Rediscovering Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR)

I have been a dedicated player of Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) since its beginning, but lately my interest has been waning. I’m not sure if it’s the game content or the need for something different. After all, even filet mignon will get boring after the eighth dinner in a row. There was also a brief sojourn back into World of Warcraft (WoW), but I had no desire to continue there either. I could assume fantasy overload. I write fantasy novels, read and review fantasy novels, play fantasy MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), and have watched several fantasy movies. Perhaps the need for a change signaled the gaming muse to poke and prod me into having a second look at Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR).BLOGSWTOR

In the Beginning

I acquired my SWTOR subscription several months after the game went live and immediately loved it as much as LOTRO. Of course, being part of a gaming guild that spanned multiple MMORPGs helped. The same friends who played LOTRO and WoW were also becoming quickly addicted to SWTOR. The initial era of the game before its first expansion was a fair and fun time. Then a great change took place. We all eagerly awaited the first expansion, level cap increase, new weapon and armor modifications, and new content. But alas, the changes left a bad taste in my gamer’s mouth. Also, less than two weeks before, I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My disappointment with the Star Wars franchise was something of a double blow in a relatively short span of time. Therefore, I cancelled my subscription.

A New Hope

Call it a whim, something in the air, fate, destiny, or even kismet. I logged into SWTOR on a high-level toon. My stronghold (house) and everything else, were still in place as if frozen in time when I unsubscribed three years earlier. I had to dig through my mind’s cobwebs to remember the game functions. After some difficulties completing a quest, my fingers remembered what to do, but I still felt somewhat clumsy in game. Therefore, I decided, why not start from the beginning again? I logged into a server where I have no toons and created a Jedi Knight, to relearn the game from the proverbial “ground up.”

Return of My Jedi

Usually, one can tell when an MMORPG is ready to pass away. Simply create a new toon and play in the starting area. If it feels like a ghost town, call the MMORPG undertaker. But this was certainly not the case with SWTOR. Planet Tython, the starting area, was a veritable flurry of activity, with lots of chatter and guilds forming and recruiting. I gleaned from other players that many were just like me, former subscribers with a sudden resurgence of interest. There were four active layers on Tython to handle the number of players. Applause! Most MMORPG players are “Altaholics” and I am no different. I also created a Trooper and a Sith Sorcerer. Yes, Ord Mantell and Korriban were just as freshly populated as Tython.

I must say, I missed SWTOR and had forgotten how visually gorgeous it is, how non-repetitive it is, and how the interesting stories draw you in and hold your attention. Rediscovering SWTOR is akin to going back in time and discovering lost love with a renewed freshness. If you’re a former player or looking for a new MMORPG experience, then get that SWTOR subscription now!

Did Sherlock Holmes Meet Mr. Spock?

Well maybe they shouldn’t meet, or perhaps can’t. Unless our intrepid science officer from Star Trek, Mr. Spock, decides to travel back in time to 19th Century London, finds his way to Baker Street, and has a robust conversation with the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. However, if that conversation should deteriorate and turn into an argument, and Spock murders Sherlock, there could be more serious consequences other than the long arm of the law.Sherlock

We know from certain Star Trek episodes and movies (I believe there are time-travel episodes from all of the individual series, and the movie Star Trek IV) that time travel into the past is possible within the Star Trek universe. Science of course says otherwise, because of the huge problem of paradox. For example, if Spock or anyone else travels back in time and kills their great-grandfather, then they were never born in the future to travel back in time to commit the murder in the first place. And that’s why anything I write does not mess around with time.

O.K., but I’m digressing. I chose Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes for a reason. I’m putting out this idea to all Sherlock and Star Trek fans. Is it possible that Sherlock Holmes was a Vulcan? If so, then what are the possibilities that he is also one of Mr. Spock’s ancestors?

One fact about Sherlock keeps nagging at my mind. He was a master of deductive reasoning and drawing facts together in order to land at their logical conclusion. His accentuated intellect and appetite for mundane facts almost screams out his Vulcan identity.

Imagine a Vulcan trapped on 19th century earth. Would not a Vulcan be learning all that can be learned with an incredible level of absorption and retention? If you’ve ever read any story or novel within the Sherlock Holmes canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you would be aware of Holmes’ ability to dredge up obscure facts without consulting a text.

Next comes the curious case of naming conventions within the “Spock” family. We know the names of Spock’s father and brother, Sarek and Sybok. See a pattern? It would seem that there’s a family tradition of giving descendants a moniker that begins with an “S” and ends with a “K.” Hmmm, is it too far-fetched to add the name Sherlock to the family tree?

