Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ptoday Pterry Died...

Terry Pratchett (Pterry) , author of the Discworld series and other books including, with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, died today, March 12, 2015.

I read the news while I was on break from work and spent the last two hours of work wondering if I was going to cry. I sniffled and my eyes burned but I haven't. I don't know if I will or not but I want to.

I discovered Terry Pratchett at the recommendation of a friend of mine over 20 years ago when he introduced me to Rincewind and the Wizard books. (The Discworld books are often broken up into various subsets, The Wizards, The Witches, and The Watch with some others like the Death books that mix with the various streams that form the river that is Discworld.) I was immediately in love with them. Pterry's writing only got better and more complex and enjoyable as the years went on.

Samuel Vimes is a real person in my head. Captain Carrot is just as real to me and Granny Weatherwax feels like family. All characters, all real, and all, now, passed away with their author, their creator. That's the thing about an author dying. Their world dies with them and that hurts.

I'm a Reader. I have been for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is learning to read from big, over-sized flash cards with the letters in the shape of people. Since then I've read in good times and in bad times. Books are escape and they're relaxation. The characters in the books, the really good books, become as real to me as people I've known but don't see any more. They're all real aren't they? They're people whose actions you remember but that you don't see any more. How is that less real than a person you've met in the flesh? Some are more real sometimes, or they feel that way. You get inside the head of a  protagonist. You hear their thoughts, their dreams, their fears, and their desires. I've bought very few authors' books in hardcover. Pterry is one of those authors... He was. And now he, and his world, his characters... all gone.

I still have his books. I have them all in paper, on my kindle a lot of them, and in audiobook, also a lot of them. But listening to them now, reading them now will be a bittersweet reminder of what was... the quiet delight of waiting for a new story is over. The excitement of seeing what happens next is gone. The light's gone out in the Discworld and this world, this round blob of dirt, suddenly seems a little darker and a little colder with him gone from it and that sucks.

"No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…"
–Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Restaurant Review: Smokeworx or "Why restaurants should have desserts"

Smokeworx is the newest restaurant to open in Ft. Dodge. It's a St. Louis style bar-b-que restaurant that opened a couple weeks ago. I'm hesitant to go to a restaurant their first month of opening as I prefer them to practice on other people and then I'll go after they've worked out the kinks. I really love Bar-B-Que though. I lived in Memphis for two years and loved the BBQ there. I worked in Texas for several years and ate really good BBQ there as well. Some of the best brisket I've ever eaten was from a roadside stand outside of Terrell, Texas. I worked for a while in St. Louis and ate that BBQ as well with gusto. I am a fan of BBQ.

As we walked into the restaurant one thing struck me immediately. This was a restaurant but of a "certain type." You ordered at the counter, paid at the counter, viewing the small menu on a monitor behind the cashier, and then sat down to wait for your food. I also noticed a lack of desserts. This becomes important later.

When we sat down in booths that still looked like Long John Silvers booths (The building was a Long John Silver's last summer, and had been for decades) we commented on the similarity to the previous restaurant. The booth seats had been replaced with what looked like pallet wood that'd been reclaimed, sanded, and varnished, perhaps with polyurethane(?). They were as uncomfortable as a Southern Baptist Church pew where comfort is seen as a sin. You don't GO to a Southern Baptist church to get comfortable and the same could be said about the seating here as well. The lighting was the second thing we noticed. I've been in operating rooms with friendlier/warmer mood lighting. It was stark, far too bright, and not at all conducive to an intimate dining experience. I should have known that from the part where we ordered at the counter like at a McDonald's. But it's just lighting right? We'd come for the food.

The food came soon, our appetizers, quaintly called Armadillo eggs (Armadillos are mammals and don't actually lay eggs, but I quibble) and they were fried jalapeƱos stuffed with, I think, cream cheese and brisket. I say I think because when they arrived and I took a bite out of the huge things that were impressive to look at I realized I couldn't bite through them. Sadly, they were still frozen, not cold, frozen... hard.

