Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sometimes Experts Are the Worst Explainers

Dad goes to jury duty. I attempt to explain jury duty to my 6- and 4-year-old:

I. Anglo-American Theories of Truth vs. Continental Theories of Truth and Its Implications for Common and Civil Law Systems with Specific Reference to Juries
II. Important Civic Duties and Why They Matter to Democracy
III. The Difference between Sixth and Seventh Amendment Rights to a Jury
IV. "Okay So What If You Were a Robber ..."
V. Where Jury Rosters Come From and How Local Government Administers Them and Why This Is a County Function Not a City Function
VI. A Brief History of the Development of Twelve-Man Juries with Digressions into Early Medieval Danish Invasions of England
VII. Stop Hitting Your Brother, I Said Robber not Assaulter
VIII. Citizen Juries as a Check on the Coercive Power of the State
IX. Empirical Research on the Effectiveness of Juries from the Arizona Jury Project
X. Why It Is Okay for Mommy to Be Judge and Jury but not the Government
XI. Look There Is A Thing Called Jury Duty and Daddy Is at It as Is His Civic Duty
XII. I Feel Like This Conversation Was a Bad Idea, Do You Want to Go to Costco?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Dance with Dragons (ASoIaF, spoilers)

It makes me nervous that Dany thinks of Missandei last when mentally listing people who might betray her.

Three-eyed crow = some Night Watch guy with the sight. At first I thought it might be Benjen but the three-eyed crow probably has to be a lot older so I am off that prediction.

“Are you quite certain that Daenerys will make good her brother’s promises?” -- is this speaking of a different brother? Which brother? Rhaegar or Vanerys or someone else?

Varys -- “he taught them to read as well” --  like Dany freeing the slaves? Will this make Varys more loyal to Dany?

8% -- Gray death! I knew there'd be a plague!

“The worst part was knowing that nightfall would bring no relief. Up in the high meadows north of Lord Yronwood’s estates, the air was always crisp and cool after dark, no matter how hot the day had been. Not here. In Volantis, the nights were almost as hot as the days.” I FEEL YOUR PAIN MERCHANT’S MAN. THIS IS WHY I LEFT NORTH CAROLINA.

Quentyn is going to die, he is totally incidental to this plot.

In the story the elephant driver prods the elephant with his heels -- no, in reality, they use big honkin' hooks, and it is not cool. And also we need to stop elephant habitat destruction and probably they should not be kept in zoos only really big nature preserves so they can walk a lot.

Nerd Interlocuting: Speaking of tendentious complaining ... I am slightly bothered that all the hot women in Game of Thrones are SLIM and that Cersei is spending lots and lots of time working on being slim and tightly-corseted [Erin: And high breasted.] It's not fucking 1870 you dumbass [Erin: Yeah, it seems like there should be buxom wenches, if nothing else.] Exactly! curves! child-bearing hips! well-fed chubby cheeks! especially since he DOES spend a lot of time on the quality and quantity of the food of the rich vs. the hunger of the poor. Cersei should be a chubbo [Erin: Yeah, that's a good point. Does he comment on Sansa having the equivalent of baby fat? And then slimming out?] I think so, yeah [Erin: I hope Sansa wins.] me too

GRRM: "Stretch marks that could only have come from childbirth" -- NO YOU DUMMY stretch marks are from PREGNANCY! Another symptom of being too famous to be edited.

30% - Not really buying young Griff as Rhaegar’s kid

Benjen Stark isn't permanently lost ... He seems obviously key to some future plot point.

The Mountain isn't dead because the skull is not definitive. People in this novel suffer from terrible genre blindness. If you don't see someone die AND BE BURNED in a character POV chapter, THEY ARE NOT DEAD. Don't believe it when you just get shipped the skull.

This book much better than the last one. Also cannibals are a totally good place to hide if you're Rickon.

40% -- Tyrion is on his way to serve Dany and probably to save Meereen

I refuse to let Jon be Azor Ahai. I quit this book if he is.

(GRRM describes Melisandre as breaking her fast - put a pin in this until slightly below.)

Waaaaaaay too much Ramsey Bolton.

So I assumed the horn that wakes the sleepers was magic to wake up dead warriors to fight for good, I guess because there's something like this in The Hobbit? It only just occurred to me now that it means literally that a horn is waking up sleeping warriors in the castles or whatever and that is supposed to be our first thought, and the magical meaning is supposed to be a surprise. So, prediction, some magic horn will wake "sleepers" (i.e., dead people) to fight for humanity against the Others.

