Thursday, July 20, 2017

Evidence That We Are Living In A Simulation?

As a big fan of The Matrix trilogy (yes, I even like Reloaded and Revolutions), I've always had a suspicion that one of its core premises - that we're living in some form of simulated reality - could very well be true.
Many words have been written on this subject, most of which are very well thought out and technical, so I'm not going to bother rehashing anything that's already been said. Instead, I'm going to present you with a few examples from my own life of possible evidence that the Matrix is, indeed, real.

1. Dead Chickens
I've always been amazed at the fact that on any given day, I can go to any one of dozens of different commercial establishments within a few miles of my house and purchase fresh pieces of dead chickens - and this is just in my little corner of the world. So my questions are: where do all these chickens come from? Are there really enough farms to produce this continuous stream of poultry? I've asked some people I know who work in food service about this, but their answers are usually some variant of either "I have no idea" or "sure, why not" or "stop asking me about this already." Now beef, I can sort of understand, because cows are huge, but chickens are these scrawny little birds with only two wings each as far as I can tell and I can buy a bucketful of those things any time of the day with no problem. I also get that some places "dilute" their chicken meat with other substances when creating things like nuggets or patties, but that seems to represent only a small fraction of the forms that dead chickens come in. So if you know the answer to this particular question, please let me know...or are all Tyson employees actually Agents??

2. The Relative Lack of New Music
There are two "rock" stations in the Portland market, both of which play either all "classic" (up to and including the '80s) or "classic" with some "modern" ('90s) thrown in. There's also an "alternative" station that plays some newer stuff, but hardly any of it is "rock." When I was in Boise, Idaho a few weeks ago, the piped-in music at the local mall was all pop hits from the '80s. My son's 2017 graduating class chose "Hey Ya!" by OutKast - released in 2003 - as their class song, and at their graduation ceremony, their class musicians performed "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper (released in 1983). And at Autism Empowerment's Tween and Teen Social Game Club Night this past weekend, one boy declared to me that his favorite music is from the '80s, while another said that his favorite songs are from the '90s. Could this be because music created within the last 10-15 years is just not that good? Or could it be because the Machines are being lazy and recycling ideas? You decide.

3. Fargo

This story comes courtesy of my friend and fellow Second Player Score member, Kyle Gilbert. Last week he and his wife were watching an episode of the second season of Fargo, which is set in 1979. At one point during the show, one of the characters said "I'll text you later." The following conversation ensued:

Kyle: Wait, what did he just say?
Wife: I don't know, but it sounded wrong.
Kyle: Yeah, I think he said "I'll text you later."
Wife: You're right, he did!
Kyle: There was no texting in 1979!
Wife: I know!
Kyle: I'm gonna call FX and complain. Their writers really messed that one up.
Wife: Let's listen to it again.

So they rewound the show and replayed that part of it. But this time, not only did the character not say "I'll text you later," he didn't say anything at all. So obviously the Machines caught their mistake and corrected it, but not until it was too late. Dun-dun-dun.

That's it for now, but I'll let you know when I have more examples. In the meantime, if you have some of your own, feel free to write them in the comments (which, hopefully, the Machines will not delete before I've had a chance to read them.)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The New Doctor

I cannot wait for tomorrow's announcement. It's all I've been thinking about. If you're a Doctor Who fan, you know the feeling.
Just for the record, here's my prediction-slash-wishful-thinking: after Wimbledon is over, the announcement comes on. It shows the TARDIS materializing in the middle of a large room full of Daleks. The door opens and, as a heroic theme song starts to play, Kris Marshall steps out.

He looks around at the Daleks surrounding him. They slowly close in, raising their guns. The camera cuts back and forth between them as the tension rises.

Then, finally, one of the Daleks says "Exterminate!" Kris responds by yelling "Doctor?!" And then Phoebe Waller-Bridge or Hayley Atwell or Olivia Colman or Jodie Whittaker jumps out of the TARDIS, waving a sonic screwdriver around and saying "Yes, yes, I'm here!"

