Archive for the ‘Ken St. Andre’ Tag

Riverwalk, October 8, 2015   Leave a comment

On days when I feel grumpy and out of sorts, the best thing for me to do is go take a walk, preferably somewhere out where there are no people around. Phoenix has an urban wilderness inside the city that only a few people know about. I’m one of them, and from time to time I go down to the Rio Salado to restore my soul, and see what I can find in the way of pretty rocks. Today, Octobber 8, 2015, was one such day, and this is the record of my walk.

Trolls love bridges. This is a meme I'm trying to establish.

Trolls love bridges. This is a meme I’m trying to establish.

Being under the bridge is even better than being on the bridge.

Being under the bridge is even better than being on the bridge.

This is what passes for a river in the urban wilderness. A pretty as it looks, you don't want to get too close to this water. It's dangerous.

This is what passes for a river in the urban wilderness. As pretty as it looks, you don’t want to get too close to this water. It’s dangerous.

I found fresh coyote tracks, probably made this morning. No human tracks nearby, so it's not a dog. In my fantasy world, this is a wolf or warg track.

I found fresh coyote tracks, probably made this morning. No human tracks nearby, so it’s not a dog. In my fantasy world, this is a wolf or warg track.

The river is a ribbon of green through a harsh landscape.

The river is a ribbon of green through a harsh landscape.

...

. . .

. . .Walking carefully.

There are flowers in the wilderness. This grows on some kind of bean tree.

There are flowers in the wilderness. This grows on some kind of bean tree.

The path I must walk looks unfamiliar to me.

The path I must walk looks unfamiliar to me.

I am always on the lookout for striped stones. This is a cleancut beauty, but just a little too large to take home with me.

I am always on the lookout for striped stones. This is a cleancut beauty, but just a little too large to take home with me.

There is a rest area. Here I stop and watch the birds. A large hawk of some type is flying about, but he is too fast and far away for me to catch with a cellphone camera. Airplanes fly across the city about once every 3 minutes. I drink some water and get ready to take my own picture. This is the turning back marker for the hike.

There is a rest area. Here I stop and watch the birds. A large hawk of some type is flying about, but he is too fast and far away for me to catch with a cellphone camera. Airplanes fly across the city about once every 3 minutes. I drink some water and get ready to take my own picture. This is the turning back marker for the hike.

About halfway thru the hike I take my own picture. These are the moments when I feel most in tune with nature.

About halfway thru the hike I take my own picture. These are the moments when I feel most in tune with nature.

Men are never far away in Phoenix. On the other side of the riverbank is a giant open pit gravel mine.

Men are never far away in Phoenix. On the other side of the riverbank is a giant open pit gravel mine.

This is the road leading back to civilization.. . .

This is the road leading back to civilization.. . .

I find more of the violet flowers on the return trip. I am taking the easy way back on the access road above the river.

I find more of the violet flowers on the return trip. I am taking the easy way back on the access road above the river.

My last glimpse of the river--a side stream feeds water into the main channel. It is wild, beautiful, and polluted.

My last glimpse of the river–a side stream feeds water into the main channel. It is wild, beautiful, and polluted.

These are the treasures found during my hike. Yes, one of them is a golf ball, miles away from the nearest golf course.

These are the treasures found during my hike. Yes, one of them is a golf ball, miles away from the nearest golf course.

end

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If you can identify those violet flowers or the red conglomerate rock in the last picture, or if you just like to take your own river walks, why not leave a comment?

–Ken

Posted October 8, 2015 by atroll in Uncategorized

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Down by the Gila River   1 comment

I haven’t done a real river walk in a couple of months now. It has been too hot, and i’ve been all over those  river parks in South Phoenix several times–getting a bit bored with them. So, I went to the river at a spot further west than I have ever gone before and found to my surprise that it had changed its name–no longer Rio Salado, but now Gila River. And it had quite a bit of water in it. That’s always a surprise with an Arizona river. I walked about a half mile, and I took these pix. Come walk down by the Gila River with me!

