Only Two Weeks Remain

…until the Road Rules contest ends.  You can read Road Rules here.

You’re eligible as long as you’ve never been my spouse or my agent.  (Don’t worry.  I ordered something really cool for Nita’s birthday, even though it was Saturday.  Stupid online store didn’t tell me 4-6 weeks for delivery.  Jerks!)

Fabulous prizes have been chosen especially for you if you’ve been following along.  All you need to do is answer seven quick questions and email them here.

What are those questions?

  1. What is Cinnamon’s real name?
  2. What did I do to Scalzi?
  3. What is Andre the Giant’s legitimate occupation?
  4. How does Lt. Estevez know Bob Jordan?
  5. How far does Tim Mason get with the Cadillac before he runs afoul of two “cops”?
  6. Where did Bishop Gallagher come from before he became the bishop for Cleveland?
  7. Who is Julian Franco’s right hand man?

Answer all seven correctly by October 14th, and you will be entered in a drawing to receive your choice of…

  • Anthony Neil Smith’s Hogdoggin’ (Signed)
  • Victor Gischler’sGo Go Girls of the Apocalypse (Signed)
  • Duane Swierczynski‘ s Severance Package (Signed)
  • or John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream (which I’ll try to get signed)

Hurry!  The deadline is approaching fast.

(Wow!  That means Bouchercon is in two weeks!)

Instant Coffee?

Years ago, when I drank store-bought and gas station coffee like water, the idea of instant coffee didn’t bother me.  Even when the ex and I live with a parasitic roommate who assumed we’d live like overmortgaged yuppies and never shop at someplace ghetto like Aldi or Sam’s Club, instant didn’t bother me.

It bothered The Parasite.

“You’re drinking instant?  Eww!”  (She said this every single time I made a cup.)

“I don’t mind.”

“But I can’t stand it.”

“You’re not drinking it.”

“I can’t stand it.”

“Yes, but I don’t have a problem drinking it, therefore, you don’t have a problem with me drinking it.”

We dumped her off in rural West Virginia like an unwanted house pet.  Life’s been great ever since.

However, once I started working for BigHugeCo, I had money to spend on real coffee – arabica beans instead of those crappy rubuusta beans Folger’s is made with.  And instant coffee?

Ew!

I can say that.  I’m the one drinking it.  I was turned onto Starbucks and off of the cheap stuff in the office coffee pot.  Some anti-corporate types wailed and gnashed their teeth that I’d support a big ol’ evil corporation like Starbucks, to which my response was, “Hey, they make something I like.  That’s why they’re big.”  But they pointed me to small indie shops.  I discovered Koka before they moved to Mt. Adams.  I discovered Kitty’s in the Mercantile Center.  And I found Luckman’s near my old stomping grounds in Mt. Washington.

Yes, I still frequent the “evil empire” as Starbucks is sometimes called, but I keep a bag of Kitty’s beans in my desk drawer for my morning joe.  And I use a French press.  Yes, boys and girls, I’ve become a coffee snob.  I’ve sworn off Folgers and Maxwell House and Chock Full o’ Nuts for coffee that’s roasted nearby (usually) and ground right in front of me.  No more instant.

And then Starbucks came out with Via, their new instant coffee.

It tastes like real coffee.

I asked the manager what the difference between Via and their normal blends were.

“Nothing,” she said.  “Just the grind.”

I think Kitty’s and Koka and Luckman’s need new grinders to handle the really fine grind for instant.  I’m not kidding, it actually tastes like regular (well for me, regular) coffee.

It’ll save me from cleaning out the French press twice a morning.

MTM Cincinnati – Kenwood Towne Place

With the Queen City Square building steadily rising over downtown, it’s time to take a look at the downside of the current economy.

knwdtwnpl

This abandoned construction project ironically is a functioning shopping center.  The builders, running behind in money and time, tried to scare up capital by allowing Kroger, LA Fitness, and a Container Store to open.  It didn’t work.  Construction stopped in late 2008.

