Friday, January 31, 2014


For Christmas in 1966 (maybe '65) my parents gave me a big set of Legos.  They came in four colors: red, white, black and blue.  They had various sizes but mostly the ones I called "eights" for the eight knobs on top.  I was six (or five) at the time and loved them.  There was an instruction book that showed how to assemble the wheels, tires, and blocks (there was a little plastic tube that worked as an axle) and gray rubber wheels went over red, pulley like tires with short metal axles that fitted in the tube in a special "eight" that had holes in the sides.  There were two sizes of wheels: big and little (these are my own terms).  But, and this is important, if there were instructions on how to build things, I don't remember them.  Because, I immediately started building whatever my imagination could come up with.  Usually cars, planes, helicopters, trucks, etc.

I don't know what my parents paid for that set but it couldn't have been cheap.  And my father's parsimony in those days was legendary.

I played with Legos until I was at least 15.  I built worlds, made stories, had adventures.  It was amazing.  I would build a car and play with it for months, until I grew tired of it, and then I'd tear it apart and build . . . another one, different.  (The red eights were jet engines, in case you didn't know).

So when they were "age appropriate" for my children (all boys) I naturally bought them Legos.  But I was disappointed.  The Legos came with instructions to build the thing on the box.  Now maybe this teaches something about following instructions but I think it stifles the imagination.  And my children didn't ever build their own things, as I did for almost a decade.  They loved their Legos, they'd build the thing, put it on the shelf, and look at it.  It seems part of childhood was missing. (UPDATE: One of my children just informed me that they did, indeed, build original creations out of Legos.)

I need to thank my parents for giving me that first set of Lego (I still have what's left of them somewhere).  I cherished them and mourned when something was lost or broken (the gray rubber tires only lasted a few years, it seems).  A few other sets supplemented my original supply but I still have a special place in my heart for that original three-color set (especially the jet engines).

I think that Lego set got me interested in science and engineering.  I think it started me making up stories, something I do now full time as a writer.  That was probably the best toy investment my parents ever made.  It opened my imagination in ways perhaps even the creators of Legos never imagined.

What toy or gift helped put you on the road to your chosen field?

Monday, January 27, 2014

If You Don't Like the Weather . . .

I lived in San Angelo, Texas for about four months when I was in the military.  And the thing that struck me about living there was the weather.  In fact, I remember when I got my television hooked up, I was shocked to find a "Weather Channel."  Then I was even more surprised that I ended up watching it.  Yes, I am a bit of a weather geek but also, every three days a storm system would come through almost always bringing tornado watches or warnings.  We quickly learned that you didn't worry until there was a warning because where were always watches.  But what usually happened was lightning, thunder, downpours that would flood the streets, but no tornadoes.  Well, until that one day . . .  But it didn't come close to where we lived.

Now I live in central Washington State.  This is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and we average about 8 inches of precipitation per year.  This winter has been a particularly dry winter and the snow pack in the mountains is low.  It's going to be a "bad water year" for the farmers who rely on that snow pack for irrigation and the power company that relies on it for hydro power.

The weather in this part of the world is quite variable.  While this has been a warm and dry winter, I have seen -40 temperatures and snow up to a foot deep (no, we don't get the multiple feet of snow some places get).  I have seen summer days at 110 F (43 C).  And, it seems, the wind is nearly non-stop (except this winter when it's been dead calm followed by near-tropical storm velocity straight-line winds.  The old joke, "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes" certainly applies here (although 15 hours might be more accurate).

So I live with wind, large variations in temperature, and very little precipitation (which makes things very dusty, a dark colored car is impossible to keep clean).  What I don't have is hurricanes, tornadoes (well, we did have a small one a few years ago), stifling humidity, and feet and feet of snow with temperatures below 0 F most of the winter.

Of course we do have volcanoes (Mt. St. Helens dropped something like 4 inches of ash on this town; I lived here there with my parents), earthquakes, and wild fires.

But no matter where you live, you're going to have your particular set of natural problems.  But, boy, am I glad I don't live in San Angelo anymore.

Life-Long Learning

I remember when I graduated high school (very, very long ago) after the ceremony one of my fellow graduates yelled out happily, "No more learnin'!"  And I thought, "Why do I doubt that?"  I figured if he wasn't going to go to college he'd have to get a job.  And getting a job meant learning the job.  I was also amazed anyone would say that because it was (and is) hard for me to imagine someone who doesn't want to be learnin'.

