I’ve been thinking about 1998 a lot lately. I recently bought a ’98 BMW Z3 as a sort of next track car. There’s not a great aftermarket for it so it might not be the best choice although I think it’s a good alternative to a Miata, which I just am not interested in.

I was building a Nissan 350Z track car for the past year and got off track quite a bit with a couple of other cars and now I’m back on track with building this 2004 Z again and doing it properly without distractions. then I sort of derailed myself again buying the Z3. but I couldn’t resist it. it’s a cute car and it’s going to be fun to build it up.

So what about 1998? it takes me back because I’d only been married a few years and that marriage went nuclear. my first child was born in that year. I remember having an old 1968 Mustang at the time and not knowing much about working on cars so I was doing my best with it but mostly it was stock and pretty scary to drive actually with drum brakes.

I remember looking at Mustang Monthly magazine at the equipment that at the time I could only drool over, whereas today I could buy anything for that car and it wouldn’t affect my finances at all. that will definitely cause you to reflect back on the past on a time when money was very tight and life was hard.

The world today really sucks and that’s not even debatable. the internet has wreaked havoc on our society and there’s most likely hard times ahead socially politically economically, everything is falling apart. the social failure is probably the most shocking development today because that has tended to be a rock in the midst of crises like the 2008 Obama recession. today we have social disaster leading the way ahead of political and economic disaster. men and women are not talking to each other anymore and not dating and the social fabric is becoming unraveled.

There’s much today that feels more stable than my life back in 1998 but I don’t trust anything today whereas back then life was more predictable and even though I was struggling I was young and that didn’t surprise me and I was used to living frugally.

What’s the point? there’s really no relation to 1998 for me today I was just reflecting on my car hobby which really started in 1998 when I first started wrenching on that old Mustang and it caused me to go down a thought maze.

I’m also considering ditching this website. haven’t posted anything here in a long time. no one reads blogs anymore, they’re too busy liking each other’s photos on social media to actually read anything today.

The thing is when I sit in this car it takes me back to that year. I graduated from college in 97 and the Z3 had just come out and I thought it was a gorgeous car and of course I could never afford it.

The reason it doesn’t bother me to spend money on a car–another used car–it’s because the economy is failing and I think that I can make money by doing a light restoration and track build. I get a huge amount of enjoyment out of improving a car making it faster on the track and then I can turn around and flip it when I’m done. if I don’t get all my money back that’s okay because it was enjoyable but I still get it chunk of money to go towards another project.

I have some vivid memories of 1998 not least of which due to the birth of my first child, whose birthday is coming up in a few days. sitting in the Z3 is enough but driving it is like a burst of nostalgia. it’s a lot like playing an old favorite console game again on the original hardware like I did last year with the everdrive cartridges.

Next time you’re planning on spending an ungodly amount of money on an expensive car, bury that ego trip and buy an old car instead and spend 1/4 of the money upgrading it with aftermarket parts to make it fun again. replace all of the sad and tired old rubber bushings and put go fast parts on it and then have fun without a monthly car payment.

DBRobots Resurrected

My daughter has shown some interest in STEM so I was going to buy her a BBC Micro:bit robot kit DIY for $80 (which is cheaper than a Rasp-Pi kit) and thought–you know, we should do some coding first to see if she’ll stick with it. Coding is free, more or less.

I searched online and was thwarted at finding a modern CRobots implementation. I am surprised. Are there really no fans of the genre? I tried several search attempts that should have worked to no avail. A few older projects that weren’t appealing. Ugh! Quite a few “real robot” sims but that’s high-end stuff. Kaitlyn is a beginner to coding.

So, as the saying goes, if you want something done right… I opened up a 12-year old project called DBRobots (coded in DarkBasicPro). Loosely inspired by CRobots, not following the syntax at all. It’s BASIC code, and not scripted, it’s compiled. You have to dump your robot code into the IDE and run it. So what? I searched for a Lua plugin but DBPro is pretty old and I’d rather keep the package simple.

The good news is, there’s a free open source version of DarkBasicPro on github and a binary that someone was kind enough to build for us old fans and share…. HERE. Uploaded by Lee Bamber himself. Very cool! The IDE is lean and fast and the full help system is built in (F1 on any key word). Beautiful.

