Carl Banks' Blog

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I am a mental powerhouse when I'm dreaming

Last night I had a dream, and I don't remember why but at some point in the dream I uttered the word "mathish".

In the dream, it occurred to me that the English suffix "-ish" might be descended from the same root as the Greek suffix "-ικος" (aka, "-ic", a suffix which we borrowed into English and use extensively). In the dream I recalled a linguistic rule that causes k sounds to turn into sh (softening: a k or g sound followed by a vowel where the tounge is forward in the mouth often ends up turning into an s, z, sh, or th). I recalled that in our word mathematician, the "ic" is pronounced "ish", so this process still happens today. And, still in the dream, I wondered if Latin had a similar suffix, and recalled the word amicus ("friend").

When I woke up I looked up the origins of those suffixes and sure enough I was right.

My only mistake was, there was a minor wrinkle I didn't anticipate: "-ish" actually descends from a composition of two suffixes, but one of them was indeed the same one that became "-ic" in Greek.

Tags: dream, english, greek, latin, linguistics
Last Edited: 30 November 2019, 4:09 PM
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An issue management system for my life

Some people make schedules. I say, hah. (I also say, that'd be great if I could ever manage to stick to one.)

However, I have something better. Take a look:

That's right, I've installed an issue tracking system for my life. Some of you, my Faithful Readers, might recognize this as a Trac page. (I've blurred out the actual tickets because they're kind of personal.) Now, I organize my life by creating tickets and as I accomplish the tasks, I close them.

The best thing about this is that it leaves the schedule open. The onerous list of stuff I need to do sits there waiting for me, gently guilting me and reminding me, but it does not demand action. I get to it at my own pace. It works for me.

Someone sharp-eyed and good at reading blurred text might notice that I list my anxiety level about the task in ticket's Severity field. (Column two to the right of the blurred one.) That helps keep me grounded and in perspective.

Tags: issue_management, life, tickets, trac
Last Edited: 15 May 2019, 9:01 PM
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Python 3

Yeah, I spent an entire Saturday upgrading this blog to use Python 3. What a great use of my time.... This includes about 5 hours I spent switching the site to use FastCGI as the entry point instead of Passenger, only to switch it right back to Passenger. (Kind of glad I did, actually, as the FastCGI required a delicately tuned set of mod_rewrite rules. However, it can cause an annoying delay when first loading my page because Passenger has to spawn a new interpreter to use Python 3, and to make matters worse my hosting provider kills the interpreter after only a few minutes.)

Anyway, there's (kind of) a reason for it. I have a separate need to host a different web application, which would have required me to set up a new Python environment, so I figured I might as well take care of the blog while I was at it. (I'll cover the new app in a later post for my Faithful Readers.)

Another good thing: I diagnosed an issue where every page load was sending upwards of 50 queries to the MySQL database. Now it sends only a few. That usually makes it faster even if it has to spawn a new Python 3.

Tags: blog, hosting, python, python_3
Last Edited: 14 May 2019, 11:38 PM
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Diet Rules

Some people who know me may realize that I have an odd diet concerning sugary foods. Basically, for 2/3 of the year I don't eat most sugary foods; for the other third I do. The point of this diet is not to give up sugar, but to eat less of it.

This has worked well for me. I generally stick to it, and as a result I think I've at least halved my sugar consumption. I regard it a permanent part of my life, and have no plans to ever go off it. In this blog post I will shares the intricate details of this diet.

The main rule of the diet is that, for the most part, I can only eat sugary foods in the following months. (These are called the Allowed Months):

  • March
  • June
  • September
  • December

I don't officially limit my sugar consumption in any way during Allowed Months. Unofficially I don't really drink sugary beverages any more. (Maybe the odd milkshake, or a craft soda once in awhile. I almost never drink juice.)

All other months (which I call the Limited Months), my consumption of sugary foods is limited. In general, I think of these as sugar-free months, but they're really not. As I said, this is not to prohibit sugary foods but to reduce. In practice, I allow myself certain exceptions.

