Monday, September 28, 2015

Light Blogging

I haven't had a chance to read much of anything lately - too much traveling.
After our return from New Orleans, we had two days at home, then on Wednesday evening I flew from Boise to Baltimore, where my son picked me up and we went back to Quantico Marine Base to finish packing up his worldly goods and drive with him back to Boise. A late night cleaning, and a too short sleep in the Ramada nearby, as the movers had already taken away the bedrooms.

The next day was spent going from one office to another around the base, collecting checkmarks on his outprocessing documents, requesting records, and all that fun paperwork. Really. All stinkin' day.

Around 5 PM (and we started at 7 AM) we headed away from Fort Belvoir's hospital basement, and had a nice dinner in Old Occaquon at a place whose name I can't recall right now, but it's right down on the bay there. A couple of good microbrews and some decent seafood.

We had planned on going to the Virginia vs Boise State football game on Friday, so we drove down part of the way and got a room near Spottsylvania. A more satisfactory sleep this time, and a great breakfast at the Waffle House across the street. We discussed it a bit, and came to the conclusion that, though we had seats right on the 50 yard line, and it was going to be a great game, the wiser course was to begin heading west right away, since we needed to be back in Boise by Sunday night.

An uneventful drive through VA, PA and Ohio, and we stayed in Waseon on Friday night, had a nice meal at a Mexican joint, got a reasonable night's sleep, then pressed on Saturday morning for parts further west. Found ourselves in the middle of Nebraska by evening, and had some good ribs and steak at Uncle Dick's Steak House in Grand Island. Stayed in a threadbare motel run by some very nice Indian or Pakistani folks, and were thoroughly unimpressed by the continental breakfast the next morning.

The last day was a long haul, from the middle of Nebraska all the way to Wyoming, Utah and eventually arriving in Boise around 11 PM. A grueling marathon ride.

Back to work, trying to recover.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

It's rather stunning what happens when you pick up a book written by true craftspersons. I usually end up staying awake past my bedtime, devouring it eagerly, until reason or sheer inability to keep my eyes open forces me to close. This was my experience with Magic Shifts, which I managed to pick up the same week it hit Amazon.

Kate and Curran have left the pack, in order to save Atlanta from death and destruction wielded by her father, Roland. She has acquired a magic bond to the land and its inhabitants that she hasn't even begun to figure out yet, which may make ongoing episodes interesting as she comes into her powers. They have formed their own security and investigation business, Cutting Edge, and moved into what passes for suburbia in post-Shift Georgia.

When an old friend from the pack, Eduardo (a were-buffalo) disappears during what should have been a routine job for the Mercenary Guild, Kate and Curran hunt for him, and stumble into a really nasty mess.  A powerful, vindictive magical being has come to town, and is taking control of humans and turning them into monsters.

The plot thickens when Kate's father, Roland, plays the devoted paternal type, rather than the psychopathic megalomaniac, and invites her and Curran to dinner to quiz them about their wedding plans.

Kate and Company seem to flail their way from one situation to another, dealing with the new and unexpected adversary, spending time with "Dad", navigating politics with the Pack they have left behind, and taking on a new challenge, reforming the Guild. But at the tail end of the book, Curran actually puts together  plan to confront the monsters which works, in far less pages than it should have. Did we run up against a word count limit?

Good story, lots of fun, and a few "in" references for old geeks.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Not with a Bang, but with a Whisper

Our final day in the Big Easy, the Crescent City, was pretty low key. We got up and went down to Daisy Duke's again for breakfast, and I had bowl of the fluffiest biscuits, smothered in country gravy, that I have ever encountered. Stuck to fruit juices instead of the temptation of their Bloody Marys. Went for a streetcar ride out to the Cemetaries - thousands upon thousands of above-ground graves, and reflected upon mortality.

Back downtown, wandered around on Royal Street and picked up some Mardi Gras beads to bring home for friends, had a smoothie at Smoothie King, and eventually got picked up at our hotel by the airport shuttle. Had an amazingly good muffuletta at the Cheesecake Scoop Cafe out at the airport - seriously - better than the Central Grocery original in my opinion.

The less said about the frustrations of air travel the better, at this point, but we did get home in the wee hours of the morning safely.