The building, sitting on the site of the Kenwood Towne Center mall, is a mixed use office and retail center intended to exploit one of Cincinnati’s prime retail locations.

Subcontractors, who have not been paid, halted work on the complex, with a rented crane still perched over the building.  The framework of the upper floors have rusted since construction stopped.  Yet without new investment or further loan disbursements from the owners’ financial backers, it’s likely construction will not resume.

More (and hopefully less depressing) posts at the My Town Mondays Blog.

Forgotten Book Friday: Starship Troopers By Robert Heinlein

A friend once told me if you wanted to get into Robert Heinlein’s head, just read Starship Troopers.  That pretty much sums up his philosophy.  I think he discounted Stranger in a Strange Land, which I’ll get to next week.

Starship Troopers follows the career of Johnny Rico, the son of a wealthy man who is Harvard bound at the time he enlists in the MI, or Mobile Infantry.  In the Terran Federation (clearly a forerunner of Star Trek‘s United Federation of Planets), only veterans may vote and only after they’ve served in the military.  So everyone and their cousin wants to be in the military.  The government doesn’t want everyone, but at least there’s no draft.

The first half of the book focuses on Rico’s basic training, during which time, he witnesses a fellow recruit getting flogged for questioning a “freeze,” where a soldier holds position, even if face down in pig excrement, until ordered to move again.  At one point, he is afraid he may wash out until he learns his history and moral philosophy teacher was a veteran and is proud to see at least one of his students in the MI, where he himself served.

The last half involves a war with the “bugs,” arachnid-like creatures that burrow under ground.  Their favorite mode of attack is to throw an asteroid at a planet.  One of them flattens Bueno Aires.  Rico’s mother was there when it happened.  So it doesn’t surprise Rico to see his father, who had been upset Rico had rejected the carefully planned life his father wanted for him, in MI uniform, reporting for his first assignment.

Throughout Starship Troopers, there’s an attititude that only soldiers can truly govern a nation.  It’s not that they’re stronger or better or smarter.  In fact, many veterans turn to a life of crime after the military in Heinlein’s world.  It’s that those in the military volunteered and had drilled into them that the greater good supercedes personal gain.

It’s a bizarre world, but Heinlein has a valid point.  Not that I necessarily agree with it.  On the other hand, there’s a reason they refer to the generation that grew up in the Depression and fought World War II the “Greatest Generation.”  Nothing was ever handed to that generation, and the world is a better place for their struggle.

What Starship Troopers does is elevate the space opera from its cartoonish Flash Gordon motif to something much more thoughtful.  The science is well thought-out, and much of it holds up sixty years after the book’s first appearance.  It certainly makes more sense than the horrible Paul Verhoeven effort.  (What the hell was that, anyway?  A few character names, and Bugs.  It had nothing to do with the book.)  Without Starship Troopers, there would be no Star Trek, no Battlestar Galactica (either version), and no Babylon 5.

And of course, there would be no Old Man’s War, but this guy freely admits that.

I Call Bullshit On TruthPac

Casinos are on Ohio’s ballots again.  This time, the proposition is straight forward.  Casinos will be approved for four cities:  Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.  The Indiana casinos are not fighting it, and one casino near Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland is shovel-ready.

So what’s the argument against casinos this time?

The anti-casino crowd claims that, because no hiring preference is being given to Ohioans, all the jobs will go to out-of-state “licensed” casino workers.

Two words:  Bull.  Shit.

First off, most casinos anywhere hire locals.  Almost all the jobs require no more than a high school education.  And the only licenses granted are for the casino operators themselves.

For proof, you need only look thirty miles east of where I’m sitting at Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  Do you know what Argosy Casino (since replaced by Hollywood) brought to the area?

Jobs.

You know who they hired?

Indianans.  Kentuckians.  Ohioans.  Yanno, people who, like, live in and around Lawrenceburg?

