Category Archives: General

The coming election…

Don’t know if everyone out there in the United States is aware of this, but I heard a rumor that sometime next week we’re going to have a Presidential election.

Here in Florida, a “swing state”, that means a deluge of calls originating from strange numbers (thank you, caller ID…soooo much easier to ignore these annoying robo-calls!).

Now, not to get too political, but I made my decision a while back and find it hard to believe that many polls shows the race as “tight” as it is.  Sorry, but there is simply no way in the world I can support a candidate who switches core philosophies depending on what he thinks his audience at that moment wants to hear.  Voting for Mitt Romney, thus, is like voting for the unknown.  Which Mitt Romney will you get?  That’s not to say, however, that I’m completely enamored of Barack Obama, but at least he’s managed to (slowly, granted) bring this country out of the outright disaster left behind by his predecessor, who I consider the worst President to have graced the White House in my lifetime.

But enough of my politics.

The question on many people’s mind is: Who’s going to win?

While you can look in on any number of predictions (I happen to like the mathematical geekiness offered at fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/), Cracked.com offers the following 6 Bizarre Factors That Predict Every Presidential Election:

http://www.cracked.com/article_20139_6-bizarre-factors-that-predict-every-presidential-election.html

Fringe Season Five…so far

Yesterday I caught the latest episode of Fringe, “The Bullet That Saved the Earth,” the fourth episode of the show’s fifth, and last, season.

It occurred to me a while back that while I generally enjoy the show, one of its biggest problems is that the writers behind the series tend to make things up on the fly.  At least this is my suspicion given the way the show started, progressed, and is now winding down.

The show has shifted abruptly since the last season to a bleak future where the mysterious Observers, a race of aliens originally presented as beings who could be in any time of their choosing and are extremely difficult if not impossible to kill but who are now much easier to pick off, have taken over Earth and are grinding humanity down.

But not if our intrepid Fringe division heroes can thwart them.

In this episode, what should have been a gargantuan story point was told in the waning minutes of the episode and, yes, to discuss it I should warn you…

SPOILERS FOLLOW!

Still here?

You’ve been warned!

In this episode, the now grown daughter of Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham, Henrietta Bishop (Georgina Haig) dies at the hands of the “chief” Observer.  The sequence should have been emotionally engaging and, at the very least, shocking.  However, and this is one of the big problems I’ve been having with the show this season, things are happening at such a breakneck pace that, as a viewer, I haven’t been able to attach myself emotionally with any of these characters.  Even the ones who have been around since the series started.

Not to sound too anaI, but did anyone notice how many minutes passed before our protagonist, Olivia Dunham, uttered a meaningful line of dialogue in this episode?  I mean, she was around, but it seemed like we were in the show’s second segment before she had anything worth saying at all…and it feels like this is the way the season has so far gone.

The show’s producers are so busy trying to show us this new world/reality but have short shifted us on the characters.  When Henrietta dies, we should have been floored by such an audacious and stunning plot development.

Instead, I felt…almost nothing.

You see, I barely knew the character.  She hadn’t been given enough screen time on the show for me to develop any feelings for her.  And her death, something that should have been shocking and emotional, instead felt like a cold, calculated plot device to make me feel something I simply didn’t.  Her character hadn’t earned those type of feelings…at least not yet.

Worse, I suspect her death will only be temporary and lead to the show’s ultimate conclusion/happy ending:  Somehow, Walter Bishop will undo the damage wrought by the Observers and “reset” time.  Thus, that day in the park that Peter, Olivia, and the infant Henrietta will play out once again in the closing minutes of the show’s final episode, only without the Observers’ invasion.

And we’ll see Henrietta grown once again, thinking back to that childhood, perhaps along with the older Peter and Olivia as they bury Walter and think back to the beautiful life they had together.

Just a thought.

Anyway, despite these complaints, I’m one to complain.

I’ll be there to the end, despite it all.

Eye of the Hurricane

My thoughts go out to everyone who experienced hurricane Sandy over the past few days.

Living in South Florida, one gets to see (and fear) the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms all too much.  August, in particular, seems to be the “nail biter” month.  That seems to be the month to watch out.