Here are the exceptions I allow myself during all Limited Months:

  • I can eat fruit that isn't too sweet. For me that means mostly apples and bananas, but canteloupe and watermelon I sometimes eat too. Maybe even grapes. This applies to fresh fruit only. Not juice, dried fruit, or anything like that.
  • I can add honey or jelly to a peanut butter sandwich.
  • If someone offers me something sweet, I can take one piece. So, for instance, if someone sticks a plastic bowl full of cookies in my face, I'm allowed to take one. But it has to be a deliberate, active offer from someone. If there's just a bowl of cookies or candy sitting there, I can't take one. If someone just mentions, "Hey there's cake", I can't take a slice of cake. But if they said, "Hey Carl, I made a cake, why don't you have a piece", then I can.
  • I can eat Girl Scout Cookies with impunity, but only if I bought them myself from an actual Girl Scout. (So no second hand cookies, and no buying them from her mother, or from a box at work.)
  • I can take a single breath mint from a bowl after eating dinner at a restaurant.
  • Cough drops with sugar are ok. (Though I prefer sugar-free in any case; the sugary ones make my teeth sticky, moreso than candy. Sometimes sugar-free cough drops are not easy to find, though.)
  • I have a rule that I can add about a tablespoon of honey or syrup to yogurt, which I did a lot when I first started this diet, but I don't eat as much yogurt as I used to.

In addition to these permanent rules, I usually also give myself a monthly exception. The monthly exception is usually a broad category: "ice cream", "maple syrup" (unlocking pancakes), "12 ounce bottles of craft soda", or something like that. Sometimes, if I feel like I didn't do well during the previous month I won't give myself this exception, but most months I do.

Here's the thing about the monthly exceptions: I won't simply shift all the sugar consumption to that one item. What I try to do is consume the exception at the same rate as I would during an Allowed month, and drop all other sugary foods. (At least that's the theory; I'm sure I end up at the upper range most months.)

And finally, I waive the limits for sugary foods on major holidays.

In spite of the numerous exceptions, I have not stuck to this diet perfectly. I have eaten sugary foods for comfort here and there. I've waived the diet in certain situations (like when travelling). I used to not bother at all when I visited the family, since they always used to leave all kinds of chocolate and candy laying around the house, and at that point it's hopeless. (Though they don't leave chocolate out so much any more, no idea why.)

However, by and large this has been successful. At least for me, the exceptions give me a bit of an outlet and allow me to be strong in the face of temptation most of the time. It's a lot easier to give up something when you know you'll be able to take it up again soon.

I've been doing this in some form since 2011, about eight years now.

When I first started, I was like a statue of stone. I gave up the sweet foods absolutely during Limited Months, did not cheat at all, and gave myself fewer and narrower exceptions. Then, when Allowed Months came, I went crazy. I'd eat as much sugary food as I could, knowing that soon it would be a Limited Month again. I ended up eating more sugary foods than I otherwise would have during Allowed months (although it was certainly still less overall when you averaged it woth the Limited Months).

But as time went on, a very interesting thing has happened. I started adding new exceptions, and also ended up cheating more. But during Allowed Months, I got less and less crazy. Temptation had a smaller and smaller effect on me over time.

Now, I hardly eat more sugar during the Allowed months than I eat during Limited Months, and I eat a lot less sugar in any month. About the only difference now is that I might buy a candy bar while visiting a convenience store during a Allowed month, but won't during a Limited month.

Basically, by sticking to this diet, I gradually learned to moderate.

I have a few tradtions associated with this diet. The first sweet I eat on an Allowed Month is always a King Size Kit-Kat. The last sweet I like to eat before I go back to Limited Months is an ice cream sandwich from Diddy Riese, but I don't do that all the time (especially since I moved away from the Westside). And on holidays I usually limit myself to thematically appropriate sweets, so for Halloween I'll only eat candy, for Thanksgiving, only pie.

Tags: diet, sugar
Last Edited: 25 February 2019, 4:44 AM
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My 2016 Ballot

Ok, its 2016, time to reveal my ballot.

The ballot proposititions were actually pretty intelligent this year. Only two of them were retarded (and misleading), and one more was dubious. The rest were actually decent, not that I agreed with all of them, but at least they were well thought out and addressed actual perceived issues.

I didn't pay any attention to any races except for President of the United States (more on that below), so I only voted on the propositions.

My general strategy on propositions to vote no unless I feel like there's a good reason for yes, especially for constitutional amendments (since they can't be overturned by the legislature), and there were a bunch I of them this year where I fell back on them.