I think the grease was too hot because the outside of the armadillo eggs was pretty dark, the replacement onion rings were also pretty dark on the outside but doughy on the inside still... They weren't crisp at all but were a little greasy...

You know. I don't want this to be a laundry list of the sides and here's why, they weren't great or even all that good really and I was really afraid until I tried the brisket. That brisket really was good. It was in the top three briskets I've ever had. It was smoked perfectly. It wasn't overcooked and dry and it mostly fell apart with my fork as I ate it. The rub/seasoning on the outside was delicious. I really really enjoyed the brisket. I'll get that again. I said as we were leaving that if we came back I'd just get the meat and they could keep the sides.

I've rarely been to a BBQ place where I raved about the sides. At a BBQ place it's about the meat and if I'm honest, mostly I don't care about the sides. They have them because we feel silly in front of plate as big as our head stacked high with just meat. That, however is what I want at a BBQ place and if I'd ordered that it would have been one of the better meals I've had lately. The sides? Don't eat them. We had 4 of the ones they offered and all 4 were "Meh" at best. (The grease really is too hot. The fries he got were a) burned, they looked like sweet potato fries and weren't and 2) stale. They'd been done a while before they made it to our table.

We had a problem with our order right out of the gate but we'd already paid so they couldn't take any off our check. They couldn't really DO anything at that point except offer us a free dessert which would have been a GREAT gesture. It would have been the pitmaster, who came to our table to apologize for the frozen food we were served, and was very gracious about it but the fact remains we paid full price for food so bad it had to be sent back and resent to us... that's not enough at a restaurant. At most places fixing a mistake is enough. At a restaurant we've come, as a public to expecting MORE than just fixing it when something is that badly messed up and this place with their McDonald's style ordering and lack of a dessert they could offer us meant they couldn't really DO anything to make us leave thrilled with the experience. I wasn't. He wasn't. Both of us said "If we go back..." and not "When we go back..." that's not a good thing. Some of it was the frozen appetizer and lack of an attempt to fix it better than just fixing it... some of it was the sides were just "meh" at best. Some of it was the atmosphere.

We need a good BBQ place in Ft. Dodge and if you want good BBQ meat get it to go and JUST get the brisket. Any money you spend on sides is money you'll regret having spent. We'll try again in a month. Hopefully they have a dessert by then and have turned down the heat a little on their fryers.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Pomodoro: Vignette Who lives there

