Where is My Flying Car?

You’ve sitting in a traffic jam and in normal traffic you have an hour more of driving to do. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a flying car. Weren’t we suppose to have one by now.

A little history. Back in the 1960s there was a animated cartoon show on prime time called The Jetsons. The show was set in 2062 and the family car was bubble domed flying car that looked like a space ship. It putted along rather than streaking across the sky at some hypervelocity.

Around the same time there was the TV show SuperCar. It was a children’s show done in Supermarionation. In case you didn’t know Supermarionation is the Czech style of marionette puppetry. Looks silly by today’s standards but is difficult to do.

We have flip phones that were shown in Star Trek in the 1960s how hard can a flying car be?

During President Obama term he launched a cancer moonshot to cure cancer. I haven’t heard anything about it since the announcement.

Ever week I heard about a new improvement or new development of a battery that will revolutionize the world. I’m still hearing claims, but I don’t see anything.

The list of breakthrough promises is long and heart breaking.

Would you want a flying car?

You might want to have one, but you would defiantly not want anyone else to have one. Think about it. Would you want a drunk flying his car into your house or some skyscraper? The car in Supercar was powered by an atomic motor. How would you like to have a nuclear accident in your back yard? The batmobile from the 1960s had atomic batteries. I would not like to be within a hundred miles of a major accident involving a real version of the batmobile.

A normal person flying an airplane will do the wrong thing if the plane goes into a stall and the plane will go into an uncontrollable dive into the ground. It takes training to fly an airplane. Planes have mechanical problems and fall out of the sky and we have been flying planes for over a hundred years. Now put thousands or hundreds of thousands of flying cars in the hands of ordinary people and it would not be safe anywhere, even without atomic batteries.

Self driving cars do not work right yet. They are getting better, but they are not there yet. Flying a plane or a car if a thousand times harder. It’s going to take a much better program than the one that drives a car on the road. And there are technical problem to over come. Several people have built flying cars. Some of them have died in the wrecks of the flying car.

We have made great advances in the last 60 years since the Jetsons show, but we have a long way to go. I don’t mean we should stop working on a flying car, but maybe the money would be better spent on cancer research.

Stay strong, write on, and let your dreams fly.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Get Annoyed to Find Ideas

“So where do the ideas actually come from? Mostly from getting annoyed about things. Not big issues so much … as the little irritations that drive you wild out of all proportion.”

— from the introduction to The Frood: The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Have you every thought that you can’t come up with a new idea because you’re happy? Well not happy or even content. You’re writing, you’re working, you’re busy, but you don’t have that edge. Or you’re so annoyed about something that has nothing to do with your writing that it’s crowding out your writing thoughts.

Take that annoying thing, or if your not annoyed then look around and find something to get annoyed about, and put that into your story. Get those juices flowing. Take that annoyance and have it impact your story, twist your story, beat your story up. How would an elf queen be annoyed at a telemarketer? What would she do about it? There’s an idea that I have never been done before. Don’t blow any idea off. Your characters, even the really minor, no-name, side characters are going to have to make a living and some of them are going to be greedy, selfish, heartless. Think elf lawyers. Think telemarketing on a crystal ball or magic mirror. How about elven scroll junk mail.

Time and again I have thrown good ideas at a writer friend and had him blow them off. It was like “Casey at the bat”. They just weren’t his style. It’s hard work to come up with ideas and he threw them away without serious consideration. At least, when someone gives you an idea, write it down even if you’re not going to use it, ever.

Those ideas he threw away got used in some of my stories.

You’re going to sit there all smug and say “well, they were your way of writing stories, those ideas would not have fitted my story”. Well, if everyone’s else’s ideas aren’t a good fit for your writing style then stop asking others for ideas.


A good writer can make any idea work. And that’s the problem, it’s WORK.

