Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Math

I currently have two works in progress (WIPs). One is a western/fantasy mashup that is in beta reads (oh, the commas!). The other is a science fiction novel that I've just finished the first draft on and am waiting to start edits.

In the science fiction novel, my heroes (sort of anti-heroes) are space pirates and they have 10,000 kg of gold that they've extorted from two different planets.

This sounds like a lot of gold, but because gold is so dense, I calculated that it would easily fit in a one-cubic-meter of space. I've quadruple-checked that math so I'm pretty sure I'm correct.

So, as I'm waiting to do edits, I think about the novel. And I started thinking that the pirate ship has a maximum acceleration of 5 gees. So everything on board would weight 5 times more (a 200 pound man would weigh 1,000 pounds). And would the gold, which is very soft, at the bottom of that cubic meter deform under the nearly 50,000 kg of weight (the bottom layer of gold not included) it would sustain at 5 gees?

So I went to the internet. Gold has a yield stress of 205 MPa or "megapascals" or 205 million pascals. A pascal a unit of pressure like "pounds per square inch" and is defined as one newton per square meter.

The bottom layer of gold would have a surface area of one square meter so it would take 205,000,000 newtons to deform that layer of gold (I have said the gold is in 1-kilogram bars which would be about the size of two of your fingers put together and am approximating it as one solid layer for ease of math).

To convert newtons to weight you need the formula F=ma (Newton's Second Law) so algebraically (see, I use algebra after high school), m=F/a, where "m" is mass in kilograms, "F" is force in newtons, and "a" is the acceleration. So mass equals newtons divided by acceleration. The question is, how much mass would you need to deform bottom layer of gold at 5 gees. So its m=205,000,000/5, right? Wrong! Because newtons is a kgs unit (that's kilogram, meters, seconds) and mass in in kilograms so I need to convert gees to a kgs unit. One gee is 9.80665 meters per second squared (or some say meters per second per second). That means at one gee you accelerate 9.80665 meters per second for every second you accelerate. Are you lost? Don't worry about it.

So five gees is 5 x 9.80665 = 49.03325 meters per second squared.

So the mass needed to deform gold at 5 gees is: 205,000,000/49.03325 = 4.18 million kilograms (in round terms). Or about 83 times the mass there is on top of the bottom layer of gold.

I am slightly worried that using a square meter of gold rather than numerous small gold bars is throwing off my math too much. But I have trouble believing it is different by a factor of 83. Because a gold bar only a few centimeters in surface area is going to have a correspondingly less amount of mass over it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Decisive Win

Last week I said of this week's University of Washington Huskies game against Illinois that "it's going to be an ugly game if the defense is as bad has they have been the last two games." In both of the first two games of the season, the Husky defense was awful. They managed to squeak out wins about Hawaii (a team that went 1-11 last season) and Eastern Washington (a Division II team, albeit, ranked #2 in the FCS). Illinois was prior to yesterday's game 2-0 (although that was against two FCS teams, apparently). While Illinois is a Division I, FBS team, they were only 4-8 last year.  Still, I was worried, if the Husky defense was as bad as it had been, the Huskies could have lost easily.

Turns out I needn't worry. Not only was the Husky defense in the game they made two big plays, scoring touchdowns on an interception and a fumble. They did make some mistakes giving Illinois some opportunities, but the Fighting Illini couldn't capitalize on them. In the end they were held to 19 points while the Huskies put 44 on the scoreboard.

Our quarterback, Cyler Miles, is looking good but I wish when he runs with the ball he'd tuck it in better. The Huskies' first turnover of the season came on a Miles run that ended with a fumble. The offense is getting better and better with each game and yesterday was only Miles' third college start (he started once last season and was suspended for the Hawaii game). The defense still needs more work before we go into play against the meat grinder that is the PAC-12. Allowing Oregon 19 points could lose you the game.

But, as I went into this match nervous, I found my fears were somewhat allayed by the performance of the defense. And they should only improve. Next week we play Georgia State and I'm not worried at all about that game. But the week after is Stanford, currently ranked #16 in FBS. We do play them in Husky Stadium so that will help (and the place should be packed for a PAC-12 game).

So far I'm liking our new head coach Chris Petersen who has gone 3-0 to start his career at U-Dub. I hope he is as successful with the Huskies as he was with Boise State.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Guest of Honor

Today's Flash Fiction Friday is: Guest of Honor.