I opened up DBRobots, circa 2008?, and it wouldn’t run. Egads. After some digging, I cleaned up the code quite a bit and got it to run. It was a problem with my old code and the timer() function. Cleaned everything up, the whole project, all of the code (it really isn’t very big). Got it to run in multiple resolutions. Added a settings file.

Here’s what a simple robot looks like:

function FlipFlopBot()

SetBotName("FLIP FLOP")

`near left edge?
if GetBotX() < GetArenaLeft() + GetBotSize()
    SetBotDirection( 90 - 45 + rnd(90) )
`near right edge?
if GetBotX() > GetArenaRight() - 30
    SetBotDirection( 270 - 45 + rnd(90) )
`near top edge?
if GetBotY() < GetArenaTop() + GetBotSize()
    SetBotDirection( 180 - 45 + rnd(90) )
`near bottom edge?
if GetBotY() > GetArenaBottom() - 30
    SetBotDirection( 0 - 45 + rnd(90) )

if GetBotSpeed() = 0
    SetBotDirection( rnd(360) )
    SetBotSpeed( 100 )

`memory bank 1 used for scan direction
degrees = GetBotMemory(1)
if degrees = 0 then degrees = 10
angle = GetBotScanAngle() + degrees

if BotScan(angle)
    degrees = degrees * -1



So, I think this has great potential as a learning tool for kids. Not that there aren’t plenty of those out there already, but personally I don’t like Python and it seems like everything is done in Python these days. The language is terrible, can we just agree on that? You get used to it, that’s what you do with Python. LUA is far better if you can find an engine behind it. I wanted to go that route with DBRobots. Maybe it will still be possible in time. But for now, it’s easy enough to write a robot program in a new .dba file in the project, point one of the 4 robot “slots” to your robot, and juala–whala–how is that spelled?–your robot is duking it out with 3 others.

I have my own DirectX 9-based engine from years ago with LUA built in and used it in several courses with some full game implementations. But I don’t want to screw with Visual Studio ever again. 10 was the last one for me. I did manage to use 13 years ago for the 4th and final edition of Beginning Game Programming but it wasn’t a great experience. If I were to open up a C++ environment again, I’ll get burned out all over again. Gotta keep it simple. As much as I love C++ and can do almost anything with it (like implementing a software sphere texture mapper for planets in Starflight just before the project was abandoned), I don’t want to go there again at this stage of my life. I gave years–decades–of my life to code and I am a master but don’t find enjoyment at that level anymore. Which is why a simple thing like DBRobots made me smile today.

I might put this up on github in time but it needs a lot of improvements first. This was just one 6-hour marathon to revive it so far. Anyone who is interested, send me a line via email or IG @jsharbour (the one and only SM I use–because of my kids).


I’m not posting much online these days but wanted to share something at least once per year for anyone from the “old days” who stops by. Feel free to drop me a line. I always enjoy hearing from old friends/acquaintances from my writing/game dev/UAT days. Which seems like a lifetime ago now.

As for writing, I haven’t written anything in five years. The last effort was a pair of self-pub novels on Amazon Kindle (which did pretty well without advertising). These days I’m running a business with five employees and it’s been pretty stable even through Covid (gov’t contract). I’ve given up game development after holding on to a few projects for a long time. My last game dev book was published in 2014 right before Cengage went belly-up. I didn’t even get comp copies, have never seen that final book! But after 20-something books, I lost track anyway…

These days (post-2020) I’m semi-retired, not doing heavy stress anymore like in years past. My time at UAT was nightmarishly stressful and I aged a lot during those 5 years. Aging that I have reversed more recently. I’ve lost 50 lbs (nutrition, not exercise) and I’m working 3 days per week. In my spare time, I build race cars and drive them on the local tracks: Thunderhill (Willows, CA) and Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, CA).

Plural is a bit of an exaggeration since I only have two, and one is for sale. I bought a 2011 GT500 which turned out to be ill-suited for racing. And, instead of working it over I decided to sell it and focus on my second car: 2004 Nissan 350Z. A blast. I finished my first season in group 2 and will be starting my 2nd season in three months (Feb, 2022). I’m doing most of the mechanical work in my own garage. Replacing most of the suspension bushings first, then doing just about everything to the car to make it faster. Sans the engine. California smog rules being what they are, I can’t tune it just yet. I’m still torn about this car: do I want to go all-out race or keep it street legal? So far I’m keeping it streetable but I can’t tune it in CA without workarounds (like having the ECU shipped to an out-of-state relative). But it’s fine as is for now, about 300 hp, Corbeau seats, solid bushings, solid mounts front and back, Tein shocks and springs, etc. I might buy a cloned ECU for smog, then do what I want with the tune.

