Thursday, June 30, 2011

Origins Game Fair: Writing Seminars

As I mentioned yesterday, I attended several seminars on writing at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio.  Several of these were given by Michael A. Stackpole, a published author of some repute who you can read about here and here.  Mr. Stackpole is a very knowledgeable man and a fairly good instructor, meaning that he has the knowledge of writing and does an average or above average job of imparting that knowledge to the seminar attendees.  His lectures are well organized and he's an engaging, articulate public speaker.  One thing that never fails to annoy me is a public speaker I can't hear well enough or that doesn't articulate, so that even if I can hear them I can't make out their words.  That said, Stackpole is egotistical edging into narcissism.  He invariably took time to extoll the virtues of his current work which is self-published on disk and had a stack of CDs conveniently located on a nearby desk.  Watching and listening to him lecture I was suddenly struck by his close resemblance to the fictional character Gilderoy Lockhart as portrayed by Kenneth Branagh in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Professor Lockhart is the author of the (fictional) book Magical Me! and delivers a lecture punctuated by references to himself and his work - Getting back to something truly interesting - Me!  Branagh does a great job acting the part in the film and provides a truly annoying personality.

None of this is meant to devalue the seminar or Stackpole's presentation which I consider time very well spent.  I would not hesitate to repeat it or to attend other seminars presented by Stackpole or even recommended by him.  It is meant as both an insight into Stackpole's personality as well as to put things into perspective.  In dealing with Michael A. Stackpole you have to remember that in his own opinion there may be that sui generis occasion when he may not always be right - but he is never wrong.

The most useful seminar Stackpole gave was titled 21 Days to a Novel.  In reality this is actually twenty-one steps to the completed outline of a novel, including composition exercises.  Here are my notes on the twenty-one step program.

Step 1: Write one sentence about one character in five different situations or life areas.  You'll have five sentences upon completion.  This character will be referred to as C1.

Step 2: Write two more sentences about each sentence from step one.

Step 3: Write one sentence about the five sentences from step one, but each sentence must be in conflict with the first sentence (from step one).

Step 4: Write two more sentences about each sentence from step 3.  Upon completion of this step you will have five conflicts, and this is the engine of stories.

Step 5:  Create a second character and repeat steps 1 through 4 using the new character.  This character must have some relationship to the character in day 1, although the relationship may be non-obvious.  Avoid the antagonist - protagonist relationship.  This character will be referred to as Z17.

Step 6: Describe two short term and one long term life goals for both characters.  The goals will tell you where the character is headed.  If some of the goals are mutually exclusive, so much the better.  Note that goals represent the escape hatch for the character; here's where he is now and here's where he'd like to be.

Step 7: Chart the obstacles and fears that are preventing the characters from attaining their goals.

Step 8: Repeat steps 1 through 7 for a third character.  When you create the relationships between the three, remember that the three may well be in competition with each other, either inadvertently or deliberately.  For instance, we can't all be president - one person must win the election.  This character will be referred to as STEPEIGHT.

Step 9: Work on dialog.  Have C1 write Z17 a letter within which:
C1 asks Z17 for help or
C1 offers a warning to Z17 or
C1 apologizes and/or explains something to Z17 (Stackpole notes that women apologize and men explain - his fan club of two women howl in appreciation) 
Note that these topics are mutually exclusive.

During this letter C1 will reveal a vulnerability to Z17.

Write a description of the letter.  This isn't a description of the content, but a physical description of the letter - is it written on stationary, typed, hand written, illegibly hand written, etc.

Step 10: Work on dialog.  C1 talks to Z17 about the letter.  Write the dialog without attribution tags (no he said, she said) so that the characters will be recognized by their parts of speech.

Jack's Notes: I got into a 'discussion' with Stackpole and the rest of the audience about regional accents.  Stackpole's statement is that dialect is no longer used - the audience accedes to this and the fan club wants to crucify me for daring to ask the high priest a question.  Unfortunately for the fan club I'm a belligerent conservative, and so will not be swayed by overly sensitive emotions and the arguments based on same.  Stackpole dictates that cain't may never be used in place of can't and that regional accents must be represented by easily identifiable phrases.  This is equally true with various professions, all of which have a certain lingo that only members of that profession will use.

Step 11: Work on dialog. From the point of view of STEPEIGHT, describe the conversation between C1 and Z17 from Step 10 but STEPEIGHT cannot hear the dialog, only see the two characters.

When this is finished, slide the visuals as seen by STEPEIGHT into the dialog between C1 and Z17.

Jack's Notes: When this was explained to me, I automatically assumed that STEPEIGHT would know what the conversation was about, but then I changed my mind.  I think a much more interesting approach would be to have STEPEIGHT see the conversation and guess as to just what the two were talking about.  Stackpole pushed this aside - he didn't respond or really acknowledge my suggestion - mainly because it doesn't fit his exercise.  I suspect that Stackpole doesn't really want STEPEIGHT involved here so much as he wants a 'fly on the wall' sort of person.

Step 12: Describe the roots all three characters have in the world.  These are the things that keep them in one place, such as religion, sports, etc.  This is a reflection of the environment the characters live in.

Step 13: Describe how the world or environment helps or hinders the three characters as they strive to achieve their long term and short term goals?  For instance, do they live in a nurturing world?

Step 14: Describe how will the world be changed if the characters succeed or fail in their life goals.  Will the other two characters be affected, etc.?

Describe how the world will resist or assist them while they work at their goals.  (Stackpole) Note that the world is actually a character in your story, and if a character is lucky he will remain beneath notice.