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These yellow flowers were the only flowers I found down by the river, but there were lots of them. They grow right along the water’s edge.

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I like to walk by the river and search for interesting rocks. A riverbed usually provides a wide variety. This rockfield is typical of the rocks I saw today. Do you see any with stripes? That’s what I usually search for.

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Does this look like Arizona to  you? Not a cactus in sight!

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The buildings beyond the trees across the river are part of Phoenix International Raceway–Phoenix’s auto racing establishment. Actually, it’s south of Avondale, and probably outside any city limits. Phoenix racing is usually in winter and spring. The heat would kill people if they tried to race in the summer.

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River channel looks like an irrigation ditch.

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Looking at the river from the road. No room for trolls under this bridge.

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I collected these 7 rocks on my hike, and they followed me home to be part of my rock garden. I usually look for rocks with stripes–often an inclusion of quartz in another mineral. I especially like the 6th one in line from the left.  Finding striped rocks definitely made the trip worthwhile.

The whole hike was only about half a mile. I could have stayed longer and gone farther, and found many more rocks, I’m sure, but I was a little uneasy leaving my car parked unattended on the side of the road, so I cut it short. If you ever go on river walks, why not leave a comment?

–end

Posted September 2, 2015 by atroll in Uncategorized

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Behind the Scenes with Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls   4 comments

This morning about 8 a.m. I went back to Complete Print Shop and picked up a proof copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. It is standard practice for a printer to show the publisher what he intends to print before the presses really start running. This is the last chance to correct any errors before the book actually gets printed.

In this case, I’m not the guy who would make or order corrections, but I am the guy who lives closest to the printer, so I get to do the legwork.  Around 8:30 I was talking to Dennis Dunn again, and he handed me what looked like a ream of typing paper and a big color wraparound version of the cover.  Of course I took some pictures.

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So, I drove 20 miles to Scottsdale and delivered the package to my layout artist/editor/producer Steve Crompton.

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This is the crucial document right here. Before they print, we have to check one of these boxes–we’ll go for the second one, as we found at least one problem–and where it says customer signature, Rick Loomis, CEO of Flying Buffalo, Inc. has to sign and authorize the printing.

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This is the back cover. If you look in the center right at the bottom, you will see: PRINTED IN THE USA. It may cost a little more to print the books here, but we want the world to know Tunnels and Trolls is an American product.

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This picture shows the major error that we found, and I’m the one who spotted it first. The spine, as planned, is not wide enough to hold all the pages in the book. It actually needs to be about half an inch wider to accommodate our contents. Steve measured the thickness of all the pages and compared it to the width of the spine. He will have to get back on his computer and redo the spine to make it wide enough for the book.

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This should be a treat for fans of Liz Danforth’s art, a forgotten illustration from 1992 rescued and inserted into the rules.

KY7-15p10Portrait of an artist at work–not the fun part of the work drawing pictures, but the crucial part before publishing, making sure that the job is being done right–checking every detail. (Note: this doesn’t mean the book will be perfect from cover to cover–it’s amazing how many errors creep through, no matter how often you proofread something, but nothing major will be allowed to mar this work.)

I want to set the record straight here. Tunnels and Trolls is my game (and your game, too, players). None of this happens without me getting things started, stirring things up, running Trollhalla.com for over a decade, and gathering an amazing team of friends to help me with all this. I’m the one who first got Liz Danforth to do some illos for Tunnels and Trolls. I’m the one who brought Steve in on some T & T projects back in 2012 that resulted in us deciding to do a deluxe edition. I’m the one who thought up the saving roll system, the character attributes and layout, the use of talents, the numbers for the weapons and armor, the monster rating system. I did all that.

But this man, Steven S. Crompton, is the one who made the project happen. He’s the one with the master plan for the work. He’s the one who kept us on target over the course of more than two years. He’s the one who fixed the details, set the type, chose and approved the illustrations, dealt with printers and artists, created title pages, quietly fixed the small errors that popped up. Steve is the indispensable man for Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. If I got it started, Steve made damn sure  it got finished. He is still working on that–making things come out right for fans and players, authors and publishers.