This year coming up will be my first full season and I intend to graduate to HPDE 3, 4, and into time trials as fast as possible. Racing on a legit track is the most fun I’ve ever had and I’m totally hooked!

There’s a mix of stuff in this channel but you can find a few of my own videos as well if you’re interested in seeing my cars (works in progress). The 350Z is my first “race car” and I am planning on getting a 2nd one, though not sure what yet. The Shelby was a big disappointment. Not on the track, but just in general. It’s just too expensive for the track and doesn’t handle well. I might use the proceeds to buy a 2023 Nissan Z.

Retro Gaming Redone (Going Solid State)

I grew up without access to any good video games. My parents believed the Atari 2600 was good enough to last us 8 years (and my sister didn’t play so “us” means “me” here). During those 8 years, I acquired about 25 4-color games which required a lot of imagination. Meanwhile, 1985 came and went: no Nintendo Entertainment System, even though I rented games to take to a friend’s house and begged them to adopt me. 1986, Sega Master System was released. I personally rubbed off the button labels on the Sears demo model (like I had with their IntelliVision).

1987, oh hey, I got a Radio Shack Tandy PC! (that exclamation point is sarcasm). Still no NES or Sega Master System. I did get a 22 rifle, though, for Christmas! The frown I gave my dad angered him. Is he BLIND? Can’t he see that I hate some things in life, and love other things? And you’re supposed to–you know–encourage your kids with the things they enjoy? You know, their interests that might develop into talent and skill in time? Nope. I needed a rifle like I needed a fireplace in my bedroom.

1989 saw the release of Sega Genesis. And for typical boomer parents who took us to the mall every Friday night, and Saturday, and usually Sunday (because that’s what life is about, envy), even though I run to any video game demo unit in sight, it doesn’t register a mechanical or electrical switch in either brain that their kid loves video games? That he loves to read? And play board games? And write stories?

In 1991, I was 19 going on 16 due to my incompetent upbringing, and still relied on parents for too much in life. I had worked steadily mowing lawns since 8th grade, but it was chump change. I bought myself a Super Nintendo in 1992 after giving up on receiving one as a gift. 1991 holiday season came and went, as did my January birthday, where I received a crossbow. Yes, a crossbow, a big serious thing with a manual string (loading the string is like lifting a 30-lb bucket of water out of a well).

A crossbow! Is that backup in case the 22 rifle jams? (It did jam; it was a Remington stalk-loading automatic that could perforate a squirrel tommy-gun style, if I were to ever actually shoot at an animal….).

(Pause: the memory caused a brief but violent state of mania with profanity, but I’m ok now).

But I had finally done it! Escaped the boomers enough to buy myself a video game system! Sometime in mid-1992 I had about 4 games for my SNES and that was about all I could afford.

Can you imagine the world of 1992 today? No, you can’t, I’m being rhetorical! (that is not a sarcastic ex-po, it’s real). No, you can’t, you spoiled 21st century first-world human, because in 1992 there was no Amazon or GameStop or eBay or anything remotely like these wonders of the future. The extent of offerings in my small hometown involved K-Mart, KB Toys (in the mall), and a mom-&-pop video store that sold video and PC games at full retail price. (It wasn’t until years later that we received a Toys-R-Us and a Target, by which time I was an adult and had left).

Not only could I not afford $49.99 per game for the SNES, but these stores only had about 12 games for each system, so I literally did not know about interesting third-party games such as ports from successful computer games like D&D, Ultima, Might & Magic, etc.

Today, there are no small towns when Amazon, FedEx, DHL, and UPS are patrolling the streets.

Suffice it to say–and yes, I’m finally done pitying myself and ready to continue–I was deprived of my favorite pasttime as a child, and like my grandparents who survived the Great Depression, I have frugality issues and angst and tend to overcompensate now that I’m getting older. (Yes, I did just compare going without video games to the Great Depression, and feel that it’s appropriate!)