Let’s go down river a bit to Rising Sun.  Hey, whattaya know!  A sleepy little Ohio River village suddenly had a lot of jobs to offer.  And guess what?  Most of them went to locals.

And wow!  The same thing happened in Vevay, the next town downriver to get a casino.  Yeah, I guess the casino operators in Indiana must be stupid hiring local people who’ve only seen casinos in New Jersey and Atlanta.

Now, do I think 34,000 jobs is a questionable number?

It’s a campaign.  What do you think?  34,000 is a giddily optimistic number that translates into “a lot,” which will still be thousands more jobs in Ohio than we have now.

But TruthPac claims, or at least implies, that no one from Ohio would be hired.  From a business standpoint, that’s not just foolhardy, it’s criminally stupid.

Bottom line:  Either by implication or by direct statement, TruthPac is lying.

Here’s the truth:  Casinos bring local jobs.   If they bring people in from out of state to work, so much the better.  Ohio is suffering a population drain anyway.  No one, however, is going to drive more than 50 miles from inside another state to work in a casino here.  Last I checked, Cleveland and Columbus were over 50 miles from the nearest state border.  Frankly, it’s just not feasible to freeze out local residents anyway.  It never happens.  [Indian reservations don’t count.  Then again, Indian casinos also hire locals.  See a trend?]

The crime rate is less likely to go up than is usually stated.  Indiana still has a lower crime rate along the Ohio River than Indianapolis.  The mob no longer controls Las Vegas, and they haven’t shown much of a presence along the Ohio River.  And not every city with casinos is Atlantic City.  (But many without them are.)  So the crime argument doesn’t wash.  Not unless some backroom operator from the bad ol’ days of Newport, Kentucky, is somehow getting Cincinnati’s casino operation.  Write off slim, bet on none, and you have the chances of that actually happening.

Casinos attract business.  Really, outside of downtown Cleveland or Columbus, what is there to do in Ohio?  Watch the Amish make cheese?  Ride a couple of roller coasters?  Ohio has its attractions, but they don’t compete with California or the Gulf Coast.  Let’s be honest.  People go where the sin and vice are.   And if the sin and vice are clean and regulated, businesses set up shop in the area.  Real businesses that hire assembly line workers and accountants and IT workers.

You know.  Tax payers.  Consumers.  Home owners.

Get the picture?

Or you can continue listening to TruthPac lie.  The State Board of Elections is.  And they have some hard questions.

Have You Been Paying Attention?

To Road Rules, that is.  Road Rules is here.

Fabulous prizes have been chosen especially for you if you’ve been following along.  All you need to do is answer seven quick questions and email them here.

What are those questions?

  1. What is Cinnamon’s real name?
  2. What did I do to Scalzi?
  3. What is Andre the Giant’s legitimate occupation?
  4. How does Lt. Estevez know Bob Jordan?
  5. How far does Tim Mason get with the Cadillac before he runs afoul of two “cops”?
  6. Where did Bishop Gallagher come from before he became the bishop for Cleveland?
  7. Who is Julian Franco’s right hand man?

Answer all seven correctly by October 14th, and you will be entered in a drawing to receive your choice of…

  • Anthony Neil Smith’s Hogdoggin’ (Signed)
  • Victor Gischler’sGo Go Girls of the Apocalypse (Signed)
  • Duane Swierczynski’s Severance Package (Signed)
  • or John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream (which I’ll try to get signed)

Hurry!  The deadline is approaching fast.

Pursuit Of Happyness

My daily perusal of John Scalzi‘s blog led me to this article in the New Yorker.    In his essay, “The Referendum,” Tim Kreider posits that who you are at 40 is who you will be the rest of your life. Furthermore, at 40, people start looking at their peers’ lives with envy.

