Thursday, September 23, 2021

Interstate 90 Autobahn

I always used to scoff that those "Slower Traffic Keep Right" signs because I was rarely slower traffic. I did keep right except when passing because it's Washington State law that you have to keep right except while passing.

But that's all changing and I don't know why.

A few weeks ago I drove to Seattle and back to see the Huskies lose to Montana. Now I usually set the cruise control 5 mph above the speed limit. That keeps the cops off my back. And that used to make me one of the faster cars on the interstate. But lately, it's not. Lately I'm the slower traffic. (I've touched on this before.) On both the way there and the way back on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I was being passed constantly by cars exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 mph, probably more. I learned to check my mirrors before pulling out to pass to make sure there wasn't a car coming up fast in the left lane. It was almost like I hear driving on the German autobahn is like. 

For example, There were three lanes and I was in the middle lane passing someone. I was doing 80 mph to get around that person and free up that lane. And someone passed me on the left going much faster then I was. I estimated they were doing at least 90 mph. The speed limit is 70. 

I don't know why this is happening. I wonder if it's Google Maps/Waze showing where people have reported cops. I don't trust it enough to risk going faster than 76 mph (I added a mile per hour because so many cars were going so much faster). If I started driving 80+ mph, I'd get a big nasty ticket pretty soon. At least, that's my experience. 

I didn't experience this when I drove to Walla Walla for the Chicago concert. But that was mostly two-lane road and I did a bunch of passing of slower vehicles.

So now I am the slower traffic and, yes, I keep right.

Do you have an idea why people drive so fast lately. Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Huskies are 1-2

 (Yes, it's Monday; I'm a day late.)

The University of Washington Huskies are 1-2 after actually winning a game and winning it handily. On Saturday, the Huskies played Arkansas State at home in Husky Stadium. There were only about 53,000 fans there compared with the Montana game that had approximately 61,000. The rain may have had something to do with that, but I'm thinking fans didn't want to go to another losing game.

Quarterback Dylan Morris missed his first four throws and I thought "here we go again."  But then he started connecting with his receivers. And threw a few long bombs for big plays. He did throw two interceptions, so that's something he needs to work on.

The Huskies had 200 yards rushing with Richard Newton leading the way with 52 yards.

Toward the end of the game, Coach Jimmy Lake pulled his started, including the quarterback, and played backups. Even then the Huskies scored on a fumble recovery and run in for a touchdown. The final score was 52-3.

One thing I didn't like to see was the Arkansas State coach grabbed a player by the collar and appeared to be screaming at him. There's no place for that in college football.

If the Huskies had played this way against Montana, they would have won. If they played this way against Michigan, they might have won.

Now we go into Pac-12 play. We play California at home next Saturday. They are also 1-2. I'm hoping the Washington team that showed up Saturday shows up next week. The game is at 6:30pm on Pac-12 Network. 


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Evil

A national political commentator whose opinions I usually agree with said the show Evil was "the best thing on Paramount+." So I'm watching it. And its may not be the best thing on Paramount+, but it is damn good.

The show involves a former Catholic (now atheist) female psychologist who is hired by the Catholic Church to investigate possessions and other supernatural events. She works with a Catholic priest in training (played by Mike Coulter of Luke Cage fame and an actor I really like) and a technical guy who is Muslim. An interesting group.

The genius of the show is they never tell you that the supernatural things shown are real or not. And with the three perspectives of the characters, you never know what to believe. But toward the end of the first season, they start to strongly hint that all the supernatural things are real. 

The show wraps Catholicism into its plots often. 

Now I say I don't do horror because I don't. But Evil is horror-lite. The psychologist has four young daughters and the only time I really get scared is when the story line involves them. There's another psychologist who is the bad guy named Leland Townsend. He's shown doing evil things and the plot thickens when he starts dating the female psychologist's mother.

I recommend Evil if you can handle the...  evil. It is very well done and just scary enough to make it interesting. I'm about to start on season two.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Huskies are 0-2; Not a Great Start

I was worried about this game before last week's debacle. The University of Washington Huskies have a tendency to not do well on big, nationally broadcast, away, non-conference games. After last week's loss to FCS team Montana, I went into this game pretty sure they would lose. My only hope was that the game wasn't too lopsided.

If the team that showed up in Michigan in front of 108,345 screaming fans (Michigan has the biggest football stadium in the NCAA) had played Montana, they would have probably won. The defense did a good job, and at one point, held Michigan to a field goal. 

The offense was better. Quarterback Dylan Morris showed more confidence and hit his receivers more often.  He was never intercepted (there were no turnovers in the game at all). But he was sacked four times, showing our offensive line needs work. One issue is our lack of wide receivers (their ranks thinned by injury). Because of that, Michigan could gang up on the Husky front line and stop any runs. And Coach Jimmy Lake kept running up the middle for one or two yards. 

The final score was 31-10 Michigan. Which is not as bad as I thought it could be. You can thank the Husky defense for that. 

Next week we play at home again against Arkansas State. They are 1-1 on the season and I have no idea how good of a team they are. They are an FBS team so they should be better then Montana. The game starts at 1:15PM on Pac-12 Networks. (I have a feeling the Huskies will be on the Pac-12 Network a lot this season).

I am worried about bowl eligibility. Because if we can't beat Montana, who can we beat? We need six wins to be bowl eligible. So far we  have... zero.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Chicago Concert

 A week ago Wednesday, the first day of the month, I went to Walla Walla, Washington to see the band Chicago. It was definitely worth the drive.

I've liked Chicago since I was a teenager. I had almost all of their albums up to Chicago VII. After that album they went all pop in the '80s. (The albums I didn't have were Chicago Transit Authority, which was their first, a live album call Chicago at Carnegie Hall, and Chicago III.)(I never  heard any good things about Chicago III and the live album.)(Don't really like live albums anyway.)

The concert was at the rodeo arena at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds. I had floor tickets nine rows back from the stage. The only bad part was we were on the dirt of the rodeo arena. And the chairs were small and close together. I bought the tickets early in March of 2020, but we all know what happened and the show was delayed until this year.

But the concert was great. A bit loud but great (the speakers were about two-stories tall). They concentrated on their earlier stuff but did a little from

Photo by S. Evan Townsend
the 1980s. There was a drum duet which actually was pretty good. I'm not sure how many original members of the band are still in it. Their website doesn't list the members, just the ones who have left the band. Most of the playing was spot on and great. But some was a bit off (especially the flute player). The crowd was really into it (as was I) and that of course, feeds the band's enthusiasm. It was a very good time.

They hinted they'd be back next year. So maybe I'll have to go again.

I told my wife going in that they were either going to start or end with "25 or 6 to 4" (about a song writer lucubrating) They ended with it. All in all, a great show.

(I would have done this blog post a week ago, but I didn't have time between the concert ending and the blog post going live at 6am my time.)