Please, BBC.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Five Years!

Editor's note: we interrupt the ongoing series about courage in fiction and in real life to bring you this special announcement.

Hello! It's July 2017, the five-year anniversary of the Joel Suzuki Series. Can you believe it's been five years already? It feels like just yesterday that Volume One debuted as "Secret of the Songshell, Book One of the Spectraland Saga" with launch parties at Thatcher's Coffee and Ash Street Saloon.
Classic
It's also the five-year anniversary of this blog, which started with a post called "Discovering Bands." Ah, they grow up so quickly, don't they?

Anyway, as part of the anniversary celebration, I'll be doing a couple of public events this month. First up is the inaugural Words and Pictures Festival at Cascade Park Community Library this Saturday, July 15th from 11am-330pm.
I'll be there with a bunch of other awesome local authors and illustrators doing readings, talkings, signings, jugglings, and cool skateboard tricks. Okay, maybe not those last two. Oh, and we'll also have books for sale! The library is located at 600 NE 136th Avenue, Vancouver WA.

Then next on the schedule is Family Literacy Night at the Barnes & Noble in Eugene, Oregon on Thursday, July 20th from 6pm-8pm. I'll be joined by fellow local authors Roslyn McFarland and Gwendalyn Belle as well as super special guest Torin Tashima!
If you live in that area - or even if you don't - it'll be a great opportunity to meet the inspiration behind the Joel Suzuki Series (as well as that other guy who happens to be writing it.) The Eugene Barnes & Noble is at 1163 Valley River Drive, Eugene, OR.

So come on out and say happy birthday to Joel and Felicity!

In case you can't make it to these events or want to buy your copies ahead of time, Volumes One, Two and Three of the Joel Suzuki Series are available at these fine links:

Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell
Joel Suzuki, Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire
Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone

Thursday, July 6, 2017

We Get Through It, Because We Get Through It Together

Part of an ongoing series about courage in fiction and in real life

In the season ten finale of Doctor Who, the Doctor willingly risks his life to save a small farming community from an advancing army of Cybermen.
Thing is though, with the Doctor, doing something like that isn't that much of a risk because - as fans of the show know - if the Doctor dies, he'll just regenerate into a new version of himself (herself?)

Most of us aren't quite as fortunate. If we die, we generally don't start giving off bursts of yellow energy before changing into someone else. Which makes it even more impressive, I think, when people who aren't the Doctor put themselves in harm's way to help others.

Here's an interview I did with James, a real-life Doctor - a firefighter paramedic, actually - from California who has been practicing his profession for almost two decades now. I hope you find his story as interesting, informative, and inspiring as I did.

(Editor's note: answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.)

Is your job something that you always wanted to do (and continue to want to do), despite knowing the risks? If so, why?

My first recollection of being interested in this job was when I was around 4 or 5. My grandfather was a fireman, and he would often tell me stories about what it was like. Also, one of the popular shows of the time was Emergency!, which made the whole job look like a series of adventures and good times - for a show about life and death there was very little death or downside depicted.

I don't really know that I had a real understanding of the risks involved even as I began taking some prerequisite classes. There were discussions of the dangers, but until I started working in the field it was all something of an abstract concept. As I've grown in the job, though, I've seen and experienced many of the risks first hand. I've lost colleagues and seen many of them injured at one point or another. I, myself, have been pretty fortunate over the course of my career to have only received cuts, bruises, and minor burns.

Despite that, I still believe that I have the best job in the world. I don't really know of anything else I would rather do. It makes me proud to be there when people need me, and to have the skills, knowledge, and experience to solve their issue or stabilize them long enough to facilitate transport to a higher level of care.

Do you feel fear and/or stress at any point, and if so, when? When you first get called to a situation, when you arrive at the scene, or at some other time?

