Thursday, April 2, 2020

She's Gone

Me with the car shortly after I bought it.
I did it. I sold my 2007 Corvette Z06. Did it over the weekend. The guy paid in cash so I was nervous until we got all that money into the bank.

I had that car for almost exactly thirteen years. I bought it in April of 2007 and sold it in late March of 2020.

I loved that car but due to my health issues, I couldn't drive it enough to justify the cost of owning and insuring it. It was a blast to drive. I drove it on a racetrack when it was new and got up to 155 mph (if I took turn 10 perfectly, other wise I would get up to between 145 and 150).

Once, on a back road, I managed to get it to 165. That was scary fast. The car had a top speed of 198 according to Chevrolet. It's speedometer went to 200.

It had 505 stock horsepower. And you never floored the gas unless you had a lot of straight road ahead of you. A lot. It cornered really well. It came with Goodyear run-flat tires but they only lasted
Me with it the day I sold it
about 5,000 miles. Later I put on Michelin tires and it cornered even better and they lasted 15,000 miles, about. The Goodyears also leaked air badly. The Michelins didn't.

The first time I had to put on new tires, I had to go to Seattle because that was the only place in the whole state that could and would do run flat tires. Now there's a place a few miles from my house that does it.

But I loved driving this car. It was low and hard to get in and out of. But once you were in it, that didn't matter. It had a manual transmission and I loved to row the gearbox. Now I don't own any cars with a manual transmission. At one point, I owned three. Make that four (forgot about my son's car).

One of my favorite things to do was take it on a back road around here that is curvy and go as fast as I dared. It was so fun. And with my radar detector, I didn't worry....much.

Or just go to the interstate and go down the on ramp and up the off ramp as fast as I could. I'd go up a curvy off ramp at over 65 mph. It was a blast.

But now she's gone. The new owner promised to take care of her. I hope so. He had a 67 Corvette that he showed me a picture of. It looked oxidized.

And my wife is happy because she can now park her car in the garage. But I'll still miss my 'Vette.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

How Fast?

Washington State Speed Limit Sign
As an engineer, I was trained to think in SI units.

Is that Greek to you? Well, actually, it's French.

A "unit" is actually a unit of measure. Like a foot or a mile. "SI" is an abbreviation for the French term "Système Internationale" or "International System."

The basic SI units are the second (time), meter (length), ampere (electrical current), kelvin (temperature), candela (luminous intensity), mole (amount of a substance), and, kilogram (mass).

All other units are derived from these six. For example, speed (or velocity; and they are different) is measured in meters per second.

And there's the problem. When I see a speed limit sign without units, such as the one pictured here, I automatically think in SI units. So that should be 70 meters per second. Because that's how I was taught.

Now, my speedometer, for some strange reason, is calibrated in miles per hour. So I have to convert meters per second to miles per hour. And after some simple math (dividing, multiplying, making sure I keep my units straight), I find that 70 meters per second is around 156 miles per hour.

So is that the speed limit? Most cars can't go that fast (mine can). Would a cop buy that argument? Probably not.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why Do We Care?

I was watching football back in January, rooting for the Seattle Seahawks to beat the San Francisco 49ers to get into the Super Bowl.

And I started wondering, why do we care? Why do we care if the local sports teams or the sports teams from your Alma mater win?

Yes, I'm a rabid fan of University of Washington Huskies football. But why? I went to college there (a lot). But still, why? I have a friend who went to college there are doesn't care at all about how the football team (or any team) does.

I've been to a few games at Husky Stadium. And 70,000 people screaming for the same outcome does something to your brain. It makes you want your team to win. Really makes you want them to win. Politicians and celebrities understand this. I've been to political rallies and a hundred or so people standing up and cheering for the same thing has the exact effect of going to a football game does. Maybe not just as intense. But it does make your (political) team want to win. A politician or celebrity who can get the crowd rocking, will be much more successful.

Or, I've been to two concerts by a Heart cover band called Heart By Heart. Before the concerts, I liked Heart. But after the concerts, I really like Heart. Maybe a couple of hundred people cheering the same songs had the same effect as the football game and the political rally.

