Thursday, November 30, 2023

103 Favorite Movies, #89 - 80

The list of my favorite 103 movies continues. The first entry is here (103-90).

And here we go:

89:  Airplane (1980)

“Surely you must be joking.” “I’m perfectly serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” A movie that delivers the laughs and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Parts haven’t aged well but the movie doesn’t care. It’s hilarious. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

88: True Lies (1994)

The last collaboration between James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this movie tried hard to be a buddy/action-comedy flick but parts of it are too serious and some are just cringy. Best part: Harrier jets blowing up a bridge. Available on Tubi (free) and AMC+

87: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

Like Airplane, this movie goes for laughs over everything else. A bit more modern, it still has its cringy humor parts, but mostly you’ll laugh. Don’t worry about thinking, this movie isn’t about that. And the sports movie parts make you cheer to the heroes. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

86:  National Treasure (2004)

A treasure map on the back of the original Declaration of Independence? The bad guy (Sean Bean, who survived the movie) wants to steal the document. So, the hero (Nicholas Cage) decides to steal it first. As clues (many based on American history) combine to lead the adventures to a possible treasure, the tension winds up. A fun, underrated, movie you should watch. Available on Disney+

85: Mission impossible (1996)

The first Mission Impossible movie had such a convoluted plot, it takes at least two viewing to figure out just what happened. But the tension is high as Tom Cruise has to find the bad guys while evading his own agency. And the climax is amazing (if a bit unrealistic). Worth the two watches, at least. Available on AMC+ and Paramount+

84: Gattaca (1997)

I’ve only seen this movie once (unlike most the others on the list) but it’s an important film dealing with the ethics of gene manipulation in humans. Some children are born natural, others are born enhanced genetically. There is prejudice against the natural born and this leads to many issues for Ethan Hunt who wants to be an astronaut but is natural born. And natural born can't be astronauts. Available on YouTube, Apple TV, and Vudu, all paid.

83: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Based on a true story, it’s a cautionary tale of what money, drugs, and more drugs can do to a man. If only the hero had been ethical in his money making and avoided drugs, his world might not have come crashing down. Or his yacht sunk needlessly. Margo Robbie is amazing in this movie, as is Leonardo DiCaprio. Available on MGM+ and Amazon Prime Video.

82: To Have and Have Not (1944)

The film debut of Lauren Bacall (she was 19) and loosely based on a Hemmingway story. Humphry Bogart leads the cast during World War II intrigue. "You ever been stung by a dead bee?" "You know how to whistle, Steve, don't you?" A great old movie. Available on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video (paid on both).

81: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

It was 1977 and the world needed a hero and Burt Reynolds obliged with a rebel shipping bootleg beer through the American Southeast. Sally Fields joins the crew as they race along interstate and back road, always on the lookout of "Smokey," i.e., the police. Nothing intellectual or deep, just fun and exceeding the speed limit (which was 55 mph nationally at the time). This was the number two highest grossing film of 1977. Available on AMC+ and Philo.

80: Spaceballs (1987)

Mel Brooks takes on Star Wars. While it references a few other science fiction movies such as Alien and Planet of the Apes, it's mostly a Star Wars parody. Gave us "ludicrous speed" and "They've gone plaid" (which Elon Musk used in names for his cars). Watch it with someone with a good sense of humor. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

What to you think of my list so far? Let me know in the comments below. 

Next time, 79 - 70,

Thursday, November 23, 2023

103 Favorite Movies #103 - 90

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am going to start listing my 103 favorite movies of all time. Why 103? Because there were some I just couldn't leave out.

103: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

The only Star Trek: The Next Generation cast movie on this list and the first of five. Directed by Jonathan Frakes (who also plays First Office Riker), the parts on the ship are exciting and claustrophobic as the crew tries to stop a Borg invasion of their vessel. But the parts on the ground and rather silly. Councilor Troi drunk was funny, though. Introduces the concept of the "Borg Queen," which I've never liked but was used in a lot of Star Trek afterwards. Available on Paramount+

102: The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

“World’s fastest what?” you may be asking. This unusual film is based on the true story of a New Zealand man (played by Anothony Hopkins) trying build the world’s fastest motorcycle and test it out at Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1967. Watching his culture shock of 1960s America and his efforts to build the motorcycle makes this movie strangely compelling. It's fun to watch him try to fix issues with the motorcycle. When something doesn't work that he thought would, he says, "Who came up with that stupid idea?" In the end, his Indian-brand cycle is the world’s fastest. Available for free on many sites including YouTube, Peacock, and Pluto TV. 

101: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

This third Star Trek movie with The Original Series cast is an emotional roller coaster. Kirk’s devastation at the murder of his son and the destruction of the Enterprise are both unlike any other Star Trek film. The worst part, Kirstie Alley isn’t playing Saavik anymore. Christopher Lloyd plays the Klingon commander, chewing up scenery. It was obvious he was having a great time. Available on Paramount+

100: Bullitt

Basically, this is on this list because of that chase scene, one of the best ever filmed. Otherwise, this is an interesting crime drama starring Steve McQueen. Made in 1968 San Francisco, there are bad guys and tough cops and lots of nice scenery. Watch for the real cop directing traffic outside a restaurant and a very young Robert Duvall driving a taxi. But once you watch that chase scene, there's not much else to this film. Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

99: The Mummy (1999)

There are no horror movies on this list. I don’t do horror. But this movie is a fun adventure with some horror elements. Brendan Fraser stars and Rachel Weisz is the cute, smart love interest. Early CGI is used, but it works and isn’t over used. Just a fun adventure film set in the 1920s. Not to be confused with the Tom Cruise disaster with the same name. Available on Hulu and Sling TV.

