Thursday, December 31, 2020



(Wow, there are five Thursdays in this December!)

(And it's New Years Eve, too.)

I have thirteen published novels, seven by a small press publisher, and six self-published. And, according to my records (that I haven't kept up on well) I have sold about 1,800 books total. Most of those are my first book, Hammer of Thor. Five of my books are fantasy, all part of a series. The rest are science fiction.

Despite this modest success (very modest), I keep writing. I'm currently working on the seventh (and final) book in a series. Well, actually, two series and this final book brings them together. 

But why do I keep on writing? And I think it's two things: 1) I love to write and b) hubris.

I saw a quote on Twitter that sort of inspired this blog post: "Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego." That was said by writer Norman Mailer. And in a way that's true. Writer's block is often when you don't think your writing is good enough. You don't have the ego, or hubris, to just keep writing. As someone said, you can't fix or edit a blank piece of paper.

My hubris makes me think I'll eventually write a book that everyone wants to read. I know, intellectually, that that's unlikely. But I still keep writing because of my hubris.

And I think that's why a lot of want to be writers don't start. They don't think they are good enough, They don't have enough hubris.

Do you have hubris? Or are you lacking the ego to write and keep writing? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Evil Cats


It's Christmas Eve! Merry Christmas, everyone.

Now, on with the show...

Cats used to be thought of as evil back in medieval days. The church would kill them. They were said to be the Devil's tools.

And I wonder if part of the reason is static electricity. Almost every time I pet my son's cat, Lily, I get sparks of static electricity. Especially in winter. Now I'm an educated, modern man, so I know what it is and what causes it. But imagine being a peasant in the thirteenth century and not knowing a thing about electricity. You pet a cat and get shocks. What are they? They must be signs of the Devil. Burn it!

Which just goes to show that knowledge of our world (which a lot of people unfortunately lack mostly out of willful ignorance) is a good thing. I understand why I get sparks from Lily's fur.  I understand why the sky is blue. I understand that the stars I can see are lightyears away. I know why tires lose pressure in the fall. I love knowing about my world. I love science. How about you?

Let me know in the comments below how you like to know about the world.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Huskies' Season is Probably Over

The Washington State Huskies have the best record (at 3-1) in the Pac-12 North. But they won't be playing USC in the Pac-12 Championship game tomorrow. They are on a COVID lockdown. Instead, Oregon will be playing in that game since they are in second place with a 3-2 record.

I saw somewhere that to go to a bowl game you have to have at least six games played and the Huskies only have four. So they likely won't be going to a bowl. Although Coach Jimmy Lake is hoping for one and will be trying to get the team ready. Maybe the rules changed and I didn't hear about it.

This was a messed up season, anyway. College football seasons are usually 12 games: three non-conference and nine conference games. First the Pac-12, in their wisdom, said no non-conference games. Then they cancelled the season saying it would be played in the Spring of 2021. Then they said there would be a short season of six games.

But the Huskies' first game, against Cal, was cancelled because Cal had COVID in their team. The next two games (Oregon State and Arizona) were played and the Huskies won. Then the Apple Cup cross-state rivalry game against Washington State was cancelled. Instead, we played Utah, and beat them in an amazing comeback. We played Stanford and lost.

Then Washington had a COVID outbreak. The last game against Oregon (whom we hate more than WSU) was cancelled. I would have really loved to have a chance to beat Oregon. And, as I said, Washington won't be going to the Pac-12 Championship game tomorrow.

Frankly, I'm looking forward to the fall of 2021 season. Maybe by then we can have a normal season. Maybe.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Bad Brain Chemistry Few Days

I make no secret that I have a mental illness. I'm not ashamed that I am Type 2 bipolar with dysthymia. That means, untreated, I am depressed most of the time with bouts of mania. There is, for me, no shame in having a mental illness anymore than I would if I had cancer. Mental illness is not a failing. It's brain chemistry

About a month ago, I had a very bad few days of mania. It started out a situational depression and then somehow grew into mania mixed with depression. Now I tend to be an angry manic. It might have been good that my wife was gone for most of those days. When she got home, I yelled at her for no reason.

I had never experienced depression mixed with mania before. It was the strangest, most miserable thing. I was angry and depressed at the same time.

There are four types of bipolar. Type one is the classic bipolar where you oscillate between manic and depressed sort of like a sine wave. Type two you're depressed most of the time with episodes of mania. Type three you're manic most of the time with episodes of depression. And type four is what I was experiencing: mania and depression at the same time. I am so glad I have only experienced that once in my life (so far).

I went to see my mental health person (he's an ARNP, not a doctor), and he suggested ramping up one of my drugs to double the dose for a few days. So I did for two days (with one day of ramping up and one day of ramping back down) and that seemed to solve the problem. 

I just found it annoying that suddenly my bipolar got worse for no apparent reason. Yes, there was a reason for the depression, but why that led to mania, I don't know. 

If you have depression or feel you might be bipolar, don't suffer with it. Seek help, soon. I remember when I'd wake up in the morning and my first thought was should I kill myself. It would have the added advantage that I wouldn't have to go to work (this is back in my corporate days). When I finally sought out help, it made a huge difference in my life. It can in yours, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Blogging is Hard


I've posted over 1,100 blogs on this... blog. Not sure where I came up with all the things to blog about. Blogging is hard because you have to come up with something to blog about at least once a week. I've tried blog subject lists but they seem aimed at the hobby blogger. I don't do politics on my blog or I could blog every day. I used to do that.

So, for today's blog, I'm going to complain about blogging. Blogging is hard (unless you're doing a political/current events blog). You have to come up with ideas to blog about. And I don't always have ideas. It's very annoying. This is the latest idea I've had: blogging about blogging.

I wonder what I'll blog about next week.

