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  • Lilium Air Taxi Stalled?

    Posted on February 10th, 2021 admin No comments

    Lilium GmbH is a German company working on an electric VTOL air taxi, starting with a two-seat prototype and working towards five- and seven-seat production models. The canard-wing craft, which the company calls “Lilium Jet”, uses 36 ducted fans for both lift and–when the wing rotates–for thrust.

    The Lilium Jet in flight. Image: Lilium GmbH. Used with permission.

    I think Lilium has a lot going for it — innovative concept, attractive design, talented staff, impressive funding, solid partnerships, a design award…. I’ve been waiting for a possible IPO, with an interest in owning a few shares.

    An article today by Forbes, based largely on comments from previous employees, is critical of Lilium and its operations, even as that potential public offering approaches. Is this just FUD to drive the opening price down? Is somebody already planning a Tesla-style short campaign? https://www.forbes.com/…/10/lilium-evtol-spac-air-taxi/…

    Indeed, it seems that Lilium GmbH has been stalled since their five-seat unmanned prototype flight video of Oct. 2019. The only media releases from the company since then have concerned new hires and business partnerships, with a lot of hype about vertiports. There has been no information from them at all about flight tests, tech innovations, or progress on building the second factory in Munich. The company website does not even contain a story about the Feb. 2020 fire.

    Lilium vertiport (artist conception) Image: Lilium GmbH. Used with permission.

    Yes, the pandemic may have restricted the assembly of design teams, construction crews, production staff, or flight test crews; but that’s no reason for progress to halt or for the flow of information to dry up completely.

    Is Lilium in a tip-stall and ready to crash?

  • Coronavirus Survival vs Temperature

    Posted on March 30th, 2020 admin No comments

    Given that it’s -14C outside, I started to wonder about survival rates of the coronavirus vs temperature and relative humidity, particularly at sub-freezing temperatures. Because the virus is new, almost all the studies I would find were looking at “cousins” of the one that causes covid-19.

    Viruses can be transmitted via either airborne particles (close personal contact), or fomites (surfaces such as clothing, doorknobs, counters and the like)

    Survival as Airborne Particles

    • Survival characteristics of airborne human coronavirus 229E” showed that survival was lowest at room temp and high relative humidity (about 3 hours), yet greatest at refrigerator temp and high humidity (about 3.6 days). Oddly enough, the long-term survival of airborne virus was greatest at 50% RH for both temperatures. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2999318)

    Survival on Surfaces

    • Effects of air temperature and relative humidity on coronavirus survival on surfaces” used two non-covid-19 coronaviruses, again at room temperature (20C) and refrigerator temperature (4C) but also at high temperature (40C). The results showed that “At 4 degrees C, infectious virus persisted for as long as 28 days, and the lowest level of inactivation occurred at 20% RH. Inactivation was more rapid at 20 degrees C than at 4 degrees C at all humidity levels; the viruses persisted for 5 to 28 days, and the slowest inactivation occurred at low RH. Both viruses were inactivated more rapidly at 40 degrees C than at 20 degrees C.” In other words, the virus thrives best on surfaces inside your fridge and can last from a week to a month. Isn’t that nice to know. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863430/
    A coronavirus, with anatomy
    • The Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on the Viability of the SARS Coronavirus” from 2010 looked at survival of the virus on smooth surfaces. The study found that “The dried virus on smooth surfaces retained its viability for over 5 days at temperatures of 22–25°C and relative humidity of 40–50%, that is, typical air-conditioned environments. However, virus viability was rapidly lost…at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity (e.g., 38°C, and relative humidity of >95%). Source: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/av/2011/734690/
    • Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents” reviewed 22 studies on this topic. The authors conclude that, depending on the material and the conditions, “Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to 9 days. At a temperature of 30°C [86°F] or more, the duration of persistence is shorter. Veterinary coronaviruses have been shown to persist even longer for 28 d[ays].” When the scientists delved into the literature on the persistence of coronaviruses on different surfaces, the results were variable. For instance, the MERS virus persisted for 48 hours on a steel surface at 20°C (68°F). However, on a similar surface and at the same temperature, TGEV survived for up to 28 days. Similarly, two studies investigated the survival of two strains of SARS coronavirus on a paper surface. One survived 4–5 days, the other for just 3 hours. Source: https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(20)30046-3/fulltext
    • An oft-quoted recent study, “Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1” found that the viruses were “more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application.” The viruses lasted two or three days on plastic and steel, less than eight hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard, all presumably at room temperature. Source: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

    Survival Below Freezing

    None of these studies have looked at below-freezing temperatures. I was able to find at least some additional information.

