now, as this will likely spoil it for you.

I've been a fan of the opening credit sequence of GoT over the last 7 seasons, and when Eastwatch was shown, with very few gears (barely working), multiple cracks in the wall (falling into disrepair, or severely in need of repair) I was a little disappointed to see how weak the fortification was, but the 2nd time I watched it (and screen grabbed it from HBO To Go) the more clarity it gave me.  Much like how Winterfell's bevel gears were chipped and the dire wolf's head was replaced with the flayed man while the Bolton's held the castle, Eastwatch is not so much a castle as it is a neglected relic.

It is an understatement to say that Jaime Lannister's ability to hold his breath and swim massive distances underwater (nearly a 1/4 mile, from the scene where he and Bronn Finally surface away from the burning loot train) means that not only is Jaime the finest swordsman of Westeros, but he can swim better (faster, longer, more strongly) than Michael Phelps.  Phelps never wears full plate mail or a golden hand when he swims, and the length of an Olympic sized pool is no where near a 1/4 mile, so Jaime is at least 10X better a swimmer than Michael Phelps, as far as physics is concerned (and no, I don't believe that farcical statement).

Despite the fact that Jaime isn't dead (though he should be), he did serve a nice role in having a parle with his little brother down in the catacombs.  Useful plot advancement, sure... but then he never should have tried to skewer Daenerys when she was attempting to un-spear her dragon Drogon, now should he?

The internet rumors about how Jon Snow and Daenerys are either Aunt & nephew, or cousins, or 1/2 siblings from a different mother, were given serious wind in their sails when Jon took off his glove and bare-handedly petted Drogon's nose on the windswept cliff of Dragonstone while Daenerys was riding her largest and most vociferous child.  I doubt that I would have been able to muster touching the nose of such a large beast, and would have been concentrating on not evacuating my bowels or voiding my bladder to be that close to history's most lethal biological killing machine.  It was a Very Nice touch to be added to the series (double entendre intended).

The "fool's errand" that Jon Snow, The Hound, and Tormund Giantsbane undertake to "capture" a white walker and bring it back to show the Southerns that the threat is real form the army of the dead, is just going to get them all killed.  Much like Saving Private Ryan, or the United State's misadventures in Afghanistan, or any of a dozen search-and-rescue movies popular in modern culture... you know it's going to go terribly wrong.  The Night King will see them coming from miles away, and the entire party that sets out through the East Watch tunnel should be killed or turned into white walkers immediately, regardless of how much dragon glass they might or might not be carrying (no time was spent showing weapons being forged from Dragonstone mined dragon glass obsidian... but one can assume that some kind of spears or daggers were hastily thrown together).

I DO think that Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) is one of The Most under-appreciated and under-rated characters in all of GoT.  He's brought his red haired tribe south of the wall to escape annihilation.  He watched as The King Beyond The Wall was set to burn at the stake at Castle Black.  His female kin who hooked up with Jon Snow also got killed in the battle of Castle Black, and then he VOLUNTEERS to go to the decrepit Eastwatch Castle to be run over by a horde of white walker undead. He's a remarkable warrior, a great leader, attracted to strength & skill... From a cultural stand point, this leader has been through ALOT.  His patience has been tested, he's been openly insulted in several episodes by lesser men, and yet he keeps on being a reliable, go-to, force majeure.  I will be sad if/when he inevitably gets killed & turned into a red haired white walker.  I would have enjoyed fighting alongside Tormund, sharing a roasted goat or sheep with him, and exchanging tall tales around a warm fire after a pitched battle.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

He's Got the Fire & the Fury

Back on July 2nd, while on a flight from LAX to Covington Kentucky, I jammed my elbow tween the arm rest and the fuselage in a Delta coach flight (link here) and through the rest of July and the beginning of August, my left arm (elbow, bicep, triceps) has been fairly useless.  I've been icing it, elevating it, trying to stretch it.  Physical therapy began this week, and today was my 2nd PT session, and there's been some increase in mobility, decrease in pain, and I can almost use the left arm for things like shampooing my hair, driving a car and turning a steering wheel, etc... all good things, all good progress.