Do you blog? Where do you get your ideas? How often do you blog? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Cyber Monday Sale

The Amazing Holiday $0.99 Book Sale

Going on now at the blog of Hans G. Schantz. Celebrate Cyber Monday by topping off your library. Select from over eighty titles each priced at $0.99, including more than a dozen that are absolutely free.

Included it The Smugglers of Mars, by me. It will be $0.99 until Wednesday. So get your copy of the first book in the Chumba of the Intelligence Corps series.

Treachery stalks the red planet...
Before he was Rick Bailey, before he hunted for the Treasure of the Black Hole, he was Titus Chumba of the Core Empire Intelligence Corps.
Sent to Mars to investigate water smuggling, First Lieutenant Chumba finds a criminal conspiracy that spans from the red planet to the asteroid belt. Will Chumba discover the deadly secrets of the smugglers of Mars, learn the identity of the mysterious woman embroiled in the conspiracy, and prevent a cold war with the reptile-like Malvalkians from turning blazing hot?

Get your $0.99 copy now! Sale runs through the second.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Black Friday Sale

The Amazing Holiday $0.99 Book Sale

Going on now at the blog of Hans G. Schantz. Celebrate Thanksgiving Weekend by topping off your library. Select from over eighty titles each priced at $0.99, including more than a dozen that are absolutely free.

Included it The Smugglers of Mars, by me. It will be $0.99 until Wednesday. So get your copy of the first book in the Chumba of the Intelligence Corps series.

Treachery stalks the red planet...
Before he was Rick Bailey, before he hunted for the Treasure of the Black Hole, he was Titus Chumba of the Core Empire Intelligence Corps.
Sent to Mars to investigate water smuggling, First Lieutenant Chumba finds a criminal conspiracy that spans from the red planet to the asteroid belt. Will Chumba discover the deadly secrets of the smugglers of Mars, learn the identity of the mysterious woman embroiled in the conspiracy, and prevent a cold war with the reptile-like Malvalkians from turning blazing hot?

Get your $0.99 copy now!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Automatic Driving

No, this isn't about autonomous cars. It's about... me.

A while back I was on a very long drive coming home from seeing my grandson. I was on Interstate 90 and traffic was fairly light. And I was keeping track of the cars around me so I would know if there was someone in my blind spot (even though my car warns me). And I realized I was taking a gentle corner and not consciously thinking about it. I was doing it automatically. So I started paying attention and realized on gentle curves, I take them without thinking about it. If the curve gets too sharp, I then have to donate some conscience brain power to taking them.

I found this interesting. I've been driving for 45 years and have, apparently developed the ability to do some of it without thinking about it. At least gentle curve at not too high a speed (I had the cruise control set at 76 in a 70 zone, which is about what the Washington State Patrol will let you get away with).

Now, I actually enjoy taking corners fast and devoting brain power to it. But when I'm just cruising along, I apparently don't always have to.

Do you find yourself automatically driving? Let me know about it in the comments below.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Netflix Disc Service

You may not realize this, but Netflix still does disc service where they send you a disc through the mail, you watch it, and send it back. This was their original business model before they got into streaming.

And I still use it. It's how I see most new movie releases. I haven't been to the theater since Incredibles 2 and that was June of 2018.

But the disc service has gotten more and more frustrating and I'm worried Netflix might shut it down. If that happens, I don't know how I'm going to see new releases. Maybe have to figure out RedBox

When I first got Netflix twenty or so years ago I sent discs to Tacoma and that's where they came from. Then I started sending them to Spokane. Spokane was great because it only took one day to get there and one day to get back. Tacoma was two or three days. I'd mail them on Friday and have discs back on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Then Spokane shut down so I was sending discs to Tacoma again. It took a little longer to get discs. 

But a bit ago, Tacoma must have shut down because I'm sending discs to and receiving them from San Jose, CA. Which is about four days each direction. 

Netflix has done one thing to help: somehow it gets notified that the disc has been sent and then they send out the next disc. But it still takes 5-6 days to get a new disc. And holidays don't help. For example, Columbus Day made it so I got discs on Friday rather than Thursday when I sent them back the Friday before. Annoying.

But as fewer and fewer people use the disc service, Netflix needs to consolidate. I understand that. It's just damn inconvenient for me. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pac-12 Football Starts this Weekend

The Pac-12 finally decided to allow there to be a shortened fall football season. It's a six-game regular season and then the Pac-12 Championship game. They are calling it a seven-game season but only two teams will be playing that seventh game.

I was very disappointed when the Pac-12 decided not to have a fall season, but perhaps a spring football season. They and the Big Ten conference made the same decision. But then the Big Ten reversed itself and decided to have a fall season. That left the Pac-12 as the only conference in the FBS putting off the season. Which means that the Pac-12 teams can't compete for bowl games or for the College Football Playoff (CFP).

The University of Washington Huskies (Go Dawgs!) start the truncated season playing California in Berkeley. I have no idea what to expect. We have a new coach, new quarterback, a lot of new players. And we've had bad luck against Cal the past couple of seasons. The game will be on ESPN at 7:30 PM PDT Saturday. I'll be in front of my television.

I hate these late games.

UPDATE: There was a positive COVID test at Cal. The game may be delayed.

UPDATE 2: The Cal game was cancelled and won't be made up.

How's your college football season going? Or do you care? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

What Speed Limits?

I drive a lot of interstate highways. If I go to Seattle or Spokane, it's all interstate. If I go see my grandson, it's mostly interstate.

One thing I have noticed is that lately, drivers seem to speed...a lot. I set the cruise control at 5 mph over the speed limit because if I go faster for any extended period of time, I get a ticket. On the interstates in Washington State, the speed limit is 70 mph for cars, so I go 75. But lately, it seems, people are going 80 or 85 on the interstates. I'm passed constantly by people zooming by. And I'm not sure why. I'm not seeing fewer cops.