    • Dr. Mohamad Mooty, Department Chair, Infectious Diseases, Medical Subspecialty Institute, at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, has reported that “Research…has shown that, in general, coronaviruses are stable in freezing temperatures and have been shown to survive for up to two years at -20 degrees Celsius.” However, I was unable to obtain that research online. Source: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/03/19/How-long-can-coronaviruses-survive-in-a-freezer-Up-to-two-years-warns-expert
    • Survival of human parainfluenza viruses in the South Polar environment” dealt with a different type of virus. The study found that three strains lasted between four and twelve days at room temp and seven to 17 days outside at -22C to -33C. From this it appears that those strains can last longer in frigid temps, but hardly the two years reported above by Dr. Mooty for coronavirus. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC239486/
    • “Can deadly virus and microbes survive in the ice?” answers its own question and says, yes, “viruses and bacteria can survive in permafrost and in very old ice.” These viruses, up to 30,000 years old, are in some cases viable and capable of causing infections. Source: https://secretsoftheice.com/news/2017/03/09/virus-microbes-ice/

    Conclusions

    What research I was able to find suggested that viruses can actually survive slightly longer in colder temperatures, even well below freezing, than at room temperature. Cold weather gives us no protection.

    The most disturbing fact is that coronavirus can survive far longer in your refrigerator than in your living room. Ugh.

  • Why I’m not afraid of GMOs

    Posted on May 18th, 2019 admin No comments

    People don’t seem to realize that almost everything we eat has been genetically modified for greater yield, better flavor, etc. through centuries of selective breeding. Somebody spots a trait in a plant or animal that seems useful — say, higher milk production in dairy cattle — and that trait is given preference when the organism is reproduced. This is called artificial selection (as opposed to “natural” selection). The history of maize is a good example.

    Genetic editing is a relatively new method of doing the same thing, and it’s human nature to resist change and to fear the new and relatively unknown.

    There is always ignorance, as well, about new products or processes, such as those people who somehow think that GE involves “pumping chemicals into the plants” or that GE is somehow another form of “chemical additive”.

    Gene editing is a natural process done by bacteria as a way of protecting themselves from viruses. We’ve figured out how they do it, and are applying the technique (called Crispr) to replace one gene with another .

    I’m not talking about “frankenfoods” or “frankencritters” where DNA from one species is spliced into that of another. I’m talking about gene editing, where a modified gene from the same species is inserted in place of the original gene. One example is the gene that makes cut apples turn brown. While another few hundred generations of selective breeding might produce a non-browning apple, the GE variant is here already, created by silencing the gene that causes discoloration.

    The aim is to produce plants with higher yield, better insect/disease resistance, better nutrition and taste. It can be done in a thousand years with selective breeding, or it can be done in a generation or two with gene editing.

  • A Terrible Teacher

    Posted on April 12th, 2019 admin No comments

    I once had a terrible university prof. Instead of teaching the course, he just listed study after study that we had to memorize. There seemed to be no order; just random studies. Many of his students were failing the course and considering lodging a complaint to the dean. I actually loathed the man.

    A few students were managing passing grades. I approached them and asked what they were doing. Their answer was that they carefully noted the order in which the studies were presented and on exams carefully regurgitated them in that precise order.

    One day, around mid-term, it occurred to me that each study either blocked off a false line of inquiry or led to another approach…which the next study either blocked or clarified. The studies were arranged with an inexorable logic like bricks building a wall.

    It was an innovative and unusual teaching method, with the students left to figure it out or not.

    The professor never explained this (would have made sense to have done so, and certainly helped his class) but once I understood what he was doing, I began to get top marks in the class. Not only could I recite the studies in the proper order, I was able to explain the logic and order and what each study contributed to the growing body of theory.

    Once I had “got it”, we got along a bit better. He turned out to be like Dr. Cooper on “Big Bang Theory”, a brilliant man with quirky social (and teaching) skills who later became my mentor for my Honors Thesis.

  • Amount of Sugar in Coke

    Posted on November 25th, 2018 admin No comments

    Earlier today, someone shared this on my Facebook timeline:

    Capture

     

    Well,we all know that Coca Cola and other sodas are sugary drinks.  Note that the amount of sugar in the baggie looks pretty much equal to or greater than the volume of the coke can.  Looking at that, I wondered if that much sugar could even be dissolved in a Coke can full of water.

