Thursday, December 30, 2021

Movie Ratings

The other day I watched a movie (Paint Your Wagon) that was rated "GP." No, that's not a typo, it was rated GP. And that got me thinking about how movie ratings have changed over the years.

It used to be that movies weren't rated. All movies released in the US has to meet the Motion Picture Production Code (the "Hays Code") that was put into place in 1930. This lasted until 1968!

Jack Valenti became the president of the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) in 1966. He thought the Hays Code reeked of censorship and didn't serve modern movies. So the MPAA came up with its ratings system. It started out as:

G: General Audiences

M: Suggested for mature audiences - Parental discretion advised

R: Restricted – Persons under 16 not admitted, unless accompanied by parent or adult guardian. (That was later raised to 17)

X: Persons under 16 not admitted (that was later raised to 18).

The MPAA didn't copyright the "X" rating and the porn industry took it over. And what's better than one X but three, so "XXX" became synonymous with porn. And putting out an X-rated film was box office death.

I watched another movie (Hellfighters) recently that was made in 1968. It was rated "G" but had enough violence these days it would have been rated "PG" at least. But that was early in the rating system and likely they didn't want to rate it "M."

In 1970, "M" was change to GP (General Audiences/parental guidance suggested).

In 1972, GP was change to PG (Parental Guidance suggested)

This system lasted until 1984. Then came Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was rated PG. But the violence was, to many audiences, shocking. So the MPAA came up with PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned – Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13). 

And in 1990, X was replaced with the completely unsexy NC-17 (No children under 17, which was later changed to no children 17 and under). NC-17 is still box office death. But at least it isn't synonymous with porn. 

(The only NC-17 film I've seen is Ang Lee's Lust, Caution)

When I was a kid (in the 70s), kids' movies were all rated G. Adult films were either PG or R. 

But now, I've noticed, kids' movies are all PG, adult movies are PG-13 or R. And you can have one (and only one) instance of the F-word in a PG-13 film. Two, and you have an R-rating. And R-rated films do not make as much money as PG-13 films.  About the only movies that are G rated are nature documentaries.

I don't make movie decisions based on rating. I enjoy all sorts of movies but I have noticed a large majority of movies are PG-13. 

Do you used movie ratings as a guide to what to watch, or what to let the kids watch? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I Tried Cutting the Cable

I have been using Dish for my television programming for years. Don't ask me how many. I chose Dish over DirecTV because, at the time I got it, Dish had the better deal.

But it's expensive unless you go with the absolute bare minimum of programming. I'm paying about $120 a month for it. Because you have to rent your Hopper and pay for insurance on your equipment (but, when my kids broke a remote, they sent me a new one gratis). 

So I looked into "cutting the cable," which seems to be the trend these days, and go with a streaming service. I tried FuboTV because they have a one-week free trial. If I had stuck with them, I would have been paying about $80 a month (I had to pay extra to get the Pac-12 Network)(and getting the Pac-12 Network was another reason why I went with FuboTV). 

I canceled my free trial after three days. I have a very fast internet connection so I wasn't worried about streaming. I stream 4K UHD movies on Disney+ all the time with no problem, not even buffering. But I'd be watching something on FuboTV and suddenly the picture and sound would go away and be replaced by an error message. And I thought, if that happened while watching Jeopardy or a crucial part of a football game, I'd be livid. 

Also, FuboTV's interface was kludgy. It was hard to find shows you want to watch and harder still to record them. 

So, for now, I'm sticking with Dish. 

Have you "cut the cable"? What were your experiences. Or am I being too picky? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

8 1/2

I recently watched the movie 8 1/2. It was made in 1963 in Italy. It was directed by famed Italian director Federico Fellini. It was long, boring, and often bizarre.  Luckily it was only two hours and 18 minutes long. It was better than La Dolce Vita (another Italian film of that era) which was three hours long with zero plot.

I was looking through the Internet Movie Database entry for 8 1/2 and found out that this movie is one of Roger Ebert's favorites. And is director Martin Scorsese's favorite film. And I wonder what do they see in this movie that I don't? People also praise La Dolce Vita and I couldn't stand it.

