Thursday, March 26, 2020

How Fast?

Washington State Speed Limit Sign
As an engineer, I was trained to think in SI units.

Is that Greek to you? Well, actually, it's French.

A "unit" is actually a unit of measure. Like a foot or a mile. "SI" is an abbreviation for the French term "Système Internationale" or "International System."

The basic SI units are the second (time), meter (length), ampere (electrical current), kelvin (temperature), candela (luminous intensity), mole (amount of a substance), and, kilogram (mass).

All other units are derived from these six. For example, speed (or velocity; and they are different) is measured in meters per second.

And there's the problem. When I see a speed limit sign without units, such as the one pictured here, I automatically think in SI units. So that should be 70 meters per second. Because that's how I was taught.

Now, my speedometer, for some strange reason, is calibrated in miles per hour. So I have to convert meters per second to miles per hour. And after some simple math (dividing, multiplying, making sure I keep my units straight), I find that 70 meters per second is around 156 miles per hour.

So is that the speed limit? Most cars can't go that fast (mine can). Would a cop buy that argument? Probably not.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why Do We Care?

I was watching football back in January, rooting for the Seattle Seahawks to beat the San Francisco 49ers to get into the Super Bowl.

And I started wondering, why do we care? Why do we care if the local sports teams or the sports teams from your Alma mater win?

Yes, I'm a rabid fan of University of Washington Huskies football. But why? I went to college there (a lot). But still, why? I have a friend who went to college there are doesn't care at all about how the football team (or any team) does.

I've been to a few games at Husky Stadium. And 70,000 people screaming for the same outcome does something to your brain. It makes you want your team to win. Really makes you want them to win. Politicians and celebrities understand this. I've been to political rallies and a hundred or so people standing up and cheering for the same thing has the exact effect of going to a football game does. Maybe not just as intense. But it does make your (political) team want to win. A politician or celebrity who can get the crowd rocking, will be much more successful.

Or, I've been to two concerts by a Heart cover band called Heart By Heart. Before the concerts, I liked Heart. But after the concerts, I really like Heart. Maybe a couple of hundred people cheering the same songs had the same effect as the football game and the political rally.

How does it affect our lives if our team wins? Or how does it affect our lives if our team loses? Basically it doesn't. But when they win, it's fun. I remember how fun the 2016 season was for the Huskies, especially beating the Oregon Ducks by a score of 70-21. That was one time that then-coach Chris Petersen did not pull his starters when the score was in the 40s. Probably because he knew that the Washington fans wanted to spank the Nike Ducks.

I'm sort of a fair-weather fan of the Seahawks. If they are doing well, I'll watch them (as they did this year). But if they aren't doing well, I ignore them. I have been to two Seahawks games. But that was back in the AFC days when they weren't very good.

So why do we care? I don't know. Other than it's fun when your team wins.

Do you know why we care? Or at least have a theory? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 and Me

At first when this virus was announced to the world, I wasn't very worried. Even though if I catch it, I'll be in serious trouble. I have lung disease (COPD) and heart disease (pulmonary hypertension caused by the COPD) and diabetes. I said on Facebook that I was slightly more worried about it than I was about a meteor hitting my house.

Then the government shut down schools and yesterday in Washington State, they shut down bars, restaurants, recreational facilities, and entertainment facilities (e.g., movie theaters).

Now I'm taking the threat a little more seriously. I'm debating a lot about self-isolation. I did continue to go to Starbucks but as of today, my local Starbucks has gone to drive-through or "grab and go" only. So I didn't stay long.

I check my temperature about three times a day. It's always been fine. But I've heard by that time you have a fever, it's too late. But there is a lot of false and misleading information out there.

I think I'll avoid going out in public, now. It's a good thing I can do my freelance work mostly through email and by phone. And, of course, my fiction writing is all done at home.

Unfortunately, this virus has been an economic nightmare. The stock market is down and businesses that are shut down are going to lose money. Some may not survive. And people need jobs to pay their bills. It's going to be tough for a while. But I'm hoping in four to six weeks it'll all be over. And by fall this will be an unpleasant memory.

How are you reacting to the coronavirus? Staying home or going on with your life?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Being a Grandfather

Not my Grandson
I'm a grandfather. I have been since September 2019. So my grandson is almost six months old now.

