Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 1 “Two Swords”

13 March, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

King’s Landing: The episode opens with a rare pre-credits sequence, showing a sword being melted down and its metal being used to cast… two swords. After the credits, Tywin presents a washed and clean-shaven Jaime with one of them. He admires its Valyrian steel, and asks where it came from, because such steel is apparently very rare. Tywin says he melted down some legendary sword of some sort, which was so stupidly big that he made two swords out of it. But we never see where the second sword goes. Despite the “Two Swords” of the episode title, I don’t think this is the second sword being mentioned. It’s a bit like “The Two Towers”, in that it’s not at all clear which of the five towers in the book are the two towers of the title. Anyway, I think the two swords of import are Jaime’s sword and… well, we’ll get to that.

Tywin tells Jaime to go back to Casterly Rock and take up residence as its lord. Jaime refuses, saying he swore an oath to protect the king, and must remain in King’s Landing. They bicker a bit over Jaime’s lack of sword hand, but Jaime casually says using his left hand will just make things a bit more even for his enemies. Tywin gives up and lets Jaime stay. I think this is the first time anyone has ever defied Tywin’s wishes successfully.

Jaime’s true motives are revealed when he visits his sister Cersei, and attempts to resume their incestuous relationship. Cersei rejects him, however, claiming to be “ill”, and saying she has been having treatments from a Maester. Jaime is surprised that she would let Maester Pycelle touch her, but she says it’s someone else (whose name I didn’t catch). Cersei tells Jaime off for leaving her for so long. He protests that he was captured and escaped as quickly as he could, and it’s not like he wanted to be away from her, but she doesn’t accept this excuse. Cersei seems to have grown bitter in Jaime’s absence. I wonder what her “illness” is… Could it be something significant for the future?

Meanwhile, Tyrion has been sent on an errand, to welcome dignitaries visiting for Joffrey’s wedding in a fortnight. A Prince Oberyn from somewhere in the south arrives, and immediately terrorises a couple of minor Lannister cousins in Littlefinger’s whorehouse. When Tyrion intervenes, Obery openly tells him that he hates Lannisters, and has come to avenge the rape and death of his sister by Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. Okay… this is clearly foreshadowing for later developments, but I have to wonder why Joffrey or Tywin invited this guy to the wedding. Would you invite a guy to your wedding, if your hired killer had despatched his sister?? Seriously, what were they thinking?

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Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 5

5 March, 2018

Friday, 2 March, 2018

We got up a little early, before the alarm we’d set for 07:00, prompted by the bright sunshine of a clear morning with blue sky. We had showers and dressed and packed our bags. Then I went down to get some sushi packs for breakfast, while M. had some bread she’d bought yesterday for the purpose. I brought them back and ate while we prepared to check out.

I had the final session of meetings from 09:00, so left M. to finish her packing and check out of the room herself a bit later on, leaving our bags at the hotel concierge desk for retrieval before our flight in the evening. Her plan was to visit the Hikawa Maru museum ship, although this ended up getting derailed…

My meeting ended with an administrative session, summarising the outcomes of all the technical discussions over the past four days, while Katoh-san took minutes. He then had to edit them with the assistance of Kuniba-san and Paul, while the rest of took a break of about half an hour. Dietmar wrote up the resolutions, and I assisted by providing one that I’d noted during the meeting which he hadn’t recorded (about communicating via liaison to JPEG about our intention to begin work on depth mapping standards). Then we had the final short session, which just ran through the minutes, actions items, resolutions, and plans for the next meeting. Paul showed a map of the Apple campus in Cupertino, with nearby hotels and room prices, which were around US$400 a night!

Then we were done and Scott declared the meeting adjourned, and we looked at the time and it was exactly 12:00, when we were scheduled to finish. I believe this is the first meeting I’ve been to that finished right on time, with all the others wrapping up early. I said goodbyes to various people and then left quickly to drop my laptop bag off at the concierge desk in the hotel and walk over to meet M. at the Red Brick Warehouse by 12:30.

