Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is All-Wheel Drive/Four-Wheel Drive Good for Winter Driving

I just finished reading an article called "Do you Really Need AWD in the Snow?" The gist of the article was that a good set of snow tires on a car with front or real-wheel drive can be better than all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive without snow tires.

What's the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD)? AWD is permanent, all the time. It is designed to operate in all conditions including dry pavement.  4WD can be turned on and off. It is usually designed only for off-road or slick roads. It used to be (still might be) you could damage a vehicle by using 4WD on dry pavement.

(And why is four-wheel drive abbreviated "4WD" and not FWD? Because FWD means "Front Wheel Drive.")

I currently own a car that is AWD. I didn't buy it because it had AWD. I bought it because, well, I wanted it. The AWD was an added bonus (the car doesn't come any other way).

Last year I put snow tires on it and happened to drive over Snoqualmie Pass on what turned out to be the worst weather day of the year. The State Patrol had turned on the "Chains Required" sign. But, if you have AWD or 4WD and snow tires, you don't have to put chains on. So I didn't (I don't even own chains for that car). At one point I was going uphill in a lane that hand not been plowed or driven in recently and I was passing people (I was doing about 45 mph). It was great. I've never had more confidence going over that pass in bad weather. (And I've done it in a car with fat summer tires with chains required.)

At one point a Dodge Durango passed us going what I thought was too fast. And I was apparently right, because about a mile down the road, he was wrecked, having ran off the road and into the mountain side and bounced back into the road. He managed to stay on his wheels but there were pieces of sheet metal scattered about.

Which brings me to my point. AWD and 4WD will get your car moving in slick conditions. But you still need to be able to stop and turn. And for that you need snow tires. Some people with AWD/4WD think it makes them invincible in slick conditions. It doesn't. It helps, but snow tires help more.

So while the article argued that snow tires might be a better option (and cheaper in the long run), I think it more has do with the driver and their skill and intelligence level. As I said, I took a car with fat summer tires over Snoqualmie Pass when chains were required and didn't put on chains or anything. Because I knew how to drive in snow (having grown up in snowing Southeast Idaho) I could do that. That, and I was young and crazy.

Snow tires help a lot, and are cheaper than AWD/4WD. And AWD/4WD helps, but even still you'll probably want to put on snow tires.

But driver attitude and skill are going to trump technology every time. As we used to say on the racetrack, money can buy a nice car, but it can't buy skill or talent. The same is true for winter driving.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Turnovers Killed Us

In the University of Washington's loss yesterday to the California Golden Bears, going into the end of the fourth quarter the Huskies had given up five turnovers which resulted in 17 points for the Bears. We lost by 16 points (30-24). The game ended when a last-hope drive by the Huskies was stopped by yet another Cal interception, for a total of 6 turnovers.

For a while it look good. The Huskies were on top of a very good California team. But then the turnovers happened. The score actually doesn't reflect the dominance of the Bears. The Husky defense seemed to play most of the game but still did well, often holding the Bears to the field goal or simply forcing them to punt.

I'm still impressed with true-freshmen quarterback Jake Browning. Yes, he made some bad mistakes but he's improving every game. The Bears defense was just better then what he's faced before, except maybe the BSU Broncos in the first game of the season.

This loss moves the Huskies to 2-2 for the season and 0-1 in conference. This is looking more and more like a re-building year and maybe next year we'll live up to the hype that Coach Chris Petersen was hired with.

The Huskies have a bye next week and then on Thursday October 8th play USC in Los Angeles. We can pray for a miracle.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Ava Morgan and Nick Olivo

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome writers Ava Morgan and Nick Olivo.

Ava Morgan

Ava Morgan is a history buff, vintage style lover, and a bibliophile. She'll read anything she can get her hands on, especially steampunk, fantasy, and pulp fiction. When she's not writing, Ava can be found bicycling with her husband, raising two furry canine children, costuming, and traveling.

Ava's Books:

The Aether Alchemist (The Curiosity Chronicles #4)

Dominique’s Dilemma (A Curiosity Chronicles Short)

Transplanted (The Grafters, Book 2)

Ava's Links:


Nick Olivo

Nick Olivo
My childhood consisted of way too many video games, comic books and 80’s cartoons. Add in a healthy appetite for Tolkien and Stephen King, and the end result was a geek who had visions of someday writing his own novels.

And now here I am. Married, kids, and a whole bunch of stories about half-gods, gremlins, and gentleman necromancers. Life is good.