How about this interpretation? Sir Arthur did not know about Star Trek, but Roddenberry certainly knew about Sherlock. I don’t recall Sherlock ever taking on the case of Jack the Ripper, but Roddenberry made him the subject of the episode “Wolf in the Fold.” And just by darn luck, it was Spock who solved the identity of the Ripper. A shout-out perhaps?  Who knows? But Mr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation was a huge fan of Sherlock, and even Professor Moriarty wormed his way into an episode.

Do you think this is food for thought? Has anyone noticed this subject in a fanfic? I await some flaming comments.

Looking Back Upon 2018

2018 has been something of a roller coaster ride.

The disruptions began in January when we renovated the master bathroom. Sawing, sanding, and tiling took its toll on us. Not to mention, the piles of construction materials in the garage, sawhorses, and tools scattered about.mb4

Little Frankie stood and took his first tentative steps.

Then in February, my wife uttered another surprise. “My boobs hurt. I think I’m pregnant.”

gb4By March, we were ready to tackle the guest bath. Back to the aura of pandemonium that comes with construction.

My wife mentioned the problems of renovating the kitchen with two children. Better to get it done before number two arrives. We spent April and May planning yet another project. Kitchens are much more difficult than bathrooms. Cabinets are unforgiving if you’ve measured something…anything incorrectly. Also, these were the months for doctor visits and ultrasounds; which of course, meant many trips to Boise.

Frankie was walking, but only on level surfaces. We took him to the park where he learned about different surfaces.

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Also in May, I feel as if I’ve worked the manuscript for my fantasy novel as far as I can.

Throughout the year, I dedicated as much time as possible talking to mom. I was getting news second-hand and worrying.

On June 1st, the old cabinets were torn out. Of course the contents of those cabinets were in boxes around the house. You’d be amazed about how much foodstuff and gadgets are in your kitchen. There is nothing more disruptive to your home life than kitchen construction. Yes, the project spilled into July. Therefore, for almost two months, we stepped over and around boxes, ate frozen food or take out.k6

For the rest of July we set up the new kitchen, and emptied the contents of all those boxes into the new cabinets. I enjoyed cooking my first meal in a functional kitchen. Naturally, I started off with two of our favorites, chicken cutlet parmigiana with penne alla vodka, and Costeletta di maiale picante (pork medallions with hot cherry peppers).

During the first week of August, the news that I had been dreading came. Mom passed away. I’m not going to dwell upon this subject.momndad copy

Off to New York City with Frankie and a very pregnant Ruth. She was carrying low and large. Most people didn’t believe her due date was two months away, because she looked like she was ready to pop.

In the final weeks of August, I submitted a short story “Road Kill” for a horror anthology.

Pat1Mixed emotions ruled for the rest of the year stating with the birth of Patrick Hunter in September. Joy intermingled with despair and regret. I will never see mom holding him. Little Patrick was born three-and-a-half weeks early and weighed only five pounds three ounces.

By October, I sent my novel out to beta readers. I’m still editing according to their feedback, and the reading out loud process has begun. My short story “Road Kill” was published for the Halloween release of Dark Visions.  The anthology has garnered some enthusiastic reviews.Dark Visions

Little Patrick is gaining weight at a proper pace.

November is for #NaNoWriMo. With a new baby, I knew I couldn’t partake in the festivities. Although I wished my fellow wordsmiths luck on their journey. I did manage some editing and rewriting of Book II.

On Christmas Eve, Patrick gave me a smile.pat16

Now December is almost gone, along with 2018. We celebrated Christmas as a family. Frankie understands the concept of opening a gift. As usual, I purchased three presents for my wife; something practical, something goofy, and one romantic gift.

I can’t help but reflect upon past holidays. The clamor of twenty to thirty people at mom’s for two days of festivities. Like ghosts, the voices of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends refuse to grow dim over time. With so many others gone, I cling tight to my wife and children.

Christmas is not about the food, or presents; stay focused on the company you keep.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry 🙂

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The Stork Strikes Again

I’ve put this newsflash out on Facebook and Twitter, but I leave it here to make it complete. Ruth is pregnant again. Who doesn’t love baby announcements?

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We’ve only seen a lab tech / nurse to confirm, so we do not have any other details. Is our new baby a boy? a girl? twins? How many weeks pregnant is my wife?

Stay posted for baby news / stork updates and maybe some ultrasound pix.