While icing my arm and keeping my elbow elevated higher than my shoulder, for several hours each day, I caught up on most all of my DVR recordings, and I set out determinedly to watch the entire HBO series The Wire, on my legal HBO To GO account (since Amazon wanted to charge me to watch season 5, after letting me watch seasons 1-4 for "free" with my Amazon Prime account.  Netflix recommended Luther... which I may watch in August, as I still have 2 or 3 more weeks, at least, of PT & icing ahead of me.

When I heard the farsical child who is the 45th President say that the DPRK will face "Fire & Fury", I thought of the opening music for The Wire.  Each season had a different artist (or set of artists) perform their version of the 1990 Tom Waits song Down In A Hole:
Season 1 - The Blind Boys of Alabama (Spirit of the Century, 2001)
Season 2 - Tom Waits (Franks Wild Years 1990)
Season 3 - The Neville Brothers (...and all the pieces matter, 5 years of Music from The Wire)
Season 4 - DoMaJe (Beyond Hamsterdam, 2008)
Season 5 - Steve Earle (Washington Square, 2007)
Season 5, last episode, finale recap - The Blind Boys of Alabama (...and all the pieces matter, 5 years of Music from The Wire)

I like Tom Waits original the best, I think.  They're all good, in their own interpretations.  "He's got the fire and the fury, at his command".  Full set of Waits lyrics here: link

I certainly hope the know-nothing, impetuous, 2-minute-attention-span, Obama-obsessed spoiled child who never got his Daddy's approval doesn't cause massive fissile fallout to rain down over the Western Pacific, and in the process, kill millions of Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese, while taking the US economy, stock market, and West Coast real estate prices; il faut voir.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Geography Still Doesn't Matter in a Dragon Based Economy

Last month, I stated that "Geography Doesn't Matter in a Dragon Based Economy" (link here).  Euron's fleet and Daenerys Targaryen's fleets occupied the same space in the Season 7 opening episode of GoT, and not a single mention of it was made in the show despite the Narrow Sea and the close proximity of Dragonstone to Kings Landing.

(if you have not watched any of Season 7 and want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now)
Horizon of Dothraki 
The 2nd episode had Euron's Iron Island fleet mysteriously SURPRISE and DESTROY Daenerys's renegade Greyjoy fleet and apparently All the armies of Dorne who were aboard as well, AT NIGHT, with very few casualties among Euron's angry bunch, which was farcical for multiple reasons.  Euron's flagship finds Yara Greyjoy's flagship, undetected, without any warning, raids it, kills or imprisons everyone on it, and sinks it, in the middle of 1000s of ships (no radar, no satellites, no infrared... yet 100% successful for despicable & revolting Euron).  None of the Dorne soldiers apparently survived... but Dorne is a much larger and formidable force & geographic area than the tiny pugnacious Iron Islands.  Instead of firing a bunch of arrows into Then as he jumps over board, they sail away and just let him bob in the cold water...  all ridiculous aspects of an otherwise well written, acted, and presented television show.
Silly Scorpion, Don't Aggravate A Full Grown Wyvern
Last night's episode (#4 in the 7th season) DID FINALLY bring out the wyverns (remember, they're technically NOT dragons since they lack front legs / limbs) directly into a battle, unleashing the full fury of organic napalm delivered from the throat of a very angry, full grown Drogons.  I loved the "Smaug moment" Drogons had when Jaime's Lannister archers let loose a volley of arrows that harmlessly bounced off Drogons underbelly scales.
Silly Human Archers
But the reason I have reiterated that "geography doesn't matter" is because of the episode ending where Jaime is knocked from his horse (apparently by the flame resistant Bronn who has repeatedly saved Jaime's behind) and he falls, slowly dragged to the bottom of a very deep body of water, by his gold hand and his heavy plate mail armor.  Well, if you're going to arrange for a very deep drowning pool to be part of the plot, you can't have a gentle slope of meadow grass tapering off at the water's edge.  Such a gentle slop would have made the water 1 or 2 feet deep MAX where Jaime was knocked from his horse, 1/2 a second before the running equine was turned into ash by the wounded and angry Drogons' fire.  One or two feet deep, and muddy, would have been the "water" that Jaime fell into, after charging the wyvern & Daenerys with his steed and spear at a full tilt (while his little brother pleads from the hill top, futilely, that Jaime flee, instead).
Little Brother's insight, not heeded by older brother
Is Jaime dead?  Did he drown, dragged down by his armor and gold hand?  He should be.  If he's not, when he surfaces, he'll be a crunchy treat for Drogons, who has not yet been fed this season (on camera).  So wether he drowned in an impossibly deep body of water that should have been 2 feet deep at most near the bank where he fell in, or he surfaces and gets eaten, it doesn't matter.