Jack's Notes: Stackpole uses a different approach here in that he presumes the world will always resist the characters.  I think he's coloring this with his own perceptions - Stackpole is absolutely intolerant of any authority except his own, and is likely the sort of man who will mouth off until he gets Tazered for resisting arrest.  One example of how the world is changed during goal achievement is shown in Charlie Wilson's War when Our Hero defeats his next door neighbor by offering free bus service to poor people.

Note Stackpole's comment about the world and remaining beneath notice.  Not necessarily true.

Step 15:  Write one scene for each character where that character is in the shared space or within close proximity of the other two characters.

Write one scene for each character where that character is in his sanctum / sanctuary, which will include a description of just what it is that makes this place special and makes the character happy.

Step 16: Write the back cover of your novel.  This is the blub that your personal patron of the arts and future fan club president will read when she turns over your novel and starts reading.

Note two definitions:
Scene: Things that characters do.
Events: Things that happen on the world timeline.

Step 17: Critical:  From conflict to resolution every problem in your novel goes through four or five out of these five steps:

  1. Scene that shows the problem exists
  2. Scene where the character realizes that there is a problem
  3. Show the catalyst for change, meaning that the character can no longer ignore the problem or allow the problem to continue
  4. Show the development of resources that allow the character to solve the problem
  5. Show success or failure to solve the problem.  This is where growth takes place; the character grows internally; applied characterization

Assignment: Using these steps make a list of the scenes you will have to write for all three characters.

Step 18: Look at all the scenes you just listed and write down the world events that are caused or affected by the scenes.  After the list is complete plot the scenes into the events.

Step 19: Reverse the process in Step 18; plot the events into the scenes.

Step 20: Make sure that everything is in chronological order.  This is the outline for the novel.

Step 21: Write.
  • Every word you write gets you closer to the end.  Pile up words.
  • Make a note - edit later.  You must have coffee in the coffee cup before you can see how hot it is.
  • Make copious notes about the characters actions and facts about them.
  • Make back ups of data when ever you take a break.
  • One chapter equals 2500 words.  Keep count of your words and remember that shorter chapters keep the reader's interest up.
And that's it.  Follow these 21 steps and you'll eventually have a novel.  There are, however, a few caveats.  As you write various scenes and events, you'll very likely have to change or edit things you've already written because you will need to keep things consistent or you've had a better idea.  Just do it.

Another point, which Stackpole carefully neglected to include, is that this is like anything else you stumble across in the world.  It isn't perfect and it may not be better than nothing.  However that may be, you pays your money and you takes your choice.  If you like it, by all means post a comment and say so.  Tell your friends and relatives.  Spread the good word!  If you or your wife is a hottie, send her over to Mad Jack's Shack with instructions to upload some naked pictures of herself.  If you don't like it, write your comments on the back of a $20 bill and send it to me.  I'll get right on the changes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Origins Game Fair

Back in 1974 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created a game they called Dungeons and Dragons which was published by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR).  Intrigued by the thought of something that wasn't chess, monopoly or the stock market I bought a copy and played it.  It was fun.

Last weekend Big Mike and I attended the Origins Gaming Convention in Columbus, Ohio at the convention center, and things have changed a bit since the good old days of low impact dice and cheaply produced rule books.  Mike, by the way, is a bored board gamer and entered several events which he claims to have enjoyed.  I noted that a few authors were presenting writing seminars on topics that hold a great deal of interest to me and so attended the seminars, which I'll write about later on.

If you ever attend Origins, take my advice and register for your pass and all your events on line.  You'll save yourself an hour or more of standing in line and very likely a lot of aggravation dealing with the volunteer help at the registration desk.  My own experience can serve to verify this.  For one thing, the software for registration is poorly written and has an extremely slow response time, which means that when the magic go button is pushed everyone leans back with a 'smoke 'em if you got 'em' attitude, because it's going to be a while.  This is bad enough by itself, but imagine a line of convention patrons that stretches out of sight and you may have a better feel for what's going on.  Then there are the convention staff.  These are an all volunteer staff who are being compensated for their efforts in prestige (questionable value) and possibly merchandise, such as feed store cap equivalents.  Instead of full size keyboards and monitors, the staff have laptops with really tiny keyboards that do not have numeric keypads but do have a touch pad mouse along with a crappy screen.  The number of data entry errors goes up by a factor of five just due to the hardware, never mind the end user.  In my case the clerk took forever to type all four of my events into the system, then couldn't get the system to acknowledge the events.  It turned out to be a user error, but after a solid 20 minutes of waiting for something that should have taken two minutes I began to become exasperated.  Then I had a thought, and asked the man what he did when he wasn't volunteering at Origins.

"I work a lot on my mother's farm."

I considered this for a minute.  The man was in his thirties, physically fit and likely able to handle livestock, a four wheel drive vehicle over rough terrain including fixing said vehicle in the field with minimal tools, able to load a truck so the freight wouldn't shift in transit and bring home dinner with a shotgun or fishing pole.  Naturally they put this guy in front of a crappy laptop with poorly designed software.  This is an example of the organizational and planning skills at Origins.  Then we have the lines, shown below.

Line for a Day Pass

Buying a day pass allows you to peruse the trade show and nose around a little, but does not allow you to participate in any events.  To actually participate or attend an event requires a regular pass, and the line up for that one is a zoo.

I was amazed by the number of people in costume.  One thing you'll learn about gaming conventions is that they are a virtual haven for Moonbat liberals.  For instance, the prevalent costume theme seemed to be a Victorian style with a fantasy motif added after the fact, but clearly it incorporated none of the Victorian philosophy or customs, such as how women were to be treated.  One exception to this theme was the pagan barbarian shown below.

