Posted in Music, Reviews

Starlight Theatre: Decent Show, dining staff underwhelms with lack of service

It is obvious that no one at Starlight Theatre paid attention to my previous comments about the quality of their Applause Club dining plan. We found ourselves underwhelmed Tuesday when attending the Best of Broadway dining prior to Bullets over Broadway, which was a decrease in how whelmed we were from dining at Matilda.

We hadn’t attended Bridges over Madison County earlier in the month, since it didn’t fit into our schedule, so even though this was the third show in the season, it was only our second time to experience Starlight.

Perhaps we are to blame for some of our disappointment. We came expecting an enjoyable, possibly magical evening. Instead, it started out with one pin-prick after another.

It started with the parking staff. If he wanted us to turn off the road onto the grass where he did, why did he stand 100 feet  further down the road and motion us sideways from there? I got to back the car up in order not to drive over what would have been a damaging curve. Then the next guy motioned us into a spot that required me to do a hairpin 180 degree turn to get into — something even my turn on a dime car isn’t capable of.

The people who took our tickets at the gate were very pleasant and helpful, though there was a minor issue with his machine reading our tickets. That didn’t prick us with anything negative. But when we got to the check-in for the dining, they gave us wristbands and told us we could dine in or out, wherever we wanted. No one to guide us to a table. If it had been our first time we might not have known how to get to the inside dining.  And when we got inside, no one greeted us for a long time, as we tried to decide where to sit.

Then there was our waitress. She never showed up at the table when my wife was there, and we had already gotten our food before she even mentioned to me anything about drinks. I placed my order, and said my wife might want to order a beverage when she got back. But the waitress never checked on her.

They ran out of items on the buffet, and those items remained unreplaced for long periods of time.  This included plates for getting food. I left my place at the table to pick up an item to go with the food I had on my plate. I left my cutlery and napkin in the places etiquette requires to let people know you are NOT done with you plate. The waitress came by and cleared my plate, and did not clear my wife’s even though hers was empty and set for being done.

I couldn’t get what I wanted, since there were no plates on the buffet, and came back to find what I had left was also gone, so I was unable to finish the food I had intended, nor get anything else for several minutes. I went and asked the waitress what she had done with my plate. She seemed entirely oblivious and not even sympathetic or apologetic about the issue, not even to admit any sort of misunderstanding.

After new plates were finally delivered to the buffet and I retrieved food, my wife finally mentioned that the waitress had never come by so she could ask for a beverage. I looked over and found our waitress talking to the guy behind the bar. The two of them were talking, not even paying any attention to the diners while they did so. I finally managed to wave him down. It took a couple of extra motions  for him to realize I wasn’t being friendly, but actually wanted service, and a couple more for the waitress to actually come by and take my wife’s beverage order.

By this time we were about ready to leave and just go home, the whole mood of the evening had been destroyed by the lack of attention.

The food was good, but we didn’t get the enjoyment out of it that we should have. Twice — when trying to resolve what happened to my plate, and when trying to get my wife’s beverage, I almost broke open and “made a scene” but I couldn’t see anyone that I could reasonably hope to escalate an issue to.

One of the reasons, besides the extra service, and the extra elegance of the environment and the menu, that we chose the Best of Broadway dining, is because the tip was included in the price. Tuesday night I wished it hadn’t been. There was no way to express  displeasure, and no way to award anyone for a good job.

At that point, as we headed out to the show, I was seriously contemplating whether being season ticket holders was worth it. I mean, we’ve only been season ticket holders since 1997, and I’ve never felt so unspecial about an evening.

But we did go ahead and watch the show. From a purely intellectual/critical eye, I should have enjoyed it more than I did; the dinner experience left a funk that was hard to get lifted out of. It took until the second act to really make an impact.

The music for Bullets over Broadway was better than that from Matilda, but the plot didn’t seem to have anything really compelling in the first act. It wasn’t until Cheech’s character started getting stronger in the plot that things started become more interesting. It was a well done show, but it brought to mind Catch Me if You Can, which was a much better show plotwise — that show was unexpectedly good.

So my advice: by all means see Bullets over Broadway if you want an enjoyable show with good music and nothing super special, but avoid the dining options until Starlight can get them resolved. Taking their dining inhouse has yet to improve their dining situations. So far I’d recommend they go back to hiring outside restaurants/caterers to do the work; whoever they have inhouse doesn’t have enough restaurant experience to get things right after three shows, which makes me question if they ever will get it right. For this Tuesday’s meal I’d ask for a refund, if I thought I had any chance of getting one. And I’ll hope that the tickets for the rest of the season’s dining (yes, we bought the whole season, at the discount) doesn’t turn out to be a continuing disaster.

Posted in Music

#103: One Day!

(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

One day when heaven was filled with his praises,

One hday when sin was a black as could be,

Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,

Dwelt among men — my example is He!

CHORUS

Living — He loved me, dying He saved me,

Buried — He carried my sins far away;

Rising He justifed freely, forever:

One day He’s coming — O glorious day!