Stress seems most often to be like background music to me at this point in my career. It's there, but it's almost always just below notice. For me, stress doesn't really start to play a role until something goes sideways during the call. We have treatment protocols for patients and standard operating guidelines for incidents that we start with, but occasionally things don't fit into those templates so we have to adjust on the fly.

If you do feel stress, how do you overcome it? Are you just naturally "wired" to deal with it, or does it take practice and experience?

I don't think anyone is naturally "wired" to deal with the stress that we endure at times. It takes practice and training to stay on course when things are going wrong.

Having relationships with your crew and coworkers helps. We drive each other. There is a collective confidence when I'm working with experienced and competent people that I've known a long time.

Is there a long-term stress factor? If so, how do you deal with that?

The short answer is "of course there is." Some of the things we see and deal with leave lasting impressions. I can still remember almost everything about my first pediatric CPR - the boy's name, the porch, his mother arriving on scene, her anguished wails as our efforts failed to bring her child back. Those things stick with me and occasionally I have dreams about it. It's all a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. My employer offers a counseling program, but therapy often begins once we get back on the engine. We talk out the situation on the way back to the station and that's pretty much the end of it most of the time.

How do you "psych yourself up" in dangerous situations? Is it the motivation of knowing you're doing a good deed? Is there a thrill or an adrenaline rush factor involved?

When I first got hired, it was easy to be wound up for every call. As I've gained experience, most of the time I'm more calculating than I used to be. There is an intrinsic reward for helping people, whether it be a small thing or truly making a difference. It's a validation of your training and your choices. My crew and I have saved people's lives, and that's an awesome feeling.

And yes, of course there's an adrenaline rush - any time you go crawling into a burning structure there's some sort of thrill involved. It's the feeling of going where almost no one else goes and getting the job done.

It really comes down to the fact that I work with good, experienced people who aren't going to let me do anything dangerous alone. My saying is "we get through it, because we get through it together."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Katniss Everdeen Didn't HAVE To Volunteer As Tribute

The introduction to an ongoing series about courage in fiction and in real life

In the Harry Potter books, Severus Snape spends an awful lot of time being called a coward. But as I'm sure all of you know (in case you don't, spoiler alert), he was actually a triple agent with nerves of steel who basically could have gotten himself killed at any moment if he wasn't careful. As Harry himself said in the end, "One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
I started thinking about bravery and courage a lot just prior to the release of Volume Three. In that book there's a scene where Joel risks his life to help his companions and someone says "that was very brave" followed by someone else saying "or foolish" (we'll compare the two in a future post).

Lots of fictional characters exhibit a high degree of courage. If they didn't, you probably wouldn't have a story, or at least not one quite as exciting. I mean, Katniss Everdeen didn't have to volunteer to take her sister's place as a tribute. Clara Oswald didn't have to keep traveling with the Doctor. Luke Skywalker didn't have to go with Obi-Wan to Alderaan, he could've just changed his name - finally - and moved to Mos Espa or something.
But are these actions realistic? Would actual people actually do things like that? Granted, you take a risk anytime you step outside your front door (or even when you don't), but for a lot of people, the idea of purposefully, willingly, knowingly placing yourself in harm's way is more than a little foreign. The instinct to avoid danger and survive is a pretty strong one.

After thinking about it some more, though, I quickly realized that the obvious answer is: yes. Most definitely yes. There really are people - actual, real-life people - who make the choice to put their lives on the line, sometimes on a regular, daily basis. I decided that I wanted to explore this phenomenon in more detail, so I began reaching out to some of these people and asking them about why they do what they do. This series will contain their stories.

While you wait for those stories, feel free to check out these:
Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell
Joel Suzuki, Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire
Joel Suzuki, Volume Three, Legend of the Loudstone

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Letter To My Son

Dear Torin,

Congratulations on graduating from high school! I am super proud (pronounced "prood," according to Richard Watterson) of you.
As a newly-minted high school graduate, I'm sure you'll be receiving life advice from a number of different sources, myself included. In fact, if what I've done so far is any indication, you've probably already been inundated with all sorts of guidance and recommendations from teachers and parents and peers and so on and so forth. Why, it was just the other day when I said something along the lines of  "if you follow your feelings, you won't have any regrets, because you'll know that whatever you did was based on what you felt was right at the time." (I might need to work on that one a little.)

