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

Masks

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

Pink?

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

Spin

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.

Or...

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

Progress

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

Confirmation

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.

Lily
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
far).

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

People!

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

FTL

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.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Driver Assist

I currently own two cars. One is a 2017 Volkswagen GTI that my wife drives. The other, that I drive most often, is a 2014 Audi. I ordered that car custom from the factory and the only two options I got were the paint (that car manufactures charge for paint drives me nuts) and ventilated, massaging seats. It had the usual panoply of safety nannies (traction control, stability control, ABS). The only other driver's assist is has is blind spot monitoring, which I absolutely love and has saved me a couple of times. The only problem is, I've come to rely on it. Instead of checking my blind spot, I look to see if the car has detected anything there. I shouldn't do that.

One time I was driving in the Seattle area and depending on the blind spot monitoring. Suddenly I realized that somehow it got turned off. I felt lucky I hadn't hit anyone.

I'm not a big fan of most other diver assist functions. I'm especially not a fan of automatic braking which I think could easily cause an accident. I am a big fan of traction control, stability control, and ABS braking. But that's as far as it goes.

But someday I'll probably need to buy a new car. And more driver assists will be standard and not optional. One I think I would like is traffic jam assist which Audi might bring to the U.S. That system, as I understand it, works under certain speeds (like 35 mph) and uses radar to follow the car in front of you and brake when necessary. This would make driving in a traffic jam so much easier.

I'm not sure what will come in the future. I am not looking forward to autonomous cars because I like to drive. But as we move toward autonomous cars, manufactures are looking for ways to make driving easier. GM has "Supercruise" in its Cadillac line. That allows you to let the car pretty much drive itself on interstate highways. Not sure how it handles traffic.

And I think in the future, I'm going to have to learn how to turn off intrusive driver assist systems.

What do you think of driver assist systems? Are you looking forward to autonomous cars? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Korean Names

Korean Writing (Hungul) for South Korea
A while back I watched Parasite, the Korean film that won the best picture Oscar. And it reminded me of something I don't understand, at least not since I studied the Korean language in the military. And that is when certain names in Korean are anglicized, we add letters and sounds to them.

In their anglicized form, the three most common (by far) Korean surnames are Kim, Park, and Lee.

Now "Kim" we don't mess with. But Park and Lee are not how they are pronounced in Korean.

Park is actually "Pak" with a short "a." Sort of like a Bostonian saying "Park." The middle vowel sound is like "ahhh." So why, when it is anglicized, do we add an "r" and pronounce it "Park"? Is "Pak" too hard for English speakers to say? I doubt it.

In my novel Hammer of Thor, my hero meets (and falls in love with) a Korean woman named Pak Me-young. Not understanding that Koreans (and most Asian cultures) put the family or surname first, he thinks her first name is Pak. Which he changes to "Peg" because he can't understand why a beautiful woman would be named "Pak." Yeah, he's an idiot. Part of his character arc.

The other name that is changed when anglicized is "Lee" which is also sometimes anglicized as Ree or Rhee. It is actually pronounced in Korean as "Ee." That is just a long "e" sound. Not Lee. Or Rhee. Or Ree. But why? Can't English speakers say "Ee"?

I was watching a M*A*S*H rerun a while back, and they called someone "Mr. Pak." I was impressed. It's one of the few times I've heard that name pronounced correctly in popular culture by Americans.

If you have any idea why this is done, let me know in the comments below. If you have an opinion on this, let me know in the comments below.

And the Korean Hangul writing above is pronounced "Hankook." It means "Korea."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lock Down

The Saturday before Easter was my "half way" point of being locked down. That is, if the lock down isn't extended. I last left the house March 20th (except in the car which I didn't leave) and the lock down in Washington State is supposed to end May 4th (although the governor is making noises it may go longer).

If I catch COVID-19, I will likely die due to my preexisting conditions (lung disease and heart disease). So I'm being careful. My one worry is my youngest son, who works delivering pizzas and is considered essential. I'm hoping he doesn't catch the disease and bring it home to me.

For Easter dinner, my oldest son and his family Skyped in. They were planning on coming up for Easter, but those plans were killed by the virus. I would like to hold my grandson soon. But that's going to have to wait for this stupid disease to play itself out. Then maybe my wife and I will travel down there to see them.

I'm not sure when they will let us out and life get back to normal. Maybe when there's a vaccine? And when will there be a vaccine?

But I'm locked down until at least May 4th. Good thing I enjoy being inside, being an introvert. But even for me, it's getting to be a long time without leaving the house.

How are you handling the lock down? Or are you essential and have to work? And how is that going? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Cultural What?

One of my novels
I came across this article on Facebook. It was written in the UK Guardian about an American writer, Jeanine Cummins.

The article is about how Cummins, a white author, has written a book called American Dirt about...Hispanic illegal immigrants. Ms. Cummins goal in writing her novel was to make Americans to stop seeing migrants as a "faceless brown mass" and to bear witness to the "tragedy of our making on our southern border" according to the article. So I suspect Ms. Cummins is not exactly a Trump supporter.

But, she has been attacked from the left. She has been accused of "cultural appropriation" because her characters are Mexicans and she isn't. As the Guardian puts it:
[W]riters and artists [are] being called out for having stepped beyond their permitted cultural boundaries to explore themes about people who are not 'fundamentally 'like' us" (Emphasis added)
"Beyond their permitted cultural boundaries," they say. What is a white person's (or a black person's or a brown person's or a yellow person's) "permitted cultural boundaries." As a heterosexual white guy can I only write about straight men of pallor?

One of my first novels, Rock Killer, has a black female main character. Is that beyond my "permitted cultural boundaries?" There's also a Korean-American main character. Is that not "permitted"?

This is important to me because in three of my published novels (The Treasure of Space series) the hero is brown. But, then again, so is most everyone in his world. He is surprised when he comes across a white girl (the one on the cover). The novel is set 3,000 years in the future. There is nothing about him that is related to modern day brown/black people.

It's also important to me because, beyond all else in politics, I believe in liberty.

Now if you're white (or purple or whatever) and writing racist stuff about people of a different color/culture, that's not "cultural appropriation," that's being an asshole.

But it's equally being an asshole (and racist) to tell an artist they can't do something because of their race and/or gender and/or sexual orientation. You might as well say blond people can't write books about brunette people. Or gay writers can't write straight characters. It's ridiculous.

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.