Tanner sat back on the bank of the river and stared at the abandoned fisherman's cabin, "Do you think someone lived there or just hung out there when they fished?"
Tom skipped a rock half-way across the river in the direction of the cabin before answering. "They probably lived there. Why would you build a fishing shack this close to town? You could just walk up the hill and be home. It's not that far."
"Yeah, but when it flooded, and it wouldn't even need to be that big of a flood, you'd be wet, like really wet. I bet it floods every spring."
"It can't or it wouldn't still be there. I don't think it floods that often. It's higher over there than here. It'd flood this way first."
Tanner pushed himself to his feet and dusted the grass off his pants. "Let's go look at it."
"And we'll get there how? The river's low, but it's not that low."
"We'll walk across the dam."
"First there are signs saying not to do that and second there's a fence between us and the dam."
"Well if we don't read the signs they don't apply to us. We'll just say that we didn't see them."
"But I did see them. I just told you about them," Tom said.
"I didn't hear you. I was listening to my iPhone."
"And the fence?"
"Well, that we're going to have to climb over."
"And then we'll get onto the dam by way of..."
"We'll go through the power station part of the dam there's a door right there." Tanner pointed at the locked and rusty door, "Then out the other side, onto the part where the gates are mounted, they're rusted open so it's not like they're going to move, and then it's just a short jump down to the concrete dam wall and we're there."
"How do you propose we get back?"
"Or... if you'd let me finish, we could walk up there to the bridge, cross it, and walk down the deer trail to the river."
"Thank God. I thought you'd lost your mind."
"If we had a crowbar we could maybe get that door open but not without one."
Behind them a voice said, "Or a key. That works."
"Jesus!" Tanner and Tom, both high-school Sophomores, spun and saw a man in a city water department work shirt.
"So, about those signs," he started.
"Never saw them." Tanner interrupted.
"That's what I hear. It was a fishing cabin."
"What?" Tom asked.
"That was a fishing cabin. My grandpa built it before world war two but he only used it the one time before he was sent off to Germany. He didn't come back and Gramma wouldn't sell so there it sits. On private property, with a locked door." He stared at Tanner as he said the last part.
"Well we weren't going in. We just wanted to look at it."
"I'll go with you. I've got a key and can let you in and keep an eye on you to make sure the window that it still has stays in one piece."
"Cool!" Tanner started toward the bridge with Tom following.
Tom said, "I'm Tom, that's Tanner."
"You can call me Al."
"Is that your name?"
"No, it's a line from a song."
"Never heard it. Is it new?" Tanner asked.
"Not really, no. Yes. It's my name. What're you boys doing down by the dam?" Al gestured to where he'd found them talking about breaking into the abandoned hydro-electric dam from the beginning of the bridge across the river.
"Nothing." Tom said.
"Then I came just in time," Al said.
They walked in silence until they got to the top of the trail that lead from the road down to the river's edge. It wasn't a groomed trail and was more of an animal path than a trail. Branches and bushes infringed from both sides making it hard to see where they were going as they descended the steep hill. "You a pervert?" Tanner asked as he stutter stepped down the last few yards of the hill to the flat along side the river. Tom followed right behind and stopped just past Tanner.
"You should've asked that before you went down into the weeds with me," Al said as he walk-ran down the steep embankment, stopping before he got to where the boys stood looking at him. "And no. I'm a Libra."
"Well that's okay then," Tom said, because you know. That's science and there's never been a mass murderer that was a Libra before." His voiced dripped with sarcasm.
"Oh. You didn't ask if I was a mass murderer. He asked if I was a pervert." Al said pushing past them to move towards the cabin.
"So, are you a mass murderer?"
"Well, I don't know. I haven't murdered a helluva lot of people but I suppose there was a point in time when Saddam Hussein hadn't murdered a lot of people or Hitler hadn't either but they are mass murderers aren't they?"
"You really need to work on your putting people at ease skills," Tanner said, looking back at Tom and letting Al get slightly further ahead of them.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My first yarn ball

I'm going to make a cover for my hot water bottle. If I'm lucky it will be finished before next winter. 

I've never crocheted before and don't have a pattern, but I have yarn, a crochet hook, and a day off. If things go well I'll have a passable hit water bottle cover soon.