Nick's Books:

Masks of Mayhem 

Jewel of Shambhala

Crimson Mantis

Nick's Links


From Today's Show: Full "Supermoon" Lunar Eclipse Sunday 12/27

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

No Convertables

Ferrari 488 Spider
I just saw on Facebook a picture of the Ferrari 488 Spider. Beautiful car. But, even if I had the means, I'd never buy one. How much do they cost? Well, if you have to ask . . .

Why won't I buy the Spider? Because I loath convertibles. I've had a bit of experience with them, renting them in Hawaii and Florida.

I do not love drop tops and not even for all the good reasons a car guy like me shouldn't (increased weight, poorer handling, etc.). My dermatologist tells me I have "type one" skin. All I know is I sunburn in about ten minutes (no, I'm not exaggerating).

I also have a little (okay, a lot) less hair on top than I did 20 years ago. So driving a convertible to me means 1) wearing a hat (that will most likely blow off if I exceed parking lot speeds) and 2) wearing sunscreen in order to drive the car.

Oh, and sunscreen attracts all sorts of wind-blown road dust and grime, did I mention?  Filthy arms are very attractive at the Ruth Chris.

And God help you when it rains because you have a choice: drive in the rain or pray you can get the top up before the light turns green.  But at least you're no long getting a sunburn.

Side note: Why are sporty convertibles called "spiders" (or sometimes "spyders")? Because of this:

This open-top carriage was called a "spider" because its big wheels made is slightly resemble an arachnid. It was also small and light, sort of a "sports carriage." When car manufacturers started building topless sports cars, they applied the same name to them: "spider."

And now you know.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Huskies Win Again!

I'm getting a little frustrated with PAC-12 Networks. Last week they cut away from the Husky game to show another game so we missed most of the fourth quarter, and this week they didn't cut away from the Nike Ducks game (Phil Knight sure buys them some ugly uniforms) for the Husky game so we missed most of the 1st quarter. It wasn't as if the Oregon game was close. They were playing Georgia State and the final score was 61-28.

Luckily, both times there were no scores made in the Husky game while they weren't showing them.

This week the University of Washington Huskies played Utah State University. USU was not a push-over team and have been very successful that past couple of years, going to and winning bowl games. However, from the start of when I got to see the game, the Huskies dominated. I'm becoming very impressed with true-freshman quarterback Jake Browning. He is starting to show poise, accuracy, and good decision making. On one play he was running from defenders, saw an open receiver (Dwayne Washington), tossed him the ball, and the Washington ran it in for an 81-yard touchdown.

Browning did make one mistake and that was throwing an interception on the first play of the second half. But the freshman came back the next time the Huskies had the ball and connected over and over with his receivers. I can't wait to see how good this kid will be next year.  Also it's kind of fun to say "Go Jake!" again, as we did during the Jake Locker era.

As I've probably said before, the Huskies are a very young team. They can only get better. We may not do great this year, but the next few years ought to be pretty fun.

But I think I've said that before, too.

The final score was 31-17 for the Huskies.

Next week we play a tough California at home. This week, California barely beat Texas in Austin. And Texas is no push-over, either. It's going to be an interesting game.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with H.R.B. Collotzi and John Murphy

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome H.R.B. Collotzi and John Murphy

H.R.B. Collotzi
H.R.B. Collotzi

I was born in Berlin, Germany as an army 'brat'. Early in life I found a love for telling stories, but when my parents told me to stop lying, I kept them inside my head. When I got older (and hopefully wiser) I decided to turn those 'lies' into stories again. I began a serious (if you can call fantasy serious) writing career in 2010. The Secret of Avonoa was my first published novel and The Shadow of Avonoa is the second! I have outlines for three more books in the Avonoa series. I also have a couple of modern-day sci-fi novels on the backburner that I plan to go back and re-vamp into young adult novels when my dragon series is finished. I currently live in Minnesota (yes, by choice) with my husband and our three kids. I also enjoy doing martial arts, Jiu Jitsu being my current passion.

H.R.B.'s Books:

The Secret of Avonoa

The Shadow of Avonoa

H.R.B.'s Links:


John Murphy

John Murphy
John Murphy was a Corporal in the US Marine Corps. He went to college, succeeded in the software industry, then wrote, Success Without a College Degree. He’s traveled the world and relieved himself on all seven continents. His wife is a Blackjack ninja; he has three sons: a Marine Corps officer, a video game producer, and a travel blogger. While he enjoys writing fiction and about career success, he smokes cigars, shoots guns, rides Harleys, skis fast, drinks tequila straight, thinks about alien invasion, combat, and the future of mankind, so he wrote Mission Veritas.