My kids are all nearly grown, which gives me a little more time and money than I had when I was waist-deep in kids. The result is obvious and I don’t need to spell it out, except it might feel good to do so, if I were doing the obvious. Which I’m not. I’m not buying video games by the truck load from eBay & etc. Nope!

Oh, well, I have the consoles and games, but I’m done buying. Yep, done spending money on video games. I’m not pirating. Er, sort of. Because, I own them all. Or, have may be a more appropriate word.

I’m reminded of Nicholas Negroponte’s book, Being Digital, which I read in college. He presented a now-outdated but then-prescient case for why the world should shift more into the digital realm. For example, he wrote that it is unconscionable that we mail paper documents to each other when digital scans (or even the archaic fax) is at hand.

This is the approach I have adopted for my emotional need for video games. The Negroponte approach means that I do not spend my free hours whittling away my income on retro cartridges, special edition gold consoles, and likely scratched optical discs of games. (That is so boomer).

Oh, ho ho! No, you think you know where I’m going with this, but YOU DO NOT! (non-sarc-ex-po). I’m not talking about emulators. There, I said it, you can stop holding your breath now.

Alright, enough suspense. Yes, I have every game ever made for my choice video game consoles, and no, I did not buy them. I didn’t spend countless hours pathetically searching for rare cartridges and discs of games I’ve always wanted to play but never could afford (or find). And I’m not using emulation (yuck! that’s like kissing a mannequin).

I discovered the Negroponte solution to retro gaming: DIGITAL games on PHYSICAL hardware. The person who made this possible is a Ukrainian engineer called Krikzz (krikzz.com) and his product is called EverDrive (everdrivestore.com). These are the models I’m using:

Nintendo 64 (EverDrive 64 X7)

Nintendo SNES (Super EverDrive X5)

Sega Genesis (Mega EverDrive X7)
(incl Master System games)

Game Boy Advance (EverDrive GBA X5)

What about optical consoles? I wrote a book years ago on modding the original Xbox using a modchip, and I still have that modded Xbox with some of my all-time favorite games (such as Gauntlet Dark Legacy and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 1 & 2) loaded onto a greatly expanded hard drive. As for other consoles, the solution today is to replace the optical drive with an optical drive simulator running an SD card. Awesome tech, no?

Having never been a PlayStation fan, I do not know anything about that platform line, but I do know what’s possible with my two favorite brands: Nintendo and Sega. The GameCube can be modded with an optical drive simulator called GCLoader. The Dreamcast can be modded with a simulator called GDEMU (Gigabyte Drive Emulator–bad naming, it’s not an emulator, it’s a simulator). Pull out the old optical unit, and plug in a new device that tricks the console into loading games from an SD card instead (custom software takes your chosen ROM from a menu and loads it into the buffer for playback).

Sega Dreamcast

The reason why I am not going to install a GCLoader into my GameCube is not due to fondness for the console’s original hardware, it’s simply because I’m using this GameCube to host the GBA EverDrive X5 via the Game Boy Player. I have the adapter (which plugs into the bottom of the GameCube) as well as the torturously rare GBP disc needed to use it.

So, there you go, all digital. Mr. Negroponte, I’m doing my best! No more burning CDs or any such nonsense to enjoy out-of-production games that are expensive if one can even find them for sale!

And the final result is that I’m done! I can play every game released for these consoles, especially the games from my game-deprived years. In the long run, no more screwing with bad cartridges or scratched discs. Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m done with that.

America’s Greek Legacy

I have always enjoyed studying the history of the ancient Greeks, but that interest was exponentially increased when I played Assassin’s Creed ODYSSEY by Ubisoft this year. First, it’s the best AC game so far. It’s far from perfect; the combat can be very frustrating at times; but it’s depth of story and gameplay and incredible detail brought ancient Greece back to life. I was in awe of this game.

When I visited Thermopylae in this game, it looked so real that I felt chills, as if I were really visiting the site. (As a result, I’ve started saving money for a trip to Greece).

I also bought the new iteration of Sid Meier’s Civilization, Civilization VI, because it features two Greek leaders: Pericles, ruler of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and Gorgo, queen of Sparta, who ruled alongside Leonidas, and was an intelligent, insightful, wise, powerful woman. Playing their civilizations is just pure fun, but not very educational.