  • Prop 51: School bonds, Funding for K-12 Schools and Community College Facilities: NO. Ok, so one of things I'm always skeptical of is when politicians need for funds for schools. I feel like it's a dubious way to bring in more money. They think, correctly it seems, that people will approve it if it's for the children. I voted against all the education propositions. This one was the closest I came to voting Yes. But I'm sure why there needs to be a $9 billon bond release now, rather than smaller bonds as facilities need upgrading, so I fell back to a No vote. (Though I can see the logic of getting approval all at once.)
  • Prop 52: Medical Hospital Fee Program: NO. I almost abstained from this one since I couldn't even follow what it was supposed to be doing. I pieced together what is was and ended up thinking it was pretty useless and maybe slightly worse, so I feel back to No.
  • Prop 53: Revenue Bonds. Amendment. NO. I have mixed feeling about it, actually. $2 billion is a lot of money, and it would seem that having voters weigh in on projects that large might not be a bad idea. I ended up voting No because it is an amendment, and also because it lacked an obvious mechanism to raise the limit as inflation happens.
  • Prop 54: Legislation and Proceedings. Amendment. NO. This is one of two retarded ones, and it's deceptive as well. It requires bills to be published for 72 hours before the state legislature can vote on them. Which pretty much cripples the legislature. It also requires legislative sessions to be televised, which is reasonable enough, but the literature covering the proposition emphasized that part and downplayed the retarded 72 hour requirement. Prop 54 ended up passing, and I feel like the state legislature is going to spend a lot of time finding a way to overturn it.
  • Prop 55: Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare. Amendment. NO. The legislature could have done this, without an amendment, so I fell back to a No vote.
  • Prop 56: Cigaratte Tax to Fund Healthcare, etc. YES. I don't smoke but smoking is addicting, so this statute basically exploits people who smoke, who will pay more money for smokes because they are addicted. I am fine with that. This might also convince a percentage of smokers to stop, as a bonus.
  • Prop 57: Criminal Sentence, Parole, Juvenile Criminal Proceedings. NO. Honestly I thought it went too far, and let some of the non-violent criminals off too easily.
  • Prop 58: English Profieciency. YES. This repealed the stupid requirement that English acquisition classes be taught in English, while keeping other reasonable requirements. Some people evidently thought that if you allow classes to be taught in another language you are eroding English as the national language or some naive thing like that, so they passed a different proposition years ago to prevent that. This reverses that proposition.
  • Prop 59: Political Spending, etc. Advisory. YES. This is the one that advises the state government to purse an US Constitutional Amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. I never liked that decision though (for a slightly different reason than other people disliked it) so definitely worth pursuing.
  • Prop 60: Adult films. Condoms. Health Requirements. NO. In essense just a way to try to get that industry out of California, since no one wants too see porn with condoms. I figured it would just drive that kind of thing underground and make it more dangerous.
  • Prop 61. State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards. NO. This is the dubious one. It has good intentions, I believe, but uses a naive socialist approach to the issue that's likely to backfire, as socialist approaches often do when no account is taken of how the price fiat is going to change things (and this prop didn't). Bernie Sanders was vouching for this one, figures.
  • Prop 62. Death Penalty Repeal. YES. This prop repeals the death penalty. I voted for it because as, a practical matter, litigation lasts too long and costs too much, even in the rare cases (and there are some) where the death penalty might be appropriate.
  • Prop 63. Firearms. Ammunitions Sales. YES. I thought this was mostly reasonable restrictions on firearms. There was one thing about limiting magazine size in there that I thought was both silly and slightly concerning as a precedent, but I thought it was not concerning enough for me to vote No.
  • Prop 64. Marijuana Legalization. YES. This was a better proposition than the last time they tried this. I'm not going to lie, I don't use marijuana in any form and don't spend any time around people using it. I don't believe most of the promises they are telling us about legalization, and I definitely don't believe it's as safe as they say it is. If marijuana had not been illegal, most of the people cruelly incarcerated for dealing marijuana would have been selling other drugs, not running responsible dispensaries. Finally, stoner types are some of the most hilarious people to troll. Based on these points, I was tempted to vote no. However, it's clear society has made its decision, and full legalization is merely a matter of time. It's not like society will collapse if another vice is allowed.
  • Prop 65. Carryout bags. Charges. NO, I think. This diverts all funds collected from sale of carry-out grocery bags to environmental causes. I actually left this blank on my sample ballot, and am not even 100% sure I voted for this at all. Right now I'd vote no because I mainly remember thinking that if retailers were able to keep the fees then it might save me a few cents on bread.
  • Prop 66. Death penalty procedures. NO. This eliminates some frivolous litigation in death penalty cases, with the intention of making it possible to carry out some of these people's sentences. I thought this Proposition went way too far, though. Solid no.
  • Prop 67. Ban on single-use plastic bags. YES. This was actually a referendum, the legislature voted to put it on the ballot. Because of this, I didn't fall back to my "No" default (at least not as hard as I would have an initiative proposition), and just voted for what I wanted. It might be a case of environmentalists blowing a relatively minor environmental problem out of proportion, but I'll tell you something, nothing really looks worse in nature than those bags. For that reason alone I voted Yes. Also, reusable bags are way better anyway.