Barbarian with Coyote Pelt
I spoke to this man briefly before I took his picture and asked about his coyote pelt, and he seemed pleased to explain just how he came by it.

"Well, it was this way." He said.  "I was hiking along the trail eating my granola trail mix and I found this poor coyote lying by the side of the road, just where the trail crosses Interstate 70.  I think he got hit by a car, because he was very badly hurt and I didn't want him to die alone, so I held him a while and petted him until he... well, he passed away."  The barbarian paused to wipe away a tear - who says tough guys don't cry?

"Anyhow, I felt that the two of us had really bonded and, well, somehow I just couldn't give him up like that, so I called the Ohio Department of Fish and Wildlife and they told me about an elderly gentleman down in Hollansburg, Ohio who could cure the hide for me.  They said he was licensed and everything, so that's what I did - and here he is.  That's why I come to these conventions, because this is one of the few places where we can be together and people don't look at us funny - like we're weird or something."

I thought about this for a second.  "You know, I'm a gun owner and a shooter - " I started, but he cut me off.

"Oh.  Well, in that case - I live on a small farm just North of Dayton, Ohio and I shot the son of a bitch out back behind the barn.  I tanned the hide myself.  Like it?"

I assured him I liked his pelt and moved on.  Clearly this man has more experience with the convention than I do or than I'm ever likely to have.

The dealer show was quite large, and in addition to all manner of games vendors also had costumes and furniture.  Go figure, right?  But the table below is an excellent piece, extremely well made and reasonably priced.  If I wanted a gaming table, here's the Rolls Royce of the industry.

Game Table
There were various sizes and heights, but all the furniture was solid and very well put together.  I was impressed.  There was also luggage to cart around your miniature army.  I can't imagine actually hauling around several hundred miniature lead soldiers and other paraphernalia, but people do it.  This company sells the suitcases necessary to haul your army in style.

Custom Cases

Custom Foam Rubber Inserts
I asked if they could make anything to order for firearms, and one sales lady assured me they could.  All I had to do was trace out the shape on paper and they could cut the foam.  Although they were willing, none of them would admit to knowing what a 1911 was.  Speaking of firearms, here are a few new models for the discriminating firearms aficionado. 

Annihilator Mk II

Ready for Safari
This is actually a take off of Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators which the experienced galactic traveler will no doubt recognize.  The costumes are real, as are the people.

Edged Weapons For Sale
Aether Oscillators aside, there were a few edged weapons for sale.  The caveat to actually buying one was that you had to remove it to a safe location outside the convention center right after you purchased it.  The truly asinine part of this is that you could buy a fléau d'armes (often misnamed as a chain mace or morning-star) which is far more dangerous than any edged weapon available.  For the uninitiated, this is a short wooden shaft with one or more spiked balls connected to the end of the shaft by a very short length of chain.  The weapon requires very little skill to wield efficiently and the damage is devastating, it being a class three lever.  Go and try one sometime if you don't believe me.

Edged Weapon Vendors
Not all vendors were in costume, but these were and I thought the girl was cute.

I was tempted to buy a topper and cane from the display below, but I'd never be able to wear them anywhere.  I was always attracted by the top hat and swallow tail coat, and I think I was born a little too late.  Dressing up for anything these days is more a rarity than it used to be, which is a shame. 

Topper and Cane

The luggage displayed here really made me feel my age.  You see, the bag sitting on the floor to the right is identical to the bag used by my father when he was in business.  He traveled a great deal, and that is his overnight bag which he always kept packed and ready to go.  If it's made to the same standard, the bag will be quite heavy when empty.

Speaking of heavy, here are two hotties advertising something or other.  I never learned just what it was thy were selling, my mother having instructed me to refrain from speaking to such women.  While neither of these is the kind of girl most boys would take home to meet mom, the senior prom might be a different story.  Anyway, these two looked good at 30 feet.  Getting a little closer... well, maybe not so much.  The blond had more miles on her than I-75 and her friend was tailgating.

By way of general interest, I talked to this vendor for a few minutes and got a candid photo.  She is older, about my own age, but her significant other was present so I had to hold the old Mad Jack charm in check.  That's a lot harder than you'd think, as she was friendly and very good looking.

Costume Vendor
This was one of several large costume shops at the trade show, and the items are not cheap.  Clearly the show isn't catering to children.

On our way out we ran into a line of about 30 or so waiters, all dressed in the easily recognizable 'I'm a waiter' outfit complete with bar towel held over the arm.  What's the deal with this?

None of them would talk about their job or why they were there, so I assumed it was some kind of performance for the convention.  Nope, not a bit of it.  A little further down the place was alive with security including a friendly K9 cop with her tail wagging partner.  I wanted to stop and pet the dog, but Big Mike insisted we keep moving.  The lady cop looked friendly, too.

K9 Cop
 Further ahead there was even more police and jittery people talking into their lapels.  Now what?  I expected to be stopped for being where we weren't supposed to be, and I was partly correct.

Security!  Identify Yourself
I got buttonholed by a young man with a clipboard who was collection the signatures of people who oppose State Senate Bill 5, which would remove collective bargaining rights and other things from State workers.  The security was for Joe Biden -  you can read about it here.  I had to think for a minute before I could remember just who this zero was, then it came to me.  He's The Anointed One's V.P.  You know, I just can't see it.  We spend all this money to provide security for someone who's real requirements for the job ended right after the election, and who must do nothing more than keep breathing.  What self-respecting terrorist would actually demean himself by trying to whack such a completely insignificant target as Biden?

