Thursday, June 30, 2022

Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe

Over the weekend I watched  Beavis And Butt-Head Do The Universe on Paramount+. I was looking forward to it because Beavis And Butt-Head Do America (1996) was brilliant and funny and worked as social satire.

You might remember the Beavis and Butt-Head show on MTV in the 90s. It was controversial for lots of reasons. But it was done by Mike Judge and I thought it was a brilliant satire of the nihilism of many young men in America. Beavis and Butt-Head have two things they are interested in: hard rock music and "scoring." Today, we'd call them "incels."

Beavis And Butt-Head Do The Universe starts in the 1990s but the pair of idiots is sent into the future (which takes way too long). They are dropped in 2022. Now having these two in the "woke" 2020s was an amazing idea. Unfortunately, it was not executed well. They did wander into a feminist studies course in a college where they were told they had "white privilege" and could do whatever they wanted and not worry about the police. So, they do whatever they want. And get arrested.

I was disappointed. Maybe that type of humor doesn't work anymore. Of course, I'm 26 years older. Maybe that type of humor doesn't work for me anymore. 

Oh, and I swear Bobby Hill makes a cameo appearance as an adult.

This is, by the way, my 1,200th blog post on this blog!

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



Thursday, June 23, 2022

Obi Wan Kenobi

The last of six episodes of Obi Wan Kenobi on Disney+ was released yesterday. I made sure to watch it.

I have to say this series is the best Star Wars series yet (yes, including The Mandalorian). It is exciting and scary and fun.

Obi Wan Kenobi is executive produced and directed by Deborah Chow. I don't know anything about her, but I wish she'd been in charge of the Star Wars sequels. According to the Internet Movie Database, she has also directed Better Call Saul and The Mandalorian. Both of those are very good series. As I look at the list of things she's directed, it includes a lot of good series television.

Another great aspect of the series is Vivien Lyra Blair, who plays young Princess Leia. For a ten-year-old kid, she's an amazing actor. And it's very easy to imagine her growing into the Princess Leia of the original Star Wars movies.

The series has several writers and they each do a great job building up the suspense and surprises. And they've made Darth Vader legitimately evil and scary. 

The finale had great tension and huge frights. You knew certain people couldn't die, but  you didn't know how they were going to survive. It kept me on the edge of my recliner. 

If you haven't seen Obi Wan Kenobi, it's worth watching. It's six hours of Star Wars fun.

What do you think of Obi Wan Kenobi. Did you enjoy it as much as I did. Let me know in the comments below.

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


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Armageddon, the Movie

Over the weekend I watched the 1998 movie, Armageddon. It has a slightly similar plot to my current Work in Progress. Slightly.

It was on commercial cable television so I don't know how much if any they cut. They did edit some bad language. It was easy to tell because all they did was mute the soundtrack.

The best part of the movie was... Liv Tyler. Seriously, she was 21 years old and beautiful. Probably still is beautiful.

But the film itself is utterly ridiculous. The science is, well, not science at all. There's a list of a lot if its science errors here. I wonder if the filmmakers even did any research.

So I tried to ignore the science (or lack thereof) and look at the characters and story. And... there's a lot of dumb characters with strong outward traits. It was co-written by J.J. Abrams (of the Star Trek Kelvin timeline movies and the Star Wars sequels) so that makes a lot of sense. The man is not a great writer. Steve Buscemi plays probably the strongest character. But he's kind of cliched: The crazy guy who makes problems for everyone else.

And, at the end, Ben Affleck cries. But he had good reason to.

When I parked my brain (like I do for Star Wars) it actually wasn't a horrible movie. It just wasn't very good.

I also watched The Sound of Music with my wife. She likes that movie.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Best Songs of the Decades

I saw on Twitter that someone was listing their 100 favorite songs on their blog. I thought that was ambitious. I have probably have a hundred favorite songs (there's over 2,000 on my iPhone) but to list them all would be hard. And to separate the favorites from the ones I merely like would be arduous. 

So I thought I'd just list my few favorite songs. But then I remembered that I already did that. Okay, it was four years ago, but still...

So I had the idea: my favorite songs of each decade I've been alive. That seemed less laborious. I was born in the sixties so we'll start then. These are the songs that make me turn up the radio...

1960s: Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane.  It came out in 1967 so I must have discovered it later because I was very young in '67. I love the vocals and the driving beat. 

