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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Septermber Song 
September has always been my favorite month. Perhaps being the month of my birth has something to do with it, but I think there's more than that. There are several things I associate with September that, individually, make me happy. Combined, they make me amazingly relaxed and content.

September really begins in earnest with Labor Day Weekend. Strictly interpreted, this means that September sometimes begins in the last day or two of August. I'm okay with that; as long as I get a three-day weekend out of the deal, all is well.

As a child, the concept of a three-day weekend never meant much to me. It was another part of this thing called "summer vacation", which was a kind of 90-day weekend. If other people wanted to make a big deal out of one particular weekend, that was okay.

I will confess to some degree of interest in Labor Day Weekend when I was a child. It meant two things to me: school would start up again once it was over and the last 21.5 hours of the weekend was the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. In my youth, Lewis was still at the top of his game; his energy and the enthusiasm of his guests made for a spectacular end to the summer. I'd stay up as late as my parents would allow, then get up early to watch as much as I could of the rest of the telethon. This would be followed by a good night's sleep and a return to school in the morning.

For much of my life, "back to school" was the thing that really got me going in September. I liked school -- I was good at it. Sure, school had its ups and downs and summer vacation was a lot of fun, but by September, I would be missing school and was always glad to be back in class. This feeling persisted through my early adult years. When the evenings were noticeably shorter and the mornings more cool and crisp, I got a feeling that said, "time to go learn things." Even though I'm not in school and haven't been for years, the "time to start again" feeling still sneaks up on me.

Perhaps the most dramatic thing about September is that after Labor Day, the tourists start their 9-month hibernation. Or so it seemed, when I was growing up. I spent a good part of my first 20-odd years, and almost all of my summers, in a resort town. We'd work like crazy to make as much money as we could between Memorial Day and Labor Day, knowing that many of us would have to sustain ourselves on that income for the other 9 months.

I haven't lived in a resort town for many years, but it still seems like everything slows down after Labor Day. Perhaps it's just that students, probably the most energetic segment of the population, have settled back into their routine of being back in school and the overall activity level of society has gone down as a result.

What ever the reason, I've enjoyed September and I'm ready to greet October, with all of its autumnal beauty. The past month has relaxed me. I'm content.

Bring on the colors!


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