I say, "The day you stop learning is the day you start dying."  I have been and plan to be a "life-long learner" in popular phrase.  I can't help it.  I'm interested in too much stuff and I can never know enough.

Now, as I've gotten older I have slowed down some.  I don't seek out and devour articles in Scientific American about cosmology, anymore.  I don't try to figure out every nuance of my computer's OS anymore.  At one point I blamed this on my day job and not having the time nor energy to pursue such things because of it.  But now that I'm working as a writer, I have both the time and energy but I still don't do it.  My brain isn't as plastic as it used to be and learning isn't as easy as it use to be, so I have winnowed down what I'm willing to expend energy learning.  Plus, I used to be able to read something once and retain most of it for nearly forever.  Now I actually have to study something to learn it well.  This annoys me and slows down how much I can learn.

But I do (and did) have eclectic tastes in what I want to learn about.  Here's a partial list off the top of my head of things I do or have studied either informally or in an educational institute:

  • "Hard" sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy, cosmology).
  • Technology.
  • Economics (although the esoterica of microeconomics bores me).
  • Words, their proper usage and precise meanings.
  • Cars.  Not to fix or repair or modify them, but to drive them.  To facilitate this I subscribe to Car and Driver and read it cover-to-cover.
  • Politics/government (no comment).
When I was younger I read the encyclopedia.  When the internet came out, it was like an amazing thing.  I would spend hours simply exploring, reading, learning.

My current profession is ideal for a life-long learner: freelance writer and author.  I get to learn about things (which I love) and then write about them (which I love).  Now I don't always get to learn about things I'm interested in (the plight of potato farmers is getting old) but that's okay.  In my books I tend to write about things I am interested in but am sometimes forced to learn about things that don't interest me much because of how the plot goes.  Who knew when I was writing Gods of Strife I'd have to research if Tehran, Iran has moles or groundhogs or other underground pests (apparently it doesn't).

I plan to keep learning and I plan to keep writing.  Yes, some things I learn are only good for answering questions on Jeopardy, but still, you've learned them.

I just wish my brain worked like it did when I was 20.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ice Ice Baby

I was sitting here drinking my glass of ice water and thinking about how refreshing it is and tastes so good.  And there are complex yet fascinating reasons why ice water is so nice and how, without those properties, life would probably not exist on Earth or any other planet with water/oxygen/carbon life.

In science there's a concept called "equilibrium" and nature is always trying to reach it.  That is when all things are the same, e.g., equal.  A cold glass of water in a warm room will grow warmer trying to reach temperature equilibrium with the room it's in (the room will grow slightly cooler during the same process but probably not in any amount measurable except by very precise instruments and that assumes no heat is added to the room).  This is why your house always tries to get colder in winter and hotter in summer as it tries to reach equilibrium with the outside.

If your glass of ice water is an adiabatic system (that is, no heat or matter goes in or out) then it will try to reach equilibrium.  The water will cool until it is on the verge of freezing and the ice will warm until it is on the verge of melting.  They both will be at 32 degrees F (0 C).  Again, in an adiabatic system, they will stay like this for pretty much ever.  In the real world, of course, there is no such thing as an adiabatic system and heat will seep through the glass into the water warming it a bit, the ice will then melt a bit, soaking up that heat in the process of turning ice into water, and again the ice/water mixture will be at 32 degrees.  But eventually all the ice will melt and the water warm.

To freeze ice you have to first cool it to 32 degrees (take out heat) and then you have to leap this barrier called "the latent heat of fusion" but taking out even more heat to turn it into ice.  When ice melts, it absorbs the same amount of heat from its surroundings, cooling them.  This absorption of heat is how iceboxes worked for years before the invention of refrigeration.

This tendency toward equilibrium is why ice water is so refreshing: the water is just on the verge of freezing.  It's as cold as water can get without freezing.