One interesting point that I noted from the article:
With the exception of Vice President Joe Biden, the keynote speaker, the Greater Columbus Convention Center last night featured politicians with the word former attached to their names, including former Gov. Ted Strickland. At the same venue 10 months ago, the stage was crowded with incumbent statewide officeholders.
Good luck with SB-5, I guess.  As for me, I'm not going to worry about it.  I think this is that elusive spot where fantasy meets reality.

Bad Law: HB-14

Ohio is one of the very few States that discriminate against a particular breed of dog, namely the American Pit Bull Terrier. As usual, when legislators decide they know anything, they get it dead wrong.  If any dog breed were to be singled out for legislation (and I do not support the idea of doing so at all), the legislators might have selected the Presa Canario. Instead, the idiots in Columbus succumbed to media pressure and passed a law against pit bulls.  That was about 25 years ago and we've been living with their stupidity ever since.

Ohio State Representative Barbara Sears decided to fix this problem, which is a laudable pursuit.  As a result of her efforts House Bill 14 was introduced for the express purpose of removing any and all references to pit bulls.  Here's a link to H.B. 14 as it was originally introduced.  Note that there are minor changes at lines 13, 14, 69 and 70 with the major change being the removal of lines 35 through 38.  Easy, right?  The citizens of Ohio get rid of a worthless, noisome law and we can all get on with our lives.

Then the Moonbats got hold of it.  These incredibly stupid elected officials rewrote the whole thing with malicious aforethought and, I swear, the help of the evil one himself.  Here's the revised version of H.B. 14, completely FUBAR.  Check section 955.08 and note the fee went from $0.25 to $5.00.  They did everyone a favor there, right?  Then in section 955.11 they make it a point to define a dangerous dog as a dog that has "Been the subject of a third violation of division (C) of section 955.22 of the Revised Code."  Moving to section 955.22 we find that:
(C) Except when a dog is lawfully engaged in hunting and accompanied by the owner, keeper, harborer, or handler of the dog, no owner, keeper, or harborer of any dog shall fail at any time to do either of the following:
(1) Keep the dog physically confined or restrained upon the premises of the owner, keeper, or harborer by a leash, tether, adequate fence, supervision, or secure enclosure to prevent escape;
(2) Keep the dog under the reasonable control of some person.
The emphasis is mine.  In plain speech, if I live out in the country, out in rural Ohio on a farm and my nearest neighbor is five miles away by ATV, four and a half by foot and eight by farm tractor I must keep Hector on a leash.  If I violate the law three times old Hector is now a dangerous dog, despite the fact that Hector is a ten year old basset hound and actually can't bite anyone.

This is only one item that's wrong with H.B. 14, but it's not an insignificant item.  This law was written by a group of Moonbats who can't sleep nights knowing that some portion of the population might be free.  Free, as in free to do as they please without Draconian law written by someone who can only be described as mean spirited.

This is a prime example of bad law, and it didn't have to be this way. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Are Kidz Ain't Lern Nuttin

One way or another I stumbled across a blog Is Our Children Learning? that is purported to be written by an elementary school teacher, Ruben.  I read his entries from time to time, partly out of curiosity, partly for the entertainment value (the man writes well) but mainly to try and gain some insight into the thoughts and mind set of a left-of-liberal public school teacher who must know that the public school system is failing and who, by his profession, is in a position to do something about it.  I've been reading this blog sporadically for about a year, and I am no closer to understanding a leftest point of view now than I was when I first began this exercise in time wasting.  I can't even quantify the portions I don't understand, but I can provide an example.

I read the entry for June 23, 2011, Teaching the 4th 'R' - Respect which addresses class behavior.  Summarized, Ruben leaves his class of primates with a substitute teacher and the students go bananas.  Here's the excerpt:

I wasn't surprised when I came back from my end of the year meeting with my principal, and found my students, as per usual, had gone wild in my absence. My few troublemakers never miss an opportunity to, you know, make trouble the second I'm out of the classroom. Still, I was surprised to find the teacher who had been covering me so upset and emotional.

"I have watched Mr. Brosbe teach you about respect all year and he makes time every week to teach you about respect, and I feel very disrespected right now."

And that sums up the problem pretty nicely. Despite devoting numerous lessons this year to respect as part of what I call "The Peacemaker's Program", many of my students still show no signs of truly grasping the concept of respect for others. In addition, my school unveiled a school-wide initiative called Respect for All. This is on top of the existing anti-bullying efforts my school had in place.
You can follow the link above and read the rest as you like, but consider this: Ruben writes that "I wasn't surprised..." that the class behaved very badly in his absence.  By the end of one year of teaching, the class will not behave itself when the authority figure is removed or changed to someone else.  Although Ruben has taught the class how to behave, the class refuses to do so and this does not surprise Ruben; he expects it.  What he doesn't expect is for the substitute teacher to object: "Still, I was surprised to find the teacher who had been covering me so upset and emotional."  Clearly the substitute instructor should have no expectations about good behavior from the students.  Then we are treated to the comments from the substitute, "...I feel very disrespected right now."  The woman (I hope to hell this isn't a man) feels very disrespected.  Not disappointed in the students' poor performance, not angry that the class isn't better behaved.  She feels very disrespected.

Too bad.  I'm sure some Zoloft and a Zombie will have her high and tight by ten tonight and this will all be a bad dream when the sun rises.