Well Reek definitely rhymes with a lot of things. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with Martinique.

Apparently this is the book where random eligible heirs start popping up. They are all boring.

68% -- Uh ... It took me until midway thru the escape to figure out Able was Mance. Doh.

Hahahaha hello MOUNTAIN. This makes me think the Hound isn't dead for real either. They will have to face off. Symmetry!

One of the problems with book 4 and 5 is the lack of plot line in individual books. Book 1 had a really strong individual plot line (Eddard's story) that carried the book through and also connected to the larger saga; that has faded over the series.

I love the Braavosi battlefield banker. I totally buy this. Bankers do anything to protect their investments. I love it.

Bored of slave Tyrion. We don't need a billion chapters to make the point.

80% ... Interest flagging. Liked this book a lot better than the last one but let's ... finish ... up.

GRRM says that Theon gets up from sleeping and "breaks his fast." He makes a point earlier about Melisandre getting up in the morning and the squire asks if she wants to "break her fast." This is 100% petty and pedantic, so feel free to skip ahead, but to me this is another sign of getting too big to be edited. The "fast" that is being broken in the word "breakfast" is the midnight-until-Mass fast that Catholics were obligated to observe until the Second Vatican Council, because you can't mix Jesus in with regular food in your stomach acid. Just sleeping overnight is NOT A FAST, and it is sort-of weird and throws me out of the narrative when people in the book solicitously act like not eating while sleeping was a massive hardship. I know it's just a fake-medievalism meant to serve the mood of the story, but this is why editors are important.

100% and Done -- This one was a sad book. And didn’t have enough plot. Poor Ser Kevan.

Jon Snow is obviously not dead. Maybe wildlings save him?

Cersei won’t die at the trial. Margaery probably won’t, but I suppose maybe. Upon reflection, I am actually slightly so-so on this now ... I thought the trial would be in Book 5, but with it being pushed to Book 6, maybe Cersei will die, especially if it drags out through half the book. But, I will predict, Cersei survives the trial. Jamie has to kill her later on.

Not convinced Stannis is dead.

Varys, give up, there’s enough dead people. Varys stabbing people at the end is just depressing, things are unstable enough. Be better at your job and you won't have to stab quite so many people!

I feel like GRRM has put off showing us magic or religion or The Others for too long. He's managed to foist off a really long historical fiction epic on SFF nerds as a fantasy epic by promising magic that never shows up!

Okay, so, Mirri Maz Dur -- Dany’s womb just quickened again when she PLOT-CENTRALLY MENSTRUATED (It was not actually clear to me in the story if she had been menstruating all along or just suddenly re-menstruated, but obviously it mattered to the story ... or maybe miscarried). Quentyn is the sun, who "rose" in Westeros and "set" in Essos. The great grass sea is growing dry for winter … mountains blow in the wind -- volcanic ash? Maybe a volcano erupts next book? Obviously Drogo is not coming back (BURNED IN POV CHARACTER CHAPTER!) so it must be some Drogo-lite or Drogo-junior or something.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Feast for Crows, Part II (ASoIaF, Spoilers)

Discussion after first part:

This Dorne shit is borrrrrrring. So far it could have all been rolled up in people at Kings Landing chatting about things. Yeah, we get it, the country is falling apart. Also, Westeros is not the size of South America. Just no. [Kathryn: No, He is bad at scale.] No pre-modern state can rule that much territory. It's like Britain or maybe double-Britain. [Yeah, maaaaaaybe China.] Yeah.

ALSO apparently the messenger ravens fly BOTH WAYS. That is not how birds work. I keep having to remind myself to suspend my disbelief about that and decide the maesters have secret bird powers. [Clearly these are magic birds or something.] Yeah, that is why only the maesters can tend them.

Okay, so, I agree with Jon Snow that Sam should by now have quit being craven. But also, it would be okay if maye like ONE OR TWO THINGS had happened in Sam's entire childhood that weren't horrible, terrifying, or abusive.

Also, virtually all of Westeros's problems are caused by child abuse.

Picking up at 30%:

Okay Noho Dimittis, nice fakey Latin name. Nunc dimittis is "now you dismiss [your servant]" from Luke and used in many Masses; Noho Dimittis is probably he who can't be dismissed/gotten rid of.

Oh I totally forgot winter is coming until Jaime told the guy in the Riverlands to plant and hope for one last harvest. Should be more urgency, no?

Hahahha mad points ... Hanged, Ami. Your father was not a tapestry. That is one of my favorite useless language facts.

