Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Falling on Books Dream

In my dream, I was looking around in my parents’ living room for an issue of MAD Magazine that had something important in it. This was the old version of MAD, which would have astonishing artwork as they parodied current movies through their entire plots. Also, they could have biting social satire.

public domain

I didn’t want to ask my parents where it was, since it would be kind of embarrassing to consider an issue of MAD to be important and to spend time looking for it.

I went into the kitchen, which was a gigantic area more like the kitchen for a large restaurant. My mother was doing something at the sink. At this point my search in the dream was now for a magazine of Star Trek: Voyager.

Photo by Commander Idham

The sink was in a long island of the kitchen, and I was on the other side of it. Suddenly I grabbed the tall, upside-down U of the faucet and swung on it, leaving the ground.

In real life, I rolled off my bed. I landed on the three stacks of books I keep beside it, each almost as tall as the bed. That gave me a scrape on my stomach an inch and a half long. I had minor scrapes on my thighs. The books are okay.

So, what happened in that last part of my dream? I’m sure I didn’t dream of swinging around the faucet, and then my body followed suit. Instead, my brain sensed my body’s motion and incorporated that into my dream. I consider dreams to mostly be the brain’s way of defragging itself to sort memories together, but it’s obviously a complex process.

I think it’s extremely important for writers to write down their dreams. For a more interesting one, click here

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

So there’s this story out there called Pride and Prejudice. It has four acts: Mrs. Bennet tries to foist one of her daughters on a rich guy. The rich guy’s friend, Darcy, gets wind of it and disapproves. The oldest daughter, Lizzy, gets wind of that and disapproves of Darcy. Lizzy and Darcy fall in love anyway.

Someone improved this odd story by adding zombies to it. The result is the eminently watchable Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I received for Christmas.

For my previous review of the movie, click here. Some people will find one version of the story boring, while some will find the other version disgusting, but I won’t say which is which. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Lithium Battery Fail and Alpha Shift

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t like large amounts of lithium batteries in cargo holds of airplanes. Watch what happens at 1:03.

People mistakenly think that batteries are safe, while things like gasoline or jet fuel are not. Let’s switch to cars. There’s a famous brand out there that I won’t name, since I’d like to keep this blog going. But they’ve had a couple of notable car fires. Why?

Think about it. The battery has to contain the same amount of power as a tank of gas. If the battery gets jostled or some sparking occurs at just the right spot, it could explode or catch on fire just as disastrously.

This sort of mistake used to happen in science fiction all the time. Some futuristic craft is said to run on batteries as it flies around a planet. But that much energy concentrated in a small space is just about guaranteed to blow up at the very start of whatever dramatic adventure they head into.

Which brings me to an excerpt from my science fiction manuscript, Alpha Shift. Captain Christina Chechi’s ship has been attacked, and she has been injured and trapped in an elevator. Now with the help of an engineer named Kelley who found a way to get onto a monitor, she’s trying to get out.  

And how does the power work on this spaceship? It works just fine.

The elevator stopped.
Kelley’s image had faded, now it frowned. “That didn’t seem near long enough. You’d better check the panel.”
She did, and saw the manual indicator matched the lit-up number above the doors. “I only went down two decks. What does this red light mean?”
“Means the doors to that deck are open and haven’t any power. Heh, funny. That should make the elevator bypass that floor.” Obviously, in addition to the cab of the elevator having its own set of automated doors, each deck had to have its own set of automated doors to keep anyone from stepping into the shaft. “Something made your elevator cab do an emergency stop.”
“Could sabotage to the power station on this deck do that?”
“Yes ma’am.”
Resentment burned within her breast. “I will go out onto this deck and see what’s happening.”
“If you believe some violent revolutionaries are sabotaging that deck, there’s no way you want to go out there, begging your pardon ma’am.”
“Do not question my decision. Can you follow me using the wall monitors on the deck?”
“No ma’am.” His faded image frowned at the eyebrows. “I’m having a difficult enough of a time communicating with you in an elevator that descended two decks. I wouldn’t know how to access the monitors on that deck.”
“Then tell me how to open these doors.” They slowly slid open to reveal her elevator cab had stopped a couple inches below deck level. The automated doors for the deck were open partway. Beyond that the corridor was mostly dark and empty. Dim emergency lights shone at strategic intervals.
“Yes, power has been cut. I will investigate. If the enemy are present, I will engage them.”

What contorted Kelley’s features wasn’t just fear. It was pain—pain at staying behind and not helping her. 

Handbell Choir

A handbell choir played at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue today.


They showed incredible skill.

This picture isn’t as good as one I took of the same choir last year

Monday, December 11, 2017

Alita Preview

The trailer for Alita: Battle Angel is out. I can't remember if I saw the anime.

It looks intriguing. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brokedown Toilet

In rather gonzo news, I had to have a toilet replaced because a chunk broke off of it. And I didn’t do anything to abuse it.

I replaced the little rubber flap inside the toilet tank that controls the flushing because the old one disintegrated. If you haven’t had to do this, be thankful. It took a lot of scrubbing to get the black rubber gunk off my fingers. So I decided to replace the handle at the same time. It was held on by a hex nut inside the toilet tank. Using a monkey wrench, I gently turned it a sixth of a turn experimentally. To my great shock, a chunk of the toilet tank fell off.