I don’t mean to downplay the prodigious efforts of editor/author/artist Liz Danforth. She worked harder and suffered more than any human being should ever to have to work on a book projects. Publisher Rick Loomis provided the business acumen that makes the project possible. My friend, James “Bear” Peters added color and interest and help with the weapons. It truly was a Fellowship for us. Without the five of us working together, Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls simply would not happen.

But, Steven S. Crompton, is the key figure in this project. If any of the others in the fellowship had dropped dead, they could have been replaced. Nobody could replace Steve’s contributions and dedication. (Side note: Steve has frequently been the magic that made Flying Buffalo publishing projects happen–he’s the one that finally finished Ace of Aces for FBI last  year, and he’s the main artistic force behind the 50th Anniversary Nuclear War project currently in the works.)  Steve is a gifted storyteller and artist in his own right, but I’m not going to talk about his stuff here. I just want the world to know that he is the go-to man for Deluxe, and a great friend/ally/asset to have when push comes to crunch and you have to get something finished.

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This shows how thick Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls is really going to be.

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Deluxe will combine the best features of the classic 5th edition and my 21st century update of the 7th edition.

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And here you have at the end of the book one of the oldest existing jokes in fantasy role-playing gaming, the original illustration by Rob Carver, the first T & T artist, who did the “missed all my vital spots” cartoon showing a troll with an arrow through his head. This joke dates back to 1975 when T & T was first produced. I was running an adventure for Rob and Bear and some other friends one night, when a giant cave lion attacked the party. As it leaped into them Rob’s character shot it with a heavy arbalest and did 40 points of damage to it. But the cave lion had a monster rating of 100. It did not die. It attacked and mauled the party severely before they finished it off. Rob was upset. “I shoulda killed it before it ever touched us,” he argued. “You missed all its vital spots,” I answered. The next day Rob presented me with this cartoon.

So, I’m fairly satisfied with the day. I think it was a morning well spent, and you can see, dear reader, what actually goes on in the production of those game books you like so much.

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If you’ve ever helped with the production of a book, why not leave a comment?

–end

Going to Press   1 comment

About noon on July 13, 2015, my layout artist, Steve Crompton (creator of Demi the Demoness) arrived to pick me up and take me with him when we visited the printer and the binder for Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. Exact details needed to be worked out. As author of the book, I went along just to observe. I took pictures, and served as navigator, because it’s my side of town, and I knew where these places are.

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The tour started when we met with Dennis Dunn, who seems to be the boss at Complete Print Shop, located at 3433 W. Earll Drive in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a large print shop and does most of the production work for my publisher, Flying Buffalo, Inc. Dennis not only helped Steve work out the details of getting the job done, but also gave us a tour of the printing plant.

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Mr. Dunn explains how things work to us.

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Steve Crompton is the man in the blue flowered shirt, and he’s explaining things like book size, and paper weight, and the number to be printed. I just stood back and observed. The guy at the computer is apparently the master printer for the plant, but I didn’t catch his name.

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This is a big printing job. They will make master copies of 16 pages at a time on giant signature sheets that look like this. My book will be 368 pages long plus covers and end pages.

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This is the biggest press machine in the plant, and probably the one they will print my book on. It was hard ar work when I took this shot.

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A workman always watches the press to make certain that nothing goes wrong while it is working. The press is moving at high speed, and printing and stacking huge sheets of paper faster than the eye can follow.

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This will give some idea of the scale of the room where the real work of printing gets done.

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When we see our books and newspapers, we really have no idea of how they are made. In this place mechanical magic is worked every day.

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Steve and Dennis did all the talking and planning here.

When we finished at the print shop, we drove over to Roswell Bindery, about a mile away. Paperback books are all done at the print shop, but when you want to produce a hardback, and we want 900 hardbacks of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls, you have to make separate arrangements to have those books bound.

