Saturday, October 29, 2016

Untethered Authors Share What They Learned While Writing for this Anthology

All authors do research for their stories. In honor of the book release for Untethered: A Magic
iPhone Anthology, five authors divulge what they looked up, discovered, or simply ran across in
the process of creating tales of magic and technology.

H.M. Jones: I learned that I can write funny stories. It’s not that I don’t think of myself as funny;
it’s just that most of my work is serious in nature, often very emotional. This one is completely
different. It showed a side of me as an author that I didn’t know was there. It made me realize
that I can jump out of my box and I enjoyed so doing.

Manny Frishberg (writing with Edd Vick): We learned small bits of information about Kash Ruth
(kosher) dietary law and about anaphylactic shock.

Jon Lasser: I wrote the first part of this story, with the core idea, a while ago. It took me a lot
longer to understand what needed to be fleshed out to make it an enjoyable experience for the
reader, and longer still to find the right ending. If I learned anything while writing "Real Selfies,"
it was to allow myself to come back several times over the course of more than a year, and to
learn to tell the story organically, without rushing it or demanding instant gratification.

Aaron Giddings: I learned to play Vampire: The Masquerade. Playing in a group that was doing a '90s Seattle setting helped me experiment with a lot of character ideas and setting backdrops that influenced my final story.

Jonathon Burgess: I learned that the soundtrack to Pacific Rim can make ANYTHING sound

Want to see what these authors did with the concept of a magic iPhone? Pick up your copy of
Untethered: a Magic iPhone Anthology in ebook or trade paperback today. Find it at, Nook, or wherever you prefer to grab your books.

Extra Interest: Jeremiah Reinmiller shares “iPhones are pretty amazing, but I'm an Android guy.
Did that influence me? Nah, not much. Technology is technology, bugs are bugs. The
"shininess" of the corporation behind the iPhone though did lend itself to some specific jokes, I

Previous interview segments:
Untethered Authors Speculate on the Next Big Thing in Portable Tech
Inspiration Untethered
Untethered Authors Disclose Their Story Inspirations for the Anthology (two involve Clippy!)
Untethered Authors Disclose Their Story Inspirations for the Anthology, Part II
Unthethered Authors Speculate on the Future of Contemporary Fantasy Fiction in Light of Rapid Changes in Technology
Untethered Authors Share What They Learned While Writing for this Anthology, Part I

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Farewell, Mr. Hoover

The world of aviation lost a legend this week. R.A. "Bob" Hoover, passed on, and now teaching angels how to fly smoother.

I remember seeing him fly multiple years at Reno in the '90s. Ole Yeller, the Shrike Commander, and the Sabreliner all made appearances. What really stands out in my mind was how easy he made everything look. Ticking a big, high-wing twin through a sixteen point hesitation roll with one or both engines out. Pouring himself a glass of iced tea in the cockpit, while continuously executing a flawless barrel roll.

(Start at 2:19 for the iced tea)

There are a hundred stories about the things he accomplished in life, told better, elsewhere this would be a good start.

Bob inspired a whole generation of pilots. And someday, when my kids ask what the paint scheme on their pedal plane came from, I look forward to explaining it.

Preparing for another sortie to patrol the neighborhood.

Monday, October 24, 2016

We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...

With the Dodgers postseason hopes coming to a crashing end at the hands of the Cubs, we're getting back to a normal (or what passes for normal around here) schedule.

The thing about hovering is, you have to pick a direction sooner or later. - Image from wikipedia.
Now to see what my muse has been up to while I've been busy watching baseball and drinking beer.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Virtual Wings: Kuat Systems Engineering RZ-1 A-Wing PIREP

"Looks fast sitting still." was my first impression of the corporation's A-Wing starfighters. While X-Wings and Xg-1 Star Wings make up the workhorses of the corporation's fleet operations, they maintain a flight of four Mark II A-Wings for fast aggressor and recon jobs. Nicknamed Mara, Ashoka, Shalla, and Bhindi, they tend to live up to the A-Wing's reputation as maintenance nightmares.