While I do believe it’s true people look at their peers with envy – Isn’t that half the fun of high school reunions? – I think Kreider is pointing out a trend more than he is stating a rule. Quite simply, the first part of his premise, that we are stuck with who we are upon reaching 40, doesn’t wash.

Certainly, we as a materialistic society do tend to sweat it when we overextend ourselves. Tell me where in the industrialized world this is not true. (Quit snickering, Europe. You bought the toxic mortgages, too.) But I reject the idea that you’re stuck with who you are at 40.

If anything, I find that people tend to reinvent themselves at five year intervals. Why?

  • You get older and you change.
  • Your kids (if any) get older and change
  • Your spouse(s) change(s)
  • You change careers even if you stay with the same company.
  • You change where you live.
  • Your pets grow old and die.
  • Your grandparents grow old and die.
  • Your parents grow old and sometimes die.

I know in my life, I was convinced for a long time that I was headed for oblivion.  For the first five years out of high school, I stayed home to help with an increasingly frail mother and a disabled younger brother.  Didn’t help that the economy in Northeast Ohio never recovered from the collapse of the steel industry.

Then I moved to Cincinnati and got married and thought, boy, oh boy, things are going to start happening now!  Yeah.  I went massively into debt, dropped out of college, and ended up taking on an abusive roommate.  Which meant the next five years were spent just digging out and developing a thick skin.

But I got out of debt.  And I started writing.

If you’d have told me at the dawn of that period of my life that both my parents would die of natural causes, I would both own a home and keep it in a divorce, or have a stepson, I’d have told you you were crazy.

But after I turned 40, I found myself, if not truly published (because to be a publisher, you have to be able to pay your printer, which mine couldn’t do), at least connected.  I found myself shopping for a house with what little was left of what my father gave me.  But I was also headed for being single.

And so now, here I am again, burdened but not broke, going to school again, married again, a parent, and not really envying anyone else as Kreider suggests I should be doing.

Oh, I do wish I made more money and already had a publishing deal under my belt.  I’d like to be rid of the house I still own but don’t live in.  I wish my job were more interesting and I could send Nita to cooking school and pay for AJ’s college out of pocket.

I wish a lot of things.  And maybe some of those wishes will come true.  But I don’t believe we are ever “stuck” with who we are at 40.  Life has proven to me over the last decade that it’s far too unpredictable.

MTM: Cincinnati – Giant Jesus On I-75

Travel north of Cincinnati on I-75 to Dayton. About halfway there, beyond Monroe, beyond the Hustler Superstore and the flea markets and opposite the distant AK Steel mill, which occasionally belches fire and gives Middletown that Bladerunner chic, you see it.  You can’t miss it with its arms in the air, a reflecting pool below mirroring it.  It gives both the most ardent atheist and most devout Catholic or Mormon a serious WTF moment.

I speak, of course, of…

butterjesus

Giant Jesus.  Or Butter Jesus.  Or Touchdown Jesus.  It is a 62-foot high statue on the west side of Solid Rock Church, a 3000+ member megachurch in Monroe.

Depending on who you talk to, it’s either an show of faith or the tackiest landmark in the Cincinnati area since they tore down the old El Rancho Rankin Hotel.  Personally, I believe they could only make it tackier then the El Rancho if it were a 62-foot statue of Elvis.

Don’t laugh, Elvis’s stepbrother lived in the area at one point.

Whatever your thoughts on the statue, officially named King of Kings, it most definitely is a local landmark.  People have been known to stop and pose with it from the highway.  One site posted Photoshoppery that had the big guy wearing a referee’s uniform, a Hawaiian shirt, and looking like Stevie Wonder.

While a lot of people (myself included) could think of better ways to demonstrate the Christian faith than building an expensive statue to a man whose religion clearly states “God dun’t cotton idols*,” I do hope it sticks around.  I-75 wouldn’t be the same without it waving its arms in the air.

*That’s what Simon Cowell is for.

More posts (and likely, less controversial) at the My Town Mondays blog.