Game Of Thrones… Finale

DISCLAIMER: I have yet to see a single full episode of the Game of Thrones TV series and I have not read any of the G. R. R. Martin books on which the series is based.

And yet… I’m fascinated by the HBO series. Have been almost from the beginning. As each episode has appeared, I’ve read the mostly positive reactions to the show and I know most of what’s gone on in it: The surprise/shock deaths and the evil machinations of the various characters.

I’m sure I’m missing quite a bit, having not seen show or read the novels, but I’m familiar enough with some of the main characters and know that many fans have found the final season and conclusion of the HBO show a bitter disappointment.

Going back in time, I recall people thinking/hoping the final two books in Mr. Martin’s series would be released just as the show reached its end. Soon these same fans realized it was very likely the second to the last novel might be released by the time the show ended, but it became increasingly doubtful the final novel would see the light of day before then. Then, more time passed and suddenly it was clear neither of the two last books would be released before the show ended.

And so it’s come to pass.

In fact, readers still don’t know when the last two books will be released, if ever, and they’re certain the decline in quality of the series and, especially what they witnessed in this last season, was due to the fact that the show’s runners no longer had Mr. Martin’s books to guide them.

In that, they’re likely quite right.

I’m sure you’ve been wondering: If I haven’t seen the damn series nor read any of the books, what in the world could I possibly add to the conversation regarding Game of Thrones and its TV end?

Welp, if you’ve been reading my posts, you know I have my own little series of novels which I’ve recently concluded. The series, titled Corrosive Knights, consisted of seven novels…

When I heard a few years back that it was likely Mr. Martin would have neither of the last two novels of the series done before the TV show finished, I knew the show might be in trouble and feared exactly what’s happened for many, that the show ended in disappointment.

Understand, I’m no psychic. I based this on the experiences I had writing my own novels.

You see, when I was knee deep in writing Ghost of the Argus, the fifth book in the Corrosive Knights series, I had absolutely no idea the series would go on for two more novels. At that point, believe it or not, I had absolutely no idea how the series would end, if ever. I was enjoying writing each novel and seeing where my imagination would take me.

Granted, I knew I had to eventually wrap the series up and create some kind of conclusion, but there was method to my madness. By focusing on each novel as I wrote it, I was determined to make each book stand out on its own and build upon what came before.

By the time I was on the last couple of drafts of Ghost of the Argus, I had this wild, sudden vision of where the next two books would go. Suddenly, I knew the next two books would offer a conclusion to the series and, just like that, I had a general framework for where I was going.

But it was only a framework.

What followed were four years of very hard work, of trial and error, of new/surprising directions. You see, while I had a general idea of where I was going, I still had to get there. I had to take this framework and build organs and musculature, flesh and blood, around it.

Had HBO been working on a Corrosive Knights TV adaptation of my works and were getting along on the series and wanted to know how I was going to end it, had they asked me before I had my vision I would have had no answer for them. After my vision, I could have provided them with the framework but that’s all they would have had. What I created in four years after was very much different from that initial set of ideas.

I can’t help but think that the Game of Throne showrunners were in a similar position, given general ideas from Mr. Martin. They were the ones who had to come up with all the organs, flesh, blood, and outer skin… and if we’re going by many of the negative reactions, they simply weren’t up to the task.

Frankly, I feel for them.

I’m certain they did the best they could but the fact is they aren’t Mr. Martin and they haven’t gone through the trial and error and actual writing that Mr. Martin has.

Maybe one day the books will finally appear and all those fans of the series will get their better ending.

Until then, they’ve got what they have.

Voynich Manuscript… Deciphered?

Heard about the mysterious Voynich Manuscript? No?

Then check out the Wikipedia entry concerning it:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript

In essence, the Voynich Manuscript is a book consisting of strange writings and illustrations purchased by Wilfred Voynich in 1912. Since that time, scholars as well as the curious have tried -and failed- to decipher the writings within the manuscript.

In the past few days, however, Gerard Cheshire, a University of Bristol academic, announced he has deciphered the famous manuscript. If you’re curious, you can read the article explaining how he did it here…

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02639904.2019.1599566

Sounds good, no?

Finally, finally, we get to find out what mysterious things were written in this very mysterious book, right?

Well, hold your horses because Jennifer Aullettee points out the fact that many people have claimed over the years to have deciphered the Voynich Manuscript and, so far, none have proven correct. She also offers in her article reasons to doubt Mr. Cheshire’s claims, as well:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/05/no-someone-hasnt-cracked-the-code-of-the-mysterious-voynich-manuscript/

I have to say, when I heard of Mr. Cheshire’s claims, I was excited. Hell, I’m fascinated by things like this, essentially unsolved mysteries from the past.

