Thursday, July 18, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Introduction

Today we start on a seven-part series about college football. And now we'll introduce college football:

This is a primer designed for the person who knows little or nothing about college football or football in general.

Why College Football

I'm a huge fan of college football (and the University of Washington Huskies in particular). In college football, the players don't make mega millions of dollars. In fact, they aren't paid at all except through college scholarships. They don't practice as much as the pros so they still make mistakes. And you can watch a player start out as a rookie and watch him grow over the two to four years he might play for a team.

Now I'm not saying college football isn't big business. It is. Television revenues are in the millions. A good head coach can make a seven-figure salary per year (and are often the highest paid state employee of their state). The money doesn't come from taxpayers (at least not all of it), but from television revenue, stadium ticket sales, and booster donations. For example, Nike's Phil Knight has pledged $10 million per year to get good coaches to Oregon (his alma mater). I assume if the head coach is making millions, the assistance coaches (and there are a lot of them) are making at least six-figures. I read that one assistant coach was making $475,000 per year.

And, according to Forbes, the Washington Huskies make $84 million in revenue and out of that make $36 million in profit. I assume that money goes to pay for other sports that don't make a profit, including Title IX women's sports.

And why football? This game combines grace and violence in a alchemy of skills you don't see anywhere else. It is exciting to watch and fun to cheer on your team. It's never boring (like baseball) and it doesn't have squeaky shoes (like basketball). Also, the odd shape of the football makes it bounce unpredictably. This adds a bit of randomness not found in other sports.

And why the Washington Huskies? I went to college there (a lot). So I feel loyal to my alma mater. I even loved my Huskies the year they went 0-12 in the 2008 season.

And watching football can bring moments of amazement, such as this touchdown by former Husky John Ross.

Or these punt returns by Dante Petis.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

AWD vs. 4WD

A while back (September 2015) I talked about the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). But I got one important thing wrong. More on that in a moment.

There are basically four different types of drives on cars/trucks/SUVs. First is rear-wheel drive (RWD). This is when the power of the engine goes to the rear wheels only. This is usually true for sports cars and trucks that don't have four-wheel drive. The advantage of RWD is responsiveness in spirited driving. The disadvantage is it costs more than front-wheel drive and is more complicated. And you have a hump in your passenger compartment floor for the drive axle. 

Second is front-wheel drive (FWD). FWD is on a lot of cars, some SUVs, and a lot of crossovers. Advantages are simplicity (the engine is right over the drive tires), less weight, and a flat floor in the passenger compartment. Disadvantages are torque steer with high power cars, and front tires wear out faster because they do a lot of the work (steering, powering, and braking the car).

Third is all-wheel drive (AWD). This is when all the wheels are driven all the time. Advantages are better grip in nearly all situations. Disadvantages are cost and weight and complexity (more things to break). Because of more weight, your gas mileage will suffer.

There are all sorts of different AWD systems which vary by manufacture. Some send 25% of the engine power to each wheel no mater what. Some send more power to tires that have better grip. Some send more to the rear tires to simulate RWD.

Finally, is four-wheel drive (4WD). This is exclusively on trucks and SUVs. The important thing I got wrong is this: you can't drive 4WD in four wheel drive on dry pavement. The whole system will bind. Nor on wet pavement. Snowy pavement is okay. So these systems can be turned on and off.

The reason you can't drive 4WD on pavement is the axles are locked. So when you go around a corner the inside tire turns the same speed as the outside tire. On dirt or snow this isn't a problem. But on dry or wet pavement, it will cause your driveline to bind. So take your 4WD vehicle out of four-wheel drive before getting on dry pavement. When not in four-wheel drive, 4WD vehicles are almost universally rear-drive (I can't think of one that isn't).

Which drive system you get depends on what you think you need. For most people FWD or RWD is sufficient. A good set of snow tires makes a FWD or RWD perform in snow often better than an AWD with all-season tires. An AWD vehicle with good snow tires will perform very well in snow.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Stranger Things Season Three

I have, so far, watched four episodes of Stranger Things season 3 on Netflix. It's been a long wait and it has been worth it. (It's been about a year and a half since season 2.)

The kids are older now, teenagers but still without drivers licenses. Mike and El are in a relationship as are Max and Lucas. I'm guess their ages as around 14-15 years old.

The boys ride 10-speed bicycles instead of stingrays. And the focus of their lives is switching to the new mall. But, this is Hawkins, and stranger thing are happening. And poor Will feels it coming. I don't want to give any spoilers. You'll just have to watch.

There are four different story lines and you know by the end, they will all converge, likely at the mall, I think.

Season 3 is fun, scary, and excruciatingly well written. You should be watching this.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Ferrari SUV Coming

Ferrari Purosangue
First of all: Happy Independence Day.

And now on with our blog.

A while back I said there was a rumored Ferrari SUV coming and I said it would probably be built with Fiat 500L parts (because Fiat owns Ferrari).

In late April, Ferrari announced the name of their SUV and a few details. The names is "Purosangue." Now if you know anything about Romance languages, you probably read that as "pure blood." But Ferrari says it's Italian for "Thoroughbred." And don't call it an Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), but it will likely be called a Ferrari Utility Vehicle (FUV).

The FUV will come in both internal combustion and hybrid power trains. And it will be built on a Ferrari frame, not a Fiat underside.

To my eyes, it looks like a crossover (those station wagon-like cars people buy in droves). But, as Car and Driver (my source for all things automotive) said, Ferrari wants to make money. And there's money in crossovers/SUVs/FUVs (as I said here).

Don't expect to see the Purosangue on the road until at least 2022. And even then you'll probably have to go to Mercer Island or Redmond to see one.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

I Wish I Were Better

I wish I were a better writer.