98: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

"What is your quest?" Irreverent, silly, and hilarious, this first feature-length movie from the Monty Python troupe is laugh-out-loud funny. From the coconuts clomped together to indicate horses to the peasant spouting Marxist ideas, it'll have you rolling on the floor with laughter. "I fart in your general direction!" Not as sacrilegious as Life of Brian or as gross as The Meaning of Life. Available on Netflix.

97: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

This movie is huge with cast of thousands. And a lot of them are stars. CGI is rampant but it’s so good you don’t care. You don’t need to watch every MCU film before you view this, but it helps. The combination of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers is amazing. The final battle is huge as they try to stop Thanos's genocidal plans. If only Star Lord (played by Chris Pratt) hadn't lost his temper… Available on Disney+

96: Charade (1963)

I don’t remember how I found this movie but I was glad I did. This is a charming film with suspense, romance, and twists. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn star and the chemistry between them is palpable. A very enjoyable time for an old movie without shootouts or chase scenes. Available on Pluto TV and Amazon Prime Video (free).

95: Galaxy Quest (1999)

An affectionate satire of Star Trek and its fan culture, this hilarious movie is so much fun. Tim Allen (in his best role outside of the Toy Story franchise) and Sigourney Weaver star along with the always wonderful Alan Rickman. If you love or hate Star Trek, you have to watch this movie. It's hilariously funny at times. "Never give up; never surrender." Available on Paramount+

94: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

The last Original Series cast Star Trek movie. The cast is older and slower, but they still save the universe. Sulu is a captain of his own ship and arrives in the nick of time. Can there be diplomacy in the Galaxy? Or will a conspiracy ruin it all? The final space battle is amazing. This is the last movie we see Spock in (he didn't want to be in Generations). A bit marred by a couple of political statements by the filmmakers. And Klingon blood is not lavender. Available on Paramount+

93: Avengers: End Game (2019)

You thought Infinity Wars was huge? This is bigger, longer, and has more CGI. Things go from the devastation of Infinity War to hope to a sad ending. The best MCU movie so far. And boy, there are a lot of infinity stones in New York City! Available on Disney+

92: To Be or Not to Be (1983)

A comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland and the mistreatment of Jews and gays? Yes, and it’s good. Mel Brooks is less manic as the ham leader of a theater troupe and Anne Bancroft, his real-life wife, plays his wife. Tim Matheson is a handsome Polish pilot. There’s a 1942 version with Jack Benny, but this one is the one with Mel Brooks. It's funny, touching, and maybe just a bit manic. The one criticism: the Nazis are all idiots. Evil usually isn't stupid. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video

91: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

The first and best Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Keira Knightley is beautiful, Orlando Bloom is brave, and Johnny Depp is… Johnny Depp. It never takes itself too seriously and always is fun. There are a few twists toward the end. Who thought a pirate movie would work in the 2000s? Available on Disney+

90: Speed (1994)

A bus that can’t go less than 50 mph or it’ll explode. That’s the plot of Speed. An exciting action film that launched the career of Sandra Bullock and made Keanu Reeves an action star. Just a good, fast movie. The ending is a bit anticlimactic but that’s okay. Available on AMC+ and Amazon Prime Video.

So, what do you think of my first 14? Let me know in the comments below. More will come...

Thursday, November 16, 2023

We're Not Going Faster

While internet is getting faster, humans aren't.

For millennia, the fastest humans could move on land was about 4 mph. That's the speed of a human or an animal walking. And you could probably do only 20-30 miles per day depending on your stamina or your animal's abilities. (If the animal was pulling something such as a wagon or chariot, it probably was limited even more.)

Then came the train which started out at about 10 mph. More than double walking but still slow. Yes, now they are trains that do 300 mph. 

Today, the fastest mode of travel is the jet airliner (ignoring fighter jets and private jets that are much faster but not available to the general public). They go about 550 mph. And they have since the early 1960s. In 60 years we haven't sped up much at all, especially since the Concord was grounded.

And to be honest, flying is so uncomfortable and inconvenient, I won't fly unless I have no other choice. Last time I went through a TSA checkpoint, I was so molested I thought he should have bought me dinner first.

But why aren't we going faster? There's Elon Musk's hyperloop which might be as fast at 300 mph and more convenient than air travel. And some guy says he can make a Mach 5 (3,600 mph) airplane. That's 3,700 miles per hour!

The problem is, the faster you go, the more problems you have. The SR-71's top speed is still classified but is thought to be in excess of Mach 3 (2,200 mph). And it's a very specialized airplane with a titanium-skinned fuselage. The heat built up from friction with the air is a huge challenge as speeds climb over Mach 1. 

I'd like to be able to travel faster than 550 mph. I'd also like to travel in comfort and convenience (you know, like in a car). Maybe I'm asking too much.

What do you think about the speed we travel? Do you want to go faster? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Zooming Internet

I recently upgraded my cell phone plan. I was on 2 GB with no 5G coverage for data. My new plan is unlimited data with 5G including Verizon "Ultra Wideband 5G"

I changed it because I bought a car with Apple CarPlay and it eats up a lot of bandwidth and I didn't want to go over my 2 GB limit.

Earlier this week I was in Spokane, WA to see the movie Oppenheimer. And I noticed my phone was on Ultra Wideband 5G. So I did a speed test. with the Ookla Speed Test app. The result: 1,479 Mbps download, 79.1 Mbps upload. (Should that be 1.479 Gbps?)

It seems I could download an HD movie in less than 2 seconds, if my math is correct.

