Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Saga of My Computer or Maybe I Should Switch to Mac

So one day (a Friday) I got a notice to reboot my computer (a Dell laptop) to fix a disc problem. This worried me a bit. But I dutifully did it. And then my computer refused to boot. I asked a friend what I should do (he works with computers) and he recommended someone for me to look at it (I forgot that the computer was still under warranty; it's only 18 months old).

The guy worked on it for two full weeks. During which time I watched a lot of TV, mostly nature shows on Disney+ (my son's cat seemed to like them). I thought "is this what it's like to be retired; it sucks." I also had a freelance deadline during those two weeks so I borrowed my wife's computer. Luckily everything I needed was on email.

I finally got my computer back and had to download my backup (which thankfully had been working on Windows 10). Then set up everything as I liked it, turn off all the Windows defaults I don't like, download software including Office.

Then on Sunday after I got the computer back, it wanted to update. So I let it and then it wanted to reboot to continue the update. That reboot literally took all day, then got stuck at 90%. It was a 90% for a couple of hours (I was watching Night Court on TV which I never watched in first run and is really funny). Under advice of my son and Google, I shut off the computer and turned it back on. It seemed to work fine.

Until a few days ago when I asked for another update/reboot. So I did it. And it took about 6 hours. I got zero work done (I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation season one, which isn't that bad if you go in with low expectations). I took the picture above during the last update. It stayed at 0% for quite a while before I gave up and went and watched ST:TNG. 

Then, after that update finally got done sometime in the afternoon, I checked for updates again. And it  had some, one of which required a reboot. So I rebooted and left the computer until morning. And it worked! 

So now I'm hoping for no more problems. People tell me I could get a Mac so I wouldn't have these issues. But I don't want to learn a new OS.

What do you think? Should I buy a Mac next time? Or stick with PC and if so, which brand? I've had good luck with Dell computers but this one is driving me mad. Let me know in the comments below.

(Oh, and my iPhone decided to die Tuesday. I get the replacement today. Fun times.)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Masks

We're all supposed to be wearing masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I hate wearing a mask, personally. It makes it hard to breathe with my COPD. I try to avoid situations were I have to wear a mask, such as leaving the house.

But there's another thing I don't like about masks: I like to see people's faces.

As a writer, I'm also a people watcher. But the masks make it hard to people watch because you only see half the face. And I just find that frustrating. You really can't see how a person is reacting or talking without seeing their whole face. And when it comes to pretty women, I find myself thinking "I'd like to see her without a mask." I undress her face with my eyes, so to speak.

I don't know how long this mask thing is going to last (and it varies by jurisdiction, I know). I once read a very old science fiction story where everyone wore face-covering masks. And I keep thinking we might be headed in that direction. I hope not.

How do you feel about the masks? Do you hate them or tolerate them (I don't think anyone likes them). Let me know it the comments below.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pink?

When I go to the Seattle area, I enjoy looking at all the cars I don't see in the small town where I live. And one game I have is calling out "Tesla" whenever I see a Tesla. There are a lot of them in the Seattle suburbs probably because there's a lot of money in the Seattle suburbs which are home to Microsoft and other high tech companies. I even saw a McClaren there once.

So the last time I was in the Seattle area (I don't go to Seattle proper if I can help it), I saw the usual Teslas and other high end cars. But one really stood out to me. I wished I could have gotten a picture of it but I was alone in the car and touching your phone while driving is a very big ticket in my state.

The interesting car I saw was a pink Tesla Model S. The paint job didn't look very good. It was almost a matte color, not shiny like most paint jobs. Now, you're going to pay at least $75,000 for a Model S. And if it has a bigger battery and some of the speed options, you could pay over $100,000. And I could think inexpertly painting one pink would lower the resale value. So the owner must have really wanted to paint the car pink.

When I googled "Pink Tesla S" I got a lot more results than I thought I would. That's where I found the picture above. So apparently, lots of folks want pink Teslas.

What do you think of a pink Tesla? Or what color would you paint your Tesla if you had one? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Film Critics

I'm going to stop trusting film critics if this keeps up.

A while ago I watched the movie Uncut Gems staring Adam Sandler in a serious role.

Uncut Gems got a 92% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. So I thought it would be a good movie. And in ways, it was. Sandler does an amazing job in his role. But the movie itself was dark, depressing, and noisy. Often you couldn't hear the main dialog for other people talking, especially at the first of the movie. I hated that talk-over style when Robert Altman did it and I didn't like it here.

So, despite it's high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, I just didn't like the movie.

This has happened more than once. There was a movie called Spring Breakers. Okay, I'll admit, part of the reason I watched it was because Selena Gomez was in it (about half of it).  But it got a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. So I expected at least a decent movie. But it sucked. Yes, I know its message was about the nihilism of young people. But at least it could have been entertaining. For example, The Good Liar got a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I enjoyed that movie.