And what does this have to do with life?  The water molecule is unique.  We all know it's H2O (I can't subscript so I made the "2" small).  Here's diagram of a water molecule (somewhat simplified):
The "dipole moment" is a fancy term for saying the water molecule is positively charged on one side, and negatively charged on the other (this has to do with where electrons end up around this molecule due to the properties of the oxygen and hydrogen atoms).  Also, the angle between the hydrogen atoms is unique.  In an organic molecule like methane (CH4) they would be 90 degrees apart (in three dimensions).  These two properties of the water molecule mean that when water freezes, the molecules line up farther apart then when they are liquid.  The crystal form of  water (i.e, ice) is less dense than the liquid form.  We've all experienced this as ice has broken bottles of water left outside overnight and frozen (or forgotten in the freezer where they were put to cool quickly).  I think there are a few other molecules where this is true, but none as important as water.

(This property also means that unlike most molecules, it melts under pressure, which is why you can ice skate, ski, and slip on icy sidewalks because as you put pressure on ice, a thin layer of water develops which slides very easily over ice.  You may have noticed if you live in northern climates that ice is less slipper the colder it gets, because it doesn't melt as readily.)

Because ice is less dense than water, it floats.  "Big deal," you say.  "Everyone knows that," you say.  Well, yes, we are so accustom to it we don't think about it.  But think about this.  If ice didn't float it would form on the surface (coldest part) of a lake, river, stream, ocean, etc. and then sink.  Then more ice would form and sink.  And that would continue until the entire body of water was ice.  In the summer, a bit of the surface would melt, but most of the volume would remain ice.  And under those conditions there would not be liquid water available year-round to support life.  Have an ice age or two and the tropics would all be icy, too.

So, while you are enjoying that refreshing glass of ice water, remember it's the water molecule that makes that water so refreshing and makes it possible for there to be life on our planet.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to Become a Freelance Writer

So, you say you want to be a freelance writer.  What?  You don't?  Why not?  There are several advantages to being a freelance writer (if you have the time, that is, don't have a day job or can do it in the evenings):

  1. It pays.  Not a lot, but I've made more freelancing than selling my novels.
  2. You get to practice your craft more.  It can challenge your writing abilities. You have to interview people who are boring and you still have to make an interesting story out of it.
  3. You learn a lot.  I think most writers love to learn and freelance writing you learn about stuff then write about it.  It's a blast.
But you might be say, "How can I break into the freelance market?"  I know, it's not easy.  I had one advantage that I live in a small town so it was easier to hobnob with the movers and shakers and editors of the local publications.  But here's some tips that should work even if you live in a big city:

Get out there and meet people.  Join civic groups.  Go visit them first and see if there's the type of people you want to meet in them.  If you find one with an editor or a publisher in it, bingo!  This may cost a little money and time, but it's worth it, even if just for the networking purposes.  I belong to three groups in my area: the economic development council, Toastmasters, and a networking group called Power Partners.  The economic development council has been the best (and the most expensive, minimum individual dues are $100 per year) because the editor of the local newspaper is also a member.

Volunteer.  Contact your local hospital, clinic, animal shelter, service organizations and volunteer to write for their newsletter.  They will most likely welcome the free work.  This will give you clippings for when you want to get paid work.  It will also let you practice (and maybe learn errors to avoid) before you try to get paid.  And you'll get clippings (which are scans of the articles you wrote as they appeared in the publication)

Query: Go to a bookstore and find local publications such as magazines.  Most towns of any size have a local-focus publication or two.  Look at the masthead and find the name of the editor (they might also have their email address).  Go to their website, see if you can find out the editor's email if it's not in the masthead.  Come up with a cool idea for a story (this is the hard part) and then email the editor your idea.  Sell it to them, use your writing skill to make them ache to publish it.  Include a resume and clippings as PDF, if possible.  Do this as much as you can (i.e., have ideas, have places to query).

Query again: If they reject the first one, try again (give it a month or so).  Unless they say " stop emailing me" continue to query with new ideas.

Where do you get these ideas?  Well, again, you'll have to look around and be part of the community, not just sit at your computer writing your 200,000-word long high fantasy novel.

Are you guaranteed success?  Nope.  Will freelancing pay the bills?  Not unless you're doing it a lot.  I made about $600 in December.  I'll probably make $250 or so this month.

And when you have a freelance job (paid or not), read this blog post for tips on being successful.  Then read this blog post for tips on editing.  And persevere.  You didn't write that book by watching reality shows.  You won't become a freelance writer by not working at it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stick a Fork in It

One problem I think a lot of novice writers have is constant and never-ending revisions.  They want to tweak and tweak and make their manuscript perfect.