Though I’ve experienced my share of storm systems (including the devastating Andrew in 1992), one of the more memorable hurricane experiences I faced was back in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina.

Ironically enough, I was in New Orleans on a business trip about two weeks before Katrina devastated the city.  The trip done, I returned to my native South Florida and then watched as the weather reports indicated a tropical wave might become something greater.  Of course, it was August.

While many recall the devastation inflicted on New Orleans, Biloxi, and other areas in Katrina’s path, few recall that South Florida actually felt the first hit from Katrina.  Of course, at that time the storm was “only” a Category 1 Hurricane.

The thing that I most recall about Katrina was experiencing the so-called “Eye” of this particular storm.  I suspect most people are familiar with the term, but for those who aren’t, many well defined hurricanes have what is called an “eye” in their center.  This eye is often a circular tranquil zone where there are no winds or storms.  The eye wall around the eye itself, however, usually has the most severe weather attached to the storm.

Experiencing Katrina’s eye was an eerie experience.  Katrina, if memory serves, struck us during the day.  The weather rapidly grew worse with each passing minute.  Winds blew heavy and the trees around my house were shedding leaves (and branches) by the second.  Things got worse and worse.  The electricity was knocked out and rain splattered against the window like ball bearings.

And then, all of a sudden, everything was calm.

We knew the storm wasn’t done.  We knew we were experiencing its eye.  I recall going outside the house and feeling not even the slightest breeze.

I went back inside, knowing that this wouldn’t last.  Sure enough, the winds suddenly picked up and the storm’s fury was right back.  Maybe an hour or so later the winds started dying down and the bulk of the storm was passed.

It would go on, of course, across South Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico where it would strengthen into a devastating Category 5 Hurricane before eventually hitting land near New Orleans.

As inconvenienced as I was by Katrina and, later in that same year the more devastating (to us) Hurricane Wilma, it was obvious we were lucky compared to those in the Mississippi area.

Now with Sandy, I can’t help but feel for those who faced that beast.  Any hurricane, regardless of category, is something one must take very, very seriously.

 

Newsweek to end print publication…

A new era, inevitably, has dawned.  Newsweek will officially stop publication of its printed edition at the end of this year, presumably to focus on its online content:

money.cnn.com/2012/10/18/news/companies/newsweek-print-edition/index.html

There was a time I used to get the newspapers delivered to my door every day.  There was a time I would eagerly head over to the bookstore to look over the latest magazines and books.

No longer.

When I heard the mega-bookstore Borders was in danger of being shut down, I was very saddened.  I spent so much time in my local Borders store looking over the latest books as well as magazines and DVDs.  However, by the time the store eventually shut its doors, things had changed considerably and realized I was no longer visiting the place anywhere near as often as I did before.

Why?

The internet.  The fact of the matter is that you can find many fascinating magazine quality articles online, including those of Newsweek itself, online.  There’s CNN, NBC, Salon, Slate, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, etc. etc. readily available and updated on a daily, sometimes hourly basis on your computer.

Likewise, any (and seemingly just about all!) books I want are readily available either for download or for ordering a physical copy via Amazon.com and other book sellers.  At the time of Borders’ closing, I was buying cheap copies of used books I wanted through Amazon and receiving the orders relatively quickly…in a matter of, at most, a week.  Very convenient and, unlike Borders, I knew the books were available and didn’t have to drive to the store to check if they had them.

Still, there is a certain sadness with seeing a publication with such a long history (Newsweek first appeared in 1933) leaving the printed edition market that it originated in.

The other day, a relative of mine had a garage sale and my wife decided it was time I unloaded about half of my CD collection.  I’ve been buying CDs since the mid-1980’s but have long since stopped using them.  I have my entire music library on my computer and any new music purchases are done online so getting rid of the CDs wasn’t something I found hard to do.

When people showed up to the garage sale and saw the CDs, they dived into them and bought just about all (I guess my musical taste was popular to those clients!).  One of them, however, made a note of how “outdated” the CD technology was.

One day, I suppose the idea of seeing things on paper, other than titles and legal documents, might also become outdated.