There were some measures as well for Los Angeles County and the City of Santa Monica.

  • LA County Measure A. Tax increase for parks, etc. YES. This was fairly harmless, the tax was something like 1.5 cents per square foot per year. Local taxes are bit more palatable than state taxes, because the state caps the amount localities can tax (although I am not sure there's a cap per square footage). If a tax is earmarked to something good, like maintaining parks, it makes it harder for them to use taxes on stupid things.
  • LA County Measure M. Transportation Improvement Plan, YES. This is probably the happiest I've ever been to have a 0.5 percent raise in sales tax. It's a thorough, well-thought out plan that includes funding for all different phases of transportation (bicycle infrastructure, too, but I never said it was perfect). That's the problem with a lot of these kinds of measures, they forget that people still drive, and focus on a single approach (a railroad usually). This is a practical multi-faceted approach to the transporation in Los Angeles. I almost can't believe a government could come up with something so reasonable. And, once again, that's less money available under the sales tax cap for stupid stuff. This measure had to get a 2/3 supermajority of ballots to pass, and it did.
  • Santa Monica Measures GS and GSH. A 1/2 percent use tax increase. I'm always scratching my head over these. Santa Monica is a very wealthy community and I wonder why they keep needing these nickle-and-dime tax increases. I'm quite sure there's some shady business going on. It's a well-run city so I'm not going crazy over this, but I'm still not voting for it. Also, this will bring back the days of the government guilting me into self-reporting. The main place where use tax is charged is out-of-state online sales. Online retailers are now required to collect this, and most retailers are up to the task. But I doubt most retailers are going to be collecting use tax for cities. Which means now I have to self-report, blah.
  • Santa Monica Measure LV. Require voter approval for developments higher than 32 feet. NO. This has got to be the most retarded ballot measure I've ever seen. I'm somewhat sympathetic to the idea (I think the city is moving a little too fast on redevelopment) but this is draconian beyond all reason. It's also the one of the most heavily contested. I got flyers in the mail every single day for weeks on LV, most of them against. It failed.
  • Santa Monica Community College Measure V. Bonds for College improvements. NO. Again, for the children. As with the high school, it's kind of ridiculous that a wealthy school like Santa Monica College has leaky classrooms, such that they need to sell bonds. Perhaps instead of building a bunch of crap they could have fixed the classrooms instead. You got it backwards, guys, you're supposed to fix classrooms with general funds and sell bonds to build new buildings. But if you do that you don't get all the votes for the children, do you?

Anyway, voters have approved all of the tax increases and bond issues on my ballot, which I think is pretty weak-minded of the electorate. Geez, citizens, I'm not saying all taxes are bad, I voted for a few myself, but push back a little. And don't be duped into thinking the school districts in Santa Monica need to sell bonds to keep classrooms in repair. Come on.

President of the United States

Clinton or Trump, talk about a bad choice. In elections for people, my philosophy is that a person who's got a big advantage in votes will tend to be too secure in their jobs, and so will not be all that afraid of doing shady things. Worse, an official might think they have a "mandate" of some sort, which they argue gives them the freedom to take whatever measures are necessary. This scares me. As such, whenever the outcome of an election is not in doubt, I prefer to use my vote to reduce the margin of victory. No matter who it is, or which party it is, the closer the vote is to 50-50, the better they'll behave.

The presidential election is bit different for two reasons. One, the electoral college. Two, the candidates.

There was no question that Clinton was going to carry California. However, when it comes to behaving, I'd expect the electee to pay attention to national vote counts more than state vote counts, and at national level Clinton only had a few percentage point lead in the polls. In a normal election, based on that small percentage, I would have reverted to my standard practice for elections that are in doubt: to vote for whoever is most likely to defeat the worst candidate.

Unfortunately, that meant Clinton. Trump is probably not going to be the anti-Christ everyone says he's going to be. Proabably. But there is a small chance he is the anti-Christ, and I didn't want to take that risk. So I was hoping--well "hoping" is too strong a word. Let's just say my carefully considered decision was that it was preferrable for Hillary Clinton to win.

But this was not a normal election. Because of the electoral college system, that small percentage lead she had was apparently good enough for a decisive victory. That's what all the pundits were saying. And because I lived in California, which had no chance of not choosing Clinton, my vote was not going to affect the election. Which meant that reverting to my in-doubt strategy was unnecessary. In fact it was actually good: because Clinton, the person who I'd decided was preferable to win, was going to win both California and the electoral college handily, I was free use my vote to reduce her vote totals. So my plan was to vote for Trump.

