Thursday, March 4, 2021

No Progress

I've talked about the progress humans have made before, from the beginning and from the 1970s. But in some ways, we aren't making progress.

This thought isn't original to me. I read it somewhere. But the truth is, we don't move any faster than we did 60 years ago at the beginning of the jet age. Commercial aircraft fly about the same speed now that the Concorde has been grounded permanently. Trains are slower from what I can tell. And cars go about the same speeds. In fact, in some places due to idiotic speed limits, they are forced to go slower despite being safer by every measure.

My mother told me that traveling to Portland, OR in the early sixties, my father was going 80 mph on I-84. Now the maximum speed limit on that highway is 70 mph and is 65 between The Dalles and Portland. And up until 1995 when it was repealed, the national maximum speed limit was 65 mph, 55 in urban areas. And before 1986, it was 55 mph everywhere. And yes, now there are places were the speed limit is 75 or even 80 mph, but they are rare. And, again, that's how fast my parents were going in the early '60s.

I was driving on I-84 a few weeks ago and on some straightaways I could see for miles and couldn't see another car. I had the cruise control set at 75 mph but it felt as if 80 or even 85 would have been perfectly safe.

Why aren't we traveling faster? Why aren't we moving at supersonic speeds through the air? Why don't we have bullet trains like in Japan?

The Concorde consumed a lot more fuel than a regular jet. Which is why it cost so much to fly on it.

The US is too big geographically and population density too low to make bullet trains practical outside of the East Coast population centers and maybe parts of Southern California (San Diego to LA).

Some companies are working on a "hyperloop" that can travel at 700 mph which is faster than commercial airplanes. But like high-speed rail, it's expensive and probably not practical in the low-population density areas of the country.

I don't know what the answer is. We need a breakthrough in speed. I don't know where it's going to come from. Maybe autonomous cars will go 100 mph while we sit inside and look at our phones. I don't know. That sounds almost as bad as flying on an airplane.

Why do you think we're not going any faster than in 1960? What do you think might help that? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


I have weird dreams sometimes.

Like recently I dreamed I was in a movie with a young Elizabeth Taylor and a youngish Glenn Ford. And there was a war on and I was trying to do guerilla action against an occupying army. One image that stuck with me was burning trucks full of supplies. Oh, and this was a Star Trek movie. Probably because the day before I watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. But another image that sticks with me is a Star Trek-like spaceship. You know, saucer shaped with warp nacelles. Like the USS Reliant in Star Trek II.

What does it all mean? Probably nothing. Just brain debugging itself, I assume. But lately I've been having vivid dreams and I don't know why. 

And sometimes, and this is really weird, I'm a woman in dreams. For example, in the "movie" described above, I spent time as Elizabeth Tylor as she (I) was horseback riding. This is before the war part of the movie. She (I) was riding on Glenn Ford's, her (my) father, estate. Isn't that weird.

Another dream I was Bill Crystal and hosting the Oscars. I was floating over the audience on some sort of platform and making jokes. Then I came to James Earl Jones and I stopped and shook his hand and said I was very honored to meet him.

One time in a dream I was looking for a new house. And in the house I was looking at, there was a flat-screen TV high on the wall. And I said to the house's owner, "I'm going to need a new TV." And he said "Don't forget about the TV tax." And I knew (as you  sometimes know in dreams) that there was a tax on TVs to discourage people from buying them because they use a lot of electricity. Who else dreams government policy?

Are you ever the opposite sex in a dream? What do you dream about? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Movie Review: Greenland


Last week I watched the movie Greenland

In the movie, a comet named "Clarke" is heading for Earth and is calculated to crash into the planet. Some folks, including the movie's heroes, are selected to be taken to a shelter in Greenland where they should be safe. But things don't go as planned and the movie is exciting and well made. I literally jumped with surprise at one point. The movie tugs at your heartstrings and keeps the tension high. It was a pretty good film.

Except the science of it stinks. 

**Spoilers Ahead**

Clarke is supposed to be in fragments, which is certainly plausible. The first fragment hits Tampa in the afternoon of the first day. As the movie progresses through the next night, the next day, through that night, more fragments hit. And a "planet killer" sized chunk is supposed to hit on the morning of the third day. I estimate it's about 40 hours from the first fragment hitting until the planet killer hits.

Now the Earth spins around its axis so more fragments hit in various parts of the world. But, Earth also orbits the sun, as does the comet (in a parabolic orbit, based on the movie's descriptions of it coming from "another solar system"). In 40 hours from the first hit to the last, Earth would have moved 2.68 million miles in its orbit. The comet would be in its orbit which might move slightly toward the Earth due to Earth's gravity, but likely not over two million miles. In reality, the "planet killer" and most of the other fragments would have simply flown by the Earth in their orbit.

What about Earth's gravity? Well, asteroids pass by the Earth much closer then 2 million miles and a lot slower than a comet, and they don't get sucked into Earth gravity. They likely change course but they don't hit the planet.

The movie is still worth watching. It's not at bad as Armageddon for science errors. But then again, I don't think anything could be.