On or about the sixth century before Christ, a military genius named Sun Tzu wrote The Art Of War. The author describes an incident where he is assigned a large group of the local despot's concubines and ordered to train them in military maneuvers.  Ever wanting to please royalty, Sun Tzu assembles his effeminate army on a suitable parade ground and proceeds to explain whatever it was that passed for the manual of arms in sixth century China.  The two lead hotties, who were the emperor's favorites, refused to obey and stood around giggling.  The rest of the army took their lead and did the same.  Sun Tzu beheaded the two favorites in spite of the Emperor's pleas.  Not long after that (I would guess five minutes at most) the rest of the army was practicing the sixth century BC manual of arms with quiet concentration, enthusiasm and respect.

As attractive as it might be, beheading a few elementary school children as an object lesson to the rest of the class isn't really practical.  There are, however, alternatives.  Segregate the two or three lead troublemakers and bring them to the front of the class.  Make them bend over at the waist and deliver one very hot swat to the buttocks with a heavy paddle.  The swat should produce a loud crack and sitting should be uncomfortable for the next hour or so.  This will only have to be done once, but it should be done publicly so the rest of the class knows it for what it is, and a brief lecture should be delivered after the punishment informing the students that these are the consequences of failing to behave correctly.

I know, I'm barbaric.  I'll give the poor unfortunates a complex of some kind and destroy their self-confidence into the bargain.  Well, I've got news: Your way isn't working.  You and the rest of the public school teachers had an entire school year (not to be confused with a calendar year) to teach the little monsters how to behave, and you are not surprised when they do not behave.  I'm not surprised either, as they have no reason to observe civilized behavior in the classroom.

Ruben continues:
What's puzzling and frustrating, is how articulately the students can explain why certain actions or words are hurtful, but then they continue the same behaviors. I'm wondering why.
Which is easy to answer.  The reason they continue to misbehave is because it's fun.  It pleases them to do so.  Good behavior doesn't provide any immediate gratification, and may not provide any gratification at all given the right circumstances.  Bad behavior is generally its own reward.

I think it's past time that the paddle be brought back into the classroom, and not just because of behavior problems.  The little darlings aren't learning to read, either.  At least not in Toledo, Ohio they aren't, and I don't think things are much different in the Big Apple.  You can be nice to them all you want, but until you have their attention your niceness is, in essence, government waste. 

Restaurant Review: The Hungry I


The Hungry I is closed as of April 8, 2013.  I'm told it may reopen as an Italian joint.

The main reason I patronized The Hungry I was the dancing.  Every Friday night they'd move the tables and create a dance floor.  Matt from The Dance Clinic would bring a sound system and play dance music, and a good time was had by all.

The troubles with The Hungry I were location, consistency and quality.  The location was easy to miss - I knew where it was, and I'd drive right by it without meaning to.  The kitchen was inconsistent and often poor quality, and the service varied wildly from criminally poor to above average.  We'll see what happens with the Italian joint.

The Hungry I
6060 Renaissance Place
Toledo, Ohio
(419) 517-5570
Mon-Thr 11am - 10pm
Fri-Sat 11am - 11pm
Sun 12 - 9pm

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: Rumors

5205 Monroe Street
Toledo, OH 43623-3139
(419) 841-4529 
Mon-Thr 8-11; Fri-Sat 8-12; Sun 8-10

I've eaten at Rumors several times over the past 12 months or so, and I've patronized this place for three reasons:
  1. It's close to home
  2. The food isn't bad
  3. I've forgotten how lousy the service is

Rumors advertises a good selection of Mediterranean and American food backed by a full bar, and in that it succeeds - sort of.  The place does have a selection of Mediterranean food, but the Med is a big place and the food is diverse.  Rumors is not.  Diverse, that is.  Rumors offers the same items you can get anyplace else that offers Mediterranean food - fatoush, shish of various kinds, falafil and the ubiquitous gyro sandwich.  American items are burgers, steaks and lake Erie perch.  The tip off as to the quality of the food begins with the disclaimers in the menu:
There will be an extra charge for fatoush, hommous, Greek and Tabouli Salads on non-mediterranean dinners.
With Hommous extra $2.00
Sorry we will not be responsible for steaks ordered medium well or well done.
All Platters served with two items: Salad, Coleslaw, fries or vegetables. With Hommous extra $2.00. With lettuce, tomatoe, and cheese extra $0.75. Greek Salad extra $1.00 Cary Out Box $0.25
I can kind of understand the caveat about the well done steak, but medium well?  No.  All that means is that the place is buying a poor quality of beef which people have been complaining about and they don't want any more complaints.  Ditto with the extra charges.  These people are trying to dollar the customer to death and with their dollar here and two dollars there, you'll end up with a significant bill before you leave.  Plus, if you want to take your leftovers home it'll cost you an additional quarter to do so.

The food at Rumors isn't inferior enough to make me write the place off once and for all.  While the food isn't substandard, neither is Budweiser.  Bud isn't bad beer, it just isn't great beer.  That won't stop me from drinking one and follow it with another, I just won't go out of my way to do so.  It's the same with Rumors food.  Not bad, just not great.  One thing I can say about the food is that the portions are enormous.  Here's a sample of gyro meat from the appetizer menu:

Gyro Meat Appetizer
Once you dig into the gyro meat you'll find iceberg lettuce and some sliced onion underneath.  I guess I'm not surprised.

Judging by the decor, Rumors is trying to be a refined, upscale sports bar.  The acoustics are good and sound doesn't echo.  A few big screen televisions are positioned strategically so as to allow the sports minded man to keep an eye on the game while he slurps down his beer and ignores whatever the old lady is carping about.  Women can screech at each other in raucous voices without disturbing the patrons three tables away, and the place tends not to attract many children which is nice for everyone.  I would have to say that Rumors succeeds here, mainly because of the acoustics and because the prices tend to keep families away.  Rumors is not an 'all you can eat' place.