Inspired by a game to study the Greeks more studiously, I’ve read many books: The Iliad by Homer, the Odyssey by Homer, The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, and plan to read several more such as The Histories by Herodotus and The Aenid by Virgil. I also just discovered Helena P. Shrader whose works I will explore. (I really wish Pressfield would write more about the Greek world). I generally don’t like lectures on audio, but discovered Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, and he’s witty and fun and educational, and his episodes are sometimes 4-6 hours long! And it goes by so fast, too.

So, to say that Ubisoft’s Odyssey enriched my life would be accurate. Like I said, I’ve always enjoyed Greek history, but never took the plunge in a serious way. Now, I’m bathing in it. And one amazing thing I learned: There was no HERCULES. His name was Heracles, and he was an evil bastard, not a hero. (Kevin Sorbo’s portrayal was entertaining, that’s all). And there has still never been a film or show that accurately portrayed the Trojan War (aka the battle for Helen of Troy). Helen was given that title by Priam, king of Troy, to validate her defection. But the war was really about Agamemnon’s ambition, while Troy was a powerful trading port on the coast of modern-day Turkey, across the Aegean Sea from Greece. Helen begged to be returned to end the conflict, but Priam knew that it was only her vanity talking. After the war, Helen returned to Sparta and took her place beside her husband king, Menelaus, and by all accounts, she lived happily. She is mentioned in The Odyssey, ruling alongside Menelaus many years after the war. Chalk it up to Hollywood drama (Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra was a gorgeous film, but it kind of ruined historical films in Hollywood).

All of this stuff is all the more fascinating to me because the United States of America was founded as a modern-day Greek Republic. In 1787, when the U.S. constitution was ratified, the United States became the first Republic to arise in 2000 years. Rome, also, was founded as a republic, entirely due to Greek influence. Much of southern Italy was colonized by Greeks and their culture was widespread.

It is a simple fact through observation that “The Republic” is the most powerful form of government humans have devised. It was true in Hellas in 2500BC, in Rome in 500BC, and in America today. Interestingly, and I’m coming to the point of this piece, is that in all three examples of the Republic form of representative government, in all three that have existed, these nations became so powerful that they transitioned into empires, as the United States is becoming today in exactly the same manner.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-American at all; I’m just observing and commenting on what I see after studying the past.

It seems to me–and I’m not especially smart or observant over others, I recognize there are a lot of people far smarter and aware than I am–but it seems to me, nonetheless, that the Republic form of government tends to dominate all of her neighbors simply due to great economic success. That alone determines political power on the world stage: wealth. When one nation accumulates great wealth, it naturally can afford a powerful military, and as a result of the personal freedoms in a Republic, people are compelled to invent and innovate to become personally rich themselves, and this raises the tide for everyone.

Yes, I believe the United States will evolve into an empire, just like Greece (Hellas) and Rome did. Exactly in the same manner, only with modern language and rationale. When trade must be protected, then a wealthy nation will protect trade by partnering with neighboring nations, and opposing hostile competitors (who embrace contrary philosophies of governance such as the insidious Marxism). This is a de facto empire, is it not? We the people don’t need to formally replace our constitution and state, from this day hence, we are the American Empire!

No, of course not (and I didn’t make this point very eloquently, I’ll admit). The United States is already in the first stages of empire, not because some powerful Americans want to rule the world, but because of our wealth. Wealth generated by the Republic form of government.

Now that the basic point has been made, I’ll be more specific: The United States is a democratic republic, which is a combination of parliamentary-style representation (the Senate) and Greek-style representation (the House of Representatives), combined into the Congress (which means, meeting together in one place). The executive branch is also very different from parliamentary nations. In a parliamentary system, members of parliament do everything on behalf of their people, including voting for the “president.” The people do not get to directly vote for a president. Instead, parliamentarians nominate from among their own body a Prime Minister. Another form exists: parliamentary republic. This is very similar to a democratic republic, where parliament appoints its own Prime Minister, but the people also vote separately for a President. However, there is only one body of representatives. I personally like this system.

I personally do not feel that the U.S. Congress is effective. The Senate and the House seem to conflict over bills, making them ineffective. And, if the president doesn’t sign a bill, it’s returned for revision. This two-body system is too complicated and rife with corruption to be effective. I’m not sure if a democratic parliament is any better, but it seems less complicated and less prone to corruption.

