Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas 2015

I sent out Christmas cards this year.  I don't know how many more years I'll be able to afford to do so, what with the postage rates being as high as they are.  Back in the bad old days, my parents would send out several boxes of Christmas cards, many of which went to my father's business associates.  Out of curiosity I found a site detailing the History of Postage Rates, and the cost of a single stamp in 1958 was 4¢ (four cents).  I remember it as three, but I believe my memory is failing me.

I got several nice presents this year, but I think the cream of the crop is my new pen, given to me by Meg and Chas McBrien, both Doctors of Veterinary Medicine.  Dr. Meg specialty is internal medicine, and Dr. Chas is a board certified veterinary surgeon.  Dr. Meg is a vegan vegetarian, anti-gun and animal rights advocate; Dr. Chas isn't far behind.  I believe both doctors drink a little white wine once in a while.

For those that don't know me, count yourselves lucky I'm a whiskey drinking, raw meat eating, gun lover who'd sooner put lead in the air than eat breakfast.  I suppose it's safe to say that all three of us like animals, even if I like certain critters on a plate rather than running around my front yard.  So given our philosophical differences, you can understand my surprise when I got this gift from Meg and Chas. 
My Gun Pen
You'll note the clip is a ubiquitous long gun, one end cap is a shot shell (labeled 12 gauge) and the other is a brass casing from a .40 caliber.

Clip is a Long Gun
30 Caliber
Open it up and the writing end is an easily recognizable .30 caliber.  Nice, huh?  The barrel is made of authentic olive wood harvested from the stock of an AK47 that was only dropped once, hence the disclaimer about trees being damaged or destroyed.

Olive Wood

Commercial Message

I would also like to give credit to the manufacturer, Kent Conder.  The pen is very well made, comfortable to hold, and writes beautifully.  I'm very happy to have it.  Should you want to order something from Kent, you can reach him here:

Conder Creations
1836 Weisenberger Mill Rd.
Midway, KY  40347
(859) 227-4264

This is now my favorite pen.  My thanks to Meg and Chas for a generous, thoughtful gift.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: The Distracted Drummer: "Thank you, Toledo, and Good Night" by John B Meilink

File Size: 576 KB
Print Length: 188 pages
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

You can find The Distracted Drummer: "Thank you, Toledo, and Good Night" by John B Meilink for the Kindle ereader on Amazon.

Ever wonder how a rock musician got started? And once started, how they manage to keep everything together - work, bills, gigs, band members that fail to show, and fiendishly jealous girlfriends? This is the story of one musician's rise from rags to respectability, or a reasonable facsimile of same. It's painfully funny, and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Joyland by Steven King

Joyland, the Illustrated Edition

Published by Titan Books
Copyright © by Stephen King

Print Length: 300 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78329-532-6

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

In honor and in thanks to all the people who served in the United States Armed Forces, I've decided to publish a few pictures of my family and describe the society as it existed for them back then.

Monday, November 9, 2015

On Cats and Popcorn

This is Zeus, a tuxedo cat.  He's always dressed for dinner.  Isn't he a handsome fellow?

Zeus originally belonged to my brother, Bob, who dropped him off with Mom when he headed out to Wisconsin.  Mom liked Zeus and wouldn't give him back.  Now I'm stuck with him.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon

I can't remember where I stumbled across The Traveling Vampire Show Kindle Edition by Richard Laymon, but I'm glad I did.

File Size: 1178 KB
Print Length: 404 pages
ASIN: B0028T82EC
ISBN-10: 0843948507
ISBN-13: 978-0843948509

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Horses and Kids in the Good Old Days

Or maybe that should be the Bad Old Days.  Either way, I stumbled across a photo of Our Sally Ann, one of my father's American Saddlebred horses and one that he purchased early in his career.  Dad showed Sally in the parade horse class, and had thoughts about showing her in fine harness, but that didn't pan out for him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Worthy Reads for 10/28/2015

I found 5 Observations on the Evolution of Author Business Models by Jane Friedman via Morning Coffee – 28 October 2015 by Nate Hoffelder, which is an enjoyable site in and of itself. The author, Jane Friedman, has just returned from an Novelists, Inc. (NINC) convention / conference.  I believe this event was specified as a conference, which is a convention without the booze and attendant moral indiscretions.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Book Review: This Is Me, Jack Vance! Or More Properly, This Is I

Jack Vance is one of my favorite authors, so when I discovered his autobiography had been published I naturally bought a copy for my Kindle and started reading it.  You can find a copy here: This Is Me, Jack Vance! Or More Properly, This Is I, which I encourage you to read.  Jack Vance is somewhat notorious for not talking about his writing process, and although he largely remains true to this idiosyncrasy, he does make a few exceptions in this book.

Vance is an acquired taste for most people.  He possesses a vocabulary that is well above that of the average author, and is on a much different level from the average modern author.  Whenever I read Vance I end up consulting a dictionary several times during the novel.  I find that having to stop reading and look up a word enhances the experience for me, but not everyone feels this way.  The typical Dean Koontz aficionado would likely give up after a few pages.

Vance starts with vivid memories from his early childhood, progresses through several attempts at college, and spends most of his time describing his married life.  If you're familiar with his work, you'll find a few familiar scenarios that appear in his novels.

A few things that I was interested in learning is that Jack Vance never wrote with a typewriter.  He wrote his novels longhand, using one or more fountain pens with various color inks.  When he finally lost his eyesight, his son arranged a word processor for him so that he could continue writing.  I was surprised to learn that Vance and his family traveled extensively, settling down in some exotic location just long enough to write a novel or two, then moving on.  The family ran out of money several times, but this condition didn't seem to phase Vance very much.

From what I was able to gather about Jack Vance and his writing process, and what I can surmise, I think he was one of these people who simply sat down and wrote the story.  Ergo, there wasn't really anything much for him to describe.  He wrote, sent his manuscript to his agent who then made a good deal with the publisher.  Vance didn't edit much, and he hated it when things were changed, such as a title.  Vance specifically mentions this a few times.

This book is an excellent read, and provides real insight into the life of a truly great author.  I recommend it to everyone.

Friday, October 23, 2015


I confess.  I'm not a leaf-peeper and I don't like fall.  Fall precedes winter, you see, and winter means snow, which I detest. But today I noticed the maple trees had changed and the oak leaves were falling.  Then I remembered that I'm not going to see this again.  This time next year will see me in a new home, somewhere to the South of Toledo. So, in a fit of nostalgic, maudlin, self-pity, I got out my camera and took a few pix.

Maple Tree
I remember when we planted this tree.  My father supervised, and I ran the Indian Backhoe (shovel to the rest of you).  This would have been accomplished on a Sunday afternoon, early, as the old boy had plans for late Sunday afternoon.

Neighbor's Tree
This belongs to our neighbor, a rather nice couple who I'm on good terms with.  They invited me over for a drink some evening, so I think I'll take them up on their offer later on tonight.  Mike claims he's a Scotch drinker, which is just my style.

As Seen From Across the Pasture
Here's the same maple tree as seen from across the pasture.  It looks quite impressive when the sun hits it, but sadly the sun went away by the time I got around to taking this shot.

Maple and Oak
This is my driveway.  The forest next to me is mainly oak and maple, with a few sassafras trees.  About half the oak leaves are on the ground.

House and Yard
Front Yard
I'll never see the large yard covered in leaves again, or the neighboring houses too far away to have a valid complaint about neglected lawns and unraked leaves.  Or dandelions, or moles, neither of which trouble me.  In fact, I always thought dandelions were rather pretty, and broke up the tedium of a perfectly manicured, kelly green lawn.  Not everyone shares this view.

We never bothered raking the leaves.  The wind generally blows most of them over into the woods, and the rest don't seem to hurt anything.  In the old days we could rake them into a pile and burn them, but now there's a law against burning leaves or trash, brought to us by our elected officials who's sole purpose is to regulate everyone's life until we, the great unwashed, finally go around the bend and end up on the front page of the local bird cage liner.  Imagine wanting to live your own life, free of onerous restrictions and Draconian taxation.  Sounds treasonous to me.

By this time next year I'll likely be living in the Columbus area, probably in a condominium, complete with a homeowner's association comprised of elderly busybodies who will be delighted to tell me what to do, when to do it and how it shouldn't be done. 

Meantime, I'm not going to rake the leaves.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fifty Dollars

Back in August, Saturday, August 1st to be exact, I put my car under me and highballed it to Indianapolis.  I stayed at the Conrad and had a great time tearing it up with Mike and Doc Bitterman.  So today while I was sitting in my car in a parking lot and contemplating the necessity of going to the supermarket to pick up the one thing that I forgot to buy yesterday (laundry detergent), I noticed that a CD had escaped its storage place and was resting on the console.

Errant CD
Being a naturally neat and tidy person, I scooped everything out and stacked it so it would fit.  During the process, here's what I found.

Fifty Dollars
A genuine portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of our United States, surrounded by some very interesting news and numbers.  Evidently, I (or someone else, who is now out fifty smackers) had misplaced this little beauty in one of my less lucid moments.  Then I found the note that went along with it.

Honest Valet
How about that?  I remember that I tipped the valet when I picked up my car, and I'm glad I did.  Whoever he was - and I know it was a he, because I watched him drive my car off so as to make sure he could handle a standard transmission - he could have kept the $50.  I'd have never found it or missed it.

I think I'll write a letter to the Conrad hotel management and include a few photos.  Maybe they can run the guy down and thank him.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2015

My birthday was last Friday, the 2nd of October.  I'm 63; I only feel like I'm 110.

Yours Truly at Ciao! in Sylvania
Ellen and Mike were kind enough to join me for dinner.  The dinner and service were very good as usual, but the desert left a lot to be desired.  I think next time I'll skip desert and just have a brandy or something.

Ellen and I at Ciao!
Tomorrow I have promised myself to make some serious progress on my next story.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Bar

While I was visiting my brother Bob in Memphis, he opened his bar for my enjoyment.  Here's a bar that even the Southern Baptist Convention couldn't object to - when it's closed, anyway.

Bar is Closed
I thought it was some sort of armoire or hutch, but I was mistaken.  As you can see, there isn't an obvious latch for the front, and the tiny knobs on each side go unnoticed.

From the Front
It being fashionably after five, Bob opened the bar for business.  Voilà!

Open for Business
The entire front rotates, and the sides swing out.  Although it doesn't have a lock on it, it will otherwise keep temptation and controversy away from any holier-than-thou, tee-totaling guests who might otherwise accept a dry martini in return for holding their drier criticisms - or vice verse.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Do I look like a terrorist?

I just got back from Memphis, TN, where I spent a week at my brother's house - along with his wife Kim, son Wayne, five dogs and three cats.  It was an eventful trip, which I'll write about later one.

You see me here relaxing at Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania, about two hours after I got off a flight from United Airline, in which 87 people were crammed into a space suitable for 23 well-behaved grade school children.  I had to put up with the usual misery civilized people encounter on an airplane - sloppy, belligerent drunks, fat people who overlap their own personal space by a gelatinous 17 inches, sick kids who sneeze juicily over everything in a ten foot radius and the sick parents who bring them, the parents who bring infants along, and women who wear too much perfume.  I'm talking someone you can smell six blocks away.  Why do they do this?  Why?  I've never found an answer.

The only people I feel genuinely sorry for are the infants.  They didn't choose this mode of travel, and while going up isn't bad, the descent and resultant ear ache is absolute murder.  The kid doesn't know what's wrong; he only knows it hurts, and his mother won't fix it. Eventually the ears pop and the kid quiets down.

All this aside, my real complaint is with the Memphis, TN Transportation Security Administration.  I'm on time for my flight, which is scheduled to leave at 7:40 AM.  I thought I had plenty of time (1 hour) to get to the gate, but then I encountered the all-important TSA.  They had two aisles open, and people were forced to proceed at a glacial pace. No one was allowed into the little security alley until the previous cow had been thoroughly examined and cleared for our safety.  Which is stable dressing, and has been ever since King George II took up the Federal Scepter and used it to beat the American Sheeple back into line.

I've never heard of the TSA catching a terrorist.  I have read about a few people who got past them, either as a test of security or on purpose.  I vaguely recall some moron with funny tennis shoes getting through, and there was another tilted moonbat who tried to break into the specially reinforced door to the cockpit, and almost made it were it not for the passengers putting a halt to his idiocy and duct taping him into a seat.

So I missed my flight.  This is due entirely to the TSA and their own agenda, which is make the passengers wait.  The fact that this is Memphis, all of the TSA agents are black and I'm white is not lost on me.  Worse, I'm a Damned Yankee.  You know, one of those no-good Northern people whose ancestors fought in the War of Northern Aggression.

When I heard United announce that my flight was in its final boarding stages, and there were still twenty people ahead of me, I got the attention of a TSA officer and briefly explained my predicament.  I asked if there was anything he could do to help me.

"No, I can't do anything." He replied with a grin which screamed passive aggression and payback.

When I finally got to security, they handled me and my carry-on luggage like Stepin Fetchit helping Gaylord aboard the Showboat.

Well, I'm home now.  I think it's time for a Manhattan. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Review: The Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus

Due to click bait and an email advertisement, I've acquired a copy of the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus.  I bought it from Barnes and Noble, mainly because they offered it on sale and I had a gift card with B&N given to me by a kindly relative.  Here is the tome in question.

Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
Published by the Oxford University Press
Copyright © 2012 Oxford University Press
Third Edition
ISBN 978-0-19-982992-7
Apx. 1003 pages, not counting various lists, explanations and references
Weight: 3.4 pounds

The beast originally listed at $40.00, and was reduced to $27.82 by B&N - probably because it didn't make the NYT Bestseller's List this year.  I used a 20% off coupon I got in my email along with my gift card, and I ended up paying $5.42 for it.  Not bad.

It includes a section on English grammar as well as a word usage section that is very nice to have.  All in all, a good buy.  Now I'll have to see how useful it actually is, as my somewhat grandiloquent protagonist tries to interact with the hoi polloi.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Tipple of Choice

Every now and then you'll find yourself at the end of a tumultuous day, and your good old end-of-the-day drink isn't going to cut it.  That's when I change up to the French 75.

French 75 Ingredients

The French 75
1½ oz Gin
½ oz St. Germain
½ oz Lemon Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Chill the wine glass. Measure the gin, St. Germain, lemon juice and syrup into the cocktail shaker, and shake it with ice. Pour the mixture into the chilled wine glass and top if off with dry champagne or sparkling wine. Delicious! So named because the French claimed that drinking it would hit you like the recoil of a French 75 (Canon de 75 modèle 1897 (French 75mm Field Gun).

Some recipes specify champagne, but real champagne is out of my price range.  Use dry sparkling wine, and if you notice a difference you're more of a connoisseur than I am and I wish you'd invite me over for your next cocktail party.  Other recipes omit the St. Germain.  I've had it with and without, and I prefer it with.  That's just my own personal preference; it's still very good without.

One French 75 will make you want another.  When you have trouble assembling the ingredients correctly, discard any ideas about driving or playing with your gun collection.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hugo Awards: The Beating Continues

Just as I was about to stop reading about the Hugo awards and the respective victories declared by both sides, I found yet another link or three that tells the whole story better than anyone so far.  So here they are: The Night Science Fiction's Biggest Awards Burned by Robert B. Marks. Marks delivers an even-handed, fairly sane summary of just what happened at the 2015 Hugo awards, along with a fairly astute observation about why it happened in the first place.

Another link I found lists out a whole slew of links to the flame war leading up to the Hugo awards.  Check The Compleat Litter of Puppy Roundup Titles by Mike Glyer.

Finally, there's Lots of Hugo Losers by Nathaniel, who writes a relatively short summary that's worth reading.  The most interesting part are the two revisions of the same article that was published by Entertainment Weekly - a before and after look at the article that caused Brad Torgersen to threaten legal action if it wasn't fixed.

As for me, I may join Sad Puppies 4, if for no other reason than the publicity.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hugo Awards: A Summary

Some years ago (1973 - 1984) I taught ballroom dancing for a living. In between selling lifetime courses to elderly widows and bedding thirty-something divorcees, I went to several dance competitions every year.  I competed in the pro-am division, meaning a professional-amateur partnership. My students were the amateurs, and had the credentials to prove it. My students did pretty well, but it wasn't until the owner of the studio, Dan Nash, hired current ballroom title holders to come into the school and train us that I really excelled. When our studio went to a competition, we tended to win nearly everything. We were good, but not that good.

The truth of the matter was that when our studio attended a competition, we brought a lot of entries.  50 separate entries was not uncommon, and the number could go as high as 100.  That meant that the organizer of the competition was making a significant amount of money from us, as well as increasing the size of his event. The judge, or judges, were the same people who had been in our studio training us the week before. Again, there's money floating around here, and if the judge has spent time training us, he at least knows who we are, right?  He also knows that a solid portion of his income is derived from our studio.

So there's some bias here. Maybe a little conflict of interest one way or another. Both the judge and the organizer will deny any favoritism, but at best there going to be some bias towards anyone spending money with these people.  At worst it's obviously fixed.  Reality is somewhere in the middle.

Cut to the recent fiasco called the Hugo Awards. The controversy that now defines the Hugo awards can be found all over the Internet, but what it really boils down to is tyranny by majority and the political correctness of the author. The quality of the work has nothing to do with the award.

This is a bold, somewhat antagonistic statement, but it isn't without proof.  To read about the whole bloody business, you can begin with Mutiny at the Hugo Awards by Cathy Young, and continue with Sad Puppies 3: Looking at the Results by Larry Correia. Another article worth reading is Offensitivity by Cedar Sanderson, where the author explains just how something like this can happen.  The consequences are sort of covered in this article: Credibility.  Not that consequences are going to bother any of the winners, who now have a brand new trophy that looks something like a marital aid.  No fooling here; I wouldn't put this thing on my mantle on a bet, because sooner or later someone is going to state the obvious and wonder aloud where it's been.

As for me, I didn't care about the Hugo awards before this whole thing started, and I don't care about the award now.  The actual awarding process has been dominated by the tree house club for years, and the only thing that's changed is the official membership, the official winners (which rotates every year) and the fact that having Hugo Award Winner! listed after a given work does not ensure any sort of quality. If quality reading is what you're after, nose around the bookstore until you find an author you like, then stay with him.  See who he likes, and you'll very likely find another author or three.  You'll be happy, the author will be happy, and the Hugo tree house club won't notice.  Probably a lot like the dinosaurs failed to notice that the mornings were getting uncomfortably cold and food was a bit scarce this season.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Useful Links and Worthy Reads

Here's a hodgepodge of unrelated links and a worth while blog post.

Streetlib Now Distributes eBooks to OverDrive’s 33,000 Libraries
I ditched SmashWords several months ago, mainly due to the amount of work it takes to get a book on SmashWords, and the extremely poor revenue that's returned, as compared to the 500 pound gorilla that is carefully not mentioned - Amazon. If you put your work out there with the hope of making a few bucks, it's Amazon and whom ever you think is in second place.  Bite me.  It's my blog and I'll use whom if I see fit.  Anyway, the new player on the block is Streetlib, and it's so new that it refuses to rise to the top during a Google search.  I haven't given Streetlib more than a cursory look, but if it performs as quickly and cleanly as it looks, it could be a real contender.

5 Favorite Free Fonts for Interior Book Design
Part of formatting your work is choosing the right font so as to make your work attractive and easy to read.  Try reading something in an ornate Gothic font sometime and you'll appreciate Times New Roman in ten minutes or less.  The author, Joel Friedlander, seems to know what he's talking about, if for no other reason than I like his suggestions.  I found it an interesting, worthy read.

Cliché Finder
It was a dark and stormy night... or some variant thereof.  This site provides a searchable database of clichés.  It's kind of interesting, and I can see where it would be useful, especially if you want to find out whether or not the brilliant line your protagonist just uttered has been over-used in the last century or two.

Now if you'll pardon me, I'm more than fashionably late for happy hour.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I don't live right...

Tonight I made dinner for me and Ellen, which is something she always enjoys. After browsing around a little, I decided on shrimp etouffee. The recipe called for 14 ounces of chicken broth, and I immediately went into my happy dance.  I had planned ahead, you see.  And no, I'm not talking about buying two bottles of gin instead of just one.  Some time ago, I spent most of a day making a large quantity of chicken stock, and I froze most of it in two cup quantities.

I put the frozen solid baggie of chicken broth on the counter to thaw, then I went to the store.  When I returned, I noted that everything I put down on the counter came away wet.  What's this deal?  The freezer bag has a hole in it, and my chicken stock is leaking all over the counter.

I put the leaky bag inside a larger bag and wondered just where I went wrong.

Then I decided to go for a bike ride.  It was a nice day, the exercise is good for me, and I think it helps my mental outlook.  So because I'm a really cool bicyclist and all that, I'm going to add a little air to my tires before I take off.  I hook up the good old bicycle pump and realize the connector won't fit the valve stem on my bike.  Well, no problem.  I have another pump, a foot operated model.  I hook that one up with no problem and start pumping away.  Air is really whooshing around, but there doesn't seem to be much resistance to the foot pedal.  I pump for a while, and it doesn't feel right.  I check the tire.

No air.  Completely flat.

It turns out that there's a hole in the tire pump.

Discouraged but determined, I put the bike rack on my car, strap the bike on the rack and head over to The Bike Route, where I get my tires inflated and buy a new tire pump for about $40.  Well, it was on sale and it's a good pump.

I've got a lot of brush that has to come down around the house, so I got out the old chain saw.  It wouldn't start.  Wouldn't even pop.  I took it over to Janney's Service Center, where I spent $40 to have the mechanic tell me that the chainsaw was stored with fuel in the tank, the fuel evaporated and the residue is clogging up everything, especially the carburetor.  Since it's an old chainsaw, they probably can't get parts for it, and even if they could the repair will start at $120.  That's just for openers, see.  Start at an additional $120, on top of the $40 that I just burned up.  The mechanic won't run carburetor cleaner through it.  I gather they don't do that anymore.

Old Chainsaw

I picked up my saw and left.  I don't know quite why, but this whole business left a sour taste in my mouth.  I feel like I got hosed somehow, I just don't know quite how.  I don't expect the man to work for nothing, but to drop $40 just to find out it's going to cost a lot more to fix the chainsaw, and then the fix might not work seems to be a bit much.

I called my neighbor Margie and asked if she had a chainsaw I could borrow.  As it happens, she did, but she didn't have any bar oil for it.  No problem, I'll go out and get some at The Andersons. I must have walked the length of the store three times before I found the bar oil.  All I can say is that I was following a customer service guy, and he was in worse physical shape than I'm in and he couldn't find it either.  Well, I finally found the oil, bought a giant size can of it and went home.

I like chainsawing stuff up.  It gets rid of a lot of frustrations... until the saw gets jammed in a tree limb and I have to dig out a dull trimming saw and work for a solid hour getting it unjammed.

Margie's Saw
I worked until my arms gave out, then I quit.  Evidently the chainsaw decided to quite too, because it wouldn't start the next day.  Letting it sit and stew overnight didn't improve its attitude, because it refused to start again today.

So me, not being too bright, offered to take it over to Janney's and let them work on it.  I'm sure I'm going to get hosed again, but since the cursed thing was working earlier, the fix can't be all that bad.  So I've got that to look forward to.

But dinner was a success.  I've never made etouffee, although I've got several recipes for it, including one given to me by a professional chef from Wisconsin, which came with explicit instructions which emphasize keeping a fire extinguisher close at hand.  And yes, the man was serious.  Very serious.

I didn't use the recipe I got in Wisconsin, but the one I used was a civilian version of the same thing, and it turned out great.  In particular, the recipe called for 14 ounces of chicken broth, and I discovered that only two ounces had leaked out of the bag, leaving exactly 14 ounces behind.  Divine intervention, I think, played a big part in this one.

I think I'll have a brandy and hit the sack.  Tomorrow starts a new week and a trip Memphis, where I'll enjoy barbecue and Beale Street.  Here's how!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Obituary for Jane King Cameron Emery

Jane Emery
This is a functional duplicate of the obituary as it was published in the Toledo Blade on Sunday, July 12, 2015. You can read it here: Jane King Cameron Emery. To this, I have added a few important paragraphs and pictures.

Jane King (Cameron) Emery, 90, of Sylvania, Ohio passed away suddenly Wednesday, July 8, 2015. She was born June 28, 1925, in Toledo, Ohio to Louis T. and Ruth Mary (Wright) Cameron, the second of four sisters.

Jane graduated from Libbey High School in 1943 and continued her education at the University of Toledo, earning a Bachelor of Arts. In the middle of her junior year she met Bill Emery, who had just returned from WWII. They were married in Toledo on October 2, 1948, and had two sons, William Louis and Robert McFarland.

Jane taught business subjects at Whitmer High School where the love, patience and respect that she showed her students made her a favorite teacher and inspired many students to become successful. She served as adviser to the Whitmer Equestrians, helping the club organize and put on their own horse show, which drew hundreds of entries from all over the area. Jane's avocation was raising and training American Saddlebred Horses and Palominos. In the 1960s she rode her registered PHBA mare, Emerydale's Golden Girl, to the position of first place in the nation, where she retired undefeated. Jane moved to American Saddlebred horses, showing in three gaited and fine harness classes and winning numerous trophies and awards.

When her husband of 58 years passed away, Jane put the remaining horses out to pasture and pursued other interests. She loved to sew and made several beautiful quilts for her family. She bought a piano and took piano lessons. She also enjoyed drawing, preferring pencil and charcoal, and she enjoyed going to church services every Sunday where she sat in 'widows' row', as the residents laughingly called it.

Jane was a caring, unassuming, generous person who loved her church. She never had a cross word to say about anyone. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Bill; brother-in-law, John Roper, and her beloved sister, Amy-Lou Seymour. Left to cherish her memory are sisters, Alma Roper, Ann (Ned) Braunschweiger; nieces, Linda (Roper) Tong and Amy-Lou (Little Amy) Braunschweiger; nephew, John Roper; sons, Bill and Bob; daughter-in-law, Kim (Bob) Emery, and her cherished grandson, Wayne Emery. She will also be grievously missed by the family amicis, Dave Leuck and Mike Hamann.

We also want to recognize close personal friends Ellen Boone and her three daughters Anna, Karen and Meg.  These warmhearted, caring ladies enjoyed countless holidays, outings and parties with Jane, and were a great comfort to her when her husband passed away, and again when her son Bill was sick with cancer.  Their kindness and consideration gave Jane a lot of happiness over the years.

A memorial service will be held July 18th at 11:00 a.m. at Bethany Community Fellowship, 5757 Flanders Road, Toledo, Ohio 43623, and will be followed by a fellowship meal. A brief internment ceremony will be held at Toledo Memorial Park at 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

R.I.P. Jane Emery, née Cameron

It is my duty to inform everyone that my dear mother, Jane Emery, née Cameron, passed away last night (Wednesday, 7/8/15) around 11:00 PM.

I left the house around 8:00 to return some videos and make another stop or two.  When I got back around 8:45 I discovered that Mom was sitting in her recliner (where I left her), but she had vomited over everything as was semi-conscious.  She told me she'd had a heart attack. I called 9-1-1 and the EMS team arrived promptly.  They worked on Mom for a while, started an IV and such, then loaded Mom onto a stretcher and took her to Flower Hospital ER.  Mom's heart stopped at the ER, and the Dr. at the ER (Dr. Wilson) managed to revive her.  This happened several times, then the doctor explained to me that the medication was keeping her heart beating, but each time it wore off her heart stopped.  The kindest thing to do was to stop medicating her.
So that's what happened.

Ellen was with me, and we said good-bye to Mom.  I told Mom not to worry about me, that the Lord was looking after me and I'd be alright, and we'd see each other again in heaven.

I have a few phone calls to make today, but I'll be checking my email and Facebook as time and energy permit.

In addition (as of December 22, 2015) you may read the various obituaries at the following links:

R.I.P. Jane Emery

Toledo Blade Obituary Jane King Emery

Toledo Blade Article Jane Emery

This Site Obituary

Thank you and good night.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Helicopter Parents and Other Undesireables

Maybe you've had the misfortune to be seated near them while dining out.  They're the family of three to five whose children scream, run around the restaurant, and generally behave like a tribe of howler monkeys.  The parents are worse than a table full of drunks.  They allow their children to disrupt the rest of the world, and in fact will tell you that this kind of obstreperous behavior is completely acceptable and even cute.  Moreover, the parents believe that their children have the inalienable right to behave this way, no matter who finds it offensive.  Their child is special, precious and a benefit to the world.  These are helicopter parents.

The only thing worse than helicopter parents are helicopter parents with a special needs child.

Monday, July 6, 2015

About a week ago during the weekly meeting of Toledo Writers Group, Mary Shipko passed out
and hit the floor with a meaty smack a proposed FAQ for her latest release, AVIATRIX: First Woman Pilot for Hughes Airwest. The group took a few minutes to read it over, then our esteemed group leader opened the door to the usual flood of criticism.

To make this mercifully short, I'll omit the levity. When my number came up, I offered what I fervently hoped were a couple helpful suggestions and disposed of the whole thing. But instead of moving on, Mary asked me if I found the questions on the FAQ interesting and stimulating.

"In a word, no."

When it appeared that Mary's feathers were a bit ruffled, I hastened to add that my opinion didn't mean much, mainly because I don't read bestsellers from the New York Times Best Sellers List. The authors I tend to read might make this list, but not consistently and not this month. Next month isn't looking good either.

At this juncture I dimly recall some impulsive pedagogue adding something about target audiences and societal pariahs, but perhaps not. My point here is that my tastes don't run to mainstream press or commercial media, which means that I'm not this month's pick to be a hot new property on the Big Five's list. In keeping with that train of thought, if I, personally, like something, be it a book, an electronic gizmo, or a girl, that something is very likely not popular and might easily fail. It turns out that I have a certain amount of support for my harbinger theory.

The Chicago Tribune published an article stating the same thing. Here's a link to the story, but you'll need an account to read the entire article: There's a Reason All Your Favorite Products Are Always Being Discontinued. The Consumerist published a similar article, If You Buy The Stuff No One Else Likes, You Just May Be A “Harbinger Of Failure”, which is worth reading.

Basically, if you liked Zune, an iPod competitor that failed miserably, you might be one of these harbinger people. Worse, the more you like the product and the more you buy of it, the more likely the item is to fail.

The obvious way out of this is to find me, or people like me, and pay us not to like something. If that solution doesn't appeal to you, I suggest you don't waste time learning about your target audience; you'll likely get bored and give up. What you do is find out what your target audience is buying, then buy-borrow-or-steal three to five of these books, and read them to completion. After that, you can sit down at your keyboard and write something similar. Better yet, write several similar books and publish them on Amazon. Once the great unwashed discovers them, you won't have to worry about paying me and my friends not to like them. In fact, your only worry will involves taxes and your next best seller.
When I started this blog, I took a solemn vow not to write about politics, controversial societal problems involving Christian oppression or moral turpitude, and carefully remain under the RAdio Detection And Ranging devices of the SJWs and their sad/rabid puppies discussion.

This morning I've managed to shatter my own vow.

Oh well.  Rules are made to be broken, or at the very least, severely bent.  Vows are nothing more than a subclass of rules, and in this case the vow was made only to myself, and since I'm the one offended by the violation of said vow, I get to assign the punishment.

I hereby sentence myself to one evening without a cocktail, said evening to be determined at a later date.

My gripe is gun control and how it is obviously not working the way it's supposed to, and the screwed up Federal government that's letting the local, subordinate governments get away with this no-damned-good commie horseshit. Consider the latest news.

The Chicago Tribune brings us a story on the infamous 4th of July weekend:

10 Killed, 54 Wounded In Gun Violence Over Fourth of July Weekend in Chicago

Shootings over the long Fourth of July weekend left 10 people dead and 54 others wounded.

Among those killed was a 7-year-old boy shot in the chest during an attack aimed at his father, according to police.

Seven years old and he's hit by a slug intended for his father.  Did his father know this was likely to happen?  Are you freakin' kidding me? Of course the father knew, but rather than keep his son at home or let him go with another relative, he took the child into a gun fight. The commercial news media doesn't say if the father was armed or not, or give any information about the family.  Any bets on the father being a violent criminal and a gang member?

Then 5 NBC Chicago brings a recap and a little more information in general, minus a few somewhat inconsequential items.

Nine Dead, 46 Wounded in Fourth of July Weekend Violence in Chicago

Nine people died and 46 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago this Fourth of July weekend.
Among those who died was a 7-year-old boy who was shot while watching fireworks in Humboldt Park with his father just before midnight Saturday.

Three things that the commercial news media carefully avoids, and which should be published and emphasized:
  • How many of these people were shot by police, or shot in self-defense by a civilian?
  • How many of the victims were gang members with a violent criminal past?
  • Why didn't the alleged perpetrators obey the Draconian gun laws of the city of Chicago?
In a city where I'm most likely to need to carry a gun, local law prohibits me from doing so.  It's been this way for years, and Chicago is still a violent city.  Maybe it's time to try something else.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Get Paid

Back in the early '70s (that would be in the last century for all you digital natives) I read Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer, the little tortoise who could. The only two words in his book that are underlined are: Get Paid. That phrase stuck with me for the rest of my life, but it took me a while to learn to put it into practice.

To this end, Larry Correia of Monster Hunter Nation has written several articles that are well worth reading. The series begins when some unknown contributor with nothing but time on his hands manages to ruffle Larry's feathers. Here's the link to this story, which should be read at your own risk: File 770 Is Mad At Me Again. Larry goes on to explain exactly how authors get paid (or not, as the case may be) in How Authors Get Paid, Part 1 and How Authors Get Paid, Part 2. All of these articles are easy reads and well worth your time.

The part that Larry doesn't cover is that, unlike the rest of the world, the typical author isn't fighting with an employer or a client about a contract, a bounced check or the real meaning of net-30. The typical author is battling obscurity, and in order to Get Paid you must first beat obscurity three falls out of three.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cirque du Soleil: Koozå

Last Saturday Mom and I went down to Columbus to see Cirque.  Mike was good enough to put us up for the night, which was very nice of him.  Mike's mom was in town, and the four of us went to see Cirque du Soleil, the Koozå show.

Cirque Tickets
The Cirque is magnificent, so much so that I'm unable to describe it with anything close to adequacy.  If you haven't been to see Cirque du Soleil, or Circus of the Sun as we'd say it in English, save up your pennies and go.  Our tickets were $90 each (ouch!) and worth twice the price.

In the Koozå show, the clowns spoke English and were actually funny.  The clowns bear no resemblance to traditional circus clowns, either in costume or in humor; rather, they are comedians.  Generally, the clowns don't speak, or don't speak English.  They may speak in a foreign language (likely an obscure Slavic language spoken by 37 people living above the Arctic circle), or they will make speech-like noises.  In the Koozå show, they made jokes.  They also played with the audience, selecting a few people for special attention.

The performers in Cirque are all Olympic class athletes, and the acts they do reflect that.  The aerial acts required a huge amount of upper body strength, along with exceptional coordination.  You won't see these acts anywhere else in the world, and they are well worth seeing.

Cirque du Soleil is a circus for adults.  It isn't that children are not welcome.  It's that most children are too immature to enjoy the show, and the tickets are a bit pricey.

Since we saw the afternoon show, which started right on time at 4:30 PM, we all went out to dinner afterwards.  Mike suggested we go to the Bonefish Grill, which is an excellent restaurant and is close to home.  I had shrimp and scallops, which were very nice.

Mom and I drove back Sunday, sadly missing church services.  Too bad, but the show was worth it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 4

We signed up for a session of Arkham Horror on Friday, but our event was canceled due to the fragile constitution of the game master (mistress?) who, we were informed, was in the ladies worshiping at the porcelain altar.  Too much holy water the night before, I'd guess.

Event Ticket
Note that the event ticket shows the name of the event, the day and time for the event, but as for the location - forget it.  You have to track down the location for yourself, which Mike did.  I'm told that a key individual quit last year just before the convention started, which means that GAMA had one year to get their act together and couldn't manage to pull it off.  Good job, GAMA.

Canceled Due To Lack Of GM
Note that Mister Big Wheel is using the British spelling for the word 'canceled'.  I prefer the American spelling, mainly because I'm living in the United States.  I suppose it could be argued that the idiot doesn't know how to spell, but that's almost impossible seeing as how he's in management and his team are all university students.  I need a tag for sarcasm.

On my way around the dealer show, I happened across the booth for Mayday Games, who were touting their new game, Viceroy.  Viceroy is not for sale, as it's due to be released in August at Gen Con.  When I asked if they would demo the game, there was a quick huddle, then I was informed that they would demo the game if I could provide the players.  As it happened, I knew of three gamers with nothing better to do.

New Game
As it turned out, Viceroy is an outstanding game. It took us about an hour to learn and play the game to completion. Setup time is minimal, and the play is mechanically easy and done at a fairly fast pace.

Viceroy Setup
The Winner!
As you can see, Mike won the game rather neatly.  Dave beat me by one point, but I'm told that 59 is a respectable score, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with the game.  All I can say is that this was a test round, and Dave didn't watch Mike closely enough.

Here's the board at the end of the game.

My Pyramid

The Winning Pyramid
Cards are turned over four at a time and players bid on the card of their choice, using tokens as payment for the card - if they win the bid.  Cards are assembled into a pyramid structure, which determines how points are scored.  Players can contest each other for a certain card, thus preventing another player from scoring points.  This is an oversimplification of the rules, as there are a myriad number of ways to score victory points in Viceroy.

Our game master for the session was none other than Seth Hiatt, owner and founder of Mayday Games.  Seth is an affable, high energy man who is used to dealing successfully with too many irons in the fire.  By his own admission it had been some time since he'd had to teach Viceroy to anyone, so his explanation was frequently punctuated with "before you do that" caveats.  He also made a few observations about strategy during the game, which was a help to us.

Seth Hiatt, Game Master
We had a great time playing Viceroy, and were so impressed with the game that both Dave and Mike each bought a copy in advance of the release in August.  Their games will ship when Gen Con opens.

The playing time for Viceroy is around 45 minutes, and the optimal number of players is three.  Although we didn't try the game with two players, it was easy to see what would likely happen.  Four players is the maximum number allowed, and would provide for more conflict between opponents.

The design for Viceroy is solid, and I recommend it to anyone searching for a board game that is not in the same category as Monopoly.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 3

On Friday we were scheduled to play Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight Games at 10:00 AM.  We endured the snipe hunt, found the correct table - and settled down to wait.  The point of playing this board game is to enjoy ourselves, and part of that enjoyment comes from not having to set the game up and put it away afterwards.  For those who have never played Arkham Horror, the setup takes time.  Then there's the fun of looking up obscure rule exceptions and keeping track of a myriad of play exceptions.

On the way to the table we got waylaid by a pert, young co-ed who, upon learning we were playing Arkham Horror, exclaimed! that, "Your game master is Kim!  She's awesome!".  Yeah, she really did talk that way.

The game is being hosted by Gamers of the Apocalypse (GOTA on Facebook), who are being compensated for their efforts.  About 15 minutes after the game was due to start, a morbidly obese man in a motorized chair wheeled over to tell us that our game master was in the ladies' room throwing up, so the game was canceled.  Clearly, Kim's awesomeness didn't extend to limiting her liquor intake to something she could manage on the morning after.

Mister Big Wheel (I never did get his name) signed off on the cancellation at our insistence.  We went over to the manager's kiosk, where we were given a somewhat surly reception when we had the audacity to ask for our money back.  Officialdom finally signed off on the refund, and we were directed to go to customer service.  The lady at customer service was nice about the whole business, apologized and gave us a refund.  So we now have a six hour time slot that is empty.

But this gets better.

The following day we showed up for another event for which we had registered and bought tickets.  Again, it was Arkham Horror, only this time with all the expansion sets.  The game board is going to take up more space than a large dining room table, and the complexity is significant.  Once again, Gamers of the Apocalypse was in charge, and once again they failed.  This time the game master showed up, but the game was missing.  The game master signed off on the cancellation under the direction of Mister Big Wheel, again we went to the manager's kiosk where the reception was a good deal less salty than our previous experience, then over to customer service where the same nice lady refunded out money and issued the standard apology.  Now we've got another six hour time slot empty.

This is not our first experience with GOTA.  Last year they hosted Arkham Horror, and the game master was an hour late.  When she finally showed up, she was so hung over that she was shaking so badly she had trouble holding a cup of coffee.  I don't know what she was taking besides liquor, and I don't think I want to know.

I think that in the future we'll just skip the events hosted by Gamers of the Apocalypse.  I also think the Origins management team should do a better job of vetting the staff.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 2

On Thursday, June 4th, the three of us played our first registered event: Elder Sign.  I mention this as a point of interest for two reasons:
  • We won, which is rare with Elder Sign.
  • The other events we registered for were canceled.

Here is a shot of the winning board, which looks fairly chaotic.  The game is complex, and the players must cooperate if they are going to win.

Elder Sign - The Win!
After the game, we walked around the dealer show a while.  The crowd on Thursday was a little sparse by comparison with the weekend, but there was traffic.

Dealer Show
I have no idea what the vendors pay for a booth, but I gather that Origins sold out of booth space.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 1

I'm a gamer.  I make no bones about it.  I enjoy fantasy role play (FRP) games, as well as board games.  About the only thing I don't enjoy (game-wise) are head games, especially with members of the opposite sex.

So last week I, along with my two brothers from other mothers, attended the Origins Gaming Convention in Columbus, Ohio.  We've all attended Origins before, and so understand the dysfunctional system that the organizer mistakenly calls registration, but this year the glaring errors in the process were worse than ever.

The Origins Game Fair is organized by the Game Manufacturers Association, or GAMA, a non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio.  Origins is held in the Greater Columbus Convention Center Hyatt Regency (GCCC/Hyatt). About 15,000 people attend the convention over five days, June 3rd through June 7th.  Given the number of people, online preregistration is strongly encouraged.

The problems we encountered at Origins started with the online registration system, which might have been designed by an SJW suffering the effects of mescaline and PMS.  The design is just this side of completely dysfunctional, but the worst part about the design is that one person isn't able to register several people for an event at the same time.  So if you have a group going to Origins and you all want to attend one particular event, good luck.  You must all register separately and hope that available slots don't fill up by the time the last person in your group registers.  Making things worse is the downloadable event grid, which is in an *.xlsx format.  If you don't have an up-to-date version of Micro$oft Excel, forget about trying to open it.  Mind you, GAMA could have published this as a PDF file, which everyone can read, but I guess they didn't like that idea.

When you have trouble with the online system, you can try emailing GAMA.  They won't answer any emails, but you can try.  Mike sent GAMA four email messages and was ignored all four times.  While one email message might get lost in the shuffle, two is improbable and four is just plain rude.

The three of us managed to register more by luck than anything else, and received an email message confirming our registration and providing us with a barcode that we will presumably scan when we get to the con.

The registration line at the convention is long.  It's always long, and this year is no exception.

Registration at Origins

The Long Line for Registration
I'll give GAMA credit where it's due.  Although the line was long, it moved right along and about 15 minutes later we had tickets to the three events we'd registered for, along with our badges and passes for the board room, an exclusive gaming area.

The printed version of the events list is not organized correctly.  GAMA separates the list by genre, then by date and time.  So, if you're trying to find out what might be available on Saturday morning, you end up flipping back and forth between sections of the program and getting more frustrated by the minute.  Again, this is a simple fix that GAMA refuses to provide.

As I looked through the program, I noticed that several authors I admire were going to be present at Origins, but that none of them were holding a seminar.  In particular Timothy Zahn was here, but he wouldn't be speaking anywhere. All the seminars were being held by someone whose name I didn't recognize. Then I discovered that Michael A. Stackpole was here, but not listed as a speaker. I found that very odd, as Stackpole is a high-energy sort that will hold a seminar for anyone.

I made a few inquiries and found out that the man in charge of printing the program had quit in 2014, just before the convention opened.  His replacement was responsible for the myriad errors in the program.  This is something that GAMA had one year to fix, and they couldn't even get this one right.

Then Mike pointed out the problem with the tickets.

Event Ticket 2015
This is a ticket for an event at Origins.  Note that the ticket displays the name and number of the event, the date and time the event is held - but where, exactly, are we supposed to go?  The locating is listed as the GCCC/Hyatt, but the room number and the table number are conspicuously absent, as is the name of the game master (who supplies the game, does the set up and teaches the rules as necessary).  We went from the customer service booth to a large gaming room where we spoke with another official, who cheerfully admitted that GAMA screwed the pooch on this one and directed us to the correct table.

I mean, tickets, right?  You'd think that someone would have proofed the tickets before printing and spotted this little error.

Tomorrow I'll be writing about the gaming experience we had at Origins.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Business Cards

I asked Tina Bongorno, the beautiful and talented lady who created the cover art for both my books, to design a business card for me.  Here's the best of four final results.

What impressed me the most is that the staff at the print shop remembered the logo.  Not me, of course - the logo.

"Oh yeah, you're the one with the feather and the ink well.  Nice card."

Well, there you have it.  At least an impression was made, which is worlds better than complete obscurity.  My thanks to Tina for the excellent job she did on the card.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

On Publishing and Associated Headaches

Writing a book is only part of the fun. Next comes editing (where you get to fix all the mistakes you made, including typos) then the real work begins. Over at the Mad Genius Club, Cedar Sanderson has put together a list of links to articles that will help make this process a lot easier. You can read all about it at From Writing, to Publication, and Beyond by Cedar Sanderson published on March 7, 2015.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Worthy Read

I enjoy reading the Mad Genius Club, and I found a particularly worthwhile post the other day. Check out Velocity and Trajectory: A guest post by Dorothy Grant. Dorothy writes about the new Amazon algorithm for determining a book's popularity, then provides a nice list of promotion sites.