EV adventures

I was busy last Thursday. Very busy. I had a bit of an adventure, really.

My sib has finally replaced their ancient car with an EV, and we used it last Thursday to deliver our brother (the eldest) and his kids to the airport. From Burlington, Vermont, to Boston’s Logan Airport.

During the winter.

I, and my sib, learned a great deal.

We delivered our eldest brother and our niblings to the airport only twenty minutes later than planned, but the drive took approximately twice as long as I’d normally expect (seven hours, ish). It turns out that the quality of the charging stations available to you matters a great deal, whether that’s “do they charge quickly” or “do they work at all.”

The EV in question is not a Tesla, no superchargers for us.

This all meant that we stopped several times for recharging, with each stop taking about thirty to fifty minutes. We would stop charging before hitting full capacity because the rate-of-charge decreases significantly as the battery fills, so we tried to time our stops to only charge when we’d actually get faster charging. I can see a future where this becomes more normal, and the dominant “highway refueling” paradigm shifts from gas stations with little quick-to-use convenience stores to charging stations with diners, restaurants, or any place that can hold your attention easily for fifteen to fifty minutes. It’s not a bad feel, really, and if we weren’t under time pressure to deliver our family to the airport, it might have been nice to slow our journey and appreciate those stops. Not having COVID be a thing would help too.

But as best as we can tell, any charger installation needs someone nearby who really cares about whether it works and how well it works. The reliable chargers were near stores that might want them to attract clientele, mostly Whole Foods (though there was a Walmart with mostly-okay chargers). But other chargers, like one hidden behind a hotel, were often simply broken and only registered error codes or offered trickle charges that would take a whole day (or night) to refuel. Even the chargers in Somerville’s Assembly Square garage didn’t work reliably; if my sib and I are right, this comes down to no one establishment caring enough about the chargers to push for their regular maintenance, and no one establishment seeing them as clearly tied to their own reputation.

Having delivered the fam to the airport, we then turned around and headed back north. Well, after stopping to charge again and eat. It probably would have been a better idea to stay the night in Somerville, all things considered.

But we retraced our steps, mostly without excitement (except for a surprise fireworks display), until we were nearly in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. That’s when the temperature dropped into the single digits (6F or so) and we both got real quiet, watching the battery’s gauge plummet.

We had to cycle the defroster, and turn off the car’s heat in general, in order to nurse the battery to the charge station… where we discovered that the charging capacity had been temporarily reduced (from earlier that day) due to an in-progress system update. It felt, in many ways, how I imagine early gasoline car trips might have felt. Remarkably functional, exciting, and just uncertain enough to keep us on the edges of our seats.

So we spent the next hour and a half or so waiting for the battery to charge. We napped (or lay still with eyes shut, in my case), and drank our extra coffee, and generally tried to pass the time as midnight rolled by. After watching the battery drop so quickly in the cold temperatures, we didn’t want to chance going up and over the Green Mountains without a nearly full charge, so we took extra time to be sure. Then, nearly full, we set out again.

The first leg of that trip was nerve-wracking. We kept eyeing the number of miles remaining, comparing it to the percent charge still in our battery. We planned out where we’d pull off the highway and ask for help, if it looked like we were losing charge too quickly. It wasn’t until we could tell that we were definitely getting slightly more than one mile per percent of battery charge that we relaxed—we knew we had another charger in range at that point, which would let us finally return to Burlington about seventeen hours after we’d left.

From there on, it was fun. We talked, listened to music, and generally enjoyed ourselves. Vermont is beautiful, and driving through it at night and watching the snowscapes pass by is still something I love.

It’s not a trip I want to make again in an EV though, not the way we did it.

I think that until the charging infrastructure is a little better—more reliable, faster, more omnipresent—I prefer to make shorter trips. Or I prefer to make long trips like that with more flexible time available on either end. I suspect that the trip would feel quite different in the summer, too, without the battery choking on the frigid temperatures.

But, for all that I have been raised to expect the convenience of a gas engine, I think the more languid rhythm of a long EV trip is quite nice. And I think it’s vital that we build out better charging infrastructure to make those trips easier, because EVs are the only practicable way to move car-culture and long range personal transport past petroleum. I don’t think there’s anything inherently different about what is possible with an EV, I just need to change the way I think about structuring my trips in them: what would be a three and a half hour trip will be longer, and I’ll want to plan for more rests and more layovers, as it were.

