Summer Evening on the Patio

It’s a pleasant evening here, still warm but not oppressive, the sun dropping behind the hills to the west. I’m on the patio, enjoying new(ish), deep chair cushions, and a tasty malt beverage.

Nearby, a neighbor has fired up the grill, and has filled the gentle air with the sweet smell of barbecue. Thank you, neighbor!

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Fool Me Once

HBO’s been pushing its new “Premium Television” series that takes place in the same world as Game of Thrones. I haven’t been paying attention, but I think it’s a prequel. There’s dragons and shit, so it might be cool. But…

The final season of Game of Thrones was giddily anticipated. HBO was on top of the world, producing the most talked-about show for years.

The final season of Game of Thrones also sucked. It sucked in very apparent and obvious ways, and also in subtler ways as well. From the writing to the CGI to the Starbucks cup, it was a train wreck. I say this honestly and sincerely: I could have done better, for half the cost.

The storytelling failure is the least forgivable. Sure, they were setting up for season after season that there was one human on the planet that could kill the crazy undead snow skeleton. And in previous seasons, we watch her journey into something incredible and we are FULLY ON BOARD.

Then in the final season there’s the big battle: slaughter, slaughter, slaughter, a few heroic deeds, a heroic death or two, then the girl kills the supernatural symbolic threat from the north and everyone says, “whoo, that was close!” They wipe their brows and ten minutes later the threat to the very existence of humanity is forgotten.

Before the first frame was shot, that story should have been challenged. But it wasn’t. The writers who didn’t care were given a free pass by producers who didn’t care.

Even before production for the season began, when people are reading the story and deciding their own personal goddam legacies in the industry, that story wasn’t challenged. The thing that (we thought) symbolized the extinction of the human race is beaten in an ordinary battle, and there’s high-fives and hugs and then it’s on to the absurd conclusion. It’s video-game logic; just another boss to beat, all the symbolism of life and death trampled in the rush to just get this goddam thing over with.

It’s pretty clear the whole production ran out both of money and the ability to care. I can hear the director say, “fuck it, we’ll fix it in post,” and move on — without considering that maybe post didn’t have the budget to fix all that shit. But no one cared. Not even the people who hoped to extend this dynasty into other shows.

I don’t know the specifics of why that production ran out of steam. Why they stopped caring. Money, exhaustion, boredom with the subject. But the last season of GoT was a sloppy mess, and the brand will never be the same. It the goal was to be Marvel With Swords, they fucked up.

I will not be watching the new production. I like the dragons and whatnot, but I will not invest any time in this show until the final episode of the final season is aired. I do not trust these people. “OMG OMG OMG that episode was so awesome” my friend will say, and I will reply, “that’s where they get you.” Unless they put Vince Gilligan in charge of the ending, I will wait.

I don’t know how to calculate the cost to HBO of that shitty conclusion to their biggest show ever, but I guarantee the cost to fix that season is less that what they have lost because their new show isn’t must-watch, but simply “whatever”.

I suspect, (but I don’t know), that there were people at HBO saying of the final GoT Season, “We have to push the release. This is shit.”

“Do you know how much that would cost?” is the obvious response.

But none of the big-wigs considered the cost of not fixing it. The cost HBO is about to feel, no matter how much they spend on marketing. We don’t trust them anymore.

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Sexy Units

I was reading a not-great-but-interesting science fiction story today, set in the far future. There was this line: “She might have been only a bit short of a meter-and-a-half tall, but she packed every inch of her frame with massive muscles.”

I’m hoping right now that people in that distant time are a little more settled on their units of measure. But there is a fundamental issue that speculative fiction especially struggles with: metric units are not sexy. Damn near every one of them is four syllables at least.

“I would walk one thousand miles” is light-years ahead of “I would walk one thousand kilometers,” or even, “I would walk a megameter.” (Hm. That last one has a little spark.)

Inch is cooler than centimeter. Mile is WAY more poetic than kilometer. But in science fiction writing, there has been a failure to give humanity credit for the ability to take the mundane and technical, and bring it to life.

In this case, the military has already started: Kilometer is ‘klick’. “It’s ten klicks out and coming in fast!” In some contexts, that’s better than “mile”. Such a hard-sounding word. It has an urgency to it. You wander for miles, but when the threat is coming in at twenty klicks per second you don’t fuck around.

I don’t think I have ever read a story that has reduced these units the way they surely will be. “Give them a cem, they’ll take a klick.” “I missed it by half a mim.”

And let’s face it, “a meter-and-a-half tall”, while getting high marks for hyphen usage, is not casual conversation. “She wasn’t even 15 dems tall, but she packed every cem of her frame with massive muscles.” Better, don’t you think? It’s not simply that the units are consistent; it creates part of a language that gives the world its character. And it’s just tighter.