Perhaps a wrap-up on what it all means one of these days. Still digesting.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jazzin' it Up

Decided on a whim to have breakfast at Daisy Duke's just around the corner from the hotel, and was extremely pleasantly surprised by the food and service. Had an alligator omelette with a bowl of grits and a lite fluffy buttermilk biscuit that was absolutely wonderful. They had an early bird special 2-for-1 Bloody Marys, and though we missed the deadline by about ten minutes, they still delivered on it with a couple of reallly really tasty drinks. 

The forecast called for 93 degrees, so I stopped at a Levis store and picked up a pair of shorts to wear, nipped back to the hotel to change, and we were on our way. Made a stop at the Jaxson brewery mall, but didn't find the brewery, then wandered on over to the Jazz National Park office and signed up for a walking tour. Had a good time on the tour, and then watched a trio play in a small ampitheater for a while. 

Checked out the jazz bars on Frenchmen St, but none of them were open yet, so we went back to the market area and had a decent lunch, though not a great one, of po'boys, but our seats were in the front row to listen to the Jazz Cats trio. Wandered over to the US Mint and heard a great jazz duo play and sing, then back across town to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe for a quick Abita and then headed back to the hotel for a cool down before heading out for the evening.

Walked down to the Mississippi to go on a dinner and jazz cruise, but discovered that they were all sold out. A bit disappointed, we wandered back to the French Quarter and had a nice little meal in the courtyard of The Creole Kitchen - the oysters rockefeller, bienville and toulouse were marvelous! Wandered around on Royal Street looking at some of the art galleries for a while, but called it another early evening and left the crush of partiers before things got any crazier.

New Orleans Second Glance

We got up fairly early and walked down to Bourbon Street, where we had beignets and an Andouille sausage omelette while listening to a banjo player at Cafe Beignet. The beignets were hot and fresh, better than a Krispy Kreme, and the sparrow pirates made off with any unattended food, but the omelette was a bit uninspired. Took a self-directed walking tour of the quarter after that, until I lost track of where we were, and decided to simply head for Jackson Square.

Early in the day, the buskers and street vendors were barely setting up, so we wandered on past, only taking time to visit the Presbytere and look at the artwork and stained glass. 

Took  stroll on the Moon Walk, until the rising sun and heat grew unbearable. Bought a hat from a street vendor to shield my tender, bald scalp, then bought a day pass on the streetcar line and cruised on out to the Garden District, to marvel at the mansions, take a stroll in Audubon Park (which oddly enough had a very clean public restroom near the golf course; I wasn't expecting much), and see Loyola University. 

Headed down to Decatur Street across from the French Market to have a muffaletta sandwich at the Central Grocery. The sandwich was massive (we split a half) and very tasty, and we ate it at the crowded counter, washed down with a Dixie beer - a bit like Heineken, but with a sweet aftertaste. Wandered across the street to sample pralines and buy an ice cream cone, then wandered through the French Market, which contained an odd mix of touristy crap and occasional locally produced crafts. A lot of the stuff there we've seen in outdoor markets from one end of the globe to another. Bought a very very tasty organic pina colada from one of the booths, and sipped on that as we walked around.

Back to Jackson Square where things were in full swing. Lots of amazing artists to explore, and we bought a small drawing that we liked. Wandered onwards, occasionally poking our heads into interesting shops, and pausing to listen to busking bands along the way. In mid-afternoon the heat got the best of us and we had to retreat to the hotel for a quick shower and restful hour or two by the pool. 

Refreshed again, we jumped on the streetcar again for a tour of the CBD, which turned out to be a waste of time. Got off down by Harrah's casino and walked over to the area where the steamboats depart, then hit the outlet mall (bigger on the inside than outside, it seemed) and bought M some tennis shoes at the New Balance store, as the ones she had walked around in all day were hurting her toes. 

Back to the docs for a very nice meal of gumbo and crawfish etouffe at Poppy's Crazy Lobster, accompanied by a flask of Voodoo Juice and a very bayou trio playing nearby. Walked back to the hotel and called it an early night, though the good times were just starting to roll on Bourbon Street.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Easin' in to the Big Easy

Walking out the door of the airport in New Orleans, the heat and humidity hits like a brick wall. Took the shuttle to the Central Business District, and met my wife at the Renaissance Pere Marquette. Dropped off the luggage and went for a walk. Found the French Quarter and went for a stroll down the length of Bourbon Street to the land of the rainbow flags, at which point we turned around and walked the other side of the street - not in a figurative sense.