In the YouTube video from; Lecture #1: Introduction — Brandon Sanderson on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6HOdHEeosc&t=3321s Mr. Sanderson talks about an argument a writer (not him) got into with a member of a presentation the writer was giving. The attendee was convinced that a good story depended on a good idea. The writer countered with “Give a good idea to a bad writer and you will end up with a bad story. Give a bad idea to a good writer and he will come up with a good story” (paraphrase). To make his point the writer told the attendee to give him two incongruent ideas and he would make a story out of them. The attendee came up with; a Roman legion and Pokeman. The writer went on to develop a successful (they sold) series of books. He did not say it was easy, but the writer made money with a collection of “Bad ideas”.

The ideas do not need to be good, they do not need to be handed to you on a silver platter, but you are going to have to work to find them, so don’t blow them off when they come to you. No matter how silly or how badly they fit your story. And you’re going to have to work to make your story good.

It does help that the ideas are annoying. It lights a fire under you.

Stay strong, write on, and get annoyed.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Finding Ideas and Writing a Newsletter Column

I write a monthly column for a radio club newsletter. Every month I have to come up with an idea for the column. At first this was easy, I was over running with ideas. Then it became a slog. I write books and screenplays and a lot of other things. The column for the newsletter feels like work and the feeling was getting in the way.

It’s column writing time, the deadline is breathing down my neck. I need an idea. I need it now. Deadlines may not be inspirational, but they get you working.

What to do?

I break out this months radio magazine from a national organization. I also dig out a couple of back issues. Not only do the magazines have articles that could urge me on, they shows me what people in radio are interested in. It also shows me what manufactures have come up, and I find it easy to generate articles on unintended consequences.

1.a I pour over the articles. Would I do what someone did in an article? Would I do it differently? What articles do I want see and are not in the issue?

1.b Are any of the adds interesting? Are they interesting for something that does not have anything to do with radio (AKA cat videos adds, they get your attention, but don’t sell the product or service.) Pay attention to product bashing and unsubstantiated claims. (I make the best ethernetic prognostic reception device in the world. I make the only ethernetic prognostic reception device in the world (and I haven’t sold one yet, but just you wait and see)).

2. Write about what you have done in the field the club specializes in, with the club, or for the club.. What activities that the club has held, and you were in. What did you think of the activity. How could the activity be better?. Think about the members of the club that you have interacted with (within the last month or several years ago). And upcoming club or national events are always good information for the column and good filler.

3. Personnel experiences are good, they can be past or present, present is more appealing, but a humorous past recollections are always fun. The story about how I blew up a radio (unintentionally) always gets a laugh, Have a good punch line, Well I’m not going to do that again, at least not like that. Yeah I’m going to use a lot more electrical tape and sell tickets. Find the magic and write about it. There is magic even in simple things. Everyone in radio has an antenna, be it a ferrite loop antenna inside the radio, a hundred foot tower with antennas all over it, or an electric blanket taped to the wall. I have a 55 foot tower, I have used ferrite loop antennas, and I have been lucky enough to not need to use an electric blanket for an antenna. But if I had to, I would use an electric blanket. I heard a guy that was using an electric blanket for an antenna. Any antenna is better than no antenna. Even the experts do not fully understand how antennas work. I have seen two antennas designed by two different people. The computer said the antennas should preform the same. One antenna worked much better than the other. They both used the same computer program to design their antennas. Why were the antennas so different? Computer programs are not the real world. They can get close, but the program can be full of pitfalls. Be it writing or knitting there is magic. It could be that this yarn works better than that yarn. They both are cotton, but it’s in the processes by which they are made that’s makes the magic so one yarn is easier to work with than the other. Or it could be that this color works better than that combination. It might be as simple as the season that your knitting an item for or as complex as the psychology of color mixing.

It’s still magic, but then isn’t all writing.

Stay strong, write on, and look for those ideas.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Writing , New Ideas, and the Virus Block

I have been having trouble writing these blogs and the cause has been starting me in the face. I’m stuck, isolated at home. I need inputs. One big source of inputs is conventions. Be it radio conventions, Science Fiction, or Steampunk conventions. Meeting new friends or old acquaintances. Talking to people seeing new things doing something different.

It may be two more months before I get my shots and can go to the grocery store and not feel like I’m risking my life.

