Chips All Around 
In a display of pagentry celebrating the 160th anniversary of the invention of the potato chip, reenactors converged on Saratoga Springs, New York, birthplace of the ubiquitous snack food. According to legend, Chef George Crum created the snack out of spite, having overcooked and oversalted thinly sliced potatoes ordered by a troublesome customer.

Robert Crum, who claims to be a decendant of the famous chef, portrayed the harried hash-slinger at this year's Crum Days reenactment event. "People are finally giving the chip some of the recognition it deserves," notes Crum. "We have potato slicing races, potato slice frying races, fried potato slice salting races ... it's all amazingly competative."

Festival organizers deny that the event is nothing more than an excuse to get thousands of people to spend a weekend preparing "kettle style" potato chips for little or no compensation. The hundreds of pounds of potato chips generated in the course of the competitions "are donated to charitable organizations around east-central New York state," according to publicist Nigel Crum, who insists he is no relation.

Each year, the town builds a replica of the original Moon's Lake House, the restaurant where the potato chip was first made, to serve as headquarters for the festivities. For reasons no one has been able to fully explain, the replica manages to catch fire toward the end of the weekend and ends up burnt to the ground. "It's all very traditional, really," says Alice Crum (no relation), "The original Moon's Lake House never could stay standing for very long, no matter who rebuilt it."

Festivities are expected to wrap up tomorrow evening with a traditional s'mores party, celebrating another traditional snack food that may or may not have been created by George Crum.

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The Future Finally Arrives 
The Motor City is abuzz with news from Ford Motor Company -- the 2014 line-up will include the first ever flying car from a major automobile manufacturer. Hailed as major breakthrough by commuters and an unquestionable disaster by leading insurers, the new Ford Falcon is expected to be in showrooms by late October. When asked why this landmark vehicle was debuting as a Ford and not a Lincoln model, CEO A.R. Mulally pointed out, "The Model T was a common car for the common consumer. We envisioned the new Falcon as a flying vehicle for the common consumer -- a way to make the sky open to as many people as possible."

Ford's announcement has met with enthusiastic approval of S.C. Simmons, long-time flying car enthusiast. "This could cut my daily commute to about a third of what it is now," Simmons exclaimed, "At least until everybody else had one, too."

Not everybody is sure the future is so bright for aviated autos. Industry skeptic W.S. Higgins points out that, "over the years, the buying public has expressed a greater interest in unobtainable jet-packs over unobtainable flying cars. It's only a matter of time before some company brings a vehicle with more vertical lift and really spiffy jets to market. Buyers may hold off until a dominant air transport methodology emerges. No one wants to be stuck with a steam-powered car in a world of gas engines."

For now, Ford seems to be leading the way to the open skies, but General Motors is rumored to be investing heavily in strategic helium reserves and should not be counted out of the game.

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West To Retake Cowl 
To the surprise of many, Adam West (84) has been named to play Batman in an upcoming feature film. West, best known for his portrayal of the iconic crime-fighter in the 1960s, was cited by future "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Slowly" director Joss Whedon as being the one actor who could bring back to the screen something crucial that has been missing from the Batman franchise for decades: "A sense of campy vulnerability."

"Have you been to any of the Batman movies in the past 25 years?" asked Whedon. "There's no suspense in the character. No feeling that, at any moment, the Riddler might remove the cowl and expose him to the harsh light of day. I need to make Batman -- and Bruce Wayne -- someone that we can believe in, but also wink and grin about. Adam West really is the only actor who brings that to the character."

In "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Slowly", Bruce Wayne has retired from crime fighting once more. This time, his plans of quietly raising championship corgis are threatened by the return of The Queen, a dangerously deluded villain who is bent upon bringing all of corgi-dom under her control with a mind-controlling chew toy.

Forced back into action to save the animals he loves, the caped crusader seeks out a forgotten strain of wolfsbane that gives canines the will to resist evil influences.

"West will totally rock this," beamed Whedon.

When asked to comment on his return to the Bat Cave, West merely winked, grinned, and commented, "Atomic batteries to power!"

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Friday Dinner 
I'm on my way to my parent's place for the weekend and have stopped for dinner. It's worth backing up a little and explaining why I am where I am at the moment.

With traffic and a stop for fuel working against me, I realized I could not join my parents for dinner. (Not without making them wait a couple hours.) I called to give them my ETA and suggested they dine without me.

"No problem," said my mother, "we're just having BLTs."

Just BLTs. I was now faced with a craving.

Driving up I-75, the vast majority of the information I had easy access to (i.e., roadside signs) informed me of all sorts of places that did not speak to me of BLT availability. Some of the exits had a Big Boy restaurant at them and I thought Big Boy probably had a BLT on the menu, but I did not want to risk being disappointed. I kept driving north.

I had a back-up plan. I knew that Tony's at exit 136 had a BLT on the menu. It's a BLT that I try to avoid, being older and wiser than I once was, but it was there, patiently biding its time.

