Saturday, May 23, 2015

Auto-Stop Engine

Yesterday I had to take my car in to the dealership for its 25,000 mile service (and I've only had the car 17 months). They gave me a loaner car. It was a not-quite-as-nice but newer (2015 model) version of my car. And it was black, not white. I did learn that black is harder to spot in a Costco parking lot.

But one feature it had I'd never experienced before: engine auto stop. That is, when the car was stopped (at a stop light, for instance), the engine would shut off. When you took your foot off the brake, the engine would start.

This is one way automakers are attempting to improve gas mileage to meet the new (and frankly ridiculous) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (and don't get me started on those) requirements.

This was a change I could live with, sorta. When you stopped at a stop light or stop sign, or anywhere more than just a few seconds, the engine would shut down. This was a slight shudder in the car when this happened. The air conditioning would also not blow nearly as hard and I thought it must be running off the battery. The tachometer would drop to zero (labeled "Ready"). When you lifted your foot from the brake, the car would instantly fire up (with a slight shudder) and pull away. Except for the AC and the shudder when it stopped and started, it was seamless. There was also a small green indicator on the dashboard display when engine was stopped.

When you stopped the engine, the tachometer needle dropped to a lower position labeled "Off."

An interesting thing, however, was that after the car had sat in the hot sun while we had lunch, the auto-stop stopped working and a the green indicator was white with a line through it when the car was stopped. I decided this was because the car had decided to keep running so the AC could keep going full blast to cool the car's interior.

The biggest problem I see with this is constantly starting and stopping the engine (and can you imagine this in stop-and-go traffic) would probably wear the starter and the engine more than keeping it running. But the CAFE standards say nothing about parts longevity, just better gas mileage.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Keshawn Dodds and Frankie Y. Bailey

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Keshawn Dodds and Frankie Y. Bailey

Keshawn Dodds

Keshawn Dodds was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts on February 24, 1978.  He still resides there with his wife, Tamara Dodds and daughter, Sydney Sharee Dodds. Becoming known as a well-established football player in Springfield, he was awarded a football scholarship to American International College in 1997.  Mr. Dodds played football all four years at A.I.C., and later graduated with a B.S. in Education in 2001 and a Master of Education in 2009.

After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree, Keshawn went on to become a fourth and fifth grade elementary school teacher within the Springfield Public Schools. During his tenure, Mr. Dodds taught at the Homer and Washington Elementary Schools from 2001 - 2005.  He later took a job under Springfield's Mayor, Charles V. Ryan as a Mayoral Aide. Mr. Dodds is now back at American International College as the Director of Multicultural Affairs and Community Relations.

Along Mr. Dodds’ career journey, he has also become a published author of a juvenile fiction series, which is known as the “Menzuo~Solar Warrior’s,” series. Keshawn has written eight books within the series, and has currently republished the first book, “Menzuo (MEN-ZOO-O) in the Calling of the Sun Prince,” in August of 2010. Mr. Dodds has also republishing the second book within the series, “Menzuo S.W. (Solar Warriors) Legend of the Blue Diamond.” The rest of the books within the eight book series are due out in the years to come. Each book within the series is followed with a Discussion Guide that parents and teachers can use to help their kids understand what they are reading.

As Keshawn expands his writing career, he has also completed several works for young adult readers. He has created several young adult fiction books and has recently published the first of many to be released in the near future. His first young adult fiction book, “Who’s On My Side? The Story of Kalen Brown,” was released on August 25, 2011, and debut as a stage play on May 12, 2012.

Keshawn will also be releasing his other works, “Knuckle Up!” and “The Secret Lives of the Black Kings and Queens," in the near future.

Mr. Keshawn Dodds is an avid writer and strong supporter of education. His long term goal is to
become a full-time writer and well-known educational advocate and motivational speaker. Keshawn wants to continue to spread his words of faith towards obtaining a great education and achieving all goals that a person has set in their life. Being raised by his mother, Elizabeth Dodd, Keshawn was always instilled with what a good education can bring to a person. Mr. Dodds firmly believes that, when hard work meets dedication, success is born.