When I got there, I found some sort of food fair in progress in the courtyard outside. There were many stalls and long queues of people at most of them. Taking a look, it turned out to be a bakery fair, with all of the stalls selling various breads, pastries, cakes, and so on. The queues in front of some of them were perhaps a hundred or more people long; it was amazing. I walked around briefly but then went inside the warehouse to the designated meeting spot near the Granny Smith Apple Pie & Coffee shop, where I quickly saw M. waiting.

Read more: sushi for lunch, exploring the old streets and jazz clubs of Noge, visiting the Iseyama Kotai-jingu shrine

Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 4

4 March, 2018

Thursday, 1 March, 2018

We rose at 07:30 again and went looking for something different for breakfast. M. suggested going into Landmark Tower Plaza because there were plenty of food places in the ground floor level there. We found a French patisserie called Vie De France which was open. I grabbed a raisin scroll and an orange pastry that was a fat cylinder, as tall as it was wide. This second one was a new thing to me, and turned out to have a nice bitter orange marmalade flavour, combined with lovely fresh flaky pastry. It was really good. There was a misunderstanding with the lady who sold them to me however, as for some reason she included a coffee on my order when I didn’t want any, and it took some work to get the staff to understand that I didn’t want a coffee and to refund the price.

Then we returned via Starbucks where M. got her morning coffee.

The morning session of the meeting was a break to allow us to attend the CP+ camera show during the press-only time, from 10:00 to 12:00. However I had a meeting planned with Suzuki-san from Canon at 10:15, to discuss our work on the ISO TC42 committee. I went down to the meeting room a bit after 09:00 to get one of the press passes for the show, but then came back upstairs to hang out with M. until she left to go visit the Cup Noodles Museum.

I went to my meeting with Suzuki-san, and it didn’t take very long. We agreed to establish more frequent email communication than I’d had with Nagata-san (whose job as my liaison with Canon Inc. Suzuki-san had taken over).

Rap dancers at the CP+ camera show

After that I had some spare time to visit the camera show since I’d arranged to meet M. at the Cup Noodles Museum at 11:30. I went over to the exhibition hall and swapped my press ticket for an entry pass, then went in to wander around the exhibits for a bit. I walked down once from end to end, then exited to go upstairs to the second hand camera market and camera gear sales area. This was crowded, as it was already open to the general public, whereas the main exhibition was in the press only time, and the public were already beginning to queue for entry. I found the Kenko stall and bought one of the inexpensive camera phone attachments that provides a telephoto lens, similar to the wide angle and fisheye attachments I bought last year. I also went to the Manfrotto stall and bought an extendible monopod for a bargain sale price of 2500 yen. Then I went back downstairs to the main exhibition and walked back the length of it along the other main aisle. I didn’t have a lot of time to wander around, but that was okay, having been here to see it the past two years. Much of it looked very similar, though of course a lot of the camera models would be new.

Read more: Granny Smith pies, Yokohama Museum of Art, Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 3

4 March, 2018

Wednesday, 28 February, 2018

We began the day with a slow wake up as the light from the early dawn spilled into our hotel window across Tokyo Bay. We got up and went out for some breakfast, although M. also had some bread she’d bought yesterday at Pompadour. I got a couple of sushi packs from the convenience store in Queen’s Square, then we went to the Starbucks again where M. got a coffee and another of the chocolate chip scones, while I got a choc chip cookie. We ate the sweets there, then went back to our room, where I had my sushi packs, before heading off to the meetings for the day.

It was a full day of technical meetings, and quite exhausting in the stuffy room and an uncomfortable chair. As usual there were some disagreements on various standards drafts, often between the German and Japanese delegations, and I and other native English speakers would moderate as they disagreed about interpretations of words or grammar. I also spoke up about several technical issues as they arose, the ones that I have some expertise in.