On my fiber optic internet at my house, I usually get about 200 Mbps going both ways, max. Which is plenty fast. I can stream a movie while my wife is on the internet and my son is playing video games online and it's fine. But Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G is seven time faster? What would I use that speed for? Downloading a movie onto my phone in mere moments, I guess.

Another interesting thing, since I changed my plan to unlimited, I'm using more bandwidth. I'm at just over 4 GB with no days left in the billing cycle. 

Do you have 5G on your phone? What do you use it for? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Early Adopters and EVs

Tesla Model S
I saw my first EV in July of 2000 near Los Angeles, California. It was a GM EV1. I remember being surprised by how small it was. Scary small to drive on public roads. Early models had lead-acid batteries (like the 12-volt battery in your car) and I wondered what would happen if it were ever in a wreck. Acid going everywhere, maybe?

You couldn't buy EV1s, only lease them.

I saw my next EV in August of 2013 near Boulder, Colorado. It was a Tesla Model S (the only model Tesla sold at the time). And I remember thinking that the owner was an "early adopter." And that the owner must have some bunch of money to afford it, too.

Being an early adopter has always been expensive. You buy the latest and greatest computer for big bucks, and in 3 months something better comes out, probably for less money. 

This is especially true for electric cars (EVs). I'm often seeing headlines such as "Ford adds range to its EVs" or "Tesla cuts prices of its EVs."

And then I think, "What about the poor schmucks who already bought one?"

And there are rumors of a solid-state battery coming that has about double the range of current batteries and only takes 10 minutes to charge. And it isn't affected by temperature. I'm hoping that actually happens because Washington State, where I live (I can't convince my wife to move to Idaho), is going to start in 2030 requiring all new cars to be EVs. So my next car will probably have to be an EV. When it comes to EVs, I'm not an early adopter.

What do you think about being an early adopter? What do you think about EVs and early adopters? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Halloween is Different Now

I like Halloween, which is next Tuesday. It's fun to pass out candy to the kids who come to our door.

But it's meaning has subtly changed over the years.

Used to be Halloween was about the supernatural. Goblins and spooks and witches, etc. Decorations generally followed this supernatural theme. 

Kids would dress up in costumes (not always supernatural related) and go door to door for candy. 

But these days, adults seem to be more involved in Halloween and the holiday has expanded to include horror such as serial or mass killers. Like this picture I recently saw in Facebook:

I think this change has followed the change in horror movies from supernatural to things like the Saw movie franchise (which, as I understand it, is just torture porn)(because I refuse to watch it).

I liked the Halloween of my childhood better. 

How do you feel about Halloween and what it has come to represent? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Coffee and Cars

Scene from American Graffiti
When I was younger (a long, long time ago), part of American car culture was "cruising." The movie American Graffiti is a great example of this.  You'd get in your car (or your parents' car) and go to a main street (usually, the main street through town), and drive up and down it slowly showing off both your car and yourself. I never did this because I never had a cool car until I was older. 

An aside: If you haven't see American Graffiti, which turned 50 years old this year, drop everything and see it.  

Now days, car culture has embraced the "Coffee and Cars" set up. This is where car people meet on a weekend morning and park their vehicles and talk to other car enthusiasts about, what else, cars. 

I think Coffee and Cars has become more popular for a variety of reason. First off, cars are a lot more expensive so it's older folks who tend to own the "cool" cars. And old folks don't want to stay up late cruising.

Second, local government have passed anti-cruising laws. 

And third: gasoline is more expensive so parking cars and talking is more appealing than driving a lot.

I've been to a couple of Coffee and Cars organized by a local car detailer (the only one who touches my cars) and they were fun. I stopped going after I sold my Corvette. Looking at other cars and talking to the owners was just a good time.

This, like cruising, is more a warm-weather activity, so it's pretty much stopping in the northern parts of the country right now and will start up again in the spring.

Have you been to a Coffee and Cars? 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, October 12, 2023

I "Invented" the Internet

I invented the internet.

I'm serious. 

I remember when I was somewhere between 12 and 18 years old (but toward the younger side of that range) thinking "Wouldn't it be cool if computers were linked together somehow and you could access the information on them from anywhere." I have no idea why I was thinking that. I didn't own a computer (no one but the government, corporations, and universities did at the time). But I have this specific memory of thinking that. I was outside playing at our house in Idaho. I, of course, knew of computers, having seen them on TV.

This would have been the early 1970s. Yes, ARPANET had been around since 1969, but the world wide web didn't come around until 1989. 

Of course, I had no idea how this could work (or even how computers worked). That was sort of the beauty of it. I didn't know the limitations, either. I just wondered if it could be done.

Have you thought of anything that came to fruition later? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

I Love This Time of Year

It's fall now. And I love it for lots of reasons.

The first is, college football is going. And I love college football.

The weather is cooling off and my allergies are calming down as plants stop trying to reproduce.

Less chance of being outdoors. Outdoors to me is sunburn and allergies. I have type one skin and I sunburn very easily. Even with SPF 75 sunscreen, I'm at risk of sunburn. Especially if I miss a spot. And I hate sunscreen. It's all greasy and smelly. And you have to put it on every 2 hours unless you swim or get wet otherwise, then it's more often.

Cars don't turn into kilns outside in the sunshine. They still get warm but not horribly. 

Oh, and I guess the leaves get pretty as they change.

The downside is, winter is coming. And that means snow and ice on the roads. And I need to get snow tires for my car. 

What do you think about this time of year? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Four Corners

I have never been to Four Corners, where four states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) meet. I was close to it once on a trip through the American Southwest, but didn't have time to detour to see it.

