Monthly Archives: August 2010

Spookymilk Survivor Challenge #13: Road Trip Spin

Spookymilk’s WGOM writer’s challenge is in its 13th week; everyone brought their A game. This week’s challenge was to write the travel brochure that makes a trip to five lame landmarks sound interesting, with four taken from a given list, and one (real) landmark of your own choosing.

I came up with a concept right off the bat, but made several times made adjustments after rereading the instructions — there was a lot of room for interpretation on this one. (results) — my results were so-so, and this week The Winner Group was defeated by fractions of a point.

Here are the seriously lame landmarks from which we had to choose four:

  1. Biggest ball of twine
  2. Cow pasture
  3. Corn maze
  4. Flattest county in America
  5. World’s smallest waterfall
  6. World’s largest empty warehouse
  7. World’s tallest known blade of grass
  8. World’s tallest midget
  9. A strip mall containing nothing but coffeehouses
  10. The childhood home of the tour guide
  11. Amateur day at a sewage treatment facility
  12. Museum of beige afghans
  13. The used Christmas tree dumping grounds
  14. Museum of kindergarten art projects
  15. Hardware Hank
  16. Joe Don Baker film festival
  17. Madison and Susie’s lemonade stand on 4th street
  18. The morning checkers game at the local cafe
  19. Roy’s taxidermy
  20. A popular hangout for drug dealers

The trip brouchure:

Brown County, nestled in scenic southwestern Ohio, is the home to countless attractions. Here are just a few that you will be seeing on your remarkable week-long trip:
  • Roy’s Taxidermy in Higginsport is the site where infamous serial killer Roy Chapwell once lived and had his macabre display of his victims mounted in various positions in his basement. Within this museum are his personal effects and gruesome artifacts (note, actual victims’ bodies are NOT on display), as well as the history of how law authorities were able to eventually apprehend Mr. Chapwell. Also, a short distance away is the beautiful OhioStar Casino and Resort.
  • The Brown County Christmas Tree Recycling Center in Ripley, what may be Ohio’s largest of its kind, is a truly remarkable place. Christmas trees from all around Brown County (and neighboring counties!) are collected here throughout the year, becoming a veritable rabbit wildlife sanctuary. During the dry period in July-August a person may be lucky enough to see one of the massive conflagrations which seem to occur on a yearly basis – consider watching it from the safe confines of your room at the nearby Ohio River Belle Casino.
  • The Hardware Hank store in Mount Orab was the 137th built in the US, and the statue of “Hank” out front, resplendent in his painter’s hat and white overalls, is the largest in the country. You can fill all your hardware needs here, plus just across the street is the Miami Indian Nation Casino and Buffet.
  • The annual weekend Joe Don Baker Film Festival in Georgetown is held every first Saturday & Sunday of September at the Heart of Brown County Casino ballroom. Past festivals have featured panels of Joe Don experts, look-alike contests, and even the gang from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Note: no firearms are allowed at this event.
  • The Brown County Casino Chip Museum in Hamersville is a definite must-see. Besides chips from all 27 of the Brown County casinos, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of broken penny slot machines, an exact duplicate of the Bellagio Casino vault plans movie prop from Ocean’s Eleven, and the blackjack table where Roy Chapwell was shot — only a few of the memorable exhibits you’ll find here. You will spend the night at the High Class Hotel & Casino and take advantage of weekend discounts!
Enjoy “spending” some quality time in friendly Brown County, Ohio on your trip, and build a lifetime of memories. And remember to bring a wad of cash with you!
***information compliments of the Brown County Visitors Association, and the Brown County Casinos Board***

One of the goals of putting a spin on a horrible road trip is to try make it interesting enough to actually make some money on it. And to me, that has “casinos!” written all over it. To make it even more over the top, I decided to feature a casino at every landmark. And then be sure to give a nod to the Casinos Board for their input into the trip.

I wanted to choose somewhere near a river, where riverboat casinos might be found, and settled on southern Ohio, just arbitrarily picking Brown County. Humerously, there are less than 50,000 people in the entire county, and in choosing from of the more interesting sounding town names, learned that some of them had less than 1000 population.

BTW, MST3K did their thing to a Joe Don Baker film, Mitchell, and after he threatened the MST3K gang, they reviewed Final Justice as well (skewering it even worse).


The Dimwit is Smooth as Silk

I’ve had numerous long-term trades in the works, but in the meantime here was a quick little trade made in the last week. The Dimwit from over at The Daily Dimwit collects Astros cards, which it so happens I had lying around here (including some Colt 45s), and some of them went to him in exchange for some Twins cards, the showpiece being my first Topps Silk card. Okay, it happened to be Delmon Young, but there were also several 2010 Allen & Ginter, a Target Retro card, and a few other recent commons I needed (and several I didn’t, but that’s okay).

