Thursday, September 12, 2019

Outdoors

Now that summer is over and it's getting more fall-like, I have a confession. I don't like the outdoors. My snappy comeback if someone asks why is "Outdoors is sunburn and allergies." Of course, after seven years of allergy shots, my allergies are better. But  I still get sunburned very quick and very easily.

When I was in high school and college, one of the "treats" for the class would be to hold it outside. This usually happened in the spring. Everyone else in the class was saying "Yay!" and I was saying, "Oh, no." I would, at the very least, have to find some shady spot to stay out of direct sunlight. But sometimes there wouldn't be shade. And you'd have to sit on the ground (no thanks) and squint against the bright sunshine.

So why did I join the Army, which does most of its stuff outdoors. I don't know. Maybe I was crazy. We did this one "field exercise" in the Mojave Desert in August. The uniform was supposed to be sleeves rolled up to above the elbow. I kept mine down the entire time. I didn't want to get immediately sunburned. I was shocked I didn't get in trouble with the First Sergeant who was a massive racist jerk.

So, now it's fall. Cooler weather and no snow...yet. And people don't want to go outside for random reasons. Sounds good to me.

What are your feelings about being outside. Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Huskies are 1-1

Maybe this is a rebuilding year.

Last night the University of Washington Huskies played the University of California at Berkeley Golden Bears. Going into the game, the Huskies were both favored and ranked.

But after about six minutes of play, the game was suspended for lightning in the area. The weather delay was an interminable two hours and 38 minutes. That meant that the game restarted at about 10:30 PM. It lasted until around 1:15 AM.

And the Huskies lost, 20 - 19. Not a huge lost but bad enough. The Husky defense had trouble stopping the Bears. The Husky offense had problems connecting and moving the ball. It didn't look like the same team that beat Eastern Washington last week. The defense could not make tackles.

Yes, everyone was tired. But so were the Bears. Probably the only thing that helped the Bears was that the weather delay caused is about half the fans left, meaning there wasn't as much fan noise when the Bears had the ball.

But now I'm worried about the rest of the year. If we couldn't beat California how can we beat USC, Oregon, Utah, and Washington State whom we all play at home. Never mind winning on the road.

Maybe Coach Chris Petersen will have some magic between now and next week when we play Hawaii at home (4:30 PM on Pac-12 Network). We'll see.

Because the game ran so late I got to bed at about 1:30 AM.  I slept until almost 10:30 AM. Even house-rattling thunder at about 5:00 AM from our own lightning storm couldn't keep me awake. Which really messed up my day which is why I'm posting this at almost 5:00 PM rather than this morning.

At least the Seahawks won...barely.

The Polls:

In the AP top 25 Football poll, Washington dropped nine spots to 23. This puts them barely ahead of USC at 24. Washington State is at 20, Oregon moved up one to 15, and Utah is still the highest ranked Pac-12 team at #11.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Words

I have a theory about words. And that is, the shorter they are, the more common they are. If they are one syllable, they are probably quite common. The more syllables they have, the less common they are.  This is also why swear words tend to be one syllable.

Think about it. Almost everything you touch every day is a one-syllable word. Some may be contractions of longer words or phrases (the "el" for "elevated train, for example).

Look at the car. It, in the space of about 50 years went from "horseless carriage" to "automobile" to "auto" to "car."

The telephone became "phone." the smart phone also became "phone." Applications became "apps" but I think that was more a marketing thing.

As computers become more common, they too will probably be shortened. I've already heard computers called "puter." Will in fifty years they be called "pute" or "comp"?

Can you think of something you touch everyday that was two, three, or more syllables? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

AP Top 25, Week 2

For some reason the AP is calling their poll released today "Week 2." They were calling the preseason poll "Week 1" earlier, and I thought that was a mistake. Or maybe it was supposed to be Week 1 but nothing changed (no ranked teams played).

So, after winning their game against Eastern Washington and looking great, the University of Washington Huskies...drop one rank to #14. They essentially traded places with Utah who moved up to #13. Utah beat BYU.

Stanford moved from 25 to 23 and WSU went from 23 to 22. All those teams won their games.

But then the University of Oregon Ducks lost to Auburn. This dropped them from 11 to 16. Auburn went from 16 to 10.