However, it seems to me Ms. Aullettee has effectively thrown cold water on Mr. Cheshire’s claims and… well… until I read otherwise I’m thinking this might be one of a long line of claims that don’t quite hold.

Funny thing is, I suspect when/if the manuscript is deciphered the end result will be a lot of stuff that, to modern readers, will appear to be nothing more than old nonsensical ideas/notions/stories. I strongly suspect we’re not about to find a lost classic of literature.

My basis for this is in some of the illustrations presented in the manuscript, such as…

Or…

Or…

There are many other pages from the book one can find online. Many deal with flora, like the second piece presented above, while others show oddities like pictures 1 and 3. What has so many curious is the writing alongside these pieces. This is, obviously, what so many are trying to decipher.

Until we have final proof -and assuming this latest decryption turns out to be not quite what it is being billed as- I’ll keep hoping for a day when the manuscript is indeed completely deciphered, though I feel whatever writings there are will prove to be, perhaps, quite nonsensical.

We’ll see!

5/17/19 POSTSCRIPT:

We’ll see indeed!

Not even 24 hours later I find this article by Ryan F. Manbelbaum and presented on Gizmodo.com which states:

Sorry, it looks like a Researcher didn’t just crack the Voynich Manuscript after all

The upshot is that the university in which the above mentioned individual who claimed to have cracked the Manuscript… well… I’ll let the University Speak for itself (you can read their full statement here):

Following media coverage, concerns have been raised about the validity of this research from academics in the fields of linguistics and medieval studies. We take such concerns very seriously and have therefore removed the story regarding this research from our website to seek further validation and allow further discussions both internally and with the journal concerned.

Yeah, sounds like they feel just maybe the whole “I deciphered the thing” statement previously released might have been… well… premature, to say the least.

The Joys of AC

If you’ve been following the hilarious/high-cost events of my life these past days, you know that 1) I had to replace the entire east side water exit line because the cast iron pipes had corroded to the point where they were plugged up and 2) My central AC unit died.

Both things have cost me dearly -from a money standpoint!- and the bloodletting isn’t quite done. My east side yard is turned over dirt and rocks and will need to get a new layer of sod. The AC unit was finally replaced yesterday and not a moment too soon. The heat my family and I faced for the past two days and nights (really three with Friday, but at least that night there was still some residual cool air in the house) were bordering on unbearable.

Yeah, I know. First world problems and all.

Monday was really rough, having the AC folks there and seeing them slowly …sloooooowwwwwwlllllyyyyyy… take the old unit out and then put the new one in… It was so hot and I was so damn sweaty and at several points I was ready to jump out of my chair and tell them I’d help in any way possible to get this done quickly.

By around 4 P.M. they were finally done, though there was a moment of high tension when the main AC guy connected the wiring and my thermostat was reading that something wasn’t connected right. For five terror filled minutes I wondered if the new unit was somehow defective but, thank the Gods, it seemed all that happened was a couple of the wires he connected didn’t quite… connect.

When the AC started, I stood under one of the vents, hoping for a freezing blast. It didn’t come, not right away, but within a few minutes the blazing hot/humid air blowing out of the unit became colder and colder and, I knew, things were going to be OK.

I slept like the proverbial log last night and still feel exhausted today.

Now, to get the yard and that bathroom (the one part of the house that also had to get the exit line redone) fixed and the financial bloodletting will be done.

P.S.: Thanks to everyone out there buying and/or reading via Kindle Unlimited my Corrosive Knights novels. Ever since releasing the seventh and concluding novel in this series (though I can say with confidence there’s more stories to tell set in this wild universe!), I’ve been delighted by the steady stream of readers and I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you so much for making these last few months so damn enjoyable!

It almost makes up for the past week and a half! 😉

Now the Universe is just laughing at me… Part Deux

The AC “fix”, putting Freon into the machine, lasted a whooping two whole days before we were back at square one.

We called the company that “fixed” the unit and reamed them out.

Though I’m far, far from an AC “pro”, I’ve had enough experience with various household issues, electrical, plumbing, etc. to have some idea of what’s what. When the tech originally came, I told them that two days before we had the plumbing people over and I worried they had nicked a line and this caused the Freon to dissipate those two days later.