It made me worry that maybe I'm too shallow to appreciate these movies.

So I Googled Steven Spielberg's favorite movies and I found a list of his top twenty movies. And his favorite movie: It's a Wonderful Life. He does have some I haven't seen by director François Truffaut (who Spielberg cast in Close Encounters of the Third Kind) that I haven't seen.  But most of his are approachable movies. One of his favorites is Guardians of the Galaxy! He also lists Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa. It's a little over-long, but it's a good movie.

So I felt better after looking at Spielberg's list. At least I didn't feel so shallow.

Have you seen 8 1/2 or any other Fellini films? Or any other 1960s Italian films? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Twitter Gets Results

When I went to get my booster shot for COVID, I made an appointment through my county health district's website. And when I got to the store (Walgreens), I found out that having an appointment meant nothing. I detailed that here how there were people in line before me that I had to wait for. What should have taken 15-20 minutes took 45 minutes.

I complained about it on Twitter, saying something like "Appointments for COVID shots mean nothing at Walgreens." Walgreens' Twitter account DM'd me and asked where this was. I told them the store.

Monday of this week, I went back in that store to get a passport picture taken. (It was there or Walmart.) And I noticed a sign on the door saying "Vaccinations by Appointment Only." Which means when you do have an appointment, no one can just jump in line ahead of you. "That's progress," I thought.

It reminds me of the time right after I bought my car. I tweeted I was in Spokane and my son replied on Twitter: "Why are you in Spokane?" I said "Issue with the Audi." A few days later I got a call from Audi USA asking if everything is okay with the car. And, I don't tweet, blog, or sell books under the name I bought the car under. But they made the connection.

Have you had any experiences of social media helping you with a situation? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Guilty Pleasures

A while back I told a friend via text that I had watched Smokey and the Bandit. She said she didn't know what that was (she's younger than I). So I sent her a clip and she said, "No, I wouldn't be interested in that movie." And I had to laugh because I knew it wasn't her kind of movie.

But I find it hilarious and enjoy watching it. I guess you could call it a "guilty pleasure." Doesn't help that it's a fond memory from my teenage days, going to see that movie with a friend.

I have a couple other guilty pleasure movies. One is Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. It makes me laugh every time I see it. And Christine Taylor is gorgeous in it. It's just a silly, funny movie with no redeeming values. I love it.

Another guilty pleasure is Cars from Pixar. I like cars. And Cars has so many inside jokes for car people. I enjoy it a lot. It only has a 74% from Rotten Tomatoes which, I think, was the lowest Pixar Rotten Tomatoes score at the time. 

What guilty pleasure movies, television shows, or books do you have? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Huskies' Season is Over

The University of Washington Huskies' football season is over. Thankfully. 

In 2008, the Huskies went 0-12, the only team in Pac-12 history to never win a football game in one season. This season they went 4-12. They lost their last four games to Oregon Nike, Arizona State, Colorado, and Washington State. We knew this season was going to be bad when they lost to Montana in their season opener.

Their head coach was fired. Their Offensive Coordinator was fired. The Defensive Coordinator became the interim head coach and went 0-3.

Years ago (probably about 2009) I said I would be happy if the Huskies:

1) Won at least 8 games

2) Beat Oregon Nike

3) Beat Washington State

4) Won their bowl game.

They didn't do 1-3 and they won't be going to a bowl this year. 

Our only consolation is that they aren't the last-place team in the Pac-12 North. The Stanford Cardinal is.

Now a search for a new head coach is on. Hoping for a Petersen, but probably will get a Sarkisian.

I stuck with the Huskies through 2008. I'll stick with them now. I bleed purple. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Black Friday and Podcast

It's Black Friday and I have a lot going on!

First of all, I and other authors are having a multi-genre 99 (or lower) Black Friday Sale. You can learn about it here. For me, Smugglers of Mars is on sale for 99 cents!

Also on the The Fantasy and Sci-Fi Fanatic's Podcast today. I talk about writing, my writing journey, books, and other fun things. So give it a listen. 