Day of the election, I walked into the ballot box and had a thought: what if Trump does win? Then I'd be voting to increase his margin of victory, and I don't want that either. I knew that the pundits had all but handed her the election. I knew that "everything had to go right" for Trump to win, and that he had to carry all those tossup states, and even if he had a 50/50 chance of winning those states (and he didn't) then he'd still have only about a 1/30 chance of winning. But I also know Hillary Hate. I know because I have it. I can't even utter the words, "I am rooting for ---", she is so odious. But I am a rationalist, and if I'd been living in a state where the electoral votes were in doubt I would have given her my vote to help defeat Trump, in spite of how I feel about her. But not everyone is like me. A lot of people vote with their guts, and an awful lot of people hate her guts. I decided in that ballot box that Clinton is not the shoe-in everyone was saying she was, and the election was in doubt after all.

I ended up abstaining.

Tags: california, election, voting
Last Edited: 16 November 2016, 9:25 PM
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Food Trucks Suck

There. I said it.

Food trucks are as supposed to be as much a part of LA culture as hot dog stands are for New York. Well, New York wins this one. My experience with food trucks is that they: 1. are slow, 2. serve tiny portions, and 3. aren't any better than a walk-in eatery. Also, lately, they 4. are expensive, and 5. have incredibly long lines because every hipster thinks they're the greatest food in LA.

I suspect a lot of the older food trucks that serve the neighborhoods actually are very good. Certainly they filled an important niche, since they served food in places and at hours that people otherwise couldn't get food. They were operated by people who were from the areas they served, had native knowledge of great ethnic foods, and rapport with their customers.

But now that food trunks have become trendy, the experience has become diluted with mediocrity. I'm not saying that trendiness, by itself, leads to medocrity. But in this case the thing that became trendy was a bad way to serve food. Food trucks have tiny inefficient kitchens. They aren't designed to serve a lot of people quickly, and they aren't designed to serve a wide variety, but that's exactly what people are trying to use them for.

For now, people are impressed enough by the "experience" to not notice they've stood in line for twenty minutes to get a small portion of food that's not very good at a high price. If the food was actually good or unique, as with the old neighborhood food trucks of yore, maybe it'd be worth it, but these days most aren't. So how long will this trend really last?

Tags: food, food_trucks, los_angeles, rant
Last Edited: 25 October 2015, 9:22 PM
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Game of Thrones "Predictions" #8

Ok, so A Feast for Crows ends and it reveals that it and the next novel are divided spatially rather than chronologically. Fair enough.

As Martin started wrapping up the threads it got marginally more interesting. For the first time a character who I was pulling for and who had significant converage was snuffed out (or so it seems; more on that below). This was something I was expecting to happen once or twice per novel, based on the reputation of series, but this is the first time it happened with me. Since I thought Ned, Catelyn, and Robb were all stupid, I wasn't really too attached to them. We had a scare with Bran but I wasn't a fan of him either. Renly's death was disappointing but since we didn't have a lot of time to build sympathy it wasn't as hard-hitting as it could have been. However, though I wasn't exactly enjoying the Brienne chapters, I was certainly pulling for her, so this is probably the first death that had impact.

Prior Predictions

I was hilariously wrong is a bunch of past predictions, which I detail here:

  • I had a prediction that Margery was schemeing against Cersei just as much as Cersei was schemeing against her. It unlikely enough now, based on Margery's actions after being arrested, to call this one wrong. In fact, it looks like she was not even suspicious. Likewise, Margery probably doesn't know about Jaime and Cersei's illegitimacy. (It's possible that Margery was trying to scheme, but that Cersei struck first, but she would have been very, very slick to keep the act up in prison, likely facing treason charges.)
  • I predicted Jaime and Brienne would meet again. Wrong, but again see below. Then I predicted that they'd both meet up with Catelyn. More wrong. Honestly I am surprised at the vehemence of Catelyn's vendetta, but there's no negotiating with her now.
  • I predicted a while back that Gendry would get his own chapters. It seemed as if he'd gotten enough attention in the Arya chapters that he'd get his own (kind of in the same way Theon got some in the first novel) but it wasn't so.

But I was right on for a few:

  • I was right that Aemon would realize Melisandre's folly when he found out about Daenerys, but ended up being wrong (it appears, although it could still happen indirectly) that Samwell would be the one stuck with dealing with it.
  • I correctly deduced that Myrcella was injured and disfigured, not dead, and not just splashed with blood. It was an easy line to miss or downplay. I was wrong about the source of her injury, though.
  • I correctly predicted that Darkstar was the one to try to escape, although that wasn't really that hard a guess. I did not correctly identify him as Myrcella's injurer, though.