The guy didn’t think so but did conduct a cursory -but not full- search for the leak and was clearly in a hurry. Why? Because all through his visit, he was being called (at least three times) by his company because he needed to get to his next job(s).

So he added Freon to my machine and told me they would schedule a more in depth look into the leak possibility.

Welp, as I mentioned above, two days later, ie yesterday, we were back to the AC not cooling at all.

Furious, we called the AC company back this morning, they said they couldn’t come until Monday, we threatened to use another company and, not willing to lose us as long term customers, they sent over the same guy from the other day.

He looked around and this time found the leak.

That’s the only good news to come out of his second visit.

Our AC unit, he explained, has a leak in the coils in a place where it can’t be sealed. He showed it to me and… when you’re right you’re right. Normally, the outdoor unit which has the leak would be replaced but since my AC unit is old (15+ years) and therefore uses a different form of Freon (who knew?), there is today no company that makes the outdoor compressors that use that Freon and therefore that unit cannot be replaced.

The bottom line is the entire AC unit needs to be replaced which they will do on Monday.

In sum: 1) If this keeps up, I’m going to have to declare bankruptcy, and 2) I get to enjoy two more days of sweltering heat within my home!

Hurray!

Whatever it was I did to deserve all this must have been quite the whopper.

Now the universe is just laughing at me…

Yesterday I posted about my lovely plumbing problems so what happens that night?

My AC goes out.

Luckily, got someone to come in today and its working -and after spending a not so insignificant amount of money getting it repaired- and I can’t help but wonder if maybe the plumbing work (and ripping the east side of my house) somehow caused the AC failure, which amounted to losing the AC’s Freon.

Hey, universe, you’ve clobbered me twice in less than a week.

How about now giving me just a tiny little break?!

Just when you think everything is going great…

…that’s when you’ve got to watch out!

Yeah, things were going well for me. Work, home, family… it was all going well.

And then came this past weekend. One of the bathrooms had problems with the water going down. Water came out from the bottom/base of the toilet.

Uh oh.

So you call the plumber and they try a snake through the pipes and… they hit a wall somewhere within the pipes. We get a camera down there and… its bad.

Living in a home ‘round these parts made in the late 1950’s, that’s a worry because the exit lines in many of these structures are likely made of galvanized metal. It works, for a while, but inevitably you get a slow blockage developing over time and that appears to be where I was.

The fix? Redoing pretty much the whole exit line from that bathroom to the street and out into the city line.

Lot’s o’ mess, lot’s o’ money spent, and now I gotta redo that bathroom (to replace the old metal lines they had to open the floor and get down below it) plus have to get someone to also replace the grass along the entire side of the house. To put in the all new PVC pipes (which will apparently last 100 years or longer), the plumbers had to bring in an excavator and literally rip the whole side of the house up so they could lay down the new pipes.

Sheesh.

Fresh headaches -and smaller wallet- and more work to be done.

So much fun!

Oh, Canada…!

End of the week, decided to indulge myself with a little Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (their Hazelnut latte really hits the spot!).

In front of me in line was a road construction worker. I could tell because of his reflective safety jacket.

Anyway, he makes his order and it comes to $5.02.

He asks the lady at the counter if she could please round it down to $5.00 because he didn’t want to carry around 98 cents jingling in his pocket.

The lady at the counter didn’t know how to react to that. He had to repeat himself a couple of times before she understood what he was asking and, in that time, I pulled two cents from my pocket and offered it to her.

The road construction dude thanked me and repeated how annoying it would be to spend the workday with 98 cents jingle jangling in his pocket and I told him I could totally understand.

Now, I’m not posting this to show just how magnanimous a person I am. Rather, to point out the following, which some of you out there may not know:

In February of 2013 Canada officially did away with their pennies. They noted that it took 1.6 cents to make a 1 cent penny and therefore it was -obviously!- silly to keep making and using them.

The last time I visited Canada, stores still charged regularly for items.

However, if the total of your sale was, to pull a number completely randomly out of thin air, $5.02, you would be paying $5.00 for your item(s).

If, however, the total of your sale was $5.03 or $5.04, you’d be paying $5.05 for your sale.

In theory, this balances out sales to you over time.

While there will certainly be times you lose as well as “win”, it seems to me the Canadians are on to something.

Certainly that road worker wouldn’t have had to ask the cashier to please keep him from filling his pockets with change.

Tesla… one more time

Ok, promised I wouldn’t write about Tesla for a while…

…unless something interesting appeared worthy of talking about.