From now on, the AP poll comes out on Sunday morning (my time) so I won't have to make a separate post for it. I'm not sure when the CFP rankings start coming out. Usually around week 8 if I remember correctly.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Huskies Win Their First Game

Yesterday (Sunday), I forgot to write this blog post, so I'm doing it today.

Saturday the University of Washington Huskies played the Eastern Washington University (EWU) Eagles in their first game of the 2019 season. I wasn't too worried about this game because EWU is an FCS team, albeit one of the best FCS teams (they were beaten in the championship game last year by North Dakota State). That, and after four years of Jake Browning at quarterback, we were breaking in a new QB in Jacob Eason. His skills were an unknown.

I needn't worry. Eason proved to be a very capable quarterback and the receiving squad also showed its skills, especially Aaron Fuller who made two spectacular catches in the end zone for touchdowns. At one time the Huskies had the ball at the exact center of the field and Eason threw a long bomb that was caught by Andre Baccellia and ran in for a TD. It reminded me of the Jake Browning-John Ross era.

In the end, the second best team in the FCS couldn't keep up with the Huskies' offense. Toward the end of the game, as he often does when the score is lopsided, Coach Chris Petersen put in second stringers. Even then they managed to get a safety. The final score was 47-14.

Next week we play California at home in the Huskies' first conference game. Having seen Eason's abilities, I'm only slightly worried about that game, too (although maybe I should worry more; last year California beat us). The game is at 7:30 PM on FS1.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12

The big hype this year is around the  #11 Oregon Ducks (whom I hate). They played #16 Auburn in Texas and nearly won. They led most of the game but ended up losing. I know it would have been better for the Pac-12 if they won, but I can't help but be happy that they lost.

Polls

The AP poll doesn't come out until tomorrow sometime. I'll likely have a post when it does. I'm not counting on the Huskies moving much (they are at #13). But Oregon should drop a bit.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

College Football, A Primer: A Notional Game

We're almost to the end of our college football primer. See here, here, here, here, here, and here for earlier posts.

Today, we'll talk about a notional game.

A Notional Partial Game

The home team, the Walla Walla Wolves (a fictional team), won the toss and elected to defer. So they will kick off the ball to start the game. The kicker kicks the ball and it goes into the end zone and out the back of the end zone. This is a "touch back." Play starts on the 25 yard line. It's 1st and 10. The Pasco Ponies (another fictional team) lines up behind the line of scrimmage. The center snaps the ball to the quarterback, he drops back and throws a long "bomb" to a wide receiver down the field. But the receiver can't catch the ball.  It's 2nd and ten. The Ponies line up again. This time the quarterback hands it off to a running back who gets seven yards past the line of scrimmage before he's tackled. It's 3rd and 3. The Ponies again line up. And again, the running back gets the ball. He runs four yards past the scrimmage line before he's brought down. It's now 1st and 10 on the 34 yard line.

The Ponies get ready to play again, lining up behind the line of scrimmage. But before they get the play off, an official throws a flag. Because of crowd noise, the Ponies were "off sides." They get a five yard penalty. Now it's 1st and 15 at the 29 yard line. The ball is snapped again and the quarterback hands it to a running back. But he's tackled at the 28 yard line. It's now 2nd and 16. The next play the Ponies try a pass, but the defensive players make it to the quarterback and "sack" him on the 25 yard line. It's now 3rd and 19. Wanting to be conservative and not risk an interception, the Ponies run the ball again and the running back gets a good eleven yards before he's tackled. But it's now 4th and 8 on the 34. So the Ponies punt.

The ball goes to the 5 yard line on the opposite side of the field and is "downed" by a Ponies player. That means he stops it from going farther. He will only do this if he's worried it'll go into the end zone and cause a "touch back."

So the Wolves are on their own 5 yard line and it's 1st and 10. The first play they try a long pass. And it's caught on the 15 yard line and the wide receiver gets four more yards before he's tackled. It's 1st and 10 again (they got their 10 yards and more on the first play). This was also considered a risky play because it's close to the Wolves' end zone and if it were intercepted it would be easy for the defense to get a touchdown. But, instead, it's 1st and 10 on the 19 yard line.