I guess that's probably true of all writers, even ones who have sold millions of books. Well, except Tom Clancy who got lazy toward the end (so lazy, he didn't even write his own books).

My biggest weakness as a writer is character development. I think I did a pretty good job of that in Hammer of Thor and Agent of Artifice. But I spent years writing those books. I tried to do some character development in Book of Death, but I got too interested in the story. After that, I just sort of gave up on it. I'm not saying my books aren't good. I'm just saying that they could be better.

So I need to get better. In the three-book series I'm writing now, I have a character arc planned. But I'm into the third book and that arc hasn't manifested itself,  yet. Maybe I can fix it in rewrites.

What's your weakness as a writer. Let me know in the comments below. Make me feel better.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Self Care

As I've stated before in this blog, I am type 2 bipolar.

A type 1 bipolar is what most people think of when they think of bipolar. A type 1 cycles like a sine wave. These cycles could last months or hours, depending on the person.

But I'm type 2 so my bipolar is different.* It means I am depressed most of the time with occasional manic times.

But, the good news is, thanks to meds my former psychiatrist figured out (after lithium didn't work), I'm rarely depressed and almost never manic.

Depression is a weird thing. I know I'm depressed, I know why I feel lousy, but I can't do anything about it. I call it "the cloud." It is like a dark cloud hanging over me and I can't do anything to dispell it. Even the meds don't help. It really sucks.

So I practice "self care." One thing is, I make sure I have taken my meds. Some people with mental illness say, "Hey, I feel better, I don't need the meds" and stop taking them. But it was the meds that made them feel better. And there are downsides to the meds. Not just side-effects (one med I take makes me hungry), but I feel as if I've lost a spark I used to have. But I still take the meds.

The other bit of self care is let yourself be what you feel. If you're depressed, let it happen. Don't fight it. Do what helps you feel better. But don't self-medicate with food or alcohol or other drugs. For example, if I feel depressed, I'll watch television and try to find something entertaining or funny. Or slip in a DVD/Blu-ray of a favorite fun movie.

So take care of yourself. It's important.

How do you practice self care. Let me know in the comments below.

*The other types of bipolar are type 3 when a person is manic most of the time and occasionally depressed (pretty much the opposite of me) and type 4 when you're both manic and depressed.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Networking

Like most writers, I'm an introvert. Strongly an introvert. I'd rather stay home and read or watch T.V. than do most anything else.

But, in my corporate days, I was forced to be more gregarious. And since I've become a freelance writer and author, that has helped me. You see, nearly all the success I've had as a writer has come from networking, i.e., knowing people and talking with them. I found my publisher through another writer I'd met. I got my freelance jobs from knowing people.

Yes, this meant talking to people (shudder) and sometimes strangers. The one thing I hate about freelance writing is calling strangers and asking for some of their time. But I force myself to do it because that's part of the job.

So get out from in front of that computer screen and look for opportunities to talk to people. You never know what possibilities you might find.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does that affect your life. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Author Interview: Stephen Coghlan

Stephen Coghlan
Today we have an author interview with Stephen Coghlan. Welcome Stephen, it's great to have you here!

Hailing from the capital of the Great White North (i.e. Canada), Stephen Coghlan spends his days erecting buildings, and his nights reveling in the dreamscape. Since 2017, he has produced a myriad of flash fictions, short stories, novellas and novels, including, but not limited to, the GENMOS Saga, the Nobilis series, Urban Gothic, and has had his works read on podcasts and featured in anthologies.

Genmos



After disappearing from existence, Devlin Keper returns from his eight-year exile in order to gather his children, bio-engineered weapons known as Genmos, in an attempt to protect them from the government that wanted them destroyed.

Links for Genmos:

http://scoghlan.com/?page_id=109
https://www.amazon.com/GENMOS-Gathering-Genetically-Modified-Species/dp/194524710X/
http://thurstonhowlpub.storenvy.com/products/21740411-genmos-gathering-storms


Nobilis



When her family of intergalactic hippies are brutally murdered before her eyes, a young woman inadvertently recruits the help of a grizzled veteran turned janitor, an exiled alien princess and her indebted human husband, four enslaved children, a genius scientist with not one social grace, and a giant alien that contains her brother’s soul, in order to help her maintain her freedom and her life.

(Nobilis is still a work in progress)

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Well… Kind of, yes. I always had an idea of writing a book, and back in the early days of my youth I hammered away on an old Underwood typewriter whenever I found one, and I wasted quite a few sheaves of paper making “books” that held “stories” and full-color “Illustrations”.
Thinking on it, I might not have always wanted to be a writer, but I did want to be a storyteller.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your novels?

I have two novels coming out this year. Firstly, is Nobilis: Seedling, the debut novel in my space opera series. It’s a deep sci-fi adventure where humans are far from the dominant species, corporations control every aspect of the galactic sphere, and where a space-hippy tries to escape the most dreaded pirates with the help of some unwitting friends, and a giant, mysterious, living machine.

The second novel I have coming out this year is a sequel to my first ever published book, GENMOS (The Genetically Modified Species): Gathering Storms, and it's called GENMOS: Crossroads.
The Genmos series is a cross-Canada YA action adventure series that focuses on 15 animal/human hybrids as they attempt to be recognized as living beings. Book 2, Crossroads, starts immediately where book 1 ends, and deals with cliques forming, infighting, and how to deal with a possible spy among their ranks.

What brought you to these genres?

For Nobilis, I’ve always enjoyed series where you can watch characters evolve over time. That's the entire point of Space Operas. You, the consumer, develop a relationship with each well-informed character until you feel you have to know how their lives turn out. Science fiction, meanwhile, allows the creator to explore modern day themes. I live on the Ontario/Quebec border, so I'm right in the thick of Anglo/Franco relations. In Nobilis, there are two primary dialects, and not every character has learned both. Also, I might take a satiric stance on capitalism and racial tensions.