1970s: This is harder. The '70s are my favorite decade for music. There's Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Add in Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (some of the best guitar work of the decade). There's 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago. And the song I've always called "my favorite": We're an American Band by Grand Funk Railroad. So I guess that has to be my favorite of the 1970s.

1980s: Music changed in the '80s. The existence of MTV didn't help the headlong slide into commercialism. But there was still some good music. This one is easier. My favorite song of the 1980s is Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler's guitar work is amazing. Unfortunately, these days it's hard to find a copy online that hasn't been bowdlerized because one verse is offensive to some. They don't understand the context of the song.

1990s. This is even easier. I pretty much stopped listening to newly released music about 1992. It all just sucked too much (and it's only gotten worse). So my favorite song of the 1990s was released in 1991: Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

2000's through 2020s: Nada. Zip. Zero. I don't know if the music changed or my tastes changed. I suspect the former. 

Do you have favorite songs from the decades listed? Disagree with my opinion of the 2000s and up? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

"Not Yet" to Electric Cars

Tesla Model S
I'm half-heartedly looking for a new car. My current vehicle will be nine years old in December so I might want to buy a new car late in 2023. But I'm debating that because my current car, despite its age, runs great, looks great, rides great, handles great, etc. Part of that is the German engineering and part is that I've taken care of it.

I only want a sedan. I'm not interested in an SUV or-- gag--a crossover. I considered briefly a certain station wagon but decided to not go that way. I've narrowed it down to two cars: an Audi and a BMW. I was surprised to learn the BMW had more horsepower and was cheaper. And came with three years free maintenance.

But before I looked at internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, I looked at electrics. My criteria for an electric was 300 miles of realistic range and/or the ability to recharge in ten minutes.

When it comes to electric cars, there is something called the "EPA Range." This is like EPA mileage number for an ICE vehicle: not realistic in real-world driving. For example, the Tesla Model S Long Range has an EPA range of 375 miles. But Car and Driver magazine got only 281 miles diving the car at 75 miles per hour. And if the weather is hot, or cold, or you go up hill too much or you run the heat or the air conditioner, you can lower the range a lot. Car and Driver found with a Model 3 from Tesla, in cold weather the range was nearly cut in half.

Lucid Motors (which has yet to put a car on the road) claims an EPA range of 520 miles for its Air Dream Edition. But it's MSRP is $169,000 and that is rumored to be going up due to high demand. And that's a bit more than I want to spend on a car.

I was talking to a man who owns an electric car. He says if he wants to drive out of town, he rents an ICE car. Also, sometimes you come to a charger and someone is already charging so you have to wait. That adds to the "refuel" time.

I keep reading about coming amazing batteries that can go 1,000 miles and refill in 9 seconds. But who knows how long it'll be before those become reality. If ever.

For now, I'll stick with an ICE car. Even with gas prices being ridiculous.

UPDATE: Lucid has delivered 300 cars about to customers.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Two Basic Stories

I've thought about this for a long time when it comes to writing or fiction stories of any kind. And the movie Belfast reminded me of it. Here it is:

There are two basic types of stories in fiction. One is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Such as the people in Belfast living through the "Troubles" in the late 1960s. 

The other type is extraordinary people doing what for them is ordinary things. Think superheroes saving the world. 

Ordinary people doing ordinary things would be rather boring, I think. So you have to add extraordinary drama to their lives to make a story.

Extraordinary people doing ordinary things (such as going to work, taking kids to soccer practice) would also be boring. But them doing things that are for them ordinary (saving the world) is not boring.

And that's my theory of fiction writing.

What do you think? Am I nuts? Or do you agree. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

My Issues with Star Trek: Picard Season Two

Star Trek: Picard season two is over. It was fairly interesting and somewhat fun. But it had a lot of issues with Star Trek canon.

**Spoilers Follow**

One: Guinan didn't recognize Picard. I can understand if she were surprised to see him in the 21st century. But she first met him in San Francisco in 1898. This happens in "Time's Arrow Part II," the first episode of season seven of Star Trek: The Next Generation (hereafter ST:TNG). In "Time's Arrow Part I," she tells him that he has to go back in time to meet her.