I have often decried the dry, non-poetic nature of the metric system in literature. But now I see that that dryness is my fault. There will be poets in the future, long after miles are forgotten, yet they will still speak of distance, and they will not use four syllables just for the unit designation. Maybe they will be even more versatile. “A million klicks away” might mean one thing, while “A million kloms away” would connote something else entirely.

As writers, we can imagine how people in the future will streamline these words, and make the form these shortened words take be a subtle part of the world they live in. Natural to them, instructive to us. Fun for everyone!

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The Influential Life

The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas has always had opinions, and she is rarely shy about expressing them. For this reason, she has always been diligent about reviewing the products she buys online. It is important to recognize the good products (and especially the good vendors), while warning folks away from the crap. It is simply a matter of good online-retail citizenship.

Plus, she likes to be creative with her reviews. Tell a little story.

Apparently sometimes being a good retail citizen pays. Some unknown robot at Amazon flagged her reviewing prowess and (I assume) some human subsequently decided that the OSoMR&HBI would be a good person to become a professional giver of opinions.

That is, it turns out, a real job.

It works like this. You select things from a giant pile, they send you the things, and you review them. And keep the things. “Influence” has now become a transitive verb where we used to use “buy”. As in, “I just influenced these jeans and they fit perfectly!”

It’s a good time to be turning half the garage into a workshop. Yesterday my new laser level arrived. Today it was the laser tape measure (that will calculate area and volume and do trig and save up to 50 measurements) and the bike torque wrench. The blocks for calibrating table saw cuts came yesterday; the router table equivalents arrive tomorrow, along with the rounded-edge router bit for my window sill project. The lamps for over the new workbench arrive soon. All for the cost of an opinion. (And income tax on the retail value of the item.)

It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around. I didn’t fully understand at first — it didn’t really sink in until the Official Sweetie showed me the new light fixture she was considering for the hallway. Sputnik! I saw the retail price and asked, “are they seriously sending that to us?” I kind of felt like the first time our little protector dog Lady Byng was barking at the intruder at the door until she realized he was BRINGING FOOD! Mind-blowing! The fixture arrived today, the bulbs arrive tomorrow, and I’ll put it up on Saturday. And help write the review.

We are required to either send an item back, use it, or keep it for at least six months before giving it to family and friends, so you guys are safe from being inundated with LED flashlights and solar-powered LED patio string lights and more solar-powered LED patio string lights and LED bulbs and rechargeable LED under-shelf lights and multi-color LED strip lights and LED wall wash light strips and LED flashing red hazard lights (with bottle opener) in your Christmas stockings this year.

If you would like to follow the Official Sweetie and learn of her many, many opinions, you can do so here. Does having more followers benefit us? Probably. Not sure. But probably. If you find any of those reviews helpful, go ahead and say so! Do more “helpful” votes benefit us? Not sure, but again, probably. Don’t perjure yourself. Who really knows what’s happening in the Amazon Artificial Intelligence. (Seriously good opportunity for crossover speculative fiction there…)

If there is something you are curious about — more a general type of product than a specific item, as there are about 45,000 items available for review at any given time and there is no search function, just filters to select for broad categories — let us know! If either of us are remotely qualified to render an opinion, and we can find an example, we’ll give it a shot. It you’re waiting for the verdict on a pneumatic drain clearing tool, we’ve already got you covered!

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Apparently, I’m still a Padres Fan

In sports news today, the San Diego Padres traded away a bunch of players — and who knows, one of those players might one day be as good as Juan Soto — for Juan Soto.

To KEEP the kid, the Pads will have to pay him a lot of money. I think they will.

Do you remember the movie Moneyball? In that story the bean counters show that with advanced statistics they can find players that produce more value than is revealed by the traditional RBI and whatnot. The good guys in that story found new ways to measure the value of a player, and used that knowledge to build a world series team on the cheap.

The team in that story was the Oakland A’s. Since then, the ownership of that team has discovered an even more efficient way to run a team: lose. Pay as little as possible to stay in the league, and soak up the shared revenue from the TV deals. They don’t even pretend to be building for the future. Trying to win would cut into profits.

San Diego is one of a handful of teams that is actually trying to win. At some point in the post season they will go tooth-to-claw with the Dodgers —another team trying to win it all — and the odds on that outcome shifted today.

That’s all fun, but it seems like these mighty players the Padres have accumulated — Tatís, Machado, Soto, and many others — it seems like they enjoy playing baseball. Like if you gave them a day off from playing baseball, they’d spend it playing baseball. Guys like that are fun to watch.

And that’s my team. I seem unable to change that. When I heard they got Soto today, a thrill went right through me. A thrill I thought I was above after all this time, but that excitement for the future is the payoff for fandom. Hope lies dark and insidious inside you, a hallucinogenic vision of the future, and given even a glimmer of light will turn you into a gibbering idiot.

Go Padres!

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