My 7 Favorite Christmas Movies

That special time of the year has rolled around again. During the final weeks into the Christmas Season, I really do not want to hear anything about politics, Colin Kaepernick, or Kim Kardashian. My wife and I prefer to relax (after little Frankie is asleep) with some appropriate ‘feel good’ movies.

Honorable Mentions: These features did not make this list of the best movies because they were specials made for Television and they don’t run the length of a film.

A Charlie Brown Christmas – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I can hardly wait to watch these with little Frankie.christmas

(7) Come to the Stable: (D. Henry Koster 1949: Starring Loretta Young & Celeste Holm)

Two Naïve French Nuns come to America to establish a children’s hospital. Of course they wreak havoc upon a sleepy New England town, but miraculously succeed in the end. I ranked this at #40 on my favorite films of the 1940’s

Best Scene: Celeste Holm in full Nun garb playing a competitive game of tennis.

(6) It’s a Wonderful Life (D. Frank Capra 1946: Starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed & Lionel Barrymore) The simple but heroic George Bailey plods through a perceived mediocre life. Later, his guardian angel shows him how his life has affected others for the better. There’s a dark side and something of a sci-fi quality to parts of this incredible holiday favorite. This film ranked as #28 on my list of the best movies of the 1940’s

(5) Miracle on 34th Street (D. George Seaton 1947: Starring Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn & John Payne)

What happens when you hire a Santa Claus who thinks he really is Santa Claus? Some mischief and mayhem ensues for Maureen O’Hara. Edmund Gwenn received a supporting Oscar for his portrayal of Kris Kringle and there’s a very young Natalie Wood. A delightful ‘feel good’ movie if there ever was one. I ranked this film at #18 on my list of best movies of the 1940’s

Best Scene: When the mail bags are brought into the courtroom.

(4) Babes In Toyland (D. Gus Meins & Charley Rogers 1934: Starring Laurel & Hardy)

Stannie Dee and Ollie Dum have a hard time surviving in Toyland. They even botch Santa’s order for wooden soldiers at the toy factory. Throughout the story they help young lovers get together and foil the plans of Silas Barnaby. The tall wooden soldiers save Toyland from the Bogeymen. I ranked this film at #15 on my list of the best movies of the 1930’s.

Best Scene: The invasion of Toyland by the Bogeymen.

(3) A Christmas Carol: (UK) (D. Brian Desmond Hurst 1951: Starring Alastair Sim)

A truly literate adaptation the Dickens classic. At first this film was panned for its dark content but nobody and I mean nobody has ever given a better dramatic portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. This film also sits at #9 on my favorite film of the 1950’s list.

Best Scene: Scrooge on Christmas morning.

(2) The Bishop’s Wife (D. Henry Koster 1947: Starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester & Monty Woolley)

What an incredible cast! Will the angel help the Bishop? Loads of fun laced profound moments. The Bishop and the Angel begin an unhealthy competition for the affections of Loretta Young, Ooops, she’s already married to the Bishop. Of course, nobody (except The Bishop) knows that Dudley is an Angel. Some of his off-hand remarks bear a deep meaning but go over everyone else’s heads. This film ranked as #7 on my list of the best movies of the 1940’s

Best Scene: The Angel and the Bishop’s wife go to an ice-skating rink.

(1) Scrooge: (UK) (D. Ronald Neame 1970: Starring Albert Finney & Alec Guinness) None of the beauty of Dickens literature is lost in this musical version. Catchy lyrics, melodies, and an incredible performance by Albert Finney make for one of the finest films ever made. This film ranked at #11 on my best movies of the 1970’s list.

Grand production musicals were not in vogue in 1970 and I feel that is the reason why “Scrooge” never received the recognition it so truly deserves. This absolute gem of British Cinema has regretfully fallen through the cracks of history.

Best Scene: “Thank You Very Much” Probably one of the most side-splitting examples of dark humor ever!

How About You?

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Little Frankie’s First Six Months

The Stork delivered our little bundle of joy at 4:30am.

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We brought him home two days later.

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At first babies don’t do much at all. For the first three months little Frankie was an eating, sleeping, peeing, and pooping paperweight. Then the first change happened, he smiled on cue, and the baby babbling started.

We had many guests in our house early on. Ruth and I almost didn’t get a chance to hold him while Grandma Charlotte visited. Some chloroform, a blunt instrument, and a crowbar remedied the situation. 🙂

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After his baptism, things really started changing. He’s now grabbing things, and his “talking” has progressed from a random sound to different sounds strung together like syllables. Also, he enjoys baths now. I think the first one was a traumatic experience.