While the food is mediocre at best, the service is crap.  Our waitress was a fat, dumb girl with an affected accent of some sort.  East side, maybe?  She refuses the glottal stop (voiceless glottal plosive) found in the letter T, so little comes out sounding like li-uhl, with a sort of hiccup in the middle of it.  For clarity, have someone hit you in your solar plexus while you say the word 'little' and listen to the sound.  I find the affection annoying, but I could overlook it if the porcine idiot would show up when we needed her.  When I'm sitting at the bar and I can't get a beer, there's a problem with the service.  After I observed the wait staff for a while, I discovered that they tended to congregate in the kitchen and when they were floating around the dining room they refused to actually look at anyone in their section.

As I write this, I'm convincing myself not to go back to Rumors, and given the choices in Toledo I don't think I will.  Until I forget how lousy the service is, anyway.  Here's my summation of Rumors:

  • Ambiance: 6
  • Service: 2
  • Food: 5

Rating: 4

Rare Photo

Most of us have heard the expression, "Scat!"  More formally, the complete expression is "Scat, cat!" and is often used when the errant feline is discovered shredding the living room sofa.  Not many people have actually seen a cat scat much less obtained conclusive photographic evidence that such a thing takes place, although to be equitable H. Allen Smith alludes to an eyewitness account of this phenomenon in his book Son of Rhubarb

Early this morning as I carefully sipped my coffee, I noted my Mom's cat Lily in the tree adjacent to the kitchen window.

Desirous of obtaining a better photo without interference from the intervening screen, I started futzing around with the controls on my camera and managed to fat finger the shutter control - most fortunate as it turned out, for I caught Lily in the process of scatting up the tree.

Lily Scatting up the Tree
I expect National Geographic will be calling soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Buzz Needed

I don't know if I could simply write this off to karma or if it's just plain bad luck, but the bearings are going out on Shotgun Bob's merry-go-round.  First off, there's The Girl.  About a month back some Southern sawbones discovered that The Girl had a tumor in her abdominal cavity.  The precise location was never revealed, but what was made evident was that the tumor was pressing against the intestine which caused The Girl to be nauseating nauseous all the time.  Surgery was scheduled for June.  This condition went a long way towards explaining her demeanor, which might best be described as that of a constipated she camel in heat who has been penned up away from the males.  What a sweetheart, huh?

It's a well known fact that The Girl has many more living relatives in one single generation than I have (living or dead) in the last three generations, yet none of The Girl's relatives volunteered to come down to Memphis and care for The Girl during her post surgery convalescence.  Although I don't know this for certain, I'd be willing to bet that in many cases the relatives were not asked for reasons that would become obvious to anyone of average or better intelligence.

"Oh, Hell yes we'll come - whats fambly fer if not tah come?  Yew all jest step back and we-uns-uhl take care-ah ever-thang."  Including keeping a good supply of beer on hand and plenty of ammo for the shotgun.  Nothing like setting up the lawn chairs in the side yard with a cooler or two of beer and shooting at the empties - what a great way to invite the neighbors over to be sociable and all!

When Mom got wind of all this she immediately took the initiative and booked a flight to Memphis.  However good Mom's intentions are, she's still in her 80s and not as spry as she once was.  Therefore it was deemed a good idea if Auntie Annie went with her.  Uncle Sardonicus wisely stayed at home, reassuring Auntie Annie that he'd have no trouble being a bachelor for two weeks.  So the two sisters headed South to chez Shotgun, arriving the day before The Girl went for her laparoscopic surgery.  The Girl is now at chez Shotgun, the operation having been proclaimed a success.  Meanwhile, there have been a few complications and adjustments around the house.

Shotgun Bob lives North of Memphis in the middle of no where.  I'd describe it as somewhere East of Hell's Half Acre and North of Jerkwater, but he claims to like it and there are certain attractions.  The closest store is about 30 minutes away, but it's a giant Walmart.  The nearest gas station is about the same distance, although if you go shopping for fuel during normal business hours (9 to 5, M-F) you can pay a higher price and patronize a gas station that's only a 20 minute drive from the house.  There used to be a closer station, but last year it went bankrupt for the third time in five years and no one has stepped up to that plate this year, so there you are - a business opportunity.  Keeping that in mind, there are two things in this world that Auntie Annie cannot do:
  1. Organize.  Auntie Annie cannot organize anything, and so one trip to the store is never going to be enough.  She'll need three to do what Mom would do in one single trip, and that does not include the "Oh, shoot!" forehead slapping turn around trips.
  2. Drive.  A car, that is.  Auntie Annie is a worse driver than Shotgun Bob, and that's saying something.  Shotgun Bob almost killed both of us some years back by screwing around with a Kleenex box instead of watching where he was going, and as a result he drifted into the oncoming traffic on a two lane blacktop.  I yelled at him, and we're both still alive but I don't think the experience made much of an impression.  Last time California Dave and I were on vacation in Memphis, we watched Shotgun Bob driving his pickup truck ahead of us, and he was drifting all over the road while screwing around with his SatNav device.
I may not have mentioned this, but both Mom and Auntie Annie insist on a neat and tidy home.  Everything must be picked up and put away.  No exceptions.  By contrast, The Girl never lifts a finger around the house.  Possibly Herself is allergic to housework, possibly not.  That leaves Shotgun Bob and Flounder, one of whom has no idea just how to put everything away or why the house should be kept in order.  I'll leave you to guess which person I'm referring to.