Where I have been is the four corners of the continental US. These are:

  1. Blaine, Washington
  2. San Diego, California
  3. Aroostook County, Maine
  4. Key West, Florida
Blaine, Washington is just south of the U.S.-Canada border in western Washington State. I would go there for a business conference when I was working in the corporate world. I stayed at a lovely place call Semiahmoo. It was so close to Canada, that I sometimes got billed for making cell phone calls from our neighbor to the north. 

Blaine is about a five hour drive from where I live. But it's worth it.

I've also been to Point Roberts, which could be argued as the northwest corner of the continental US. Except it isn't connected to the continental US. You have to go through Canada to drive there. There's no ferries, either.

I wasn't too impressed with Point Roberts. Mostly casinos for Canadians.

I've been to San Diego a couple of times. Once I caught a cruise there. But my niece used to live there and my wife would want to go visit. I once drove from San Diego to Vancouver, WA (where I lived at the time) in a day. That was a long drive.

I went to Aroostook County on business. There's really no other reason to go there. I caught a puddle hopper in Boston and flew there. There's not much there but potato farms. I saw people digging potatoes by hand and thought about the huge potato harvesters they use in Eastern Washington.

And, finally, Key West, Florida. I had a business conference in Miami. When it was over, I rented a car and drove to Key West, not realizing how far it was. I did this out of curiosity and to do research for my novel, Agent of Artifice. Key West is quaint with lots of old, beautiful houses and great beaches. But it was about 160 miles from Miami, a lot of it had slow speed limits (only part of Florida I've been where people follow the speed limit). I wanted to see the southernmost point of the continental US. I stood where my character did in the book.

Southernmost point in Continental US, Key West

Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Chuck Jones

From What's Opera Doc?
A person I admire is Chuck Jones.

"Who?" you might be saying.

Chuck Jones was, in my opinion, the best director/animators of cartoon shorts ever. He worked for Leon Schlesinger productions where the first Looney Tunes shorts were made (exactly six minutes long). Later, Leon Schlesinger productions was bought by Warner Bros. According to his filmography on Wikipedia, he made 209 shorts (if I counted correctly) for Schlesinger/Warner Bros. before he left them in 1962. He is responsible for the creation of the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons and many amazing shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, and the whole Looney Tunes gang.

I was listening to the commentary for What's Opera Doc? (probably his best cartoon) and they said at Schlesinger/Warner Bros. the animators were expected to make ten cartoon shorts a year, working five weeks on each (and then two weeks vacation). Which explains his productivity.

Chuck Jones's cartoons made me laugh after I discovered Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings as a child. Now, at 63 years old, I still love them. I can still sing the song from those Saturday morning shows ("Overture, hit the lights...").

One thing I admire about Jones is that, until I read his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, I had no idea of his politics. He kept them completely out of his work and only hinted at in it his book. So I had no clue that he was actually an FDR Democrat. I admire people who can keep their personal opinions out of their art (I can't).

How do you feel about Chuck Jones and his work? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2023


 I pride myself on thinking scientifically. Or at least trying to. It's hard because that's not how human minds are wired to think. It's hard to only look at objective evidence and not let your prejudices or preconceived notions get in the way. And I know I do that, but I try to minimize it.

But when it comes to sports, and my beloved University of Washington Huskies football team, I can be unscientific. In fact, I am downright superstitious. 

For example: In 2021 I dyed my hair purple to show my support for the team. I thought it would be fun and a cool way to show how much I love the team. So this is how I looked:

And, I got a little beef about it living among Washington State Cougars supporters. Some people, however, thought it was neat.

But in 2021, the Huskies had a horrible year. They were 4-8. They lost to FCS team Montana (I was in the stands). They lost the Apple Cup!

So I'll NEVER dye my hair purple again. Why? Superstition. I don't want my Huskies to have another awful year. I know that's not at all scientific (how does my hair color affect the team?). But I'm still not dying my hair purple again.

(I did talk to my wife about dying my hair green so that the Oregon Nike Ducks have a horrible year.)

Do you have any superstitions that you keep practicing despite knowing they aren't really working? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Are College Football Coaches Overpaid?

College football has had their first games last weekend. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season a lot. I think my beloved University of Washington Huskies are going to have a great year.

But there is a large controversy in college football and that is what the coaches are paid, at least in Power 5 conferences. For example, Kalen DeBoer, the coach at the University of Washington, is being paid a $26.7 million base salary over six years (or $4.45 million a year). If he stays with the program through 2025, he'll get a total of $10 million in bonuses (spread out over the years).

And DeBoer is considered a low-paid coach (I'm sure if he has another season like last year, that will change). Alabama's head coach, Nick Saban, is the highest paid college head coach at $10.7 million a year that will increase to $12.7 million by 2029. 

That's more than a lot of corporate CEOs make. But less than Taylor Swift.

(Pete Carroll, head coach of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, makes $15 million a year, in comparison.)

Then there's all the other coaches such as offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, offensive line coaches, etc. They have to make a lot of money, too. Husky offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb just got a pay increase to $2 million a year because someone was trying to hire him away from UW.

The reason why these coaches are paid so much is that a good, winning coach is in high demand (just like CEOs that can make a company prosperous and like Taylor Swift concert tickets). You have to pay them a lot to keep them at your school.

And, yes, the coaches are often the highest paid state government employee.

Are they worth it? 

Yes! Because a winning program will make more money for the schools' athletic departments. That profit the football program makes goes to paying for sports, including women's sports required by Title IX, that the school otherwise couldn't afford. Plus, a winning football team has been shown to increase donations to the school for scholarships and other things.

So, yes, college football coaches are paid a lot. But they are worth it. (This is probably true of winning college basketball coaches, too, but they don't seem to make as much.)

How do you feel about coaches' salaries at the college level. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

College Football Starts this Weekend!

