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Oh, this is fun. If you have a little map, environment and/or geography geek streak, check out this interactive:

River Runner by Sam Learner

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“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”

― Wendell Berry

When a raindrop falls, where does it go? If it falls on my hometown, it flows 390km to the Atlantic Ocean.

If it falls on the Denver Broncos’ Mile High 50-yard line, just east of the Continental Divide, the path to the Gulf of Mexico is 3862km!

Click a starting point and the site will calculate a route and then do a visual fly-over. I wish it covered places outside the US but it’s still a fun and impressive window into data from the always excellent USGS.*

* Ah, the USGS, font of so much maptitude! Wait, is that a volcano webcam? Stop browsing, woman, you have work to do! But remind me to tell you my volcano story someday:)

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river running through a forested glade
Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

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When it comes to writing, I try to study the substance behind the story, the skeleton that supports the larger whole. Novels have time to throw curve balls, and short stories can just upend everything because they don’t always give you all the information up front, but television and movies? I find that they tend to be much more predictable.

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One thing I’ve noticed is that the more closely I study the structure of fiction, the easier it is to predict the course of any particular show. 

This is useful because it helps me better study and understand story structure. It’s also less helpful because it leads to me muttering things like “Yep, you’re definitely going to die,” and “Oh yeah, he did it,” or “Well, if you didn’t want to die a horrible death, you shouldn’t have had that heartfelt moment with the main character. Did your mother teach you nothing?!” 

This is also why I love shows like Resident Alien and Sherlock and Wynonna Earp and Killjoys. Great characters and humor, plus creative, often unpredictable storylines and dynamics. And they’re just fun.

Dear Industry of Entertainment, please do not underestimate the power of fun.

Especially after the year we’ve just had.

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This brings me to my apology: Dear Mr Man, I am sorry for the ongoing commentary (ok, heckling, let’s just call it what it is) during shows. Please understand that it is a natural extension of my ongoing writerly education. 

Also, we bought that high-capacity PVR for a reason. We can always rewind:)

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Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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I used to love waking up to Saturday morning cartoons at my grandparents’ (no TV at our house, I may have mentioned), but now that I’m an adult I’ve moved beyond such childish things. Right?

This morning Mr. Man turned on the TV and quickly found a station playing Spy, Paul, Battleship and True Lies. Cheers all around!

So, maybe not much has changed:)* 

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Photo by Doug Maloney on Unsplash

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* Well, except for the fact that now I have a PVR the size of Texas and can record them all!

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It’s time for more free fiction! The Locus SF Foundation has announced the top finalists in each award category. Many of the shorts and novelettes are free to read online.

Check out the full roster from Locus, with standard font links for open access work and bold for purchasing links. Here’s the abbreviated list of free material:

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NOVELETTE

SHORT STORY

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person in space suit looking at the sky
Seriously though, I couldn’t be an astronaut, how do they scratch their noses? I think I’ll design a pivoting arm with a micro joy stick on the outside of the helmet. Unless they already have those? Photo by Adam Miller on Unsplash

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I’m a little bit beat. I know it’s May the Fourth and therefore Star Wars Day, but I’m not quite up to a long-form essay on all that this world has meant for me.

Suffice it to say, I’m a fan.

If you’re in the mood for a quick recap of the main movies (or an introduction, I won’t judge!), here’s a quick summation by Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley, with a little help from Jimmy Fallon:

If you’d rather go back to the beginning and study the source, check out this piece on the first movie’s script:

Star Wars: A New Hope Script — Screenplay Analysis and PDF Download

We’re going to break down the essential aspects of the Star Wars script, and how George Lucas made a science-fiction classic.

Buckle up, we’re going into hyperdrive…

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Photo by Honza Kurka on Pexels.com

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So somehow I missed First Contact Day. You know, the day Vulcans pass by Earth just as Dr. Zefram Cochrane makes the first human warp flight in the Phoenix

As recorded in the historical document Star Trek: First Contact.

Right. Anyway, I missed it. The good news is that the real thing won’t take place until 2063. We still have time for benevolent alien species,* a future of livable space ships, the Federation, currency-free economy, and peace on Earth.

What do you say we get started:)

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Photo by Benjamin Suter on Pexels.com

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* Granted, there are a lot of ways this could go: String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’.

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Saturday mornings always remind me of cartoons and classical music.

We didn’t have a television when I was growing up (or junk food like sugary cereals), which was great for reading and not quite so great for social integration. (This was before there was a smartphone in every pocket, terabytes of entertainment at every turn, and the splintering of society. But I digress.) 

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I did manage to absorb a decent amount of after-school programming and advertising jingles at friends’ houses, and Saturday morning cartoons when we visited our grandparents.