Life advice can also come from songs, books, movies, and other popular media. Like, for example, "Do or do not. There is no try" or "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living" or "Oh well, whatever, never mind." And I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the Joel Suzuki books are no exception - they're practically bursting at the seams with little nuggets of wisdom that I implanted into the story, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. Here are a few of my favorites (imagine these being read over an ambient music track a la "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen"):

"Happiness is a state of mind." - Art, Secret of the Songshell

"Oftentimes, the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination." - Fireflower, Mystery of the Moonfire

"Worrying is a waste of time." - Art, Secret of the Songshell

"Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind, or to say how you feel about stuff." - Felicity, Mystery of the Moonfire

"Even though events happen that are beyond our control, ultimately, we are still the ones who decide upon our own direction." - Keeper of the Light, Legend of the Loudstone

"Stay in the moment. Have faith." - Nineteen, Secret of the Songshell

And so on. The thing to remember, though - and this is me giving advice about taking advice - is to listen to all of these messages, digest them, and then decide in the end what is really right for you and your life. Because what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another, and sometimes learning through experience is the best way to go.

Anyway, congratulations again!

- Love, Dad

P.S. I know you already have your own copies of these, but in case anyone else out there wants their own, here's where to get them:

Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell
Joel Suzuki, Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire
Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Nerd's List of Reasons To Keep On Going

Hi, I'm Art. Some of you may know me as the owner of Art's Guitars, where my pal Joel Suzuki used to work. Some of you may know me as the drummer in Joel's band, or as the guy dating his mom (I know that might sound a little weird, but in case you weren't aware, Joel's mom and I are both 40-something-year-old divorcees). Here's a picture from the movie The Rocker, which sort of approximates Joel's band in that both feature a middle-aged drummer - they have Rainn Wilson, Joel has me - surrounded by incredibly talented teenagers.
Anyway, I'm apparently the guest blogger this week filling in for Mr. Brian Tashima, who said that he was busy working on something called "Volume Four" (no idea what that is). I was originally going to write a long post about philosophy, or about simulated realities, but then I realized that I'm not really a writer, so I'll just give you a list instead.

See, I believe that as a whole, life is good, despite the numerous hardships we all face from time to time, and that there's always something to look forward to, some reasons to keep on going, even if and when you don't feel like it. Now, the kids in the band and I are all heavily into what is called "nerd" or "geek" culture, so this list will contain some reasons specifically tailored for people just like us. And by the way, this list is by no means comprehensive - it's really just the tip of the iceberg. If you have anything you want to add to it, I'm sure Brian won't mind if you leave a comment or two. Enjoy.

A Nerd's List of Reasons to Keep On Going (as of June 15, 2017)

1. Loved ones
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. The Legend of Zelda concert, coming to a town near you
4. Helping others
5. The next Comic-Con
6. Xbox One X
7. Delicious burritos
8. Cat videos
9. Finding out who the 13th Doctor will be
10. The third album by Second Player Score (Brian asked me to include that)
11. The day the Seattle Mariners (or whoever your favorite team is) finally get back to the playoffs (or win another championship, if you're lucky enough to be a fan of a good team)
12. Star Wars Episode VIII
13. Star Wars Episode IX
14: All the Star Wars movies that Disney will undoubtedly continue to produce after that
15. The fact that you are awesome
16. The weekend
17. The sun, if you like the sun, or snow, if you like snow
18. Your next vacation
19. Chocolate (not too much, just enough to keep away the Dementors)
20. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

That's it for now. Thanks for reading!

-- Art

(Editor's Note: like what Art has to say? You can hear more of his philosophies on life by reading the first three installments of the Joel Suzuki series, listed below.)