Monday, September 6, 2021

I'm Sad

The University of Washington Huskies football team is 0-1. They lost to the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday. I was at the game almost on the 50-yard line, seven rows up from the field (see picture). 

This is a humiliating loss because Montana is a FCS team (that means the school is smaller and unable to recruit the best players) and Washington was a ranked team. I'm sure when the AP top 25 football rankings come out tomorrow, the Huskies will no longer be ranked.

The Husky quarterback Dylan Morris had 27 completions out of 46 attempts and was intercepted three times. And late in the fourth quarter, he missed critical down plays, including a 4th down that turned the ball over to Montana and pretty much ended the game. Morris was also sacked three times. There were no explosive plays and almost no long throws. Maybe Morris is the best QB the Huskies have. If so, we're in big trouble.

It looked like the Huskies were the FCS team, not a ranked FBS team. 

Going into this game, one sports pundit called it a "glorified scrimmage." But you don't lose those. 

Next week the Huskies travel to take on Michigan in front of  approximately 100,000 screaming fans. If the team does not improve greatly in the time before then, they are going to get their asses handed to them. That game is on ABC at 5pm PDT. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

College Football Starts!

College football is starting and after last year's awful COVID-shortened season, I'm ready. College football actually started last weekend with a few games being played. But it starts in earnest tomorrow. 

The AP Top 25 poll puts the University of Washington Huskies at number 20. (Annoyingly, it puts the Oregon Nike Ducks at number 11.) USC is number 15 and Utah is number 24. Arizona State is number 25. 

Of course, Alabama is number one. Of course.

I'll be at the Huskies' game tomorrow in Seattle. They are playing Montana in what will likely be a warm up game before they travel to Michigan on September 11th. The Huskies have a bad habit of losing big away games against non-conference teams. I hope that isn't the case on the 11th. 

The Montana game is at 5pm and will be broadcast only on Pac-12 Network which is available on Dish Network and Xfinity (it's basically why I have Dish). There's other places, too, listed here.

We'll have to see how new coach Jimmy Lake does. Last year, his first year, he went 3-1, losing to Stanford. But how will he handle a full season? We'll have to see.

I'll probably post on Sunday about the game on Saturday. Or maybe Monday. Right now all I can say is "Go Dawgs!"

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Fun Words

Did you know that this blog is hebdomadal. It is, it really is. Well, usually. Except during college football season.

I enjoy interesting, fun words. Occasionally I'll sneak on in one of my novels. 

Here's an interesting word: Brobdingnagian. It comes from Gulliver's Travels and means "big, really really big."

Another fun word is crepuscular. which means "of, relating to, or resembling twilight. Also dim." But if you add "rays" to it (as in crepuscular rays), it means the rays of light that come out of the sky from clouds.  Also called "God's rays."

Phosphenes are the lights you see when you close your eyes. The lights that get more active when you rub your eyes in the dark.

And pareidolia means seeing shapes (such as faces) in random stimulus. Such as phosphenes. Or seeing shapes in clouds.

Oh, and  hebdomadal? That means occurring once a week. 

Do you know any more interesting words. I'd love to learn them. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Simpsons

I recently finished watching the first ten seasons of The Simpsons on Disney+. My goal starting out was twenty seasons, but I'm not going to make it. The tenth season was hard enough to slog through (except there was one joke in the second-to-last episode of the tenth season that almost literally had me rolling on the floor).  And I have already seen most if not all of my favorite episodes such as "Last Exit to Springfield," "Duffless," and "Deep Space Homer."

One thing I didn't like was that Disney+ showed the episodes widescreen when they were originally 4:3. That sometimes cut off important parts of the visuals (such as in "Duffless.") See details here.

Also, the third season episode, "Stark Raving Dad" isn't on Disney+, perhaps because of its Michael Jackson connection (Jackson voiced a character who things he's Michael Jackson). Apparently you have to buy the complete third season on DVD to see it these day.

I watched normally two episodes a day. Sometimes on the weekend I'd watch more. 

Watching the series so fast, you can almost feel the quality degrading as the years pass. The early seasons (after the short season one) seemed to be the best, and it went downhill from there but with occasional brilliant episodes. 

I also watched the seventeenth season episode "Girls Just Want to Have Sums" as it was, I believe, the last truly brilliant episode. 

I watched The Simpsons in first run for thirty years. But then I gave up on it. I see it still is running but I'm not watching (I gave up on Family Guy, too).

Now I'm going to have to find something new to watch. Not sure what. Maybe catch up on The Expanse

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Pac-12 and Who I Hate


College football starts soon. And I am, of course, rooting for the University of Washington Huskies (Go Dawgs!) The Huskies play in the Pac-12 conference and there are some rivalries and teams I outright hate in that conference.

For football, the Pac-12 is divided into two divisions each with six teams. They are the Pac-12 North and the Pac-12 South. The winner of each division plays in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game.

First, I loath the Oregon Nike Ducks (Pac-12 North). They are my most-hated team. Mostly because they usually beat the Huskies. But also going back to when the Huskies had some minor recruiting violations, Oregon led the way for the Pac-12 to discipline the program even when the NCAA said there was no need for that. I will root against Oregon no matter who they are playing. Even the Cougs.

In second place, is the Washington State University Cougars (Pac-12 North). They are my second most-hated team and a cross-state rival. We beat the Cougars a lot, but of course, it's a cross-state rivalry. I'm required to hate them.

In third place is USC Trojans (Pac-12 South). They are just so arrogant. Even when they lose.

In fourth place is the Stanford Cardinal (it's a color and Pac-12 North). For some reason, we have trouble beating them.

In fifth place is the Utah Utes (Pac-12 South). They are a tough team to beat.

Finally, in sixth place is the University of Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12 South). They are (usually) a tough team to beat, especially when they play at home. Predictions are they won't be very good this year.

And the rest of the teams, including Pac-12 North teams Oregon State and California and Pac-12 South Teams Colorado, Arizona State, and UCLA I don't have much feelings toward. Except, of course, I always want to beat them when the Huskies play them.



Thursday, August 12, 2021

Trees in 140 Characters

 I was looking for ideas to blog about and I found this random blog idea generator. It first wanted me to enter a noun so I entered "tree." Don't ask why. Five ideas came up. I didn't really like most of them (and they all had "tree" in them someplace). But one caught my eye:

"Tree explained in 140 characters."

I have a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources. I probably know more about trees than the average Joe (although my specific area of study was turning trees into paper). And, as you probably know, 140 characters was what Twitter used to allow (now it's 280).

I had to think about what do trees do? How do they do it? What is the net result?

Here's what I came up with:

Trees grow up, turning air into sugar, sugar into structure, structure into height. They can be huge or merely tall. They make oxygen for us 

The last period is missing because that's the 141st character.

