Thursday, July 29, 2021

Simone Biles Did the Right Thing

Gymnast Simone Biles has pretty much dropped out of the Olympics being held in Tokyo this week. She said she needs to focus on her mental health.

Some people are mad at because she probably cost the US at least one if not more gold medals. I heard a news talking head say "There's Gen Z for ya."

But, I don't agree with that. As a person who is neurologically diverse (I'm bipolar), I understand Biles's motivations. As I explained in this blog post, you have to take care of yourself. It's important. More important than almost anything else.

Plus, watching gymnastics, I'm sure it takes a lot of concentration and you can't be distracted by anything. Otherwise, you could get hurt, perhaps seriously. It's like driving on a racetrack. You can't be distracted.

I admire Biles for having the courage to disappoint a lot of people to take care of herself. This is her third Olympics and she's 24 years old. That's a lot of pressure for a young woman. She'll be 27 when the next Olympics happen in 2024. She may still compete then. 

So, give Biles a break. She did the right thing.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Second Guessing

I suppose everyone second guesses themselves. But I seem to have made an art form out of it. I'm always second guessing myself. In my freelance work, I'll send off an assignment, then wonder if I did something wrong, or forgot something. So then I'm always double checking after the fact.

Or in my fiction writing, I'll always wonder if I forgot something important. Then I hope beta readers find it. I usually don't forget; I'm pretty good at keeping things straight. Although I was just editing a first draft of a work in progress and a minor character changed names.

This isn't just in my writing. Late in June this year I worried that I forgot to pay my estimated taxes (due June 15th). But I, of course, had.

It's frustrating to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop because I'm not sure I did something right, when I did.

I don't know if I second guess myself more than other people. I have the feeling I do.

Do you second guess yourself a lot? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

An Ode to Cruse Control

I like to drive. I enjoy it and the faster the better, at least for short periods. I've gone 155 mph on a race track. That was the most fun I've had with my clothes on.

But on long trips, I love cruse control. 

I recently went to Seattle and back in one day and, surprise, it rained. Also we ran into stop-and-go traffic on the way over (before the rain). Coming back it was raining hard on Snoqualmie Pass and for some reason traffic was heavy. I couldn't use my cruise control, which made driving more of a chore.

Also, around where I live, roads tend to be straight and not too busy. Cruise control is a must. Set your speed 5 mph over the speed limit and... cruise. It takes some of the tedium out of driving on straight roads. That, and having SiriusXM blasting out of the radio.

I also use cruise control to not speed (too much). My right foot is a rebel and without cruise control I'd likely go too fast (for the speed limit, not conditions). A few years back I rented a minivan to take the family on vacation. We drove to Yellowstone Park and then to Mount Rushmore. A lot of straight roads (especially in Wyoming and South Dakota). And the cruise control didn't work. I had to be careful lest I find myself going 85-90 mph (and most of the speed limits were 75 mph).

Four years ago I was in Idaho and the speed limit was 80. I set the cruise control at 85 mph and enjoyed the ride.

So I love cruise control. How do you feel about it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Star Wars Prequels

Over the Independence Day long weekend, I watched Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars II: The Attack of the Clones on Disney+ in 4K UHD and my Dolby Atmos 7.1 surround sound system. I then watched Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith last night, also on Disney+.

I haven't watched these movies since they came out on the theater years ago (1999 for Phantom Menace, 2002 for Attack of the Clones, and 2005 for Revenge of the Sith). I remembered my rank disappointment in these films, especially Phantom Menace. Watching them again about 20 years later I've changed my opinions a little. 

**Spoilers ahead**

Phantom Menace is as bad as I remembered. As a lot of people have said, Darth Maul was the only interesting character, and they killed him off. From the opening scroll about taxes and trade relations, the whole thing ends up being boring. The pod racing sequence goes on forever and isn't as exciting as I think Lucas thought it was. And then there's Anikan's virgin birth. Is Lucas trying to make him a Jesus figure? It was all a mess. The best part was the light saber fight with Darth Maul. 

And don't get me started on Jar Jar Binks.

Attack of the Clones was in some ways, better then I remembered. Anikan was still whiny and hard to like. How did Padmé ever fall in love with him? The action sequences were better than I remember (with Natalie Portman's top strategically ripped). But I still think the love story is completely unbelievable. 

Revenge of the Sith is definitely the better of the three movies even if it is a little over-long. Lucas did a good job setting up Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The two climactic light saber duels (Yoda versus the new emperor and Obi Wan vs Darth Vader) are well done and fun to watch. It's interesting to see how Anikan is seduced by the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader. I actually enjoyed this movie more than I expected to.

George Lucas is a visionary. His movies used to be exceptionally good... when he was constrained by budget and the studios. But when he has a free hand and lots of money, he tends to try to do too much and it doesn't always work as well. 

How do you like these movies? Did you like them more than I? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Movie Rankings

A while back I ranked the Star Wars and Star Trek moves in order from best to worst. I've thought about doing that for other movie series, but there haven't really been any series that I've watched that have that many movies (except the Fast and Furious movies, and there's at least one-Tokyo Drift-I haven't seen). Problem is, they aren't very memorable. I can barely tell you what they are about. I do remember the one with Nathalie Emmanuel in it. But then again, she's gorgeous.