    A quick google showed that, according to an article by CBC,    Coke contains 39 grams of sugar in a 355 mL can.

    My wife has a nice digital kitchen scale (not legal for trade, but accurate enough for this), so let’s check that out and see what 39 g of sugar looks like.   I grabbed the sugar bowl, a teasp0on, and a snack baggie and headed to the kitchen to do some science.    I turned on the scale, set it to grams, put on the baggie, set Tare (removing the mass of the baggie from the measurement) and started spooning sugar into the baggie.   One…  Two… Three…  Four… Five…  Oops, a bit too much.  Take out 1/2  spoonful.   There:  39 grams of sugar.   Just under five teaspoons.

    20181125_205318

    Up against the Coke can, it looked like this:

    20181125_191700

    Four and a half teaspoons is a pretty hefty amount of sugar, but my baggie doesn’t look nearly as fat as the one in the meme, does it?  It’s about a third to a half of what is shown there.

    Facebook memes are often deliberately distorted in order to manipulate you.   Another excellent example of why I never believe at first glance anything I see on Facebook.

    Never share before you:

    • Examine.
    • Question.
    • Doubt.
    • Disbelieve.
    • Check.
    • Think.

     

  • Five Tips for Video Presenters: Lessons from Live TV

    Posted on January 3rd, 2017 admin No comments

    Since getting my 101Hero 3D printer, I've been watching a lot of  how-to videos.  Generally speaking, I loathe amateur instructional videos on Youtube.   I'm not talking about camera technique, video quality, smoothness of editing or any other technical topic.   I'm talking about the person in front of the camera, telling  (instead of showing) me something that I want to know or learn or do.

    If a video can't hook me in the first 30 seconds, I'm gone.  Lost as an audience now and probably forever.

    I used to work in live TV (a show called "Homework Hotline") . I got that job because as an Advanced Toastmaster,  experienced public speaker and award-winning teacher, I was able to present well on air.   Not that I didn't occasionally goof; I'm human.   Yes, there was a seven-second delay, and yes, a mistake would be edited in the video for distribution, but when you're on live transmission, dead air and wasted time are a no-no.  A lot of what I'm talking about in this post came from lessons learned on that show.

    I'm not going to embarrass anybody by linking to flawed presentations... but ooh, it's tempting! If you're a video presenter and you want me (and others) to watch your work, here are five things I wish you'd pay attention to when you do your video.

    1.  Show some life

    Please don't be just a talking head.  Show some animation.  If you look and sound bored, the chances are pretty good that your video will be boring.  But the chances are also pretty good that I won't know or care, because I'll be gone within the first 10 or 15 seconds.

    The Hotline hired teachers who could put some pizzazz into a lesson.  You need to do that for your video.

    2. Get Right Into Your Topic

    Our producer used to stress that "Air time is money! Don't waste it.  Get right to your material!"  Perhaps as a result of that,  I have come to hate presenters who waste a lot of time with long and irrelevant introductions.

    A guy bored by your video presentation.

    How I feel about  your video presentation.

    "Hi, guys, how ya doin'? This is Greg the curizan specialist comin' to ya from Upchuck South to tell ya all about how to dilate your curizan. If ya got a curizan that don't dilate and ya wanna know how to make it do that, I'm the man to tell ya. I picked up my latest curizan at a flea market in Upchuk North for ony a buck, but it didn't dilate right -- ya always gotta be careful with what ya buy in a yard sale, don't ya? So I had to figure it out and now I'll share that with you."

    And on, and on, and he's wasted several minutes telling me NOTHING but what I already knew about the video just from the title.   If you've picked your title well -- "Dilate Your Curizan by Greg", or "Greg Shows How to Dilate a Curizan" -- you needn't say much more.  You don't even need "Hi, how ya doin'?   Greg here again to talk about Curizans."  I know that already.

    Save me the trouble of fast-forwarding to where you say something important.  Get right into your topic.

    3. Have Your Props Ready

    For heavens sake, if you need props or samples, have them right at hand.   Our floor manager used to rips us a new one if we didn't have our lesson materials right where we wanted them and right when we needed them.

    You're your own producer and director and floor manager, so this is all under your control.  Your items can be off to the side just out of camera range, or on a small table beside you (also out of camera range) or even on the desk in plain sight.   Do some preparation, know what you're going need at each point in your presentation, have your props ready and in sequence.

    Above all, please, don't be dodging off camera to get something.  Especially don't make a comment while you disappear, "Shoot, where did I leave that?"  At the very least, edit the break for a smooth transition before posting your video.