Trees take air, that is, carbon dioxide, plus water and turn it into glucose, a sugar. Then in a process I don't understand (never learned) they take glucose and turn it into cellulose which then becomes the structure of the tree. Some trees are tall and some hare huge (such as the California Redwoods and Sequoias). 

So what do you think of my 140-character description of trees? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Thirty Days!

It's thirty days until the University of Washington Huskies start their 2021 season. I'm going to be there as they take on an FCS team, the Montana Grizzlies.

This year is a bit of a mystery going in. Coach Jimmy Lake's record is 3-1 from last year's COVID-shortened season. So who knows how he'll handle a full season?

I've seen predictions that the Huskies will go 14-0 this season. I've seen predictions they'll be in second place in the Pac-12 North behind the despised (by me and all right-thinking people) Oregon Nike Ducks. So I don't know. I'm pretty confident they'll win their first game on September 4th against Montana. But I'm worried about their second game which is at Michigan. The Huskies historically don't do well on big, out-of-conference, nationally-broadcast away games. But maybe they will be better this year.

The recruiting buzz is positive as the Huskies apparently had some good players commit to the team. I don't know if that will manifest itself this year or later.

A while back I was watching a Huskies game from 2016. That was the year they ended up at #4 in the nation and were 12-2 overall (having lost to Alabama in the CFP). And the team oozed talent, from John Ross to Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin, and Tyler Rapp. Maybe that magic can happen again this year. We'll have to see.

That first game in thirty days is on September 4th at 5:00 PM PDT. It will be on the Pac-12 Network (which I get on my Dish satellite television service). I'll be in the stands yelling, "Go Dawgs!"

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Simone Biles Did the Right Thing

Gymnast Simone Biles has pretty much dropped out of the Olympics being held in Tokyo this week. She said she needs to focus on her mental health.

Some people are mad at because she probably cost the US at least one if not more gold medals. I heard a news talking head say "There's Gen Z for ya."

But, I don't agree with that. As a person who is neurologically diverse (I'm bipolar), I understand Biles's motivations. As I explained in this blog post, you have to take care of yourself. It's important. More important than almost anything else.

Plus, watching gymnastics, I'm sure it takes a lot of concentration and you can't be distracted by anything. Otherwise, you could get hurt, perhaps seriously. It's like driving on a racetrack. You can't be distracted.

I admire Biles for having the courage to disappoint a lot of people to take care of herself. This is her third Olympics and she's 24 years old. That's a lot of pressure for a young woman. She'll be 27 when the next Olympics happen in 2024. She may still compete then. 

So, give Biles a break. She did the right thing.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Second Guessing

I suppose everyone second guesses themselves. But I seem to have made an art form out of it. I'm always second guessing myself. In my freelance work, I'll send off an assignment, then wonder if I did something wrong, or forgot something. So then I'm always double checking after the fact.

Or in my fiction writing, I'll always wonder if I forgot something important. Then I hope beta readers find it. I usually don't forget; I'm pretty good at keeping things straight. Although I was just editing a first draft of a work in progress and a minor character changed names.

This isn't just in my writing. Late in June this year I worried that I forgot to pay my estimated taxes (due June 15th). But I, of course, had.

It's frustrating to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop because I'm not sure I did something right, when I did.

I don't know if I second guess myself more than other people. I have the feeling I do.

Do you second guess yourself a lot? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

An Ode to Cruse Control

I like to drive. I enjoy it and the faster the better, at least for short periods. I've gone 155 mph on a race track. That was the most fun I've had with my clothes on.

But on long trips, I love cruse control. 

I recently went to Seattle and back in one day and, surprise, it rained. Also we ran into stop-and-go traffic on the way over (before the rain). Coming back it was raining hard on Snoqualmie Pass and for some reason traffic was heavy. I couldn't use my cruise control, which made driving more of a chore.

Also, around where I live, roads tend to be straight and not too busy. Cruise control is a must. Set your speed 5 mph over the speed limit and... cruise. It takes some of the tedium out of driving on straight roads. That, and having SiriusXM blasting out of the radio.

I also use cruise control to not speed (too much). My right foot is a rebel and without cruise control I'd likely go too fast (for the speed limit, not conditions). A few years back I rented a minivan to take the family on vacation. We drove to Yellowstone Park and then to Mount Rushmore. A lot of straight roads (especially in Wyoming and South Dakota). And the cruise control didn't work. I had to be careful lest I find myself going 85-90 mph (and most of the speed limits were 75 mph).

Four years ago I was in Idaho and the speed limit was 80. I set the cruise control at 85 mph and enjoyed the ride.

So I love cruise control. How do you feel about it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Star Wars Prequels

Over the Independence Day long weekend, I watched Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars II: The Attack of the Clones on Disney+ in 4K UHD and my Dolby Atmos 7.1 surround sound system. I then watched Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith last night, also on Disney+.

I haven't watched these movies since they came out on the theater years ago (1999 for Phantom Menace, 2002 for Attack of the Clones, and 2005 for Revenge of the Sith). I remembered my rank disappointment in these films, especially Phantom Menace. Watching them again about 20 years later I've changed my opinions a little. 

**Spoilers ahead**

Phantom Menace is as bad as I remembered. As a lot of people have said, Darth Maul was the only interesting character, and they killed him off. From the opening scroll about taxes and trade relations, the whole thing ends up being boring. The pod racing sequence goes on forever and isn't as exciting as I think Lucas thought it was. And then there's Anikan's virgin birth. Is Lucas trying to make him a Jesus figure? It was all a mess. The best part was the light saber fight with Darth Maul. 

And don't get me started on Jar Jar Binks.

Attack of the Clones was in some ways, better then I remembered. Anikan was still whiny and hard to like. How did PadmĂ© ever fall in love with him? The action sequences were better than I remember (with Natalie Portman's top strategically ripped). But I still think the love story is completely unbelievable. 

Revenge of the Sith is definitely the better of the three movies even if it is a little over-long. Lucas did a good job setting up Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The two climactic light saber duels (Yoda versus the new emperor and Obi Wan vs Darth Vader) are well done and fun to watch. It's interesting to see how Anikan is seduced by the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader. I actually enjoyed this movie more than I expected to.

George Lucas is a visionary. His movies used to be exceptionally good... when he was constrained by budget and the studios. But when he has a free hand and lots of money, he tends to try to do too much and it doesn't always work as well. 

How do you like these movies? Did you like them more than I? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Movie Rankings

A while back I ranked the Star Wars and Star Trek moves in order from best to worst. I've thought about doing that for other movie series, but there haven't really been any series that I've watched that have that many movies (except the Fast and Furious movies, and there's at least one-Tokyo Drift-I haven't seen). Problem is, they aren't very memorable. I can barely tell you what they are about. I do remember the one with Nathalie Emmanuel in it. But then again, she's gorgeous.

