Thursday, July 18, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Introduction

Today we start on a seven-part series about college football. And now we'll introduce college football:

This is a primer designed for the person who knows little or nothing about college football or football in general.

Why College Football

I'm a huge fan of college football (and the University of Washington Huskies in particular). In college football, the players don't make mega millions of dollars. In fact, they aren't paid at all except through college scholarships. They don't practice as much as the pros so they still make mistakes. And you can watch a player start out as a rookie and watch him grow over the two to four years he might play for a team.

Now I'm not saying college football isn't big business. It is. Television revenues are in the millions. A good head coach can make a seven-figure salary per year (and are often the highest paid state employee of their state). The money doesn't come from taxpayers (at least not all of it), but from television revenue, stadium ticket sales, and booster donations. For example, Nike's Phil Knight has pledged $10 million per year to get good coaches to Oregon (his alma mater). I assume if the head coach is making millions, the assistance coaches (and there are a lot of them) are making at least six-figures. I read that one assistant coach was making $475,000 per year.

And, according to Forbes, the Washington Huskies make $84 million in revenue and out of that make $36 million in profit. I assume that money goes to pay for other sports that don't make a profit, including Title IX women's sports.

And why football? This game combines grace and violence in a alchemy of skills you don't see anywhere else. It is exciting to watch and fun to cheer on your team. It's never boring (like baseball) and it doesn't have squeaky shoes (like basketball). Also, the odd shape of the football makes it bounce unpredictably. This adds a bit of randomness not found in other sports.

And why the Washington Huskies? I went to college there (a lot). So I feel loyal to my alma mater. I even loved my Huskies the year they went 0-12 in the 2008 season.

And watching football can bring moments of amazement, such as this touchdown by former Husky John Ross.

Or these punt returns by Dante Petis.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

AWD vs. 4WD

A while back (September 2015) I talked about the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). But I got one important thing wrong. More on that in a moment.

There are basically four different types of drives on cars/trucks/SUVs. First is rear-wheel drive (RWD). This is when the power of the engine goes to the rear wheels only. This is usually true for sports cars and trucks that don't have four-wheel drive. The advantage of RWD is responsiveness in spirited driving. The disadvantage is it costs more than front-wheel drive and is more complicated. And you have a hump in your passenger compartment floor for the drive axle. 

Second is front-wheel drive (FWD). FWD is on a lot of cars, some SUVs, and a lot of crossovers. Advantages are simplicity (the engine is right over the drive tires), less weight, and a flat floor in the passenger compartment. Disadvantages are torque steer with high power cars, and front tires wear out faster because they do a lot of the work (steering, powering, and braking the car).

Third is all-wheel drive (AWD). This is when all the wheels are driven all the time. Advantages are better grip in nearly all situations. Disadvantages are cost and weight and complexity (more things to break). Because of more weight, your gas mileage will suffer.

There are all sorts of different AWD systems which vary by manufacture. Some send 25% of the engine power to each wheel no mater what. Some send more power to tires that have better grip. Some send more to the rear tires to simulate RWD.

Finally, is four-wheel drive (4WD). This is exclusively on trucks and SUVs. The important thing I got wrong is this: you can't drive 4WD in four wheel drive on dry pavement. The whole system will bind. Nor on wet pavement. Snowy pavement is okay. So these systems can be turned on and off.

The reason you can't drive 4WD on pavement is the axles are locked. So when you go around a corner the inside tire turns the same speed as the outside tire. On dirt or snow this isn't a problem. But on dry or wet pavement, it will cause your driveline to bind. So take your 4WD vehicle out of four-wheel drive before getting on dry pavement. When not in four-wheel drive, 4WD vehicles are almost universally rear-drive (I can't think of one that isn't).

Which drive system you get depends on what you think you need. For most people FWD or RWD is sufficient. A good set of snow tires makes a FWD or RWD perform in snow often better than an AWD with all-season tires. An AWD vehicle with good snow tires will perform very well in snow.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Stranger Things Season Three

I have, so far, watched four episodes of Stranger Things season 3 on Netflix. It's been a long wait and it has been worth it. (It's been about a year and a half since season 2.)

The kids are older now, teenagers but still without drivers licenses. Mike and El are in a relationship as are Max and Lucas. I'm guess their ages as around 14-15 years old.