And I ate too much yesterday, so I'm going to go have a nap. Just kidding, I'll be watching college football. GoDawgs!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Welcome to My Brain

Happy Thanksgiving (in the US)!

Now on with the blog.

Recently I was doing freelance work and I saw something (too complicated to explain here) that had to do with ABC Healthcare company (obviously, I've changed the name). But for some reason, I read it as "XYZ Healthcare" and kept reading it as that until my editor pointed out I was wrong. I have no idea why I did that. Just my brain being weird.

I used to be (and sometimes am) a very literal thinker. When I was a kid I'd see signs along the road that say "Do Not Pass." And I'd think "everyone is passing that sign. Why? It must not mean what I think it to mean, i.e., don't go past this sign. Then latter I'd see a sign that said "Pass With Care and I thought "Yes, you should pass this sign with care because you should always be careful when driving. Later, when I was learning to driver, I learned that the sign meant "Do not pass other cars." 

And when I was a kid, they would say to ride your bicycle on the "right side of the road." And I was confused, because I didn't know which side was right and which side was wrong. Finally, I don't remember how, I realized they meant "right" as in "right or left." 

So welcome to my brain. It misfires sometimes.

How does your brain work? Does it work like mine or can you actually figure things out? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Paper Straws are Improving... in Some Cases

Paper Straw
A while back I wrote about how much I hate paper straws. That was September, 2018. I hated how they got mushy in your mouth and felt gross and the end in the liquid would collapse if you sucked too hard and would bend if you tried to poke it through the ice. I remember as a kid (before plastic straws) that it was nearly impossible to drink something thick such as a milkshake through them.

Well, things are getting better. When I went to the Chicago concert in Walla Walla, I had dinner at a steak house. And they brought me a drink with a paper straw. And I was disappointed.

Until I used it. It never got mushy in my mouth and it didn't collapse in the drink. It had some sort of black coating that prevented these things. I could tell it was paper by the way it had spirals on the inside. I'm assuming the coating will eventually break down and allow the paper straw to be composted or disintegrated in water or in a land fill.

Then, when I went to Husky Stadium to watch the a football game, I got a straw that looked like clear plastic. The paper cover said it was made from plants and was compostable. But it worked just like a plastic straw. I was impressed.

Then recently I got a paper straw while visiting Oregon and, just like before, it sucked. Or rather didn't suck because it bent and felt yucky in my mouth. And because it's weak, you can't stab it through the ice  in the bottom to get to the liquid at the bottom of the cup. So useless.

So, innovation once again comes to the rescue with two solutions for plastic straws that don't involve giving up what we all like about plastic straws.

How do you feel about paper straws? Have you seen any innovation to make them better? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Movie Databases

Today is Veterans' Day, to honor those who have served our country.

Now on with the show:

We all know (or at least should know) about the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). I've used it since the early 1990s for learning about movies and television shows. It was bought by Amazon in 1998 (for $55 million) and has only gotten better (except for all the ads).

The IMDb is great for figuring out who actors are and learning more about movies. I'll be watching a movie and an actor will look familiar, so using the IMDb I can figure out where I've seen them before.

But there are more movie databases out there than IMDb to enhance your viewing pleasure.

For example, there's the Internet Movie Car Database (IMCDb).  I like cars (obviously) so when I see a car I don't recognize in a movie, or I'm curious about, I consult the IMCDb. It works a lot like the IMDb does for actors, except for cars. It's fun to learn about cars I don't recognize (which aren't a lot).

Then there's the Internet Movie Plane Database (IMPDb). This works more like a wiki than a database. But you can still find the movie you're looking for and the plane you're interested in. I am, of course, interested in airplanes, so I find this database useful to identify planes I don't recognize.

Finally, there's the Internet Movie Firearms Database (IMFDb). It, too, is more like a wiki than a database. I used it recently to determine what shotgun Arnold Schwarzenegger was firing in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It was a modified Winchester 1887. It's the only lever-action shotgun I've ever seen.

