Monday, March 28, 2011

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, Schaumburg, IL

This location is no longer listed on the McCormick & Schmick's site, and appeared to be closed when I drove past on 4/30/11.

This restaurant is at 1140 East Higgins Road in Schaumburg, IL. The phone number is 847-517-116.

The atmosphere in the restaurant was nice, relatively quiet and relaxed. The dress tended towards business casual or casual for the other diners I saw.

We arrived at 5 pm, the restaurant was quiet and the server checked on us regularly. As the evening wore on and the restaurant got moderately busy the server quit checking regularly, and became less attentive when he did check in. Towards the end of the evening he became confused over the coffee order, bringing an extra decaf instead of the list of coffee drinks with Frau Angelico that was requested. He also messed up the bill when it came time to split it. He accidentally put one of our deserts on a different bill. He corrected it when the error was pointed out and tried to pass it over with a comment about how difficult it is to split up a bill. It is true that this can be difficult, particularly if the server doesn't properly attach the order to the seat as looked to have happened in this case.

I ordered the California Roll as an appetizer and the Sea Scallops with Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto for the entree. The California Roll came out on a dish with wasabi, pickled ginger, a spicy red sauce, and a very small bowl of soy sauce. It is good that it came with the spices because the roll itself was pretty tasteless. Unfortunately, it didn't come with a dish to mix the sauces in.

There is a story to go with the Scallops with Risotto. I had intended to order the Scallops sauteed with tomatoes, mushrooms, and crostini. When I was ordering I pointed to the Scallops sauteed and said I'd like the Sea Scallops with tomato and mushroom. The waiter said, "The Risotto?" and I made the mistake of saying yes. So I got the Sea Scallops with Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto. A side note, pay attention when you order as the waiter might confuse a less expensive dish with a more expensive dish. The scallops were tasty and so was the risotto. There was something strewn over the risotto. It seemed to be toasted sprouts. They didn't add anything to the dish as far as I was concerned.

All in all, I suggest not going here. The service was mediocre. The food was good, but not extraordinary. The only thing it really has going for it is a better wine list than Red Lobster and a fancier selection than either Dover Straits or Red Lobster.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

“Rakkety Tam” by Brian Jacques

This is another story of Mossflower country and Redwall. It has all the expected elements feasting, stories, riddles, a badger, hares, otters, squirrels, watervoles, shrews, mice, and moles. In this case the riddle is much less central to the story, though it ends up solved by the Redwallers.

Rakkety Tam is a Borderer squirrel and mercenary in service to a fool of a squirrel king. Gulo the Savage is a terrible violent wolverine roving in search of his brother Askar and the “Walking Stone”, which Askar stole. In his pursuit Gulo hears of Redwall and decides to take it, but finds that he cannot.

All in all this story is one of the more enjoyable of the Redwall novels. The story is as solid as ever, the characters are vivid and colorful, and the hares provide more than one comic ballad.

Friday, March 11, 2011

“Ring of Fire II” Edited by Eric Flint

This is another anthology set in the world with the Ring of Fire. Eric notes in the preface that these stories are similar to the Grantville Gazette, an online magazine with some issues in print. The main difference is that the stories in both this anthology and the earlier “Ring of Fire” are a little more closely associated with the novels and there aren’t any technical documents included.

This anthology varies in time and location more than the previous anthology, but the quality remains good.

The first 6 stories can be read free on the Baen Free Library.

Here are some brief comments on the 15 stories in the anthology.

“Horse Thieves” by Karen Bergstralh
This is a story of horse traders taking their purchases from France to Grantville. Along the way they run into a group of bandits or soldiers. Five of the horse traders are ex-mercenaries with uptime weapons with an uptimer along for the ride. The uptimer gets cocky and dead. Then the story closes with five ex-mercs against 20 uptime bigots.

“Second Issue?” by Bradley H. Sinor
Yuri, an émigré Russian and reporter, noticed that Papenheim was Santa Claus at the Christmas party. He wrote a story with plenty of speculation and tries to sell it to the “Times”. The editor of the “Times”, Paul, demands proof and together they go looking for it. After Paul gets caught Mike convinces him to sit on the story. They still have to find a way to prevent Yuri from selling the story. Paul comes up with an idea. The only question after that is “When is the second issue coming out?”

“Diving Belle” by Gunnar Dahlin and Dave Freer
Ginny Cochran has left the library in Grantville to work as a secretary to the American Ambassador in Stockholm. While she’s there she enlists a quartet of young men in her plan to prevent a cunning fraud from fleecing the Swedish nobility with a plan to raise the warship, Vasa. The plan is to raise the ship herself… using the frauds money.