Let me clue you in, it's never going to be perfect.  At some point it has to be "good enough" and you stick a fork in it, and call it "done."  Will it be perfect?  Nope.  I can pick up Hammer of Thor (my first published novel) and find things where I think "I could have written that better."  But if the book were still on my hard drive being revised again and again, no one would be reading it.  If it weren't "good enough" I wouldn't have mostly positive reviews.

Yes, you need to edit it.  Your first draft will be pretty bad.  A while back I wrote this post on editing you might find helpful.

But when is it good enough?  That is very subjective.  I think my freelance writing has helped me with this because I am given discrete, hard deadlines.  I make the story as good as I can in the time allowed (although I also often submit early because I think it's "good enough").  I would say when you can read it and like it all it is good enough.  When your beta readers like it, it is good enough.  Of course, if you can get an agent or publisher to like it, it is good enough but that's hard to do unless it's already good enough.

So here's some tips:
  1. Edit/revise until you like it
  2. Have others read it, see if they like it.  Make revisions as necessary
  3. Let it sit for a month or more, then go through it again.
  4. If you still like it, it's probably good enough.
Now you may be a no-talent hack and it'll never be good enough.  But I'm pretty sure you aren't.  You're a good writer and you write good stuff.  It will be, at some point, "good enough."  And that's another key: have confidence.  Don't be arrogant, of course, take constructive feedback from beta readers and others.  But be confident in your ability to write.

Again, this is all very subjective, but writing is subjective.  If it was math, anyone could do it (yes, I know there's lots of people who can't do math).  Feedback is important.  Confidence is important.  Being your own best editor is important.

But at some point you have to stick of fork in it and call it "done."  

And then your publisher will wonder why the manuscript has holes in it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Busy Again

Some days doing freelance work are busier than others.  The deadlines for the publications I write for are invariably the middle of the month.  Last month I did six freelance assignments and turned down a seventh as I didn't think I could finish it on time due to other commitments.

This month I've had only two.  But the second one came very fast.

I thought I was going to only have one assignment and I sent it in Thursday the 9th (they prefer to get them before the 10th but will take them as late as the 15th).  Then I get an email back to do another one by the 15th.  I agreed but was very worried about getting it done on time.  It usually takes a couple of weekdays to get a hold of people and sometimes longer if they are reluctant (I had one person I interview tell me I was "very persistent" after I called him twice a day for a week).

And, I didn't have a number for the subject, I just had the number of his business that I got off the internet.  So Thursday (the day I got the assignment) I called the business and think I got lucky.  I didn't get the receptionist but someone named Jeff.  I explained the situation and he said he'd put me through to the subject's voicemail but I should call back Monday why the daughter of the subject would be in as she would probably get him to cooperate.  So I made that my plan but left a voicemail for the subject anyway.

He called back a few hours later.  I almost fainted.  They never call back.  Well, almost never.  We arranged for an interview on Friday at 10:00 A.M. and I asked if it was possible could his wife be there.  He said he'd try.

But he is in Walla Walla, Washington, a nice town about 120 miles away.  Most of the road, however, is 2-lane with a 60 mph speed limit so it's not a fast trip (my car's navigation system predicted almost 2.5 hours but I did it in about an hour and 40 minutes).  There is about a 20-mile 4-lane section with a 75 mph speed limit and that helps.  I decided to leave at 7:30 A.M. to assure we get there on time ("we" being my wife who takes pictures and me).

My local Toastmasters club, of which I am the Vice-President of Education, is having a public speaking class starting tomorrow and we've been advertising and promoting it.  About the time I pull into Walla Walla my phone starts ringing.  It's someone wanting to sign up.

We do the interview and I have to turn off the ringer on my phone because it keeps ringing and I keep getting emails.  The interview and taking pictures takes about two hours.  Then I sat in a conference room at the business and checked my voicemails and emails and found out how much work I had to do when I got home (one call was another Toastmasters signup the other was health insurance related).

Went to lunch at a place we like in downtown Walla Walla.  Unfortunately, my car was filthy from the wet roads.  I wanted to wash it before we drove back (there's a wonderful hand-wash car wash in Walla Walla) but my wife had to get back for some volunteer work she does.