    4. Don't Um and Ah.

    Speech hesitations, unnecessary interjections, false starts --"Um, man, like, you know, I, uh, got this curizon, and, like, it didn't work, you know"  ARRGH!

    You'll notice that professionals don't do a lot of this.   If you have your own Youtube channel and do a lot of videos, please review a few of your posts and take a count of the number of speech stumbles.    If there are more than a couple, plan to do something about it.   Take a speech class.  Join Toastmasters.  Get a friend to slap your face with a dirty sock whenever you do something like this.   For Canadians, it's that unconscious "eh?" at the end of our sentences that we don't even notice until our American friends tease us about it.

    It takes a little practice and training to break these speech habits,  but you can learn to speak fluently.

    4. Pay Attention to Pacing

    blah-blah-blah-clipart-1-jpgThis is a toughie that comes with practice.  I find that the average video presenter talks so slowly that I want to shake him (or her) and say, "Go! Get on with it!"  On the other hand, if you're rattling along like an auctioneer, I'm going to be missing some of what you say.

    Many sources give the average conversational speech rate as about 110 to 140 words a minute, but our listening comprehension goes much higher.  Trained professionals -- motivational speakers, newscasters, advertising readers--tend to be at the higher end, up to 160 words per minute (one study of Ted Talks found the average rate was 163 wpm).  With crisp, clear delivery and good enunciation, a speaker may be understandable at a faster rate, up to around 220 or even 240, but that's the upper limit for effective listening.

    Your goal is somewhere between the used car salesman's rapid-fire pitch and the kindergarten teacher explaining to the slowest students in the class.  Of course, the best speakers also vary their rate, just as they vary their inflection, for greater emphasis on certain points.  You can also do this in your video.

    But here's the rub:  Average reading speed is 200 to 300 words per minute, and faster readers can easily hit 500 or more. To a reader, your talking video is incredibly, frustratingly, annoyingly   s....l....o....w.   This is the main reason I hate videos: I can read your material in a fifth of the time it takes you to say it.

    5. Don't Tell Me -- Show Me

    "Show, don't tell" is a writer's dictum that also applies to videos. Most Youtube videos are telling me something (slowly) that I'd rather read (quickly).  The value of a video is when you can show me a process or skill or operation that can't easily be described in words.  If you're just telling, you can video a text screen that I can scroll past after I've read it.  Saves us both time.   But talking heads?  Pfui.

    I like Instructables because they generally use words and tagged images.  I can take those at my pace, as fast as I can  handle them.  But Instructables also sometimes include short video clips that show or demonstrate some particular point or process.   Those are truly worthwhile use of the video format, especially if they've been tightly edited to show only the essentials.

    Conclusion

    Much of what I've written here is basic to any public speaking class, or is covered by a year in Toastmasters or a similar organization.  However, if you're doing instructional videos, you can improve your product -- your presentation--not only by taking courses or training but also by paying attention to what you're doing, being prepared, and simply working at being better.

    Further Reading

  • Cyber Monday Deals

    Posted on November 28th, 2016 admin No comments

    My inbox has been filled with ads promoting wonderful deals for Cyber Monday.  deal-groot

    Woah! Books from Amazon.  Caribbean cruises from Princess and a couple of travel agents.  3D printers from makerbot.  RV toys from HobbyKing.  Almost everything from Gearbest.  Office supplies from Staples.  Discount domains from my web host.  Campaigns from Indiegogo.  Clothes from MEC and UnderArmour.  Discount DNA analysis from a few family history places.

    Now, if I were only in the market for this stuff and could take advantage of the Cyber Monday deals.   If nothing else, it's led me to cancel a bunch of subscriptions and clean up my inbox.

  • Kickstarter: M3D Pro Desktop 3D Printer

    Posted on November 22nd, 2016 admin No comments

    f_auto, h_240,w_320/v1479254103/txvhqtzabk01jpm8p6jp.jpg" alt="https://c1.iggcdn.com/indiegogo-media-prod-cld/image/upload/c_fill,f_auto,h_240,w_320/v1479254103/txvhqtzabk01jpm8p6jp.jpg" width="320" height="240" /> M3D PRO 3D printer in action

    I have been talking with my local library about their Makerspace.  I had offered them my old Cupcake 3D printer, which they politely declined, saying that many of the local libraries had phased out their 3D printing section because of repeated problems with print settings and quality.  They were also reluctant to have people  using the library computers to download files, or bringing files in on USB keys, because of security risks.