They had a cute little house in Chicago, with a TV room in the back. That’s where I slept when we visited, and I loved it because it meant I could wake up early and start the day with a deliciously sweet diet of cartoons. My brother would join me soon after, and we’d watch until the rest of the house was up. 

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Most Saturdays, though, we’d wake up at home. What those experiences had in common was classical music. Cartoons have used classical scores for decades. My father is a big fan, and likes to start the day with classical music, played loud. Especially on Saturdays. One of the first albums he bought us as kids was Peter and the Wolf.

To this day, I can’t hear that Prokofiev tune without smiling.

I wasn’t the only one indoctrinated by the classical/cartoon connection, of course. Many of you were right there with me. Click through for a fun thread that identifies a number of the more recognizable pieces.

Or perhaps you are looking for a 2+ hour collection of cartoon music? Then this is your lucky day!

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Since I’m thinking of my father and music, here’s a link I think he might enjoy:

I have no idea what most of these shows were (United States Steel Hour?), but I hope that he does, and that some of this music brings a smile to his face, too.

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Happy Saturday!

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

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You may have noticed that I like funky little websites where people use their creativity to help us use ours. On that topic, I built a spaceship this morning.

This site takes your ship name and builds you a ship. 

shapeWright.

This is an experimental platform for mass customization and procrastination.

They also do other types of models but I wanted a spaceship. This should surprise absolutely no one who knows me.

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Here is my ship, the HMS Happy Day

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Is it weird that it looks like a time-traveling engineer hacked together an AT-AT and the walls of Gondor?

I didn’t think so either:)

Now I’m off to do something more concrete, but my day will be better for that quick mental break. Here’s hoping you can find a little fun in your day too!

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If you, like me, watched the Mars landing and thought, “So cool. But something is definitely up with that parachute,” you were not wrong!

Image via the Parachute Up-Look Camera A on Feb. 23, 2021 (Sol 2). NASA/JPL-Caltech

The striking red and white pattern was too distinctive to be meaningless. 

I initially speculated that the design was meant to help engineers better understand the forces at work as the lander fell through the atmosphere, but nope. With more thought I might have made some progress, but I put the question aside and focused on other things (like the first audio recording from the Red Planet).

Cue the Internet.

There’s a hidden message in the parachute of NASA’s Mars rover – The Verge

Depending on the shape and location of the red-and-white color patterns circling around the parachute’s center, the segments represent different numbers which can be translated through binary code.

— Internet sleuths solve secret message on Perseverance rover’s Mars parachute | Space

Check out the key below, showing the code in four concentric patterns. It reads: Dare Mighty Things. That’s the Perseverance team motto and is also on the wall at the Jet Propulsion Lab. JPL gets another shout-out in the outer ring, which lists the Lab’s lat/long coordinates on Earth. (That’s going to be awfully confusing for any aliens who find it on Mars:)

Image shared by Rick von Hagn on Twitter https://twitter.com/MrIosity/status/1364436321457082370

Well done!

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Speaking of extraterrestrials, now seems like a grand time to plug my favorite new Syfy show, Resident Alien.

An alien crash lands on Earth and must pass himself off as small-town human doctor Harry Vanderspeigle. Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life…but things get a bit rocky when he’s roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world.

It stars the fabulous Wash, I mean Alan Tudyk, plus a cast of other terrific, talented and quirky actors, and is a thing of beauty. The premiere was frakking hilarious.

It’s on my mind because it plays on Wednesday nights, but if you missed it, full episodes are available online for the next year or so.

I’m chuckling just thinking about it.

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So yesterday we were looking for something to watch post-Valentine’s Day dinner, and it got me thinking about my favorite movies for the holidays.* I’m a pretty average person from a particular time and place (here, now) who is also a sci-fi /action movie lover with a high tolerance for pew pew. 

This is my current list:

  • Christmas: Die Hard (sorry, It’s a Wonderful Life, you know it’s true)
  • Valentine’s Day: Deadpool (I stand by this 110%!)
  • Easter: Life of Brian
  • Independence Day: This entry pretty much writes itself.
  • Labor Day: Office Space9 to 5The Proposal
  • Halloween: Ever since my father took us to see The Amityville Horror I am Not Ok with truly scary movies, so let’s go with The Sixth SensePractical Magic, and Addam’s Family
  • Thanksgiving: Hmm. Planes, Trains And Automobiles? Or Star Wars. Because Star Wars goes with everything!

Feel free to argue:)

And if you’re interested in learning more about writing screenplays (a fairly specialized incarnation of the craft), check out Go Into The Story for extensive blog posts, free screenplay download linksThe Black List, and (much, much) more.

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* This is not the same thing as actual “holiday movies,” as you’ll soon see.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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