College football starts this weekend!* And despite there being a few things I don't like about college football, I'm really looking forward to this year and the University of Washington Huskies' prospects.

The Huskies were 7-0 at home last year. They currently have a seven-game winning streak. Let's hope they keep both streaks alive. Quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. and other key players decided to return this year instead of entering the NFL draft. That's very good news!

Last year was amazing for the Huskies. Their first season under new coach Kalen Deboer, I was expecting a rebuilding year. But they went 11-2, having their first 11-win season since 2016. If they hadn't lost to Arizona State, they might have gone to the CFP. As it was, the Huskies ended up being the number two team in the Pac-12, behind USC.

It's going to be hard for the Huskies to top that this year. But I'm hoping they do. They have some tough games ahead: Oregon at home, USC in Los Angeles, and Utah at home.

Last year we didn't play USC or Utah, two tough teams. Playing them this year will make it even harder to be successful. 

The Huskies are #10 in the AP preseason poll. They finished last year at #8. They are the second highest ranked Pac-12 team in the preseason poll (USC is #6).

The first game we play is in Husky Stadium against Boise State. They were 10-4 last year, so they won't be a pushover. 

That game will be Saturday at 12:30 PM Pacific Daylight Time on ABC. I'm going to be there near the 50-yard line, two rows up from the field.

Interestingly, the three non-conference games the Huskies play are all against FBS teams (Boise State, Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, and at Michigan State). This is unusual because most teams play an FCS team as sort of a "warm up" game. This makes the Huskies' season more difficult than normal. 

Are you looking forward to college football? Do you have a favorite team. Let me know in the comments below.

*There were a few games last weekend but most college football starts this weekend.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

What I Don't Like about College Football

College football starts next weekend. If you read this blog you know I love college football, especially the University of Washington Huskies. I love watching kids develop and get better. I enjoy the game and the competition. I like that the players aren't making millions of dollars but are playing mostly for scholarships and for love of the game (although a bit of that has changed recently).

But there are things I don't like about college football.

I talked about the downside of NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) before.

Another thing I don't like is that college football players can enter the NFL draft three years out of high school. That means they might only be 20 years old and only sophomores if they were red-shirted during their freshman year. Yes, I understand wanting to get into the NFL to get that sweet, sweet money and not risk a career-ending injury in college. But I wish the NFL would make it at least four years out of high school.

Also in an effort not to get injured before their NFL career, some players will "opt-out" of bowl games. Again, I understand not wanting to give up the big NFL money. But to me, this reeks of selfishness and no team spirit. If you helped your team get to a bowl, wouldn't you want to play in it? 

Another thing I don't like is the recent development of the transfer portal. It used to be that once you committed to a team, you were there until you were out of NCAA eligibility or went into the draft. Now players can change teams in the middle of there eligibility. This did work out great when Michael Penix transferred to Washington. But I still don't like the transfer portal.

There's not really a playoff. Yes, there's the CFP (College Football Playoff) which chooses four teams to play against each other in a sort of mini, three game playoff. And, yes, there is talk about expanding it to more teams (which I like). But the NCAA Division I FCS teams get a playoff, why can't the FBS teams. Turn all those bowls into playoff games. Yes, the CFP is much better than what we had before (the BCS or just the AP and coaches poll). But I think we need more teams to compete. College basketball has a 64 team playoff. Why can't football?

(Yes, I know that the plan is to expand to 12 teams in 2026 or sooner. I think this is a good thing.)

Are there things you don't like about college football that I haven't mentioned? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

College Football and the NFL

The college football season is quickly approaching (most of the first games will be the weekend of September 2nd). And I was thinking about the connection between college football and the National Football League (NFL). The NFL is, of course, professional football.

I read a statistic once that only 5% of high school football players play in college, and only 5% of college players make it to the NFL. That means one out of ever 2,500 high school football players ends up in the NFL. Not good odds.

Then there's the NFL draft. The teams with the worst record the previous season get to pick first (unless there's a trade or other complication). So the best college players go to the worst teams.

But even then, sometimes it doesn't work out. Wide receiver John Ross played for the University of Washington Huskies (Go Dawgs!) and help them reach the College Football Playoffs in 2016. He entered the next NFL draft and was picked number 9 overall (out of probably 200-some odd players in the draft). But he had a disappointing career in the NFL and wasn't the star he was a UW. He's suffered injuries and hasn't had a lot of good plays. He signed with the Kansas City Chief on January 9th of this year. But he never played in the Chief's run to the Super Bowl.

I loved John Ross when he was at UW. But for some reason his talent didn't extend to the NFL.

On the other hand, Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback from Clemson, was drafted first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He managed to take the team that had the worst record in 2021-2022 to the playoffs in the 2022-2023 season. And that had never happened before in the NFL. So that worked out.

And that is not very uncommon for a great college player not to do well in the NFL. (The same happens in college, great high school players don't do well in college football, too.) 

What do you think of the NFL draft and college football? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Is the Pac-12 Dead?

The news broke last Friday: the University of Oregon and the University of Washington are moving to the Big Ten conference next year. This follows Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado going to the Big 12. And is all started last year with USC and UCLA announcing they were going to the Big Ten. That leaves four schools in the Pac-12: California, Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington State.

Frankly, I blame USC and UCLA. When they announced that they were leaving the Pac-12, that took the Los Angeles television market away from the Pac-12. So when the Pac-12 went to negotiate media rights, they no longer had the LA market to offer. Fox and ESPN both declined to make offers. The Pac-12 ended up going with Apple TV streaming service which wouldn't pay as much as a Fox or ESPN media deal would. It was shortly after that that Oregon and Washington announced they were leaving.