  • Brienne. It looked as if she was hung, but there are two possible reasons to belive that she might continue. First, the very last thing we read about her is that she shouted out a word, supposedly while being strangled by the rope. Could mean that something happened at that instant, but of course we have no idea what. Second reason, even if she did die, there's a man known to be able to resurrect people, who is frustrated with the direction the outlaws are going. So, is Brienne dead (and will she stay dead) or not?
    • I predict she is dead for good, if for no other reason than because I heard Martin likes to kill people you are pulling for and this would be the first big one. Her final word that she shouted out (let's assume that it was some kind of last wind) was probably either Jaime or Renly. Which seems too obvious, but I can't think of a better one.
  • Cersei, it was clear that (like I thought) she wasn't a smart as she thought she was, yet I don't expect her to go down easily. Jaime abandoned her, in fact everyone but Qyburn seems to have. Who does she have left? Taena is not going to be of much use. Littlefinger wouldn't help her (and probably wouldn't have anyway, but definitely won't now given his plans with Sansa). She probably will not be able to finangle her way out of this with a trial by champion (and would anyone champion her anyway?), so she is likely to have to destabilize things. She'll do it, too. Somehow. Probably by consorting with outsiders. She's pretty much down to the Freys on her own side.
  • Arya showed her true Stark colors by stupidly drinking the warm milk, and now she's blind. My gut feeling is that it's not permanent and wouldn't be surprised if it were an exercise deliberately done to clue her onto her own stupidity. But my guess it's a lesson in living in the dark, or a way to keep her from killing before she's ready.
  • Will this gambit that Littlefinger has with Sansa work, and what does he get out of it? Tyrion is still alive, complicating things, but their marriage is still eligible to be annulled. It seems too tidy to work out correctly, so I'll predict (for the lack of a better idea) that this Heir dude she's engaged to offs himself before marrying Sanda and somehow war comes to the Vale.
  • No clue what Jaime's going to do. I'll predict that he will come into some drama with the outlaws again.
  • We've been told that Davos was killed by someone (White Harbors, I think?) kissing up , but we have no proof. Knowing now that Martin wrote the fourth and fifth novels more or less simultaneously, it's reasonable to assume he wrote about some of the actual incidents with Davos before writing about characters talking about those incidents, and the casualness of the references definitely suggests the reader is familiar, and also is casual enough that is doesn't seem foreboding. In other words, it's straight writing. Davos was beheaded as advertised.
  • I think the affair in Dragonstone with Sir Loras is going to be a little more subtle than that Waters guy led on. In fact I am not so sure Loras and Waters aren't in together on some kind of conspiracy. Loras seemed eager to take Dragonstone despite him never really being eager to do anything heretofore. That's what I'll predict, but what for? Sieze Dragonstone for Highgarden? Raise (another) rebellion against King's Landing? But with Loras in the Kingsguard that seems unlikely, so I am guessing they were looking for secrets of some sort, and Loras either ran out of patience or realized time was running out.
  • Speaking of Waters, what did he do when Cersei was seized? They said he cut loose, but where? Most of the people in the narrow sea part of the world have two options of any significance to the story: the Wall, or Daenerys. Rumor in the book was that he went to join Stannis. Problem is, I don't know how well Stannis is situated at that time, and given the news of Davos's death (and the news that Melisandre misread the signs and therefore was giving him bad guidance) I will assume not good. Therefore, I'll predict that he sought out Dany.
  • Finally, Victarion. I fully expect him to locate Daenerys and put the moves on her, and Dany... well she's clearly into conquesty types so I think she'll at least be tempted. I think the main significance of this might be to alert Dany to the presence of the dragon horn.
  • I want to make a couple more far-reaching predictions. The Starks and Co. all started in Winterfell. How many of them ever get back? This probably won't come true until Martin completes the final books. Predictions:
    • Catelyn: No
    • Sansa: No
    • Arya: No
    • Rickon: No
    • Bran: Yes
    • Jon Snow: Yes
  • And at risk of being sentimental, I'll predict Tyrion finds Tysha, perhaps in Braavos (i.e., where whores go). I wonder if we've already seen her as one of the people Arya knows?
Tags: gameofthrones, literature, predictions
Last Edited: 4 April 2015, 12:48 AM
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Game of Thrones Predictions #7.1

Jaime's aunt, from a position of knowledge, all but told him that he and Cersei were not Tywin' children. This didn't exactly blindside me; I had always thought there was a connection between the Lannisters and the Targeryens but I kind of felt like it was more of a "they go way back". But now that I am told Jaime and Cersei are illegitimate a bunch of things (dramatic story elements) fall into place, or seem to.