A while back, Google bought Waze. And if you put a route in Google Maps, it, like Waze, shows you where people have reported cops being. I wonder if people are trusting Google Maps and speeding where they don't think there are cops. Me, I don't trust it enough to do that. It has shown me a few times where there are cops, but not always.

Or maybe there's another reason people are driving faster. I don't know. Do you have a theory why people are driving faster? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tesla Plaid

I'm not a big fan of electric cars (EVs) basically because of "range anxiety" (worry you won't have the electricity to get where you're going or to a charger) and the time it takes to "refill the tank." But I love their performance. All their torque is available at zero RPM unlike a gasoline engine.

Tesla has a new car coming out that is available for preorder now. Just be aware, Tesla has a bad habit of missing promised delivery dates.

The new car is the Model S Plaid. That's a reference to the Mel Brooks movie, Spaceballs. It reportedly has three electric motors that give it a total of 1,100 horsepower. It also is supposed to have an EPA range of over 520 miles. And that's about as far as I want to drive in a day. (Your range may vary. EPA range tends to be higher than real-life range.)

Tesla also claims that the Plaid can do 0-60mph in less than two seconds. This is a four-door sedan we're talking about, with world-beating performance.

This would be the first EV I would be tempted to buy if it weren't for a couple of things. One, Tesla's build quality is lacking. And two, the base price is $140,000. For that I could buy two Audi S6 sedans. They won't have that kind of performance but I also won't have rang anxiety.

How do you feel about EVs? Love them or hate them? Would you be tempted to buy one if the price came down? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Urloitian Spheres

Now available: Chumba of the Intelligence Corps Book 3: The Urloitian Spheres.

Intrigue surrounds the Core Empire…

Before he was Rick Bailey, before he hunted for the Treasure of the Black Hole, he was Titus Chumba of the Core Empire Intelligence Corps.

Over centuries, mysterious silver spheres have been discovered across the galaxy. No one knows what they are, until the alien race of the Malvalkians bring four of them together. Soon, the Core Empire is on a quest for more spheres and Captain Chumba is on the hunt. What are the spheres, and what does the ancient alien race, the Urloits, have to do with them? Will this finally bring the cold war between the Empire and the Malvalkians to hot, violent open conflict? Or will the spheres spell doom for Earth and all her inhabitants?

Book one: The Smugglers of Mars is available here.

Book two: The Three Species War is available here.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Speed Limit Changes

In order to get out of the house at least once a day, I go to Starbucks. It's a little over a five mile drive each way. And on that route there are six speed limit changes. Speeds limits range from 25 mph in my neighborhood to 55 mph on the country road. But then it slows to 50 mph. Then it ridiculously slows to 35. Then back up to 50 again. From there you get on a new street where it is 35 mph.

But where, exactly, is the speed limit in effect? When you see the sign? I'm pretty sure not. When you pass the sign? I think so. When I lived in Texas, I noticed they painted a white line across the street/road to emphasis that. At least where I lived.

But here's the thing: when you have to slow down, you have to slow down before you reach the speed limit sign. When you can speed up, you can only do so once you've passed the speed limit sign. So that limits how much time/space  you can spend at the higher speed limit. Okay, not by a lot, but still. When the speed limits drops from 55 to 50, then less than a mile later to 35, you're spending a lot of time slowing down where the speed limit is higher.

And I tend to use cruise control to keep from speeding (my right foot is a rebel). And I try to stay off the brakes slowing down. So I have start slowing a bit early.

Does this bother you, or only me. How do you feel about speed limit changes? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Three Species War

Now Available: Chumba of the Intelligence Corps Book 2: The Three Species War.

War envelops the galaxy…

Before he was Rick Bailey, before he hunted for the Treasure of the Black Hole, he was Titus Chumba of the Core Empire Intelligence Corps.

When the alien race known as Roaches invades both human and Malvalkian colonies, Lieutenant Titus Chumba is plunged into fighting for the Core Empire. From guerrilla warfare to outright military conquest, Chumba is fighting the bugs to save the Empire. Can he stop the alien invasion and keep the fragile peace between the Core Empire and the Malvalkians from disintegrating into open warfare?

Book one: The Smugglers of Mars, is available here.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

I Don't Like the Borg Queen

I know, I'm not supposed to like the Borg Queen. She's a villain. But that's not what I mean. I don't like that there is a Borg Queen. I don't like the concept of a Borg Queen.

I was reminded of the Borg Queen (who first showed up the Star Trek: First Contact) as I was watching Picard (no spoilers). Then I recently watched the "Q-Who" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That's when the Borg are first introduced. And Data describes their cube-like ship as: "The ship is strangely generalized in design. There's no specific bridge, no command center, there's no engineering section." And a Borg Queen would be in a command center.

Now what they did with the Borg Queen in First Contact was pretty good, I'll agree. As she did to Data, an android, the opposite of what the Borg do to humanoids. That is, she took a robot and added human parts where as the Borg usually take humans and add robot parts. And somehow she managed to be scary and sexy at the same time.

But I still don't like the concept of a Borg Queen. A queen would be a leader. And to me, the Borg are a hive mind without specific leadership. Such as a queen.

How do you feel about the Borg Queen. Or am I just taking Star Trek too seriously? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Radio Interview

Today at 4:00 PM EDT (1:00 PM PDT) I will be on "Anything Goes" with Bennet Pomerantz. We'll be talking books and writing and other fun things. It's going to be a blast. Tune in and see! Follow this link. The interview will be available at that link after the live show, so if you miss it live, you can still listen.

The Smugglers of Mars

Now Available: Chumba of the Intelligence Corps Book 1: The Smugglers of Mars.

Treachery stalks the red planet...