How does it affect our lives if our team wins? Or how does it affect our lives if our team loses? Basically it doesn't. But when they win, it's fun. I remember how fun the 2016 season was for the Huskies, especially beating the Oregon Ducks by a score of 70-21. That was one time that then-coach Chris Petersen did not pull his starters when the score was in the 40s. Probably because he knew that the Washington fans wanted to spank the Nike Ducks.

I'm sort of a fair-weather fan of the Seahawks. If they are doing well, I'll watch them (as they did this year). But if they aren't doing well, I ignore them. I have been to two Seahawks games. But that was back in the AFC days when they weren't very good.

So why do we care? I don't know. Other than it's fun when your team wins.

Do you know why we care? Or at least have a theory? Let me know in the comments below.


Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 and Me

At first when this virus was announced to the world, I wasn't very worried. Even though if I catch it, I'll be in serious trouble. I have lung disease (COPD) and heart disease (pulmonary hypertension caused by the COPD) and diabetes. I said on Facebook that I was slightly more worried about it than I was about a meteor hitting my house.

Then the government shut down schools and yesterday in Washington State, they shut down bars, restaurants, recreational facilities, and entertainment facilities (e.g., movie theaters).

Now I'm taking the threat a little more seriously. I'm debating a lot about self-isolation. I did continue to go to Starbucks but as of today, my local Starbucks has gone to drive-through or "grab and go" only. So I didn't stay long.

I check my temperature about three times a day. It's always been fine. But I've heard by that time you have a fever, it's too late. But there is a lot of false and misleading information out there.

I think I'll avoid going out in public, now. It's a good thing I can do my freelance work mostly through email and by phone. And, of course, my fiction writing is all done at home.

Unfortunately, this virus has been an economic nightmare. The stock market is down and businesses that are shut down are going to lose money. Some may not survive. And people need jobs to pay their bills. It's going to be tough for a while. But I'm hoping in four to six weeks it'll all be over. And by fall this will be an unpleasant memory.

How are you reacting to the coronavirus? Staying home or going on with your life?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Being a Grandfather

Not my Grandson
I'm a grandfather. I have been since September 2019. So my grandson is almost six months old now.

Being a grandparent is so interesting. It's like being a parent, but so much better. I first met my grandson when he was five hours old. The next day I thought, "He'll never be only five hours old again." So I miss anytime I don't get to be with him. And his parents live about a five-hour drive away. For that reason, I don't get to see him as often as I'd like.

He has, like me, red hair and blue eyes. I love that.

I cherish holding my grandson and feeding him. Or just holding him. Problem is getting him away from his grandmother! She loves babies in the first place. Having a grandson is for her the sine qua non of life.

I miss my grandson every day. Luckily his mother (my daughter-in-law) is good about sending pictures and videos almost every day. And my wife wants to go see him about once a month.

But I still can't believe how having a grandchild changes your life. You can't quite understand it until you're a grandparent.

Are you a grandparent? Let me know in the comments below about your adorable grandchildren.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dyslexia and Other Problems

I've never been diagnosed, but I swear I have dyslexia. Especially when it comes to numbers. I'll read a number and not realize that I've transposed two of the digits. I'll even say it out loud correctly, and write it down wrong at the same time.

I'm also a whole word reader. I see a word and I simply assume what word it is supposed to be. This sometimes has hilarious results. When I took my children to Walt Disney World, we were looking at a map of Epcot. There were lots of country areas such as Norway and Japan. I looked at one area and said, "Oh, that's Budapest." My sons then laughed and pointed out it said "Outpost."

I recently wrote a freelance article where I changed the last name of the subject because I "whole word" read his name as something that it isn't. That was embarrassing.

I've spent hours looking for the error in spreadsheets thinking I set up the cells wrong when I simply typed a number in incorrectly.

And don't ask me to proofread. I see the word I think is there, not the incorrectly spelled word.

I have spelled "no" as "know" and "who" as "how." I know the difference between those words, but something in my brain doesn't.

I have this other weird thing. I will type homonyms of the word I'm trying to write. Recently I wrote "were" in place of "where" (which are almost homonyms). I was just writing something recently and I wrote "time" instead of "team." Again, near homonyms.

So, of course, with all that, I decided to become a writer. At least I never wanted to be a bank teller.