As you can see, the upper left corner is gone. No, I didn’t hit it with the wrench, and I didn’t  crank on it really hard. It didn’t even make a cracking sound. It just fell off.

I stared at the chunk that came off for several seconds, stunned. I suppose experienced handymen would take it in stride, but I just gazed at the impossible.

I think that certain incompetent plumbers a year or two ago must have whacked it, but I have no way of proving that. I was actually thankful the chunk fell off while I was there and had the water to the toilet turned off. It’s hard to believe, but the bottom edge is above the waterline. But if things had been different and I hadn’t been home, it could have been a water disaster.

The thing was too old to just replace the toilet tank. So I had a reputable plumber replace the toilet and haul the old one away. All told, it cost a little over $700.00.

Needless to say, I learned a lot more about toilets than I ever wanted to. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book in a Box

Some agents and editors want the first five, ten, or fifty pages of an aspiring author’s manuscript. And they usually want that as part of an e-mail—they won’t open an attachment from some unknown person.

But then there is one particular entity that wants the entire manuscript—printed out.

My address and their address are covered by napkins

To give you the scale: This box I bought for a little over $3.00 can snugly fit an 8½ x 11 manuscript. The manuscript, which is over 400 pages and took me all evening to print, turned out to be a surprising 1½ inches tall. (It took all evening because I printed 50 pages at a time, and I looked through the pages to make sure they had printed out okay.) So the box is about 2 inches tall.

I showed it to a few people at work before mailing it. They were suitably impressed. One woman wanted to hold it to see how much it weighed.

I went to the Post Office on Tuesday evening. The inner part where the clerks are had closed about ten minutes before I got there, so those doors were locked. So I used the automated machine in the lobby.

First class would cost over $18.00. (As to why I didn’t consider something cheaper will be revealed below). But their two-day express would cost about $20.00. So I chose that. If the Post Office is doing its job, it’ll get there right after Thanksgiving.

Why the rush? November is NaNoWriMo. Aspiring writers are challenged to write 50,000 words, or the equivalent of a small novel, during the 30 days of November. What then happens is agents and editors are then flooded with lousy novels in December, because many of these writers don’t take the time to improve their manuscripts before sending them off. 

I know my box may just end up being in the bottom of a bin. But I like to think that my willingness to spend the money to get it there before the rush of hastily-written manuscripts, and the quality of my 85,000 word manuscript will make it stand out. But it’s out of my hands now.

What is the story? Fairy War. Read an excerpt. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Harry Potter in Five Pages

The first page of the original synopsis of Harry Potter that J.K. Rowling sent to publishers is now online.

For those of you fortunate people who have never had to do this, agents, editors, and publishers often require a synopsis of a novel, along with sample pages. This is an incredibly . . . well, since I want to get published someday, I won’t finish that sentence. But think of it: You spend over a year writing a novel, then you have to summarize it in about three pages. And we’re told the synopsis has to be written in as interesting a way as the novel.

I can’t show you the page here. But to see the first page of the five-page synopsis J.K. Rowling wrote in 1995, click on the link below.

A couple things to note: A synopsis shouldn’t just be Person A does this, Person B does that. It should show what is unique about the novel. Also, the normal advice is to just name the main character, or perhaps a second character. J.K. Rowling named all three main characters, plus a couple others. I’m not sure if things are different for children’s book, of if the very names of the characters show what is interesting.

I’ve never been much of a Potter fan. But I did once have an incredibly detailed dream about the three main characters. 

photo by Megan

Monday, October 23, 2017

Screamingly Funny Slasher—Review of Happy Death Day

This may seem off-subject, but I say the best Jake Gyllenhaal movie was Source Code from six years ago:

(Was that six years ago? Wow. See my review here.)
Now imagine a slimmed-down version, without the science fictional elements. The screenwriter who riffed off of Source Code would have pitched it as comedy/horror.

The trailers emphasize different elements, but I saw that the death-by-bus scene in Happy Death Day was almost identical to the death-by-train scene in Source Code.

So I went to go see it. To my utter shock, the matinee cost $12.06. But I had come this far.

I found Happy Death Day amusing and entertaining. One reviewer said the movie didn’t take itself seriously, and that matched the trailer. As a bonus, the boy whose dorm room Tree wakes up in is emphatic that they did not have sex—he wouldn’t do that sort of thing. And they never do anything sexual.

But is it a rip-off of Source Code? I say yes. The clincher is that Tree keeps getting birthday texts from her father, which she ignores. Late in the movie, she reconciles with her father, and that gives her the emotional clearance she needs for the climactic moments. This matches how Colter Stevens in Source Code needed to reconcile with his father late in the movie before he could finally do what he had to.

Is it worth seeing? If you have that much disposable income, maybe. It would be best for you to wait for it to come out on Netflix. If you want to analyze it, watch Source Code first. If you want the entertainment aspects, watch Happy Death Day first, so you won’t be depressed by the lesser effort. 


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