Before he was Rick Bailey, before he hunted for the Treasure of the Black Hole, he was Titus Chumba of the Core Empire Intelligence Corps.

Sent to Mars to investigate water smuggling, First Lieutenant Chumba finds a criminal conspiracy that spans from the red planet to the asteroid belt. Will Chumba discover the deadly secrets of the smugglers of Mars, learn the identity of the mysterious woman embroiled in the conspiracy, and prevent a cold war with the reptile-like Malvalkians from turning blazing hot?

Available in Kindle, KU, and Paperback.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Damn My Luck

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.

Here is the saga of me and technology:

My computer wanted to reboot. So I did. It wouldn't boot up then. I forgot it was still under warranty, so I contacted a local guy to fix it. It took him two weeks. He had to reinstall Windows 10. So then I had to reinstall:

  • Office 2010
  • iTunes
  • The PDF reader that came with the computer
  • Norton Anti-virus
  • Norton Utilities
  • Malwarebytes
And set up Outlook 2010 to work with my Exchange service.

Then I had to upload my user files from backup. And set up a bunch of stuff and configure the computer how I like it. For details, see here.

And since the Dell Windows 10 image was out of date, I had to do major updates to my computer, one that took two days because it failed. It got stuck at 90%. Under advice of my son and google, I turned off the computer, waited 30 seconds, and turned it back on. But I had to do that update again the next day. That cost me two days of productivity.

Then my iPhone died. I was using it and it just went to the Apple logo. It looked like it was trying to boot but it wouldn't. I had an iPhone Xs and was planning to update when the new iPhone came out in September (it's now coming out in October). So I bought a used iPhone 7 to get me through. I remember loving my iPhone 7 when I had one. But stepping down, I hate it. Plus, I usually get white iPhones but this one is black and I keep picking it up and expecting the back to be the front since they are both black. Annoying.

Then I broke my glasses. The optical shop fixed them.

Then my computer died again. This time I remembered it was under warranty (three day on-site service). So I called Dell. They (eventually) sent someone to fix it. In the meantime, I broke my glasses again. And I couldn't get them fixed because I had to be home from 8am to 6pm to wait for the Dell subcontractor service tech. And he didn't even bother to show up that first day. That's a whole 'nother story.

Eventually I got a new hard drive and Windows 10 installed. Again, I needed to run numerous updates and reinstall everything. Now I'm sort of holding my breath that nothing else blows up. My car is still under warranty for about 3,500 miles. So if it does blow up, it'll wait until that's expired.

Have you had bad luck like this? Or do you think the gods are against me. Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

No College Football in the Pac-12

Normally at this time, I'd be writing about last night's University of Washington Huskies game. They probably would have won considering they were scheduled to play Sacramento State.

But, first the Pac-12 decided no out-of-conference games. Then they redid the entire schedule (I have no idea why). Then finally they said, "Maybe in the spring we can play football." Yeah, maybe.

This year the Huskies have a new coach in Jimmy Lake, the former Defensive Coordinator. He took over when Chris Petersen surprised everyone by stepping down last fall. Lake was a good DC, but I have no idea what he'd be like at a head coach. But I wanted to learn.

But I guess I'll have to wait, perhaps until spring. Perhaps until next fall. I don't know. I just know that I am going to miss college football... a lot.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Flat Earth Questions

For some reason I've been getting a lot of anti-flat earth videos on YouTube lately, ones where the video debunks other videos about flat earth. So I've been thinking about the whole "flat earth" movement (which apparently there is a movement) and questions I'd like to ask. These are all based on things even a flat-earther should admit exist. They say look at the world through your own eyes and other senses. That works for all of these. Except maybe #8.

1) If the earth is flat, what causes day and night?
2) If the earth is flat, what causes the seasons?
3) If the earth is flat, what causes the moon to have phases?
4) If the earth is flat, why can't I see some stars in winter, and others in summer (e.g., Orion).
5) If the earth is flat, what is gravity?
6) If the earth is flat, why can I see with binoculars or a small telescope, moons orbiting Jupiter?
7) If the earth is flat, what causes tides?
8) If the earth is flat, why hasn't anyone found the edge?
9) What causes sunsets and sunrises to be colored.
10) Why is the sky blue?
11) If the moon is "it's own light," why can I (and you) with binoculars or a small telescope see craters and mountains (this works best when the moon isn't full)?

So, if you know a flat-earther, you could pass these questions along for me. Or if you are a flat-earther, please tell me  your answers in the comments below.

Anyone, anyone?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

I Don't Want to Retire!

When I quit the corporate world at the end of 2010 (wow, almost ten  years ago), my therapist said "Don't call it retirement, call it a career change." He said that because he knew that I was planning to write, and I hoped to do freelance writing and fiction writing (which I have done and still do since then).

When I didn't have my computer for two weeks, it was almost like being retired. I spent the day mostly watching television and reading. And I hated it. Well, not the reading, but the lack of work just drove me nuts.

I wanted to travel when I had my career change, but then health issues popped up and now I can't travel except where I can drive. Luckily, my grandson is within driving distance.

But retirement would be boring. Absolutely boring. Again, if I could travel, say go to Europe or Asia, that would be different. But because of health problems, I can't.

So I'm going to keep writing for as long as I can. Or at least until I get bored with it, which I haven't so far.

What do you plan to do when you retire. Or will you retire? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

80s Movies

The other day I was thinking about movies and specifically, all the great movies that came out in the 1980s.

For example, just off the top of my head:

1980: The Empire Strike Back and The Gods Must be Crazy*
1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
1982: ET: The Extraterrestrial, Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and The Year of Living Dangerously*
1983: Return of the Jedi
1984: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (I liked it) and Ghostbusters
1985: Back to the Future, Cocoon
1986: Aliens*, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Top Gun
1987: Robocop* and Lethal Weapon*
1988: Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Die Hard*
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Batman
* I didn't see these movies in the theater, but later on home video (VHS).