    Anyway, after I backed the Trinus 3D Printer on Kickstarter,  I found the M3D Pro  which promises "intelligent sensor feedback" to catch and correct various printing errors.   Like the Trinus, it is a Cartesion (XYZ) printer, a little bit slower in print speed and looking not nearly as solid as the Trinus but with a larger build volume.

    Built by the same folks who brought out the successful M3D Micro a few years ago -- where almost 12,000 backers raised over $3.4 million -- the Pro version claims superior energy efficiency (45W compared to 60W for the Trinus) and superior features.  For the Pro, just over 1000 backers have invested just under $500,00 (plus a few more backers and bucks on Indiegogo pre-orders), and early backers got the unit for $399 USD plus shipping.  Dang!  I came in late and had to pay $549 USD with shipping -- less than the Trinus.

    What caught my eye, though, was that the M3D Pro

    • Claims to offer auto-leveling and auto-calibration.  No messing about with settings.
    • Doesn't need a computer tether: people can bring their project on an SD card and plug it in to print.
    • Offers "embedded recovery mode" to recover from power failures, pauses, nozzle jams, or filament outages
    • Uses an "advanced sensor network" of two dozen sensors to ensure reliability and consistency of prints

    These characteristics made me think it might be suitable as a loaner to the library.  On specified dates, I'd bring the printer in to the library and patrons could try it out, perhaps leaving it there for projects to finish printing under staff supervision. I'd expect the library to provide filament.  Details still to be worked out with the library's program director.

    Because of M3D LLC's previous experience with the Micro, they may have a smoother transition from R&D to Production than some other crowdfunded campaigns.  The M3D Pro is scheduled to ship in March, 2017.

    Which means I can hope to get it for Christmas 2017.  The library will just have to wait.

  • InPixio PhotoClip 7 Works

    Posted on May 14th, 2016 admin No comments

    I almost never recommend products or brands.  But I recently tested the free version of InPixio PhotoClip 7 and was so impressed that I bought the full version the same day.

    dancing1-lgPhotoClip consists of two components: Eraser and Cutter

    Photo Eraser lets you remove unwanted elements from a photo.  Depending on how much you want to remove, and how much time you want to spend at it, and what the background is behind the removed bit is, the software works well and often amazingly well.   "The technical features of Photo Clip automatically identify the sections of an image that need to be filled in and make your new photo look natural and seamless," says the InPixio site.  What that means is that you can just click on or outline the part to be removed, then click Erase.

    This works best when the background is fairly simple, such as sand or water or sky.   The examples on the InPixio site are all of this type.  Certainly, these are quick and easy to do.dancing1-lg_cut-out cropped

    Here are two photos, before and after, done with Erase:   The background of the dancers was really busy, so this took some work.  First, I cropped the photo to only the central couple.  Next, I removed parts on the floor, which left "floor colored" background on the bottom.  Next I removed the photos on the wall (which left a "wall colored" background.  Finally I removed the man in the white shirt and jeans, then the fellow in purple shirt and black pants.  I couldn't just click the white shirt, because the software then removed the lady's white blouse.  I had to "lasso" each part I wanted removed. Took a while, but you see the result at right, the isolated dancers.

    Yes, you can do this in PhotoShop or Gimp, but this is single-purpose software that works.

    Dancers clip 2The second part is Photo Cutter.  Inaptly named, this lets you take what's left after you've finished erasing (or any other image) and superimpose it onto another image, creating a photomontage such as my dancers at left, placed over a romantic golden haze.  The foreground image can be manipulated - resized, inverted, reversed, etc. -

    test for removal_cut-out 2

    The montage at right was created using both parts.  First, I removed the doggie (a real photo bomb, that!) with Eraser,  then superimposed the "bombed" original over top of the cleaned version with Cutter, so that you can compare the two.  This particular image took only seconds to create.  With a quick glance at the corner where the dog was-- and possibly even after some careful study--you'd never know the image was reworked.

    Because I so seldom review or recommend a product, I think you can safely conclude that I like this one, and have used it often in the week I've had it.

     

  • Third Time Lucky by Alberta Author Eric J Brown

    Posted on April 30th, 2016 admin No comments

    Allow me to grumble for a moment.   What is there about self-published authors that leaves them so vulnerable to egregious errors of spelling, punctuation, and grammar?  Is the Alberta education system so deficient that English is not taught?