John's Books:

Mission Veritas

The Vulgus Chronicles - Part 1

The Vulgus Chronicles - Part 2

John's Links:


From Today's Show: Pulsar Confirms Gravitational Constant is Constant

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Worry Wart

As I write this (and admittedly I wrote this a few days ago), I am waiting on a new B&W laser printer to arrive at my house. I didn't like any of the printers available locally (they were all "All-in-one" inkjet printers and all I want is a simple paper-spewing printer) so I ordered one from Amazon. I was pretty impressed because it arrived the next day even before I got the shipment notification from Amazon.

But there was a problem. The box was leaking toner and I was concerned that the everything inside might be covered in toner. Plus, the toner that came with it was likely damaged or defective. So I contacted the company (through Amazon) and told them. They were very responsive and emailed out a return shipping label and, even before I sent the damaged unit back, sent me another printer.

So I'm sitting here and I'm worrying. I'm worrying that the same thing may happen again. Why? I don't know. I'm a worry wart. If there's something to worry about, I'm going to worry about it.  It drives me nuts, to be honest.  I've learned to control it (to a point) but I still worry.

For example (and I have gotten better about this), if I can't get a hold of someone, I worry. "They're dead." "They hate me." "They're on the roadside dying after a car accident."

This is probably from having too active an imagination. Well, maybe not "too active" because I need an imagination to write. But it sure drives me nuts sometime.

I try to tell myself I'm worried over nothing.

But tell that to my over-active OCD, ADD, bi-polar brain.

Now I'm worried you won't leave a comment.

UPDATE: The printer arrived safe and works great.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Huskies Win

There's a tradition in college football, at least the the top FBS Divsion I level. That is, early in your season, usually the first game you play an FCS Division I team. These are teams from smaller schools who can't get into the FBS series.

Either that, or play Idaho.

The point is to give your team a game to work out the kinks, get some practice playing in a game (there's no pre-season in college football), and, it is hoped, get an early win.

That doesn't always work out for example, this year Portland State beat Washington State University in WSU's home opener. Oops.

The University of Washington Huskies for years never did this. They only played upper-level FBS teams.  But about five years ago they decided to start playing FCS teams.

Last week my beloved Huskies lost in a heart breaker to Boise State University.  BSU is not only an FBS team, but was ranked at #23 on the top 25 AP poll.  (They moved up to #20 after that game but since they lost this week to BYU, they may be dropping a bit.)

This week the Huskies played Sacramento State, an FCS team. I was wishing the whole time we could have played this game, first, then faced BSU. That's because our team looked much better and much more confident, especially as the second quarter started. True freshmen quarterback Jake Browning did much better, showed much better skill and confidence. A new star emerged, a kid called Gaskin who made three touchdowns.  By the middle of the third quarter, Husky coach Chris Petersen was putting in second-stringers.  The final score was 0-49.

If the Huskies had played this game first, then went to play BSU, they may have won instead of losing by 3 points when they were 13 point underdogs.

So this was a great confidence booster and a good way for Browning and this young team to get some much-needed practice. And while I'm glad to see the Huskies win, the fact it was an FCS team tempers the happiness.

Next week the Huskies take on Utah State at home.  While Utah State (USU?) is an FBS team, it's not considered a very good one. Looking for another win, but not one with an asterisk.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Steven Spellman and Ben Willoughby

Today the Speculative Fiction Cantina is proud to welcome Steven Spellman and Ben Willoughby

Steven Spellman
Steven Spellman

You should never judge a book by its cover. As well, you should never judge a writer by his bio. With that being said, Steven Spellman is writer for readers who enjoy simply told stories, stories of lust, of deception, stories of redemption, of love. Stories of horrors beneath the waning moon, of joys beneath the rising sun. Stories of everything in between, to give the reader a fiction of adventure fit to distract from the facts of life if only for a moment. Born in East Orange, New Jersey, raised in North Carolina since infancy, Steven Spellman has been a drug dealer, a prisoner, an armed felon, a college student, a father, a husband, a sinner, a saint. Like everyone else Steven Spellman has worn many hats, but never any so well fitted as a writer. His ongoing struggle with life is a personification of the fact that You Should Never Judge a Book by its Cover; you may miss the whole story.