The president got it, and he has the best medical help in the country, I can get it. And the doctor told me if I get it, it will not be good.

So to find ideas and get back to normal I have to start reading books. I have to start talking to people even if it’s only on Facebook or even zoom. I have to start writing emails and letters. Ideas here I come.

The NPR commentator was complaining about how there will be all these old geezers flying around after they get their second shot. We stayed safe, stayed isolated, we earned it. Stay safe and you will get yours, in a good way.

Six people killed in seconds on I-35 in Texas. I’ve been on that road. There’s a short distance till the other freeway dead ends into I-35 and you have to get over 7 lanes and the exits lanes are hard to get out of once your in one. There was another pile up near Austin. It was only 30 or 40 cars. Not enough to make the news, it’s under a hundred vehicles. I still can’t figure out how that white car got on top of two other cars. It did not look that beat up to have climbed on top of two car already stacked on top of each other.

So many books to read. I want something funny, something light for these dark times. So much of Steampunk is so dark. People in the 1800s laughed, they played jokes on each others. I may have to write that book.

Stay strong, write on, and laugh.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Too Little Background or World in the Story?

I’m writing a story set in 1890s Paris, France. I have a history book that tells me that this is a time of great upheaval. They are rebuilding the streets of Paris. Widening them and straightening them.

Of course this means taking away land, building and homes that have been in families for decades, centuries. Napoleonic law is about rules, it doesn’t care about people.

How do I include the stories about corrupt construction, building supplies that vanish, people thrown out in the street, rich aristocrats buying houses for a song and selling them to the government for ridiculous prices because they have good connections.

Those stories have little to do with the story of my heroine, but they are happening all around her. She has to notice them.

Writing gurus tell me that I can’t include anything that is not vital to the story or the TV-cell phone addled reader will drop my story and go to something that has more action.

The little things like the land grab make the background of the story I’m writing. They show why things happen in the story.

Has it gotten to the point where the only thing that readers care about are super heroes and the super heroes only care about super villains.

Not caring about the details or the real world does make writing a book easier.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Writing and the Government Don’t Leave It to the Experts

I’m not against experts, but experts can be wrong and some of the experts I have dealt with refuse to admit they have ever been wrong. It’s bad for business when an expert admits he made a mistake.

One day as a kid my dad bought me a comic book. That was a big thing. Unlike many authors, there were not many books in my childhood home. There was no local library and the books that I got were read to death.

It was a Legion of Superhero comic book, in the 1960s this was set in the Superboy universe. I don’t know if superman has a childhood now a days. Since he’s been promoted to godhood would he have a childhood? They rewrote his story line in the movies.

Superboy would travel to the future to pal around with a group of young superheroes. In this future the world government is run by a robot brain and scientist. Something that was a hold over from the 1940s and 50s. The brain (what we would call a computer) was fooled by the villains to outlaw the young superheroes. Makes since, the superheroes have super powers and could kill people. The parents, of the super heroes, were law abiding, so no using your powers, no dressing up in costumes and no getting together, it’s the law.

Side note, the young superheroes had an amulet that they used as a cell phone to talk to each other since they could not get together. Cheap plot device, but it was suppose to be advanced technology that no one else had. Who in the 1960s would believe that 50 years later everyone would have a pocket phone.

The US government is on the verge of the same thing, handing the running of the government to experts. Politicians seek experts for guidance. Those experts work for lobbyist and big companies, which is a conflict of interest.

So the rich and powerful people just have to buy experts instead of politicians. That leaves the ordinary people being governed without a voice.

Another big problem with computers, scientist or experts running the government, experts are not always right. Long Term Capital hired the best in the world, including Nobel prize winners, and it went broke. Expert told the California that a new style of teaching reading would save the state tons of money. The experts would not admit they were wrong, it had to be the teachers, until they were over ruled when for several years the state tied for last place in national reading scores.

From what I read on the net, the experts at Disney corp have messed up Star Wars for long time fans of the movies and universe. They are not making the money they projected. After three movies they have not changed, the experts refuse to admit they were wrong. The experts at Disney broke the mythos of Star Wars to attract new viewer. They alienated the long time fans. I’m waiting for a reboot of the Star Wars series with a new better look Luke, that what the people making Marvel movies would do.