The Wolves run another play, this time they "run the ball" and the running back gets tackled three yards past the line of scrimmage. It's 2nd and 7 on the 22 yard line. Again the Wolves throw the ball and the receiver catches it and runs toward the end zone. He's forced out of bounds at the 45 yard line (the Wolves' 45 yard line, the one between the 50 yard line and their end zone, which remember, is behind them). It's 1st and 10 again.

Again the Wolves run the ball, and the running back makes it to the 45 yard line on the other side of the 50 yard line. This is called "being in Ponies territory." It's 1st and 10 again. Another run but this time there's a flag. A Wolves player is called for holding. The player protests but it does no good and the Wolves are knocked back 10 yards to the 45 yard line on their side of the 50 yard line. It's 1st and 20 now.

The Wolves pass the ball and the wide receiver catches it. He's tackled at the 46 on the Ponies side of the 50. So it's 2nd and 11. Again, the Wolves throw the ball, this time the receiver is "wide open" and he catches the ball and runs to the ten yard line before he's brought down. It's 1st and goal at the 10. Two more plays and the Wolves get the ball into the end zone and score six points. Their point after touchdown (PAT) attempt is good. The score is 7-0.

Conclusion

This should be enough information to get you started watching college football. Once you start watching, you'll realize the power and grace of it.  Pick a team to root for and it's a lot more fun. Or frustrating (I wouldn't pick Oregon State). And college football is so much more fun to watch than baseball, any day. I can't wait for the season to begin this weekend. (Technically, the season began on the 24th with two FBS games: Florida vs. Miami of Florida* and Arizona vs. Hawaii. That was called "week zero." There are also games tonight.)

The University of Washington Huskies of the Pac 12 conference, the team I follow, play at noon PDT on Saturday against Eastern Washington. Eastern isn't going to be a push-over even if they are an FCS team. They were almost the FCS champions last year. It will be shown on the Pac-12 Network.

*There's a Miami of Ohio so you have to distinguish between the two.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Football Last Night

Last night there was both college football and NFL football that I watched.

First there was the "Camping World Kickoff Game" between #8 Florida* and Miami (FL)**. And it was almost an upset. I didn't see the end of the game because of the Seahawks game, but while I was watching (up until the third quarter) the lead went back and forth. If Miami had gotten a couple of lucky breaks, they might have won.

I wonder if when the AP Top 25 Week 1 poll comes out on September 3rd if Florida will drop a bit.

Then I watched the Seattle Seahawks play the Los Angeles Chargers in a pre-season game. Not much excitement there. The Seahawks won. The Chargers tried to make a comeback in the fourth quarter and made the score closer, but they were playing second and third string Seahawks. The Hawks finally won 23-15 but the score was 23-3 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Then I turned to watch the Arizona at Hawaii game. Hawaii has never been considered a good team and Arizona has usually be pretty good. I stopped watched at the end of the third quarter because I was falling asleep. But this morning I learned that Hawaii won, 38-45. That's pretty much an upset and will reduce Arizona's chances, if they had any, of being the Pac-12 South champion.

But I really looking forward to Saturday at noon with my beloved University of Washington Huskies play the Eastern Washington Eagles in non-conference play. Go Dawgs!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Details Details

Today we continue with our primer on college football. See here, here, here, here, and here for previous posts. Today we'll cover details you need to know.

Details, Details

Some little things you need to know:

The "sticks" (also called "the chain").

On the sidelines are the sticks. They are about six-feet tall and each is held by a man. One is placed where the ball is downed at a first down. At the top of this one they will display which down it is. The other stick is ten yards away. There is a ten-yard-long chain between them. Sometimes this is used to measure for a first down. They actually bring the sticks and chain onto the field. On first downs you'll hear the announcer say (sometimes) "They moved the sticks" or "they moved the chain."

Red Shirts

No, these aren't guys who beam down with Captain Kirk and fail to return to the ship. Every player has four years of college "eligibility." That means they can play college ball for four years and only four years. So, if a team wants to keep a player but not play the player (give him a year to get better), they can "red shirt" him. He doesn't play and he keeps his four years of eligibility. It used to be they couldn't play in any games. But in 2018, that was changed to where they can play in up to four games and still be considered a red shirt. I think this is a good change.

Because of this you'll hear the expression "red shirt freshman" for a player that was red-shirted for a year. He's probably academically a sophomore, but in football he's a freshman. You'll also hear "true freshman" for a player that is right out of high school and playing in the game.

