Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020 Major League Baseball Season Recap With April And Lydia

Hey there! So, it's been a little over three months since we last spoke to April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez, our own in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans. Since then, Major League Baseball has actually managed to complete a full - albeit truncated - season with expanded playoffs and all, so I thought we'd bring April and Lydia back to share their thoughts on their predictions, the Mariners, and more.
Brian: Welcome, ladies.
Lydia: Hey.
April: Hello.
Brian: Okay, let's get right down to it. April, back in July you predicted that the Dodgers would win the World Series.
Lydia: And you were right!
April: Well, they were the logical choice. I mean, that lineup is stacked.
Lydia: They almost didn't even make it out of the NLCS, though.
April: True.
Lydia: So, I say you're psychic.
April: Heh. Sure.
Brian: All right, next one. You said that the Mariners would finish 23-37 and in last place. They ended up in third place, at 27-33, and were actually in contention for a playoff spot up until close to the end.
April: Yeah, they exceeded my expectations, which was nice.
Lydia: Except for that kinda-sorta contention deal. Teasing us, once again.
April: Which is pretty Mariners, when you think about it.
Lydia: No kidding.
Brian: And Lydia, you said that they would finish fourth, ahead of the Astros, who would be [*checks notes*] 8-52. The Astros actually came in second, at 29-31, and almost -
Lydia: Yeah, yeah, I was being facetious. Remember, I also said that the season would be cancelled altogether.
Brian: True.
April: Thank goodness it wasn't. Even some baseball was better than no baseball.
Lydia: What, the KBO wasn't good enough for ya?
April: Only you get up that early.
Brian: Anyway, moving on. Despite not making the playoffs, the M's did have some bright spots, especially with the young players.
April: Oh, for sure.
Lydia: Kyle Lewis for Rookie of the Year, woo!
April: And even though guys like Crawford and Evan White had struggles at the plate, their defense was pretty terrific.
Lydia: And Sheffield looked like he could be solid.
April: Yup.
Brian: Okay, so let's turn our thoughts to next year. First question: do you like the expanded playoff format?
April: Sure. Keeps more fanbases engaged for longer.
Lydia: Nah. When the M's finally make it back in, I want them to have really earned it. I don't like teams getting into the playoffs with a losing record *cough*Astros*cough*
April: What if the M's win the division?
Lydia: Then that's fine.
Brian: Next question: do you like starting off extra innings with a runner on second?
April: No.
Lydia: Absolutely not.
Brian: Fair enough. Okay, last question: with the pandemic still going on, do you think the 2021 season will start on time and play a full 162-game schedule?
Lydia: Do we really have to answer this?
April: I keep telling you, Lyd, we do not have jinx powers.
Lydia: I dunno...
April: I'll say yes.
Lydia: Always so optimistic.
April: Hey, you gotta have hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Steak Saturday

Saturdays have recently become steak nights in my house. The three-bears picture below shows dinner for me, my daughter, and my son.
And no, they're not too hot, too cold, or just right - they're medium rare (me), medium (my son), and well-done (my daughter).

No need for a recipe, as it's pretty simple: I just cook it in a little canola oil with salt and pepper on both sides and it comes out great. We don't even use steak sauce. The sides are white rice (of course) and sliced mushrooms sauteed in the leftover steak oil with some garlic oil and butter added to it. My daughter doesn't eat the mushrooms - she hates mushrooms - but they're a big hit with my son (and me).

We don't do this EVERY Saturday because it's good to limit your red meat consumption, or so I've heard. But once in a while is nice. And, despite the current high prices of beef, it's still a pretty cost-effective way to feed three people, especially when compared to buying take-out (which we actually do quite a lot of. Support your local restaurants!)

Anyway, I -

Felicity: Yo. Where's OUR steak?
Brian: I...I didn't make any for you guys.
Joel: Why not?
Brian: You...don't actually eat.
Felicity: Sure we do. All the time.
Brian: I mean...
Felicity: Oh, is this that "you guys are fictional characters" argument that you always bust out whenever you don't want to spend money on us?
Brian: Well, it's just that -
Felicity (to Joel): C'mon, man. We'll go get our own dinner.
Joel: Um, okay. But we don't have any money.
Felicity (quietly): I still have his credit card from last time.
Brian: I heard that.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Anime Roundup: Plot Twist Edition

This recent batch of anime that I've watched all seem to have one thing in common: cool plot twists. Then again, I guess a lot of good shows have them, so maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Anyway, hajimemashou!