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We’re now at the front door of Roswell Bookbinding. The entrance is hidden just off to the left in this picture. A lot of Arizona businesses do like to beautify the front of the shop with trees and flowers.

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Roswell has a big front office. I’m not sure why it needs to be so large. Maybe it’s just to provide them with wall space to hang all their awards. We had an appointment with a manager named Nancy. I did not get her last name, and she’s not this secretary/receptionist at the desk. This woman took us back to a big conference room lliterally crammed with hundreds of examples of work the bindery has done in the past.

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I thought at first that this was a massive tome, a book on a heroic scale, but no, this is the box that the massive tome lives inside. My book also has a book box. It looks like this:

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Heh! My box is a bit rougher than the beauty that Roswell has.

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This is the book that was actually inside their box. Fancy!

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Antique bookbinding machinery stored in the conference room . . . Somebody must know what this stuff was used for, but I have no clue.

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Here’s my mad genius production manager Steve Crompton. The yellow book in front of him is an underground comix price guide that he put together for another publisher. He told me it took nearly four years to do that one. We also wanted to talk about slipcases for the hardback editions of Deluxe, so he brought an example. All together we talked about binding materials, gold stamping, a ribbon book mark, end pages, and coloring the edges of the book pages so they’re not just white.  We may not do all of that, but we examined all the options.  Took about an hour. I chose the color and style of the hardback skins and stamping. It will be a rich gold on a scaly black leatherette surface. Sweet! In another month or so, I will have a finished product to show.

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After about two hours of technical book planning, Steve and I went to lunch. I had this delicious salad. He had a burger. Yum.

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If you’ve ever arranged to have a book printed or bound, why not leave a comment?

–end

Selfies in the Desert   Leave a comment

Here follows an exercise in narcissism, or at least proof that when I say I go out and walk in the desert I really do go out and walk in the desert. I arrived at my favorite hiking place about 1:30 this afternoon. The weather was clear, warm, and perfect for hiking. It’s kind of late in the day, so I don’t expect to see any animals. My goal was to hike at least 3 miles.

Start of the journey in the parking lot. I am wearing the Trollgod's hat, my oldest, most battered fedora. It will protect my head from low hanging  mesquite branches and cactus.

Start of the journey in the parking lot. I am wearing the Trollgod’s hat, my oldest, most battered fedora. It will protect my head from low hanging mesquite branches and cactus.

 

A better shot of me at the beginning. centering my face for these selfies is going to be a problem.

A better shot of me at the beginning. centering my face for these selfies is going to be a problem.

 

Behind me is the road ahead.

Behind me is the road ahead.

Behind me is the road behind

Behind me is the road behind

.26 miles into the hike

.26 miles into the hike

Troll country

Troll country

Mountain side. Missed. I was trying to do a profile shot of myself.

Mountain side. Missed. I was trying to do a profile shot of myself.

Half a mile into the hike.

Half a mile into the hike.

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8 tenths of a mile into hike. All distances measured by pedometer.

8 tenths of a mile into hike. All distances measured by pedometer.

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Turn around point. Quartz cairn. 1.5 miles into the hike.

Turn around point. Quartz cairn. 1.5 miles into the hike.

2 miles into the hike on the way back.

2 miles into the hike on the way back.

The friendly Arizona desert has places for you to sit down and rest.

The friendly Arizona desert has places for you to sit down and rest.

2.5 miles into the hike. The end is in sight.

2.5 miles into the hike. The end is in sight.

Back in the parking lot. Reflection of a desert hiker.

Back in the parking lot. Reflection of a desert hiker.

I am happy to be back at myu car to drive out of here. Total distance 3 miles. Time about 2 hours. Lots of climbing, and I am now officially tired.

I am happy to be back at myu car to drive out of here. Total distance 3 miles. Time about 2 hours. Lots of climbing, and I am now officially tired.

Denny’s Diners   Leave a comment

I like Denny’s. The food is usually good if not great. The restaurants are clean. The staff is (usually) friendly, fast, and helpful. You can have an adequate meal at Denny’s for less than the same food would cost you at McDonald’s. Lately, I have been noticing a lot of Denny’s have been refurbished, and redecorated with photographs and posters celebrating their past.