Crowd Noise

Football is one of the few games I know of where crowd noise is a factor (basketball is, too). When the visiting team has the ball, the crowd will try to make a lot of noise to disorient the players. Perhaps they won't hear the quarterback's signals and move late. Or they might move early, earning a "false start" penalty. The higher the down, the more noise the crowd will make. This is true in both college and pro football. Century Link Field, where the Seahawks play, is known for being the loudest stadium in the NFL. Husky Stadium, where the University of Washington Huskies play, is also known for being loud.

Sometimes a visiting team can "take the crowd out of the game" by playing well and discouraging the fans. But when 50,000 people are screaming at you, it can be unsettling.

Subjectivity

The officials are human and they make mistakes. That's why there is replay review. But still, some subjectivity comes in. Was that holding or just aggressive blocking? Was it pass interference or just a good job keeping the ball out of the receiver's hands? And where they place the ball at the end of a play can be subjective. It's supposed to be where the ball is when the player is down. But sometimes it gets moved a few inches in either direction. Sometimes this results in a first down when it should have not been. Or a team doesn't get a first down then they should have. Remember, football is a game of inches.

Time Outs

Each team is given six time outs: three in the first half and three in the second half. This is when they can stop play for a period. How long seems to be about a minute or sometimes only 30 seconds. I don't know what determines that. Time outs stop the clock which toward the end of a game may be a necessary strategy. If a team doesn't use all three of its first-half time outs, it still only gets three for the second half.

Depth

"Depth" or "depth chart" is how many players a team has to play at a certain position. The more the better. If you have only a starting quarterback and one back-up quarterback, you don't have much "depth" at the quarterback position. If you have five back-up quarterbacks and they are all pretty good players, you are said to have "good depth" at quarterback. A team with good depth (or a good depth chart) at its key positions can deal with injuries causing players to not be able to play much better than a team without good depth.

Rivalries

College football wouldn't be college football without rivalries. Rivalries are part of what makes college football so fun. A rivalry is when two teams especially dislike each other. And while they want to win every game, beating a rival is especially sweet. Most rivalries are based on geography (Washington/Washington State, Florida/Florida State). Some are based on past actions. The Washington/Oregon rivalry is such a case. It was caused by some boorish actions by, unfortunately, Washington players after a victory and then Oregon being insufferable when they started beating Washington in the early 2000s.

Probably the most famous rivalry is Ohio State and Michigan. I'm not sure what started it.

Monday, August 19, 2019

AP College Football Top 25

The AP Top 25 college football poll came out today at noon Eastern time (9:00 AM my time).

My beloved University of Washington Huskies were #13. Same as they were at the end of last season. The loathed (by me and most Husky fans) Oregon Ducks are at #11.

Other Pac12 teams in the Top 25 are Utah at #14, Washington State at 23, and Stanford at 25.

At the top of the poll, Clemson is #1 and Alabama is #2. No surprises there. But #3 is Georgia, a big jump for them. Ohio State fell to #5 from the #3 spot.

College football starts next weekend (some call it "week zero") with two games. It starts in earnest August 31st.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

College Football, A Primer: The Rules

Today we continue our primer of college football. See here, here, here, and here for previous posts.

 And we'll go over some of the rules of college football.

The Downs

Now we get into the rules and playing of football. There are some differences between college rules and professional football (NFL). The biggest one is that in college, if you catch a ball near the out-of-bounds marker, you only have to get one foot in bounds for it to be considered "in bounds." In the NFL, you have to get two feet down in bounds.

Football is all about downs. A team on offense (with the ball) has four tries, or downs, to get the ball ten yards forward (toward the end zone). Practically, that's three tries, or downs, because the last, or fourth, down the team will often punt the ball or, if close enough, try a field goal.

Sometimes a team will use the fourth down to try to move the ball. This is called "going for it on fourth down." Teams will try this if the distance they have to go is short and they aren't too close to the end zone the opposite team is trying to get into. If they don't make it then, the team that was on defense gets the ball. This is "giving it up on downs."

A punt happens on a fourth down. The offense will kick the ball (punt it) as far down the field as possible to get the other team far away from the end zone they are headed for. But you don't want it to go you the end zone you're kicking toward because then the other team starts on the 25 yard line. The perfect punt stops behind the 5-year line, meaning the other team is more than 95 yards from the end zone they are heading for. The punting team's players can touch the ball. If the receiving team touches it, it becomes a "live ball" and any team that ends up with the ball will get the ball.

