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.