This makes me think of rural America, and of small towns.

I actually think there’s a lot to be said for EV charging, and building business offerings around that, as a way to buttress the small communities that are so often simply passed and ignored by people on highways. When you’re nearly guaranteed to spend half an hour in a spot charging your car, you’re far more likely to look around and be tempted to eat or buy something. Gasoline vehicles will pull into a station and be out again three minutes later, there’s no captive audience there. But EV drivers are far more likely to want something to do, see, or eat while their vehicle prepares for the next leg of the trip. If an EV charging network can collaborate with local businesses, or if local businesses can band together to offer a charging station… that would be great.

Despite the harrowing nature of some pieces of my trip last week, I think EVs are great. I think they’re vital to weaning ourselves off petroleum, and I think they could be another way to bring people to the small communities that have withered along the sides of the highway for so long. Maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to see them succeed.

Coco

r_coco_header_mobile_fcfae701

Feast your eyes.

I’m going to keep this incredibly short, and will avoid spoilers to the best of my ability.

I have now seen this movie twice. I will probably see it again while it is still in theaters. I cannot say well enough how much this movie has affected me. I have regularly teared up while simply thinking about it. After seeing it the second time, I now find it hard to hum the central song because I start to cry. It’s really exceptionally good.

Coco is set in Mexico and the Land of the Dead over the course of Día de los Muertos. It is about a young boy named Miguel, and his relationships with his family and with his dreams. It deals with family, memory, legacy, and death—and the joys and costs of following your dreams. It is also about controlling the lives of others.

I loved damn near every minute of it. And I spent roughly the last third of the movie crying, thinking I was done crying, and then crying some more. Also laughing.

The themes of death, remembrance, legacy, and memory all resonated strongly with me. This may be because most members of my family in my grandparents’ generation are dead, and I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking of and mourning them. It didn’t hurt that the rest of the movie all sat well too.

If you’re worried about representation and appropriation, I’d like to note that Latinx critics have been relentlessly positive (*SOME SPOILERS IN THAT LINK*) about the film, and that the vast majority of the cast is Latinx (along with significant members of the writing, directing, and design staff). Honestly, it looks like Pixar has succeeded fabulously with this one. I don’t think I can recommend watching it strongly enough.

I have difficulty fathoming why Disney chose to package this film with a 25 minute Frozen short immediately preceding it, which cannot help but suffer by comparison, but I assure you that the short is worth sitting through for the sake of seeing Coco.

Miska, Chapter 1 cont. (4/15/17)

This is still the unvarnished, needs-to-be-revised material that I was showing you last time. This time around, I’ve got the second half of chapter 1 for you (the first half is right here). It comes complete with the bits that make me reach for the delete key, subsumed by the frantic urge to improve my own work. But it’s better than the first two times I wrote it!

Enjoy.

Continue reading

Miska, Chapter 1 (4/15/17)

I’m sharing this with you immediately after having gone through it with my mentor, knowing full well that there are many changes that I want to make. It’s a little painful to give it to you when I know that there’s so much more to be done. But I’ve got to share something, and if I wait for it to be perfect you’ll never see it. Real artists ship, right?

I’m also not giving you the entire chapter in one go, because that would be 4.5k. Here’s the first half, instead, coming immediately after the (also to-be-revised) prologue from before. Enjoy!

Continue reading

It’s been too long; have some new Miska

Sorry everyone. I’ve been pulled from my regular posts by school work, and until now I didn’t have any kind of extra material lying around that I felt okay about putting up here. I warn you now that I will likely not finish Miska’s story here this time around. But if you liked Miska before you’ll be happy to know that you’re about to get a few weeks of Miska posts. I figure doling out the first few chapters in chunks is appropriate. They’re way better now: I’ve written and rewritten the story a few more times, and I have the prologue and then some ready to share with you.

Here’s that prologue…

Continue reading

Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau S. Wilce

229033.jpg

I have to say, I rather enjoyed this book. It’s not without its oddities (failings in some cases), but dang. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to read so many other books that I’ve liked less, but I really liked this one.