Also, on fourth downs, if they are close enough to the end zone, the team may try a field goal instead of punting. In the pros, this is almost possible from the 40 yard line (40 yards from the end zone). In college, it's more likely if they are past the 30 yard line.

The Officials

The officials are the guys wearing black and white striped shirts. They aren't all referees. The head official is the referee. Each one has a title (such as back judge and linesman, and even umpire) and a job to do. If you want to learn more, go here.

The referee is the one who announces what penalties are (see Penalties) over the PA system and on television. You'll often see him confirming with other officials to determine what penalty there is. When an official sees a penalty, he throws a yellow "flag" (cloth) onto the field to signal to the referee (and everyone else) that there was a penalty.

Penalties

There are a lot of penalties in football. A penalty is when a player or team breaks a rule. The "punishment" is moving the ball either closer to the end zone (if the defense makes the penalty) or farther from the end zone (if the offense makes the penalty). The distance depends on the severity of the penalty, usually 5, 10, or 15 yards.

Here are some of the common penalties:

Holding: probably called the most. It's when a player holds a player of the opposite team. Both offense and defense can be called for this. This is a 10 yard penalty.

Off Sides: When a defensive player moves forward before the ball is snapped by the center. (All defensive players can move before the ball is snapped, as long as they don't move forward). This is a 5 yard penalty.

False Start: When an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped. (Again, some offensive players are allowed to move behind the front line). This is a 5 yard penalty.

Delay of Game: When the offense doesn't get the ball snapped before the play clock runs out. This is a 5 yard penalty.

Pass Interference: This is when a player prevents an opposing team play from catching the ball by too much grabbing and holding him. Both offense and defense can be called for this. This is a 15 yard penalty and an automatic first down, unless the offense is guilty, then it's just a 15-yard penalty.

Targeting: This is when a player making a tackle leads with his helmet instead of his shoulder. Especially if he hits the other player's helmet. This is a 15 yard penalty, automatic first down, and the player is ejected from the game.

There are lots of other penalties I haven't mentioned. The best way to learn them is to watch the game.

Kickoffs and Punts

Every game starts with a "kickoff." That is when a team kicks the ball down the field to the other team to start the play. Kickoffs also happen after scores and to start the second half. On a kickoff, the ball is placed on a "Tee" and is kicked from that.

A punt is done on a 4th down to get the ball down the field as far as possible. A punt is an offensive play and the defense will attempt to block it. The ball is snapped to the punter who then drop kicks it. The receiving team will try to catch the ball. If they don't, the kicking team will try to "down" the ball as close to the end zone as possible.

Next week we'll go over some details you'll need to know.

Monday, August 12, 2019

1,000 Posts

This is my 1,000th post on this blog going back to September 19, 2012. So it's taken me just under six years to reach this milestone.

That's 2,525 days. Or an average of a blog post every 2.5 days.

The most common "label" is Random Thoughts at 258 posts (some posts have more than one label).

The next most common is Speculative Fiction Cantina at 176 posts. That was the internet radio show I hosted for about three years. And, apparently, 176 or so episodes.

The third most common label is Writing at 145. You'd think as a writer that would be higher

I try to blog at least once per week, usually on a Thursday (somebody told me that's the best day to post a blog). When college football season is on, I often post more with game previews, game analysis, and just general thoughts. If you've been following this blog you know I'm a huge fan of the University of Washington Huskies.

So, here's to another 1,000 posts. We'll see how long it takes me to reach that point.

Friday, August 9, 2019

SpoCon

This weekend I will be at SpoCon in Spokane, Washington. It is being held at the historic Davenport Hotel. It's going to be a fun time. Come check it out.

Also, here's my schedule:

Saturday 2:00 PM: Reading in the "State B" room.

Sunday 10:00 AM: When Bad People Make Good Art, in the "State A" room.

Sunday 1:00 PM: Impostor Syndrome, also in the "State A" room.

Both those rooms are on the second floor in the northwest corner (if I'm not mistaken on my directions).

I'll be there in my white fedora. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

College Football, A Primer: More Information

Today we continue our college football primer. For previous posts see here, here, and here.