Joke: hasn't the Fast and Furious series gone on long enough for J. J. Abrams to ruin them now?

I didn't watch all the Harry Potter movies. I did watch all the Hunger Games moves but I didn't like them much. And, of course, I didn't watch all the Twilight movies. Yes, I watched the first one just to see what it was about.

I could do the three Indiana Jones movies (yes, there are only three) but that's pretty simple:

1) Raiders of the Lost Ark

2) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 

3) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

(My wife might switch the first two's positions.)

Or I could do the Matrix movies

1) the first movie

2) the second movie

3) the third movie

(I've heard rumors of a fourth movie in the Matrix series. I hope it's better than I expect.)

I thought about doing the Pixar movies, but there are a lot of them and I haven't seen them all (I've see 21 out of 23, though).

I could rank the Toy Story movies:

1) Toy Story 2

2) Toy Story

3) Toy Story 3

4) Toy Story 4

So, I guess there's little to be ranked once you've done Star Wars and Star Trek movies.

Do you have any ideas for movie series to rank? Or do you think I've covered the gamut? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Somebody Write This Podcast

 I was the guest on the Somebody Write This podcast where we try to brainstorm a random plot into a story. It was fun. Listen here.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why Do (Most of Us) Drive on the Right Side?

This is based on one of my first Toastmasters speeches. 

In most of the world, we drive on the right side of the road. There are exceptions, most notably the UK and Australia. 

But why do we drive on the right? In the US, we drive on the right because the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices as required by Code of Federal Regulations, Title 23 Part 655.603 says you drive on the right.

But why the right?  And what do Napoleon, Hitler, and early 20th century manners have to do with the way you drive?

They all influenced which side of the road you drive on and help to explain why most countries drive on the right side but some drive on the left.

Driving on the left side of the road with right-hand drive actually makes more sense, especially if you're right handed and drive a stick.  You can shift with your left hand and steer (the more critical function) with your right.  And since most people are right handed, this would be the best set up for most drivers.   But today, about 2/3rds of the world's population drives on the right side and 1/3 on the left.

An interesting situation I noticed when visiting there is the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas where they have left hand drive vehicles like in the U.S., but drive on the left side of the road like in the U.K.

Some say regulations about which side of the road to travel on date back as far as 1100 B.C. when Chinese law declared the right side of the road was for men, the left side for women, and carriages take the middle.  It is unknown how many head-on collisions this caused.

For centuries, people passed each other on the right and travelled on the left.  This was, some say, because in both Western and Asian cultures, the left side of the body was considered "dirty" or "sinister."  Or it may have been people wanted to have their strong hand (and weapons) closer to the stranger they were passing on the road.  Knights would pass on the left (and joust on the left) to keep their strong arm ready for battle.

The Romans are apparently among the first to "drive" on the left side of the road.  Chariot drivers held the reins with their right hand and their whip with their left.   To avoid whipping oncoming drivers, they would drive on the left side of the road.

Wagon wheel ruts at a Roman quarry show that the rock-laden wagons made deeper ruts on one side of the road than the other.  Going away from the quarry, the deeper ruts were on the left side.  So it wasn't just the chariots that drove on the left side of the road during the Roman era.

But Napoleon changed that.   Imagine two columns of soldiers marching toward each other, pikes and bayonets slung over the right shoulder.   Passing on right, these weapons would become entangled, chaos ensue, and that deadly enemy in war, delay, take hold.  So Napoleon decreed his soldiers would march on the right and pass on the left.  

There is also speculation that there was an anti-aristocrat motivation in traveling on the right side of the road.  Before the French Revolution, aristocrats' carriages traveled on the left side and slower-moving peasants were relegated to the right side of the road.   After the revolution, aristocrats hoping to keep their heads, started moving on the right side of the road.  And there's evidence of a "keep right" law in Paris as early as 1794.

As we all know, Napoleon conquered, for a while, a great deal of Europe, including Germany.  And he brought his "drive-on-the-right" standardization to the countries he invaded.  Hitler took drive on the right to more countries as he conquered Eastern Europe. 

The British, neither conquered by Napoleon nor Hitler, to this day drive on the left, so do most of its former colonies (American probably had more of an influence on Canada's driving habits than Mother England although some maritime provinces and British Columbia initially drove on the left).

But what about America?  We weren't conquered by Napoleon or Hitler, either.  Yet we drive on the right.  No, we were conquered by mass production and the Model-T Ford, which had left hand controls.  And left-hand controls means driving on the right.   Why did Henry Ford choose to give his mass-produced car left-hand drive?  According to a sales brochure it was for the convenience for passengers exiting directly onto the curb, "especially... if there is a lady to be considered."  With the popularity of the Model T, other car makers had no choice but to standardize on left hand drive.

And, America, being the biggest economy and biggest producer of cars after World War II, most likely spread drive-on-the-right to most other countries.  

An interesting note: in Italy, sports cars were often produced with right hand drive because that was considered the proper set up for racing, in case the car was ever to be raced.  This despite Italy being a drive-on-the-right country.

And that's probably more than you wanted to know about why Americans drive on the right.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Howard the Duck vs. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

One weekend recently I watched two 80s movies. One was Howard the Duck from 1986 and the other was Who Framed Roger Rabbit from 1988. Howard the Duck was on DVD and Roger Rabbit was in 4K UHD on Disney+.

Howard the Duck bombed at the box office despite George Lucas's name being attached to it. It has occasional amusing moments but mostly it was dumb. And the 80s stop-motion especial effects weren't very good, either. I remember one reviewer saying (and I paraphrase from memory) "$35 million and the duck still looked like a kid in a costume." And he did. There are six people credited as "Howard T. Duck." I wonder if they were the people in the duck costume. And the music was intrusive to the movie instead of enhancing it.

And the humor just wasn't there. It was an expensive production, over the top even, and not very funny. According the the Internet Movie Database, it made almost $3 million worldwide. Which likely didn't cover the promotional budget.

Then there's Who Framed Roger Rabbit. According the the Internet Movie Database, it cost $70 million but it made nearly $350 million worldwide. I remember watching it in the theater in 1988 and being blown away by it. Here were cartoon characters from Disney and Warner Brothers and MGM on the same screen. The special effects never looked cheap. In fact, at times they were amazing. At the time I had no idea how cartoon characters could interact with human actors. And the animation is unbelievable. It's so good. Even the music is good, enhancing the film noir feeling of the movie

And it's hilarious. If you like cartoons (and even if you don't), the movie is funny. The climax is a little intense. But I never thought the movie was for children, anyway. 

So contrast Howard the Duck with Roger Rabbit. One was a hit, one wasn't. One was funny and amazing, one was treacle and stupid with bad special effects. One I highly recommend (especially if you appreciate the art of hand-drawn cartoons) the other I say avoid.