People are saying it's about the all mighty dollar. And it is. The schools need money and lots of it. They have to pay coaches (who are paid a lot), pay for uniforms, travel, and in the University of Washington's case, keep paying for that beautiful, new stadium they built in 2012 and 2013.

How do I feel about this? It makes me sad. If the Pac-12 even survives, it'll likely no longer be a Power 5 conference. There are rumors it might merge with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Or it might merge with the Mountain West Conference. Who knows?

But also, that my beloved University of Washington Huskies will go from being a big fish is a medium-sized pond to being a smaller fish is a larger pond. There will be 18 teams in the Big Ten spread out all over the country. And what will happen to the Apple Cup cross-state rivalry game between UW and WSU? Will that become a late-season non-conference game? And what of the Border War game against hated Oregon? These are all questions that need to be answered.

Washington was a founding member of the conference that became the Pac-12. It was part of that conference for 109 years. I don't think this decision was made lightly.

Someone proposed a Big Ten West and Big Ten East. That might work to get Oregon and Washington to play more often. 

Washington has a good chance of being the Pac-12 champion this year. But it'll be very hard to top 17 other schools, including Ohio, to be the Big Ten champion. 

No matter what happens, it'll be interesting to watch. It might not be as fun, but it'll be interesting.

What do you think will happen to the Pac-12? Will it merge with another conference or just go away? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Final Jeopardy Final Tally

The last regular season episode of Jeopardy was Friday, the 28th of July. I watch the quiz show religiously, sort of like I watch almost anything Star Trek related (except Prodigy and Lower Decks).

For this season, the 39th, a friend and I have been keeping track of how many Final Jeopardy questions we get correct. She lives in Canada and has made it to the tryout stage of being on the show. But she's never been called to participate.

Of all the Final Jeopardy clues in this season, I got 111 out of 230 correct. That 48.3%. Not horrible but not as good as I'd like.

My friend got 200 out 230 Final Jeopardy clues correct. That's 86.9% and pretty dang good. This is why I think if she got on the show, she'd do very well and probably win the game at least once.

Rarely, I'd get an answer correct she didn't (arcane American history, mostly). But most of the time she'd get answers right that I didn't.

I find Jeopardy to be fun and challenging. Keeps my brain in tune.

Do you like Jeopardy? Do you watch it religiously? How do you do on Final? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Bad Published Writing

Sometimes bad writing gets published. I'm not talking self-published or even small-press published, but New York, big name publisher published.

Back in January of 2005, I was in Reagan International Airport getting ready to fly home. (Well, close to home. No airline service where I live.)

I must have run out of things to read because I bought a book in one of those airport shops. It was a Dale Brown book. Don't ask me which one, he's written hundreds, it appears.

I was reading the book on the airplane, and a couple of times at least I wanted to throw it across the aisles. The writing was that poor (I can't now think of any specific passages that were so bad). At one point I didn't know if he was talking about a person, or a pair of boots. And here Dale Brown has hundreds of New York published books. He's probably made millions of dollars. And his writing is... mediocre. I can't think of any more specific examples anymore (hell, it's been 18 years). I just remember getting angry because I knew I could write better than he and I wasn't (and still am not) New York published.

It wasn't typos. Those are getting more common as the New York publishers lay off their editors to save money. For example, I was reading one of Tom Clancy's last books before he died and there was a "Fort Taurus" in it (should be "Ford"). Or, I've been told, that in the first Twilight book, there are "dust moats in the air." I'm the typo king so I'm a bit more forgiving about those.

But bad writing shouldn't make it past what editors are left. 

Have you experience bad writing in books you've read? How did it make you feel? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

I write mostly science fiction. I currently have fifteen published books. Of those, five are fantasy novels. I consider myself primarily a science fiction writer. I just had an idea for a fantasy universe and I loved exploring it in those five books (and one short story). I'm thinking about going back to that universe. But I'm also thinking of some stand-alone science fiction novels.

As a writer, I am, of course, a reader. If you're not a science fiction or fantasy reader, here are some books (besides mine) to jump into the genres with:

Science Fiction

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. It hasn't aged completely well (it was written in the 1960s), but it's still one of the best science fiction novels out there.

A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows by Poul Anderson. I love all of Anderson's books and stories about Dominic Flandry.

Ringworld by Larry Niven. The first (and best) of the Ringworld books. Apparently, this concept was ripped off for the Halo video games. Was also used in a recent Bobba Fett episode on Disney+

Niven's "Tales of Known Space" is a great collection of short stories.


I don't read a lot of fantasy, but here are a couple of my favorites (that I didn't write):

Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. This is one of my favorite fantasy novels (you can hardly go wrong with books by Poul Anderson).

Glory Road by Robert Heinlein. A fun book and written in Heinlein's style. 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Yes, the book is better than the movie. Be sure to read the foreword and other "interruptions" to the story. It's a funny fantasy novel.

There's six books to get you started. Let me know what you think of my list or you have books to add in the comments below.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Sports Teams Support

Seattle Kraken

As you probably know if you read this blog, I love my University of Washington Huskies football team. That's mostly because I went to UW for a lot of years (about eight) to get two degrees. And I like football, especially college football. The Husky basketball team isn't very good but I hardly care.

Of course, a lot of people base their team support on geography. I remember when my cousin's family (who lived in New Mexico) supported the Denver Broncos football team. I asked why and they said that the Broncos were the closest team. 

But it's not always geography. Another cousin who grew up in Alaska, supported (and still may support) the Green Bay Packers. He said he decided they were his favorite team in the '60s when the Packers were going to the Super Bowl a lot.