For my visit, only Shalla was in operational shape, with two others in various maintenance levels, and another in deep regeneration after a rough landing that collapsed the nose skid. I'm told that an average of twenty maintenance hours are required for every flight hour, far more even than what is required for the much older Y-Wings.

It's also worth noting that the Mark IIs are less temperamental than the Mark I versions flown by the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. Hand-built from whatever was available, then hotrodded for every ounce of speed they could squeeze out, the original A-Wings were sometimes almost as dangerous to their pilots as to the enemy.

The first challenge for me was simply fitting into the cockpit. I'm not built like a Wookie, but neither am I a Sullustian. The A-Wing's cockpit was a tight fit, just one of the reasons the craft had earned the nickname "Slims" by their pilots.

With the canopy closed, visibility was excellent save for straight back. Keeping visual contact with enemy fighters in a dogfight would be simple, provided the pilot can keep enemies from slipping underneath the fighter. Set in the center of the A-Wing's wedge, the fuselage blocks most lines of sight below the fighter.

Spinning up the ship's MPS Bpr-99 reactor and feeding power to the twin Novaldex J-77 Event Horizon engines showed immediately why this fighter was the hotrod of the fleet. Particularly after flying the Y-Wing, the acceleration was rapid as the fighter pushed to its top speed of 120 MGLT, just a hair faster than the Imperial TIE Interceptors that were its primary opponents.

To reduce the maintenance burden a little bit, the Corporation's A-Wings had been modified to fix their wingtip mounted laser cannons straight ahead. While the pivoting system was useful in combat, it was another complex, easily broken system.

Conducting my usual speed checks revealed few surprises. Standard top speed was 120 MGLT, while running max recharge to all systems gave 60 MGLT. Combat configuration with just lasers at increased charge gave 105 MGLT, still faster than a TIE Fighter, while lasers and shields at increased (or only lasers at maximum charge) gave 90 MGLT. Optimal maneuvering speed came around 80% throttle. Combat configured, the A-Wing was still faster than a TIE Fighter or X-Wing, while holding a significant turning advantage, and the ability to simply throttle up and leave the fight on its own terms. Dumping all energy into the engines gave 180 MGLT, and showed why this fighter was the recon ship of choice.

Finally it was time for some dogfight practice. Engaging TIE Fighters was remarkably simple, as the A-Wing's superior speed allowed me to boom and zoom - screaming into gun range, making firing passes, then pulling out of range almost immediately. Against Squints I faced a much bigger challenge, with their lack of shields being somewhat compensated by their heavier firepower and tight weapon grouping.

Much like the B-Wing, the A-Wing is less a jack-of-all-trades, and more of a specialist that's used best in specific roles. Allowed to boom and zoom, or used in maneuvers such as the A-Wing slash, it provided intercept and space superiority capabilities far better than the X-Wing. Used poorly, or when maintenance issues reared their heads, the A-Wing can be more liability than utility.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Faster Pokemon Go Egg Hatching!

I've never been much of a runner. Way back in college, I took one semester of PE classes (required course) that included running as part of my grade. It was the only class I ever got a D in. The next time I had to take a PE class, I made sure it was one without a running requirement.

Fast forward to this summer. I've tried a couple of Couch to 5K programs in the past, none of them took. This summer though, I wanted a faster way to hatch eggs in Pokemon Go, and also hit the realization that while my new hobby of riding motorcycles is dangerous, I'm far, far more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke if I didn't make some lifestyle changes.

Enter My Running Mate and the 5k101 program.

One thing nobody ever tells you is that the worst day of a workout program is the second day you have to do it. For (formerly) sedentary folks like me, the first day isn't so difficult. You feel tired and worn out, but hey, it was the first day. Then you wake up the next morning, and feel like you were hit by a truck. But hey, you don't have to work out that day, and you'll feel better the next day when you workout again, right?

Not so much. the second workout day comes around, and you still feel terrible. And this is where a lot of people just quit out. But if you keep going, it gets better. Muscles start getting used to being used again, and the soreness diminishes.

With the 5k101 program, you start out running for two minutes. Then two and a half, then three. By the end, you're running for thirty minutes. For me, that's something I could never have done before.