How do you like these films? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Tyranny of Red Dots

I have an iPhone. Since smartphones came out I have had nothing but iPhones except my first smartphone was an HTC piece of junk (this probably was it; I thought I'd like it because of its physical keyboard). I was so glad to be rid of it and get an iPhone.

But, there is one thing I don't like about iPhones. This would probably be true for any smartphone, I supposed. And that is, I hate red dots. I call it the "tyranny of red dots." If I have a red dot on my phone, which is a notification, I HAVE TO clear it and clear it now.

That means opening the app and figuring out why there are red dots. Sometimes the dots don't go away. Like on the Reminders app, I'll clear the reminder and the red dot will linger for a while. I hate that. Sometimes that happens on the mail and the phone, too.

Wife's email
My wife has Gmail on her phone and her mail app has a red dot with over 3,500 notifications in it. I don't know how she stands it. It would drive me nuts. See picture to the right.

This is probably due to my OCD about technology. My real life desk is a mess but my desktop on my computer is neat and clean.

One time recently, I had a red dot on Facebook Business Suite (the old Facebook Pages app). And I couldn't get rid of it. It drove me nuts. I eventually realized it was caused by a comment to a post on my page and when I read the comment, it went away. Still, it bugged me for at least an hour.


How do you feel about the red dots? Do you have to clear them now? Or are you like my wife. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Move Review: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

A while back I watched a YouTube video called 10 Amazing Movies You Probably Haven't Seen (And Why) And I'd seen about half of them and some I didn't want to see (because they are horror or didn't look interesting). So I immediately put the three I hadn't seen and I thought I might enjoy on my Netflix DVD.com queue. 

First to come was Chef, which I liked.

Then came Bowfinger, which I also liked.

The last movie to come was Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Which I hate to say, while interesting and original, I didn't like it very much. It stars Forest Whitaker was the Ghost Dog, a mob hitman who tries to live by the code of the samurai. One problem is, that Whitaker is fat. I'm not fat-shaming, but a samurai should be in shape, I would think. Even if his primary weapon is a gun.

One thing the movie makers did accomplish was making Ghost Dog sympathetic as a mob hitman. But the movie is overlong and boring in parts. There's not a lot of action nor comedy. But I'm not sure it was supposed to be a comedy. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be.

So, see Chef and Bowfinger. But only see this movie if you're looking for something different... very different. 

Have you seen Ghost Dog? Did you like it or not? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

100 Days!

Today marks 100 days until University of Washington Huskies football starts with a home game against Montana. No time has been set yet. Montana is an FCS school, so it should be a nice warmup win for the Dawgs. But after that they play Michigan in Michigan and that will be a tough game.

After last season, I need football. The Huskies played four games total last year, losing one (for some reason, we can't beat Stanford except in 2016). I was so desperate for some football I ended up watching the Seattle Seahawks more than I normally would. 

I went to college (a lot) at the University of Washington but when I really got into Husky football is when I went to a few games. Seventy-thousand people yelling for the same thing does something to the psyche. I discussed that in detail before.

It's interesting. When I was a kid I hated sports of all kinds. I would turn on the TV to watch something I wanted to watch on one of the two channels we had, and there would be sports running long. That's when I learned that the last two minutes in football can take forever. Really made me angry.

Of course I still hate baseball, basketball, and soccer. 

But Husky football, I love. 

What sports are you looking forward to? Or are you not into sports at all? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

What Five Things Influenced Me to Be a Writer...


I tell people I started writing when I was 12. This is pretty much true. But I was always making up stories in my head, usually involving what I built out of Legos.

My sister, who is four years older than I, brought home her touch type instruction book from high school. I used it, and her typewriter, to teach myself how to type. I then started writing. But what influenced me to become a writer?

1) Television: As a kid I watched way too much television. But, in a way, that's where I learned to tell a story. 

2) Star Trek (the original series): When my local television station started running Star Trek reruns in the afternoon just after I got home from High School, I watched religiously. There were two episodes they didn't show, however, "What are Little Girls Made Of?" and the last episode, "Turnabout Intruder." I had to see those later. (I think the television in my small, very conservative area of Idaho found them unacceptable.) But Star Trek is what made me a science fiction writer.

3) Books: What writer wasn't influence by the books he read. And I read, of course, science fiction books.

4) Robert Heinlein: Speaking of books. In an about four-year period from 1986 to 1990, I read every Robert Heinlein book in print. And I love most of them (he had a couple of early clunkers like his first juvenile with Nazis on the Moon). But man, could he write. And I wanted to write like him.

5) Star Wars: In the sixties and seventies, science fiction tended to be boring and depressing or both. Then the original Star Wars movie came along (and its two sequels) and I realized science fiction could be fun. 

Those five things are the primary influences that made me a writer. Well, that and I've always told stories. 

What influenced you to do what you do? If you write, what influenced that? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Movie Review: Bowfinger

I recently watched the movie Bowfinger. I'm not exactly sure why or how I missed this movie when it first came out in 1999. Maybe because Rotten Tomatoes only gave it a 68%. But it is hilarious.

Steve Martin plays Bowfinger, a down-on-his-luck movie producer/con man. Eddie Murphy plays a dual role as a big star Bowfinger wants in his latest movie (Chubby Rain) and as the star's brother. 

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, what could go wrong?

The comedy comes when Murphy's star character, Kit Ramsey, turns down Bowfinger's movie but Bowfinger decides to make the movie anyway, with Ramsey in it. That's when the fun begins. 

Heather Graham plays a sweet (or is she) girl trying for stardom and Robert Downey Jr. is a big Hollywood producer. Christine Baranski plays an actress who is so into her trade, she can't see what's happening.

I really enjoyed this movie. Two thumb up! 

Have you seen Bowfinger? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Do We All See the Same Color


This is something I've been wondering since I was a kid (along with "why do I exist?" "why do I see out of these eyes?). 

When I look at red, I see a color. But does everyone else see the same color? What I see as red, you might see what I would call "blue." There's no way to know. You've called it "red" all your life. I've called it "blue" all my life. But until we can see what others see, there's no way to know.

Now, I find this unlikely. The color of light is determined by its wavelength because light is electromagnetic radiation (just like radio waves and infrared and microwaves you use to pop popcorn). So when electromagnetic radiation (EMR) of a certain frequency hits your retina, it sends a signal to your brain saying "this is this color of light." But does your brain interpret that input the same as my brain.

I suppose someday if we can see what others see though technology, we might confirm that red is red for everyone. Until then, this is pure speculation.

Do you think everyone sees the same colors? Or do you think I'm nuts? Let me know in the comments below.

UPDATE: I just read an article that says this is a common dorm-room discussion. I never stayed in the dorms when I was in college, so I guess I never had this discussion.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Movie Review: Chef

I recently watched the movie Chef. It was made in 2014 and somehow flew under my radar for good movies. It was produced, written, and directed by Jon Favreau. He also played the lead role, the chef.