Joke: hasn't the Fast and Furious series gone on long enough for J. J. Abrams to ruin them now?

I didn't watch all the Harry Potter movies. I did watch all the Hunger Games moves but I didn't like them much. And, of course, I didn't watch all the Twilight movies. Yes, I watched the first one just to see what it was about.

I could do the three Indiana Jones movies (yes, there are only three) but that's pretty simple:

1) Raiders of the Lost Ark

2) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 

3) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

(My wife might switch the first two's positions.)

Or I could do the Matrix movies

1) the first movie

2) the second movie

3) the third movie

(I've heard rumors of a fourth movie in the Matrix series. I hope it's better than I expect.)

I thought about doing the Pixar movies, but there are a lot of them and I haven't seen them all (I've see 21 out of 23, though).

I could rank the Toy Story movies:

1) Toy Story 2

2) Toy Story

3) Toy Story 3

4) Toy Story 4

So, I guess there's little to be ranked once you've done Star Wars and Star Trek movies.

Do you have any ideas for movie series to rank? Or do you think I've covered the gamut? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Somebody Write This Podcast

 I was the guest on the Somebody Write This podcast where we try to brainstorm a random plot into a story. It was fun. Listen here.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why Do (Most of Us) Drive on the Right Side?

This is based on one of my first Toastmasters speeches. 

In most of the world, we drive on the right side of the road. There are exceptions, most notably the UK and Australia. 

But why do we drive on the right? In the US, we drive on the right because the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices as required by Code of Federal Regulations, Title 23 Part 655.603 says you drive on the right.

But why the right?  And what do Napoleon, Hitler, and early 20th century manners have to do with the way you drive?

They all influenced which side of the road you drive on and help to explain why most countries drive on the right side but some drive on the left.

Driving on the left side of the road with right-hand drive actually makes more sense, especially if you're right handed and drive a stick.  You can shift with your left hand and steer (the more critical function) with your right.  And since most people are right handed, this would be the best set up for most drivers.   But today, about 2/3rds of the world's population drives on the right side and 1/3 on the left.

An interesting situation I noticed when visiting there is the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas where they have left hand drive vehicles like in the U.S., but drive on the left side of the road like in the U.K.

Some say regulations about which side of the road to travel on date back as far as 1100 B.C. when Chinese law declared the right side of the road was for men, the left side for women, and carriages take the middle.  It is unknown how many head-on collisions this caused.

For centuries, people passed each other on the right and travelled on the left.  This was, some say, because in both Western and Asian cultures, the left side of the body was considered "dirty" or "sinister."  Or it may have been people wanted to have their strong hand (and weapons) closer to the stranger they were passing on the road.  Knights would pass on the left (and joust on the left) to keep their strong arm ready for battle.

The Romans are apparently among the first to "drive" on the left side of the road.  Chariot drivers held the reins with their right hand and their whip with their left.   To avoid whipping oncoming drivers, they would drive on the left side of the road.

Wagon wheel ruts at a Roman quarry show that the rock-laden wagons made deeper ruts on one side of the road than the other.  Going away from the quarry, the deeper ruts were on the left side.  So it wasn't just the chariots that drove on the left side of the road during the Roman era.

But Napoleon changed that.   Imagine two columns of soldiers marching toward each other, pikes and bayonets slung over the right shoulder.   Passing on right, these weapons would become entangled, chaos ensue, and that deadly enemy in war, delay, take hold.  So Napoleon decreed his soldiers would march on the right and pass on the left.  

There is also speculation that there was an anti-aristocrat motivation in traveling on the right side of the road.  Before the French Revolution, aristocrats' carriages traveled on the left side and slower-moving peasants were relegated to the right side of the road.   After the revolution, aristocrats hoping to keep their heads, started moving on the right side of the road.  And there's evidence of a "keep right" law in Paris as early as 1794.

As we all know, Napoleon conquered, for a while, a great deal of Europe, including Germany.  And he brought his "drive-on-the-right" standardization to the countries he invaded.  Hitler took drive on the right to more countries as he conquered Eastern Europe. 

The British, neither conquered by Napoleon nor Hitler, to this day drive on the left, so do most of its former colonies (American probably had more of an influence on Canada's driving habits than Mother England although some maritime provinces and British Columbia initially drove on the left).

But what about America?  We weren't conquered by Napoleon or Hitler, either.  Yet we drive on the right.  No, we were conquered by mass production and the Model-T Ford, which had left hand controls.  And left-hand controls means driving on the right.   Why did Henry Ford choose to give his mass-produced car left-hand drive?  According to a sales brochure it was for the convenience for passengers exiting directly onto the curb, "especially... if there is a lady to be considered."  With the popularity of the Model T, other car makers had no choice but to standardize on left hand drive.

And, America, being the biggest economy and biggest producer of cars after World War II, most likely spread drive-on-the-right to most other countries.  

An interesting note: in Italy, sports cars were often produced with right hand drive because that was considered the proper set up for racing, in case the car was ever to be raced.  This despite Italy being a drive-on-the-right country.

And that's probably more than you wanted to know about why Americans drive on the right.