How does one come to call oneself “The Dimwit” I wonder? Is it the $.14 postage due on the package? 😉 I don’t think so. Well, in any case, check out his blog and see if you can’t also find a good home for your Astros (and Colt 45s) cards.

clockwise, from top left: 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter #66 Orlando Hudson, doing his best Jim Thome impression – must be photoshopped, because his mouth is closed!; 2010 Topps Silk Delmon Young [20/50]; 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter #TDH17 Joe Mauer; 2010 Topps Target Retro #469 Alex Burnett

A Changing of the Guard

Well, I’m between baseball card trades, still working on my latest Spookymilk Challenge submission, but as it turns out, this is a great time of year for insect watching and photography.

Red-Spotted Purple Limenitis arthemis astyanax

As the high temps we’ve been having start to head down (at least to normal high temps), the early fall insects are beginning to appear alongside the summer holdouts.  Skippers are a-plenty (especially Fiery Skippers; normally Sachem Skippers are the typical ones I would see), and the large showy butterflies are now flitting across the back tree line.

Spicebush Swallowtail Papilio troilus

Monarchs, Swallowtails, and Buckeyes are common right now, and their fidgity nature makes them frustrating to try and get a quality photo — they not only don’t tolerate close proximity for long, but they also don’t hold still, either.

Eastern Amberwing Perithemis tenera

This has been one wild year for dragonflies (and damselflies).  We had swarms of large clubtails around the beginning of July, and daily I can find Blue Dashers and Eastern Pondhawks patroling the yard.  The little Amberwing above was a surprise to me, and was just timid enough not to let me get close enough to it in the grass to get a clear shot.  I’ve only seen these at Lake of the Ozarks.

Common Buckeye Junonia coenia

With the butterfly bush and hyacinths in full bloom, it’s a pretty fragrant invitation to the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Silver-spotted Skipper Epargyreus clarus

Of course, I can’t end without a photo of our other neighborhood watch member, the mantis.  While this photo of the young ‘un looks like a Chinese Mantis, I believe it is a Carolina Mantis, descended from the one which patrolled the lantana plant the previous year (and laid oothecas on the front door and step).

Carolina Mantis Stagmomantis carolina

Spookymilk Survivor Challenge #12: Advice Column

Spookymilk’s WGOM writer’s challenge is in week 12, and the number of contestants are getting fewer. The challenge? Write an advice column question and an advice column answer, though they won’t be related to one another.

The writing has been getting tougher, but once I came up with a direction to take, most of the work was polishing things off. (1st half; 2nd half) — my results were split, but in the end The Winner Group once again squeeked by with a victory.

First, the advice column answer (to choice #1):

Dear _________,
My relationship is falling apart. I think my partner may be messing around. Do I hire a private investigator? What do I do?

TY: Well, golly, we get all assortments of car repair self-help requests – let’s see if we can’t help you out with this one. First off, forget the private investigator. Virtually everything car-related can be done by the everyday guy (and gal) with minimal help, and the cost of a private investigator is one expense you can avoid. When you’re working with cars, you’re going to get messy, and you just need to have the right cleaner on hand at the door when you’re partner comes in from a long afternoon of puttering under the hood. GOJO is a popular hand cleaner (available online or at many automotive suppliers), Goop is an old stand-by, and Armor All makes a nice wipe. You can’t go wrong with a little elbow grease and any of those cleaners.

ROD: Ty, you doofus, she’s saying he’s messing around with another woman, not getting messy working on his car! Why don’t you buy the game Clue and play it a few times, huh? Yes dear, I WOULD hire a private investigator.

TY: Oh. Well, be that as it may, any of those cleaning products I mentioned will still serve you well.

ROD: For crying in the beer…I give up on you, Ty. Next letter, please!

I felt like Ty on this one, not wanting to write advice about relationships, but it’s intentional on my part. I thought it might be funny if the letter was sent to the wrong audience, and while working on it, I ended up making it a two-person response team. This let me have one person beat up the other over his ignorance. Any resemblance to Click and Clack is (pretty much) unintentional. Turns out any resemblance to a Ty and Rod already out there is definitely unintentional.

For the second part, here’s my letter to the advice columnist for the given answer:

Helpful Guy
I know that you’re really “Helpful Guy”, Joe Gorelick, and I’m going to see to it that Mrs. Berquette throws you off the school paper staff! You’ve been spreading rumors that Steve and I have broken up ever since you tried to grope me when you got drunk at the gravel pit last summer, and I’ve had enough. I love Steve, and have NEVER loved you. You’ve twisted every letter I’ve sent in, and I’m also tired of you bringing up my brother Lynn all the time (no, he is NOT gay!). Shirley said you’ve tried hitting on her too, and that you’re more of a douchebag than I know. This is serious Joe – knock this crap off right now! By the way, your advice always sucks. And if you call me “Confused” one more time, Steve’s going to put a baseball bat through your windshield!