There's even an Internet Movie Boat Database (IMBDb) but it's not very comprehensive and again, is more like a Wiki than a database.

These last databases someone must be pouring their heart and soul into to keep running. And I appreciate their efforts. 

Do you know of any other movie databases. Have you used any of these? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Huskies are 4-5

Last week, the University or Oregon Nike Ducks beat the University of Colorado Buffaloes 52-29. That would be classified as a "Blow out."

This week, the University of Washington Huskies played the Oregon Nike Ducks in Husky Stadium in the rain. The Ducks won by 26-16. That is not a blow out.

The game started on hopeful note, as a Husky interception was ran back to about the 4 yard line and that let to a Husky touchdown. The Dawgs were in the lead against the #4 team in the nation.

Later, an amazing punt put the Ducks on the one-yard line. Their running back was tackled in the end zone, making it a safety and two more points for the Huskies. The score was 0-9. At halftime, the score was 10-9. I was cautiously optimistic.

But the Ducks got better while the Huskies got worse. A wet ball didn't help Husky quarterback Dylan Morris connect with his receivers, and he as a hard time doing that anyway. The Huskies did managed another touchdown, but the Ducks won the game. A punt snap that went over the head of the punter and out the end of the end zone, resulting in a safety, didn't help.

So the Ducks will probably still be #4 when the CFP rankings come out on Tuesday. In fact, because #2 Michigan State lost to Perdue, the Ducks might move up! I hate the Ducks.

The Huskies still need to win two more games to be bowl eligible. They have three regular season games left.

Next week, the Arizona State Sun Devils travel to Husky Stadium. ASU is 6-3 so far so they are beatable. That game is at 4pm on FS1.

The week after that, on the 20th, the Huskies play Colorado in Boulder. And then on November 25th, they play the Apple Cup cross-state rivalry game against the WSU Cougars in Husky Stadium.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Just Pass Me

When I'm passing someone on the interstate who is going just a little bit slower than I, I speed up a bit to get around them. I don't like tying up a lane and being beside someone for a long time. The speed limit in most of Washington on interstates is 70 mph. I'll speed up to around 80 to get past someone quickly. I know I'm risking a ticket, but I believe this is safer than creeping by someone. If they make a mistake while I'm passing them, we're both going to be in trouble.

However, some folks don't feel that way apparently. For some reason, people will pull up on me when I'm in the right lane, and sit there off my rear left fender. I don't understand why and it's particularly annoying at night with their headlights reflecting in my outside mirror. I've been known to slow down in the hopes they'll go around me. But sometimes they just slowly pass me. It makes me nervous because if they make a mistake, we're both going to be in trouble.

Sometimes I wonder if I unknowingly wander in my lane (I've seen people do this) making drivers nervous to pass me. But not everyone hovers behind me. So I think it's the individual drivers, not me.

The lesson here is, if you're passing someone on the interstate, get off the cruise control and pass the person, don't creep around them. Same for big trucks. But that could be a whole 'nother blog entry.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Huskies are 4-4

Last night the University of Washington Huskies played the Stanford Cardinal (it's a color) at Stanford's home field and won. That is the first time since 2007 the Huskies have won at Stanford.

For the first half it was a defensive battle as each team only scored field goals. They would do fine once they got to the red zone, then they ran out of Gatorade or something and never make a touch down. Going into the half, the score was 9-3 Huskies. 

In the second half, both teams played better, but UW Quarterback Dylan Morris couldn't seem to hit the wide side of a receiver for most of the game. Still, the only score in the third quarter was a Husky field goal. 

In the fourth quarter, the Cardinal got a touchdown and a field goal to put them up by one point (13 to 12). The Huskies answered, though, and Morris managed to connect with Sean McGrew in the end zone in the last moments of the game for a touchdown. Then they got the two point conversion making the score 20 to 13, meaning Stanford could only tie it with a touchdown and a PAT. But that became moot with a Husky interception in the last moments of the game.

This brought the Huskies to 4-4 on the season and 3-2 in conference. And maybe upped their confidence. 