Genmos was the first series I ever wrote, so it's kind of my first literary baby.  I actually began it because I fell in love with some anthropomorphic webcomics and thought, hey, I would love to try making a story that's half as good as what I'm reading.

Admittedly it took me years to get there, but I feel like I managed my own goal. It helps too, that I reached out to those who inspired me, and one of them has even written a forward for book 2.

What inspired you to write these particular books?

Genmos was inspired by two particular webcomics. Namir Deiter, and the Cyantian Chronicles. (https://www.namirdeiter.com/ and https://cyantian.net/ respectively) Between study breaks, during my college years, I found myself enjoying reading the online adventures, and I wished to be able to create something as amazing as the worlds that I read. Being only 18, I realized that I could tap into the feelings of my very recent youth, and, taking advantage of it, hopefully write something that would connect with YA readers. Overtime, I worry that many edits have lost some of my connection with my younger self, but at the same time I do think my added maturity has brought more depth and realism to the stories.

Nobilis, on the other hand, was created because of my love of ongoing stories where characters grow and develop. Babylon 5, Star Trek (DS9 onwards) and Robotech all fueled some part of the story telling. But, that’s not all. When I first penned the rough outline, I was going through a kind of Giant-Robot phase, (Gundam, Zone of the Enders, Brain Powered) and I wanted to really play with the dynamic of something alive, familiar, yet alien all in one. Since I was coming into adulthood, I began to make satirical jabs at corporate ownership, which, sadly, seems even more prominent now than ever to me. Lastly, I play around with language barriers. I am an Anglophone, but I live and work in Ottawa and Gatineau, so I often hear French being spoken. Sometimes, heck, oftentimes, the conversations in French are too rapid-fire for my limited language skills to follow, and I wanted to reflect that difficulty, hence why there are two separate primary languages.

Are any of your characters based on either yourself or people you know?

Yes, quite a few… I try to draw inspiration from the world around me whilst paying homage to much of what I care about. The father figures in my works are oft-idealized versions of family, or myself , while other characters have traits of those near and dear to me.

How do you react if/when you get any negative reviews?

So far I haven’t had a negative review, per-se, and that might have to do with the fact that all my work that’s been made available, had been through small presses, so every piece has been refined and edited by amazing teams of dedicated editors.

I’ve had some constructive criticism come my way, and that has been exceedingly valued. I’ve been blessed to avoid trolls, so far, which is a blessing of not being too famous.

Where can people find out more about you and your books? (eg blogs, websites etc)

Oh, time to plug my website and blog, which I TRY to keep up to date. http://scoghlan.com, which also has links to my other social media accounts. Now, to be honest, you can almost always find me on Twitter as @WordsBySC.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Yes, and it's taking a toll on my emotions. I had an idea to write a Gender/Cyberpunk story based on an American parolee in the near future. So, I started my research by contacting some people who've experienced the penal system first hand. 

Holy Crud, I am so happy to be Canadian. I know Canada's penal system isn't a walk in the park filled with unicorn farts, but what I heard from those who replied is far more depressing.

Do you have any advice to other authors who would like to be published?

Be willing to accept criticism. Writing is a craft, an art, and it can take time and help to create something clear, concise, emotional, and vivid. My ego stopped me from being published for over a decade until my wife slapped some sense into me when she told me that the opening to my first book made no sense.

Others had informed me of similar flaws, but I had ignored them because how Dare someone tell an artist how to hold their brush! The thing is, language is a fickle beast and must be treated delicately. If your words do not convey an idea in a way that can be understood, than no one is going to be able to follow your ideas, your characters' actions, the plot, the politics, etc.

Where do you write?

Honestly? As a father of young kids and a full time technician for building automation, the answer is wherever I am when I have a spare moment, which in turn often means… while I’m on the toilet where I can lock the door.

Hey, it gives me a good excuse if people find my writing a bit crappy…

If you could be any paranormal or have any one supernatural talent, what would it be? Why?

Telepathy. I would love to be able to move things with my mind. I don’t need to know what others are thinking. I don’t need to fly. I don’t need an independent super-healing power… Let me be a living crane. I can do so much more supporting construction, or lifting debris off injured people, or tearing apart a burning automobile to rescue those trapped inside.

Chocolate or Ice Cream?

Double chocolate Ice Cream?

You’re in a horror film. You’re in a house and a bad guy is chasing you. Do you run up the stairs?

If I’m in the basement…

What’s your favorite music?

Metal, where you can clearly hear the singer and their lyrics. I love metal, but I’m not a fan of growls and grunts. Give me something where the vocals are clear and concise and I can understand the meaning.

Thank you Stephen! It was great to learn more about you and your writing and your novels. Good luck with your future writing endeavors! 









Thursday, May 30, 2019

My Dream Computer

I got a new laptop a while back (first part of April). My eight-year old Dell was dying. In the end, it simply refused to boot. Luckily, I'd already gotten all the files off of it so I didn't lose anything. It's rather ironic because I took good care of it and it looks brand new. But it doesn't work.

My new computer is simply a laptop. I got a docking station for it so I could use it like a desktop with my large screen, large keyboard, and my printer.

But I have a dream of the perfect computer. I want it to act like a desktop when I'm working at my desk, like a laptop when I'm working somewhere else, and a tablet when I want a tablet.

Now, I know the Microsoft Surface comes very close to that. There are even docking stations available for it. The thing I didn't like about the surface was its keyboard and its hefty price if you needed a large amount of internal storage. And I do.

But here's the kicker that may be impossible. When I'm not using my computer, I want it to be a phone. That is, the same size as a smart phone and work like a smart phone. So it needs the ability to become smaller. As I said, that's probably impossible.