Power adapters for people’s computers at the meeting

We broke for lunch a bit before midday, and I went with Jonathan to a place where he said the Japanese delegates raced to at lunch time to get ramen. It was hidden in the food area under Queen’s Square, and there was a queue of about twenty people waiting for tables when we arrived. We thought it might take a while to be seated but the queue progressed very rapidly and we soon got seats at the bar facing the kitchen. We ordered the same deluxe ramen bowl, but wanted some gyoza too, and there was a combo which came with a plate of ten gyoza, so we ordered one of those and one without the gyoza, and shared those.

Read more: extremely good ramen for lunch, okonomiyaki for dinner

Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 2

4 March, 2018

Tuesday, 27 February, 2018

We woke a bit before the alarm, but snoozed and rested until it actually went off. We headed out to get breakfast, hoping the Pompadour bakery would be open, but it wasn’t. We checked another cafe we’d seen yesterday in Queen’s Square, which was open, but had a poor selection of food. So we ended up at Starbucks, where M. got a chocolate scone and I had a slice of bacon quiche which they warmed up. We had to sit outside as the seats inside were full, but today was warmer than yesterday and not windy, so it was chilly but bearable.

We had a quick look in a convenience store on the way back to the hotel, where M. thought she might buy some sushi to eat later, but decided not to get anything. After returning, I had to quickly get my things together and head to the ISO meeting in the conference centre next door, wishing M. a good day exploring Yokohama on her own as I left.

I arrived at the meeting room a good ten minutes early, but it was already full, with every seat at a table taken! They had reserved a room that was rather too small for the number of attendees. I took a seat against the windows with no table, wondering how to plug my laptop in, but then they brought in an extra table and some Japanese representatives moved, leaving a couple of spots free. I grabbed one and Ari ended up next to me. I greeted the familiar faces, and also exchanged business cards with a group of three men from Canon who I hadn’t met before, including Suzuki-san, who has taken over Toru’s position as my project contact, and who I have a separate meeting with on Thursday morning.

The morning session was very administrative as usual. I confirmed with Sasaki-san that M. could come to the social dinner function this evening. We finished the morning agenda items half an hour early and broke for lunch at 11:30.

Neelam said she had sushi at a great place yesterday, so led me and Jonathan and Elaine there, although she almost got lost trying to find it again. It was in the ground floor level of Queen’s Square, near the Landmark Tower end. It was a tiny place, with stand up places around a sushi bar where the chefs made your orders. We managed to get enough bar space for the four of us, in the tiny rear room with just two other diners. Elaine and I ordered a lunch special set, while Neelam and Jonathan ordered specific items off the menu. Our set came with miso soup and about ten different pieces of sushi. One item seemed to be raw prawn, which was chewy and slimy, and neither Elaine nor I liked it much, but the rest was very good.

Stand-up sushi
Stand-up sushi bar at lunch

Read more: melon-pan ice cream, image stabilisation, meeting reception

Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 1

3 March, 2018

Monday, 26 February, 2018

This was a business trip for another meeting of ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography – Working Group 18 Electronic Still Picture Imaging. This time, M. came on the trip with me, to visit Japan for the first time since many years ago when she spent a quick day in Tokyo.

Our trip began yesterday evening, with a taxi ride to the airport. The afternoon in Sydney had been very rainy, building up to quite heavy falls. We called for a taxi about 17:40, but ended up on hold with first one company before trying another and also ending up holding for at least five minutes before eventually getting through to book one. When it arrived we waved it into the garage so we could load our luggage without getting soaked by the rain.

For some reason the driver kept a window open and splashes of rain entered. He began going towards the harbour tunnel, but the traffic was banked up badly and he suggested taking the bus lane on the Cahill Expressway, which I quickly agreed to so we could make the turnoff before it was too late. This proved to be a good move as it got us across the Bridge fairly quickly before merging back into the Eastern Distributor, where the traffic was flowing okay after the tunnel backlog. However when we reached the exit for the airport via Qantas Drive, we were stuck unmoving for four or five traffic light cycles. I checked the RTA live traffic website and it said there was an accident directly ahead of us! Fortunately it seemed to clear soon after and we were underway again, only for a car to veer out into our lane from a U turn or right turn across the oncoming lanes, and our driver not to see him coming in the heavy rain until I yelled out! He swerved left and just missed the other car, exclaiming, “Where did he come from?” Hearts racing, we made it to the airport terminal without further incident, though it was the longest and most fraught trip I think I’ve ever taken there.