Frankie has stopped getting frustrated by “Tummy Time”, and rolls himself over. Sometimes he can stand up too, provided that someone holds him steady for balance. I think his jumper has strengthened his legs. He used to be content to watch things move, now he must interact.

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His neck is sturdy and loves sitting in his high-chair. We’re expecting the Doc to give us the green light for solid foods this month. As the chef of the house, I’ve purchased a Baby Bullet to make him some fresh food. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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So far, little Frankie is growing like a proverbial weed. At six months, he’s wearing clothing meant for nine-month old babies. Rather than a chip off the old block, Frankie can best be described as a chunk off the old block, although his height and weight are proportioned. 🙂

Any other experienced parents want to chime in? What do you think of Little Frankie?

 

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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My New Stray Cat

We have a new addition to our household, Moogie. Most Star Trek fans, especially those who lean toward Deep Space Nine, will recognize the name as the mother of Quark and Rom. Moogie was a stray cat, but now we have given her a home. I’ll take the opportunity on this #caturday to tell you all about her.

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The first time we saw Moogie, she was scratching at our back door. Although we knew she wanted a home, we were reluctant because of our newborn, Frankie. I searched the town’s Facebook page. Most people with lost and found pets post there, but I saw nothing about this cat. Then I took pictures of her, posted them, and received no response.

Talk About a Guilt Trip

Months ago, as I prepared the nursery for an impending visit from The Stork, I painted a portrait of St. Francis of Assisi, surrounded by animal silhouettes. I finished off St. Francis with a rabbit, a bird, and a cat. Two days later, there was Moogie.

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I kept feeding her most days because some days she was nowhere to be found. Every time I’d walk into the nursery and see St. Francis with the cat, my guilt trip got worse. After a few months of failing to find a home for her, my wife and I decided to keep her. After all, we were already feeding her.

Off to the Vet

The first problem was our cat carriers. They were too small for this rather large kitty. I purchased a carrier for a small dog and Moogie fit without a problem. I took her to the vet and he checked her out for feline leukemia and other communicable diseases. Because her long hair was matted, they gave her a bath and shaved her.

How Did the Other Cats Behave? Is the Fur Flying?

So far, only Phoenix and Luna have accepted Moogie. Despite the initial hissing contests, the cats eat together and have even tried to play with Moogie. Minnie, on the other hand, is reacting differently. She can be a very jealous cat. Minnie follows me around from room to room, always has to jump on my lap, or get into anything that has my attention.

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And Now?

Moogie and the other cats have settled into a routine. Our four-feline brood eats and plays nicely together. The transition has been smoother than expected. It is possible that the other cats were already accustomed to her because of her extended stay under our deck.

Got a stray cat story to tell? Or just a good one about your domestic kitty?

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Luna the Krazy Kitty

The youngest feline addition to our household is Luna. As you may remember, my wife maintains a Harry Potter theme for our cats. Phoenix is the eldest, Minerva is second, and then comes Luna.

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Luna gets caught climbing on the baker’s rack

Luna is a rather rambunctious kitty. She’ll find any object that isn’t nailed down and turn it into a toy. Despite the amount of cat toys in the house, Luna loves to play with pens and pistachio nuts. Every time I move the couch to clean I find many stray objects.  

Small insects do not stand a chance against Luna, the kitty with the heart of a lion. The unwary tend to make their way through the back door frame only to run smack into Luna. Always vigilant, she tends to linger by the rear glass door to watch for birds and stray cats.

Of all three cats, Minerva is the most affectionate. Luna relishes play time with her humans, but only accepts affection on her own terms. She’ll approach and place her paws on my leg. That’s her signal that she wants to be either petted or rubbed.

Luna is quite the clever kitty. Sometimes she takes a chunk of dry cat food and dips it into the water dish to soften it up, but I don’t know why. She does eat both wet and dry cat food.

With the arrival of Little Frankie, we’ve had our share of cardboard boxes. Luna is adept at turning any box into a fort which she likes to defend from Minerva. At times, she’ll use a box as a hunting blind and make stealth attacks.

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In the beginning, Luna occupied to low rung of the totem pole as they say. However, she is asserting herself with the others. For example, a few months ago we purchased a deluxe four tier cat tree. Immediately, Luna claimed the top perch, and the other cats seem to have accepted her claim.