Well, I do know they are working on foldable displays for phones, so they can unfold almost the the size of a tablet. So maybe not quite impossible.

But a man can dream.

What do you want in a perfect computer? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Changes in Attitude

When I traveled on business to South American about 12 years ago, I noticed something: there was litter everywhere. Okay, maybe not everywhere, but it seemed to be a lot of if.

And it reminded me of when I was a kid in the U.S., there was litter almost everywhere. That was the 1960s (yes, I'm old). But two things happened. 1) they made it against the law (or increased the penalties) to litter and 2) they started an ad campaign against littering. That included this iconic commercial. And people's attitudes about littering changed and now you rarely see much litter in the U.S. (Go to Canada, there's zero litter.)

Same thing happened with seat belts. When I was a kid, no one wore seat belts. That continued into the mid 1980s. Then, once again, attitudes changed. There were ads about the benefits of wearing seat belts and states passed laws making it illegal to not wear them. Now I wear them religiously (feels weird to be in a car and not wear them). My kids have never known a time when you didn't wear seat belts.

Drunk driving use to be a joke. Then, once again, attitudes shifted when laws were made more draconian and there were campaigns against it. And drunk driving deaths have fallen. Again, when I was in South America, drunk driving was no big deal. A customer driving me to dinner said his car was a hybrid. I asked how that was possible (it was a Hyundai minivan-like thing not sold in the U.S.). He said, "gas in the car and alcohol in me." Believe me, I wore my seat belt on that trip.

So public attitudes can change. I've lived long enough to see it happen. Or maybe people just don't want to pay the penalties.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Math

Back when I was studying at the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), I took a class called "Fluid Dynamics." It was the hardest class I've every taken. We did differential equations all the time. I was literally doing them in my sleep. Luckily, I'd had had a class in differential equations and loved it because the math actually reflected the real world.

Unfortunately, like all knowledge, it's use it or lose it. I haven't done differential equations since leaving college. Nor calculus. I know the theory behind them but not the mechanics. I can still do algebra fairly well.

In this novel I'm writing (the second of a planned trilogy that is a prequel to Treasure of the Black Hole), I found an occasion when being able to differential equations would be helpful. But, of course, I don't remember how.

So, instead, I did an Excel spreadsheet.

Here's the situation. The bad guys fired missiles at the good guys. The missiles were accelerating at 100 times the force of gravity (gees). The good guy's ship was accelerating at ten gees toward the missiles. Even though this was taking place in three-dimensional space, I simplified it to being on a line. The captain of the good guys ship asked "How long until the missiles are in firing range." And that's when I realized I had to do the math.

The ship and the missiles were approximately 1 AU apart (98 million miles). I set up a spreadsheet that would at each second calculate how far the missiles had gone and what speed they were going and did the same for the ship, calling its velocity and acceleration negative. I ignored relativity (even though the missiles would be going 5% the speed of light when they were close to the ship).

So I set up my equations (which used the data from the previous equation to do the math) and copied them down (and down and down) until the ship and the missiles were close together on my line. And that happened at 16,653 seconds. or about 4 hours 36 minutes.

And all that work because one character asked a question.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Pour Out that Water Bottle

I try not to use disposable plastic water bottles because I think they are ridiculous. Get a glass of water. But sometimes it's unavoidable (unless I want to go thirsty, which I don't).

The biggest issue I have with plastic water bottles is something someone once told me. If you throw out the bottle with water still in it, and the cap on, that water will be sequestered and out of the environment until the bottle decomposes in a thousand years or so (according to this website, it takes about 450 years or more).

Why is this a problem. Well, according to this website (an anti-plastic bottle site), Americans throw out 38 billion plastic water bottles a year. There are 12 billion recycled according to that same website, so almost a quarter of them are recycled. But if each of those 38 billion bottles not recycled end up in a land fill with an average of only one ounce of water in them, that's 296.9 million gallons of water. That's almost 450 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

If there's an average of 2 ounces, that's almost 900 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And that water will not re-enter the environment for 450 years, at least.

So if you're not going to drink all the water in your water bottle, pour the water out. Pour it out on the ground, pour it down a sink. Anything other than leaving it in the bottle. And throw the bottle out with the cap off so the little bit of remaining water can escape.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Writing Press Releases

In my freelancing life, I am often sent press releases for events. And I am often shocked by how much information is left out, leaving me to email or call to fill in the details. If they remember to include an email or phone number, that is.

In writing a press release, you want to remember the "Five Ws" (plus one "H"). That is:


  1. Who
  2. What
  3. When
  4. Where
  5. Why
  6. How
Who is doing (or did) the thing? Remember to include an email and/or phone number.

What are they doing (or did they do)? Details are important.

When will (or did) it happen? Date AND time.

Where will (or did) it happen? Be specific and include an address.

Why will (or did) it happen? Again, details are important,

And how will it (or was it) done. Details detail details.

If you remember the five Ws and one H, you will do a much better job writing a press release. And I won't pound my head on the desk in frustration.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Toyota and BMW?

2020 Toyota Supra
(I seem to be on a car kick lately.)

In the 1980s I read two books set in an amusement park. The first one was called Dream Park and it was written by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. (I just looked on Amazon and there's four Dream Park books now.)

In the second one I read (might have been The Barsoom Project) there's a ride that takes visitors through a sunken Los Angeles (there was a big earthquake and a lot of LA is under water). One of the characters says, "Hey look, there's Mercedes from before they merged with Toyota." I'm paraphrasing, of course from 35 plus years of memory.

At the time, that didn't seem implausible because of gas shortages and car sales were down. But it, of course, never happened. (The big earthquake never happened either...yet.)

