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 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.