Man Accused of Crashing 2.2 MILLION Dollar Car For Insurance Money…

…and wouldn’t you know it, there’s actual video of the crash:

Weird stuff.  As informative as the clip above was, I didn’t get a terribly good sense of what this the Bugatti Veyron, the $2.2 million dollar car itself, looked like.  This is it:

Needless to say, a pretty nice looking vehicle, though even if I were a multi-multi-millionaire, I’d have a hard time justifying spending that much cash on what amounts to a…car.

As for the video itself, I think things aren’t looking all that good for the car’s owner.  To begin, one has to agree with the report:  It doesn’t look like there was any pelican distracting or causing the driver to veer into the water.  Further…just what the heck was he doing driving a multi-million dollar car so close to the edge of water in the first place?

You’re just asking for trouble.

Alternative Mona Lisa?

Fascinating article about the controversy regarding the “Isleworth Mona Lisa” a painting very similar to what is perhaps the most famous painting in existence, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci.

It would appear the people who own the Isleworth Mona Lisa claim that extensive examination of the painting suggest to them that Leonardo Da Vinci did this painting as well, perhaps as an “early draft” of the more famous painting that followed.

Others aren’t quite convinced:

www.cnn.com/2012/09/28/world/europe/switzerland-different-mona-lisa/index.html

For what it’s worth (what am I, an art expert?!) in looking at the two portraits side by side, with the original Mona Lisa on the left and the Isleworth Mona Lisa on the right, it appears to me the Isleworth Mona Lisa, while obviously very similar to Da Vinci’s painting, also appears to me a much simpler piece.  That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that it wasn’t made by Da Vinci, but it does plant a seed of doubt in my mind.

As for the actual experts presented in the CNN article linked to above, it would appear those who may have an interest in the painting being declared a Da Vinci obviously stand to gain a lot of money if such a declaration is valid…which unfortunately further raises suspicion in my mind.

The fact is that the Mona Lisa has been a very famous painting for many, many hundreds of years, and therefore it seems more likely that a painter with some undeniable skills decided to make their own version of the famous painting.  Maybe, just maybe, they even did it concurrently with the Da Vinci piece (a student in his studio?).  Or maybe a decade or two after the fact.  Maybe even a century later.

Still, it is undeniably intriguing to think that Da Vinci might have made another version of what is without a doubt the most famous painting on the face of this planet.

Why PC Companies Fear Amazon

Fascinating article from Time Magazine regarding something I find fascinating:  Views on the general direction of technology and retail sales, and how Amazon.com is rapidly becoming something other large technological companies fear:

http://techland.time.com/2012/09/24/why-pc-companies-fear-amazon/

I’m fascinated by Amazon.  Yes, my novels are available through the service, and I will forever appreciate the fact that they allowed people like me to have an avenue for promoting and selling our works.

I also admit to having some trepidation about the company.  I’ve always felt that competition in the marketplace results in the best products, and one fears that Amazon.com will eventually become the one-stop be all and end all of purchasing almost all products, from music to books to clothing to electronics.

I suspect the people at Amazon are working on doing just that!

The reality is that Amazon is successful because it is so damn good.  I have purchased many items either directly through them or used through a second hand seller operating within Amazon’s structure.  To this day and after many purchases, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad experience.  The closest I came to a “bad experience” was when purchasing a used book via a second hand seller through Amazon and, after waiting two plus weeks without receiving it, I sent an email to said seller asking if the book was on its way.  That same day I received a reply email from the seller saying they were sorry but they could not fulfill my order and would immediately refund my purchase charge.  This was done right away!

So, yes, I’m a fan of Amazon beyond even my own personal (and modest) for sale items present on the service.

I just hope that Amazon maintains its thus far high level of customer service and broad range of available items.

USB…typewriter?!

Absolutely fascinating article from Stylelist about Jack Zyklin, an individual who has taken old, obsolete typewriters and allowed them to “interface” with computers, thus giving writers the old time feel of typing on a typewriter while being able to simultaneously use the latest computer technology.