Over at jalopnik.com, Jennings Brown writes about:

Tesla autopilot malfunction caused crash that killed Apple engineer, lawsuit alleges

At the risk of giving away everything in the article, the family of Mr.
Walter Huang, an Apple engineer, filed a lawsuit against Tesla because Mr. Huang’s Tesla Model X, while on autopilot, crashed into a median wall and killed Mr. Huang.

The family, as the lawsuit alleges, feel Tesla’s autopilot feature is to blame for Mr. Huang’s death.

Reading the article, one feels a great deal of sympathy for Mr. Huang’s family. It is indeed a tragedy whenever anyone dies, whether by natural causes or accident. Worse yet if, as the lawsuit alleges, by a malfunction of a product.

However, one line in the article I found very interesting (the bold lettering was added by me):

In a blog post published a week after the crash, Tesla said that the car gave Huang one audible alert and several visual alerts throughout his drive that morning, and the car detected that his hands were not on the wheel for the six seconds leading up to the wreck. “The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” the blog states.

As I’ve mentioned before (and it must get boring or bordering on bragging on my part by now!), I recently purchased a Tesla Model 3. I’m absolutely delighted with the car. I have been experimenting with the auto-pilot feature and find it absolutely terrific.

However, I realized rather quickly the auto-pilot feature, as wonderful as it was, was not a full self-driving feature.

There is a difference.

The auto-pilot is effectively a better version of cruise control. It drives the car by following road signs and cars around you and, especially, in front of you.

But it is far from infallible.

If the road lines are too faded or not there, the car will lose track of the road. If you are not behind another vehicle when approaching a red light, the car will cross the intersection as it does not at this point “read” lights or stop signs.

In the case of Mr. Huang, I suspect (and this is all it is, a suspicion) that he either dozed off or had some kind of problem which prevented him from realizing the situation he was in.

While it may not seem like much time, not having your hand on the steering where for six seconds before the crash is an awful long time. Don’t believe me? Count down six seconds: One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three…

In that time and had he been paying attention, Mr. Huang should have seen the dangerous situation he was in.

When I’ve used the auto-pilot feature, there have been times the car has lost track of the road and I’ve had to take sudden control. It is quite easy to do so, by the way. Tap on the brake, turn the steering wheel. You instantly regain control over your car. Further, the car makes a very loud noise to alert you if the autopilot feature is experiencing difficulty.

But most important is that you have to anticipate where potential problems may lie, especially when using the feature. Curvy roads. Upcoming road-work. Pedestrians. Other cars around you that may try to merge into your lane.

You need to pay attention to all those things. Just because you’re in an “autopilot” mode doesn’t mean you can doze off or no longer pay attention.

Again, I have a great deal of sympathy to the family of Mr. Huang. I can’t imagine the agony they’re going through having lost him.

But I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the fault more lies in his inattention moments before the wreck rather than Tesla’s autopilot.

We’re killing ourselves…

Found this very depressing, IMHO, article by Jack Guy over at CNN.com…

Scientists find cocaine in UK shrimp

Its long been clear that we’re doing great damage to the environment. Whether it be clearing forests or polluting the air and water, humans are, sadly, very destructive creatures.

The above article shows how we affect creatures around us. In this case, we’re talking about freshwater shrimp found in 15 different sites in the UK county of Suffolk.

The counties are rural and the fact that these shrimp show signs of cocaine -and banned pesticides- in their system proves, as I said before, how what we humans do affect the environment -and its creatures- around us.

How very sad.

News of the weird…

Growing up in the 1970’s and early 80’s was an odd experience. There was incredible intrigue around the notion of “unexplained” mysteries. You had popular books like…

Chariots Of The Gods.jpg

Which theorized aliens visited Earth in ancient times and built all kinds of things those primitive humans simply could not.

There were plenty of other mysteries out there to explore. How about…

Related image

…or perhaps UFOs? How about Bigfoot? Or the very mysterious fate of hijacker D.B. Cooper?

Image result for d.b. cooper

Yes indeed, a weird, entertaining time to be an armchair detective, sorting through the half-truths presented in various books/magazines and, yes, even TV shows hosted by… Leonard Nimoy?!

Yeah, a fun time to be around, even if many of these purported mysteries were likely far less mysterious than the presenters would have us know.

Welp, now and again certain “mysteries” bubble up. Some are relatively new (the chupacabra!).

With great amusement I found this article by Julia Hollingsworth and found on CNN.com concerning…

“Yeti” footprints sighted claims Indian Army tweet

I can see the upcoming documentary now…

😉

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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