Two: Our intrepid heroes travel back to 2024.  Everything looks a lot like our current 2022. But, according to the "Space Seed" episode of Star Trek (the original series), there were massive eugenics wars in the 1990s. Here's a bit of dialogue:

Kirk: "Name: Khan Noonien Singh."

Spock:  "From 1992 through 1996, absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world, from Asia through the Middle East." 

Kirk: "The last of the tyrants to be overthrown."

And from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan speaking: "...[T]he Enterprise picked up the Botany Bay, lost in space from the year 1996 with myself and the ship's company in cryogenic freeze?"

So there were eugenics wars that ended in 1996 and I doubt 2024 (less than 30 years later) everything would be hunky dory again and it would look anything like our world today. Yes, Soong pulled out a file marked "Project Khan" but that would move the eugenics wars to maybe 2030 instead of the 1990s. (This is also hinted at in the first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.)

Three: Picard's older brother, Robert. In the ST:TNG episode "Family" (second of the fourth season), Picard goes to his family home in France and encounters his older brother, Robert. Yet in all the flashbacks to Picard's painful childhood, Robert is never around.

Four: Wesley Crusher as a "traveler." In Star Trek: Nemesis, Wesley is seen in a Star Fleet uniform at Riker and Troi's wedding. But in the ST:TNG episode "Journey's End," (Season seven, episode 20),  Wesley did go off with the travelers. Which is why a lot of people were surprised to see him in Nemesis. So which is it, Star Trek?

Later I might talk about my problems with Strange New Worlds.

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


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Strange New Worlds Episode One

I was going to wait until the end of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to comment on it. But I have a huge issue with the first episode so I'm going to discuss that here.

**Spoiler Alert**

In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time," Spock starts to experience the "Pon Farr." This is the once-every-seven-years mating period. It is strongly hinted here (and in other Star Trek canon) that Pon Farr is the only time Vulcans mate. 

Also, in "Amok Time," Spock explains that his marriage to T'Pring was arranged (I watched the episode on Paramount+ to confirm this). In that episode he says to Kirk and McCoy that the wedding was "By our parents arrangement when we were but seven years of age."

Yet, in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, T'Pring asks Spock to marry him (not have the marriage arranged) and they go off to celebrate by having sex. That is, mating. Like humans. Not Vulcans. (The sex is interrupted before it gets started by Captain Pike calling.)

I haven't seen today's episode yet, so I have no comment on it.

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


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Semi-Autonomous Cars... What Would I Do?

Tesla Model S
I've been thinking about a new car because my current auto will be nine years old in December. Next year around this time, I'll probably be seriously looking. 

I've already ruled out Tesla because their longest range model (Model S) can't handle the distances I regularly drive. Yes, the EPA range is 405 miles, which would be plenty. But I've read that EPA range is like EPA mileage figures: your range may vary. And if it's too hot or too cold your range will drop. And if you run the air conditioning or the heat, that drops your range more than it would in an internal combustion vehicle. And Car and Driver (my bible for all things automotive) says they only got 281 miles out of a Tesla. Which isn't enough. There is coming the Lucid Air Dream Edition with has an EPA range of 501 miles. That might be enough but it costs nearly $170,000!

Teslas are expensive, too!

While I was researching Teslas, I looked at their "Fully Self-Driving Capability" (which they currently charge $12,000 for). That means on highways and interstates, the car pretty much drives itself. But Tesla makes clear that the driver has to pay attention and have at least one hand on the wheel. It's website says:

The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. 

This is, to me, the worst of both worlds. You aren't driving, but you can't do anything else (look at your phone, read, etc.). To me it would be mind-numbingly boring. I'd rather be driving. You can't even really sightsee because... you have to pay attention as if you're driving. 

So what's the point? I guess I'll wait until I can read or look at my phone or sightsee before I buy an autonomous car.

However, I was driving home from Spokane late one night and I was kind of wishing for a semi-autonomous car to help. I was very tired and found myself wandering in my lane. An autonomous car wouldn't do that, I assume. So perhaps they have their place.

How do you feel about autonomous cars? Are you looking forward to them or do you dread them? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Swimming with Manta Rays

I can't believe I've never posted about this before.

I have been, for years, fascinated by manta rays. I think they are beautiful animals as they gracefully "fly" through the ocean. And they are huge. 