The film is about a chef who gets a bad restaurant review mostly because his boss, played by Dustin Hoffman, wouldn't let him change the menu from what's popular to what's best. When his young son hooks him up with Twitter, things get worse as he doesn't understand the difference between a reply and a DM. Then he explodes at the critic in public and, of course, someone records it and it goes viral. Then he gets fired/quits.

Favreau pulls in a few of his MCU actors to help out including Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr.

But the best part of this movie is his relationship with his young son who helps him back on the road to redemption, including renewing his relationship with his son, which at the beginning of the movie was strained (the chef is divorced and gets visitation on weekends). The boy is a bit too precocious with social media and social media is a little too successful at helping the chef's new venture: a food truck. But it still works.

The movie is a bit food porny. Just watching Favreau's character make a grilled cheese sandwich will make you drool. 

I recommend watching Chef for a feel-good movie. It starts a little slow and heavy, but gets better as it goes. It's rated R for language and some discussions about sex, and otherwise would have made a good family film. If you haven't seen it, check it out.



Thursday, April 22, 2021

Star Trek Movies Ranked from Best to Worst

Last week I went through the "Star Wars" movies and ordered them from best to worst. Now I'm going to do that for "Star Trek" moves. And there are a lot of them (14 unless I missed one).

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)

What, not Star Trek IV? Nope. This movie is a great conflict between two strong characters, each with a starship to express their strengths. Ricardo Montalbán does an amazing job as Kahn, reprising his role from the television series. He makes a nasty villain. A fun, intense and ultimately powerful movie.

2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

While it gets a little preachy, this fish-out-of-water tale (I'm talking about the Enterprise crew in 1980s San Francisco and not the whales who aren't fish anyway) is hilarious at times and yet there's a quest that needs to be finished.

3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

 Klingons spouting Shakespeare and Sulu with his own ship, this fast and fun movie has an amazing climatic battle. The one thing I disagree with is Klingon blood is not pink. 

4. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Yes, there was a new actor play Savik (and not doing as good a job) but Christopher Lloyd plays against type as the Klingon villain. Sometimes funny and sometimes moving.

5. Galaxy Quest (1999)

Yes, I'm serious. This parody of all things Star Trek is an hilarious sendup of the whole sub-culture. If you're a fan of Star Trek, you have to see this movie.

6: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

The best of the Next Generation movies involves the Borg and the first use of warp speed by humans. While this introduced the Borg Queen, a concept I don't like, the action sequences are well done and exciting.

7: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Don't hire Robert Wise to direct science fiction. This director of The Sound of Music was in over his head. Slow and boring (sometimes called the "no motion picture") this movie also contains the horrible line: "It fell into what they used to call a black hole." I mean, who talks like that? "They came here in what they used to call a horseless carriage."

8: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Again, a Next Generation film, this is a movie that needed work from the get-go. With a lackluster script this movie had issues. It has interesting parts, but mostly it's just boring. And the "Captain Picard Single Combat Warrior" ending just annoys me. In the series everyone worked together to solve the problems.

9: Star Trek: Generations (1994)

The first of the Next Generation movies. They attempted to "pass the torch" from the original series crew. But it wasn't handled very well and there are so many plot holes and violations of Star Trek canon, it just doesn't work.

10. Star Trek (2009)

The J.J. Abrams reboot/Kelvin timeline that I barely acknowledge. This is the one movie that is watchable. It's amusing to view and occasionally fun. And it does have the first product placement in any Star Trek movie. And Zoe Saldana almost makes it worth watching.

11.  Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

The last Next Generation move, the plot was overwrought, the climatic battle was unbelievable, and the whole thing was rather boring. 

12. Star Trek into Darkness (2013)

At one point in this movie, Alice Eve strips down to her underwear. Completely gratuitously.  Other than that, there is nothing good about his J.J. Abrams movie. Although Zoe Saldana almost makes it worth watching.

13. Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The last (so far) of the J.J. Abrams abominations. Again, not very good. Although Zoe Saldana almost makes it worth watching.

14. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

 Directed by William Shatner, this movie is awful, terrible, and not well done. "Why does God need a starship?" Well, I guess it's not God after all. Just avoid this movie altogether.

Am I nuts? Do you agree with my list and the order they are in? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Star Wars Movies Ranked from Best to Worst

 

Well, it would be tax day, but the IRS moved it.

Anyway, the other day I decided to make a list of the best to worst Star Wars movies. This is based 100% on my opinion/memories (I've only seen the prequels once each and the J.J. Abrams abominations once each). And I'm not including ancillary movies such as Rogue One. But there's the list from best to worst:

Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (originally, The Empire Strikes Back; 1980)

This movie is the best because it is intense, dark, and ends with a cliffhanger. The "updated" version detracts little from it's intensity. From the stop-motion imperial walkers to the final fight between Luke and Vader, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Oh, and don't forget the asteroid field chase between the Millennium Falcon and the TIE fighters. Amazing for 1980s special effects technology.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope (originally, Star Wars; 1977)

The first Star Wars movie. And at the time it was like nothing we'd ever seen. It was fun! Science fiction of the seventies tended to be boring and/or depressing. This is the Star Wars movie I've seen the most. I remember back in 1977 people saying the special effects were better than 2001: A Space Odyssey. And we were amazed when we saw 2001. It only loses to Empire because of the second movie's intensity.

Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (originally, Return of the Jedi; 1983) 

In some way this movie is brilliant (the speeder bikes through the forest). But the Ewoks defeating stormtroopers? No way. It has its funny moments and its amazing special effects (especially before CGI). But Lucas had enough money to do what he wanted, and what he wanted wasn't as tight nor intense as the previous two movies.

Star Wars III: Revenge the Sith (2005)

As I said, I've only seen this once. I remember it being better than the other prequels with less politics and more adventure.

Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The best of the J.J. Abrams movies (Which is sort of like saying "The best McDonalds in town). It had some of the fun of the original trilogy and no outright stupidity (see Star Wars VIII).

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

 It echoed Star Wars IV too much and Rey was a completely unbelievable character. If she were a man, people would have noticed that instead of oohing and ahhing at her being a strong female character. 

 Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

I barely remember this movie but I remember that it was better than the first one. All I remember is Anakin and Padme tied to some posts in an arena.

Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Pod racing and a kid who was conceived without sex (where have I heard that before?). This movie was a train wreck from start to finish. Still, wasn't as bad as...

Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi (2018)

They bomb a ship in space. Bombs, falling down on a ship in space. Then Laura Dern (who I like as an actress) plays a female general with purple hair who is oh-so-perfect. Oh, and Leia is apparently able to survive in vacuum and even move in space. Yeah. This move was so bad, I didn't go see Star Wars IX in the theater but waited until it came out on Blu-Ray. 

