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?

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.