Now, in NCAA Division I FBS football you have to win six games to be "bowl eligible." They say "eligible" because it's possible you could still win six games and not get to go to a bowl game. But I've never heard that happening. Since most teams play 12 regular season games, six games means you're record is .500. Yes, it's too easy to get into a bowl game and there are too damn many bowl games.

For the Huskies to be bowl eligible they have to win two more games. Next week they play the hated Oregon Nike Ducks at Husky Stadium. But the Ducks are good so they will be very hard to beat. However, Stanford beat them this year, and the Huskies beat Stanford, so you never know. That game is at 4:30 PM on ABC. The Ducks are 7-1.

Of their remaining schedule, they play Arizona State (at Husky Stadium), The Sun Devils are 5-3 on the season.  So another tough team but still beatable.

Then they play Colorado (2-6) in Boulder, so that's a winnable game.

Then comes the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium against the 5-4 Cougars of Washington State. The Apple Cup is always a wild time and making predictions is dangerous. 

But the Huskies might make bowl eligibility this year.

And to think, in 2016, we were in the CFP at #4 in the nation.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

First Person versus Third Person Narrative.

I belong to a lot of book groups on Facebook, mostly to promote my books. In one group, someone asked what was better to write in: first person or third person. And that got me thinking. Which is better? Or are they the same?

Of my thirteen published novels, all but two are in first person. Of my three current WIPs, one is in first person and two are in third person.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

In first person, you're deep in the head of your narrator. So you (and your reader) are seeing the world and the story from his/hers/its/zers/etc. perspective. The narrator can comment on the situations and you know their reactions to things. I find writing in first person more fun than third person. The disadvantage is, you only get one person's perspective, the narrator's. If you want to know what someone else is thinking, they have to say it to your narrator. All the action of the book has to take place in front of and involving the narrator. And you can't kill your main character (unless they aren't the narrator). In my novel Book of Death, I did kill my first-person narrator. No spoilers about how I got out of that.

In third person you can write each scene in someone else's head. You can kill whomever you wish. You can have scenes wherever you wish. They could be lightyears and hundreds of years apart. You can see the world though more than one character's eyes (but not in the same scene, please). It's not as intimate as first person. But it's more versatile. You have to be careful not to "head hop" (tell the story from different points of view in one scene) or have one character know something they shouldn't that another character does know.

So which to use? Depends on what you want to write. 

How do you write? First or third person? Which do you prefer to read. Let me know in the comments below.

My first-person narrated books are:

Adept Series (urban fantasy):

Hammer of Thor

Agent of Artifice

Book of Death

Gods of Strife

The Terror of Tombstone

Treasures of Space Series (science fiction):

Treasure of the Black Hole

Treasure of the Pirate Planet

Treasure of the Rogue Moon

Chumba of the Intelligence Corps Series (science fiction):

Smugglers of Mars

The Three Species War

The Urlotian Spheres

My third person narrative books are (all science fiction):

Rock Killer


Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Huskies are 3-4

 Last night (yes, on a Friday night), the University of Washington Huskies played the University of Arizona Wildcats in Tucson Arizona. More about that in a moment.

Last week the Huskies played UCLA at home. And they looked pretty good, better then they have lately. But they still lost 17-24. I would have blogged about that last week, but I was visiting my grandson and what would you rather do, spend time with your grandchild or write a blog post.

Going into last nights game against Arizona, I thought the Huskies had a chance to win. After all, the Wildcats have lost 18 games in a row. Last time they won was in 2019. They were 0-6 entering this game.

But the Huskies looked awful through the first half of the game. Quarterback Dylan Morris couldn't connect with his receivers and our running game was going nowhere. Meanwhile, Arizona was actually scoring points. At halftime, the score was 0-13 with Arizona in the lead.

Even at the end of the third quarter, the Huskies were trailing 7-16. Then something changed. Morris was hitting his targets. The running game was making yards. And by the end of the game, the Huskies were ahead, 21-16. 

If we had played like we did against UCLA, this game would have been a blowout for the Huskies. But they really didn't start to play until the 4th quarter.