Why do I care at all about geography, when there are witches, 3-eyed ravens, white walkers, wyverns,  resurrected zombies like The Mountain, and a flame-proof Daenerys inter-woven into the story?  Because geography matters.  Geography anchors the reference frame, it provides logical context, to is the foundation upon which the rest of the "world" from H R R Martin or anyone else can exists, function, facilitate commerce, livelihoods for the citizens of that world... so that it can be believable.  Throw in the magic and mythical creatures, and that makes it more exciting to the readers / watchers. But make a gentle sloping river bank lead to a DEEP Sudden Ledge of a drowning pool... make a bay so narrow that it cannot hold thousands of ships that couldn't see each other... it creates a landscape with so many unknowns that the watcher / reader doesn't know if Up is Down, left is right, gradual is sudden, light is dark, etc.

In Avatar, they had floating geography, that the "unobtainium" caused to hover above the planet's surface, sure.  But the "unobtainium" was intrinsic to the plot, it was Why the humans were mining the planet and disturbing the entire eco-system.  The viewer could suspend disbelief because of how central the geographic features were to the viability of the plot.  In GoT, the geographic anomalies keep getting in the way, making the world of Westeros into a farce instead of a fantasy realm.

Enough said... now it's time for me to make some dinner.

Cumbersome, again

For the last week, Seven Mary 3's Cumbersome has been running through my head.  I can't seem to get it out of my brain.

7 years ago, I posted this here on JustJoeP... but due to its persistence in my consciousness, I am posting it again.  This time, the live version from David Letterman, 21 years ago.  (things live forever, sometimes, on the internet)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lint Police

If you don't keep your dryer's lint screen clean, your clothes will take longer to dry, your dryer will use more energy to dry the same amount of clothes, and you could eventually cause a fire as the lint builds up not just on the filter screen but further upstream as small particulate builds up on heating elements (gas or electric) and could readily combust.

I clean out the dryer screen every time I run a load of clothes through the machine.  I used to try and use my finger tips, but I keep my finger nails consistently short to avoid scratching myself when I get itchy from time to time, so "scraping" the lint off the screen is not so effective with just my fingers.  A few weeks ago, I started using the old spent dryer sheet to peel off the lint.  It works remarkably well.  I wanted to share this little life-hack with everyone else.  The used dryer sheet is 99.9% worthless, as it has already given up its fabric softener to the previous load, and it is just taking up space (albeit a minuscule space) in the dried load.  Fish it out of the load, use it to grab the lint's edge and peel it off the screen, easy, peezy.

And if you go camping frequently, and have trouble starting camp fires, save the lint to start fires, rapidly.  I've saved several lunch bags worth of it, to keep in my "WTSHTF" kit, if I ever need it.

You're welcome  = )

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Big Sick, Yes. Baby Driver, No.

Dr Desert Flower and I went to go see The Big Sick a week ago.  It was a sweet romantic comedy, written by Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon, based upon the story of how they met and how Kumail got to know her parents.  Kumail's immigrant family expects him to marry a nice Pakistani Muslim woman.  Kumail can't find an arranged bride who appeals to him.  The movie is well written, well acted, touching, and a good "date movie".

This morning I donated blood in San Marcos, near the Civic Center, and on my way back from the bloodmobile, I stopped by the Edwards Regal cinemas in San Marcos, hoping to see a pre-noon showing of Dunkirk, which I keep hearing is a massive adrenalin ride and emotional assault on the human condition.  When I got to the theater, it was 1045am and the next Dunkirk was not for another 40 minutes.  Baby Driver was showing at 1045, and being one who doesn't like previews, I opted to see Baby Driver.  It had Kevin Spacey & Jon Hamm in it, and even a cameo by Flea, so I thought "why not?"  Bad decision.