Steven's Books

Murder Beneath the Midnight Sun

The Virus

The Vanished

Steven's Links:


Ben Willoughby
Ben Willoughby

Ben Willoughby was born in the United States and, being a military brat, ended up seeing a lot of it (along with a foreign country or two). At a very young age, he found a love for reading. At the age of 12, he found a passion for writing. In his late 20's, he decided to pursue publishing many of the ideas and concepts he had developed over the years. He currently lives in the southeastern United States, with his loving wife and young daughter. When not writing or reading, he spends his spare time sketching and smoking his pipe.

Ben's Books

Gods on the Mountain (Paperback, Kindle)

"Raw Head" (Novelette)

Ben's Links


From Today's Show: Space Elevator

Listen to today's show at 6:00 PM ET / 3:00 PM PT or in archive here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Activity "NO" List

Last week I talked about my "Movie 'NO' List." Today I'm going to tell you about my activity NO list. That is, things I refuse to do.

1) Camping. First of all, it's being outside and outside is sunburn (viz: Going to the Beach) and allergies (which are better after seven years of allergy shots, but why risk it). Not to mention bugs and other critters (spiders, snakes). I saw a meme on Facebook that was something to the affect of "Camping: paying a lot to live like a homeless person." We've had 50,000 years of human progress to get away from sleeping in dirt, why would I want to return to that? Sure you can see some pretty things, but can't I just watch them from inside my (climate-controlled) car?

2) Hunting. I have nothing against hunting or guns. In fact, I enjoy target shooting. But hunting is definitely out. First of all, it's outside (viz: Camping). Second of all, it's traipsing through the countryside looking for elusive animals. I don't know what it is, but I think my family was born with the "no-hunting-ability" gene. I can't remember a time when anyone in my family had a successful hunt. The few times I've gone hunting I've spent a day outside in the cold (hunting always seems to take place on cold days), a day I could have been indoors enjoying amenities such as central heat.

3) Fishing. Again, nothing against fishing if that's your thing. But, first of all, it's outside (see above). Second, it's boring. I went on a fishing trip once where we were fishing for sturgeon at the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. (This was a business thing.) We were out there for 9 hours and caught four fish. Now you sort of have to wrestle sturgeon in (they're big) but if you figure 15 minutes of wrestling per fish, that's one hour of something interesting happening in 9 hours of fishing. So that's 8 hours of . . . nothing. And one of the people on the trip is an avid fisherperson and she said "That was one of the best days fishing I've ever had." Puleeze.

4) Going to the Beach. Again, outside. But since I sunburn in about 10 minutes (I'm not joking) I have to A) cover up a lot and be hot and/or B) wear greasy, smelly sunscreen and reapply about once an hour. And sand sticks to sunscreen. I hate it.

5) Yard Work/Gardening. Yes, it's outside. It's also the most boring, unrewarding work there is. Mow the lawn: it'll need it again in a week. Pull weeds, they'll grow back. Plant flowers, they'll die. Plant a garden, have tons of zucchini that you can't give away (why do people plant that stuff?). It's not that I don't like vegetables. I just prefer buying them than spending hours failing to grow them. Yes, if the zombie apocalypse comes, I'll starve to death because I don't hunt or garden. But I need to lose weight, anyway.

So there you have, the "no" activities list. What do you hate to do?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Huge, Colossal, Thirty-eight Author Halloween Giveaway!

A huge, colossal multi-author giveaway, the Dark Dreams Halloween Giveaway, via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lots and lots of prizes and a grand prize of $175. Check it out! You can even win a signed copy of my novel Book of Death.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Huskies Lose . . . Barely

Yes, the game was Friday night, and, yes, this is Sunday morning. But this is the first chance I've had to write about it.

Going into Friday night's season opener game against the #23 ranked Boise State Broncos, the University of Washington Huskies were an unknown. They were, however 13 point underdogs. The biggest unknown for the Dawgs was who was going to be starting quarterback. It turned out to be true freshman Jake Browning who showed flashes of brilliance but also showed he needs some experience at the big show that is collegiate Division I football. Here's a kid, probably 18 years old, playing his first NCAA game in front of a huge hostile crowd, on blue turf, the a Husky front line decimated by players headed for the NFL.

There was added drama because the Washington coach, Chris Petersen, was a very successful coach at Boise State. One fan held up a sign that said "Beat Pete."

By the end of the first half, it looked pretty hopeless. The Husky defense was porous and the Husky offense couldn't move the ball. But the score was only 16 - 0.

The second half was much better for the Dawgs. The defense came alive and made sure the Broncos scored zero second-half points. The offence connected better but the team's only touchdown was a punt return. At the end of the fourth quarter, it was 16-13 and the Huskies had the ball close to the end zone.