Being a grandparent is so interesting. It's like being a parent, but so much better. I first met my grandson when he was five hours old. The next day I thought, "He'll never be only five hours old again." So I miss anytime I don't get to be with him. And his parents live about a five-hour drive away. For that reason, I don't get to see him as often as I'd like.

He has, like me, red hair and blue eyes. I love that.

I cherish holding my grandson and feeding him. Or just holding him. Problem is getting him away from his grandmother! She loves babies in the first place. Having a grandson is for her the sine qua non of life.

I miss my grandson every day. Luckily his mother (my daughter-in-law) is good about sending pictures and videos almost every day. And my wife wants to go see him about once a month.

But I still can't believe how having a grandchild changes your life. You can't quite understand it until you're a grandparent.

Are you a grandparent? Let me know in the comments below about your adorable grandchildren.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dyslexia and Other Problems

I've never been diagnosed, but I swear I have dyslexia. Especially when it comes to numbers. I'll read a number and not realize that I've transposed two of the digits. I'll even say it out loud correctly, and write it down wrong at the same time.

I'm also a whole word reader. I see a word and I simply assume what word it is supposed to be. This sometimes has hilarious results. When I took my children to Walt Disney World, we were looking at a map of Epcot. There were lots of country areas such as Norway and Japan. I looked at one area and said, "Oh, that's Budapest." My sons then laughed and pointed out it said "Outpost."

I recently wrote a freelance article where I changed the last name of the subject because I "whole word" read his name as something that it isn't. That was embarrassing.

I've spent hours looking for the error in spreadsheets thinking I set up the cells wrong when I simply typed a number in incorrectly.

And don't ask me to proofread. I see the word I think is there, not the incorrectly spelled word.

I have spelled "no" as "know" and "who" as "how." I know the difference between those words, but something in my brain doesn't.

I have this other weird thing. I will type homonyms of the word I'm trying to write. Recently I wrote "were" in place of "where" (which are almost homonyms). I was just writing something recently and I wrote "time" instead of "team." Again, near homonyms.

So, of course, with all that, I decided to become a writer. At least I never wanted to be a bank teller.

(I have been diagnosed and Type-2 bipolar with dysthymia. So, yes, I am crazy.)

Do you have problems with dyslexia or other mental issues? Let me know how they affect your life in the comments below.

Friday, February 28, 2020


I watched the movie Parasite a few days ago.  It won the Best Picture Oscar and is, so far, the only Best-Picture nominee I've seen.  Although I want to see (and have in my Netflix queue) Ford v Ferrari, JoJo Rabbit, 1917, and The Joker. Because Netflix chose to throttle me, all but 1917 have been released but Netflix hasn't deigned to send them to me yet.

But, back to Parasite. Going into this movie all I knew was that it was set in South Korea and was in Korean with subtitles. The Kim family (father, mother, son, and daughter) are poor (they even steal WiFi from a neighbor) and hook themselves up with the Park family, who are wealthy. They con their way in, earning money from the Park family by tutoring their children and other jobs. Everything goes well until an incredible secret is revealed.

It was an interesting movie, not only for the Korean culture displayed but for the story of the Kim family and how they form a parasitic relationship (thus the movie's title) with the Park family. There were surprises and a dark ending. I didn't understand why a character (the patriarch of the Kim family) did what he did at the climax of the movie.

Also, Park So-Dam, who played the Kim daughter, is a gorgeous woman. The movie is almost worth watching because of her alone. Yes, I'm that shallow.

I recommend Parasite as a good movie. If you can stand two hours of reading subtitles.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

No Good Music after '91

The other day on Jeopardy, they had a pop music category and I knew none of the answers (or questions, in Jeopardy parlance). That's because I don't think there's been any good music since '91....1791. Okay, I'm joking. 1991. Or maybe 1994 when Kurt Cobain died.

I just don't like modern music. Does that make me old? Maybe. And I loath rap/hip hop (I don't even know the difference; I don't even know if there is a difference).

I've talked about my music tastes before. And they are eclectic. But nothing after about 1995.

About modern music and performers, I feel like Brian in this clip from Family Guy:

I used to work with a woman who listened to modern music (she was older than I) to know what her grandchildren were listening to. But she also seemed to like it. She told me who Lady Gaga is.

I sometimes wonder if the music is worse, or my tastes have changed, or I'm just an old guy who doesn't like new stuff. I'm sure that's not it.

How do you feel about modern music. Let me know in the comments below.