But would you believe Toyota and that other icon of German cars, BMW? They aren't merging, but they are building a car together. The Toyota will be the return of the Supra. But it will have a BMW chassis, BMW engine, and a lot of BMW parts in the interior. The BMW will be the Z4. Both cars will be built in a plant Graz, Austria. A Toyota made in Europe and exported to the US? I don't think that's ever happened before.

The Supra is a good-looking car (see above). The Z4 is a handsome car, but I like the Supra better.

Pricing isn't available, but I bet neither car will be cheap.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

SUVs and Pickups

Cadillac SUV
Speaking of cars...

The other day I was following a pickup truck into town. Pickup trucks are very common in this farming community where I live. And I started thinking about how every U.S. car manufacturer is cutting back on making/selling cars, especially sedans, in favor of crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. The best selling vehicle ever is the Ford F-150 pickup. And car manufactures make huge profits on pickups and SUVs and not so much on cars. The reason is that they can keep the price up due to demand while a pickup or SUV isn't any more expensive to make, and often less expensive, than a sedan. Meanwhile, the price of sedans has been beaten down by lack of demand.

In the near future, the only car (not a pickup or crossover or SUV) Ford will make/sell in the U.S. is the Mustang. GM is getting rid of a bunch of low-volume sedans that are Chevrolets, Buicks, and Cadillacs. And FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) announced a while back that they were eliminating two sedans (the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart) from their lineup. Meanwhile, FCA made sure there's an Alfa Romeo SUV sold in America.

For some reason, nearly everyone is buying pickups, SUVs, or the dreaded (by me) crossover. A crossover is an SUV-like vehicle on a car platform. Like a tall station wagon bought by people who wouldn't be caught dead in a station wagon. Such as the Volvo Cross Country, which was basically a Volvo station wagon with a raised suspension and plastic cladding. Sold like hotcakes.

Meanwhile, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Porsche all make SUVs now. And there's a rumored Ferrari SUV coming (probably made with Fiat 500L parts, I'm thinking).

I don't like SUVs and have never owned one. I see pickups as utility vehicles that some people need, such as farmers. But a lot of people buy pickups who never use them as utility vehicles. And a option-heavy pickup can run you over $60,000. I'd rather have a nice car.

What do you like to drive? Am I alone here in my disdain of SUVs and crossovers? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions

Sixties-era Camaro
Starting today, the Barrett-Jackson auto auction will be running in Palm Beach, Florida. It will run until Sunday.

These auctions are televised and I can watch hours and hours of it. And hours. I love watching the collector cars and seeing how much they sell for. In January, when they held their last sale (that time in Scottsdale, Arizona), I was shocked by how much some cars were selling for. A basic 1960s-era Camaro or Mustang might go for six figures. I didn't know if it was the good economy or what that drove up the price of the cars.

There are basically four types of cars sold at these auctions (and Barrett-Jackson isn't the only one, it's just the one on TV): Used cars, restored cars, "restomod" cars, and custom cars. Oh, and then there's the charity cars.

Used cars (my term) are not classics. They might only be as much as ten years old. They are usually high-end cars such as Porsches, Ferraris, Bentlys. I even saw a black 2007 Corvette Z06 be auctioned off (and it went for a few thousand over the Kelly Bluebook price).

Restored cars are older cars that someone restored to look as new as possible. Most even have period-looking tires (I have no idea where you buy those). I love restored cars. They are usually very pretty. But then I think about owning one. They all have carburetors. And while I know what a carburetor does and how it works, I have no idea how to adjust or maintain one. One car I saw in January had three carburetors.

Restomods are cars that have been restored and modified. You take a 1960s-era Camaro and put in a modern fuel-injected engine, modern suspension, modern brakes, and modern tires. This has an appeal because you get the great look of a older car with the safety and convenience of modern parts.

Customs cars don't appeal to me at all (except classic street rods). This is where you take a car and modify the body to customize it. Usually they shoehorn in a huge V-8 engine, redo the interior, and put big wheels on it.
A Street Rod

A street rod is a Model A Ford (usually) with a huge V-8 engine put in. The roof is usually "copped" (lowered) and there are modern suspension, brakes, and wheels, The only reason I like them is I like the look.

The other game I play is guessing how much a car will sell for. As I said, in January they sold for a lot more than I was expecting. The past few years, Chrysler muscle cars have been going for over $100,000. But this year it seemed almost any classic muscle car for the 1960s would sell for over $100,000. I was shocked. And I can't wait to see what happens in Palm Beach.

Another thing that doesn't surprise me are the guys (almost always men) who buy these cars. They tend to be in their fifties or sixties. So these are the cars they wanted as kids. And, they have the money to buy them. I wonder in 20 years if soupped up Hondas will go for $100,000.

Once I looked into what it takes to be a bidder at one of these auctions. You have to be able to wire the money you bid for the car (if you win the auction) almost immediately. And there's a 6% buyer's fee on top of the bid price. That's in addition to what the seller pays (a percentage of the selling price, I'm sure). They won't take checks.

I like sixties-era Mustangs and Camaros. Not real crazy about stuff made by Chrysler (Dodge, Plymouth) although those seem more popular. My dream car is a restored, pre-1969 Mustang Shelby GT 500. They usually go for well over $100,000.

Well, it's fun to dream.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Casablanca

I re-watched the move Casablanca recently. I'm not sure how many times I've seen this movie. But this time I especially paid attention to the writing. This movie is written amazingly well. There's not a wasted word or comment. And there are many memorable lines that people still quote to this day, even 76 years after the film's release. One of my favorites (I'm not sure why) is when Rick talks about the Germans marching in Paris. Speaking to Ilsa he says, "I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue."

But there were so many memorable lines. One that get's used often (even by people who probably don't know its origin) is feigned surprise saying "I'm shocked, shocked." The full line is: "I'm shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here." It's spoken by Claude Rains playing the lovable but slimy Captain Renault. And right after he says it, he is handed his "winnings" (bribes) for the evening.