It’s worth knowing that there’s some real weirdness to what’s going on in the setting, if you spend much time looking at it and trying to explain it in relation to our world. For example, I’m not sure why so many people are described as blond / red-haired, despite apparently being in close contact with a maybe-Aztec country. The geography is almost certainly what we think of as California, but the history certainly isn’t. The truth is, we aren’t told enough about the history of this setting (in this book) for me to be able to say much more. Maybe there’s a good reason for all of this.

All I know is that it felt weird reading about a bunch of people in a magical quasi-California, none of whom seemed to be non-white. It helped when I consciously separated everything from our own world, despite the similarities, but that can’t solve everything.

Setting that aside, I had a good time. Strange and distinct magic, jam-packed with events and adventure and obvious future plot hooks, fun characters, a believable recent history if you’re willing to accept the overall premise… it’s good stuff. Potentially complicated by other factors, but good stuff.

Also, it somehow straddles the weird space between middle grade and young adult in a way that I really appreciated. It’s more or less where I’d like Barium Deep to be, though not in exactly the same way.

Miska Take Two: 7/13/2016

Near the end of the semester I had to rewrite the first scene of the Miska story for class, but somehow I never shared it with you. Here it is, with a little bit extra tacked on at the end. I suspect I’ll have more of this for you over the next while. Enjoy!

Continue reading

More Miska: 1/7/2016

You’d be right to think that the date up there is not today’s date.  But I don’t have a better way of defining what I’ll be sharing with you at the moment.  Since I got home, I’ve been writing about 2000 words a day on my Miska project.  What follows is part of what I wrote on, you guessed it, the 7th.  It is first draft material, which means that I haven’t done more than look at it and think that it needs editing.  Enjoy!

Continue reading

I return!

Hello everyone.  I’ve been visiting family and recovering from travel for the past two weeks, but I’m ready to resume my regular schedule.  I have a few thoughts to share with you today (disparate rather than cohesive), but first I have some exciting news: I have been accepted into Simmons’ MFA in Writing for Children (and Young Adults, but that’s not mentioned in the title).  I think I mentioned this before, since I used the elements of Last Days of Loneliness that I shared here as part of my writing sample for the application.  If you haven’t read those, have a gander at parts 1, 2, and 3.  I’m not sure what this will mean for my posts in the future (I’ll start classes in January), and it may result in a slight change in content or length.  On the other hand, I might just start posting things that I write for my classes, so that you can read them too.  No worries, I’m sure I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it, thus perpetuating my deliberate misuse of common phrases.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with cool science news, reality has continued to establish the premises of the setting I created for Alison McKenzie‘s flash fiction contest (my entry is here, and some additional tooling around with the setting can be found here).  Specifically, we now have drugs (for rats) that allow for nerves to reestablish themselves (or communicate?) through intervening scar tissue.  It looks like an acceptable approximation to human nerve regeneration is en route.  This comes on top of the already existing heart-in-a-box organ preservation technology, so, you know, we’re really not that far from having chop-shops after all.  Goodness, I hope that’s false, chop-shops are scary.

As is often the way of long trips, I consumed a good deal of media while I was gone.  I finally saw Edge of Tomorrow and In Bruges, I showed Pacific Rim to someone who’d never seen it before, and I watched too many movies on planes (including A Fault in Our Stars, which I think merits some attention here, and Epic, which didn’t particularly impress me).  I read some books too, though mostly I spent time with my lovely family, enjoyed playing with my nephews, and played lots of games.

At some point I’ll have to tell you all about the card games Hanabi and Pairs, but first I should mention that I ran the opening to my new campaign for my brothers; it went over excellently, despite me leaving all my campaign notes at home, and the game ended with one of my brothers in tears after a particularly emotional scene.  His character, a paladin on the edge of death, had a moment with his god that deeply effected my brother.  I was very happy with the final result, though I was a little anxious beforehand because we all thought his character had died for at least a few minutes (and my brother wasn’t especially happy about that).  Before you ask, no, I didn’t handwave him back to life: he finally remembered he had “inspiration” (a D&D 5th ed. mechanic that allows you to roll twice and take the better of the two rolls), and used it to evade his otherwise-final death.

Ok, now that I’ve set myself a large number of reviews to share with you, I’m going to leave it here for today.  Next Monday I’ll be back to the regular schedule, and I’ll probably start by talking about one of the things I’ve mentioned here today.  Until then, I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying your early December!