So quick prediction: Jaime and Cersei are the children of Mad King Aegon. Thus making Jaime both a kingslayer and a kinslayer. So much is explained: why Cersei and Jaime were into each other (it's a Targaryen trait), it explains Joffrey's madness (although that could be just be a random result due to incest, but it seems that Targeryens madness goes beyond that and that Joffrey had that particular brand of it). It explains a lot of the drama behind Jaime's appointment to the Kingsguard. Aegon didn't just want to screw over Tywin, he wanted his own son around. It kind of explains Tywin's animosity toward Tyrion and coolness to Jaime: Jaime wasn't his son, and the Imp was, highlighting Tywin's own inadequacy as a sire.

Not regarding who J&C's actual father is, some people have got to know they're illegitimate, if his aunt knew. Who? Jaime obviously had no clue. Cersei doesn't seem to know (I can think of no situation where she belies anything). Predictions:

  • Jon Arryn knew, and that was the truth he actually discovered and was killed for. (In the interests of dramatic irony I'll predict that Arryn had no idea that Joffret and co. weren't Robert's children.)
  • Margery Tyrell knows. That's the trap she's setting. Her grandmother knows.
  • Maester Aemon knew figured it out and it was part of what he was ranting about in the end.

Ironically, this strengthens Tommen's claim (relative to before). This may suggest Margery has it in for Jaime too, who of course has prior claim over Tommen.

Tags: game_of_thrones, literature, predictions
Last Edited: 18 March 2015, 3:49 PM
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Game of Thrones "Predictions" #7

I am about 60% done with A Feast for Crows, and this seems like a good place to stop and make some predictions for the rest of the book. Where are we? (It's kind of hard to say since most of the storylines are going nowhere fast, but we'll try.) Brienne is going toward Riverrun to look for Sandor Clegane with a low-ranking Septon named Meribald, who is one of the few new interesting characters. Jaime is in Harrenhal, about to set off for Riverrun (hmm) with some of Gregor Clegane's old forces. Samwell is in Braavos, trying to dig up stories about dragons for a frail Maester Aemon, and apparently he just met Arya, not knowing who she was. Prince Doran has thwarted Princess Arianne's attempt to kidnap Myrcella. The iron islands have selected Euron as their new King. And Cersei has armed the Church (hoping they will fight Stannis), and starts to believe Ser Loras and Margery have the same incestuous brother-sister relationship that she had with Jaime.


I have to say so far this has been my least favorite novel in the series. I haven't liked most of the changes, or the shift of focus, or the lack of anything happening, and the fact that it's still only something like mid-autumn.

Brienne was a great character in the Jaime chapters, but I find her rather boring in her own chapters. (Perspective matters.) Speaking of Jaime, I don't like how he's turning out. It's certainly the logical progression of his character, from the amoral villainous Kingslayer who killed Ned Stark's entourage, to a human being who is starting to care about things, and the events that happened to him definitely support the change. It's just that I don't like it. And Cersei, whoa. She's not as smart as she thinks she is. Her effectiveness in manipulating people comes from being shamelessly evil, not from being particularly cunning. As such her chapters leave me flat as well (although I suspect that could be intentional, more on that later).

Even the one Arya chapter was a letdown. The Arya chapters had been some of my consistenly favorite chapters, but this religion she found herself in just seems random.

The events in the Iron Islands were somewhat interesting but I really rather would have had Asha's point of view for all of it. I am not a fan of this revloving door POV, and it doesn't seem necessary. Asha was there for most of it, so there's no reason we couldn't have had all Asha chapters.

The Dornish chapters I'd have to say were my favorites of this novel. I loved pretty much all the characters in it: the Sand Snakes, Arianne, Hotah, the Darkstar, and even Arys Oakheart. Especially Prince Doran; it was nice to see someone who is skilled at the "game of thrones" manipulate things for peace for once. I was not a fan of the shifting POV, but at least for the Dornish chapters it seems like a single POV wouldn't have sufficed.

But some of the most interesting aspects of this novel are hearing rumors about things I would rather be reading about. Is the Hound alive or what? I predicted he was but the things attributed to him don't sound like him. At one point a witch was mentioned and clearly referred to Catelyn. Rumors of dragons in the East were common. All things I'd have rather been reading.

And I wouldn't have expected it, but I kind of miss the Bran chapters. I didn't really like Bran, and the chapters were boring, but it did connect the current action to the earliest scenes.