Rick was, of course, played by Humphrey Bogart. Ilsa was played by a young Ingrid Bergman. The acting was never over the top, as it could be and sometimes was in old movies. And each shot by director Michael Curtiz is exquisite. I can't imagine the movie being any better if it were in color. In fact, it probably wouldn't work.

Casablanca was made during the days of the "studio system" when actors, writers, and directors all worked for one studio. That is all came together on this movie is amazing.

Yes, the airplane is obviously a model when it's flying. The movie was made during World War II and aviation fuel had to go to the war effort, I assume.

There's a reason this movie is so revered. It deserves all its accolades. There is literally nothing I would change about it.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Public Bathrooms

I hate public bathrooms, and the smaller they are, the worse they are. I suppose no one likes public bathrooms.

For example, at our local Starbucks (okay, we have three), there are two bathrooms. Both are unisex bathrooms with one toilet, one sink, a baby changing station, a towel dispenser, and a fancy Dyson hand dryer. 

Sometimes you go into the bathroom and a woman has been in there and it smells of her perfume. This is not all together unpleasant. But sometimes you go in and it smells like a porta-potty three days past its service date.

Speaking of porta-potties, they are about the worst. They smell, they're small, and my biggest fear is dropping something down them such as my phone or wallet.

When I went to see the eclipse in August 2017, the organizers didn't have enough porta-potties (they needed about three times as many) and by the end of the day, they were literally overflowing.

Airplane bathrooms are just often too damn small. One a plane trip I took in January, I was hitting my head on the curve of the fuselage. Not fun.

The other problem with public bathrooms is cleanliness. Now, admittedly, for some reason, this has improved over my lifetime. When I was a kid, you assumed a public bathroom would be filthy and only used one if you were desperate. Now it's rare to find one that's very dirty. But you still have to deal with toilet paper on the floor or an unclean toilet.

Of course, I've used outhouses. Yes, wooden outhouses that people had instead of indoor plumbing. So my idea of "clean" might be off.

The final thing I hate about public toilets is when people don't flush. Why? Is it some misguided attempt to save water? I don't want to see, let alone smell, your crap. If I wanted to do that, I'd go to a porta-potty.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Getting in Trouble

One of the things I hated most as a child (and into adulthood) was getting in trouble. I was always afraid someone would yell at me for being wrong. For years, this meant I wouldn't do things if I thought there was the slightest chance of getting yelled at for it. I would simply refuse. This did not go over well when I worked in the corporate world. So I worked hard to overcome that. But I still have that issue.

For instance, I would not pull up to the front door of a hotel to check in and unload luggage for fear someone would get mad at me. Now I do it anyway (but it's a struggle every time). And, guess what, no one has ever gotten mad at me.

Part of this is also my fear of screwing up. If I don't know for sure how to do something, and don't think I can figure it out, I will just shut down and not do it. My middle son does the exact same thing. I guess he got my genes.

All of this is part of why I think I might be on the Autism spectrum, admittedly not far on it. But when I look at my childhood, I think I might be further along the spectrum than I think, I'm just faking it well as an adult.

And I still hate getting in trouble. People who don't care if they get in trouble amaze me. I kind of wish I could be like them, but a lot of them are criminals and psychos.

It's also part of my over-active imagination. I can always imagine the worst case scenario.

How do you feel about getting in trouble? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Best Steak Ever

Steakhouse 55 Steak
I like steak and I'm always looking for a great one. Some of the best steaks I've had were bought from local ranchers and cooked at home. My son has this method of cooking steaks that makes them delicious. I believe he learned it from YouTube.

But the best steak is one you don't have to cook, i.e., bought in a restaurant. Ruth Chris Steakhouse (which is a chain) makes really good steaks. I haven't been to one of those forever (since my oldest son graduated the University of Washington and that was June of 2012). I keep waiting for my second son to graduate college so I can take him there.

But the best steak I've ever had was at Disneyland. Seriously. Off the Disneyland Hotel is Steakhouse 55. Like Ruth Chris, you order a steak and then you order side dishes to go with it. And it's quite expensive (Ruth Chris is cheaper, relatively). I didn't see the bill (it was a family dinner and my father paid) but I saw the prices on the menu. I was there about 11 months ago.

The steak was in every way perfect. Tender, juicy, flavorful, and cooked to perfection. The only weird thing was it was served with a bit of bone marrow inside a bone (see picture). I wasn't sure what to do with that, so I left it alone.

It felt as if the steak literally melted in your mouth, it was that tender. And it tasted so good. And the sides were delicious. They had both potato and vegetable sides. We ordered a multi-layer chocolate cake for dessert, and it was amazing.

If you're in southern California, I would suggest visiting Steakhouse 55. I also recommend reservations. And maybe a short-term loan to pay for it.

In my novel Treasure of the Black Hole, there is a scene where my character is having breakfast with the emperor of the Core Empire. And it's almost food porn. You should check it out.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Volcanoes

Mt. Rainier (left of center) from my house
Ah, the first of March. We're getting closer to spring. Spring brings warmer weather, of course, and clearer skies.

On a clear day from my house I can see three Cascade Range volcanoes. The most prominent of these is Mt. Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington State. At 14,411 feet, it lords over much of the State. I've seen it from east of Ritzville when the conditions are perfect.

One of the best views of Rainier is from a ridge called Ryegrass between Vantage and Ellensburg on I-90.

Rainier is considered on of the most dangerous volcanoes in America. It's proximity to urban areas (Tacoma and Seattle and their suburbs), means there is great potential for destruction if it ever erupts. Unlike volcanoes in Hawaii, the threat isn't lava, it's lahars. As snow and glaciers on the mountain melt from the volcanic heat, they mix with dirt to make mud flows that head downhill. That's a lahar.