Erased
What would you get if you took Big or 13 Going on 30, flipped the original age differences of the protagonist, mixed that with Groundhog Day, and then changed the result from a drama/comedy into a twelve-part murder mystery/thriller? You'd end up with this show, which is pretty darn awesome. Although, the original Japanese name for it translates to "The Town Where Only I Am Missing," so I'm not sure how they got from that to "Erased"...oh well. Anyway, the basic gist of it is that a 29-year-old struggling manga artist (who also works as a pizza delivery boy to help make ends meet) has an ability he calls "revival" - no explanation for this is given, and none is needed - which involuntarily sends him back in time usually just a few minutes to a point right before a fatal incident occurs, allowing him to prevent it from happening. For the most part he treats this power pretty nonchalantly, occasionally saving lives like it's no big deal before resuming a mundane daily schedule. But then his mother is murdered by someone who frames him as the suspect and his ability sends him back not a few minutes, but eighteen years - and then the real story begins. With its compelling plot, interesting twists, and satisfying story beats, this one definitely makes my list of favorites. There's also a live-action adaptation which remixes the anime a little bit and plugs a few plot holes but basically follows the same storyline and is also a fun viewing experience.

Toradora!
A rom-com/dram about a boy and a girl who have crushes on each other's best friends so they scheme to set each other up while in the meantime it's pretty obvious they're actually a perfect couple, this one takes a few twists and turns - including the introduction of a fifth-wheel interloper - before eventually arriving at the place you knew it was going to all along. Or does it? Yes, it does. OR DOES IT??

The Promised Neverland
You already know something creepy is up when the show starts off with a bunch of happy orphans living in the same house, wearing the same white uniforms, with numbers tattooed on their necks. Oh, and a caretaker who seems nice but is obviously hiding something. This is not really a spoiler because the plot is revealed pretty early on: the kids are actually being raised as food for demons. So, of course, one day they discover the disturbing truth by accident and then spend the rest of the season trying to figure out how to escape. By the time you get to around episode six or so, you think to yourself "even if they get out, there is a LOT more to this story than this, kind of like in The Maze Runner" and sure enough, a second season is coming out next year (yay!) and you find out that the original manga upon which the show is based actually ran for four years over twenty volumes (181 chapters, of which the show's first season adapted 37).

Great Pretender
A crime comedy about a con artist who tries to con someone who is actually an even better con artist than he is so he ends up having to work for him, this show is fun and fast-paced with an original art style and some surprisingly deep character work. I like to watch all my anime in Japanese with English subtitles, but I get the feeling that this one might actually be better with the English dub since I think the characters are supposed to be speaking in English most of the time. My only question is: Netflix, since you own this show, why didn't you release all four cases (blocks of episodes that focus on one particular plot thread) worldwide at the same time?

A Lull in the Sea

A gentle drama with an interesting premise: two civilizations living side-by-side, one on land, one in the sea. The sea people are just like regular people but with something called "ena" that allows them to breathe underwater (no gills here) and dries them off instantly whenever they come to the surface. They also watch TV underwater, which I don't know how that works exactly, but whatever. Anyway, against that backdrop (and an "A" plot of a looming environmental disaster that threatens the surface), there's a coming-of-age story (the "B" plot) that starts off as a love triangle but then evolves into more of a love dodecahedron that you will need a scorecard to keep track of. The overall tone is pretty mellow, but it never gets slow or boring, and for the most part the show has the art of the episode-ending cliffhanger down pat.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Words and Pictures Festival 2020

This year's Words & Pictures Festival (the 4th annual) will be, of course, virtual! 


Like the graphic above shows, it's taking place this Saturday from 10am-6pm. I will be doing a reading at 10:30, a panel on indie publishing from 12-1, and a meet-and-greet from 5-6. But there are lots of other awesome local authors (including keynote speaker Fonda Lee, whose novel Jade City is being adapted for TV by NBC Peacock) and author resources participating, so it's totally worth checking out all day long. Best of all, it's free!

You can see the whole day's program and author lineup at this link, and registration is here. Hope to see your smiling faces on Zoom!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Statii Update

In spite of everything, things are still happening. Somehow.
Music
Boot camp is done! We are going into the studio today and tomorrow to record tracks for Four-D: The Winter Suite, a four-song EP that will eventually, when combined with the Spring Suite, the Summer Suite, and the Fall Suite, be part of a full sixteen-song album. Look for a January 2021 release (of the Winter Suite EP, that is).