(I have been diagnosed and Type-2 bipolar with dysthymia. So, yes, I am crazy.)

Do you have problems with dyslexia or other mental issues? Let me know how they affect your life in the comments below.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Parasite

I watched the movie Parasite a few days ago.  It won the Best Picture Oscar and is, so far, the only Best-Picture nominee I've seen.  Although I want to see (and have in my Netflix queue) Ford v Ferrari, JoJo Rabbit, 1917, and The Joker. Because Netflix chose to throttle me, all but 1917 have been released but Netflix hasn't deigned to send them to me yet.

But, back to Parasite. Going into this movie all I knew was that it was set in South Korea and was in Korean with subtitles. The Kim family (father, mother, son, and daughter) are poor (they even steal WiFi from a neighbor) and hook themselves up with the Park family, who are wealthy. They con their way in, earning money from the Park family by tutoring their children and other jobs. Everything goes well until an incredible secret is revealed.

It was an interesting movie, not only for the Korean culture displayed but for the story of the Kim family and how they form a parasitic relationship (thus the movie's title) with the Park family. There were surprises and a dark ending. I didn't understand why a character (the patriarch of the Kim family) did what he did at the climax of the movie.

Also, Park So-Dam, who played the Kim daughter, is a gorgeous woman. The movie is almost worth watching because of her alone. Yes, I'm that shallow.

I recommend Parasite as a good movie. If you can stand two hours of reading subtitles.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

No Good Music after '91

The other day on Jeopardy, they had a pop music category and I knew none of the answers (or questions, in Jeopardy parlance). That's because I don't think there's been any good music since '91....1791. Okay, I'm joking. 1991. Or maybe 1994 when Kurt Cobain died.

I just don't like modern music. Does that make me old? Maybe. And I loath rap/hip hop (I don't even know the difference; I don't even know if there is a difference).

I've talked about my music tastes before. And they are eclectic. But nothing after about 1995.

About modern music and performers, I feel like Brian in this clip from Family Guy:



I used to work with a woman who listened to modern music (she was older than I) to know what her grandchildren were listening to. But she also seemed to like it. She told me who Lady Gaga is.

I sometimes wonder if the music is worse, or my tastes have changed, or I'm just an old guy who doesn't like new stuff. I'm sure that's not it.

How do you feel about modern music. Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Roy

Roy's Shoes and Coat
Roy (not his real name) is a well-known character in the small town I live in. He walks along the streets in running shoes with no socks or shoe laces. Even on days it snows. He used to not wear a coat in winter but has recently changed that.

Roy goes to Starbucks everyday so I see him there. He asks people coming through the drive through for money to pay for his coffee. Then he sits at a certain table, puts his coat on the floor next to him and sits and reads. He used to read the newspaper (without paying for it) but lately he's been reading the Bible. He's gone all the way through it at least once, from what I can tell.

Roy is a nice guy, very soft spoken. If someone is sitting at "his" table, he chooses another table. If someone picks up his coat, thinking it shouldn't be on the floor, he will politely take it from them and put it back. Sometimes he'll ask me what time it is. A few weeks ago I say "Hi Roy." And he said "I can't believe it's going to get colder" (which was the weather forecast at the time). That's about the most lucid conversation I've had with him.

Roy obviously has some mental health issues. I don't judge him for that (I have mental health issues, after all). He seems to be in his 40s. Rumor around town is he lives with his brother who lives a long ways from Starbucks. So Roy has to walk that distance to and from Starbucks every day.

I have seen Roy coat-less in winter, sitting by the side of the road with his shoes off, his bare feet exposed to the elements. But I haven't seen that for a while. Maybe he's on better meds, now.

Since I, too, have mental health issues (I'm bipolar), I can kind of relate to Roy. You can't control what your brain chemistry does to you. I know that some people with mental health issues don't take their meds because they turn them into a lump (like lithium did to me). And maybe Roy doesn't, either.

Roy seems happy, though. I always hope he's able to find the right meds to make him mentally healthy and that he takes them.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

RadCon 8

Starting tomorrow through Sunday I will be at RadCon, the science fiction and fantasy Con in Pasco, Washington. As usual, it will be at the Red Lion hotel at 2525 N 20th Ave. Take the airport exit off the freeway (Exit 12B).

