Writing anywhere anytime

Last night, I had a Blue Screen of Death on my old Sony Vaio laptop.  The system configuration is now corrupt, so I can’t recover the OS and access my old photos.  I should be able to save the pictures when I use the hard drive as an external drive.

This has had me thinking about a future computer.  My current computer is a fairly large laptop.  It’s portable, of course, but it’s a bit too large for me to take anywhere easily.  I’d like to work on my writing on a smaller, cheaper notebook computer.  In the future, I may buy a netbook sized computer for that purpose.  My wife has an iPad, which she doesn’t use.  I could use it, but I’d like an actual keyboard to type on, rather than a touch screen.  A touch screen isn’t ideal for touch typing, as you can’t feel the location of the keys.  I touch type, and would rather not look at the keyboard to type.  I could get a keyboard for it, but I’d prefer to use Windows.

It’ll be great to write anywhere I am.  It’ll increase the amount of time I can write.  I’m looking forward to it.


What is an advanced society?

As I was reading “Endymion,” I was thinking about what we would consider an advanced society.  In the book, it takes place more than 200 years after “The Fall of Hyperion.”  In the previous book, everything was incredibly advanced from our point of view, but go ahead to “Endymion,” and not much has advanced technologically.  Religion has also taken over completely.

I then thought about today’s technology.  Just a few years ago, iPhones would have been considered advanced, like it’s from science fiction.  When I was a kid, I had a Speak and Spell, which I was very impressed with at the time.  Now, it’s extremely outdated and very simple.  The advances we have made in the past 25 to 30 years alone have been quite big.  The Internet, computers, cell phones, GPS, commercial space travel, digital TV, hybrid cars, all were just a dream at one time, something from science fiction.  Now, they’re commonplace and very ordinary.

Then I started thinking about what makes a truly advanced society?  We can have advanced technology, but has society matured?  I really wonder.

I’ll take a quick look at the two countries I’ve lived in.  In Canada, I’ve always thought we had a high tech society, on par with the best.  I don’t question that at all, but it seems a lot of people have rather old cars.  Used cars are big business, as they’re more affordable.  But they’re more likely to break down and are not as environmentally friendly.  I’ve also thought that it’s taken a while for car navigation systems to become standard equipment, as they are in Japan.  Japan is often considered by people to be highly advanced and futuristic.  That is most certainly false.  While Japan is a leader in technology, what you do find here is that there’s a lot of old stuff.  You can find an old house that looks like it’s going to fall apart right next to a brand-new skyscraper.  The houses in Japan have poor insulation and are cheaply built.  Most of the time, when a family moves out of a house, it’s torn down and another is built in its place.  Constant renewal of houses.  But the new ones are often built quickly and are prefabricated.  They’re flexible and safe during an earthquake, but winter is uncomfortably cold inside.  But you can’t beat heated toilet seats in winter.  Japan is also behind on adopting computers in the workplace.  Banks use computers, but most work is still done on paper.  It’s inefficient and incredibly low tech.  Japan has amazing technology, though.  Robotics, efficient train system, and electronically controlled bathtubs and toilets are some examples, but Japan is behind in banking, wi-fi, and wheelchair accessibility.

Technology doesn’t make society, though.  Is there a truly advanced society in the world?  One where social problems are completely taken care of, military service is not required, or total equality for all has been achieved?  I don’t think so.  Let’s look at a couple of the problems that my example countries have.  Canada has a poor environmental record, made worse by the Harper administration.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been held in contempt of parliament before, yet he was still re-elected.  Something wrong there.  The 2010 G20 riots in Toronto showed extremely poor judgment and criminal behaviour by the police.  The riots in Vancouver following the Stanley Cup loss last year showed how immature people can be.  Obviously not advanced, is it?  People were behaving like children.

How about Japan?  Japan can’t even find a Prime Minister that the people like, not since Junichiro Koizumi.  It seems that there’s a new Prime Minister every year.  The government can’t even address the declining population and aging problem.  They make it prohibitively expensive to raise a child with little help for people who can’t get a spot in public day care for their children because there are so few available.  It’s difficult for a mother to even find a job, because they believe they’re most likely going to be temporary staff.  Japanese business culture is completely screwed up.  Businesspeople are required to stay late after an inefficient use of their time because they can’t leave before the boss leaves.  They can’t spend much time with their own children.  It’s become a hassle for people to have children, so they choose not to.  Police also like to target foreigners, even though they haven’t done anything.  Chinese residents are often considered the most likely culprits for any crimes that have been done.  None of this sounds advanced to me.