    Here's a sample of writing from Eric J. Brown of Magnolia, Alberta, posted as part of his biography on Author's Den:  "My name Is Eric Brown, [sic: comma error] I was born raised and still reside [sic: comma error] in teh [sic: the] Canadian province of Alberta. I began writing when I was 13 years old, and self published [sic: self-published] my first novel, Ginny, in 1998 adn [sic: and] have sicne [sic: since] published, [sic: comma error] Ingrid 2000, Anna 2002, The Promise 2004, and To the Last Tree Standing 2006".  Is the man dyslexic? Can he not see those errors?

    Another reviewer of Brown's work, Erica Maidment, wrote on Amazon of Anna--Her Odyssey to Freedom (2002)  , "...My main complaint with this book is that it 20160430_092831[1]suffers from very poor editing. I am willing to overlook minor and occasional errors, but the errors were rampant and marred the text. I liked the content so much that I would really like to read some of the author's other books, but I am apprehensive if it means slogging through so many missing quotation marks, incorrect words, incomplete sentences, and spelling errors."

    I'm currently reading Third Time Lucky, another self-publication (Magnolia Press, 2009). It's a formulaic love story involving mail-order-bride Jane Brody and crusty suitor Ethan Phillips, set near the fictional town of Grimstad in rural Alberta, Canada, in 1925. City-born Jane needs to adapt to life in the backwoods; curmudgeonly Ethan needs to learn more civilized ways; both are socially backwards and unable to communicate. Will they be able to share their feelings? Will Jane succumb to the blarney of the lovable Irish moonshiner on the next homestead? Will she use her return ticket back to Ontario? Well, duh.

    The writing is a bit flat, but it is readable, with interesting characters and enough plot movement and character development to keep me engaged.

    Anachronisms abound, making me wonder just how much (or how little) research Brown did.

    • Despite the story being set in 1925, Brown's characters generally use a 21st century vernacular, such as having Jane refer to Indians as "bad guys"; an educated woman of the time might say "savages" or even "aborigines".
    • "Nonetheless, Jane was wary of her first contact with First Nations people" (p. 130) -- the term "First Nations" was not in use until the 1980s.
    • Brown has his characters talk of Prohibition as if it were current, even though Alberta repealed it in 1923.
    • Jane is from Montreal, where Prohibition never really took hold; even so, she is a "temperance woman" (though she spent some time in Ontario, where it took hold deeply)
    • The WCTU in Canada was closely associated with various churches, yet Jane is of no particular faith.
    • Alberta women got the vote in 1916, and the hope was that with suffrage, women would stand firmer for temperance; yet by 1925, both Prohibition and the temperance movement had lost force, especially in Alberta. Had Brown been aware of these social and political overtones, he might have used them for a further layer of depth in his novel.

    These are minor issues, and not unexpected from a self-published author, though IMO a good editor would catch them.

    The run-on sentences, missing punctuation, poor construction, and misused homophones ("wrapping his fist on the table" instead of "rapping", for example) detract significantly.  All the flaws noted by Maidment in the earlier work are present in Third Time Lucky.  Did the author learn nothing from his earlier novels?  Did he not seek further help with proof-reading and editing?

    Yet this book had not one but two editor/proofreaders:  the author acknowledges "Lillian Ross, fellow author and proof-reader..." and "Eileen Harrigan for her work as principal editor".   If the published manuscript is "cleaned up", the rough draft must have been ghastly!  In their defense, I will mention that the spelling is generally acceptable (although I take exception to "Whiteman" for white man).  At least the spell-check is turned on in whatever word-processor he is using.  Perhaps using the grammar-checker as well would help.

    The characters, by the way, are always grinning. They never smile, beam, smirk, simper, or give a wry twist of the lips -- they just grin. This struck me about halfway through the book, and for every page after, a character that grinned made me wince.

    I don't entirely blame the author for the book's shortcomings; I'm sure many good writers are poor spellers and grammarians.  In fact, I admire Brown for producing not only one but at least eight novels.  I admire him even more for producing decent, readable prose and entertaining characters.  It's just too bad that his proof-readers can't proof, his editors don't edit, and his word-processing software doesn't flag homophones for review.

     

    A Post-Script:  I had the opportunity as working with another Alberta author, Dave McKenzie, on his novel Calypso.  We went through several revisions and edits, and in the end Dave produced a well-written and tightly-plotted book.  Still, despite the careful work of several proof-readers, I have no doubt that we missed something, somewhere.  It is our hope that whatever errors we left were minor.

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