Will the new US government depend on experts that will break the myth of the United States to attach the younger population (voters)? Is the old way that has worked for over 200 years going to be thrown out? If they make a mistake will they admit it. I don’t think they will ever admit they were wrong. The real world doesn’t work like many experts believe.

Stay strong, write on, and hang on for a wild ride.
Professor Voltage

The Backhoe, a Weapon of Mass Destruction

This morning a fiber optic cable was cut in Brooklyn, NY. This stopped internet service in NY city, then it spread throughout the Northeast and Mid Atlantic States. This was a break in a Verizon cable, but the backup the break caused effected other providers.

Hours later it was fixed. But during that time work stopped. How would you like to pay for workers to sit around doing nothing and you don’t know how long it’s going to take to fix the problem because the internet, where you would find out the repair time estimate, was down.

China only needs a backhoe to bring the United States to its knees. The internet cable to my town is strung on telephone pole running along a two lane road. One drunk driver and the internet is out. You can’t buy food at the grocery store because the cash registers don’t work and the price is not marked on the store items (or even on the shelf under the item in many places) so the store can’t sell food. I once went to a grocery store when the internet was out and they had employees run and get prices off the shelf so the person taking money could sell food when the cash registers were down.

When Ma Bell ran things there were backups and alternate lines. Now that it’s a free for all and cost have to be kept low, there are no backups. One line is all there is and if that line is cut damaged or sabotaged we all suffer.

Cell phone towers are often connected together with fiber optics cables and use the internet. If the internet goes down your cell phone will not work.

Its not just fiber optic cables. The water supply to the city of Los Angeles runs through a tunnel in a mountain. If that tunnel is damaged LA will go dry. You can not truck enough water into LA.

I am against government getting into everything, but its needs to make companies spend the money to provide alternate fiber optic cables. Too much depends on uninterrupted service. Companies will not spend money on backups, in case things break (which may never happen), unless forced to. Email your congressman, if the internet works.

Stay strong, write on, keep fresh batteries for your flash light, and your laptop charged.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Roots, My Old Home Town, and the Future

I just saw a picture of main street Disneyland from Christmas last year. It bought back memories of my old home town. They use to have the fire department string decorations across the four blocks of old down town. They may have been the same decorations year after year, but they were cheerful.

They don’t do that any more. For the last several years there has been fewer and fewer stores open on main street. This had nothing to do with the virus. The old mom and pop shops that I went to as a kid and in high school are all gone. There may be one drug store still open on old main street that was there when I was in high school. All the others are gone. Most of the building that date back to the 1930s are empty. Even the buildings that were being used by the evangelistic church are empty.

The old hardware store had been bought out by ACE hardware and is now at the edge of town in a newer building. There’s one restaurant in a run down building still there. They were going to move to another building. but the virus put a stop to that.

There’s a thrift store and a couple of other restaurants on old town main street. Other than that it’s just ghosts. The town is bigger than when I was in high school, but everyone goes to Wallmart at the edge of town now or to the shopping center along the freeway 14 miles away.

I knew the shop keepers on main street. I was friends to some, I bought stuff from them. That was back when it took two weeks for something you ordered from the catalog to get to you, if you were lucky. If not a catalog order could take a month or longer.

The virus did not kill small businesses. They were dead in my home town long before this. Small businesses are dying and the virus just helped speed up their disappearance. Money is tight and is forcing people to shop on line. It’s killing small shop owners. No one likes their home town anymore, it’s just a place you grew up in.

I have noticed in the past couple of years that the kids don’t play in the street or even in their own front yard in the big city I now live in. Has it gotten so bad that their parents are so afraid that they will disappear if left alone in the front yard they will get stolen or killed?

I all the happiness of this time of year I can get down. What can I do to change this?

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 7 late again

Or why we won’t have self driving cars, now or maybe forever.

Yesterday I needed to connect a radio to a software program. No big deal, I had done it before. But that was two software updates ago.