I remember spending a lot of the 80s standing in movie lines.

And I remember thinking that this kind of thing would continue. But it didn't. It seemed the 80s were a golden age of movies. And 1982 especially. The 1990s just didn't have all the good movies that the 80s had. There was Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country but then we went into the ST:TNG movies and only First Contact was good. Toy Story came out in 1994 and Toy Story 2 in 1999. But that still doesn't live up to the 80s.

And the 2000s only gave us the Lord of the Rings movies, pretty much. Don't get me wrong, I loved the LOTR movies. But that's all I really remember about the 2000.

Can you think of any movies I'm missing? Were you old enough to enjoy the 1980s? Do you think I'm crazy and other decades had more good movies? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Saga of My Computer or Maybe I Should Switch to Mac

So one day (a Friday) I got a notice to reboot my computer (a Dell laptop) to fix a disc problem. This worried me a bit. But I dutifully did it. And then my computer refused to boot. I asked a friend what I should do (he works with computers) and he recommended someone for me to look at it (I forgot that the computer was still under warranty; it's only 18 months old).

The guy worked on it for two full weeks. During which time I watched a lot of TV, mostly nature shows on Disney+ (my son's cat seemed to like them). I thought "is this what it's like to be retired; it sucks." I also had a freelance deadline during those two weeks so I borrowed my wife's computer. Luckily everything I needed was on email.

I finally got my computer back and had to download my backup (which thankfully had been working on Windows 10). Then set up everything as I liked it, turn off all the Windows defaults I don't like, download software including Office.

Then on Sunday after I got the computer back, it wanted to update. So I let it and then it wanted to reboot to continue the update. That reboot literally took all day, then got stuck at 90%. It was a 90% for a couple of hours (I was watching Night Court on TV which I never watched in first run and is really funny). Under advice of my son and Google, I shut off the computer and turned it back on. It seemed to work fine.

Until a few days ago when I asked for another update/reboot. So I did it. And it took about 6 hours. I got zero work done (I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation season one, which isn't that bad if you go in with low expectations). I took the picture above during the last update. It stayed at 0% for quite a while before I gave up and went and watched ST:TNG. 

Then, after that update finally got done sometime in the afternoon, I checked for updates again. And it  had some, one of which required a reboot. So I rebooted and left the computer until morning. And it worked! 

So now I'm hoping for no more problems. People tell me I could get a Mac so I wouldn't have these issues. But I don't want to learn a new OS.

What do you think? Should I buy a Mac next time? Or stick with PC and if so, which brand? I've had good luck with Dell computers but this one is driving me mad. Let me know in the comments below.

(Oh, and my iPhone decided to die Tuesday. I get the replacement today. Fun times.)

Thursday, August 6, 2020


We're all supposed to be wearing masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I hate wearing a mask, personally. It makes it hard to breathe with my COPD. I try to avoid situations were I have to wear a mask, such as leaving the house.

But there's another thing I don't like about masks: I like to see people's faces.

As a writer, I'm also a people watcher. But the masks make it hard to people watch because you only see half the face. And I just find that frustrating. You really can't see how a person is reacting or talking without seeing their whole face. And when it comes to pretty women, I find myself thinking "I'd like to see her without a mask." I undress her face with my eyes, so to speak.

I don't know how long this mask thing is going to last (and it varies by jurisdiction, I know). I once read a very old science fiction story where everyone wore face-covering masks. And I keep thinking we might be headed in that direction. I hope not.

How do you feel about the masks? Do you hate them or tolerate them (I don't think anyone likes them). Let me know it the comments below.

Thursday, July 30, 2020


When I go to the Seattle area, I enjoy looking at all the cars I don't see in the small town where I live. And one game I have is calling out "Tesla" whenever I see a Tesla. There are a lot of them in the Seattle suburbs probably because there's a lot of money in the Seattle suburbs which are home to Microsoft and other high tech companies. I even saw a McClaren there once.

So the last time I was in the Seattle area (I don't go to Seattle proper if I can help it), I saw the usual Teslas and other high end cars. But one really stood out to me. I wished I could have gotten a picture of it but I was alone in the car and touching your phone while driving is a very big ticket in my state.

The interesting car I saw was a pink Tesla Model S. The paint job didn't look very good. It was almost a matte color, not shiny like most paint jobs. Now, you're going to pay at least $75,000 for a Model S. And if it has a bigger battery and some of the speed options, you could pay over $100,000. And I could think inexpertly painting one pink would lower the resale value. So the owner must have really wanted to paint the car pink.

When I googled "Pink Tesla S" I got a lot more results than I thought I would. That's where I found the picture above. So apparently, lots of folks want pink Teslas.

What do you think of a pink Tesla? Or what color would you paint your Tesla if you had one? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Film Critics

I'm going to stop trusting film critics if this keeps up.

A while ago I watched the movie Uncut Gems staring Adam Sandler in a serious role.

Uncut Gems got a 92% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. So I thought it would be a good movie. And in ways, it was. Sandler does an amazing job in his role. But the movie itself was dark, depressing, and noisy. Often you couldn't hear the main dialog for other people talking, especially at the first of the movie. I hated that talk-over style when Robert Altman did it and I didn't like it here.

So, despite it's high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, I just didn't like the movie.

This has happened more than once. There was a movie called Spring Breakers. Okay, I'll admit, part of the reason I watched it was because Selena Gomez was in it (about half of it).  But it got a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. So I expected at least a decent movie. But it sucked. Yes, I know its message was about the nihilism of young people. But at least it could have been entertaining. For example, The Good Liar got a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I enjoyed that movie.