I will be on seven panels at RadCon this year, and probably wandering the halls some, too. Look for me in my brown fedora. I'd love to meet you.

Here is my panel schedule:

What publishing path is right for you?

The pros and cons of the various paths to publication

Friday 16:30 - 17:30,  Room 3125

Research and Writing 

From science to history to magic, the world is full of source material for writes if you only know where to look. Our panel of writers, game designers and fellow travelers.

Friday 19:00 - 20:00,  Room 3125

Freelancing for Fun and Profit

This is a panel I suggested and am moderating.

Saturday 09:00 - 10:00, Room 3127

Shapeshifters in Fiction

 From myth and legend to fantasy, horror and, yes, even romance, the shifter character has a long tradition of lore and trope behind it. Why do we love shape changers, and how can we do them justice in our own works? Panel will discuss writing shifters, the good, the bad, and the ugly in shifter fiction, and new directions for the shape-shifting character in the future.

Saturday 11:30 - 12:30, Room 3127

The Care and Feeding of Writers

What is it like living with a writer? How do you keep from running away or killing them? Long suffering partners of writers give their insight and advice on how to survive. (At last a panel for those poor patient “others” we writers drag to these conventions.)

Saturday 20:15 - 21:15, Room 3119

When Genres Collide

How pure do you like your writing? What recipe is preferred by readers? Scifi with a dash of fantasy? Fantasy with a pinch of romance, or a whole cup? Pure distillation with no crossover? What sort of formulae seems to be popular with readers right now?

Sunday 09:00 - 10:00, Room 3127

Defeating the Blank Page

If you are a writer, I’m sure you have had writer's block. But you don't want to simply get unstuck. To put forth your best effort and end with the finest version of your creation, you will need to build upon and maintain your momentum.

Sunday 10:15 - 11:15,  Room 3125

Wow! Seven panels. I'm going to be busy. Hope to see you there. It's going to be fun.



Thursday, February 6, 2020

So, It Begins...

I don't do politics on this blog (except when I talked about studded snow tires and getting rid of the penny).

But 2020 is an election year so we have to go through the annual rite of caucuses and primaries and the horse race. The Republican nominee is pretty obvious at this point, but the Democrats have a long slog ahead of them. It could go to the convention that starts on July 13th (It's in Milwaukee). We just went through the Iowa caucuses (and what a mess that was!). Now it's on to the New Hampshire primary.

It's different than it was when I was a kid, before cable news. When I was a kid, every four years my favorite television shows would be preempted for the Olympics and the presidential election coverage. Now cable news does most of the election coverage (they have to fill those 24-hour news cycles) and my favorite shows aren't on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) that also do election coverage. Now days you can, if you choose, ignore politics. You couldn't in the '60s and '70s. (You shouldn't do that today.)

So, I'll watch a little political coverage (I used to be a political junkie, even watching the conventions for both major parties) and see if anything is interesting. But mostly I'll just vote in the Washington primary and the general election. And watch Better Call Saul.

What are your plans this election year for paying attention to politics. Ignore it until Labor Day or watch every moment of political coverage you can? Or something in between. Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Wooden Phone

Xylophone
I love word origins. Not sure why, but I'm always interested in how words are built from Latin, Greek, or other languages. It fascinates me.

When I was learning Korean in the military, I got very interested when they started explaining that a lot of Korean words come from Chinese and there are Chinese characters associated with them.  But the Koreans pronounce them differently than the Chinese do. And so do the Japanese pronounce them differently from the Chinese and the Koreans.

For example, this is the Chinese character for "beautiful" or "beauty" (context matters in Chinese):
It's made up of two other Chinese characters, one I recognize is "big" (the bottom one.) I think the top one might be "sheep." So a big sheep is beautiful. (The smaller characters in a Chinese character are called "radicals.") I guess if you live in an agrarian society, a big sheep might be beautiful.

Koreans pronounce it as "mi" (or "me"). In Chinese it's pronounced "may." (I'm trying to Anglicize what I hear, so bear with me). And in Japanese it's pronounced "bi." But it means pretty much the same thing in each language ("beautiful").

Boy, am I off my subject.