“A Gift from the Duchess” by Virginia DeMarce
The Duchess of Tyrol has a gift for the people of the plague stricken city of Kronach. A trio of skilled doctors trained in Padua. The three of them along with Matt Trelli get into Kronach to help control the plague outbreak. After that is wrapped up, also the Ram Rebellion, the doctors get flown to Bernhard. The Duchess has political schemes that are described only broadly.

“Lucky at Cards” by Andrew Dennis
Guilo Mazarini, now Jules Mazarin, has taken service with Cardinal Richelieu and switched to being a French citizen. This little tale revolves around the card table and shows the edges of the struggle between Richelieu’s party and that of Gaston, Duc D’Orleans. It also hints at a developing friendship between Mazarin and Anne of Austria.

“A Trip to Amsterdam” by Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett
This is a story about David Bartley and OPM. When Don Fernando begins the siege of Amsterdam the Dutch guilder starts to fall like a rock. The USE government wants it propped up so they give David a secure loan. He and Prince Karl Eusebius von Lichtenstein buy quite a lot of guilders, saving the day. Then the decision is reached that Don Fernando needs to be spoken to or it will all be for naught. After long negotiations all return home happy.

“This’ll Be the Day…” by Walt Boyes
This story advances a little further the story of Fredrich von Spee. It covers the day he died in our timeline.

“Command Performance” by David Carrico
This story of Franz Sylwester and Marla Linder advances the story of that group of downtime and uptime musicians. In this tale Mary Simpson has arranged a performance by the group, particularly Marla, for the high notables of the USE.

“Ellis Island” by Russ Rittgers
This very short story blends a remembrance of Ellis Island with the brief story of three refugees striving to reach Grantville.

“Malungu Seed” by Jonathan Cresswell-Jones
This is the story of an ex-Jesuit come across the sea from Brazil. He brings James Nichols cinchona seeds. Quinine can be extracted from them and that prevents malaria. However, there is a problem. It is impossible to verify that he is who he says he is, it is impossible to verify that the seeds are what he says they are, and he’s asking for a great deal of money to fund a trip to plant half of those seeds in Africa.

“Trials” by Jay Robison
This story continues the tale of Artemisia Gentileschi and her daughter Prudentia. After Artemisia moves herself and family to Grantville she gets involved in the trial of a soldier accused of raping a woman in Grantville. She becomes friends with the woman, Sherry Murray.

“The Chase” by Iver P. Cooper
This story of the Barbie Consortium brings William Cavendish, a young Englishman on the Grand Tour, and his tutor Thomas Hobbes to Grantville for a time. The girls are rather taken with him and Heather tries to get a date with him. In the end Judy is the one to win his attention. Then the war with France, Denmark, and England begins and William has to return home.

“Eddie and the King’s Daughter” by K.D. Wentworth
This is the amusing story of how Eddie Cantrell begins his romance with King Christian’s daughter Anne Catherine. They get into a certain amount of trouble and get her fiancé thrown in prison for bragging about giving the Swedes fine ships. There are also the extended negotiations where King Christian attempts to get technology from Grantville in exchange for Eddie. This story feeds into “1634: The Baltic War”.

“Second Thoughts” by Virginia DeMarce
In which Noelle Murphy learns a great deal more of her family history than she expected. This story begins when Noelle returns to Grantville from Franconia. She is dealing with the fallout of her mother and natural father, Dennis Stull, being declared as married. She is also working full time to catch corrupt members of the government in there corruption. By the end of the story her name is Noelle Stull.

“The Austro-Hungarian Connection” by Eric Flint
King Ferdinand III of Austria has gotten himself a nice car now that his father has died. He wants more technology so he sends one of his most trusted cavalry officers, Janos Drugoth, to see to bringing the party from Grantville. Some of these are being pursued by Noelle Stull on account of corruption. When she catches up to the party Janos takes her and Eddie Junkers prisoner until they are about to pass into Bohemia. Noelle isn’t willing to leave things there. She realizes that they must pass through Regensburg. Noelle makes it there in time to see them passing down the river. Then she shoots at Janos. After that is the beginning of an official courtship between Noelle and Janos.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

“Ring of Fire” Edited by Eric Flint

This is an anthology put together by Eric Flint. It takes place in the same universe as his novel “1632”. The stories are all set in the two or three years after the Ring of Fire occurred.

One rather interesting thing about this anthology is how important several of these stories are. “To Dye For” by Mercedes Lackey helps set the stage for “The Galileo Affair”, and Mercedes Lackey isn’t a coauthor for any of the novels. This anthology deliberately shows the important work done by people other than the main characters in “1632”. As Eric Flint puts it near the end of his introduction to this anthology,

“In the nature of things, fictional series – like biographies – tend to give the illusion that history marches more-or-less lockstep with the actions of the main characters of the story. That’s almost inevitable, given the very nature of narrative. But it is an illusion, and I wanted to avoid it as much as possible in the unfolding 1632 series.”