So, do you agree with my list? Are they in the correct order? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

I Got a COVID Vaccine


As of Sunday the 3rd, I have had both my COVID-19 vaccination shots. I had the Pfizer version.

I got my first shot on March 13th. It was a luck thing, really. A friend of mine, who is younger than I, posted on Facebook that she'd gotten a shot. I asked her how and she said a mass vaccination event in our town was looking for more people to give the shot to. And she linked me to the website to make an appointment. So I jumped through what felt like 47 hoops on the website and got an appointment. And then I got the shot. They gave it to me in a parking lot as I sat in my car and made me sit for 15 minutes before I could leave. While I was sitting there, a small bus full of seniors pulled up. I presume they all got the shot, too.

The only side effect I had then was bad headaches that Tylenol didn't seem to touch. On the Sunday (first day) after the shot, the headache was most of the day. And I rarely get headaches. On Monday it was about half the day. Each day the amount of time I had the headache decreased until the fifth day (Thursday) I didn't have a headache at all.  I have had a couple of headaches since then, but I'm not sure if they are related to the shot.

One thing that did impress me what that a few days after getting the first shot, I got an email with a link to make my appointment on the 3rd (the day before Easter). I had to jump through the 47 hoops again (why, since they already had my information) but I got the appointment. Which was one less thing to worry about.

After my second shot I took Tylenol preemptively, hoping to stop any headaches before they began. And it seemed to work. I did have a little nausea on the same day I got the shot. On the third day I didn't take Tylenol and did get a bit of a headache. But not nearly as bad as with the first shot. By the fourth day, I pretty much didn't have any side effects.

My daughter-in-law who is a nurse and has given lots of COVID vaccine shots has a theory that the stronger one's immune system, the worst the reaction they'll have to the shot(s). 

On April 17th (two weeks after the second shot) I should have 95% protection. Which is good, because if I get COVID, I will likely die. 

But, according to the CDC, very little changes. You still have to wear a mask and socially distance. So what's the point? When will we reach "herd immunity" and be able to go back to some semblance of normality?

Did you get a COVID vaccine? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Music I Don't Like

It may be April Fools' Day, but I'm being perfectly serious. 

I have eclectic music tastes. I listen to classic rock and classical music and even opera on occasion. I can listen to country-western, folk, and some jazz. I don't like rap and hip hop. 

But even though I listen to classic rock from the 60s through the 80s (no good music after 1990), there are some groups/singers from that era I refuse to listen to.

Number one is The Grateful Dead. They are kind of folksy but more drug induced. Their music just puts me to sleep. Reminds me of a joke. "What did the dead head [fan of The Grateful Dead] say when he ran out of drugs? 'This music sucks.'"

There there's Steely Dan. I like one song of theirs: "Dirty Work." Otherwise, they tend to sing in this breathless jazz style that just grates on my nerves.

Genesis and Phil Collins are also on the list of music I don't like. Just 'cause.

I don't like Neil Young. His voice is just annoying. He's okay with Crosby, Stills and Nash. But solo, forget it.

I'm not crazy about the Allman Brothers and Greg Allman as a solo act. But that's more because when I first got SirusXM in the car, it seemed as if they played the Allman Brothers or Greg Allman every damn time I got in the vehicle.

I'm not a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, either. I like "Born to Run" and "Dancing in the Dark." But that's about it. Most of his stuff is pretentious and overwrought.

And I know this might get me cancelled, but I'm not a huge fan of The Beatles. Some songs are okay but mostly I just turn them off.

If I were joking, I'd say I didn't like Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Dire Straits, and the Eagles.

Are there any musical groups that play in the genre you like, but you can't stand? Let me know in the comments below.



Thursday, March 25, 2021

Reverse Psychology on a Cat

Lily
If you've been reading this blog, you know my son has a cat named Lily (see here, here, and here).

Now I go to bed kind of early. But Lily stays up. She used to come up (my bedroom is on the top floor of the house) and scratch at my bedroom door. Which was annoying when I was trying to sleep. So we started bringing her into the bedroom before I went to sleep and she would lie on the duvet and I would scratch her neck and pet her for a few minutes. That stopped the scratching at the door. A win-win because I enjoyed those minutes with her. She would come up to my bedroom and wait for my wife to bring her in. As I went to bed I would tell her I was going upstairs to go to bed and she should come up.

Then one day recently, she'd stop coming upstairs. I don't know why. She's a cat. So, as a joke, I tried telling her not to come up. "What ever you do, Lily, don't come up." And she started coming up again. That actually worked for a couple of weeks. I was amazed. But now it's not working.

Now she's not coming up but occasionally she'll scratch on the door. Which is annoying. Whether she comes up or not just seems random.

I might have to start bribing her with treats to come up and get petted.

Do you have a cat? What quirks does it have. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Sleep

Maybe it's getting older, but I have weird sleep habits.

After I retired from the corporate world (where I had to get up at 7 am every weekday morning) I thought I could sleep in. But for years I would wake up at 5 am and not be able to go back to sleep. I would spend that time watching the MCU shows on Netflix (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Punisher, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) then wake up my wife at about six or seven. Then I would take a nap at about two in the afternoon for at least an hour.

Now I sleep as late as 9 am. I still go to bed at about 9 pm so I'm sleeping almost 12 hours! That cuts into your day. I almost always wake up in the night to go to the bathroom (I'm old) and sometimes I have trouble going back to sleep. But I usually go back to sleep eventually. Lately I've been taking melatonin to see if that'll help me sleep. But it just seems to make me sleep longer before I wake up to go to the bathroom.

I go to bed at 9 because if I don't, I fall asleep in the recliner. 

I wish I could go to bed at ten or eleven and wake up 8 hours later, not 11 or 12. But my body seems to want the sleep at least ten hours or more. I blame my bipolar drugs, to be honest.

How do you sleep? Can you sleep through the night. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Research... Again

Back in September of 2017, I wrote about doing research on novels. Well, I'm going to do it again.

When I was a kid, my mother and I were watching something on television. She caught a factual inaccuracy in the program. And she said, "I hate when writers don't do their research. It insults the intelligence of their audience." At the time, I don't think she knew I wanted to be a writer.

I've always remember that so I always say that unless you lived it, you can't do enough research. And even then you might have to do some. I could write a novel about being in the Army at Fort Ord, California in the late 1980s because I lived it. 

You can't do enough research. But what you can, and shouldn't do, is show off in your writing how much research you did. "I learned this neat little fact about Fort Ord, I'm going to put it in the story!" No! Unless it's germane to the narrative, don't do it.

Now, with the internet and Google et. al., it's very easy to do research. I remember going to the Seattle library to look at maps for a story I was writing. But with online sources,  you have to be careful. You might run into someone's biased views. Especially on Wikipedia.