A while back I was watching Jeopardy (as I do most every weekday) and they had a question about an instrument with metal bars that you hit with a mallet. And I said "what is a xylophone" because I often call out answers. But the right answer was "glockenspiel." Then I got thinking, xylophones have wooden bars that you hit. And (since I have a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources), I know that "xylum" refers to trees. So I googled xylophone and, sure enough, it is a combination of the Greek words "xylon" meaning wood and "phone" meaning sound. So xylophone means "wood sound" in Greek.

Another thing I love to do is learn new things. And I did!

Are you fascinated by words and their origins? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

My Son's Cat, the Rebel

Lily
My son, who lives with me, has a rescue cat named Lily. She's a pretty cat and tolerates being cuddled reasonably well. I talked about her before.

But she has one trait that drives me nut: she scratches the carpet and sometimes the furniture. And she knows she's not supposed to do it because when you tell her to stop, she does, and when you see her, she looks guilty. We try to spray her with water whenever she scratches. And she looks at you, ducking her head as if to anticipate the spray.

So, obviously, she knows she's not supposed to scratch the carpet or the furniture. But she does it anyway.

And she has things to scratch on and we praise her when she does scratch them and not the carpet or furniture. Once, recently, she was scratch the carpet right next to her scratch pad.

I can't figure why she does what she knows she's not allowed to do. Why does she try to get away with it. Is it because at night when we're asleep, she can get away with it? My wife says she probably doesn't because she misbehaves to get out attention. But when we give her attention, she gets all aloof and acts like she doesn't like it.

She has other habits, too. She tries to open cupboards and go inside. We try to discourage that and we've resorted to baby locks on some of the cupboards with dangerous things in them (such as under the kitchen sink).

And, like a two-year-old child, you're just ready to strangle her, and she looks at you and does something cute.

Talking with other cat owners, this is apparently typical cat behavior.

Do you have an animal? Does it have a rebellious streak? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Theme Songs

A while back I was watching Mission: Impossible (the 1996 movie version with Tom Cruise). And I started listening to the music and noting how it made the scene more exciting and tense. Okay, that's the job of a soundtrack, but this was the Mission: Impossible theme that was originally written in the 1960s for the television show. It was a bit updated, but was basically the same music.

When I was a kid in the 1960s (yes, I'm that old), I was obsessed with the Hawaii Five-O theme. So much so that my mother bought me the 45 rpm record of it (yes, I'm that old) and I played it constantly. I didn't watch the show much (my parents didn't allow it because it was "too adult") but I loved that music. Even today, it brings back feelings of impending excitement and adventure.

So a well-written piece of music can stand the test of time. But then again, music written in the 1700s is still powerful and evocative today.

How does music affect you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Running Away

When I was about four or five years old, I ran away from home. I remember doing it at least twice, once from the house and once in the downtown of the small town I lived in. My parents wisely said, "Better take a sandwich; you might get hungry" and let me go.

The first time I ran away (from the house), I stopped at a gas station and watched the goings on there. That's where my parents found me. The second time (downtown) some friends of my parents found me walking down the sidewalk and returned me to my parents, shocked that they would let me just run away like that.

But, my parents knew I'd come home when I got hungry. Or tired. Or bored.

The problem is for me lo these many years later, is I have no idea why I felt the need to run away. At the time I thought, perhaps, it was required. Maybe I saw something on television. I don't know. I sort of felt as if it were my duty to run away. I don't know. It's strange. Who can know the mind of a four or five year old?

Did you do anything as a child you have no idea why you did it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2020

By now you should be over your headache/hangover from New Years Eve.

Welcome to 2020. This is the year the move Pacific Rim is set. Also Edge of Tomorrow. Those were both surprisingly good films.

When I was a kid, the year 2000 seemed forever away. Now we're 20 years past 2000.  Will I see 2030? 2040? With my health problems?

If you're young, you have no conception of how fast time moves when you're older. I changed my career nine years ago by becoming a freelance writer and author. Nine years! It's flown by.

So, for 2020 I plan to keep on doing what I'm doing. And enjoy life as much as I can. Unless monsters come out of the sea or aliens invade.

What are your plans for 2020? Let me know in the comments below.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year

I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.

But it's an election year, so...never mind.