Keshawn's Book:

Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince 

Keshawn's Links:


Frankie Y. Bailey
Frankie Y. Bailey

Frankie Y. Bailey is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY).  Her areas of research are crime history, and crime and mass media/popular culture. She is the author of the Edgar-nominated Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction (Greenwood, 1991).  She is the co-editor (with Donna C. Hale) of Popular Culture, Crime, and Justice (Wadsworth, 1998).  She is the co-author (with Alice P. Green) of “Law Never Here”: A Social History of African American Responses to Issues of Crime and Justice (Praeger, 1999).  With Steven Chermak and Michelle Brown, she co-edited Media Representations of September 11 (Praeger, 2003).  She and Donna C. Hale are the co-authors of Blood on Her Hands: The Social Construction of Women, Sexuality, and Murder (Wadsworth, 2004).  She and Steven Chermak are the series editors of the five-volume set, Famous American Crimes and Trials (Praeger, 2004). They also co-edited the two-volume set Crimes of the Century (2007). 

Frankie’s most recent non-fiction books are African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study (McFarland, 2008), nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards, winner of a Macavity award. She is the recipient of the George N. Dove Award (2010). With Alice P. Green, she is the author of Wicked Albany:  Lawlessness & Liquor in the Prohibition Era (The History Press, 2009) and Wicked Danville: Liquor and Lawlessness in a Southside Virginia City (The History Press, 2011). 

Frankie’s mystery series features Southern criminal justice professor/crime historian Lizzie Stuart includes Death's Favorite Child (Silver Dagger, 2000), A Dead Man's Honor (Silver Dagger, 2001), Old Murders (Silver Dagger, 2003), You Should Have Died on Monday (Silver Dagger, 2007), and Forty Acres and a Soggy Grave (2011). A short story, “Since You Went Away” appears in the mystery anthology, Shades of Black (2004), edited by Eleanor Taylor Bland.  The Red Queen Dies (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne), the first book in Frankie’s near future police procedural series set in Albany, New York, featuring police detective Hannah McCabe, will be released in September 2013.  

Frankie is a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Mystery Writers of America (MWA).  She served as the 2009-2010 Executive Vice President of MWA and as the 2011-2012 President of Sisters in Crime (SinC). 

Frankie’s Book

Frankie's Links:

From Today's show: Farthest Galaxy Ever Found

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not Quite Yet

If you've read this blog, you know I like cars. And the faster, more powerful the car, the better.

So there's a luxury sports sedan, all wheel drive, with 329 horsepower that accelerates 0 - 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. But the real impressive numbers are 30 - 50 mph in two seconds flat and 50 to 70 mph in 3.1 seconds. Those are great numbers for passing cars on Highway 17.

But I still wouldn't buy it. Why? It's a Tesla. And while I think the Tesla is an amazing technological achievement, it's not quite ready for prime time.

Being 100% electric (unlike the Chevy Volt and BMW i8 which have gasoline-burning engines to supplement the batteries), you are limited by the power of its battery pack. Recharging can take hours. I want a car that can get me 200 miles and back home in one day without stopping for charging for 8 hours. As Car and Driver puts it:
To fully embrace any electric car, some lifestyle rearranging is necessary. Spur-of-the-moment trips are unwise. The next plug-in opportunity is always at the forefront of your consciousness. Speeding up when you’re running late may force an unplanned stop for a jolt of juice. 
Here's the problem. The Tesla's batteries can only hold so much energy. And while the car tries to make up for this with aerodynamics (even the door handles are flush to the body) and light-weight construction, it's 70 kWh capacity battery pack carries the equivalent energy of 2 gallons of gasoline. And it can take up to 8 hours to recharge the battery rather than the 5 minutes it takes to fill a car with gasoline.

And frankly, I'n not ready to make any "lifestyle rearranging" for a car.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I'm Giving Away a Free Book!

I am giving away a free book this week. Go to my website, to sign up. If you win, you can choose from any of my six novels and paperback or ebook formats.

Good luck!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why is Proper Grammar Important?

I'm not exactly a grammar Nazi. But I do try to use proper grammar (especially in writing) and I do have some pet peeves about misusing words such as the misuse of "jealous" and confusing "bring" and "take." Almost nobody gets "like" and "such as" correct.

And don't get me started on the misuse of "hopefully."

Some people dismiss the need for good grammar (the very term "grammar Nazi" is not one of affection). Those folks are usually filling up Facebook with their unreadable posts about kittens.

I believe proper grammar, especially in writing, is very important. Why? Because you're not there to explain yourself when someone misunderstands. For example.
I to think its important too spell correctly.
There are four grammar errors in that sentence. But that is something you might read on Facebook or Twitter where grammar seems to be less and less adhered to. Is that first "to" a typo and the writer wished to say "I do think"? Is there something else they think is important so they put in "too" (and forgot the commas. And the possessive "its" makes little sense.