I get home and deal with invoices, emails, Toastmasters, pictures for the article from the subject.  Finally about 5:30 P.M. I call it quits for the day, thinking a 10 hour day was long enough.

I got up the next morning (Saturday) and started writing the story.  Did the first draft in an hour or so.  Read it again later (after the Seahawks beat New Orleans) and then read and edited it again this morning.  I might get this in on Monday, two weekdays after it was assigned.

When I left the corporate world it was, in part, to avoid 50-60 hours work weeks.  Now I'm working maybe 20 - 40 hours a month (paid work, if you add in all the book promotion/blogging/etc. I do, it's probably close to 20 or 30 hours a week).  But busy days like Friday are fun if not exhausting.

And it's a good thing I like to drive.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Movie Review: Fast and Furious 6

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead***

Last night I watched Fast and Furious 6 on Blu-ray.  And I've decided we need a new genre name for this type of movie.  I'm proposing "real world fantasy."  Why?  Well, the movie is supposed to take place in the real world.  There are no superheros, science fiction, or fantasy elements.  Yet parts of it, the action sequences mainly, are so implausible I burst out laughing.  They are basically fantasies that are supposed to be in the real world.  And the accuracy is laughable.  For example, the climax of the movie involves a cargo plane on a runway that is being chased, and there's fights on board and it's all very exciting visually and dramatically.  But, according to my Blu-ray player, the cars entered the runway at one hour and 41 minutes into the movie.  The cars reached the end of the runway at 1:54, or 13 minutes later.  The cars are chasing an airplane that lands and then tries to take off again.  Assume an average speed of 150 mph for this chase.  (I think 150 mph is slow because the plane looked like an Russian An-225 cargo plane which needs to be going 287 mph in order to take off and it starts to take off).  That means in 13 minutes the cars will have traveled 32.5 miles.  According to Wikipedia, the longest runway in the world is about 3.4 miles (18,045 feet).

Oh, and if the plane is going 287 mph I really don't think Dodge Chargers and military jeeps will be keeping up with it.

In addition, people jump from improbable heights to land in or on cars without damage to themselves or the vehicles.  I guess like dwarves, they are made of rubber.

But, why do we watch movies?  For entertainment.  Was I entertained?  Yes, even when I was laughing at the improbabilities.  Some of the fight sequences seemed to go on forever and I'd rather watch cars and pretty girls.  These movies have (starting with #4) descended slowly into the completely implausible.  They have become what I am now going to call "real world fantasy."  But I enjoyed my two hours plus and will probably rent Fast and Furious 7 (and apparently Jason Statham will be joining the franchise as a bad guy).

I'll give this 3 starts on Netflix.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Are All My Main Characters "Mary Sue"?

There is in fiction writing a concept call the "Mary Sue" (some call the male versions "Marty Stu").  A "Mary Sue" is a character who represents the writer themselves.  They are, thus, often wonderful amazing characters that achieve they hopes and dreams of the writer. Wikipedia notes the term comes from a satire of unrealistic "Star Trek" fan fiction:
The story starred Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old")
Also according to the same article, it has been speculated that Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was a "self-insertion" by Gene Roddenberry and thus a Marty Stu.  (I held this opinion long before I learned the term "Mary Sue" and in fact, since about half-way through the first season of ST:TNG.)

But here's the problem.  Who does the writer know best?  Himself or herself.  So where can the writer best draw character distinctions?  From himself or herself.  For instance, my main character in Hammer of Thor, Francis Kader, has a couple of flaws I have myself.  Michael Vaughan of Agent of Artifice is pretty much based on how I would probably act if I were an adept (the people with magical powers in my Adept Series novels).  And Peter Branton of Book of Death and the forthcoming Gods of Strife has more than a few of my personality quirks.  But does this make them Marty Stus?  I don't think so because they have flaws (mostly mine) and are not perfect.  Is there a little self-insertion going on?  Yeah, but I don't think that makes them bad characters.

(Speaking of self-insertion, I have read two fiction novels which mention the author: Brothers No More by William F. Buckley mentions Buckley's run for mayor of New York City and in Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein a character says of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land something like, "what some writers won't do for money."  But that's a different kind of self-insertion and in both cases the authors used it as self-denigrating jokes.)