The Football Field

The standard football field is 100 yards long with end zones at each end. It is 160 feet wide (53 1/3 yards). The end zones are ten yards long and as wide as the field.

The 50-yard line is the middle of the field. From there the yard numbers get lower as they measure the distance in yards to the nearest end zone.  If a team starts on the 25 yard line, they are 75 yards from the end zone they need to get the ball into (their opponent's end zone). As they move forward, the numbers will get bigger until they pass the 50 yard line, then they will get smaller. A team's end zone is the one behind their backs, whether they are play offense or defense. This changes every quarter. This is so there's no advantage in going one way. Say the wind is blowing making passes longer in one direction. Then each team gets to use that advantage.

There are in college and pro football arrows pointing toward the nearest end zone by the numbers.

The Lines

There are two imaginary lines in football that you have to know about. One is the "line of scrimmage." This runs from sideline to sideline where the ball is placed. The offense (with the ball) lines up behind the line of scrimmage facing the defense. On television, a computer is used to project a dark (usually black or blue) line across the field at the line of scrimmage.

The second line is the "first down line." This is an imaginary line that runs from sideline to sideline that a player has to cross with the ball to get his team a first down. On television it is usually yellow except on CBS where it's kind of orange.

The Players

There are eleven men on the field for each team. One team will be playing offense (have the ball) and the other defense. (Kickoffs and punts are slightly different.)

Each person on the field has a job and a title such as "quarterback" or "running back" or "nose tackle." But a lot of those titles you don't have to worry about. I'll go over some of the ones you do have to worry about here.

The Offense

The center holds the ball until the quarterback signals he wants it. Lately that's been done a lot by clapping at the college level. Then the center "snaps" the ball to the quarterback. The center is in the middle of the front line, thus his title.

The quarterback either hands the ball off to a running back or throws the ball to a wide receiver or a running back. Or he might run with the ball himself but this is rare.

A running back, as the name implies, runs with the ball.

A wide receiver runs forward and catches the pass thrown by the quarterback. Or, is supposed to. He doesn't always achieve that.

The front line (how many varies) of the offense has the job of protecting the quarterback as he prepares to hand off or throw the ball, or open up holes in the defense's front line to let running back squirt through.

Other players try to protect the running backs from the defensive players. This is called "blocking."

The Defense

On the defense is the front line. Their job is to try to get to the quarterback or tackle whoever has the ball. If they tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, that's a "sack."

Safeties try to stop the wide receivers from catching the ball. They are limited in what they can do by the rules.

Everyone else tries to tackle the guy with the ball (pretty much).

Special Teams

Special teams are groups of players who don't play offense or defense. Some of the members might play offense or defense, and also play on special teams. For example, a running back that plays on the offensive squad might also be on the punt-returning or kick-off returning unit because he can run well with the ball.

 Special teams include:

The "punting unit" who punt the ball.
The "punt-returning unit" who try to catch the punted ball and return it for as many yards as possible.
The "field goal unit" who try to kick field goals.
The "kickoff unit" who kick off the ball for a kickoff.
The "kickoff-returning unit" who try to catch the kicked ball and return it for as many yards as possible.

The Clocks

There are two clocks in college (and pro) football.  One is the game clock. This clock count downs how much time is left in a quarter. There are 15 minutes to a quarter, but the clock will often stop so a "one hour" game lasts about three hours. At the end of the first quarter, the teams switch end zones (and thus the direction they face) and keep playing. At the end of the second quarter, it's halftime and play stops for 20 minutes (12 in the NFL). The end of the third quarter is just like the end of the first quarter. And when the fourth quarter ends, the game is over, unless the score is tied.

The other clock is the play clock. This clock counts down how long until the offense has to make a play. It is usually 25 or 40 seconds depending on what happened before. If the game close stopped before the play, it is 25 seconds. If the game clock is still running, it's 40 seconds. If the offense doesn't start the play before the play clock hits zero, they get a "delay of game" penalty (see Penalties which will be posted next week). Play starts when the center gives the ball to the quarterback ("snaps" the ball).

Scoring

There are a lot of ways to score points in football.

The main two are touchdowns and field goals.

A "touchdown" is when a player on your team crossed the plane extending up from the goal line with the ball under his control. He can run the ball in or catch it in the end zone. But the ball has to be under his control. This is worth six points.