Vignette: Writing exercise: Pomodoro 20 minutes

John turned into the coffee shop parking lot and sighed, "There are never any spots near the door."
"Oh, so you're going to have to walk an extra twenty steps for your cup of coffee?" Mark asked reaching to pull his backpack from the floorboard between his feet.
"Well, I don't like not being able to see my car. What if something happens to it?"
"Like what? Someone going to wash it?"
"It could happen. Maybe a car washing flash mob is going around town perpetrating cleanliness on other people's cars. Some of this dirt has been with me for months. The layers of gravel road grime are all that's keeping the bumper on over on your side," John said as he pulled the Mercury Sable into a parking spot closer to the bank than the coffee shop. In the evening's deep yellow-orange light of the magic hour the baby blue paint was a matte haze of dust and dirt evenly covering the car in a patina of road grime.
"You  might get better gas mileage if they chiseled off the top layer or two. They might be deep enough to even be called strata. Have you looked for fossils in it?"
"Why would there be a watch in my car?" The car groaned as it rocked back on shocks that had quit working the way they were supposed to months ago. The car rocked to a stop as the two college students opened the doors and climbed out.
As Mark slammed his door a puff of dust could be seen in the slanting rays of the sun, "Let's go wash it after this."
"Nah. It's cool. We're going to eat after this. Soon as they close we have to go meet the girls at the new bar-b-que place in the mall parking lot."
"She might ride with you if you washed it."
They crossed the parking lot, watching a black Prius pull into the drive through lane and stop at the window as they crossed in front of it, "Yeah, and then you'd have to sit in back."
"Keep the dirt then. There are actual glass pop bottles in your back seat it's been so long since you cleaned it out. I'm pretty sure evolution is happening back there. Yesterday on the way to class I heard a rustling and when I got out of the car I think a small herd of goblins scampered out of the back seat and went under the car."
"You can't say scampered," John said as he opened the door and went in.
"I think I can. I just did. I'm sure I just did. My mouth remembers saying it."
"No, I mean nobody says that. It's part of people's reading vocabulary but not part of anybody's speaking vocabulary. No more scampered."
"What should I say instead? Scuttled? Dashed? Skittered?" Mark waved at the woman behind the counter who had looked up at them as they entered and smiled as she pulled a shot from the machine.
The jet engine scream of the milk frothing soon filled the room as they stood staring at the hand written menu board. "Ran. You should say ran."
"But that's not the same thing, it doesn't convey..."
"Nope, can't say 'convey' either."
"When did you become Mister Vocabulary?"
"I'm taking a creative writing class and we've been talking about language choices in dialogue and how to make it realistic."
"But this is dialogue, like in real life. We're real people having a real conversation and those are good words so if I use them then they're the right words."
"Nope. See, that's where you're wrong. You read too much. You think real life is like a book and you talk like someone in a book."
Mark pulled his coffee punch card from his wallet as he stepped to the counter to order, "You're saying I read too much but you're the one taking the writing course?"
"I have to. It's an easy elective."
"You think writing is easy?"
"Well, I did until I started taking this course. I figured it was creative, what's she going to do say she didn't like it? Can you believe she does exactly that? I thought writing was like art and you could do whatever you wanted and say it was art so they couldn't criticise it. They do it with paintings. Look at this stuff on the walls. Seriously? I've done better than that in the margins of my Poli-Sci notes."
"You failed Political Science," Mark said.
"But my doodles were really good," John said. "Can I get a large vanilla latte in a small cup with no foam?"
"Whole milk right?"
"The wholer the better. That cow worked for that stuff, no sense skimming some off and throwing it away. It seems disrespectful."
"I just want a tea with honey and lemon."
"Seriously? You come to a coffee shop and get tea?" John asked handing the barista a five, "Keep it."
"Well, we don't have a tea shop," Mark said as he handed her his punch card and a five.
"We got a new jasmine tea in do you want to try it?"
"Please. No jasmine. He'll smell flowery and I'm trying to break him of that."
Mark bowed dramatically, "Jasmine would be wonderful thank you. Ignore him. He's feeling grumpy because he's afraid someone will wash his car since he can't see it and stop them from doing it."
"What if they planted corn on the roof instead?"
"It just washes off in the rain. I tried to cover the roof in chia seeds to see if they'd grow but it's not deep enough. That would have been so sweet."
The two of them went and sat in overstuffed chairs to wait for their drinks to be brought to them. Mark pulled his books out and started studying. John took out his phone and started making faces into the camera. "You know you're not supposed to text and drive. I wonder if that includes snapchat?"
"Snapchat hadn't even been invented when they passed that law. How can it include something that didn't even exist yet?"
"It does."
"I don't think it does."
"You're wrong."
"You're drinking jasmine tea and I'm the one that's wrong?"
"With honey and lemon."
"Yeah... I'm pretty sure it's not me that's wrong."
"Wrong about that too."