Did you watch Greenland? What did you think. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

5G Update

 A while back I tested Verizon 5G speeds and was surprised how fast they were.

Come to find out, I was wrong.

I was in Spokane for a doctor's appointment a few days ago and when I got there, my phone said "NO SERVICE." I thought that was weird. Luckily, my car's WiFi still worked, so I was able to locate a Verizon store just a few blocks from my doctor's office. The nice woman put in a new SIM card and the phone worked. And when it came up, it said "5G."

And I was like, "Cool." Then, later, I looked the Verizon website and found a map of Verizon 5G ultra-wideband. And where I was at the Verizon store, I should have gotten ultra-wideband. But I didn't. So I contacted Verizon. Turns out the plan I'm on (2GB a month) doesn't include ultra-wideband. In fact, it's doesn't even include 5G, my phone just says that. 

So, why when I tested my phone, did it say 5G was faster than LTE? I don't know.

I have to buy at least 5GB per month to get 5G, according to the Verizon agent I talked to. But I barely use my 2GBs. So it's not worth the money and 5G Ultra Wideband isn't available where I live. And neither is 5G (fake 5G). 

So, I guess we'll wait until later to explore 5G Ultra-Wideband.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Progress 2

Hunting Mastodons
 I've written about progress before. But that was from the 1970s to now.

But think about the past 100 years, progress since 1920. Or from 1820. My grandmother's grandfather (my great-great grandfather) was born in 1835 and died in 1905. His name was Martin Luther Parks. 

It's likely he never saw a car nor had electricity. He probably never heard the word "computer" and if you said "smart phone" to him, he'd likely give you a blank look (the phone was invented in 1876). In fact, he had more in common with Julius Cesar than he does with me. And Cesar died about 1,900 years before Martin was born.

Humans (homo sapiens) came around about 100,000 years ago. For half that time (around 50,000 years) they were hunter/gathers who lived in caves or rudimentary shelters. Then they invented agriculture and that allowed there to be excess food which allowed cities to form and people to not spend their entire existence search for food. Writing was invented. Math was invented. Government was, unfortunately, invented.

But for half of human existence we were fighting for survival with animals. Humans in 90,000 BC were just as smart as today, but they didn't know anything.

Still, after civilization arose 50,000 years ago, it took until, really, the industrial revolution in the late 1700s before people's lives improved much more.

At the rate of scientific progress today, in 100 years humans may be unrecognizable. We might live as computer programs or in robot bodies. I don't know. But as a science fiction writer, I should have some ideas. And I do.

Where do you think humans will be in 100 years? What's your vision of the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

iPhone Night Mode

Night mode on iPhone cameras came out with the iPhone 11. I didn't own an 11 as I waited for the 12 to upgrade from my Xs. 

It was actually a bit more complicated than that. My Xs refused to boot in August. I needed a phone, so I bought the cheapest I could find: a refurbished iPhone 7. That got me through until I could buy a 12.

But I'm finding I really like night mode. Mostly (okay totally), I've used it to take pictures of my son's cat, Lily. In the evenings when it's dark, the family room gets gloomy and night mode works very well for taking pictures of Lily.

Lily likes to be next to me on the loveseat recliner. Usually she curls up and sleeps. But sometimes I can entice her with a snack to sit up and look cute, such as in this picture:

That was taken with night mode. Here's another one:

Here's one I really like:

And finally, here's where I caught her on the floor:

Her pupils are large in these photos because it's dim in the room but you can't tell because of the picture. 

I'm not sure how Night Mode works. It acts like it's taking a long exposure, but Lily has moved while I'm taking the picture and I don't get motion blur. So it must be something other than a long exposure. But whatever it is, it works.

If you want to see lots of cute pictures of Lily, follow me on Instagram.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Car Logo Ovals

The other day I was sitting behind a Subaru at a stoplight. I started looking at the logo on the back of the car. This is what it looks like;

The "star" shapes inside the logo honor the Pleiades star cluster.  But the logo itself is an oval. And I started thinking about car logos are are ovals. And there's a lot of them. For example, probably the oldest car logo in America, Ford:

But there's others, such as Toyota:

(I've never quite figured out what that's supposed to be. Reminds me of a sombrero.) And Lexus, which is owned by Toyota:

Scion (now defunct) was owned by Toyota. And its logo was designed to fit the same spaces on the cars as Toyota logos, I'm pretty sure:

Other car logs that are oval are Infiniti (owned by Nissan)...


And Kia (owned by Hyundai):

And Mazda is sort of a modified oval:

I'm not sure why automakers think ovals are good for logos. A lot of logos are also circles (BMW for example). 

(BMW, after 23 years, has changed their logo. I don't like the new one much.)

Other circular logos are Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.


Volkswagen (new logo)

Then there's Audi, who sort of took circles to the extreme:

The four circles represent the four companies that came together to form Auto Union which later became Audi.

Probably the least circular logo is Jaguar.

Which is, in my opinion, a pretty cool logo.

Am I forgetting any other oval car logos (I'm only doing makes, not models)? What do you think of all these oval logos? Let me know in the comments below.

(All logos copyright their owners.)