The biggest flaw in the U.S. constitution, as I see it, is the House, which is based on population. Why is that needed? As the population grows, so does the House. This problem was alleviated in 1913 with a revision that limited it to 435 members, which was a good move. But even that is an enormous number of representatives. Are they effective? I have not seen the House do anything useful in my adult years of life that the Senate and President could not have done better, more easily, and with less corruption. I want my representatives to act decisively when steering the ship, not vote on issues based on gifts they receive from lobbyists. The baby boomer generation has been most blatantly corrupt, not even bothering to hide their self-serving legislation, but that’s a topic for another day.

No, I don’t see any need for 435 idiots gathered together to pretend to govern. It seemed like a good idea to the founders, but people are stupid. Let’s just be blunt about it, okay? People are stupid. And those who are not stupid are too busy working, raising a family, etc, to pay attention to what’s going on. And the House was never intended to be populated by career politicians. It was supposed to be a system wherein a professional with a good household will put his life on hold for 2 years to serve the nation, then return home again to resume his business affairs. End of story. This beautiful idea has been dirtied by corrupt, evil people, intent on self enrichment. They should be publicly flogged. That would quickly put a stop to it.

So, there you have my perspectives on the ancient republics and the United States today. This nation was founded on much more than just the Greek Republic from Plato and Demokratus. The cultures are very similar as well. You’ll recall the Peloponnesian War, 430BC, between Sparta and Athens and their respective allies. This was a Greek Civil War. Over what issues? Believe it or not, you’ll recognize the roots of the conflict: conservative versus liberal values.

Sparta was a conservative city-state who ruled many lesser city-states in a de facto manner (not a declared empire) called the Peloponnese League. Spartans married one spouse for life (usually). Spartans were pro-military in the extreme. Spartans were very religious, very faith-centered, very devout to all of the gods, but especially the goddess Athena (daughter of Zeus almighty). A modern-day Christian (though not so much today, but perhaps from the 1950s era) would feel right at home in ancient Sparta, other things being equal.

These people believed in honor, respect, duty, and feared God. To Spartans, Athens was a Godless city filled with sinners. Similar American cities: Oklahoma City, Colorado Springs, Fort Worth, Boise, Nashville, Arlington.

Athens was a liberal city-state that traded with its neighbors and wasn’t very good at diplomacy or managing large cities. Athens raised taxes and spent money for services that Spartans did freely for God and country. Athens incurred debt to pay for their army and navy and hired mercenaries. Athens had a powerful navy and trade but was less strict, lacking discipline. Athenians openly expressed gay lifestyles and had the freedom to do so without persecution. Athenians were open to academics (a Greek word), philosophy, and even questioning faith. Most Athenians were devout but many were not, and the faithless were allowed to express their views openly. Athens also worshiped the goddess Athena (the city’s namesake).

To Athenians, Sparta was a rigid, harsh, oppressive city, ruled by self-righteous hypocrites (another Greek word). Similar American cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Detroit.

The Greek civil war ended in 400BC, with Spartan victory and the Peloponnesian League ruled all of southern Greece, until a great earthquake leveled Sparta. However, the stability of this empire allowed Alexander to emerge (50 years later) from the northern territory (where Thermopylae is located) and use the established traditions and stability to raise an army to get revenge on the Persians. After he decimated the Persian empire, he continued on through Palestine and to Egypt.

This conquest spread Greek culture even further, but at that time there was no way to maintain such a far-flung empire, so Alexander’s solution was to plant Greek cities in every territory he conquered, filled with Greek citizens, transplanted from the homeland, to keep Greek influence alive in that region, with a garrison. The purpose was not to enforce taxes but CULTURE. This was more of a trade empire than the vassal system imposed by Romans later on.

Speaking of whom, Alexander’s empire lasted until about 150BC–so, 200 years, when Rome conquered Greece. But, Rome didn’t eradicate Greek culture. Rome actually continued to embrace it, internalized many of the customs and beliefs. For instance, Romans adopted Elysium and Hades and the Olympic gods, more or less, with their own.

Due to this cultural influence, the New Testament of the Bible was largely written in Greek, and most of the concepts borrowed from Greek culture. The Jews plagiarized the Greeks, and Christians today still believe the Bible originated everything it contains. All I can say to that is, read Herodotus, Homer, Thucydides–the source material. You will be surprised to find “Biblical” phrases and concepts.