"You seen the Twilight Zone, right?" the man, who said his name was Darby, had both hands cradling his beer as he sat at the bar.

"Yeah," Jones replied, "I've seen some of them. Reruns, you know." He was nursing his seven and seven because be ethanol had deleterious effects upon his body chemistry.

"You seen the one where the aliens come down with a book called 'To Serve Man'?"

Jones shrugged. He looked at the clock behind the bar. He'd been there nearly an hour and he had to meet someone. That and this Darby was boring company. "Maybe. That's where the book turns out to be a cook book?"

Darby nodded. "Yeah, that one."

"And The Simpsons did a parody of it for one of their Halloween episodes," Jones added.

"I guess," Darby said. "But, it's true, you know."

"What's true?" Jones took a sip of his drink, thinking this would be his last.

"Aliens, man. They're eatin' people."

Jones scoffed.

"No, man, they are," Darby insisted. "Do you know how many people go missing each year from the U.S. alone?"

"No idea," Jones said, barely engaging in this conversation.

"Nine-hundred thousand. That's almost a million."

Jones turned to look at Darby. "Seriously?"

"Yes. And the aliens are eating them."

"Some have to be murders or people who just purposely disappear."

Darby scoffed this time. "Yeah, but 900,000 of them?"

"Well, I find it hard to believe aliens are eating the rest."

"Yeah, you'll see," Darby said.

"Right," Jones replied, deciding the sooner he left the better it would be. This has been a mistake now he was running late.  He swallowed down the rest of his drink, feeling the whiskey burn, not quite quenched by the Seven Up.

"Good night, Mr. Darby," Jones said.

"You don't believe me," Darby said as an accusation.

Jones smiled. "No, sorry."  And he slipped off the bar stool and walked out the door before Darby could reply.

Jones wasn't worried about driving, he'd only had one drink.  He got in his old Ford Taurus with the oxidized and speckled paint, and started driving.  He had to make his appointment and now he was running late. The shortest route took him through some woods where houses were far apart. It was pitch black out as there was no moon and there were no street lights on this road. He drove for nearly two hours until he reached the designated spot. He turned off the car's engine and waited, glancing at his cheap watch. He'd just barely made it.

Without warning a bright, actinic light hit his car from above. It temporarily blinded him, it was so harsh. Holding on to the steering wheel with one hand, he tried to shade his eyes with the other.

But suddenly he was not in his car. The light was gone to be replaced with a soft green glow. Before him were two beings that he immediately identified as not human nor even from the Earth. They looked like every cliched portrayal of aliens with the big black eyes and small mouths.

"Welcome, Mr. Jones," one said, its mouth moving as it spoke.

"Thank you," he replied. "Did you make the pick up?"

"Just as you ordered, Mr. Jones," the second alien said. "The guest of honor is here."

Jones smiled. He heard movement behind him and turned. A portal had opened. He took a step toward it, his stomach already growling with anticipation. Slowly he let his form return to normal, and now he had big black eyes and a small mouth.  The mouth bent in a smile as he entered the room.

On a long table surrounded by many chairs was a human body: a trussed, dressed, and roasted Mr. Darby, the look of surprise on his face still present.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Internet is Impossible

The internet is impossible.

Today I went to a website that required a log in and a password.  I hadn't been there for a while so I hadn't needed to log in and I was nervous about remembering the password.

The log in was my email, so no problem there. But I had indeed forgotten the password. So I had to go through the "Forgot your password?" routine, have them email me a link, and change my password.

The internet is impossible!

You’re supposed to have a different one for every website/application you deal with.   That’s probably at least 10 (email, Facebook, Amazon.com, etc.) and probably more.

You’re supposed to use passwords that are at least 8 characters long, with numbers, caps, and special characters and no common words.

You’re supposed to change passwords every 30 days and never repeat a password.

And you’re not supposed to ever write a password down.

This is humanly impossible.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Good Enough Isn't


I saw a graphic on Twitter that had a picture of a woman exercising and said "Strive for progress, not perfection." And I thought that was good advice for pretty much everything (especially since I am, once again, trying to lose weight), including writing. If you strive for perfection in your writing, you will have the mother of all writer's block episodes.