It was just past five o'clock, but the party was already getting started. It's like the line in Alice's Restaurant "you can get anything you want" on Bourbon Street. A friend had recommended Acme Oyster House for dinner, but the line was already down the block nearly to the corner by 7, so we popped across the street to Felix's and the food was fantastic.
One of their signature Bloody Marys, a Hurricane and a plate of Oysters Rockefeller to start - delishus! Had a great plate of fried seafood with just the right amount of spice, and called it good. 

Watched some street musicians for a bit, then wandered  back to the hotel, had a glass of wine and relaxed. Tomorrow we hit the pavement hard 

Travelin' Man

It seems, the older I get, that faces in airports trigger thoughts of "Hey, that looks like..." Is it just a craving to encounter a friend in a vast and lonely setting, or simply the inevitable coincidental facial and bodily similarities after a lifetime creating an internal database of friends, relatives, and acquaintances?

I often also wonder why, after decades of flying passengers around the country, the airlines haven'f succeeded in finding a more efficient way to board than the cattle call of confusion that reigns. Aside from the whole "let's seat the first class cabin first" method - which seems odd to me - why do we make the highest-paying customers wait the longest on the tarmac? - it would make a ton more sense to seat from the back of the plane forward, so that the people stowing their luggage in the overhead bins and juggling seat assignments aren't blocking the passengers who are coming in behind them. Add a couple of big burly flight attendants to toss the carry-ons up into the racks, and you'd really speed things up when little oriental grannies come up...short.

Today, for the first time ever, I actually witnessed a more reasonable group of people deboarding the plane for a change. Most of the time, everyone leaps to their feet the moment the plane comes to a stop at the gate and starts dragging all their baggage down from the bins. You know, people, you can't leave the plane until A) the door opens and B) the people in the 28 rows ahead of you get off of the plane. I always just relax in my seat until the two rows ahead of me are starting to move, then stand and gather my things to depart. Jumping to your feet earlier does not make people move out of the way any faster, and you're still going to have to dash to your connection - at the other end of the terminal...or in another terminal entirely.

Just some of my travelin' thoughts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fast times, slow reading

It's been difficult to get anything up on the blog recently, as I've been traveling quite a bit more this summer than ever, and between being slow to finish books (almost four weeks on what I'm reading now), and not feeling the energy to post about a couple of bits of fluff that I did complete, there's been a drought to rival California's here.

I am, however, still alive and well.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Silver Bullet by S M Reine

The action shifts to  Reno, Nevada in the 2nd in the Preternatural Affairs series. Cesar and his partner, Suzy, are assigned to a special team investigating a magical power surge in the Biggest Little City in the World. The trail leads from a nightmare demon who runs a casino to an abandoned silver mine filled with giant spider demons, and right up against a nasty werewolf before the case is finally solved.

Cesar runs afoul of the OPA's security policies when his boss, Fritz, is kidnapped and he is forced to use his cell phone to contact a vicious VP of OPA. She would as soon kill as deal with him, so he has to think fast on his feet to rescue the boss and avoid being terminated in all senses of the term, as a security breach.

Again, long on action, short on plot, but a fun tale to while away a couple of hours. I've downloaded some more of Ms. Reine's work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Witch Hunt by S M Reine

I believe this book was one of Barnes & Noble's weekly freebies, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be an amusing , if not engrossing, tale. Cèsar Hawke is a witch, who works with the Office of Preternatural Affairs arresting dangerous witches, demons and miscellaneous supernatural beings.

He's pretty new on the job, but seems to enjoy his work. After celebrating a successful investigation a bit too much, he finds the dead body of a woman he took home in his bathtub the next morning, a bullet hole in her chest. Cèsar isn't the type of guy who is prone to murder on a first date, and though the police are convinced of his guilt, and his bosses don't send anyone to bail him out, he still has a shred of faith in himself, and escapes custody to find the real killer - shades of OJ, anyone?

His partner, Suzy, seems to believe his innocence, and she gives him a place to hide out briefly, but as the story goes on, it appears that Suzy may herself be the killer. Hawke's naive faith in people leads him into a number of near-death experiences, and it's a dark, wild ride through a very spooky Los Angeles.

Definitely an author worth watching.