Cindee Kristoffersen

Dear Confused:

I find it interesting you reference that piece of history when talking about the problems you’re having with your significant other. I would tender a guess that your situation is actually the exact opposite. Have you discussed this with your brother yet? He will continue to play a role in all this until things are settled. And as far as what your best friend said, perhaps you should examine closely how much weight you give to her opinions. Has she led you down the wrong path before? A lot of couples in your situation find success with therapy, whether they go alone or together. Remain assertive, but cautious. Good luck, and keep us posted!

My thought on this one was to do something unusual, like a school newspaper, and then write it so that the advice person appears to be selectively ignoring the text of the letter. By having the writer be a teenage girl, I could then make the columnist be a spurned admirer, and the writing style would be pretty easy. The letter needed to include mention of a brother and a best friend, of course. Responding to “Dear Confused” was the little icing on the top.

Friday Random 10

TGIF, time for the first ten random tracks of the day…

  1. “Chinese Medicinal Herbs” – Jeff Lorber, Lift Off
  2. “Shining Star” – Earth, Wind, & Fire, Greatest Hits
  3. “4 Minute Warning” – Brian Eno, Music for Films III
  4. “Heartland” – Roger Eno/Kate St. John, The Familiar
  5. “Ethereal Cereal” – Ozric Tentacles, Tantric Obstacles
  6. “On Presuming to be Modern” – Synergy, Cords
  7. “Retroglide” – Level 42, Retroglide
  8. “Down in the Hole” – James Taylor, New Moon Shine
  9. “The Domes of G’bal” – Ozric Tentacles, Live at the Pongmasters Ball
  10. “Every Little Thing” – Yes, Yes

Insect Photo of the Day:  Fiery Skipper Hylephila phyleus

Spookymilk Survivor Challenge #11: Video Game Pitch

Week 11 of Spookymilk’s WGOM writer’s challenge, and The Winner Group again played up to our name. I didn’t really get into the spirit of this challenge much at all: Write two video game pitches: one based on an original idea, and the second based on existing media; book, movie, TV show, etc.

Regardless of how semi-motivated I was, I had to be pleased with the results (1st half; 2nd half) — the judges went along with my thinking and it worked out in the end.

I’m not big into video games, and point-and-shoot FPS don’t really NEED a pitch, do they? Well anyway, here is what I came up with for the two responses:

Original game:
Move It!! (for Wii)
Most people would consider a moving company to have boring work, but not in Transit City! The team of Jorge Buteris, Swen Jodersen, and college student Timmy Blatt will take all jobs, even the ones where Timmy has to man the chain gun mounted on top of the cab! Keep your eyes open though, or Krosstown Movers, your biggest competitor, will steal your work right out from under you! You direct your team of Three Guys and a Gun™ movers as they tackle challenges such as:

  • shipping sensitive seismometers during strong aftershocks
  • a nighttime move hauling propane tanks through downtown while all the streetlights are out
  • moving a farmer’s animals to market while under attack by rabid muskrats
  • transporting human organs during a zombie attack
  • delivering women’s lingerie to the campus store during rush week

Time is of essence! Damage-free is a guarantee! And staying alive would be nice, too!

I don’t know…this COULD be fun. I’ve had moving on my brain, what with getting K off to college and all.  I was glad Sam and Max came to the judge’s mind, because that was where I was going with it.  Drive to your job site, load up the vehicle, and get the load it to its destination, all the while battling various distractions on the trip and during the loading/unloading. If I’d have been more motivated, I could have thrown even more outrageous example scenarios. Use of excessive exclamation points always helps.

Based on other media (Google Earth)
Grand Theft Auto VI: The Whole Damn Country
(for Xbox 360 and Google Earth)
Hiram Bisconelle has always been a bad-ass, and everyone knew it. Still, he was surprised when he was contacted by Al Queida to perform a very serious function for them. With virtually unlimited funding, he was being asked to hire whomever he needed, and do whatever it took to stretch any and all US security forces in order to determine their response level and coordination – Homeland Security, National Guard, state troopers, police, NTSB, FRA, port authority, NSA, FBI, and CIA. Nationwide.
As Hiram Bisconelle, you have the mission to wreak unholy mahem, and thanks to groundbreaking integration between GTA and Google Earth, your arena is THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES, including national borders. GTA VI on the Xbox 360 opens up possiblilities undreamed of with previous editions of GTA:

  • high-speed chases across multiple states
  • smash-and-grab rallies: rob every I-70 McDonald’s between Indianapolis and Cheyenne
  • doing doughnuts in the outfield grass of U.S. Cellular Field during the 7th inning stretch
  • transportation of dead bodies across state lines
  • border crossing assaults

Your only limitation is your imagination — your sick, criminal, perverse imagination.