I recently purchased a DNA testing kit from MyHeritage with interesting results. I am: 55% Celtic, 30% Scandinavian, and 11% Greek. I was pleasantly surprised. 🙂

Writing Lethargy Due To Overwork

The past two years have been filled with heavy work hours, reducing my writing output to a trickle of my previous productivity. There was a time when I was able to produce a moderate-sized chapter every 3-4 days, consistently, for months. Including R&D time spent writing code, some of which I was not quite prepared for in advance.

It seems like the programming books I worked hardest on sold the fewest copies, while those that I wrote very quickly were bestsellers. For instance, Visual Basic Game Programming for Teens, first published in Jan, 2005, was based on Visual Basic 6.0 and the DirectX type library.

I wrote that book in one month flat, including all of the design work for the sample game, artwork, etc. (The artwork was done by an artist, but I had to convert character animations into sprite sheets). ONE MONTH! Four weeks. My editor at Cengage was a bit freaked out by that because I had promised her the book by October 31, and hadn’t turned anything in by the end of September! I told her I would meet the deadline…somehow. Reason for the delay: Sams’ Black Art of Xbox Mods, which I’d spent all summer working on (including soldering iron to install mod chips into several iterations of the Xbox). It was hard work. By the time I’d finished, I was ready for a straightforward software project, so VB Game Programming for Teens was a sort of “Build Your Own RPG in VB.”

The book I worked hardest on, most time consuming, was Multi-Threaded Game Engine Design. It received a range of review scores because of unrealistic expectations on the part of readers, which may be due to an unfortunate book title. It was a good idea but how can you explore game engine design with threading without building a game engine first? No one wants to read about an existing game engine, they want to build it. Well, readers of this book didn’t so much. I don’t know what they wanted, actually, but I delivered an engine that would let you explore threading in various sections of the game loop, such as the entity manager, 2D renderer, shader renderer, audio system, input system, collision detection system, and so on. But it wasn’t deep enough for the most outspoken readers. I almost had a nervous breakdown from that book. I was dismissed from teaching at UAT on bad terms in the middle of this book, and was finishing up the final chapters on a laptop while travelling. It’s a good book. I’ll never apologize for it. That engine was solid. I used it for a ton of stuff over the years.

The easiest book was probably Video Game Programming for Kids, which sold very, very well, and the VB for Teens book sold on par. For a programming book, it’s rare to sell more than 20,000 copies. Most of them sell in the < 5,000 range. Those two sold 20,000 each. The shortest writing times, the least amount of work and stress, for the biggest return. I don’t know what to make of that. But it causes me to ponder my approach to writing fiction.

I released The Mandate of Earth in early 2015 and it quickly made it into the bestseller ranks alongside authors like Greg Bear and Orson Scott Card. Not bad for an indie with no marketing budget. But, after six months, sales dropped off completely. I’ve learned that this is fairly normal for fiction, especially in a niche market like “hard science fiction,” when sci-fi is already extremely niche. At any rate, that novel was a very long project of mine and I released it more for my own enjoyment than to make money. (It did bring in a good sum, too, while the hype lasted). I’d started that novel in 2003 during my lunch breaks at a job in Phoenix writing code for a healthcare company. 12 years later, after countless hours of revising and formatting (and learning the Kindle and paperback formatting), it was finally out in the world. I probably earned a dollar an hour on that novel, but it wasn’t about the money. That was a bonus. It sold about 1,000 copies (which is either good or bad, depending on your expectations for the indie market). I was thrilled with the sales. I would have enjoyed it if I could have retired–that’s the wish of every indie–but wasn’t expecting even 1,000. So, that was an enjoyable life achievement.

Lately, though, over the past two years, I’ve not been writing code or fiction, I’ve been driving thousands of miles per week in the family business. During that time, I’ve been taking notes. Any idea that occurs to me. The result is a document with 100 pages of story ideas. As soon as I find the time and energy, I’ll get back to writing.

And just to prove to myself that I haven’t lost my mojo, I challenged myself to write a mini-micro-short in a single evening, and pulled it off! I think it’s a pretty cool story about a time traveler who goes back to witness the death of Jesus Christ. I was tempted to post it but I’ll hold off until I figure out what I’m doing with this site, first.

Thanks for stopping by and reading (if you got this far). I would enjoy your comments if you care to share any.