Books
The manuscript for Volume Five was shipped off to my editor yesterday for a line edit, and work on the cover art is underway. If all goes well, it could be ready for a December 2020 release...maybe? I've also made progress on the first draft of Volume Six, getting it up to 5500 words (22 pages).

Comics
All the art for Glorified Issue #3 is complete. Now it's just a matter of confirming some information with our Kickstarter backers and then we can send it off to print. Release date: November 2020. Can't wait! (Also, I've been working on the storyline for Issues #13-25, which is "Volume Two" of Gloria's saga. Oh, did I mention that the scripts and storyboards for Issues #1-12 are already done? Well, I just did.)

Podcast
We published our one-year anniversary/season one finale episode last week, and we started with season two this week. Our listener base has really been growing as of late, so if you're one of the people who has helped contribute to its growth, thank you very much! We're glad you're enjoying the program. If you're not (yet), you can check it out - for free - here.

Nihongo
My current main sources for my continued quest to learn the Japanese language have been an app called Drops, a website called Wanikani, and a book called Speak Japanese in 90 Days. Oh, and of course, watching anime and listening to J-Rock bands. I recently found myself able to read an exchange on Twitter between the ex-guitarist and ex-bassist of Stereopony without having to use the translate function, which was an achievement that totally made my day.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Give More 24!

Today is Give More 24! What is that, you ask? Why, it's 24 hours in which you can make a positive difference in the world by donating to any one of the awesome nonprofit organizations based in the Southwest Washington area. "Sounds great," you say, "but which organization should I donate to?" Well, each organization is definitely worthy of your support, but allow me to make a suggestion: Autism Empowerment.

Why, you ask? Well, because not only are we dedicated to improving the quality of life for people and families in the autism community both locally and worldwide via our various programs, support groups, events, resources, and more, but also because we promote a global culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

If that sounds good to you, then simply go this link and make a donation. Even just the minimum of $10 will be greatly appreciated. All donations are 100% tax-deductible, and best of all, giving feels good! I know this first-hand, because not only will I be donating today, but I also donate to Autism Empowerment (on an ongoing basis) one dollar for every Joel Suzuki book that is sold.

Thank you! Mahalo! Arigatou Gozaimasu! Gracias!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Random Life Tips That Work For Me

Here's a list of some life tips (or "hacks," as they are now popularly called) that I have found to be personally useful and/or beneficial. Some of these I learned from other sources, while some of them I discovered on my own. I present them this week with hopes that you, loyal blog reader, may find them helpful in your own life.

(Disclaimer: view any bits of advice given to you by a writer/musician with a healthy amount of skepticism. Except for maybe the ones that have to do with writing or playing music. Or, perhaps, organizing your daily schedule.)

Finances

- Pay off your credit card balance in full every time. And then get one of those cards that gives you cash back on purchases. Seriously.

- Set up an automatic transfer at your bank that will move a certain amount of money from your checking account to your savings account each month.

- Use coupons. Also, buy the generic brand equivalent of things that don't depend on taste or texture (e.g., vitamins, aspirin).

- Don't buy too many expensive cat toys. They will not care. Cardboard boxes, crumpled-up sticky notes, and a flashlight will do just fine.

Health

- To fall asleep faster, use the following four-step routine: (1) relax your face - you'd be surprised how tense that thing is, I know I was; (2) release the tension - imagine it escaping through your pores like pollen floating away; (3) clear your mind - let the thoughts fly in and out like butterflies; (4) focus on your breathing.

- When you don't feel exercising, tell yourself you're going to do just one (easy) thing. And then just one more. And then just one more. Before you know it, you'll have done your entire workout. Honestly, the hardest part is getting started.

- Wash your hands a lot, even when there isn't a pandemic.

Writing

- A standard page in a book is roughly 250 words. So, if you just write 250 words (less than the length of this blog post so far) every day, you'll have a completed 300-page manuscript in under a year.

- Don't stop to self-edit. Just keep writing. Fix it later. Also, whatever you're writing is probably better than you think it is while you're writing it.

- For sci-fi/fantasy authors, listening to epic music soundtracks while writing might be helpful and even inspirational. I know it is for me.