I recently watched Date Night. And it got 66% on Rotten Tomatoes. That seems about right. The movie was occasionally funny, but it seemed to waste the talents of its stars.

Then there was Knives Out. It was 97% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. But I found it disjointed, not well acted, and the twist at the end was...not predictable, but not a surprise, either.

On the other side, Ford v Ferrari got 92% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and I loved it. But that was a lower score than Knives Out. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which is my favorite movie ever, got only 93% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, less than Knives Out.

Maybe I should stop relying on film critics to choose films.

How do you choose movies to watch? Do you rely on critics or some other method. Let me know in the comments.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Spin

Read these two fictional news reports:

Today the governor proposed a plan to widen Highway 17 to four lanes. This will save lives, he said. The package includes other highway improvements and will be paid for by an increase in the gas tax.

Or...

The governor proposed a gas tax increase today. This is part of a package of highway improvements. One project proposed is to widen Highway 17 to four lanes. The governor claims that it will save lives.

Which statement makes you feel better about the governor (especially if you have to drive on Highway 17)? Each statement has the same basic facts but presented in a different way.

Each statement has a different "spin" on it and a skilled writer can do this almost without thinking based on his or her preferences or prejudices. Spin happens all the time in the news business. Reports might say they are reporting the facts, but how do they report them? (Never mind that some reporters don't report the facts, or the facts they don't like, but that's not what we're talking about here.)

A skillful speaker can spin with their voice, giving the right tone to each word to emphasis what they want. Politicians do this all the time.

In fiction writing you can use spin, too, in the way you describe things or events. Ramp up the tension with the right word choices and putting them in a certain order. Again, a skilled writer can do that almost without thinking.

Do you see spin in news reports? Do you watch out for spin? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Progress

1977 Pontiac Trans Am
A while back I came across Smokey and the Bandit on television. If you're not familiar with this movie, it was the second highest grossing film of 1977. A film called Star Wars was number one.

Smokey and the Bandit is a comedy starring Burt Reynolds. Sally Fields, and Jerry Reed (best known as a country singer). It also stars Jackie Gleason. It is basically one long car chase across the American Southeast. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it as mindless fun entertainment.

In the movie, Burt Reynolds drives an iconic black Pontiac Trans Am. This was one of the fastest, most powerful cars you could buy in 1977. According to the Internet Movie Database, there were three Trans Ams used for filming and all three were pretty much destroyed at the end.

But it got me wondering, how powerful was a 1977 Trans Am? So, Google to the rescue, I found out that a 1977 Trans Am had 210 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. It had a top speed (red line limited) of 110 mph (which was, admittedly, double the nation speed limit of 55 mph). Red line limited means that at the fastest speed the engine could go, in top gear, that's the fastest the car can go. It went 0-60 in 9.3 seconds. I put some of this information on the Internet Movie Database.

But... a 2019 Toyota Sienna (a minivan and I don't think it was made in 2020) has 296 horsepower and 263 ft-lb of torque. So the Trans Am does have more torque (torque gets you going, horsepower makes you go faster). And the Sienna's top speed is 115 mph probably governor limited. A governor is an electronic limit to how fast a car can go. And, the Sienna does 0-60 in 6.9 seconds.

The Sienna probably gets better gas mileage and pollutes a lot less, too. (I read once that a modern Mustang pollutes less going down the road then a sixties Mustang did sitting in the driveway.)

So why does a modern minivan out-perform a 42-year-old sports car? It's call "progress." Engineering and technological advancements have made cars faster, safer, and pollute less. Unfortunately, they cost a lot more.

For example, the Trans Am cost $5,456.00 new. That's $23,083 in 2020 dollars. The Seinna costs $31,315. A Chevrolet Camaro SS (the closest modern equivalent to the Trans Am) costs $38,495 without any options. So that's $15,411 more for the new Camaro in inflation-adjusted dollars. So, yes, cars do cost more. But that Camaro SS has 455 horsepower and 455 ft-lb of torque. It goes 0-60 in 4.0 seconds and has a top speed of 198 mph. That's a lot more go for $15,000.

Okay, so cars are faster and more powerful. But they are also safer. Watch this video of a Nissan Sentra hitting a Sentra model sold in Mexico that doesn't have modern U.S. safety standards. It's oblivious the U.S. car does much better in the crash. The driver of the older model car probably would have sustained numerous bad injuries if not just been killed.

Can you think of other examples of progress? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Independence Day

Today is July 4th. But the holiday is called "Independence Day." That's to remind you that around this day in 1776, the United States declared its independence from England.

So, "Happy Independence Day." Spend some time today to be thankful for the freedoms you enjoy.