A "field goal" is kicking the football through the goal posts. This is usually done because the team can't get into the end zone. It is worth three points. If the team misses the field goal, the other team gets the ball from where the other team had it (the line of scrimmage). See The Downs (coming later).

An "extra point" is kicked after a touchdown. It is a lot like a field goal only is from a set distance (which is more in the NFL than in college) and is worth one point. These are rarely missed. This is also called a PAT (point after touchdown).

A "two-point conversion" is after a touchdown, also. From a set point, the offense tries to get the ball into the end zone like a touchdown. This is harder than a point after touchdown attempt. But it's worth two points.

And finally, a "safety" is when a player is tackled in their own end zone. This doesn't happen often but it does, sometimes. It’s worth two points, too.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Movie Review: Free Solo

Last night I watched the documentary Free Solo. It was both terrifying and exhilarating.

Free Solo tells the story of the man, Alex Honnold, who, in 2017, first free climbed El Capitan's 900-meter (2,950 foot) vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.

In climber parlance, "free climbing" means without ropes or any safety gear. And "solo" of course means by himself.

Honnold didn't walk up to El Capitan and start climbing. No, he climbed it several times before with ropes to make sure he knew how to climb the mountain. And if he made a mistake, the ropes would save him. He paid particular attention to spots that were difficult to climb and practiced them to get it right.

But even with all the preparation he did, free climbing is a case of "one mistake and you're dead." Literally. He had to concentrate only on the climb and do everything perfectly or he would die. And that was true from probably one hundred feet off the ground to the top.

Alex's strength was amazing. At one point they show him doing pull ups. And you think "okay, he's doing pull ups." Then they show that he's lifting himself by his fingers using a "pull up board" like the one here.

But there are times during the climb he is relying on his fingers to hold his body weight.

He tried to climb the mountain in November of 2016, which required him to start in the pre-dawn darkness so that the sun was in the right position when he got to a particular section so it was light correctly for him to see what he was doing. But he "bailed" after a few hundred feet. He tried again in June of 2017 and that's when he managed to do the climb.

I told my wife it reminded me a bit of driving on the racetrack. It took concentration and if you screwed up there was a chance of death or injury. But usually you just lost time and didn't do a perfect lap.

Free Solo is an intense and exhilarating movie and I recommend it.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

College Football, a Primer: The Conference System

Today we continue our primer of college football. For previous posts see here and here.

Today we'll discuss the Conference System.

The Conference System

College football is football played by universities. I presume at the lower levels there might be some colleges playing college football.

There are three divisions in the National College Athletic Conference (NCAA): Division I, Division II, and Division III. Which division a college is in depends on the size (student population) of your university/college with Division I being the biggest schools.

Division I is further broken down into Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) for the largest schools and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) for the smaller schools that aren't small enough to be Division II. FBS is the series that you mostly see on television and gets the most attention. As the name implies, they play in the bowl games in December and early January. FCS games are rarely televised. Sometimes an FCS team will play an FBS team, usually so the FBS team can have an easy game to warm up for the beginning of the season.

In Division I FBS there are ten conferences. These are usually geographically based, such as the South East Conference (SEC) or the Pacific 12 (Pac-12) on the west coast (mostly). Of these ten conferences, there are five called the "Power Five" and these are the ones that get the most attention from television and other sports media. Those conferences are: the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), The Big Ten (which has 14 teams), the Big 12, the Pac-12, and the SEC. These are the conferences considered to have the best teams.

Some universities are "independent" and not in a conference. That includes Notre Dame, BYU, and Army. I'm not sure why they would want to not be in a conference.

Some teams are in one conference for football, and another conference for other sports. There are more basketball conferences than football conferences because there are more teams playing basketball.

There are 129 FBS teams divided among the ten conferences. Those numbers are fluid. For example, Idaho dropped out of the FBS recently to play in the FCS.

Teams usually play three "non-conference" games in a season. That might include playing an FCS team or a team from one of the less regarded conferences. Then they will play nine in-conference games for a 12-game season. That means year after year you're playing the same teams in the regular season. The only time you play teams outside your conference is non-conference play and bowl games.

This was a problem for Boise State University. They are in the Mountain West conference. And they were in the 2000s often undefeated. But they were always playing other teams in the Mountain West conference. They rarely got to play teams from the Power Five Conferences to see how good they actually were.