So, I was at this meeting about politics in Washington State a long time ago (when I was in the corporate world). The meeting was put on by a business association. And every year they gave away two tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. I sat at a table after a break and all these attractive women sat at the same table. I felt kind of lucky. Then they did the drawing for the airline tickets. And I literally said, "I never win these things." Then they called my number. I had won the tickets.

My wife and I decided to go to Kona, Hawaii with the free tickets. We'd never been there. So I made hotel reservations and rental car reservations and we went to Kona.

I'd heard about people scuba diving or snorkeling with manta rays. What they do it they go at night and shine bright lights up from the bottom of the ocean and that attracts plankton and the plankton attract manta rays.

So I was talking to the activities person at the hotel and told her I'd like to go snorkeling with manta rays. And she set it up for me (it cost money, of course).

We went at sunset on a boat that went out from the harbor a ways but not very far. Once we got there, they gave us snorkeling masks and pool noodles. The noodles were to go under our ankles to keep our feet from hitting the manta rays. Apparently they have delicate skin.

The mantas that came were small. Nothing like the one in the picture above. But they swam around under us, scooping up plankton with their large mouths. And I loved every second of it. They are such majestic fish. So graceful. I still treasure that memory.

Have you had any experiences you treasure? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Radio Interview



Today at 4PM EDT (1PM PDT), I will be interviewed on Books & Entertainment. I'll be reading a short excerpt from SMUGGLES OF MARS. Tune in! It's going to be fun.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

I'm All Screwed Up

My brain is amazing. Or it was when I was younger. I can remember things in detail from my childhood. I used to be able to read something once and know most of its salient points. Made studying real easy.

In the 1990s I wrote Rock Killer. It has 74 "speaking" characters. I never wrote anything down, I never had to have a "book bible." I kept it all in my head.

Now I'm writing a novel with 34 speaking characters. I had to make a list of every character, job, title, etc. to keep me straight. And I keep finding continuity errors as I edit it.

But my brain is also screwed up. I know I'm bipolar. Technically, I'm type-2 bipolar with dysthymia, That means without meds I'm depressed most of the time but I have manic episodes.  

But I swear I'm also dyslexic, especially when it comes to numbers. I have to be very careful when doing math to make sure I use the correct numbers, especially if the numbers are complex. You tell me "286" and I'll write down "268." Dyslexia is also why I'm a poor speller and proofreader and a slow reader, I believe.

Also, I think I am a bit on the autism spectrum. Not a lot but when I get OCD on something, I really get OCD about it. When I was a kid, I think my spectrum-ness (is that a word?) was more pronounced. I knew I was smart and didn't fit in with other kids and I lived in my head most of the time (unless I could escape into television and later reading). As I got older, I strived to act more "normal" around others. And I think it worked. But I still have problems in social settings. I'm a strong introvert. I just fake it well.

How does your brain work? Are you happy with it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Life on Io?

Io
I was watching Star Trek: Picard season two on Paramount+ and (slight spoiler) someone was said to find sentient life on Io.

Io (pronounced eye-oh) is the inner-most Galilean moon, that is, one of the four moons discovered by Galileo in 1610.  Due to its proximity with Jupiter, tidal forces keep the moon's core molten and there are numerous volcanoes on the moon spewing molten sulfur.  Some of the volcanoes shoot the sulfur 200 miles above the surface.

My immediate thought was "no way." Io is a very hostile environment. I've been doing research on Io for a book I'm hoping to bring out soon. Io has volcanos with molten sulfur leaving them at over 2,400 miles per hour (I calculate that here and confirm it here). Sulfur dioxide is the primary constituent of a thin atmosphere on Io. Its surface is mostly that sulfur dioxide plus silicas. Io contains little or no water.

There is hardly a moon/planet with a less hospitable environment for life. Especially in our Solar System. 

But, then I thought about what I wrote on this very blog about how we have found life in the most unexpected places. 

So... maybe? It might have to be silicon based, not carbon based.

Life I can see. Sentient life (that has never been mention in Star Trek canon before) is a bit hard to swallow. 

Maybe later I'll do a blog post about all the problems I have about Picard season two. Maybe.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Goodbye Masks (Mostly)

It's been a little more than a month now since the governor of Washington State lifted mask mandates for most situations (except healthcare facilities). And I have to say it's nice to see folks' smiling faces again. It's remarkable how much a simple grin lights up a visage.