Here's a story from last fall about Rainier's (and Mt. St. Helens) eruption potential.

The other volcano I can see is Mt. Adams. Mt. Adams is more isolated and volcanologists don't think it's going to erupt soon. So it's much safer than Mr. Rainier. If you drive through the small town of Goldendale in southern Washington, you get a great view of Mt. Adams if the weather is good. And, if conditions are right, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood. You used to be able to see Mt. St. Helens from there, until it blew its top.

Finally, the third volcano I can see is just the very top of Glacier Peak. While Glacier Peak has a similar expectation of erupting as Mt. Rainier, it is very isolated so the danger is mostly from ash. Glacier Peak is so isolated you have to hike miles just to get to it.

Living in central Washington State, I don't have to worry about hurricanes or tornadoes (although we do very rarely get small ones that don't last long). But earthquakes and volcanoes, those are our disasters of choice. I should know, I was here for when Mt. St. Helens blew.




Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Tree

Douglas fir
When I moved to Vancouver, Washington in 1994 after graduating college (University of Washington, Go Dawgs!), I bought a house that had a tree in the back yard. But this wasn't just any tree. I have no idea how old it was but I bet at least 100 years. It was the tallest tree in the neighborhood. I would estimate it was about 100 feet tall (one foot per year?). I think it was a Douglas fir. (My uncertainty is memory. At the time I knew what it was. As a forestry major, I should.) It sat in one corner of our yard majestically piercing the blue sky.

Once we had a huge wind storm with 100 mph winds. And the tree stayed up. Other, smaller trees in the area came down. But our tree survived. I remember whenever the wind blew, our neighbor would look out their back window watching the tree. Because if it came down, it would likely hit their house. But it never, ever came down.

Then we sold the house in 1999 and moved to central Washington. The sad thing is, the people who bought the house took that tree down because they were afraid it was going to fall. So after 100 years or so, it was finally taken down by fear. I felt bad about that.

Do you have any memories about trees? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Onward (and Finished)

End of the Line
Time once again for the 52-week blogging challenge. This is the last one! If you've been counting, I haven't done a whole year because I skipped some of the prompts. I found this challenge here.

The last prompt is: "Onward." Not exactly sure what they mean. (I've always heard that as "onward and upward.")

Onward, I'm going to try to keep writing, keep selling books, keep being read by strangers. Keep trying to do freelance work and keep busy. Try to keep enjoying life. And just keep writing.

And, as always work toward my goal of being read by strangers. And, I hope, make a little money in the process.

What do you plan to do from here on out? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

RadCon

It's time once again for RadCon, the scifi/fantasy convention in Pasco, Washington. This year I have a conflict so I will only be there Saturday and Sunday. And I'm only on two panels this year for the same reason. But I plan to show up early(ish) Saturday.

It is at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco. You take the same exit as for the airport. You can see the hotel from the freeway.

My two panels are:

I Wrote a Book - Now What?

16 Feb 2019, Saturday 11:30 - 12:30, Room 3125 (Red Lion Hotel Pasco, WA)


You've done it. You've got the book. It's a tome. A masterpiece. A precious jewel you've polished and cut and edited to within an inch of it's life. But what's next? Do I send it to an agent? Directly to a house? Small press? Author collective? Indie Publishing. Our panel of authors will break down the pros, cons, and other particulars of your options, and hopefully help you along with that next step.

And:

Imposter Syndrome


16 Feb 2019, Saturday 16:30 - 17:30, Sage Room (Red Lion Hotel Pasco, WA)

We often hear about it in the fine arts, but people in any career field can experience imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome can also occur in any aspect of life - not just in one's career. What is it, and why does it happen? What are strategies for countering or pushing past it? Come talk to the pros about their strategies for dealing with the traitorous voice inside that says their art isn't good enough, and how they break through to create.

And I'll be in the main Vendor Room from time to time selling books. So look for me. You might snag a free bookmark! And maybe buttons.



Thursday, February 7, 2019

Neighbors

Time once again for the 52-week blogging challenge. This is the penultimate prompt. And it is "Neighbors."

I live in a subdivision outside the city limits. My neighbors to the north are named "White" (I know this because they have a big sign in an island in their driveway saying "The Whites"). They also have a flagpole and fly either a U.S. flag or a Seahawks "12" flag from it. I noticed this year they didn't put the "12" flag up. Maybe because the Seahawks did poorly at the beginning of the season. Toward the end they played well enough to earn a "wildcard" slot. And then lose to Dallas.

I don't know much about the Whites. They have an annoying dog who barks a lot. At least no one can sneak up on our front door because that dog barks at them. He drives an old Ford pickup that is puke beige with red markings. It is long and has dualie wheels.

My neighbors to the south are Hispanic. I don't remember their names but they are nice people. Once when there was a fire in the field behind out house that threatened the house and I was out there with a garden hose trying to hold it back, their youngest (who was then in his late 20s) ran over with another garden hose to help me fight it. The the fire department showed up and put it down in about ten seconds with the massive water flow from their truck.

The neighbors directly across the street from us I know almost nothing about. They have kids who look to be about 12 or 13 years old. Next door to them are neighbors we've known since we moved into the neighborhood in 1999. When my sons were in scouts, they were also involved in scouting (and still are). He's a retired Navy doctor and she's a retired nurse. I wrote a story about them for a local magazine.

How do you get along with your neighbors? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hope and Inspiration

Back to the 52-week blogging challenge. I'm getting close to the end of it. Today's prompt is "Hope + Inspiration." Or should that be read as "Hope and Inspiration"?

Hope? I hope to sell books. I hope to write books people can't put down. I hope to inspire a few people with my writing.