The article can be found here:

http://www.stylelist.com/2012/09/19/usb-typewriter-etsy_n_1896793.html

There is an included video in the article, which I’ve embedded below:

There is a certain whimsy to Mr. Zyklin’s work that appeals to me, as unlike him I can recall the time when typewriters were still the way to write.  By the time I reached High School, personal computers were just starting to come out and the concept of a word processor, introduced to me in my sophomore or junior year of High School, portended the demise of the typewriter.

As an author with seven novels and one graphic novel behind me (and more to come!), I’ve thought long and hard about how fortunate I was to be born when I was.  As a young child, I was completely fascinated with writing and by the time I was in third or fourth grade knew that I wanted to be an author.

However, I quickly realized I was a perfectionist and whatever I wrote needed to be refined before it was “good enough” to satisfy my taste.  Early writing was frustrating because this meant that whatever I wrote needed to be completely re-typed (and re-re-typed and re-re-re-typed) whenever it was revised.  Depending on the length of the original story, this could mean many hours of grueling and tedious work.  It was hard enough to get the original first draft typed out, but the idea of returning to the draft and re-typing it as many as five to seven times (or more!) made the task all that much more daunting.

Thus, the arrival of computers and the word processor couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  I still longed to be a writer and hadn’t yet given up on that dream.  The word processor allowed me the freedom to write longer and longer works.  After reviewing the printed versions of them, all I had to do was make the necessary revisions without having to completely re-type the entire manuscript.

Had I been born even five years earlier, I suspect none of my works might have ever come to light and I might have drifted into a different career.  My latest novel, Nox, required seven full revisions and a whopping eleven revisions of Chapter 50 (the BIG chapter, storywise) before I was satisfied enough with the manuscript to go ahead with publication.  Needless to say, I’m happy with my computer and its keyboard, though the thought of getting one of those USB typewriters does seem attractive…in a retro kind of way!

Distance record set for quantum teleportation…

Fascinating article from MSNBC.com concerning a new distance record for the process of “quantum teleportation”:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48933348/ns/technology_and_science-science/

The subject matter is intriguing and opens the door to what may lie in the future regarding the next generation of the internet, an internet that will be considerably faster and far more secure.

Intriguing stuff!

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

One of the more intriguing things to be found on Sirius/XM satellite radio is the RadioClassics channel.  This particular channel is devoted to replaying the radio dramas, mysteries, horror, and comedy of the past before television essentially took over the medium.

Nonetheless, in listening to the radio classics station I’ve found that much of episodic television originated here.  Gunsmoke, for example, was a popular radio mainstay for many years before reaching television and making its mark there.  Likewise, if you ever find Lucille Ball’s My Favorite Husband playing on radio classics, you quickly discover that this show was very obviously the genesis/basis for I Love Lucy, perhaps the most groundbreaking -and arguably still one of the most popular- of all sitcoms.

While some of the shows on the radio classics channel haven’t aged all that well, particularly some of the many comedies (though I can’t get enough of the wonderful Jack Benny Show), there is one show among them all that intrigues me the most:  Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

This detective series starred many different actors in the title role of Johnny Dollar, an insurance investigator who managed to get himself into plenty of hard-boiled (and action packed!) mysteries.  Of those various actors who played the title role for the series 12 year run, the most intriguing of the lot is easily Bob Bailey, and the best of the best of the series are the 5 part episodes that allowed for greater character depth and mystery.  The series, alas, ran In this particular format for just a little over a year, but I can’t get enough of the stuff.

I sniffed around Amazon and found the following link for a 2 DVD set of some 732 (!) episodes.

http://www.amazon.com/YOURS-TRULY-JOHNNY-DOLLAR-DVD-ROM/dp/B004I4KR1G/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1346941328&sr=8-5&keywords=yours+truly%2C+johnny+dollar

I suspect the 732 episodes presented here are what remains of the 811 total episodes of the show recorded, which means that a little less than one hundred of them may be lost forever.

Still, this set, priced at a very reasonable $10, gives you more than enough Johnny Dollar to last you many, many hours of drive time (indeed my iTunes lists the total run time of these two DVD discs at a whopping 10.9 days worth of listening!).

So, if you’re in the mood for something truly unique and entertaining -and, no, I don’t receive any royalties from the sales of these discs- you might want to give Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar a look.