Masks are also no longer required in schools in Washington State, unless a school district decides they should be (Seattle's school district has done that).

Some people are still wearing masks and that's okay. It's their choice. But it is now a choice, not a mandate.

I recently visited the Portland, Oregon area and I was surprised how many people are still wearing masks. 

Masks are still required on public transportation (that's a federal thing) until at least April 18th. 

I hate the masks. I have COPD and they made it even harder to breathe. And I'm claustrophobic and the masks made me feel trapped (I'd probably break in seconds if someone waterboarded me). I stopped wearing masks after the first time the CDC said we didn't have to any more. When they put the requirement back on, I simply ignored it. Plus, they said that unless you're wearing an N95 mask, you're not getting any protection. And since I didn't have an N95 mask, I decided not to bother wearing a cloth mask.

But I  made damn sure I had all my vaccines including the booster.

And, as far as I know, I never have had COVID.

But the best part is still seeing people's faces and their smiles.

How do you feel about masks. Do you plan to still wear one or are you glad the mandates are ending? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Movie Review: Belfast

When the list of Best Picture nominees comes out for the Academy Awards, I like to look and see how many of the movies I've actually seen. When the list first came out there was one: Dune. And I think that was put on the list only in hopes of increasing viewership of the ceremony on TV. Now I've seen a second nominee, and that's Belfast. It didn't win.

I went into Belfast thinking it'll be one of those good but not really enjoyable movies. I saw it was rated PG-13 so I figured the violence couldn't be too bad.

I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it's about the "Troubles" in North Ireland in the sixties, but it's told from the perspective of an nine-year-old boy, Buddy. I believe the movie is at least semi-autobiographical by producer/writer/director Kenneth Branagh. It has humor and sweetness and danger and heroics by everyday folk. Despite two F-bombs, it's a movie you could show your great-aunt. You know, the church lady. 

Judi Dench does a remarkable job as Buddy's grandmother. His parents, while they do fight, are obviously in love. Interestingly, Buddy's father is played by Jamie Dornan, who's best known for the Fifty Shades of Grey movies.

I really enjoyed this film. And that surprised me.

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

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

Thursday, March 24, 2022

TV-MA on Disney+

A week ago (about) my smart TV said the Disney+ app (I guess that's the right word) needed updated. So I updated it. I don't use Roku or Fire Stick or anything because the apps are built into the television. Which is cool.

When I opened the app, it immediately asked if I wanted to be able to see TV-MA content. I'm an adult, so I selected "yes." I then had to put in my password (which took two attempts) and then I could see TV-MA content.

The first thing I noticed was that the Netflix MCU series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Punisher, and The Defenders) were all now on Disney+! There's a third season of Daredevil I want to watch and a third season of Jessica Jones I want to watch. (I got bored about half-way through the second season of Luke Cage. And I hated Punisher. I think I've watched all of Iron Fist.) 

So, now the only reason I could think about keeping Netflix streaming was for Stranger Things which is supposed to have a fourth season eventually. So I canceled my Netflix streaming service which will save me $20 a month. I still am on the Netflix/DVD.com DVD/Blu-ray service because that's how I watch new releases since I rarely go to the theater anymore.

So now I only have Disney+ and Paramount+ (for Star Trek shows, mostly) and Amazon Prime streaming services. I also still have Dish for television programing.

What streaming services do  you use? Do you think I'm nuts to cancel Netflix? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Television Review: Hawkeye

I know Hawkeye first streamed on Disney+ a while back (around Christmastime I think). I didn't get around to watching it until recently (I was finishing up The Expanse). Also, I was a little nervous about Hawkeye after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier went political.

But Hawkeye is great fun. Lots of action and adventure and zero politics. A few twists and surprises, too. And if you've watched Daredevil on Netflix, there's a surprise for you, too (no spoilers).

The thing I liked about Clint Barton/Hawkeye was his concern about his family. Until circumstances forced him to separate from them at Christmastime, he was all about his kids and wife.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Kate Bishop and she's not only beautiful, but a fun character. You may remember Ms. Steinfeld from True Grit and Bumblebee. She's a talent and has a bright future ahead of her.

I really liked Hawkeye. More than I expected to. It's mostly fun. And the "Rogers, the Musical" part is hilarious (don't worry, that's early in the first episode). If you have Disney+, I strongly recommend Hawkeye.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Book Review: The First Conspiracy

I enjoy history, especially U.S. history. And George Washington is my favorite Founding Father. So when I found out about The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington I had to read it. 