In my novel, Agent of Artifice, my hero travels to Key West and the southern most point in the

Continental United States. And I wrote about the waves lapping at the sand. Because I was unable to find any information on what the shore was like, so I assumed a beach.

Then I took a business trip to Miami and decided to drive to Key West to see this for myself. I found out two things: 1) the "southernmost point" is only the southernmost that's accessible. There's a Navy base that has farther south points.  And 2) there's no sand. There's rocks. So I had to change that in the novel.

So do your research and do it well. Or some reader might catch you in an error. And you don't want that.

But... Don't do research and never do the writing. Because that's the point: to write.

How do you research your writing? Do you think it's important? Let me know in the comments below.



Thursday, March 4, 2021

No Progress

I've talked about the progress humans have made before, from the beginning and from the 1970s. But in some ways, we aren't making progress.

This thought isn't original to me. I read it somewhere. But the truth is, we don't move any faster than we did 60 years ago at the beginning of the jet age. Commercial aircraft fly about the same speed now that the Concorde has been grounded permanently. Trains are slower from what I can tell. And cars go about the same speeds. In fact, in some places due to idiotic speed limits, they are forced to go slower despite being safer by every measure.

My mother told me that traveling to Portland, OR in the early sixties, my father was going 80 mph on I-84. Now the maximum speed limit on that highway is 70 mph and is 65 between The Dalles and Portland. And up until 1995 when it was repealed, the national maximum speed limit was 65 mph, 55 in urban areas. And before 1986, it was 55 mph everywhere. And yes, now there are places were the speed limit is 75 or even 80 mph, but they are rare. And, again, that's how fast my parents were going in the early '60s.

I was driving on I-84 a few weeks ago and on some straightaways I could see for miles and couldn't see another car. I had the cruise control set at 75 mph but it felt as if 80 or even 85 would have been perfectly safe.

Why aren't we traveling faster? Why aren't we moving at supersonic speeds through the air? Why don't we have bullet trains like in Japan?

The Concorde consumed a lot more fuel than a regular jet. Which is why it cost so much to fly on it.

The US is too big geographically and population density too low to make bullet trains practical outside of the East Coast population centers and maybe parts of Southern California (San Diego to LA).

Some companies are working on a "hyperloop" that can travel at 700 mph which is faster than commercial airplanes. But like high-speed rail, it's expensive and probably not practical in the low-population density areas of the country.

I don't know what the answer is. We need a breakthrough in speed. I don't know where it's going to come from. Maybe autonomous cars will go 100 mph while we sit inside and look at our phones. I don't know. That sounds almost as bad as flying on an airplane.

Why do you think we're not going any faster than in 1960? What do you think might help that? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Dreams

I have weird dreams sometimes.

Like recently I dreamed I was in a movie with a young Elizabeth Taylor and a youngish Glenn Ford. And there was a war on and I was trying to do guerilla action against an occupying army. One image that stuck with me was burning trucks full of supplies. Oh, and this was a Star Trek movie. Probably because the day before I watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. But another image that sticks with me is a Star Trek-like spaceship. You know, saucer shaped with warp nacelles. Like the USS Reliant in Star Trek II.

What does it all mean? Probably nothing. Just brain debugging itself, I assume. But lately I've been having vivid dreams and I don't know why. 

And sometimes, and this is really weird, I'm a woman in dreams. For example, in the "movie" described above, I spent time as Elizabeth Tylor as she (I) was horseback riding. This is before the war part of the movie. She (I) was riding on Glenn Ford's, her (my) father, estate. Isn't that weird.

Another dream I was Bill Crystal and hosting the Oscars. I was floating over the audience on some sort of platform and making jokes. Then I came to James Earl Jones and I stopped and shook his hand and said I was very honored to meet him.

One time in a dream I was looking for a new house. And in the house I was looking at, there was a flat-screen TV high on the wall. And I said to the house's owner, "I'm going to need a new TV." And he said "Don't forget about the TV tax." And I knew (as you  sometimes know in dreams) that there was a tax on TVs to discourage people from buying them because they use a lot of electricity. Who else dreams government policy?

Are you ever the opposite sex in a dream? What do you dream about? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Movie Review: Greenland

 

Last week I watched the movie Greenland

In the movie, a comet named "Clarke" is heading for Earth and is calculated to crash into the planet. Some folks, including the movie's heroes, are selected to be taken to a shelter in Greenland where they should be safe. But things don't go as planned and the movie is exciting and well made. I literally jumped with surprise at one point. The movie tugs at your heartstrings and keeps the tension high. It was a pretty good film.

Except the science of it stinks. 

**Spoilers Ahead**

Clarke is supposed to be in fragments, which is certainly plausible. The first fragment hits Tampa in the afternoon of the first day. As the movie progresses through the next night, the next day, through that night, more fragments hit. And a "planet killer" sized chunk is supposed to hit on the morning of the third day. I estimate it's about 40 hours from the first fragment hitting until the planet killer hits.

Now the Earth spins around its axis so more fragments hit in various parts of the world. But, Earth also orbits the sun, as does the comet (in a parabolic orbit, based on the movie's descriptions of it coming from "another solar system"). In 40 hours from the first hit to the last, Earth would have moved 2.68 million miles in its orbit. The comet would be in its orbit which might move slightly toward the Earth due to Earth's gravity, but likely not over two million miles. In reality, the "planet killer" and most of the other fragments would have simply flown by the Earth in their orbit.

What about Earth's gravity? Well, asteroids pass by the Earth much closer then 2 million miles and a lot slower than a comet, and they don't get sucked into Earth gravity. They likely change course but they don't hit the planet.

The movie is still worth watching. It's not at bad as Armageddon for science errors. But then again, I don't think anything could be.

Did you watch Greenland? What did you think. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

5G Update

 A while back I tested Verizon 5G speeds and was surprised how fast they were.

Come to find out, I was wrong.

I was in Spokane for a doctor's appointment a few days ago and when I got there, my phone said "NO SERVICE." I thought that was weird. Luckily, my car's WiFi still worked, so I was able to locate a Verizon store just a few blocks from my doctor's office. The nice woman put in a new SIM card and the phone worked. And when it came up, it said "5G."


And I was like, "Cool." Then, later, I looked the Verizon website and found a map of Verizon 5G ultra-wideband. And where I was at the Verizon store, I should have gotten ultra-wideband. But I didn't. So I contacted Verizon. Turns out the plan I'm on (2GB a month) doesn't include ultra-wideband. In fact, it's doesn't even include 5G, my phone just says that. 

So, why when I tested my phone, did it say 5G was faster than LTE? I don't know.

I have to buy at least 5GB per month to get 5G, according to the Verizon agent I talked to. But I barely use my 2GBs. So it's not worth the money and 5G Ultra Wideband isn't available where I live. And neither is 5G (fake 5G). 

So, I guess we'll wait until later to explore 5G Ultra-Wideband.