I recently watched Date Night. And it got 66% on Rotten Tomatoes. That seems about right. The movie was occasionally funny, but it seemed to waste the talents of its stars.

Then there was Knives Out. It was 97% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. But I found it disjointed, not well acted, and the twist at the end was...not predictable, but not a surprise, either.

On the other side, Ford v Ferrari got 92% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and I loved it. But that was a lower score than Knives Out. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which is my favorite movie ever, got only 93% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, less than Knives Out.

Maybe I should stop relying on film critics to choose films.

How do you choose movies to watch? Do you rely on critics or some other method. Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, July 16, 2020


Read these two fictional news reports:

Today the governor proposed a plan to widen Highway 17 to four lanes. This will save lives, he said. The package includes other highway improvements and will be paid for by an increase in the gas tax.


The governor proposed a gas tax increase today. This is part of a package of highway improvements. One project proposed is to widen Highway 17 to four lanes. The governor claims that it will save lives.

Which statement makes you feel better about the governor (especially if you have to drive on Highway 17)? Each statement has the same basic facts but presented in a different way.

Each statement has a different "spin" on it and a skilled writer can do this almost without thinking based on his or her preferences or prejudices. Spin happens all the time in the news business. Reports might say they are reporting the facts, but how do they report them? (Never mind that some reporters don't report the facts, or the facts they don't like, but that's not what we're talking about here.)

A skillful speaker can spin with their voice, giving the right tone to each word to emphasis what they want. Politicians do this all the time.

In fiction writing you can use spin, too, in the way you describe things or events. Ramp up the tension with the right word choices and putting them in a certain order. Again, a skilled writer can do that almost without thinking.

Do you see spin in news reports? Do you watch out for spin? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 9, 2020


1977 Pontiac Trans Am
A while back I came across Smokey and the Bandit on television. If you're not familiar with this movie, it was the second highest grossing film of 1977. A film called Star Wars was number one.

Smokey and the Bandit is a comedy starring Burt Reynolds. Sally Fields, and Jerry Reed (best known as a country singer). It also stars Jackie Gleason. It is basically one long car chase across the American Southeast. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it as mindless fun entertainment.

In the movie, Burt Reynolds drives an iconic black Pontiac Trans Am. This was one of the fastest, most powerful cars you could buy in 1977. According to the Internet Movie Database, there were three Trans Ams used for filming and all three were pretty much destroyed at the end.

But it got me wondering, how powerful was a 1977 Trans Am? So, Google to the rescue, I found out that a 1977 Trans Am had 210 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. It had a top speed (red line limited) of 110 mph (which was, admittedly, double the nation speed limit of 55 mph). Red line limited means that at the fastest speed the engine could go, in top gear, that's the fastest the car can go. It went 0-60 in 9.3 seconds. I put some of this information on the Internet Movie Database.

But... a 2019 Toyota Sienna (a minivan and I don't think it was made in 2020) has 296 horsepower and 263 ft-lb of torque. So the Trans Am does have more torque (torque gets you going, horsepower makes you go faster). And the Sienna's top speed is 115 mph probably governor limited. A governor is an electronic limit to how fast a car can go. And, the Sienna does 0-60 in 6.9 seconds.

The Sienna probably gets better gas mileage and pollutes a lot less, too. (I read once that a modern Mustang pollutes less going down the road then a sixties Mustang did sitting in the driveway.)

So why does a modern minivan out-perform a 42-year-old sports car? It's call "progress." Engineering and technological advancements have made cars faster, safer, and pollute less. Unfortunately, they cost a lot more.

For example, the Trans Am cost $5,456.00 new. That's $23,083 in 2020 dollars. The Seinna costs $31,315. A Chevrolet Camaro SS (the closest modern equivalent to the Trans Am) costs $38,495 without any options. So that's $15,411 more for the new Camaro in inflation-adjusted dollars. So, yes, cars do cost more. But that Camaro SS has 455 horsepower and 455 ft-lb of torque. It goes 0-60 in 4.0 seconds and has a top speed of 198 mph. That's a lot more go for $15,000.

Okay, so cars are faster and more powerful. But they are also safer. Watch this video of a Nissan Sentra hitting a Sentra model sold in Mexico that doesn't have modern U.S. safety standards. It's oblivious the U.S. car does much better in the crash. The driver of the older model car probably would have sustained numerous bad injuries if not just been killed.

Can you think of other examples of progress? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Independence Day

Today is July 4th. But the holiday is called "Independence Day." That's to remind you that around this day in 1776, the United States declared its independence from England.

So, "Happy Independence Day." Spend some time today to be thankful for the freedoms you enjoy.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Counting Four Items

The other day I was counting the pills I take every morning to make sure I hadn't forgotten any. I take sixteen, including the non-prescription supplements (I know, that's a lot). So I put them in four piles of four. Why? Because four is the highest number I can count without counting one, two, three, four, five... In other words, I can look at four or less items, and know how many they are. I can't do that with five or more. Even if it's five. My brain won't look at it and say "four plus one."

I once, many years ago, said this to a co-worker and she looked at me as if I were crazy. So I never again brought it up,  until now. See how much I trust you people!

Maybe other people can count more. I don't know. Can you?

I've hidden my shame for over thirty-five years, now. Can you count more than four without counting? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

My First Car

My first car was a candy apple red 1965 Ford Mustang. It was plastic. But it was, I could tell even at my young age, high quality plastic. It might have looked a lot like the one in the picture.

I've had a lot of cars such as it over the years. Lots of Hot Wheels. I had a blue Jeep pickup that I still have. I don't know what happened to the white horse trailer or the horses that came with it.