Let’s look around the world.  Governments seem to behave like children.  Petty squabbles, religious bigotry, and grudges that go back decades cloud the minds of these so-called adults.  Life in Star Trek’s version of Earth seems pretty nice.  I’d like to live there.

But of course, in fiction, without these problems, we wouldn’t have a very good story, would we?

The top 10 countries I want to visit

I’ve always considered myself a traveler, even though I haven’t traveled much.  A lot of people have never left their country.  A large number of them have rarely left their hometown.  I didn’t leave Canada until I was a teenager, when my family went to North Dakota for a family reunion.  The next time I left Canada was when I was 28, and that was to move to Japan.  I’ve been in Japan for 7 years now, and I have traveled only to Canada via the USA.  I have been to Seattle-Tacoma, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul airports, but have not ventured into the cities themselves.  I’ve done a lot of reading about countries, though.

Here’s where I’d like to travel:

1. New Zealand – It’s remote, it’s beautiful, has incredible mountains a lots of wilderness.  It has unique wildlife and, from what I’ve heard, a slower pace of life.  It seems like a great place to visit.

2. Ireland – I’m fascinated by castles and history.  I’d love to see the castles in Ireland, as well as the green countryside.  Also, Giant’s Causeway seems very interesting.

3. Australia – The outback has a certain attraction to it.  I’ve always wanted to visit a desert, and I think Australia’s is the one I’d like to see the most.  Ayer’s Rock/Uluru is a fascinating place, but I’ve often wondered what Alice Springs is like, being so isolated.  Tasmania would be interesting, as well.

4. Germany – Again, I like castles, and Germany has plenty.  I also like beer and sausage.

5. Costa Rica – Probably the most stable Central American country, it has a big eco-tourism industry that is very attractive.  I’d love to see the rainforests of Central America.

6. Norway – My grandmother’s ancestral country has had me very interested.  It has plenty to see, including the fjords, historical cities and Vikings.  Well, not living Vikings, but the history would be interesting to learn about.

7. Italy – As a lover of history, I can’t forget about Italy.  It has some amazing ruins, and it would be great to see Rome, the ruins of Pompeii and Venice.  The most active volcano in continental Europe is in Italy, Mt. Etna (I know, it’s not on the mainland, it’s on Sicily).

8. Peru – Lots of history to see here, mainly from the Inca.  Machu Picchu is a major attraction, as is Nazca.  It would be amazing to see them.

9. Iceland – This is also a remote country, and it seems like a great place to go trekking.  The Blue Lagoon is a big hot spring lake that I’d love to see.  Reykjavik, from what I’ve seen in pictures, is a nice city, as well.  I want to see the glaciers, too.

10. Greece – Finally, a very famous country with a great history and some amazing ruins.  There are many islands, and I want to see Santorini, which is the remnant of a gigantic volcanic eruption 3600 years ago.  The municipality of Thera looks like it would be great to explore.

So, that’s my list.  It was hard to only list 10.  I’d like to see far more than that, of course.  In the future, I would like to write about the places I want to visit in more detail.  Where do you want to go?

What’s the greatest epic fantasy series?

I’m a fan of epic fantasy series.  I enjoy seeing familiar characters going through many challenges and adventures over several books.  It requires a lot of time devoted to just one story.  There are many epic fantasies that I’ve only scratched the surface of.  I know that this question has been asked by many and there are websites with personalised lists of the top epic fantasy series, but I’d like to generate a little discussion here.  In your opinion, what is the best epic fantasy series?  What gets your heart racing whenever the tension rises?  What series has made you wait impatiently for the next part, which you eagerly devoured when you finally got your hands on it?  Please leave your comments!


Inspiration is a wonderful thing.  I just wish I knew how to make it happen more often.

As I was walking home tonight, I was pondering an idea I had for the novel I’m planning.  I’d been struggling with one very crucial part of the entire setup of the book and how I’d go about it.  I realised I was thinking about implementing the idea the wrong way.  My modified idea is a bit more down to earth, quite literally.  Not only that, it provided me with a short story idea I can use to help introduce my science fiction world.

I’ve also had some other inspiration recently that I’d like to get started on soon.  I’m going to write some very short stories based on dreams I’ve had.  These are some rather unusual dreams, but I felt that they could make good short stories or even flash fiction.  When I have time, I’ll be working on them and posting them to this blog.  They’ll be more of a writing exercise than something I want to publish.