Baby Driver had a body count upwards of a John Wick movie.  Director Edgar Wright loves car chases and shoot outs, and if the shoot outs are killing mobsters or human traffickers or other scum, I'll sit through it, and maybe I might enjoy it.  But in Baby Driver most of the bodies were law enforcement, security guards, and people who were just going about their own business.  Gratuitous violence. Graphic & ruthless death.  Unlikeable characters.  As soon as the closing credits started to roll I was the first person out of the movie theater.  A waste of $7.50.  I'm sorry, but unloading a clip from a semi automatic to the rhythm of the music playing, as if pulling the trigger is the bass line, is insulting, unrealistic, and profoundly insulting.  Sure, there's 2 fast-paced and superbly executed car chases around the Atlanta metro area included in the film, but the rest of it is full of unpleasant, unlikeable, unredeemable characters doing terrible things to each other.  Not something I want to pay to watch.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In A Dragon Based Economy, Geography Doesn't Matter

In a Dragon Based Economy, apparently geography doesn't really matter.  Or "everything you wanted to know about the Game of Thrones season premier, but we're too afraid to ask".
Dragonstone is near Jamie's feet, Kings Landing is 1/2 way to his sister & lover Cersei

I call it a "Dragon Based Economy" because that what John Oliver called it on Colbert's Late Night show twice last week.  "We're talking some serious dragon money" - when Last Week Tonight bought 5 wax presidents from a closing Ohio Presidential museum.  Game of Thrones is one of the Main anchors that brings in subscribers (and pirates) to HBO, along with Real Time (which I watch, every time it's on), The Leftovers (which I couldn't care less about), and Ballers (which I can't give even 1/2 a sh*t about no matter how hard I try).  Westworld was a good series, and in my mind, Needed to STOP when it stopped.  There's Zero Need to continue with Samurai Westworld, Outer Space Westworld, or Ancient Roman Westworld...  but the bean counters and non-creatives at HBO apparently disagree with my perspective and want to keep raking in the cash from zombified viewers.

Another Danish actor steal jobs from good Americans & Brits
Now, why do I state that "geography doesn't matter"?  Well, the newly usurping & murderous Lord of the Iron Born Euron Greyjoy (putting the "Ew!" in "Euron") shows up with an armada of "1000 ships" at Kings Landing, in an attempt to gain favor with Queen Cersei (and ask for her hand in marriage... ew!!! I think I just tasted some of my own vomit), but his massive fleet somehow doesn't run into the even more massive fleets of Greyjoy deserters, Unsullied warriors, 2nd Sons (I'm actually a 2nd son myself, heh heh), and the Dothraki Horde - not to mention 3 massive and very hungry dragons that have been flying air cover for the invading fleet - that Daenerys Targaryen is leading to the island of Dragonstone.  Dragonstone, per the maps of Westeros, is near the eastern mouth of the long bay that eventually leads to Kings Landing.  The Iron Islands, Pyke, are on the Western side of Westeros, north of Casterly Rock.  THERE IS NO Northern Passage, as global warming has not yet melted the ice caps north of the Seven Kingdoms as it already has in Canada and Russia on this world in this age, where Polar Bear mothers now have to swim for more than a 100 miles with their newly born cubs to reach the pack ice, where upwards of 90% of the cubs are drowning, exhausted, as they used to only have to swim a mile or 2 at most.  At least I got to see a Polar Bear in the zoo when I was a kid, before they all become extinct.

But human driven climate change aside, Ewwww-Euron's 1000 ships would have had to sail Down around the Southern end of Westeros, past Dorne, and then northward UP the Narrow Sea, side-by-side or just ahead / just behind Daenerys's even bigger fleet was sailing through, with 3 circling and hungry dragons who would have obliterated the 1000 Greyjoy ships just as they torched the slavers ships in Slaver's Bay several seasons ago, until the slavers finally surrendered and Daenerys took their ships for her crossing of the Narrow Sea.  I've included a handy screen shot from the episode where Cersei is standing in the middle of a courtyard painted as the map of Westeros, for your reference, above.  Both fleets could no co-exist in the same Narrow Sea at the same timer even within a few days of each other, due to their MASSIVE sizes and the remarkably slow pace that sail driven sea travel has when flying just one or 2 sails, and not a massive array of studding sails, spanker sails, royal, sky, moonraker, and top sails as Only Euron's flag ship tried to set (with aerodynamic inaccuracies, sorry special effects folks who were concerned more with style than substance).  "That which is dead can never die" ... no..  how about "that which is dumb cannot get dumber", or "that which is repulsive cannot get even more repulsive".  So Euron's travel to and appear in Kings Landing was not logistically possible, unless he somehow teleported or owned a T.A.R.D.I.S. with enough capacity to move his entire fleet instantaneously without running into Daenerys's fleet.