Inspiration? Who knows where inspiration comes from as a writer? You have an idea (how? why?) and it turns into a novel because you have the inspiration to type it out and make it as good a novel as you can.

So I try to just keep writing. Doesn't always happen. I'll take breaks of days or even weeks. When I'm busy with freelance stuff, I won't write fiction at all because all my energy goes to the paying work.

But I try (don't always succeed) to "Just keep writing."

What do you hope for and what inspires you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Home

Back to the 52-week blogging challenge. I'm getting close to the end so then I'll have to find something else for prompts. Today's prompt is: "Home."

People say "Home is where the heart is." Which is probably true (cliches are often true). I work out of my home so I spend a great deal of time at home. But I rather like it that way. I've always been a home body. I'd rather stay home than go pretty much anywhere. I do leave home daily for Starbucks (if I don't, I go stir crazy). And I like to leave home for vacations to places I haven't been before. But sitting in my recliner reading or watching TV is probably one of my favorite activities. When I travel, one of the best parts is coming home to my chair, my bed, my shower.

So what defines "home" for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Radio Interview Today

Today at 4:00 PM EST (1:00 PM PST), I will be on Red River Radio's "What's Write for Me" radio so, being interviewed and reading from one of my novels. It's going to be fun and you're not going to want to miss it. To listen, follow this link here: Red River Radio.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Color

Time once again for the 52-week blogging challenge. Today's prompt is "My colour is .." (that's exactly how it was in the list).

Well, first of all it's "color." I'm an American and we don't put in superfluous "u"s.

But what is my color? I like white. One of my cars is white. I may not buy another white car because every third car in the parking lot is white. Maybe blue or maybe even red.

I seem to like yellow. Another of my cars is yellow. And my house is yellow. When I bought this house, it was kind of a peach color. And I thought it would look better as yellow. So when it needed painting, we went with  yellow.

I had a yellow Schwinn 10-speed as a teenager (until I got my driver's license).

I like hot pink. With my color blindness it's about the only pink I can see. Don't ask me why I like it.
Hot Pink
I'll deny it.

So what's my color? Maybe red for my (formerly) red hair.

But I think I'll stick with yellow.

What's your color? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

All Work and No Play....

Back to the 52-week blogging challenge. Today's prompt is "Work + Play." I'm not sure if that's supposed to be "work plus play" or "work and play."

I talked about rest here. But resting isn't playing.

Ever since I left the corporate world, work and play are a lot a like. I get to my hobby as work, i.e., writing. Now, sometimes writing is hard work, especially freelance writing. But I love doing it.

I guess my only pure forms of play are watching movies and driving. Although lately I haven't been driving as fast as I used to. I've sort of lost my desire to risk jail for the joy of going over 100 mph. (Of course, now that it's winter, driving fast is out of the question). I've thought about returning to the racetrack, but it is so damn expensive. Not the fees so much but you can go through tires and brakes in a couple of days. And tires on my car are very expensive. Plus I think I'd need to buy a new helmet.

But I am so thankful that I get to do what I love as my work. Just wish it paid better.

What do you do for play, and who does that relate to your work? Let me know in the comments below.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Huskies are #13

The final AP college football poll came out yesterday after the CFP playoff game (I find myself happy that Alabama lost). And the University of Washington Huskies ended the season at lucky #13. This is an improvement over last year when they ended the season at #16. But it's way down from 2016 when they ended at #4.

Washington lost their bowl game to Ohio State which ended the year at #3.

The only other Pac-12 team in the top 25 was Washington State. They were #10 after winning their bowl game. (I don't want to talk about it.)

I've said it before, but back when the Huskies sucked (like in 2008), I said I had four criteria for a good season:

1) Win at least 8 games (and they did, winning 10)
2) Beat Oregon (they didn't)
3) Beat WSU (they did)
4) Go to a good bowl and win it. (They went to the best bowl, but lost).

Well, I'm still happy with my Huskies and will be their fans no matter what.

Now we just have to wait until August 31st when college football starts again.

Monday, January 7, 2019

College Football Post-Season

The college football post-season play is almost over. There's one last game, tonight, the FBS national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. No surprise there. If you care, it's at 5:00 PM PST on ESPN.

The bowl season was almost exactly what I didn't want. Teams I wanted to win lost and teams I wanted to lose won.  I basically cared about Pac-12 teams. I wanted all of them to win except Oregon and Washington State. Here's table of what happened:

As you can see, the Pac-12 went 3-4 in post-season play. There was only one upset: Utah versus Northwestern.

The Rose Bowl (Washington and Ohio State) was fairly close and a lot of people were expecting a blow-out. The final score was 23-28. If Washington has played the entire second half the way they played the fourth quarter, they would have won.

The college football regular season starts August 30, 2019. A long wait until then.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Culture

Time once again for the 52-week blogging challenge. I'm getting close to the end.

Today's prompt is "Culture."

I used to work with bacteria cultures such as the one pictured to the left. Good times!

Culture is an interesting thing. Corporations say they have a "corporate culture" and that's why they succeed or fail. Countries have cultures and that's why some have lots of problems and some don't. Culture isn't race based, it's usually location based. There can be micro-cultures (my term) inside a larger culture. There is an inner-city culture and a suburbs culture. There's a drug culture in the U.S. And a gun culture.

Culture often determines how you live. If you dropped me in the middle of an New Guinea tribe that's had no contact with the outside world, I would have to adopt their culture to survive. Which would be tough since I was raised and live in a totally difference culture. If you took someone from that culture and dropped them into the U.S., they would have to adapt to it or they wouldn't survive.

And interesting movie about culture clashes is The Gods Must be Crazy. Which unfortunately, isn't on Netflix disc or streaming.

What do you think about culture? Am I nuts or am I right? Let me know in  the comments below.