Prior Predictions

I made some hilariously wrong ones:

  1. I predicted both Clegane brothers would pull through. Gregor is certainly dead (we'll credit Qyburn with being corrupt enough to hide the fact that he is a live for some reason, but doesn't seem likley). Sandor is rumored to be alive, but the rumors are unlikley. We'll call it likely wrong in both cases.
  2. I predicted Jon Snow's inheritance of Winterfell would become a thing, but it hasn't so far and gets less likely the more the novel goes on.
  3. I surmised the Pycelle would end up the King's Hand, wrongly. I also surmised that Dorne and the Tyrells (old town), would start to get conquesty. Wrong on both counts, although in Dorne it was only because it was thwarted.

A few other predictions are likely to turn out to be wrong, but I won't call them wrong yet. I predicted Asha would get chapters, plural. It's still not true, and the pattern suggests she might not get any more.

I was right on one prediction: that Brienne would get her own chapters.


  1. The big one: Are Sir Loras and Margery doing it? It's complicated. Certainly there are clues that suggest it retrospect (like when Ser Loras got huffy when Tyrion asked him why he took a Kingsguard post). If it were just that, I would just predict that they are doing it and that Cersei would twist that to her advantage (though it wouldn't work out as well as she'd think). Problem is, I have suspicions that Margery (and probably Ser Loras also) is just as busy manipulating things as Cersei is. Certainly Margery was a protogee of her grandmother the Queen of Thorns. In the face of ambiguity, I'll just go with the bigger surprise: it's an act. Margery wants Cercei to think she and her brother are lovers, and Cersei will work out this elaborate plan, only to fall into Margery's trap.
  2. And then Margery will turn out to be a worse person than Cersei ever was.
  3. Jaime and Brienne will meet again. It almost has to happen, and one way or another it'll have a big consequence. Jaime clearly is attracted to her in spite of himself, but I'm not sure he's ready to jump in yet. My hilarious guess is that Jaime and Brienne will meet up with Catelyn and he will cross over. Or he'll be disbelieved and again have to come to terms with his reputation.
  4. Maester Aemon has some purpose behind asking about the dragons. My guess is that he will connect Dany's actions to Melisandre's and realize something Very Bad is about to happen, probably at the Wall, and he'll die leaving Samwell to make some decisions on how to handle it.
  5. Who told on Princess Arianne? I'll guess Drey since he didn't seemed too surprised, and then tried to convince Arianne to cooperate. But I don't know if it was necessarily someone in the party.
  6. The Darkstar was the one who escaped after Ser Arys foolishly diverted the Hotah's men.
  7. Why did Myrcella have blood streaming through her fingers? I'd guess that she was hit by a stray arrow and (to make things interesting) died of it, but since she was shaking and wailing she would have only died of gangrene later. I'll predict she was hit by a stray arrow and not killed but maybe disfigured? Of course, maybe Arys's blood just splashed on her.
  8. Euron's horn is going to Not Work As Intended. I fully expect it to have some effect on Dany's dragons. Remember, dragons are not slaves, so I don't expect Euron to control them to his will, but he might make them act out. Dany (who, I expect when we next meet her, we will see that she has been ruling very well) will have to be on the move again because of it.

Random Thoughts

I really liked the characters from the Dornish chapters.

I never liked Cersei (either as a person or as a character), and her own chapters aren't making me like her any more.

Seriously, where in the world is Tyrion?

Tags: game_of_thrones, literature, predictions
Last Edited: 13 March 2015, 10:04 PM
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The Dress

So apparently the most controversial thing to ever happen is this dress that no one can agree what color it is, and the illusion is so strong that some narrowminded actually think it's a hoax perpetuated by half the population.

The science behind the illusion isn't really that controversial. Some people's visual systems see it (incorrectly) as a white-colored dress in shadow; other people's visual systems see it (correctly) as a blue dress in the light. It's a well-known effect called color constancy, and you can see a bunch of relatively innocuous examples of it on the Internet.

What's interesting about this illusion (to me) is just how little context is needed to get the illusion for some people, including myself sometimes. There is a narrow strip of overexposed background on the upper-right corner, and that is apparently enough to cause our brains to think the dress is in shadow. So I wondered whether an object in the foreground, say another dress, that was clearly in the light, could thwart the illusion.

People who only see the dress as gold and white: how do you see this image? I did nothing at all to the color of the original dress; I only added the red dress in front of it (and a little drop shadow).

I sometimes see the original image as white and gold, but never this one. For me the dress is always blue and black in this image.

Tags: color_constancy, dress, optical_illusion
Last Edited: 2 March 2015, 12:17 AM
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