We checked in and made it through passport control and security fairly quickly, although I was stopped and checked for explosives again, making it twice in two trips. We went straight to the Italianish place we’d grabbed snacks last time on our departure for San Francisco, this time planning to have dinner as the waiting time lined up perfectly and the meal on the plane would be too late for our body clocks. I got a chunk of peri peri chicken with wood fired corn on the cob, plus two salads: chick pea with cranberries and cauliflower, plus green beans with almonds and feta. It was all really nice, possibly the best meal I’ve had in an airport. M. got a slice of Margherita pizza and some lentil salad, which she also said was nice.

Boarding the plane was a bit of a trial, as there was a China Eastern flight leaving for Shanghai at almost the same time from the adjacent gate and there was construction work narrowing the corridor leading to these two gates, so the queues got confused and it was hot and stuffy and crowded. But we moved as far up as we could and were lucky when they called general boarding for our flight instead of by rows, so we managed to be almost first on after business class, even though we were seated near the front. We had exit row seats too, so that was good.

We both ignored the meal after take off, but I grabbed some red wine to help me try to sleep, and then we tried to sleep as much of the flight away as possible. I don’t think I managed any but M. got some. We had the light breakfast just before landing though, just a bit earlier our normal sort of breakfast time in Sydney, but about 04:00 in Tokyo. Our flight landed at 05:00 and we queued for ten minutes or so before clearing immigration, then headed to the Keikyu line train platform for a train. The first one was going to Shinagawa, but I saw the one after was going direct to Yokohama, so we waited for that one. This saved us from having to change trains at Keikyu Kamata, and also from accidentally getting on a local all stops train to Yokohama, like I did last year.

Monkey uses the hand holds on the train
Monkey riding the train to Keikyu Kamata

Read more: our hotel, walking to Chinatown, Motomachi, Yokohama Park, shabu-shabu for dinner

Game of Thrones, Season 3, Ep 10 “Mhysa”

25 February, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Okay, since last time I’ve learnt that the slaughter of Robb, Cat, and the Stark army at Edmure’s wedding at The Twins is in fact the event called the “red wedding”. I was under the impression that “The Red Wedding” was an episode title, but it turns out that was a mistaken assumption from snippets of overheard conversation. All right then, without further ado… onto the Season 3 final episode.

The Twins: Sandor flees the carnage outside The Twins, where Walder Frey’s men are slaughtering Robb’s army. He holds Arya with him on his horse, but she glimpses much of what is happening. Some men ride out of the castle, carrying Robb’s body, with his wolf’s head stitched onto his neck in a grotesque parody.

Later, in the evening, Sandor and Arya come across a group of men camping in the forest. They overhear one man boasting that he was the one who sewed Robb’s wolf’s head onto his body. Before Sandor can stop her, Arya slips off the horse and races over. She approaches the man from behind and pretends to be seeking warmth from the fire. They tell her to get lost. She says she can pay for it, and offers a silver coin, which she drops with a feigned “oops”. As the man reaches for it, she jumps him and starts stabbing him repeatedly with a dagger. The others jump up to intervene, but Sandor appears and despatches them with his sword.

He asks Arya where she got the dagger; she says, “From you,” and hands it back. Sandor is surprised to find she has lifted his dagger without him noticing. He asks if this is the first man she’s killed, and she says yes. Sandor turns to leave. Arya picks up the coin, and whispers “Valar morghulis” over it – it’s the coin from Braavos that Jaqen gave her, last seen in the last episode of the previous season. Will this be a theme, that it comes up in the final episode of every season? And now that Arya has killed someone, will this begin her path of rampaging revenge that we’re so eager to see? Why is Sandor helping her? Is he really a big softy, and not the monster we were led to believe he was? He did save Sansa earlier, so maybe he’s not that bad after all.