I'm just glad they won.

Going forward things aren't great. Next week we play Stanford at Palo Alto. Stanford is 3-4 and has a bye this week. That's going to be a tough game. Then we play Oregon at home but Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12 right now. Then we play Arizona State at home but ASU is on in second place in the Pac-12 South. So a tough game and then two very tough games. 

I guess this is a rebuilding year. Maybe next year will be better. Maybe.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Video Game Comes to Life

Back in the early 1990s, I played one of the first (if not the first) games in the Need for Speed franchise on my 286 PC. By today's standards, it was... awful. But, hey, it's what we had.

There were three things from that game I wished were in real life: no consequence speeding tickets and crashes, and the game had a map that showed you where police were. If you didn't slow down in time, you could still get a ticket.

Well, I realized recently, one of those things has come to real life. Google maps will display on your route where people have reported police on the road. It works fairly well. On a recent trip to Spokane (where people were passing me constantly as I went 5 mph over the speed limit), no cops were reported and I didn't see any. On a trip to Seattle, Interstate 90 was like an autobahn.

Now, I don't trust this map well enough to speed as brazenly as some others do. Just my luck, I'd be dong 80 mph and a cop would show up that isn't on the map. And I'd get a ticket. And, unlike the game, those have consequences. And in Washington State, speeding tickets are expensive.

Do you use Google Maps to find police? Has it worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

COVID Booster Shot

A week ago Wednesday, I had my third COVID shot, the so-called "booster." That was just over six months since I had my second COVID shot. I had the Pfizer shots.

I discussed with my doctor if I should have this booster shot. I'm not over 65 but I do have health issues that qualify me for the third shot. He said I should have it.

I made an appointment through my county health district website to have the shot at a Walgreens. When I got there, I discovered having an appointment meant nothing. When I told them I had an appointment at 10am, they said, "Get in the line." There were five people ahead of me who apparently didn't have appointments.  I finally got my shot about 10:30 and then had to wait 15 minutes (I waited about 13 minutes). I got in before some of the people in line in front of me because I had my paperwork all finished and ready to go. I expected to have my shot shortly after 10 and be out of there by around 10:15. I was there for 45 minutes. Thank God they had a public bathroom. 

I felt fine except for soreness at the injection site which is common with any inoculation. But almost exactly 24 hours after getting the shot, I felt nauseated and had a mild headache. I was still able to eat and never vomited. Those were the only side effects I had.

I'm just hoping in six months I don't need another "booster." Or is COVID going to be like the flu and you need an annual shot for it.

How do you feel about the booster shot? Did you or would you get one if you're eligible? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

What Could Have Been

I was channel surfing a while back when I came across the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy. I watched it until the first commercial break. But, because I have Disney+, I decided a few days later to watch it in 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos sound and no commercials.. So I did and thoroughly enjoyed it. Because it was the second time I watched it, I understood it better. There's a lot going on in these movies and a second viewing helps.

And then I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II a few days later, again on Disney+.  And I enjoyed it more than the first movie. I'm thinking of watching End Game and Infinity Wars next (in the right order, I don't remember right now which came first).

And I thought, "This goes to show how good the Star Wars sequels could have been." That is if they'd been in the hands of someone such as James Gunn instead of J.J. Abrams. (I guess Gunn has been fired for "offensive" tweets. Let's hope GotG III is still just as good.) 

The GotG movies are visually intense: there's a lot going on the screen. But they are still fun and well made and just overall enjoyable. Yes, Star Wars is a different type of movie. But the sequels could have been so much better. 

It sort of breaks my heart. I hated hating the sequels.

Maybe Disney should turn the Star Wars movies over to Marvel Studios.

How do you feel about Guardians of the Galaxy? How do you feel about the Star Wars sequels. Let me know in the comments below.

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

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Huskies are 2-3

For as long as I can remember (or paid attention) the Oregon State University Beavers have been the doormat of the Pac-12 conference. They were a team you played and beat before going on to the tough teams in the conference. So when I heard that last week, OSU beat USC (one of the tough teams) in Los Angeles by a score of 45-27, I started to worry about beating the Beavers this week. 