Also props for the Quiet Isle being Mont San Michel.

This book jumping around in time and perspectives is very confusing. I doubt the Onion Knight is dead.

Oh hello Gendry, tuning up at what I'm pretty sure is same inn where I declared Bob Newhart was the innkeeper, having a weird dream. It's odd how on a continent the size of South America everyone turns up in the same 3 places.

I could loosely buy Gendry as a love affair for Brienne but I still think she's Jaime's arc.

76% argh I'm so bored I have to go read something else [Read half of the last of the Call the Midwife books and, dude, I am still totally clenched up, it is harder core than anything in these books!]

I'm kind-of ready to be done with GoT, or at least this book which is getting EXCRUCIATING. NOBODY IS DOING ANYTHING. EVERYONE IS JUST TALKING [Kathryn: This one is by far and away the weakest of the five] It has been going on so long that I am starting to forget that I like to read. I took a break to go more Call the Midwife and I was like OH RIGHT THIS IS WHAT INTERESTING IS LIKE. And every time ANYTHING happens he immediately ends the chapter and cuts away to another talking part


Oh, hi, Mya Stone is apparently one of Robert's bastards hanging out with Sansa, BAM PREDICTION ... she is the oldest one, right?

Brienne is not dead and neither is Pod. This ENTIRE SUBPLOT is achingly pointless if they are and I will go buy this volume in paperback (instead of e-book) specifically to throw it across the room if I just read all of that looooooooong subplot to no good end.

Jaime and Cersei will leave the world together but not at the trial by combat. Margaery won't die yet either.

No man will take Riverrun from Emmon ... So a woman will

Arya will lose herself to the faceless whatsits but Nymeria will recall her to herself

Back to the geography problem: Dorne is dry and hot and somewhere down near the equator, and yet obviously Cornwell, so he mentions in passing that Dornish yew bows are second only to goldenwood but I don't think yews near the equator make for good longbows, I think the cold and wet slow growing conditions do it.

Seriously nothing happened in this whole entire book, the next one had better be better. Like there was no plot arc and hardly anything from the characters we started with.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Feast for Crows Part I (Spoilers, ASoIaF)

I had to look up the title of this book again; this is my major problem with reading on the Kindle, I can never remember the damn titles of what I'm reading.

But I predict there will be many crows in this book, both Night Watch ones and real ones!

Let's get to it:

Isn't Aeron a kind of a chair or an Intel chip or something? -- I really don't feel like the Iron Islands have a viable economy. -- All these religions are pretty clear that the dead don't stay dead. So, probably lots more dead people who aren't dead.

GRRM has a big vocabulary. I don't usually look up words this often.

I'm not thrilled with this Dorne chapter ... Too much early worldbuilding. I want to get back to the story, GRRM wants to give me ALL THE INTERESTING DETAILS of ALL THE DISTINCT CULTURES he has created. As a normal thing I'd probably like this because I like worldbuilding, but it's getting hard to keep track of all this stuff and it just feels a bit oppressive to have to decode an entire new culture AGAIN.

I keep reminding myself, I just have to stick it out through first 50% for it to start picking up. First 50% is self-indulgent world-building, second 50% is galloping plot. Sort-of like The Brothers Karamazov! Same length, even!

OMG this Brienne chapter is ennnndless and repetitive. Do you suppose she’s looking for a girl of three-and-ten with auburn hair and blue eyes? Also, I’ve gathered from a few tiny hints in the text that she’s abnormally tall and horse-faced, and self-conscious about it. (Is this where he started getting too famous to be edited?)

I finally looked at a map because I was so confused, and I had the Eyrie and King’s Landing both on the wrong side of the continent, along with Harrenhal. And I thought Casterly Rock was somewhere in the middle. I also had literally no idea where Highgarden was. I didn’t think next to Dorne. Man, now my brain has that twisted feeling. The map said that Westeros was "about the size of South America," which -- no. Just no.

Arya reciting her list again. Bet she gets to kill Cersei.

Predictions are getting harder with all these minor characters that I forget who they are ... They might be important but I can't recall prior mentions. Like who the hell is Lancel? (Or rather, what the hell happened to him?)

Brienne's new arms must have belonged to someone significant

Was the Hound definitively dead? Well, I guess no one in this book is really DEFINITIVELY dead. But I refuse to believe the Hound is dead until someone burns his body or his corpse rots in full view in King's Landing.

I'd crew Asha's ship. (Not in the dirty way.)

OMG there are ten million new POV characters. Okay maybe three. But still!