I always thought it would be cool to use the DB on a GPS device for a racing-type game, but a tip-o’-the-hat to a teammate for suggesting Google Earth as a substitute, which I use as my “media” to base the game on (that’s not a reach, is it?!  I’m glad the judge didn’t think so). I’ve never played any of the GTA games, but how cool would it be to have full reign of the entire country?? Yeah, the idea behind this particular GTA is pretty dark, but I couldn’t think of anything plausible for felonious activity over such a wide area, and GTA is known for stretching the boundaries of acceptable morals.

MN Flashback V: Back to School (MSU-style)

With K heading back to Mizzou on Sunday to start her sophmore year there, I thought it would be an opportune time to flashback to my own college dorm life at Moorhead State University.

My first three years were all in room 272 of Nelson Hall, on the second of 11 floors. It was fun living in “The Beer Can”, whose cylindrical hallway was perfect for driving golf balls, throwing a frisbee, or maybe a bowling ball. Room 272 had a clear shot across the building and the elevators in the middle, right at the top of the stairs, so we always had a view of everyone’s comings-and-goings.

Nelson Hall room 272, Fall 1980

My sophmore and junior years we had a deck in our room, with the mattresses on the floor and chairs, shelves, and stereo on top. You always had to have a track queued up when someone else let their stereo get a bit too loud; “Carry on Wayward Son” always worked well against “Another One Bites the Dust” for instance.

the desk of a freshman CompSci major — note my roommate’s quadrophonic box on the left side of the desk

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Spookymilk Survivor Challenge #10: Fortunately/Unfortunately

After suffering our first cut last week (we hardly knew ya, Zack!), in week ten of Spookymilk’s WGOM writer’s challenge, The Winner Group came to play hardball. This challenge was an entertaining one: Given the following two sentences, compose 6-12 follow-up lines, each starting alternately with “fortunately” or “unfortunately”:

  • I gave up smoking a few hours ago.
  • Mary had a little lamb.

This was an absolute beatdown (results part 1/part 2) — we did it for you, Z-man! Here was how I progressed the fortunately/unfortunately series for these two lines:

I gave up smoking a few hours ago.
  1. Fortunately, I probably will only have cravings during high-stress times.
  2. Unfortunately, the 200 lbs. of TNT strapped to the bridge support girder across from me is creating a bit of stress.
  3. Fortunately, I was able to find a well-concealed location to place the TNT, out of sight from the krauts above me.
  4. Unfortunately, I will no longer be well-concealed after I light the fuse and high-tail it a safe distance away.
  5. Fortunately, I won’t be fumbling for a cigarette during any of this.
  6. Unfortunately, I sure could use that Zippo lighter that I no longer carry…

I love how everything came back around full-circle. Have to thank my AZ bro for the seed for this one, and my IA bro for reminding me that it was a “Zippo” lighter. I was concerned with using a lit fuse, though: every WWII flic uses a long spool of wire and a battery/plunger arrangement. I thought about using the Civil War and “rebs” and a supply train instead, but then it would be matches instead of a lighter, and chances are most everyone would carry matches anyway back then. Quitting smoking really wasn’t a goal in either time period, though — sue me.

Mary had a little lamb.
  1. Unfortunately, not little enough to fit in the overhead compartment above Mary’s airline seat.
  2. Fortunately, Mary had had the foresight to have her lamb checked instead.
  3. Unfortunately, she really is lost without a service animal with her at all times.
  4. Fortunately, Steve, in the seat next to her, is really helpful.
  5. Unfortunately, while he’s no service animal, Steve is certainly an “animal”, and the “help” he’s providing isn’t what Mary needed.
  6. Fortunately, it was a short flight.
  7. Unfortunately, Mary’s lamb, stowed near Steve’s luggage, destroyed all of Steve’s business clothes, and the airline isn’t as responsive to complaints from an annoying dick.

I had no real goal with this one. The first line just came to me, and then it evolved into a challenge to see where it would go. The only way a lamb could even think about being on a plane would be as a service animal, goofy as that would be. As things proceeded, I had to work to bring the lamb back into the picture, so I added a little karma to the final outcome. Should have really worded that line “Unfortunately for Steve, …” though.

Unfortunately, we’ve set a high standard for ourselves for next week’s challenge. Fortunately, I think The Winner Group is up to the task.