"It reads like a novel" is often a compliment given to non-fiction books. But Brad Meltzer (with Josh Mensch) writes a book that while as readable as a novel, knows that it's history. Characters move in and you wonder what their role is, and later you find out. You learn about the early days of the American Revolution and what it was like for Washington and his soldiers (it wasn't fun). And you learn about the conspiracy and how it formed and who was behind it.

The only issue I had with the book is the authors over-sell it a bit. It's an interesting story but it ended rather mundanely as the plot fell apart due to the actions of the revolutionaries. I did learn that John Jay, (the first Chief Justice of the United States) was involved in intelligence for Washington. And that because of this plot, Washington learned he needed not only intelligence, but counter-intelligence. 

If you're interested in history, especially of the Revolutionary War period in the United States, I highly recommend this book. 

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

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Life, the Universe, and Everything

The other day (like a month ago) I was thinking about life. Not how life as a human on Earth tends to be a constant struggle. But is there life elsewhere in the galaxy or maybe even the solar system?

I would be surprised if there's not life somewhere in the galaxy. Intelligent life? Maybe. But definitely life.

If we do meet aliens, they are either going to be cavemen or god-like beings to us. Why? The universe is 13.8 billion years old. Now, it wasn't capable of forming and sustaining life for all that time (it was too hot, there weren't enough heavy metals, etc.). According to this article, life was probably able to form in the universe for the past few billions of years. 

Humans have been around for only about 100,000 years (and for about 90,000 of those years we, too, were cavemen). So if we meet aliens, they are likely to be hundreds of thousands if not millions of years more advanced than we. Or be cavemen.

But life doesn't have to be intelligent. And there's where it gets interesting. On Earth, we have found life nearly everywhere. There's life in coldest Antarctica. There's life around thermal vents in the ocean where the water would boil if it weren't for the crushing pressures. These "extremophiles" live in places were temperature, pH (acidity or alkalinity), pressure, radiation, salinity, energy, and nutrient limitation would kill most organisms. 

So if there's life in places we can't fathom on Earth, what about off of our planet. Most scientist cite Europa (a moon of Jupiter) or Enceladus (the largest moon of Saturn) as places off Earth but in our solar system where life could exist. There's even speculation about Titan (another moon of Saturn) which has methane seas and water ice mountains. Someday, maybe, we'll find this life with robotic probes. Probably not in my lifetime.

What do you think about life off of Earth. Does it exist and, if so, in what form? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Happy Light

Not only am I bipolar, but I also suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a rather appropriate acronym. This is where one gets depressed in the winter, probably due to the lack of sunshine (shorter days, more clouds, wear more clothes). This has also been called "the winter blues." All I knew what that in the winter I would suffer from depression a lot. This on top of bipolar depression. Not fun. And like all things with mental illness, it got worse as I got older.

Nine years ago, on the advice of my mother, I bought a full-spectrum light from a company called Verilux and put it by my desk when I spend most of my work days. It's not technically a "happy light" (which is a specific type of full-spectrum light that is designed for maximum light output) but a lamp that shines on my hands and arms as I type. But it seems to be enough because either because of it, or a psychosomatic effect, I feel better. I haven't suffered from SAD since I got it.

When I needed a light for reading, I also got a full-spectrum light. I figured it couldn't hurt to have more full-spectrum light.

So if you have the "winter blues," I strongly suggest that you get a full-spectrum light and put it where are are the most.

Do you have a full-spectrum light? What are your experiences with it? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Virtual Reading


I and a group of authors will be doing a virtual reading on ALTSpaceVR and anyone can attend. It will be Friday the 25th at 6pm PST. The link to get there is here. It would be fun to see you there!


Thursday, February 17, 2022

RadCon 8B

Starting tomorrow and through Sunday, I will be at RadCon 8B in Tri-Cities, Washington. It will be held, as usual, at the Red Lion Inn in Pasco.

Here's my schedule of panels:


Friday 7:00PM: Pantsing or Outlining. In the Executive Room

Saturday at 11:00 AM: Defeating the Blank Page. In the Sage Room

Saturday at 2:00 PM: Point of View. Also in the Sage Room

Sunday at 11:00 AM: Creating a Low Barrier of Entry for your Readers. In the Harvest Room.