Sure, "The Twins" where they Freys slaughtered and then got slaughtered themselves ("poison is a woman's weapon") apparently divides the northern part of the Seven Kingdoms from the southern part, perhaps for lack of any small boats that could traverse the water way southeast of "The Twins", I can understand that.  But the waterway that "The Twins" crosses Does Not extend all the way to the west coast of Westeros, so there's no way Euron and his massive fleet could have sailed down it.

Geography aside, the Season 7 premier was pretty good.  Several other poignant observations I made in retrospect are as follows:

1) what's scarier than a whole horde of decomposing white walkers who can't be killed with steel weapons?  A horde of decomposing white walkers who have in their ranks ancient Giants whom they've killed and then resurrected as blue eyed white walkers before the giant corpses could be burnt.  Undead zombie giants are Far More Lethal than undead foot soldiers or undead calvary.  An undead giant could lob a spear the size of a telephone pole with a big nasty pointy end, far into the air (like the height of "The Wall" as happened several seasons ago when the Wildling Free Folk attacked "The Wall" with Giants at their side)... and such a spear could impale one of the precious 3 dragons, perhaps killing it.  Then... the Night King resurrects the dead dragon as a undead dragon...  and it kills the other two remaining dragons.  That would be Game Over, for Game of Thrones.  
What's worse than one white walker Giant? Three white walker Giants!
2) if you were not watching with closed captioning on (as we do in our house, with hearing impaired viewers  and for clarity), you would not know that the massively gray scaled hand that tried to reach out to Samwell Tarly was indeed the hand of Jorah Mormont (former Lord of Bear Island, then reluctant slave trader to keep his wife comfortable and provide "the lifestyle to which she was accustomed", then kidnapper of Tyrion and rebuked suitor of Daenerys).  Seems that Jorah made his way to Old Town to seek a cure for grayscale from the Maesters, but Westerosian medicine still didn't have a cure for that ailment.

3) if you've stolen the keys to the forbidden & locked up Maester reference library, and you have only a few seconds to lift an ancient book from the bizarrely chained shelves (was Old Town seismically active?), make sure you pick The Exact Tome that has the history of the Last Winter in it, that shows Precisely where a whole mountain of Dragon Glass is on the island of Dragonstone (at the mouth of the bay that leads right to Kings Landing)... it just seems rather far fetched to me, as I am old enough to remember going to the library Before there was a searchable internet, and you had to use the card catalogue, or the headache inducing microfiche, and you spent hours and hours searching to find just one or two gems that you could include in a bibliography.  There was no Google, Yahoo, Bing, Lycos,  Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Infoseek, or Webcrawler back when I was in school.  If you wanted to find a book in a library, you had to search for it, long and hard, and hope you got lucky and it wasn't checked out when you finally located it.  Samwell Tarly grabs it The First Pick, while under pressure of being discovered a few seconds later by the next Maester who walks in.  Sure... let's keep suspending disbelief.
Voted most likely to be killed by White Walkers by his Free Folk High School

This should be a good season.  Let the white walkers come... depose the angry Cersei who has no allies (let Arya do it, gleefully)... make a bunch of weapons out of Dragonstone's Dragon Glass cache... wipe out the Greyjoys from the surface of the sea and have their octopus god devour their rotting remains... let the alternative lifestyle Dorne and Greyjoy girls enjoy themselves together... sacrifice the Free Folk & their leader Tormund Giantsbane to the white walker hordes just as corporate America does to the middle class without blinking an eye... have Brienne take out The Mountain as she took out his little brother and then she and Jaime can get together... let Samwell Tarly save the day with his book-learnin... and let Jon Snow get it on with his 1/2 sister Daenerys once the Starks and Daenerys armies band together to fight the White Walker horde.  I can't care about Baelish, Bran, Sansa, Qyburn, Podrick, man-bun Thoros or one eyed Beric very much at all.  Sure, Martin can kill off most of the main characters and elevate any of these lesser roles if he wants to... but... that would hurt the franchise at this point, and HBO wants to keep making money.  Please just let it be one or two more seasons... and not 4 or 5 more, or it'll go on far too long as the books have.