Mom tackled the laundry, and by day three Mom feels that the laundry is mostly done.  Auntie Annie tackled the kitchen and cooking, and as a result the rest of the household is faced with a brand new novelty: healthy dinners.  That's one side of the coin.  

On the other side Mom is having to bite her tongue fairly often as her younger sister tries to take charge of everything, thus creating more work and running around than there should be.  Like I said, organization.  So since she's doing the driving, it would follow that the clock is ticking on Auntie Annie, and today I learned that she ran over the weed whacker on her way to the store.

Then I got the topper.  Flounder has been spending her days at the local YWCA and last night it was discovered that Flounder has come down with head lice.  Yep, good old head lice.  They have a lousy foster child. Now think.  Mom and Auntie Annie are WWII kids, and head lice are not a brand new item, oh no they are not.  According to Mom's Grandmother Quaker, the only people who have head lice are those with questionable personal hygiene.  They don't bathe often enough and they come from the wrong side of the tracks.  This is a great truth here, so remember it.

I suppose I could have let the whole thing rest, but I didn't.  I assured Mom that head lice were not particular and that they'd cheerfully settle in with anyone.  Flounder likely picked them up at the YWCA, but modern medicine will eradicate the pestilence in short order.

So imagine old Shotgun Bob coming home after a hard day at the office.  He has a one hour commute through Memphis rush hour traffic and when he gets home he finds that the pickup has a new dent in the fender, the weed whacker is toast, The Girl is tanked up on painkillers and Xanax (prevention of anxiety attacks, you see) and whatever impulse control existed previously is now suppressed, but the pain isn't.  Suppressed, that is.  Flounder has nits.  Dinner is going to be some kind of health food concoction involving plenty of fiber and a dearth of calories and carbohydrates.  And he doesn't dare have a drink, because Mom will give him the stink eye for drinking, and Auntie Annie will say something which he'll have to suck up because he can't find anyone else to look after The Girl and he knows it.

What Shotgun Bob needs is a solid dose of the old two buck buzz.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Rifle - M1 From Miltech, 855 Days Late

No, it isn't a typo.  Big Mike ordered a fully restored International Harvester M1 Garand  from Miltech, and instead of the promised six to eight weeks, Mike's rifle was delivered a bit late - 855 days late.  Here's the story in all the gory detail.  Updated on April 9, 2014.

My Life: Range Report

My strength is returning, so when I got a yen to put some lead in the air I sent Big Mike an email advising him of my improvement and cravings, to wit: having the energy to enjoy myself and desirous of his company, I would invite him to spend a pleasant afternoon at the local target range followed by a late lunch and the imbibing of strong fluids which befuddle men's minds.  I can't remember if Mike sent me a one word response or if he suffered a fit of magniloquence and expressed himself using two or even three words.

We arrived at The Bullet Stop around 1:00 PM.  As usual, I started with my Ruger .22, which I've always done pretty well with.

Ruger MkII Government .22
10 Shots at 25 Feet
30 Shots at 25 Feet
As you can see on the first target I tended to shoot low, which is normal for me.  I have not been able to find a cure for this malady, but given the size of my group I'm not losing any sleep over it.  Likely I'm moving the barrel when I pull the trigger.  I ran another two clips through the gun (second target) and then, encouraged with my success, I put up a new target and moved it back to the end of the range.

Target at 1000 Yards
Big Mike enquired politely if I could actually see the target at this range, and when I assured him I could see it quite well, thank you very much for your concern, Mike affirmed that any holes I put in the target would be by accident, but that he could almost guarantee that I would hit the backstop most of the time.

Results from 1000 Yards
Well, it seems like 1000 yards.  I'm not unhappy with this given my failing eyesight.

Big Mike's Buckmark .22
Mike started out with his Buckmark, which I have always liked.  I wish I could get the trigger pull from Mike's Buckmark on my Ruger.

Buckmark Results
Here are the results from Big Mike's efforts with his Buckmark at 25 feet.  Note the flyer at the bottom left.  This is what happens when you go shooting without your morning whiskey.

Betsy - Springfield 1911 Mil Spec
I hauled out Betsy and ventilated a target at 25 feet.

Betsy at 25 Feet
I shot this at about one second per shot, and I don't feel too badly about the results.  For one thing, the sights on Betsy are almost vestigial, she being built to military specifications.  Likewise, the tolerances are a bit loose.

I decided to switch to Big Nose Kate, my Springfield V-16, which I haven't shot in almost a year.  You see, the last time I field stripped Kate I was over at a friend's machine shop, where he keeps three milling machines, three lathes and a host of other equipment, metal stock, supplies and junk.  The place is crowded and not well organized.  In fact, not organized at all.  Number One claims he can find anything and everything in his shop, but I don't think so.  Last time he was looking for some sort of drill adapter he didn't find it until his beautiful, kind and generous wife came out and found it for him.  Big Nose Kate is set up for .45 Super, and as such the internals are not what you'd expect.  The guide rod comes in two pieces and unscrews, which means that when you field strip the pistol you have to be careful or the recoil spring will send the guide rod into the side of a nearby filing cabinet where it will ricochet off and smack into something else and finally hit the floor where it will skitter away into the tenebrous corners of the room, never to be found.  Ever.  After a lot of searching by both parties I called Springfield and explained what had happened, backing up my wild story with a photo of the parts left over.  The folks at Springfield were amazed that I only lost the one part and sent me a replacement gratis.  Here are the results shooting Big Nose Kate, which I am happy with.

Big Nose Kate at 25 Feet
Big Mike decided to shoot his Smith and Wesson 586 using the .357 ammo, mainly because he knows the noise drives me nuts.