Arianne is a damn liar. That's like not even a prediction, that's just a fact. Nobody loves you, Arys Oakheart, and you are a major illustration of the fact that God only put enough blood in a man's body for one head to work at a time.

These plots all feel really disconnected from the first set of plots. Like I've started on an entirely different series, almost, such as when an author writes a trilogy, then goes back later and writes more books during the same time but from minor characters' points of view (*coughAnneMcCaffreycough*). I've sort-of forgotten why we care who wins the Game of Thrones as long as it's Not Cersei. Is this book the one where he starts wandering off and indulging his love for extreme detail at the expense of central plot?

Awwww, Podrick Payne is back! I hope he's a cutie patootie on the show because he's a cutie patootie in my head.

Prediction: Tyrion turns up in the east with Dany. He's been missing for A LOT OF PAGES, and I still think Varys (and his nominal y) is playing a long game for the Targaryen.

Wow Cersei is bad at queening. This is a little heavy handed.

Ohhhh they're settling the Golden Companions on The Gift. (I guess this is a prediction because they haven't outright said so yet? But really it's just the reader having a few pieces of information from several widely-spaced chapters -- Stannis wants to resettle The Gift, and the Golden Companions have taken ship north, and the Golden Companions lost their homeland or something a long time ago -- that the people in the book don't have all of yet.)

Is Jaime going to be making kings later? Speaking of Jaime, he and Cersei missed a prime chance for corpse-adjacent sex. I guess it's really over!

Damphair is a dumb name. GRRM has a way with names but Damphair is dumb.

(30% ... just finished the Brienne chapter where she kills Shagwell, et al, and gets set on the trail of Arya instead of Sansa)

(I also wasn't texting my predictions to my nerd interlocutors during this one because I was mostly reading it late at night while up with a sick child and I didn't want to wake anyone else with an ill-timed text!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Took a Break, Coming Back

I took a non-fiction break to clear out my brain* and I am ready to start diving back into Game of Thrones again. I will be starting the next book tonight!

*1491: Definitely read, so interesting
Call the Midwife: Stories familiar from TV series but with more socio-economic and political background given, interesting and worthwhile
The Secret House: The Extraordinary Science of an Ordinary Day: kinda dated, writing style annoying

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Storm of Swords: Second Half (spoilers! ASoIaF)

50% and further – sorry I got sucked in and I didn't keep good logs

Dany, hero-worship your brother less, he sucked. Also Jorah is getting more traitor-like all the time. Also that is a lot of slaves to free.

The predictions from the old lady are creepy. Beric talking about how fire consumes makes Melisandre's theology not so winning. And her Creepy Jesus theology is creepy. Jenny Oldstones might be the old lady's daughter or friend or even herself?

Bran + Meera = TWOO WUV, but srsly how old are these people? I am very unclear whether this is puppy love or true adult love.

Brienne as Jaime's salvation is sweet! She is the knight he couldn't be, who keeps her vows and is motivated by the proper things. And doesn't have ill-considered sexual relationships with siblings. Or sex with anyone, apparently.

Jeyne chasing Robb out seems obviously about Jeyne wanting to do evil to him, like she needs to be there to help with the Freys' scheming, not her wanting to be with him. I think she's in on whatever is coming.

Catelyn needs to get over Jon Snow being a bastard. It's been 16 years and approximately 30% of the population of Westeros are bastards (given the frequency it comes up in the text!). She is too mature and too smart to blame a baby for who its parents were or weren't. Also I think she's too smart not to pick up on the fact that Ned is NOT REALLY THE FATHER.

You know what wouldn't grow in a land of multi-year summers? Fucking apples. Apples require 1000-1500 hours of “chilling,” which is temperatures below freezing in winter to bloom in spring. They simply wouldn't set blooms in a years-long summer. And you know what would happen in a premodern society without modern food preservation techniques with a years-long winter? Everyone would die of fucking scurvy. [Kathryn: They never really describe how they make it through winter.] GRRM says, Eat your vegetables or you'll turn into a wight.

Hound: “Maybe we'll be in time for your uncle's bloody wedding.” OH YOU THINK IT'LL BE BLOODY, CHAPTER-ENDING SENTENCE? This is the second time GRRM has ended a chapter with (off-the-cuff) predictions about Edmure's wedding ending horribly. This wedding is going to end in death, death, death. (Maybe I'm good at predicting things because like 90% of my communication is sarcasm.)

Well that was horrifying. [Kathryn: That's what they call the Red Wedding.] Goodness.