In my novel Rock Killer, I gave the main character, Alexander Chun, horrible space sickness (and he works in space).  I did this because I suspect I would have horrible space sickness (I get motion sick very easily) and it was an easy flaw to give him (yes, he has other flaws).  So again, I drew upon myself.

Of course, for writers there are countless places to draw characters from.  And you should never base a character on a specific person but use an amalgamation of people and their characteristics.  But don't be afraid to give a character a characteristic you have in fear of having a Mary Sue, especially if it's a flaw.  And, whatever you do, don't have an idealized character who is flawless in every way.  Even Superman had Kryptonite and Lois Lane.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Wish for My Next Computer

The other day I was horrified to discover that the 3-year warranty on my "new" computer expired.  My current computer is a Dell Latitude E6510 laptop.  This is the first laptop I bought for myself because up until a few years ago, I considered laptops specialty computers not fit for everyday use.  But now they are just as powerful and have as much hard drive space as desktops (which is why desktops are going away although I suppose there will still be some call for them in business settings because they are a lot cheaper than laptops).  When I bought my laptop I got with it a docking station (and paid through the nose for it).  This allows me to plug my laptop into the docking station which hooks it up to my ergonomic keyboard, large monitor, printer, speakers, and regular mouse.  So it's just like having a desktop experience but when I need a laptop (travel, writers' group meetings, etc.) I have one.  I love it.  It also runs Windows 7 which I consider the best Microsoft Windows OS ever (and it took a lot for me to give up XP).  It seems Windows versions are best if they are uneven numbered, at least since Windows 97 (97 was good, ME sucked, XP was great, Vista sucked, 7 is great, 8 isn't so good from what I hear).

Now everything is moving toward tables, it seems.  And like the old fogy I am (I used to be an early adapter but now I'm old) I'm reluctant.  A table would be nice to have for those few times a laptop is too much.  But my iPhone seems to work fine for that.  But I have seen a Dell computer that is a tablet, laptop, and has a docking station and to me, that's near perfect.

What I want in my next computer is an iPad Air-sized and massed tablet, that turns into a laptop with a nice big keyboard (I have fat fingers) that docks into a docking station to emulate a desktop.  Oh, and I don't want to have to carry something that turns it from tablet to laptop but that could be a compromise (have a keyboard and a frame to hold the tablet).

That way I'd have the best of all three worlds.  And since I'm a writer, I need to be able to use my ergonomic keyboard that I love.  Oh, and operating system needs to be as powerful as Windows 7 and as simple to use as iOS 7.  Is that too much to ask?

I'm thinking when I do buy a new computer I'm going to wait for Windows 9 and hope the problems with Windows 8 are worked out (I did notice Windows 8 had a huge update).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Computer Evolution

This being the first day of 2014, I started thinking about all the thing we don't have that we were predicted to have by now: flying cars, vacations on the Moon, talking computers.  But then I realized some things happened that weren't predicted: the Internet, the smartphone, the shrinking of computer.

Think about this: in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the computer on the space ship (HAL) was much more advanced than computers we have now.  But it was also huge.  Remember that scene where the guy goes inside the computer to shut it down?  I mean, the astronaut went into the computer, his entire body.  So the makers of that film missed that computer would get smaller and smaller.

My first contact with a computer was at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in the early '70s.  Idaho State University had set up a computer and had interfaces were you could interact with the computer.  The interface looked a lot like a typewriter.  The computer's output was printed on paper, not displayed on a screen.  And what they had set up was a number guessing game (slightly fancied up as an artillery aiming game).  You'd put in a number on the typewriter-like keyboard, it'd print out "long" or "short" (if I remember correctly).  And I was so impressed!  Here I was using a real computer.  But the computer was probably in a back room taking up square feet of space.  (I wrote a similar program in BASIC about 10 years later on my first computer.)

I like to point out that my first PC, a rather large desktop, had a 40 megabyte hard drive.  My iPhone that fits in my pocket has 32 gigabytes of memory on a flash drive.  My laptop has a 500 gigabyte hard drive and my back up drive is 1 terabyte.  That's 26,200 times larger that that first hard drive.  And probably a lot cheaper.

So while we don't have a lot of things that were predicted when I was a kid, we do have amazing computer technology.  Just not yet advanced enough to talk to us, read lips, and lock us out of the cargo bay.

Oh, and Happy New Year!