Big Mike's Smith and Wesson in .357
.357 at 25 Feet, One Handed Sinister Side, Double Action
The best target of the day was shot by Big Mike with his Smith and Wesson 586 using 357 ammunition, one handed double action only, left handed (Mike is right handed).  At 25 feet he turned in a very tight group.  I maintain that Mike is not getting a good value from his targets, as he tends to put several shots through the same hole.  Being of Scottish heritage, I try not to do this and am generally successful, but Mike does not have my thrifty nature and wastes a good portion of his target by repeatedly using the same hole.

We repaired to The Maumee Bay Brewing Co. for an excellent lunch and a micro beer.  I had their breakfast stout, which is excellent.  All in all, a good day's work.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Here's how! or A Cure for the Common Cold

You see before you a cure for the common cold.  In my case I waited too long to avail myself of the cure, and so my cold worsened into bronchitis and continued into pneumonia.  After three visits to the local Emergency Room which I mentioned in passing here, I finally concluded that modern medical science was limited.  In point of fact the sawbones in the Germantown ER told me that I had pneumonia, either bacterial or viral, and he didn't know which.  But, he said, there was hope.  If I had regular old bacterial pneumonia, the antibiotics he prescribed would get me back on my feet in no time.  If not, well... then he could treat the symptoms.  The sawbones reminded me to drink plenty of liquids.  Russel's Reserve is a liquid, as is sweet vermouth. 

Cold Remedies
I lost no time in filling the prescriptions and augmenting the new wonder drugs with a few over the counter remedies, such as the generic night time cough concoction on the far right.  When none of these worked, I fired my sawbones and sought expert medical assistance elsewhere - down on Beale Street.

Tater Red's Lucky Mojo - De Doctore Iz Inn!
I walked in to Tater Red's like I had a roll of long green and Lucy Loo showed me into the back room, where I met a slender, wiry black man dressed in a dark blue suit with a bowler hat who I presumed to be the famous Tater Red.  When I inquired about his sobriquet, he doffed his bowler with a flourish displaying a dome without so much as a single hair on it, then explained, "It's all those women, Jack.  They hug me and snuggle me up right between their torpedoes and commence to pettin' and strokin' my head - and they did it so often that they wore all my fine curly hair away."

While I digested this he produced a pair of dice and made seven straight passes on the counter while he mumbled a chant to Baron Samedi.  Then he looked up.

"Jack," he said, "You get a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice.  You put three dashes of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 in there and follow it with one shot of Cinzano sweet vermouth and one shot of Russell's Reserve Rye whiskey.  You shake it until it's cold, then strain it into a martini glass and make sure you drink it all before it gets warm."

"Will that cure what ails me?"  I asked him.

"Sure, Jack!  Sure it will!  But you got to believe... you see now, don't you Jack?"

I saw a sawbuck on the table just before I saw the door.  I'll give old Red credit though, because I felt a lot better after the first one, and the second made me feel almost human again.  I chased it all with Genesee Cream Ale.

And that's the cure.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

News and Pictures

Front Yard
Look in the front yard - it's Bambi and Thumper!  Mom puts out food for the nice little animals from the woods next to us, and generally is rewarded by multiple wildlife sightings all day long.

Bambi and Thumper
These two are after the corn Mom leaves in the yard.  There are more deer than just this one, but the others are reasonably cautious about coming out into the open during daylight.  I'm usually not one to get overly sentimental and try for a cutesy shot of critters in the wild, but the deer and rabbit combination was too much to resist.

The other day I walked over to the Centenarian's house and got a few shots of the flora in her front yard.


The bloom will be completely off this rose in a day or two, but for now it's very impressive.  The picture underneath is a clematis vine that I bought the Centenarian some years ago, and it has returned every summer.  This year it's making an excellent come back from the winter.



Here is Excellent Rachmaninoff with his summer hair cut. Isn't he a handsome boy? He's friendly too, so long as you don't get too close to his mouth.


I believe it's time for my evening manhattan. Cheers!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guess Who's Back?

On Sunday I decided to quit my job and leave Memphis, Tennessee.  I have well and truly had enough of Memphis and its inhabitants.  On Monday (Memorial Day) I called Big Mike in Dublin, Ohio to check his schedule - Mike assured me he was free Tuesday night.  So I packed up Monday night and loaded the car Tuesday morning, and by 8:00 AM on Tuesday all I could see in my rear view mirror was the back side of a sign welcoming the unwary to Memphis, Tennessee.  Birthplace of Elvis, home of the blues and the stuff that surrounds Beale Street.  I arrived at Big Mike's (actually the house belongs to Lash and Mike rents space) at 6:30 PM, surround a perfect manhattan at 6:45 and by midnight I was well fed, relaxed and a huge portion of my stress was gone.  My thanks to Mike and Lash for their hospitality.  I arrived home in Sylvania at 12:30 in the afternoon, had lunch and rested my eyes for a couple hours.

So around 4:00 PM while I was sitting in the computer room and working on some corospondence I happened to look out the window, and about 20 feet away from me was a thin black cat gazing at me intently. Dante?  I called him and he immediately answered me, so I went outside and collected him.  He remembered me instantly, but it took him an hour or two to re-familiarize himself with the house and the other cats.  Eventually he made himself at home in the penthouse floor of the cat tree.  Dante has lost weight, which is not the worst thing that could happen and has picked up a few fleas who will doubtless succumb to whatever kind of flea and tick slop I can buy at the pet store, but is otherwise in good shape.  I am very happy to have him back.