The software won, I didn’t get the radio to talk to the software. I feel like a failure. I worked so hard to get it working. I’m not a programmer, I don’t have the tools to find out what is wrong. I read the manual, I dig through Google looking for help. The stuff in Google is so out of date, I push the buttons and then I find they don’t match the version of software I have. There is no runbig button in the current software. The programmer of the software is so busy he won’t read your email. He has to get improvement to the software out. So I go to the forums and get laughed at or told to read the manual.

If you have read this blog for long you know I’m not a fan of programmers. Why? Two reasons. Programmers are paid to write software. They wont document what they write. Documentation, that’s work for peons. They don’t care if the program kills the user. They wrote the program to the specification they were given and if they complain about the spec they know they will be placed on the list of the next person to be laid off.

So they write the program that confuses the pilot and crashes the airplane, killing several hundred people. They write the program that accelerates the car and won’t let you turn the engine off.

So the next time you press the button in an elevator just think. The programmer that did the software for the box you’re standing in got paid, is off on another job, and won’t go to court if the elevator drops to the bottom and kills you. He was part of a team and the head of the company is worth so much more, they’ll sue the company or the head of the company.

The next time you are about to cross a street, even at a light, remember you are one step, one software glitch or one bit that should be a 1 not a zero form having a self driving car run over you.

They tested the software you say. Well the first thing they teach a budding software writer is that you can not test all the ways a program will fail. So a smart programmer knows that if he is late with a program because it fails a test he will only test the software in ways he knows it will pass. His bonus for getting done on time depends on it. If you can’t do something why brother to make life hard on yourself.

I’m pounding my head on the desk trying to get the radio that use to work working again while the Christmas lights outside whisper “fix me”, “put more lights up”.

So every hour or two I get out of my chair after working fruitlessly. I go outside and fiddle with the lights for a couple of minutes so I don’t go looking for a greedy, soulless programmer.

I should be glad that nobody reads these posts. Why would anyone believe them? The web is full of stories of Putin, the Russian president, telling his people that America is about to attack them and that’s why things are so bad and why he should remain in office. The Chinese have refused 60 ship loads of coal from Australia because someone in the Australian said something the leaders of China don’t like. Even while the power had to be shut off in major Chinese cities because they ran out of coal. The Chinese leaders blame the young people for the outages. Maybe that’s what happened in this country in the 1960s, It’s all the young people’s fault.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 6

Other good day for working outside. Still needed to wear a jacket, but the sun felt good. Just a bit of a breeze today.

Stated to throw together a couple of extension cords to clean up some of the displays. Ended up taking longer than it should. I didn’t need to go to the hardware store, so that was a plus.

Stated to clean off the living room coffee table to set the Christmas tree on. I have a small living tree that I use. In a couple of more years it will be to big to lift, but for now on the table it goes.

With the big display done I started to box up the odds and ends and put the boxes back in the shed. There’s room in the living room for a change. Shed two, the Christmas shed is packed again. I did throw away some old lights so there will be a little room when take down the lights and re-pack things.

I finished off another 250 foot roll of wire. I still have three rolls to go.

The rebar Christmas tree lights are a problem. The blue lights only 1/3 of the lights would light up of the lights. My fix, I had planned on using, did not work out. If anything it took out more lights. I replaced the whole string of lights. The new string does not have as many lights on it as the old string. I will have to adjust the lights tomorrow, but I have all the blue lights on the rebar Christmas tree working.

I pulled a lot of weeds and grass today. I wore gloves so my hands are not as tore up as they can get. I leveled some gardening soil so things look nicer. Almost got around to laying some pavers, just not enough time.

I have some blue lights around the eves of the house that I need to get working. I must have gotten a bad batch of blue lights years ago. The new lights have a different spacing between the lights than the old light so I can not just plug in a new string of lights.

I rebuilt a four wheel roll around stand so I could put my soldering gun and heat gun on it. Keeps me from having to bend over so much and it’s nice to have a work station for fixing the lights.

Tomorrow I have to get to work on the antennas.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage