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.