Here's the correct sentence:
I, too, think it's important to spell correctly.
Now the sentence is simple and easy to understand. And the key thing is, you don't have to think about it. You know the intention of the writer immediately. There's no need to decode their bad grammar.

And that is why proper grammar is important. It smooths the flow of communication. The writer's intent is more likely to be conveyed to the reader and done so immediately without the ready having to decode the meaning.

It also keeps you for avoiding mistakes such as this:

(I feel sorry for that dog.)

So, yes, I'm think proper grammar is important. But, even I make mistakes.

At least I try to be correct.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Cory Williams and Justin Oldham

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are please to welcome Cory Williams and Justin Oldham

Cory WIlliams
Cory Williams

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cory attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), enrolling in the school’s first year when it was a fledgling program, where he majored in Creative Writing and minored in Videodrama, becoming an award-winning director of video projects. In addition, he was a founder, writer, and cartoonist for CAPA’s newspaper THE PAINTED WORD, for which he eventually became editor-in-chief. Listed in
WHO’S WHO AMONG AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS and commended by the National Honors Society, he graduated with CAPA’s second graduating class in 1981.

Attending STANFORD UNIVERSITY in Stanford, California, where he majored in Drama and minored in Dance, Cory performed in an average of five to six major productions per year. He taught art to autistic, learning-disabled, and educable mentally retarded children at the Peninsula Children’s Center in Menlo Park, California, was active in the Stanford University Rape Awareness Program,
occasionally wrote for THE STANFORD DAILY, and toured for two years with the BALLET FOLKLORICO DE STANFORD MEXICAN FOLKDANCE COMPANY. He received a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Drama in 1986.

As a performing artist, Cory has performed in dance productions, touring shows, and Off-Broadway productions of ANTIGONE, THE TRIAL OF SUSAN B. ANTHONY, WE HAVE STORIES TO TELL OF AFRICA, FRATERNITY, NOTES ON 6FINITY, THE AMEN CORNER, and A FEW HOURS IN HELL, making his West Coast theatrical debut as the Duke of Cornwall in KING LEAR with the Pasadena Shakespeare Company in Pasadena, California, following that up as a member of the ensemble cast of the Fountain Theatre/BAND critically-acclaimed production of Rita Dove’s THE DARKER FACE OF THE EARTH, then continuing on to the West Coast premiere of the VoxBox Arts Collective original production of JIGSAW. In addition, Cory has acted in various commercials, industrial films and videos, television shows, and feature films such as WHO SHOT PAT?, PHILADELPHIA, LET’S TALK, THE C-SHIFT, REFLECTIONS AGO, RED HERRING, FIGHTING WORDS, A DAY OF ATONEMENT and STRAIGHT ON ‘TIL MORNING.

Cory is also the author of four science fiction novels, TOTENTANZ, THE
ARYDANI, all of which are currently available through the online content

Cory Williams is currently living and working in Los Angeles, California.

Cory's Books:


The Taking of Cyndriel's Hope

Hunter's Moon

Darkspeed Arynrai

Cory's Links:


Justin Oldham

Justin Oldham
Mr. Oldham is a legally blind writer who lives in Anchorage Alaska. A graduate of North Pole High School, Justin went on to complete bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and History from the University of Alaska.  He worked for the Bureau of Land Management before becoming a full-time writer.

In addition to his speculative fiction that features Alaskan themes, he writes on the subject of vision impairment with guidance from medical professionals and disability experts.  These titles explain what it’s like to be legally blind or to lose an eye.

Justin's Books

Tales from the Kodiak Starport 


Justin's Links:


From today's show: Space Station Laser

Release Day: The Terror of Tombstone

Today is the day! Today The Terror of Tombstone, my fantasy/western novel set in the Adept Series Universe is released. Extensively researched with exciting western and fantasy action, The Terror of Tombstone is guaranteed to keep you up nights reading.

Abel Lewis is a city slicker and a dandy and completely out of his element in the frontier of 1881 Arizona, nursing saddle sores and wishing for a soft bed. But Lewis hides a skill, and as he seeks to find an evil power in the deserts and small towns of the Southwest, he'll need all his abilities and all his cunning to survive. And a friend with a Winchester is mighty useful, too.
From Tombstone to San Francisco, Lewis is on the trail of a dark force that has its own devastating plans for the Old West. Will Lewis survive his confrontation with the over-powering malevolence of the terror of Tombstone?
Get your copy today in multiple formats. Links here, on my website.

The Terror of Tombstone, by S. Evan Townsend