One, interesting thing I noticed was what happened when Seattle got a NHL team, the Kraken. I almost immediately saw people wearing Kraken gear: hats, shirts, etc. And I wondered how many of those people cared about hockey until Seattle got a professional team. Or, was their support solely based on geography? People who never said anything about liking hockey suddenly were Kraken fans. When the Kraken went to the playoffs this year, even I kept an eye on their progress (they were eliminated in the second round).

My brother once said (and I paraphrase), "What good does it do me if the team I support wins?" He has a point. Other than feeling good for maybe a couple of days, what good does it do? And Seattle isn't known for having winning teams. The Mariners went a couple of decades before getting in the playoffs. The Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl three times and won once. And who cares about the Seattle soccer team (I think they are called the "Sounders")? 

How do you choose which teams to support? Is it geography or some other reason. Let me know in the comments below.

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

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Music Storage

If you're old enough to remember cassette tapes (at left), you know you could buy them in various lengths. One of the more popular lengths was 60 minutes. That meant you could record 60 minutes of sound on the tape, usually music. Usually.

I was curious how much music is currently on my iPhone and what that would mean in 60-minute cassettes. According to my phone, I have 7.66 Gbytes of music on it. About two-thirds is classical, I would guess. I have 1,662 "songs" on my iPhone. Although not all are songs because a song technically has someone singing and most of my classical music is instrumental.

So I did some research and found that a 60-minute cassette tape could hold 4.5 Mbytes of data. That's 0.004395 Gbytes.

Simple math shows it would take 1,743 60-minutes cassettes to hold all the music on my iPhone.

What about CDs? A CD holds 650 Mbytes. So that means it would take 12 CDs full of data to hold what's on my iPhone. To be honest, that doesn't seem to be enough. 

But that is still amazing. Rather than carry 1,743 cassettes or 12 CDs, I carry one iPhone that has other functions and data (lots of pictures of our cat). 

Another way to calculate it: According to iTunes, I have enough music on my phone to last 4.9 days. That's 117.6 hours so I'd need that many 60-minutes cassettes. (I'm a little concerned that that number is approximately 10% of the 1,746 number I got above. Did I make a magnitude error?)

What about vinyl records. A 12-inch vinyl record (LP size) can hold 46 minutes of music using both sides. So that's 153.4 LPs to hold the music on my iPhone!

I know some people say vinyl sounds better, especially with tubes and not transistors in the stereo equipment. But I never heard the difference and LPs are fragile. Look at them wrong and you get a pop or scratch

Since CDs hold 74 minutes of music, I'd need 95 CDs. That seems like too many. Way too many. Maybe it's because of compression.

What do you think about this older technology? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Different Kind of Smart

I saw the meme to the right on social media (probably Facebook) and thought that I never assumed my grandparents weren't smart. They just knew different things than we do today. For example, I couldn't can food if I had to. But I'm sure my grandparents would have trouble figuring out a smartphone. They were a different kind of smart.

One hundred years ago there were things you had to know to survive that we, in the 21st century, have forgotten. We're going to be in trouble if civilization collapses. Another thing I've seen on Facebook: "I can't hunt for food, I don't even know where tacos live."

My grandfather had to deal with complicated farm equipment. I know how to change the oil on my car (I don't do it anymore) and I have done brake work on cars. But growing my own food would be beyond me. I'd have to learn quick, and without Google, if an EMP took out our electrical grid.

And that's the magic of books. I'd head for the library and look for books on planting and harvesting food. Unfortunately, all of the library's book catalogs have been computerized, so I'd be searching blindly. But I'd still be searching. 

(One problem is the library is about five miles from my house and I assume I couldn't drive there.)

Other things my grandparents knew that I don't include animal husbandry. Taking care of cows, horses, etc. Yes, there are people who do that today. If the EMP goes off, I think I'll try to make friends with some.

So never assume people weren't as smart in the past. It was just a different kind of smart.

How do you think you'll do if civilization collapses?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Clean Desktop, Cluttered Desk

 I have a strange duality to my willingness to put up with clutter. My physical desk has a six-inch-high pile of papers that need to be filed or thrown out. And it doesn't bother me... much. Mostly because I'm too lazy to do anything about it.

But when it comes to my computer desktop, I want it clean and neat. I currently have nine icons on it, most of them in one column on the right hand side. The rest of my desktop is blessedly clean. Some of those icons I don't need, I'm just used to them being there.

I don't know how people stand it to have their computer desktop cluttered like this:

That would drive me nuts. Put those files in a folder on your hard drive (organized, of course) and get them off your desktop.

At least that's what I do. 

I'm not sure why I want my computer all neat and organized, but my real life a cluttered mess doesn't bother me.

How do you keep your computer desktop? Is it clean or is it cluttered? And why? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Ten Months Out of Every Year

When I was in high school, I had a bit part in a local production of Damn Yankees. If you're not aware of that musical, it is about baseball. The most famous song from it is probably "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets." 

The first song, though, has the line (sung by women playing wives) "Six months out of every year..." talking about the baseball season.
Six months? More like ten! Spring training starts in February and the World Series is held in November. 

I really don't like baseball, either, especially on television. It is boring and the games are too long, and the season is way too long. The college football season (which I love) is only 5 months long and there's only one game per week, not five or six like in baseball. There's something like 162 games played by every team in baseball. Plus, for some reason, there is a lot of spitting in baseball, and that just grosses me out.

Now, the 2020 season was pretty good. It was cut short due to Covid. I thought it was about long enough.
How do you feel about the long baseball season and the boring games? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Every Four Years

Back when I was a kid growing up in Idaho, we didn't have a lot of technology. Our black and white television picked up two channels, a CBS affiliate and an NBC affiliate. If there was a popular show on ABC, one of them would air it (this is why I missed the first season of The Six-Million-Dollar Man).