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Old photos rediscovered

24 February, 2018

I found some old negatives of photos I took on my very first overseas trip, to Egypt in 1980. Some were photos I didn’t have copies of and hadn’t seen for decades, so I had them scanned. They’re on 110 format film, which is tiny, and the quality isn’t great – but still exciting to see these, among the very first photos I ever took.

The Pyramid of Khafre:

Pyramid of Khafre

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Game of Thrones, Season 3, Ep 9 “The Rains of Castamere”

19 February, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Wow. What an episode. There was some pretty astonishing stuff in this one. And none of it happened in King’s Landing! In fact, King’s Landing didn’t appear in the episode at all. Let’s get to it!

Yunkai: Daario has a plan to conquer Yunkai. He says that he and his mercenary co-leaders (now dead by his hand) used to enter by a back gate for carousing purposes, and the guards at that gate know and trust him. He’ll sneak in, kill the guards, and then call Jorah and Grey Worm inside, so they can sneak through the city to open the front gate and let Daenerys’s army in. Jorah says he doesn’t trust Daario – it’s obvious why he doesn’t trust him: Daario is putting smooth operations on Daenerys and Daenerys likes his Fabio-like long hair and muscular body, so Jorah is jealous. Daenerys trusts Daario, and asks Grey Worm to cast a deciding vote. He says he trusts Daario too.

They put the plan into action. Daario enters the back gate, then whistles for Jorah and Grey Worm to follow. Daario has dispatched two guards and all is well… until another group of half a dozen or so guards arrive and they have to fight those. They rest and Jorah thinks okay, we managed that, but what if Daario really is setting us up for an ambush? And then even more guards arrive and surround the trio…

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San Francisco 2018 diary, day 8

13 February, 2018

Friday, 2 February, 2018. Written later

On our last day in San Francisco we slept in, not having to get up early to go to my conference. We dozed until 08:30, then got up, showered, finished the last remnants of the breakfast cereals, packed our bags for the flight home, and checked out of the hotel, leaving our bags with the concierge while we went out for a last day of sightseeing before our evening flight home.

I realised we wouldn’t be able to take the hot sauce I’d bought for my mum onto the plane in cabin baggage, and we didn’t want to check luggage in, so we decided to mail the bottles back home. I searched online to find nearby post offices and found one that was supposed to be on the block that Macy’s was on, south of Union Square. I figured it might take some the post office, so went there while M. detoured via Blue Bottle to get a morning coffee. We arranged to meet at the front door of Macy’s. As it turned out, I couldn’t find the post office from the street, and so decided to go into Macy’s to use the toilets. As I was looking for signs indicating where the toilets were, I saw a sign saying that there was a post office in the basement! So I went downstairs and found it, a small office with some counters and not much else. I’d been hoping to find packaging materials, but there was a sign saying they didn’t have any. However, I found some prepaid mailing boxes, one size of which was perfect, and just needed a little bit of padding improvised by scrunching up the paper bag that I’d been carrying the bottles in. So that was fortunate. It cost $36 in postage, more than the hot sauce was worth, but it was good not to have to check bags in and then spend time waiting in Sydney before getting home.

Mara's Italian pastry
Mara’s Italian Pastry

We met at the designated spot and then walked up to North Beach through Chinatown, to Mara’s Italian Pastry, for an Italian pastry each and some water. I felt like fizzy water, and M. asked the old Italian guy serving if they had any, and he said, “It’s Italian, of course we have fizzy water!” while I located the bottles of San Pellegrino in the fridge. M. had had an apricot danish-like pastry yesterday and said it was delicious and soft, so I tried the cherry version, while M., who had thought it was raspberry and wanted that, elected to try a raspberry and cream cheese ring instead. They were nice, but a bit firm and not as soft as M. had raved about, which was a bit of a shame. While we sat, the proprietor sat at the next table with another customer and chatted with him, getting up every now and then to serve someone else who came into the shop.

Read more: the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Golden Boy Pizza, and flying home