The first Westerosi lord to forbid their army from drinking on duty will win the Game of Thrones, just saying.

Wait, how did Balon Greyjoy die? Ugh, it is hard to keep track.

Hero reborn in the sea – like Davos?

996 Lord Commanders of the Wall properly recorded but they can't manage to keep track of how to kill wights? “Obsidian knives” was too tricky?

Well now that Ygritte is separated from Jon she's gonna fucking die.

GAAAAAH don't wave at eagles; if this series has taught us one thing, it's not to wave at eagles.

In Bran's story Walder Frey is cursed for slaying a guest … the Night King must figure somehow.

Benjen is not wholly dead. I don't think he's ColdHands, who is older than Benjen, but maybe he is similar? I'm not sure who or what ColdHands is, but then I guess we don't know a whole lot about the magic beyond the Wall yet.

OH BAM the black door gives me chills.

Ugh way to have incestuous sex on the altar near your dead child, Jaime and Cersei, so creepy.

Sansa needs to stop using the word “tummy” in her internal monologue as she is NOT FOUR.

This wedding chalice is Bad News. [Kathryn: What makes you say that?] Tyrion says Joffrey can drown in it; Sansa hopes he gets drunk and breaks his neck. There's also a sword and a dagger and one other weapon, but the chalice gets like five paragraphs and has all seven houses on it.

Ohhhh, I did not get that Joff killed Bran. [He really is a loathesome little shit.] I feel like they are spending a lot of time going over everyone who might want Joffrey dead. But there was just a wedding slaughter like two chapters ago. [Kathryn: Everyone airs grievances at weddings don't they?] No, you're thinking of Festivus. [Kathryn: My bad.]

Ohhhhhhh Sir Loras is gay, for Renly apparently; things make more sense now.

Lysa. Dude. Turn off your baby clock. Have a little self respect.

Boy, Tyrion seems awfully sulky about a 14-year-old girl whose family was slaughtered by his not being in love with him. [Kathryn: I mean kudos for not raping her but that really only gets you so far.] Right. Sansa either plotted with Margaery or is fleeing in the night or both. When the hell did Tommen get here? [Why do you say that about Sansa?] Margaery's no innocent and that Queen of Thorns is both hilarious and totally lacking in scruples. I suppose it might be a Dornishman who was on the inside but I think Margaery has to be in on it.

Cersei's accusation that Tyrion wanted to be king seems over-the-top, but this is an exciting battle with The Mountain. I keep confusing the first names of the Mountain and the Hound, but that does not actually seem to matter a lot to the narrative.

I'm sort-of nervous that Missandei will betray Dany. Also that Barristan won't tell her secrets she needs to know until it's too late.


Man, apparently this is the book where violent young women fail to kill men who need killin' (Dany, Arya; Jorah, the Hound).

Harsh for Dontos but he was creepy. So creepy.

Dany should have had Ser Jorah's head cut off; this will come back to bite her in the ass.

I predict Jaime will eventually go to the Wall (to fight, not take the Black).

Tywin does not have so many sons he should be disowning them at this rate.

OH LOOK JON IS WISHING FOR A DRAGON OR THREE TO DEFEND THE WALL. Maybe he eventually joins up with Dany so they can defeat the Others, in a veritable song of ice and fire!

Jon won't accept Winterfell from Stannis.

Oh Shae you stupid bitch.

Melisandre should be less obviously creepy; people would find her less off-putting and maybe she could make more conversion progress. Her evangelism is less successful than it could be because she gives most people the creeps.

DID NOT EXPECT DEAD TYWIN. [Kathryn: I KNOW RIGHT? But you kind-of did. You said Tyrion would bet against his family and kill them.] Oh, that's right I did!

Whoa, Lady Lysa … bitches be crazy.

I have many important questions about zombies. Zombies north of the wall just seem to be randomly resurrected but zombies related to R'hellor require a priest and then just, like, get up, regardless of deathiness. My current theory is that dead bodies north of the area that wights control get up regardless as long as their bodies aren't burned; zombies otherwise require someone to raise them specifically. I do not know who raised Catelyn, or if she was raised by the automatic encroaching magic creeping south of the Wall.

I am surprisingly glad that Lady Lysa got shoved out her moon door because she was a uniquely horrible person for such a minor character. Selfish, preening, detached from reality, at least a little mad, and a rotten mother. So much of this story is about mothers and mothering. The characters spend all their time talking about fathers and bastardy, but the story much more often hinges on mothers and mothering. Interesting.