Inspiration has been coming to me slowly lately, mostly due to the fact that I’ve been working a lot with not much free time.  I only have one day off every week.  But I find that my inspiration comes to me at two very different times.  One is while I’m walking home from the train station, and the other is when I’m taking a shower.

When do you get inspiration?


Book Review – The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World” is the first book in Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic “The Wheel of Time.”  It’s sometimes considered a modern take on Tolkien’s world, although I haven’t seen any dwarves or elves.  I can see some parallels plot-wise, but I’d like to consider this book on its own merits.  I don’t like comparing to other books.

This series came highly recommended to me by a friend who loves “The Wheel of Time.”  I’d already had most of the series, though I hadn’t read any of it. Well, I finally started it, and I’d have to say my initial reaction wasn’t very favourable.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

The story starts out with a prologue, which sets a bit of a background for the events that will happen in the book.  It then moved forward to our main story, featuring a trio of sheepherders, tall and strong Rand, prankster Mat, and stocky Perrin.  These three, as well as a few other characters meet a mysterious woman and man, and are swept into a long journey of self-discovery and a quest to save the world from an evil being.  Sounds like a pretty typical fantasy epic storyline.  It is a pretty standard story, but from what I’ve heard, the books after this are quite different.

It’s said in this book that time repeats itself.  Ages come and go in a forward progression of time, but the events that happen are repeated many times, though by different people who are actually incarnations of people in previous ages.  It’s an interesting concept, so I wasn’t exactly sure if each book would just repeat the same kind of story or not.  As far as I know, that’s not the case.  It’s a very, very long epic story involving the same characters.  I’m interested to see how it progresses.

As I said before, my initial reaction wasn’t very favourable.  The story progressed very slowly, and I found it somewhat difficult to get into it.  The characters weren’t very engaging, and I just couldn’t get attached to any of them.  I felt no sympathy for them.  But they did grow on me over time.  This is the kind of story that you just have to stick with to the end to be satisfied.  In the last quarter of the book, relationships between characters were moving in interesting ways, and questions were finally being answered.  There were a lot of mysteries presented earlier on in the book, and I was looking forward to seeing them resolved.  However, by the end of the book, several mysteries were still unresolved.  It ended with the main story concluded, but it also opened the way for a much bigger story to be told.  It looks like it’ll be a very large epic story to come.

I felt like this book was a mediocre story most of the way, and I was thinking I’d have to give it a middle of the road 3 stars.  But the final quarter of the book redeemed it.  I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It’s good if you’re patient, and I do recommend that you finish reading it.

Book Review – The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System

As many people know, I have a degree in physics and astronomy, so I love to read about space and the planets.  When I found “The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System” in a bookstore here in Japan, I knew I had to buy it.  This is the third edition, published in 2005.  It was written by and contains artwork by artist and author Ron Miller and artist, author and astronomer William K. Hartmann.

This book is set up to take you on a tour of the solar system as if you are a first time visitor.  It starts out with an overview of the solar system and describes how the book is laid out.  Then it describes how the solar system came to be.  It is a bit scientific here, but reasonably easy to read.

The meat of the book comes next.  Instead of going through the planets in order, it starts off with the largest bodies in the solar system.  Beginning with Jupiter, we get to learn about each body, from the structures to the atmospheres.  It moves on to Saturn, then Uranus, Neptune, and finally the Earth.  After the Earth, it continues with Venus, Mars and then Ganymede.  Ganymede?  Yes, Jupiter’s largest moon is larger than the planet Mercury.  But Mercury isn’t next, it’s Titan.  Then it’s finally Mercury.  So basically, it continues on looking at the planets, satellites, dwarf planets, a few major asteroids, Kuiper Belt objects and comets.  Each is accompanied by the latest photographs and beautiful artwork.  It even contains photographs from Cassini and Huygens from Saturn and Titan, as well as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars.  It doesn’t include any photos from MESSENGER at Mercury, Phoenix at Mars, or Dawn at Vesta.  Those missions occurred after this book was published.

The book concludes with a section on Exoplanets and a glossary of terms.  I really enjoyed reading this book and seeing the artwork.  It’s a must for anyone who loves astronomy and planetary exploration.  I look forward to the fourth edition, if there is one, with pictures from Vesta, Ceres, Pluto, Mercury, and more!

I’ll give this a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars.  Highly recommended!

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.