I hope to see you there. I'll have some swag and would love to meet you.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

DVD.com deigned to send me Ghostbusters: Afterlife as soon as they released it. I guess I'm not being throttled right now. (Although this week they sent me the #11 and #12 movies in my queue.)

I was a little cautious approaching this movie. I don't like horror and the ads and trailers I saw indicated it was more horror than comedy, unlike the original Ghostbusters

And there is more serious content than the original movie, but it does have funny moments, too. It's much less serious than the ads and trailers I saw indicated. I enjoyed it but I didn't love it.

The story involves a family with an older kid played by Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things fame)(and where the hell is Stanger Things season four?) and a precocious twelve-year-old girl, Phoebe. They get kicked out of their house for not paying rent but, luckily, inherit the mother's father's farm in Oklahoma. That's where things get interesting. Phoebe, being the curious type, starts discovering things, clue that lead to her and her mother learning about their heritage and a threat to all of humanity. I'm trying to avoid spoilers  here.

It was well do. Using kids instead of adults made it more fun. Paul Rudd plays a bored science teacher who, at summer school, shows the kids horror movies (I would have been traumatized). I recommend Ghostbusters: Afterlife, especially if you liked the original movie (and who didn't?). 

Did you watch Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Thursday, February 3, 2022

I Remember Email

Back in 1994, someone introduced me to email on the computers at the University of Washington campus. I remember asking if it went "campus wide." I was told it went world-wide and I was impressed. So I set up an email account. I think it was stownsend@washington.edu.

Now, 28 years later, email is falling out of favor for texting. Although I don't know if I foresee businesses using texting rather than email. Maybe between employees casually, but not for official communications. Although I saw and ad for "Business Texting" for communicating with clients/customers. And I get texts all the time from people I do business with such as doctors, dentists, and car detailers. 

Email was such a revelation. I've been using it long enough to remember when people apologized for "wasting bandwidth" with long emails. I also remember when the size limit on attachments was so small you couldn't send two Word documents in the same email. Now I send 5 MB email attachments all the time.

I've never had a big problem with spam and I don't know why. I'm still hoping some genius will fix that problem. That and having to have a complicated password for everything, and none of them the same. I'm thinking biometric logins. 

But I'm off course. I still use email and I text and I Facebook message. What ever is most convenient at the time. But email might just become a business/government tool in the future. Especially if it comes that you can send files through text.

What do you think the fate of email will be? Do you use it less than you used to? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Time Zones

When I was in the military, we were very concerned with time zones because our intelligence came from all over the world. The Department of Defense assigned a letter to each time zone (at least the major ones) and UTC was "Z" or "zulu." (Most people call "UTC" "Greenwich Mean Time" but that's not its official name. It's actually "Coordinated Universal Time." So why "UTC"? That's explained here.)

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet and there are, if I counted correctly, 34 times zones. Most are off by an hour from their neighbors but some are off by half an hour and at least one is off by fifteen/forty-five minutes. 

I live in the Pacific Time Zone of the US which is eight hours behind of UTC (UTC -8) except during daylight saving time with it's seven hours behind (UTC -7).

The earliest time zone is UTC +14. That's Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. You'd think it'd be UTC +12 but it's 14 for some reason. I believe it's on the east side of the International Date Line.

The latest time zone is UTC -11. Again, why not -12? I don't know. That's for the island, Nuie, also in the Pacific Ocean. Probably also near the International Date Line

There are some weird time zones. For example, there is an Australian time zone that is UTC +8.75. There are a lot of time zones that are a half hour off everyone else. For example two in Australia (Australia has six time zones if I counted correctly), parts of India, at least parts of Afghanistan, and Iran, and Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. 

There is a border you can walk across and get jet lag because the time zones are 4.5 hours apart (that's China and Afghanistan)(Assuming you could walk across that border). China has one time zone for the entire country, which must be convenient in some way yet weird in the western parts of the country.

Do you have to deal with time zones? Or are they just boring to you? Or do they confuse you? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Gas Prices

During the recent holiday season, I watched Die Hard, as I usually do.  There's on scene in the movie I found very disturbing. It's pictured at left. It's the gas prices shown that is disturbing. 