However, I'd like to add a caveat. When I worked in the corporate world (shudder) I worked in quality. And we had a saying; "Good enough isn't." You don't do a thing "good enough" because that isn't good enough. You do things as perfectly as you possibly can.

Now, no human system or built/designed thing is ever going to be perfect. But you should make what you produce (including your writing) as perfect as you can.

Now you might think I'm contradicting myself saying "Strive for progress, not perfection" and "Make things as perfect as you can." But stick with me.

I also say "Just keep writing" and have said it so much a friend made a graphic of it for me.
Britta Kaye
(A friend I used to babysit when she was an infant. She liked my beard and when I had to shave it off for a job, she would no long let me hold her.)

And I've said, "Your first draft will suck, get over it and write the damn thing."

But, it is all part of a process. You write your first draft, not trying to make it perfect, but you just keep writing. Then you edit. I edit a lot (but I make a lot of typos/spelling errors even with computers). Now you are striving not for perfection, but progress. Make it better and better and better than it was. Now is when you worry about perfection, now is when you improve it until it is as perfect as you can make it. You should never, ever say, "that's good enough."

And believe me, there's few feelings worse than opening a novel you wrote that is now published and finding something you know you could have written better.

Then when you write your next book, you try to make it better than the last book. 

It's a process of striving for progress, while trying to make it as perfect as possible. And you can only do that if you just keep writing.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Need More Defense

The University of Washington Huskies are 2-0 to start their 2014 season. But there's more to the story than those numbers reveal. The Huskies' first game was against Hawaii, long time one of the worst teams in the FBS (also known as "Division I"). And the Huskies won by one measly point.

Then they played the Eastern Washington University Eagles, an FCS team (also known as "Division II"). As I said last week, the Eagles are arguably a better team than the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors since the Eagles are one of the best teams (apparently ranked #2) in the FCS.

When the Huskies racked up a 21-0 lead early in the first quarter, I thought UW head coach Chris Petersen had found the formula between the Hawaii game and this game. Seven of those points came from a recovered fumble on a kickoff return, but still, we'll take it.

Then the Eagles started coming back as the Husky defense proved to be as porous as a hooker's virtue. The same problem we had with Hawaii was glaring in this game: bad defense.

The game went back and forth after the Eagles closed the gap and once even managed to get ahead of the Huskies. Last year the Eagles beat Oregon State and all us Husky fans didn't want to be their next FBS victim. Their quarterback, Vernon Adams, (who I cannot understand why he's not on an FBS team) could not seem to miss a throw. Twice the Eagles converted on a 4th and 10 play.

Neither defense was able to stop the other's offense much at all and I was worried it would come down to who had the ball last. But then the Huskies managed to pick up a fumble and turned that into seven points. They won the game 59-52.

This week the Huskies have to get their defense in shape. The offense is doing better but the defense us just awful. Next week we play Illinois (at home) and it's going to be an ugly game if the defense is as bad has they have been the last two games.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Writing Conundrum

I have a bit of a writing conundrum right now.

Yesterday I finished the first draft of a science fiction novel (working title: Subluminal Pirates; yeah, I don't like it either). I was at first aiming for 60,000 words but the novel is in three sections and when the first two sections came in at 21,835 words, I decided I wanted at least 65,000 words to make section three close to the same length. I ended up at 64,209 words with section three around 1,200 words shorter than I wanted it to be.

But they always get longer in edits.

I have another WIP (Work in Progress) that is now going through beta reads. And I can't go back and edit Subluminal Pirates for at least a week and a month would be better.

Now, NaNoWriMo is coming up in November. I have this idea for a sequel to Treasure of the Black Hole (which is under consideration at a publisher at the moment) and I thought I'd write that for NaNoWriMo. But that's two months away and other than edit Subluminal Pirates, I don't have any writing to do.

I do have some other editing to do this month. But, also, I don't have any freelance assignments.

So, do I start the sequel to Treasure of the Black Hole now and try to get it finished so I can write something else (I have no idea what) for NaNoWriMo. Or do I take two months off from writing (except for editing Subluminal Pirates and the other editing I'll be doing on an anthology)? I'm leaning toward the latter.

And who knows, I might have an idea for a novel in the meantime. But for now the twitter hashtag for me will be #amnotwriting