The overall work is interesting both for that reason and because of the way it fits in with the unfolding alternate history. It can be read online in the Baen Free Library.

Here are some brief comments on each of the stories.

“In the Navy” by David Weber
This short story shows how Mike gives John Simpson command of the new Navy. It also shows how Eddie becomes attached to Simpson. It also humanizes Simpson, compared to his portrayal in “1632”.

“To Dye For” by Mercedes Lackey
This short story shows more about Tom Stone. It shows his marijuana and medical herbs. It also shows his unwillingness to make a profit off his medicines. Then the main part of the story shows how he gets approval to wed Magda. This helps a little bit when he shows up rich with a German wife in “1634: The Galileo Affair”.

“A Lineman for the Country” by Dave Freer
This story introduces Ellie Anderson, Len Tanner, and Dougal Lawrie. Ellie and Len are uptime experts with phone technology. Dougal is a downtime Scotsman and dispatch rider. Together they decide to create a telecommunications company. They show up in later stories in Prague helping Wallenstein setup a phone network.

“Between the Armies” by Andrew Dennis
Here is the first time the reader meets Mazarini and Gus Heinzerling. This longer story shows how Gus Heinzerling came to be the curate of the Catholic Church in Grantville, St Mary’s. It also describes Father Mazzare’s transition from being quiet about the changes since the 1600’s to giving Mazarini the text of documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992 ed), and an authorized English translation of the Bible. This is an interesting story in part because it sets up relationships that matter in later stories, most notably in “1634: The Galileo Affair”.

“Biting Time” by Virginia DeMarce
This is the story of Veronica Richter, Gretchen’s grandmother. It winds along through Ronnie getting a set of dentures, to the courtship of Henry Dreeson, to the opening of the first of her St. Veronica’s Preparatory Schools.

“Power to the People” by Loren K. Jones
This is the story of events at the power station when the Ring of Fire occurred. It follows a pair of workers at the power station that lose their families by the event.

“A Matter of Consultation” by S.L. Viehl
In this story Anne Jefferson and Sharon Nichols begin by trying to make contact with the best of the local herbalists, Tibelda. Things go downhill when Tibelda and Anne are grabbed by some local farmers looking for help treating another local farmer with a heart problem. Unfortunately an English doctor, Dr. Harvey, brought the unwell farmer to the village. When Tibelda gives the farmer a potion Harvey accuses both she and Anne of poisoning the farmer. Adam Olearius arrives with Sharon, Balthazar, Hans, and Grechen, which saves Anne and Tibelda from being burned as witches. Adam begins his courtship of Anne and Harvey gets a brief copy of the history of Charles I of England.

“Family Faith” by Anette M. Pedersen
Here is the story of an ex-Jesuit, Johannes, trained in drawing and painting. He spends time recovering from a nasty cough talking with an old friend, the son of his father’s Reeve, who now runs his family’s estate. He speaks of the terrible things he saw in the war and of his nephew, now lost in the chaos. After he gets better Johannes travels to Grantsville following the last clue to his nephew’s whereabouts.

“When the Chips are Down” by Jonathan Cresswell & Scott Washburn
This is an amusing little story about how Larry Wilds endeavors to create a recipe for potato chips.

“American Past Time” by Deann Allen & Mike Turner
This story focuses on Billy and Conrad. Billy is an uptime kid that was planning on going into Major League Baseball. Conrad is a downtime German with a talent for batting. As Billy tries to come to grips with the Ring of Fire by playing baseball with whoever will play he finds that more and more of the downtimers are able to hit his pitches.

“Skeletons” by Greg Donahue
This is the story of how a downtimer that served in Tilly’s army deals with some of the skeletons in his past. He also deals with a trio of murderous ex-mercs.

“A Witch to Live” by Walt Boyes
This is a rather simple story of a woman accused of witchcraft. Fredrich von Spee makes an appearance as her defense attorney. It quietly explains how von Spee ends up in Grantville.

“The Three R’s” by Jody Dorsett
This story serves as an introduction to Bishop Comenius, Deacon Jan, and Red Sybolt. It also sets the stage for the events in Prague in later stories. Other than that it isn’t all that interesting.

“Here Comes Santa Claus” by K.D. Wentworth
This is a thoroughly amusing story as General Pappenheim is conscripted to play Santa in Julie Mackey’s Christmas event. It also serves to set up Prague.

“The Wallenstein Gambit” by Eric Flint
This novella by Eric Flint describes how Wallenstein defects from the Austrian Habsburgs. Wallenstein seizes Prague with the help of the Roths, Ellie and Len, Red Sybolt, and a young and eager Abrabanel.