Now you can't get "Regular" anymore, because all gasolines have gone to unleaded. Today's "regular" is just lower octane unleaded. So I was curious, how much is 77 cents in today's inflation adjusted dollars. I used this inflation calculator and found out that it's $1.81. (Die Hard was made in 1988).

However, gas prices now are a lot more than $1.81. So I decided to see how gas prices have changed since 1988. I went to the Department of Energy website and it lists average gasoline prices historically, but only starting in April of 1993. So I started then. And then I adjusted them for inflation using data from this website. And I made a pretty graph of the data:


If you adjust the price of gasoline since April 1993 for inflation, that's the lower line. And the last number on that line (November of 2021) is exactly $1.81, which surprised me. But California has always had expensive gas. I'm not sure why except these days it has the highest gas taxes.

But gas goes up and down with the worldwide price of oil. And the price of oil went down during the first part of the pandemic because demand dropped so much. Then after the lock downs slowed, it shot up partly due to increased demand, partly due to the world oil market.

Also, I think gas is more expensive than in April of 1993 because of ethanol mandates and gas taxes.

So this was an interesting experiment. 

What do you think of this data? What do you think makes the price of gas change so much? let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

TikTok... Sort Of

Due to the popularity (I suppose) of TikTok, Facebook/Instagram has started doing "Reels" which are basically TikTok-like short videos (some even say "TikTok" on them). YouTube has also gotten into the game with "Shorts." 

So I discovered Reels on my Facebook on my phone (it doesn't show up on my browser-based Facebook). And I started watching out of curiosity. And now I'm hooked.

I've learned a few things watching these "Reels." One: people say the f-word a lot. Two: about every third video has The No Song as a soundtrack. Which was cute the first 500 times. And three: Some people are idiots, driving very fast on crowded public roads. Like 150 mph fast (they show their speedometer). Some run from cops which, in my state, at least, is a felony.

Some people try to scam viewers. One told of a method to speed up your internet connection. I tried it. It kicked me off the internet. So I reversed what I did and everything was fine.

There's two annoying text-to-voice voices. One is a enthusiastic female, the other a baritone male.  Another annoying thing is you can't fast forward to the end or rewind to see something again. If it's a long video, that can be very frustrating.

It must be against the rules to have swear words in captions because people will say the swear word but the caption will have asterisks or another similar sounding word. Considering how much people swear on it, this surprises me.

And sometimes people make the same joke or claims as other people. The exact same joke. That's boring.

The algorithm has learned that I like cat videos and car videos, so I get a lot of those. And a lot of Tesla videos. Some people have too much money, it seems. One guy traded in his brand new Model S for the Tesla truck because he was bored with the Model S.

There are people you see over and over. Like the married couple I call "The adorable couple." They are so obviously in love with each other and so sweet to each other. And they are planning on having a baby this year. Yes, some people share too much.

But what I've also learned is... it's addictive. Sometimes you learn something useful. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you're like "WTF?"

Maybe someday I can beat my addiction to Reels. But for now, I just plan to enjoy it.

Do you watch TikTok or Reels or Shorts? What do you think about them? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Things I Invented

Happy 2022! 

I hope.

Now on with the blog.

Robert Heinlein is often credited with inventing the water bed in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. He also invented the remote manipulator in 1942 (he called it a "waldo" after his fictional inventor).

Arthur C. Clark invented the geosynchronous satellite. Or at least first did the math on what it took to make one.

But me, well, I "invented" some things too. I just had no idea how they would work.

For example, for a story I was working on in the early 1980s, I "invented" the autonomous car and the cell phone. I never wrote that story down because I never came up with a plot.

I "invented" rain-sensing windshield wipers. I thought they could use a camera to see if they view out the windshield was blurry. But that was just a few years before I bought a car with rain-sensing windshield wipers. And boy, did I invent a great thing. I love rain-sensing windshield wipers. I guess they work on the reflection of LEDs, or something like that.

For a college assignment, I "invented" a temporary shelter for astronauts on the moon. It's never been used.

But when I was a kid, I invented the internet. I thought "wouldn't it be cool if computers were linked together so you could access the information on them." This was around 1970. Arpanet was just one year old then. I was 10. 

In my novel Rock Killer, published in 2012 (but written long before that) I invented the Zoom call. The characters didn't call it a Zoom call, but that's essentially what it was. 

Have you had any ideas that came to fruition? Let me know in the comments below.