Yes, we eventually got a color TV and two more channels (PBS and ABC). But that's it. Now I have a 250-channel package from Dish. But I've only put about 50 in my guide favorites. A lot of those 250 channels are shopping channels and pay-per-view movies. And still, there will be nothing worth watching on those fifty or so channels.

When I was a kid, I hated presidential election years. Why? A lot of my favorite shows got preempted for political news (the primaries), the party conventions, and of course election night coverage. All of that was on all four channels. (And I was pretty politically aware for a 12-year-old kid since my parents were active in politics.) And, on top of all that, one network would preempt my favorite shows for the winter and summer Olympics (this was years before they split them). And even if they weren't on a channel I wanted to watch, the rest of my family wanted to watch the Olympics. 

So I learned to hate presidential election years. Now I have 50ish channels to watch. But still, if there's something going on such as a presidential speech or a party convention, a lot of the channels will show it, leaving me with maybe 30 channels to watch. And they'll preempt Jeopardy! all the time.

How do you feel about your favorite shows being preempted? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

AFI 100 Years: 100 movies

As of a week ago, I have watched every movie on the American Film Institute's "100 years: 100 movies" list.  

There are a lot of great movies on that list. Some I love and have seen multiple times (e.g.: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner).

Some I know I've seen but I barely remember them (e.g.: Taxi Driver, Easy Rider, A Clockwork Orange).

 Some I didn't like much at all (e.g.: Nashville, Do the Right Thing, Sophie's Choice). 

Probably the best movies on the list are the two Godfather movies (and the only sequel listed).

The oldest movie on the list is Intolerance directed by D. W. Griffith. It was made in 1916. It was silent and two hours long. And some of the title cards were impossible to read. I didn't hate it but I didn't enjoy it, either. (You might recognize D. W. Griffith as the director of Birth of a Nation which, as I understand it, glorified the Ku Klux Klan and racism.)

Speaking of racism, I was shocked that two of the movies on the list, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Swing Time, had blackface performances in them. In Yankee Doodle Dandy, it was in historical context in a flashback to the late 1800s. But in Swing Time, Fred Astaire puts it on and performs in blackface. And that movie was made in 1936.

The most recent movie on the list is Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Which I love and have seen multiple times, mostly in the expanded edition.

I'm glad I did this. I saw a lot of interesting old movies (and some movies I really didn't want to see). But it was an education. When I started this journey, I'd seen all but 14 of the movies. Most were available on, but one (Yankee Doodle Dandy) I watched on Amazon Prime.

Have you seen all or most of these movies? What do you think of the list? Are there movies missing or shouldn't be on there? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Annihilation from Above Releases Today

My fifteenth novel, Annihilation from Above, comes out next today on Kindle, paperback, and hardcover.

It's an exciting science fiction adventure:

"Mining asteroids with robots is common and sometimes the orbit of the rock is changed to facilitate extracting the valuable metals. 

"One Monday morning, a car bomb detonates in Manhattan. As law enforcement officials scramble to find who's responsible, it becomes clear that it was a distraction. Terrorists have hijacked an asteroid and put in an orbit to hit the Earth. Suddenly the race is on to stop it. 

"While FBI agent Juanita Flores pursues the bombers, astronauts Howard Drayden and Johnny Park put their lives on the line to save millions. Can Flores find who is responsible while Drayden and Park endeavor to avert the disaster in time?"

Enjoy this fast-paced thriller, available on Amazon today.  

Or go to my website to see all the versions available and read an excerpt.

World Castle Publishing – ebook (PDF)

Smashwords – ebook (epub)

Barnes & Noble – paperback and Nook

Kobo – ebook

iTunes – iBook

Google Play – audiobook

Friday, May 26, 2023

Annihilation From Above Book Trailer


Here is the book trailer for Annihilation from Above:

You can preorder the book on Kindle here. On Tuesday the book comes out. Enjoy this tense, exciting space adventure.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Annihilation from Above Releases Tuesday!

My fifteenth novel, Annihilation from Above, comes out next Tuesday, May 30th. 

It's an exciting science fiction adventure:

"Mining asteroids with robots is common and sometimes the orbit of the rock is changed to facilitate extracting the valuable metals. 

"One Monday morning, a car bomb detonates in Manhattan. As law enforcement officials scramble to find who's responsible, it becomes clear that it was a distraction. Terrorists have hijacked an asteroid and put in an orbit to hit the Earth. Suddenly the race is on to stop it. 

"While FBI agent Juanita Flores pursues the bombers, astronauts Howard Drayden and Johnny Park put their lives on the line to save millions. Can Flores find who is responsible while Drayden and Park endeavor to avert the disaster in time?"

Enjoy this fast-paced thriller, available on Amazon on Tuesday. You can pre-order it on Kindle or get the paperback or hardback now. 

All the links you could ever need are on my website.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The British are Lazy

A "lift"
When it comes to language, I think the British are lazy. Mostly. I base this on the words they use and the number of syllables they are.

Think about it. US: apartment (3 syllables). British: flat (1 syllable)
US: flashlight (2 syllables). British: torch (1 syllable)
US: elevator (4 syllables). British: lift (1 syllable). 
US: french fry (2 syllables. British: chip (1 syllable).

But there are some other examples that go the other way such as "speed bump" (2 syllables) and "sleeping policeman" (5 syllables).

When is comes to cars, the British have a mixed bag. US: sedan (2 syllables). British: saloon (2 syllables).
US: coupe (1 syllable). British (coupé (2 syllables). US: hood (1 syllable). British: bonnet (2 syllables).

What do you think? Are the British lazy, or just smart? Let me know in the comments below.