If things go as planned, next year I'll be improving to a 10k, and after that, who knows?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Containing Failure: Damage Control in AGILE Planning

Engineering has the lovely concept of contained and uncontained failures. A contained failure is one that limits the damage to the part or system that fails, while an uncontained failure does not.

While failure isn't something that anyone likes, it is, as Mythbusters used to say, "Always an option."

Uncontrolled turbine engine failure. Damage occurs to both the part in
question, and the surrounding parts of the aircraft.
I hit a fairly big snag in my AGILE working plan last week. Fatigue, both mental and physical, coupled with a major computer failure (caused by me during an upgrade) knocked me out for a bit.

I've been down before, and it took me most of the week to realize that's what was happening. That's the main thing, I guess, keeping the failure contained. Once I realized where the problem, focusing on what I needed to do to fix it meant that this week has been much more productive, and things are getting back on track.

Call it a contained failure. No lasting damage, just some time to fix the problem and get back on track. Regular streaming and videos should be coming back next week, as I get content queued up.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Let's Play: Star Wars: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter: Balance of Power - Rebel Campaign Mission #10

Going to start something new here, and write up a few thoughts for each of the missions I play through. We're picking up about 2/3rds of the way through the Rebel Campaign for the classic Star Wars: X-Wing versus TIE Fighter: Balance of Power.

Once again, this mission starts off with a choice between the X-Wing for space superiority, and the B-Wing for attack. A massive swarm of Imperial capital ships shows up, including a pair of Imperial-Class Star Destroyers, and all of them have to be destroyed to complete the mission.

Flying the X-Wing means fending off waves of TIE Bombers, plus the usual horde of Fighters, Interceptors, and the occasional Avenger and trying to keep them from destroying the two Rebel capital ships you're defending. Meanwhile, the B-Wings are supposed to be attacking the Imperial ships.

Choosing the B-Wing (as I ultimately ended up doing) means focusing more on capital ship attack, and occasionally helping with the fighters. Taking out the Star Destroyers first will also help reduce the number of TIE craft attacking everything else.

I feel like the B-Wing is an easier choice. Taking on the various TIE waves is manageable, but by the time you're dealing with the fourth wave of Bombers, the Liberty and the Peregrine are both pretty banged up.

Whatever you choose, good luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Untethered is Out Now!

Untethered, an anthology of stories based in the world of Cracked: A Magic iPhone Story is now out and available.

Featuring stories from Rhiannon Held, Edd Vick, Kris Millering, Jon Lasser, Manny Frishberg, H.M. Jones, Raven Oak, Yours Truly, and many more, it's a tremendously fun read.

Available from Amazon, and lots of other places.

Untethered (Amazon affiliate link)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Thanks Vin, And a Very Pleasant Retirement to You, Wherever You May Go

1992 was a lousy year to start being a serious Dodgers fan. Coming off a heartbreaking end to the 1991 season that saw the Giants play spoilers and end the Dodgers' run at the National League West title, the 1992 season started with high hopes. The off season had been spent signing Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis to anchor the outfield, and with most of the 1991 team still there, the next season looked to be a solid run at a championship.

Instead, the wheels completely fell off. Star players got hurt, and the year ended with the Dodgers at the bottom of the division, with the sole highlight being Eric Karros winning the Rookie of the Year award. Somehow though, this is the year I remember as being the one where I really became a Dodgers fan.

Vin Scully was the the voice of my teenage years. Playing through the headphones on my Walkman radio while I did chores or studied. Blaring through the tiny speaker of a baseball shaped AM radio I'd gotten at a Dodger Stadium giveaway as I tried to find the local station for Dodger baseball while on family vacations. (And coming back into Dodger country from wherever we were visiting was always the sign that we were almost home.) Creating theatre of the mind through the radio of my truck, and keeping me company during solo shifts at my first job.

Not my personal radio, but just like this.

Yesterday, Sunday, October 2nd, Vin called his last game, exactly 80 years to the day after he became a Giants fan at age 8 listening to them in the Bronx. He had this to say before the broadcast started:

"May God give you for every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise, and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life seems, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer."

Thanks, Vin, for the great memories. I'm going to miss that voice on the radio when next season rolls around.