I also built a lot of cars out of Legos. S. Evan Townsend original designs. I tended to put jet engines (red Legos) on them.
The Blue Jeep Pickup

But toys were my first introduction to cars. And, if you've read this blog, you know I like cars. I totally understand why Jay Leno owns so many cars (286 according to Google). There are so many cool cars with different personalities and different capabilities. If I were rich enough, I would have 286 cars, probably.

At one time I owned seven cars (long story). Now I own only two. And of those seven cars, only four were cool, the rest were my son's cars and I didn't buy them "cool" cars.

How do you feel about cars? Did you have any cool toy cars as a kid? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 18, 2020


The Equation
I saw somewhere that CuriosityStream had a sale going, a full year for only $12. I thought that was a bargain so I signed up. I've watched three things, so far. One on Venus where I'm debating having a scene in my current work in progress, one on quantum mechanics, and one on the Cassini probe called Cassini, the Grand Finale. That show talked about Saturn's moon, Enceladus which has cryovolcanoes. They mentioned how fast the material (water, mostly) is ejected from the moon. It leaves the volcanoes at 1,200 mph. And that  number sounded familiar.

A little over six years ago, I blogged about Io's volcanoes and how fast the material that comes out of them is exiting the volcanoes.

Io is one of the moons of Jupiter.

Using the gravity of Io and how high the plumes go, I calculated (using the equation above) that the material must exit the volcanoes at 1,075 meters per second (or 1.075 km/s) to reach the altitude they do (as high as 200 miles over the surface of the moon). And, according to Wikipedia, the correct figure is 1 km/s. Or 2,236 miles per hour. That's pretty fast. Faster even than Enceladus.

But what I was glad about, what that my calculations six years ago were mostly confirmed. The source Wikipedia used might have rounded down to one significant figure and if I do that, I get the same answer (1 km/s).

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Flag Day

It's Flag Day in the U.S. Not a well-known holiday, but it is an excuse to use my flag picture:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Eyes Have It.

Eyes amaze me.

For example, my son's cat's eyes. Her name is Lily and sometimes I look at her eyes and just marvel what an amazing creation eyes are. The cornea is the most stunning part. It's living tissue yet it's completely transparent. (Well, except in my case because I'm developing cataracts.) Lily will turn her head and I can see through her cornea. I wish I had a picture of that.

And I recently visited my son and his wife. But I was really there to see my grandson. And he has amazing blue eyes. They remind me of the eyes I had when I was younger, before the blue started to fade. (He also has red hair, like his grandfather, so he's my favorite grandchild.)(He's my only grandchild, so
Beautiful Eyes

Or when I meet a person I'll look into their eyes and that seems to make them more real and human to me. They say eyes are the window to the soul. But I think you can tell a lot from people's eyes. They might be bright and happy or sad. Or dead-looking like a doll's eyes. I have seen that, but not often. But the eyes are one of the first things I notice about a person.

According to this website, an eye can transmit 100 million bits of information a second.  That's about as fast as my fiber optic internet connection. But eyes are organic, not electronic. So I think that's pretty amazing.

As I said, eyes amaze me. How do you feel about eyes? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Ford v Ferrari

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am about to make a proclamation: Ford v Ferrari is the second best movie about car racing ever (the best is, of course, 1966's Grand Prix).

Ford v Ferrari puts you in the driver's seat of powerful, fast, and ultimately deadly cars. I regret now not seeing it in the theater because I'm sure on the large screen with a movie theater's sound it would have blown me away. On my television screen with my 5.1 surround sound, it blew me away.

I don't know how historically accurate the film is. Part of the story I already knew about how Ford wanted to beat Ferrari at the 24 hour race at Le Mans in France. They didn't do it the first time in 1965, but they did in 1966. The car they used was the Ford GT40 (the modern Ford GT is a tribute to that car).

The drama in the movie comes from trying to build a car to win at Le Mans and the corporate interference of FoMoCo. The last half hour of the film is pretty much the 1966 race at Le Mans. Somehow with sound and visuals, the director puts you in the car feeling all the tension, noise, speed, danger, and exhilaration of racing.

My only beef with the film is that there are lots of scenes of feet on car pedals (brake, gas, clutch) during shifts but never is there a heel and toe downshift (see the first moments of Grand Prix to know what that is) even during the downshifts.

And the movie isn't only about cars, It's about the personalities of Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles (played to perfection by Christian Bale) and how they faced the risk-adverse corporate types at Ford.

And even today you can buy a Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500 from Ford in honor of Carroll Shelby.

I rarely give a movie five stars on Netflix. I did this one.

Note: I'm reviewing this films so late because Netflix didn't send it to me for at least 12 weeks after it came out on Blu-Ray even though it was at the top of my queue the entire time. I watched it last night.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Today I went to Starbucks for coffee. Unlike before the COVID-19 lock down, I didn't stay long. But I did spend a few moments chatting with the employees. And I'm amazed and how much difference that has made in my overall mood.

Now I'm an introvert. A strong introvert. So you'd think I'd take the lock down in stride. But, no, I got stressed and depressed and had little desire to read. I did manage to write (including the first draft of a short novel). My wife would go through the drive-through to get our coffee and I wouldn't go with her because I was afraid of being exposed to COVID-19.

But now I'm less afraid and our local Starbucks had gone to a "grab and go" format where you can go in, order your drink, and leave. So this gives me a chance to interact with other people. And I'm amazed how that's improved my mood. The other day the manager and I were trading Star Wars jokes while I was waiting for my coffee (What is the internal temperature of a Tauntaun? Luke warm!).

So, it goes to show that human interaction is necessary and good, even for introverts such as me.

Have you had problems with your mood during the lock down? Has interacting with people helped? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Einstein tells us we can't go faster than the speed of light which is 299,792,458 meters per second in SI units. That's over 670 million miles per hour.