Consider this blog a kind of museum. I have taken a lot of pix in and around Denny’s over the last few years, and I’m just going to throw them into this blog. This is an online museum of Denny’s.  If you have anything to contribute, send it to me in email (kenstandre@yahoo.com), and if it is worthy, it will also go into this museum.

 

THE KEN WING OF DENNY’S (mostly in Phoenix, Arizona)

 

Parking lot @ 35th Ave. & Bethany Home in Phoenix--this the typical Denny's look.

Parking lot @ 35th Ave. & Bethany Home in Phoenix–this the typical Denny’s look.

Slamtastic breakfast--my favorite.

Slamtastic breakfast–my favorite.

Pancakes are what Denny's does best.

Pancakes are what Denny’s does best.

The photo that inspired this blog--taken at breakfast on Sunday morning, Oct. 26, 2014. God only knows when the original photo was taken--sometime before the age of color photography.

The photo that inspired this blog–taken at breakfast on Sunday morning, Oct. 26, 2014. God only knows when the original photo was taken–sometime before the age of color photography.

Ad posters for Denny's

Ad posters for Denny’s

The Face of Breakfast at Denny's.

The Face of Breakfast at Denny’s.

Denny's connection to Marilyn Monroe (real name Norma Jeane Mortenson)

Denny’s connection to Marilyn Monroe (real name Norma Jeane Mortenson)

The next 2 shots come from a Denny’s that I found by accident in Santa Ana, California on a trip to Los Angeles for my birthday in April 2014.  This is the only Denny’s I’ve ever found that didn’t have the typical roadside coffee shop look.

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Front door rock garden.

Front door rock garden.

 

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This blog is a work in progress. I’m going to publish it now, but reserve the right to expand it whenever I get good material  to add.
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If you have any good pix or stories about Denny’s, why not send them to me? Maybe they will wind up here in the Denny’s online museum. Heh!
not the end . . .

Posted October 26, 2014 by atroll in Denny's restaurants, Uncategorized

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Sci-Fi Dining   2 comments

On Sunday, October 19, 2014 I took a short day trip with my brother Brian in the direction of Gila Bend, Arizona. Gila Bend is a small town that exists chiefly to support local farmers and some of the energy companies that have solar farms and gas-driven power plants in the area. The town was founded in 1872 and got its name from the fact that the Gila River makes an almost 90 degree turn nearby. In fact, Brian and I went first to the Gila River near the Gillespie Dam–it’s a jungle out there. Beware of mosquitoes.

But the true destination of our quest was the Space Age Cafe. The decor is interesting. The food is about like Denny’s (not quite as good imho), but you’re not going there for fine dining. You’re going for the kitsch experience. Like many small towns on highways to nowhere, Gila Bend is full of kitschy things if you keep your eyes open. I should return some day and really celebrate some of the other features, but right now, here is the Space Age Cafe.

The cafe is on the main drag through town, and parking is perilous.

The cafe is on the main drag through town, and parking is perilous.

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Space doors. Note the shaded entrance. In summer metal doors like this would be too hot to touch in this part of Arizona.

Space doors. Note the shaded entrance. In summer metal doors like this would be too hot to touch in this part of Arizona.

I have been to the future, and it's a lot like now.

I have been to the future, and it’s a lot like now.

The Enterprize has picked up some alien hitchhikers.

The Enterprize has picked up some alien hitchhikers.

Astronauts.

Astronauts.

Blast off!

Blast off!

Brian is glad to get away from the riverbottom mosquitoes.

Brian is glad to get away from the riverbottom mosquitoes.

What's for breakfast?

What’s for breakfast?

The coffee was weak, but the mugs were pretty cool.

The coffee was weak, but the mugs were pretty cool.

And that concludes another adventure to the Outer Limits (of Arizona).

If you’ve ever been to Gila Bend, or have eaten breakfast inside a flying saucer, why not leave a comment?

–end