How are you kitties doing? Have you ever brought a kitten into a home where other older cats ruled?

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Call Me Crazy Because…

I started writing a Sci-Fi novel, the first of a series for Camp NaNo 2017. Why is that crazy? Because I have two #fantasy novels, one novelette, and eight short stories sitting on the editing pile.

Blame #CampNaNo 2017

During the last week of June, I decided to not participate in Camp NaNo 2017. The sight of my editing list (I’m staring at it right now. It looks like a hideous monster waiting to consume me) was beginning to get on my nerves. As I sat in front of my computer in my writing space ready to work on the dreaded editing backlist, a flash went through my mind like a lightning bolt, a special delivery from the writing muse herself.

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Suddenly I saw a series of Sci-Fi novels based upon a single main character. This is quite a different approach from my current novels. For my fantasy series, The Tales of Tyrennia, I can go anywhere within that world and write about something within a particular Kingdom.

I could’ve made some notes and put the Sci-Fi series on a back-burner for a rainy day, but no-ooooo. People, or should I say other authors made a few Facebook posts about Camp NaNo 2017. Then other authors chimed in about their projects and preparations; the temptations overwhelmed me.

Let The Insanity Begin

I can’t dedicate my usual time during this NaNo session on account of Little Frankie, but so far I’ve completed the first chapter. Also, I must say, the words are coming easier and my first draft quality is a giant stride away from the drafts of my first scribblings. Hopefully, as I hammer this one out, I won’t have to spend as much time on numerous editing passes.

Perhaps, the change has occurred because I haven’t written new material in a long time. I have kept my nose to the grindstone with minute editing details for an extended period of time; those long hours have honed my wordsmithing skills.

In The End

I’ll try to write a follow up post on August 1st and let you know how things turned out for the month. Of course, I’m going to ask the same of you.

What are you doing for Camp NaNo 2017? How many WIPs have you abandoned this month?

Sauce or Gravy?: A Plea for Italian Peace

An undercurrent of animosity, name-calling, swearing, and insult-laden discourse (Italians are very good at that skill) has been brewing on social media lately. Of course, Facebook and Twitter did not cause the dilemma, but rather, social media is the delivery system which has allowed Italian enclaves from coast to coast to have a verbose brawl over a simple question. Do you call it sauce or gravy? That succulent culinary companion for many different pasta dishes revered throughout the world. And sometimes, a family recipe guarded by Italian grandmothers (with wooden spoon weaponry) like a high level classified state secret. Hopefully, within this humble post, I will settle the sauce / gravy question, once and for all.

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In Medieval times, Italy was a peninsula of warring city states and principalities. I would hate to see this happen within the U.S. Therefore, in the words of San Francesco d’Assisi (St. Francis), “Make me an instrument of your peace…”

The Difference Between a Sauce and a Gravy

To make my claim plain and simple, Gravies contain meat drippings and sauces do not. The fat or oil for a sauce is usually butter, and the thickener in common is of course flour. Yes, I am completely aware of other sauce / gravy techniques from the table of world cuisine. A German chef may add crushed ginger snaps or farina to thicken, while an Asian chef will rely on cornstarch. And who can forget Greek Taztziki sauce, based upon yogurt.

Now let’s take a look at a sauce and gravy which are based upon the same main ingredient.

Béchamel sauce and Sawmill gravy are milk oriented. Béchamel is a mother sauce used in Lasanga, or making Bernaise and Mornay sauces. For a Béchamel sauce, milk is thickened by a butter and flour roux. Sawmill gravy is that wonderful concoction from the American South used on Country Fried Steak or for Biscuits and gravy. In Sawmill gravy, flour is sprinkled into crumbled breakfast sausage and its rendered drippings, then milk and seasonings are added.

Both are milk based, but one uses meat drippings and the other uses butter.

The words sauce and gravy are differentiated in the same way in Italian, sugo for gravy and salsa for sauce. For instance, beef gravy in Italian is sugo di manzo and the aforementioned Béchamel sauce is salsa besciamella. Therefore, if you didn’t use meat, it is a tomato sauce. If you add meat, it is a gravy.

On a Personal Note

Like my grandmother, mom, aunts, and sisters, I’ve always used both terms depending upon whether it was a tomato sauce (meatless), or gravy for big Sunday family meal with meatballs, sausage, and bracciole. It is simply a matter of applying the proper culinary terms.

Are you ready to make peace with your paesani? Let’s end this terrible bloody battle and usher in a modern Pax Romana.

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