And I was right to worry. The Beavers came into the game with the top offense is the Pac-12. 

Then the game started. The University of Washington Huskies got the ball first, and marched down the field to make a touchdown. Apparently, OSU's defense wasn't as good as its offense.

But then the game got down to a grind. The Husky defense was able to hold the Beavers to only 27 points. But the Beavers held the Huskies to 24 points. And the Huskies lost to the Beavers for the first time in eight years. 

At least it wasn't a blow out and it was a tight, exciting game that was often tied. OSU ran the ball a lot and Washington had trouble stopping their running game. The game ended on a tie-breaking field goal by the Beavers. 

And what is surprising and a bit ironic is that the former doormat of the conference is now in sole possession of the number one spot on the Pac-12 North as the only team unbeaten in conference. That's because Oregon was taken down in an upset by Stanford in overtime.

Next week the Dawgs have a bye, giving them two weeks to prepare to face UCLA. The time and channel are to be announced.

UPDATE: The UCLA game is at 6:30PM on October 16th. It'll be shown on Fox broadcast channels.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Bullets Go as Far as They Want


I was watching The Fifth Element on television the other day for the nth time. I came in toward the end. And Gary Oldman's character, Zorg, is shooting upward with an automatic weapon into the ceiling of the hotel room at Leeloo who is hiding in the duct work. And I thought, for the first time, anyone in the room above them is going to have bullets coming up through their floor. But, of course, this isn't shown because the filmmakers likely didn't think of it. While there were bullet holes in the bottom of the duct work, there were none put in the top.

In the real world, bullets go where they want to go and as far as they want to go. One of the four rules* for safe gun handling is "Know your target, what's in front of it and what's behind it." That's because it might miss your target and hit something (someone) behind it, or your bullet might pass through the target and hit something (someone) behind it. In Hollywood movies and television productions, this rarely happens. Hollywood has trained us to think bullets only go as far as we want them to. Which just isn't true. A bullet will travel (sometimes miles for rifles) until it hits something that stops it.

Oh, and guns don't make a cocking sound when you draw them. I'll never get tired of pointing that out.

*The four rules of safe gun handling are:

  1. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  2. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  3. Know your target, what's in front of it and what's behind it.
  4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
Hollywood does an awful job on number four, too.

Does Hollywood gun handling drive you nuts, too. Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Huskies are 2-2

The University of Washington Huskies went 2-2 last night by beating the University of California Berkley Golden Bears (hereafter "Bears" or "Cal" or "Cal Bears" or "California"). 

Despite a slow start (three and out on their first series), the Huskies played strong through the first half of the game, scoring 21 points to California's 10. California had a muffed field goal attempt which would come back to haunt them.

But in the second half, the Cal defense came alive and their offense managed to score 14 points while the Huskies only got one field goal. At the end of regulation, the score was 24-24. If Cal hadn't muffed that field goal, they would have won the game there. 

In college overtime, each team gets a chance to score starting on the 25-yard line. The Huskies got a touch down making the score 24-31. Then Cal tried to score, but a fumble at the goal line that was recovered by the Huskies ended their try and the game. 

Dylan Morris, Washington's quarterback, is getting better every game. But in the second half of the contest, he had no time to find a receiver. Cal's defenders were coming at him all the time. On the other hand, the Bear's quarterback seemed to have all the time in the world, and if he couldn't find a receiver, he'd just run for a first down himself. He was California's number one rusher in the game.

One issue Washington had was that Cal Otten was out for "COVID protocol." He's one of Morris's best receivers. Let's hope he's available next week when the Huskies travel to play Oregon State, who pounded USC yesterday, 45-27. 

Washington is tied for first place in the Pac-12 conference with Oregon and Oregon State at 1-0 in conference. But Oregon is 4-0 and Oregon State is 3-1 while the Huskies are 2-2. So, I guess we're actually in third place. 

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


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 Padmé 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.