Having failed to find anything that sounded promising by the time I was 136 miles from where I-75 enters Michigan's southern border, I reluctantly exited the freeway and turned left. Driving across the overpass and past the Marathon station, I turned right into Tony's parking lot, parked, and joined the queue waiting for tables. There is always a wait for a table at meal times.

Once at the head of the line, I was sized up by the person doing the seating.

"How many?"

"One."

"Do you mind sitting at the counter?"

"Sure -- no problem." I actually enjoy sitting at the counter in most places. As a former short-order cook, I like to watch the staff in action and see how the production line flows. I'd call it "professional interest" if I was still cooking for a living. These days, I think of it more as "confirming that I'm glad I don't do that sort of thing every day."

I took a seat at the counter -- right across from the spot where the waiters pick up the the food. Staring back at me was a BLT. It was eight or nine inches tall. Tony's, you see, brags about the pound of bacon that goes into their BLTs. That was why this was my BLT of last resort -- I really don't want that much bacon at one sitting.

"I can't order one of those -- I'll get something else," I decided, and asked for a menu.

Every now and then, we all run into moments in our lives where we look around for a hidden camera. When we're sure we've been set up for some sort of practical joke or that we're being manipulated for the amusement of others. This was such a moment in my life.

"Hmmm . . . 'Hot Roast Beef Sandwich' sounds good," crossed my mind, just before a cook set one on the ledge for a passing waiter to pick up. "No, I can't eat all of that."

"Ooh! How about the Fish-n- . . . no, that's enormous," just as someone walked by with an order for a diner more ravenous than I.

"I could get the . . . ," and the next thing I considered showed up on the ledge, causing me to change my mind again.

This went on for an improbably long time.

Finally, I noticed the hamburgers -- 1/2 pound burgers. That's the same size as the burgers I often get at lunch. That's not stupidly large! I can get one of those.

The burger actually provided me with a solution to my craving. A cheeseburger came with lettuce, tomato, and mayo; if I added bacon to it, I'd have my BLT. With a cheeseburger on it! Sort of a "ground beef club sandwich," but I knew this would satisfy the BLT craving and ordered a cheeseburger with bacon.

If only it had been that simple. This is Tony's I-75 Restaurant -- a palace of prodigious proportions. For this reason, I am now looking at burger, served open-face, with half a pound of bacon on it.

There is no way I am going to close that sandwich and fit it in my mouth. No human mouth is that large. The solution? Treat most of the bacon as an "appetizer" and keep nibbling until there were only about 6-8 slices left. Then I'll close the sandwich and enjoy my BLT/Cheeseburger.

It occurs to me I should document this substantial sandwich:



It is worth noting that I have eaten about a third of the bacon before having the presence of mind to take a picture.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with a deliciousness.





Tony's I-75 Restaurant
8781 Main Street
(Exit 136, I-75)
Birch Run, MI 48415

(989) 624-5860


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2012 MAGFest 
Last weekend was spent in Washington, DC, volunteering for the security crew at MAGFest 10. MAGFest (Music And Gaming Festival) is a DC area convention that celebrates video games and video game music. The main attractions at this convention are a large video game area, a vast collection of vintage arcade games (around 100-150 this year), what may be the world's largest Bring-Your-Own-Computer LAN party, and concerts by bands that play music from video games.

The concerts are, for a non-gamer like me, surprisingly good. If you've not been keeping up on music in the video gaming world (which I haven't), you may be surprised to discover how far it's advanced beyond the cute little tunes played on Pac-Man or Mario Brothers consoles. This year, along with the various bands that usually show up to play music from their favorite games, MAGFest scored a major coup -- Nobuo Uematsu, composer of most of the music for the Final Fantasy series of games, brought his band to the convention to perform for the fans. If you played Final Fantasy, Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas was the must-attend event of the weekend.

I'm not a video game player, but I worked on crowd control before the concert and the autograph session afterwards. Although I didn't need to be there during the concert, I discovered I like Uematsu's music. I stuck around in the hallway behind the stage and listened to the whole performance. I've decided I need to buy the Earthbound Papas CD -- I liked the music that much.

Once the autograph session was over, Uematsu's translator mentioned that the band was impressed with how smoothly the session ran and asked that the security crew working the session come to a dinner Uematsu was hosting the following evening. Nice guy and good composer -- I enjoyed myself.

This year, the convention had around 6200 attendees -- more than double the 3000 that attended last year. The new venue - the Gaylord Convention Center and Hotel in National Harbor, MD - was a vast improvement over last year's hotel. Both places had first-rate staff and excellent rooms, but the new venue has four times the event space. (I'm guessing here -- I don't have the actual numbers.) Also, four times the public elevators ... and I'm not sure I counted all of them.

It's a weekend of loud games, loud concerts, and relatively few incidents. The few people who made major nuisances of themselves were carted off to jail, but the vast majority of the attendees where just plain terrific. I'm not used to having so many people thank me for checking their bag when they exited a room. "I understand why you have to do that; thanks for keeping our stuff safe," was the gist of most of the comments. A very nice group of people, overall, and I look forward to working MAGFest 11 next year.

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