Then the mistakes happened. A penalty pushed them back. Then two sacks in a row (the only Boise sacks of the game). Suddenly what looked like a possible game-winning touchdown turned into a hail-Mary, extra-long, game-tying field goal.

It barely missed, giving the Broncos the ball back with a few seconds left on the clock. They took a knee and ended the game.

As I posed on Facebook that evening, we were 13-point underdogs, we lost by three points. Not a horrible start, but not great.

The Huskies have a week to tighten up that defense and get it so Browning can connect and has some protection before they play Sacramento State at home.

The announcers for the game said Las Vegas has the Huskies winning 4.5 games this year. And do have a very tough road through the very competitive Pac-12. All of us fans are hoping Petersen can do for Washington what he did for Boise State. So far, it's not looking good. But, the upside is, this is a very young Husky team. Next year they will be better. They'd better be or Petersen might be looking for a job.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Rebecca Jaycox and Claudette Melanson

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome writers Rebecca Jaycox and Claudette Melanson

Rebecca Jaycox
Rebecca Jaycox

Rebecca Jaycox grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, which borders the Mark Twain National Forest and the Courtois River about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The beautiful landscape fed her imagination, and she began writing stories at age 10 and never stopped. Always seeking adventure, Rebecca moved to France after she graduated college with a journalism degree to teach English at a French high school. Bitten by the travel bug, she has recently visited Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, and finally made it to her bucket-list destination of Istanbul last summer. Rebecca now lives in New York City with her husband, Gregory. She is the curator and program director of the YA Lit Series at the 92nd Street Y--one of New York's premier cultural centers. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction. The Other Inheritance is her first novel.

Rebecca's Book:

The Other Inheritance (Amazon, BN)

Rebecca's Links:


Claudette Meanson
Claudette Melanson

Claudette Melanson writes & edits in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband Ron and four bun babies: Tegan, Pepper, Butters & Beckett. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English and an MA in Literature. She's wished to be a Vampire since age five. She hopes to one day work full time as an author, since there are many, many books living inside her head.

In her spare time she enjoys watching Japanese Anime and reading vampire stories....along with other great fiction. She is also very interested in good health and is an advocate of Ketogenic eating, using whole and natural foods. Her favorite foods are bulletproof coffee, cashew flour crust pizza and treats made with xylitol and almond, coconut or cashew flours.

Future dreams include writing many more books and spending more time with her son Jacob. Her biggest dream is to make Universal Halloween Horror Nights a yearly event with hubby and son. A Rabbit Rescue fanatic, she also hopes to help rescues all over the world save many innocent lives.

Claudette's Books:

Rising Tide: Dark Innocence

Undertow: Death’s Twilight


Claudette's Links:

Book Likes
Book Gorilla Author Page

From today's show: Most Distant Galaxy Found

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Movie "NO" List

I like movies and I watch a lot of them on DVD/Blu-Ray through Netflix. I watch 3 every 2 weeks. This justifies the cost of Netflix but doesn't get me throttled . . . much.

Lately I've had the problem of keeping movies in my queue. They suck out as Netflix mails them to me, but very few new releases are being added. At one point I had 6 movies in my queue and  22 new releases in my "Saved Titles." I'm sure what's going to happen is in November and December a bunch of those movies will move up into the queue as they are released for Christmas sales.

So I've been adding a lot of old movies and classics and things just to keep that queue full (I recently added the four discs of the first season of Community).  The last movie I watched on a Netflix disc was How Green was My Valley from 1941. It's a classic, John Ford-directed film that won multiple Oscars. And I'm glad I saw it but it's not the kind of movie I'd want to see more than once.

Another problem I have is there are whole categories of films I refuse to watch. That's the movie "no" list. One, is horror, especially slasher films. I hate them. Two is chick flicks. I tell my wife "No movies were someone dies of natural causes." Another category is any movie with Meryl Streep.

These aren't hard and fast rules. I like the original Poltergeist. I've see The Cabin in the Woods but that was more a satire of slasher films. I've seen Still Alice and The Help (I don't think anyone dies in either of those). And I've seen Stuck on You where Ms. Streep had a cameo (so I didn't realize she was in it) and Adaptation because it was a movie about writing and Streep played against type, so I made an exception.

With those rules in mind, it's sometimes a challenge to keep my queue full. I watch a lot of classics. Ignoring Community, the movies in my queue were made 1959, 1942, 1958, 1939, 1967, 1943, 1949, 1966, and 1967. Oh, and 2015 (Mad Max: Fury Road just popped into my queue this morning for a 9/29 release date).