We can't even, with foreseeable technology, go close to the speed of light. To propel a spacecraft the size of a small airliner at only one-tenth the speed of light requires as much energy as the US now produces in more than a hundred years. To go two-tenths the speed of light, would require 400 years of energy production. To go four-tenths the speed of light, would require 1,600 years of energy production. Each time you double the speed you quadruple the energy requirement. As you approach the speed of light, the energy required approaches infinity.

In Newtonian physics, this is because kinetic energy increases as the square of the velocity per this formula:

And at one-tenth the speed of light, it would require 44 years (about) to reach the nearest star (although for people on the ship would the time would 43.78 years due to time dilation caused by relativity). That is the Alpha Centauri star system. And there's no reason to think there are inhabitable planets in that star system nor alien life.

This is a conundrum for science fiction writers such as myself. In order to have our heroes and heroines have adventures on other planets and in other star systems, we need faster than light (FTL) travel.

In my novel Rock Killer, there is no FTL and the entire novel takes place in our solar system.

In my novel Forces, the humans don't have FTL but the aliens (some of which are evil) do.

But in my Treasures of Space series (Treasure of the Black Hole, Treasure of the Pirate Planet, and Treasure of the Rogue Moon), there is FTL travel. So we meet lots of alien species, go to lots of planets, and have a lot of fun. I stole "hyperspace" from other authors (and Star Wars). But coming up with an original FTL system is hard. In Forces, the aliens move interdimensionally and can travel between star systems in a moment. 

So science fiction writers need FTL. Or they will be pretty much stuck in the solar system.

Larry Niven in his Known Space series of books and stories, had humans using slower than light bussard ram jets to colonize space. But it took a loooong time. (Then they were sold the secret to the "hypercore" by an alien species.) 

But FTL is a mainstay of science fiction. And we're going to have to deal with that until and unless someone invents an FTL drive. Either that or you're stuck in the solar system or taking a long long time to get anywhere.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Curvy Roads

I like curvy roads. As long as they aren't too curvy. Just curvy enough to present a challenge to drive them fast, not so tight of curves you have to take them at 25 mph.

Where I live there aren't a lot of curvy roads. The land is pretty flat so the roads tend to be straight. Now straight roads have their uses (speed runs) and it was one such road where I got my Corvette up to 165 mph and my Audi up to 130 mph.  But curves are a challenge; a fun challenge.

Back when I drove on the racetrack, it was curvy and it was always a challenge to take the fastest path, or "line," through each corner. On public roads you can't do that unless you have clear sight lines and can see down the road because you don't want to hit an oncoming car head on as you drift into their lane.

So it's, in a way, even more challenging on public roads. There's a place in western Montana where Interstate 90 gets curvy and it is fun to drive. And the speed limit was 75 last I drove it. It might be 80 now. Too bad I don't have an excuse to go to Montana.

It takes knowing your car to drive a curvy road. You need to know its limits so you don't exceed them. And if you're not sure, go slower then speed up. Approach the limit from the bottom. I learned that on the race track.

Curves are so much more fun than straights (unless you're doing triple digits) and I love driving them. How do you feel about curvy roads? Enjoy them or hate them. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

I Can't Stand 55

As of today I've been in lock down for 55 days. That's almost two months. I haven't been anywhere other than my house and in my car. Last Saturday I did put gas in my car. That's the only time I've been outside the house or the car for 55 days.

I'm sleeping a lot lately. I'm wondering if it's depression/boredom. If I don't sleep 12 hours, I sleep for six. That might be anxiety (although I'm not as worried about dying as I was at the beginning of this).

I did manage to write the first draft of a short novel and start the first draft of a second one. So I have been productive. I've also done freelance work.

Yes, I'm a homebody and an introvert. But I would love to go to a restaurant or sit in Starbucks and people watch. Or drive to Spokane and have Korean food. And I'm a bit of a rebel. When I'm told I can't do something, that makes me want to do it more.

I live in Washington State and our governor is taking his own sweet time letting things open up. He has a four-stage plan but says stage one will last "at least" three weeks.

I also desperately need a haircut.

How are you handling the lock down? Or has your state opened up? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Bicycle Riding

Schwinn 10-speed
When I was a kid, I loved riding my bicycles. I had three growing up. My first was a little red one. The handle broke when I was riding it once. My father welded it back together (or had someone where he worked do it). It still broke at least one more time. I remember the handle breaking and knowing there was little I could do then to prevent a crash, I just waited for it.

Then I had a blue Schwinn Stingray. I rode that bike all over Idaho Falls, Idaho. I was taking swimming lessons in the summer and the pool was on the other side of town. Idaho Falls wasn't a very big city then, but it was big enough. I had to cross the busiest street in town: Boulevard (yes, the street name was "Boulevard"). Frankly, I'm amazed my mother let me do it. But it was a different time. These day a parent wouldn't hesitate to drive their kids to swim lessons.

In sixth grade I got a yellow Schwinn 10-speed. I tended to only use two gears: fifth for speeding up and tenth for "cruising." I must have had strong legs. I'd laugh at people using first gear. Admittedly, where I lived at the time (Blackfoot, Idaho) was pretty flat.

I would try to keep up with cars. This was downtown Blackfoot with stoplights and stop signs. I would pick a car and try to keep up with it. It would beat me to the stop sign but I'd often catch up while it waited to go.

Riding my bike was so fun. When I got to high school, I walked to class because, at a few blocks away, it was "too close" to bother riding. Then I got my driver's license and I hardly rode bikes again.

I remember once I was riding my 10-speed and I wanted to do a U-turn. The street was busy and I did't want to wait, so I turned hard left. I turned so hard the tires skipped a bit and I knew if the tires lost traction and the bike came out from under me, I'd probably get ran over. But I survive (obviously).

Did you have a bike as a kid? Did you love it? Let me know in the comments below.