This is why I'd like to see an actual playoff system for FBS teams. There are 78 bowl games (too many in my opinion) and if we couldn't turn that into a playoff system, that's stupid. The FCS teams do a playoff, why can't the FBS.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Vacation

Last week I took four days off and went to Cannon Beach, Oregon. It was very nice there. Even the weather cooperated giving us mostly sunny days that weren't too warm.

Cannon Beach is an interesting little town. It has purposely kept out chain businesses such as Starbucks. So everything has a local flavor to it. The only problem is, there isn't a gas station in the town. So you'd better plan ahead. (Perhaps that explains why there seemed to be a lot of Teslas there.)

But the scenery is amazing. This was taken from my hotel balcony at sunset:


The big rock in the picture is "Haystack Rock." It's a well-known feature of Cannon Beach. I would joke with the locals that it blocked my view of the ocean. They didn't seem to appreciate my jest.

There is a state park called Ecole State Park. The drive there is a bit unnerving as the road barely fits two cars and has lots of blind hills and corners. But the views are worth it. Here's looking back at Cannon Beach from that park:


One interesting thing about Cannon Beach, at least around my hotel, was the infestation of rabbits. I mentioned within earshot of a hotel employee that I thought they were cute and he said, "Take a few dozen home with you." Here's picture my wife took of one:


I don't think I've ever seen a white rabbit in the wild.

Overall it was a nice, relaxing vacation. I just wish hotel beds didn't make my back hurt so I end up sleeping in a chair for most of the night.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Football in America

Today once again we're talking college football. Today we'll talk about football in America and college sports.

See here for the previous post.

College Sports

There are two college sports that get the most attention: football and basketball. More colleges have basketball teams than football teams, probably because it's cheaper to have a basketball team. I don't know of any college with a football team that doesn't also have a basketball team.

There are regional preferences, too. In the Southeast, high school and college football come right after God and guns in the order of importance. In the Midwest, basketball is king.

But there are a lot more sports in college than that. And there are sports for both men and women. For example, the University of Washington has nine men's sports and eleven women's sports.

Warning: This is a world fraught with acronyms and jargon. I'll try to explain any acronyms and jargon as they come up.

Football in America

In the United States, there are three basic levels of football: high school (sometimes called "prep"), college, and professional (i.e., the National Football League or NFL). Of course there's peewee football for younger kids and semi-professional and professional offshoots such as arena football.

The progression is high school football, then college football, then going "pro" in the NFL. But, only 5% of high school kids make it to the college level, and only 5% of college players make it to the NFL. That means as a high school player, your odds of going pro are 0.25%.

High school players are recruited into the colleges. That is, the colleges go out and try to entice the kid to play for their college. This is a bit unfair as the best teams can recruit the best players. Alabama, who is perpetually the national champion or close to it, has much easier time of recruiting good players than Washington State University that is an okay team but is rarely highly ranked nationally. The job of the coach is to convince as good as players as possible to come to his program.

Ultimately, the kid (and probably his parents) decides where he will go. If a kid wants to play in the NFL (and they almost all do), he's going to want to go to a good school that gets on television a lot. That would be a good FBS team in a Power 5 conference (see "The Conference System" next week).

College kids are "drafted" into the NFL. They have to have been out of high school for three years. The NFL gives their teams a chance to draft college players. The worst NFL teams get the earlier picks and therefore the better players. This is the NFL's way of trying to make it fairer. The player has to go with the team that drafts him for a number of years (I believe that's negotiable but there's probably a minimum) and then becomes a "free agent" and can go to the highest bidder. So he wants to do well at his first team so he's in demand when he's a free agent.

And just this year something called the American Alliance of Football (AAF) started playing in February after the NFL Super Bowl. The AAF was nothing but free agents looking to impress NFL scouts. The AAF even admitted it's trying to help its players get into the NFL. And the NFL must not have minded, they showed games on the NFL Network. The AAF  brought in coaches that are well-known from college and/or the NFL. That probably helped the quality of play. Unfortunately, it went broke near the end of its first season.

Next year the XFL is supposed to start again. That's the "Extreme Football League."  They had one season in 2001. I watched one game and all I remember is lots of salacious shots of cheerleaders. But it's supposed to be back in 2020.

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.