The boys ride 10-speed bicycles instead of stingrays. And the focus of their lives is switching to the new mall. But, this is Hawkins, and stranger thing are happening. And poor Will feels it coming. I don't want to give any spoilers. You'll just have to watch.

There are four different story lines and you know by the end, they will all converge, likely at the mall, I think.

Season 3 is fun, scary, and excruciatingly well written. You should be watching this.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Ferrari SUV Coming

Ferrari Purosangue
First of all: Happy Independence Day.

And now on with our blog.

A while back I said there was a rumored Ferrari SUV coming and I said it would probably be built with Fiat 500L parts (because Fiat owns Ferrari).

In late April, Ferrari announced the name of their SUV and a few details. The names is "Purosangue." Now if you know anything about Romance languages, you probably read that as "pure blood." But Ferrari says it's Italian for "Thoroughbred." And don't call it an Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), but it will likely be called a Ferrari Utility Vehicle (FUV).

The FUV will come in both internal combustion and hybrid power trains. And it will be built on a Ferrari frame, not a Fiat underside.

To my eyes, it looks like a crossover (those station wagon-like cars people buy in droves). But, as Car and Driver (my source for all things automotive) said, Ferrari wants to make money. And there's money in crossovers/SUVs/FUVs (as I said here).

Don't expect to see the Purosangue on the road until at least 2022. And even then you'll probably have to go to Mercer Island or Redmond to see one.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

I Wish I Were Better

I wish I were a better writer.

I guess that's probably true of all writers, even ones who have sold millions of books. Well, except Tom Clancy who got lazy toward the end (so lazy, he didn't even write his own books).

My biggest weakness as a writer is character development. I think I did a pretty good job of that in Hammer of Thor and Agent of Artifice. But I spent years writing those books. I tried to do some character development in Book of Death, but I got too interested in the story. After that, I just sort of gave up on it. I'm not saying my books aren't good. I'm just saying that they could be better.

So I need to get better. In the three-book series I'm writing now, I have a character arc planned. But I'm into the third book and that arc hasn't manifested itself,  yet. Maybe I can fix it in rewrites.

What's your weakness as a writer. Let me know in the comments below. Make me feel better.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Self Care

As I've stated before in this blog, I am type 2 bipolar.

A type 1 bipolar is what most people think of when they think of bipolar. A type 1 cycles like a sine wave. These cycles could last months or hours, depending on the person.

But I'm type 2 so my bipolar is different.* It means I am depressed most of the time with occasional manic times.

But, the good news is, thanks to meds my former psychiatrist figured out (after lithium didn't work), I'm rarely depressed and almost never manic.

Depression is a weird thing. I know I'm depressed, I know why I feel lousy, but I can't do anything about it. I call it "the cloud." It is like a dark cloud hanging over me and I can't do anything to dispell it. Even the meds don't help. It really sucks.

So I practice "self care." One thing is, I make sure I have taken my meds. Some people with mental illness say, "Hey, I feel better, I don't need the meds" and stop taking them. But it was the meds that made them feel better. And there are downsides to the meds. Not just side-effects (one med I take makes me hungry), but I feel as if I've lost a spark I used to have. But I still take the meds.

The other bit of self care is let yourself be what you feel. If you're depressed, let it happen. Don't fight it. Do what helps you feel better. But don't self-medicate with food or alcohol or other drugs. For example, if I feel depressed, I'll watch television and try to find something entertaining or funny. Or slip in a DVD/Blu-ray of a favorite fun movie.

So take care of yourself. It's important.

How do you practice self care. Let me know in the comments below.

*The other types of bipolar are type 3 when a person is manic most of the time and occasionally depressed (pretty much the opposite of me) and type 4 when you're both manic and depressed.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Networking

Like most writers, I'm an introvert. Strongly an introvert. I'd rather stay home and read or watch T.V. than do most anything else.

But, in my corporate days, I was forced to be more gregarious. And since I've become a freelance writer and author, that has helped me. You see, nearly all the success I've had as a writer has come from networking, i.e., knowing people and talking with them. I found my publisher through another writer I'd met. I got my freelance jobs from knowing people.

Yes, this meant talking to people (shudder) and sometimes strangers. The one thing I hate about freelance writing is calling strangers and asking for some of their time. But I force myself to do it because that's part of the job.

So get out from in front of that computer screen and look for opportunities to talk to people. You never know what possibilities you might find.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does that affect your life. Let me know in the comments below.