2

One day they led Him up Calvary’s moutain,

One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;

Suffering anguish, despised and rejected,

Bearing our sin;, my Redeemer is He!

CHORUS

3

One day they left Him alone in the garden,

One day He rested, from suffering free;

Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil —

Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He!

CHORUS

4

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,

One day the stone rolled away from the door;

Then He arose, over death He had conquered,

Now is ascended, My Lord evermore!

CHORUS

5

One day the trumpet will soun for His coming,

One day the skies with His glory will shine;

Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing!

Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!

CHORUS

Posted in Fitness

Fitness Log: Swim Meet Week

Well, last week upended many of my regular workout patterns, but didn’t eliminate my fitness regimen entirely. I was at the Gladstone Natatorium Monday-Thursday for the Corporate Challenge Swim meet.

This meant I curtailed my running. I’m never sure how much energy I should be expending in other activities to preserve the energy I need for the competitive events, but I didn’t do any runs during the week. I did, however, ride my bicycle to the meet each evening, an 11-mile round trip. I actually didn’t do much swimming at the meet. Most of my time was coordination, and I don’t do a lot of warm-ups for the same reason I didn’t do any running.

I also did a lot of walking at Worlds of Fun when headed out to eat meals, and did some floating in the pools there.  I didn’t have much time to actually swim there last week.

So now the events I have been practicing for are done for the year. Now I need to decide how I exercise and retool my workouts for the summer and the fall. Still working the ideas out.

Posted in Music

#102: Jesus, Wonderful Lord!

(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

Born among cattle, in poverty sore,

Living in meekness by Galilee’s shore,

Dying in shame as the/ wicked one’s swore;

Jesus, wonderful Lord!

CHORUS

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus!

He is my friend, true to the end;

He gave Himself to redeem me —

Jesus, wonderful Lord!

2

Weary — yet He is the world’s only rest,

Hungry and thirsty — with plenty has blest,

Tempted — He promises grace for each test:

Jesus, wonderful Lord!

CHORUS

3

Friend of the friendless — betrayed and denied,

Help of the weak — in Gethsemane cried,

Light of the world — in gross darkness He died:

Jesus, wonderful Lord!

CHORUS

 

Posted in Social Issues, Travel

Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse

This past week was the Kansas City Corporate Challenge Swim Meet from Monday-Thursday at the Gladstone Natatorium. Since I am my company’s swim meet coordinator, I was there every evening from 5 p.m. to end. Since the Natatorium is only 5.5 miles from home, I rode my bicycle there each evening.

Motor vehicle drivers react to cyclists differently. Most of them are tolerant; a few even give a thumbs up or say something positive. But the most common interaction, when someone does interact, is negative. It had been awhile until this week, but both Monday and Tuesday afternoons, while riding on Antioch north to the Natatorium, I had several people yell “sidewalk” or “get on the f***ing sidewalk” at me as they squealed on by.

Wednesday night no one said anything, but I saw a couple of Gladstone police officers standing at the corner of 69th street and Holmes as I pulled up to park at the community center. So before going in I walked over and had a talk. I mentioned that I had talked to officers in Kansas City and North Kansas City, and just wanted to confirm whether the regulations were the same in Gladstone. Then I told them about the people yelling at me to get on the sidewalk. Their reaction was: no, that would be against ordinance. You are correct to stay on the street, etc.

Thursday my trip up was uneventful, but on the way back down I had another “get on the f***ing sidewalk incident on Antioch. But this time the guy squealed up next to me, straddling the white line in a menacing manner as if to push me off the road, pacing me, blocking the traffic behind us both. This time, since he was still there, I yelled back “The police say I’m supposed to be on the street.”

I’m not sure if he heard me. The window on the truck was up. And I couldn’t get his plate number — the light for it was out. So when I spotted a Gladstone police car another block or two down the street, I pulled into the parking lot just north of KFC where the officers were.

The officers greeted me pleasantly and asked how my evening was, to which I described my recent encounter. They asked if I could identify the vehicle, to which I admitted I’d tried but I couldn’t see the plate. The one officer, who serves on their bike patrol at times, agreed I was where I needed to be, and that if he had seen what the guy did we would have written him a hole bunch of tickets for the infractions done.

I then got to hear his stories about being a bike patrol officer, with a cycle that said police on the side, and signage on the back, and still have people do things to him like they had done to me. Sometimes people are so close their windows almost hit his handle bars.

I share this to show the number of drivers who feel inconvenienced by cyclists, and don’t realize the cyclists have rights to right-of-way on streets. The police officers mentioned they aren’t likely to come down on a cyclist on the sidewalk, as long as they yield to pedestrians. It is, after all, a safety issue.

I mention this to also say how pleased I was by the conversations I had with the Gladstone police officers. All four of them, the two from Wednesday, and the two from Thursday, were pleasant, helpful, and competent. It is a sad fact that, like on Thursday, unless they are right there at the right moment, there is often little they can do, but they are committed to trying.

I spent evenings the past week enjoying the hospitality of the Gladstone Community Center. For several years they have hosted the KCCC Swim Meet, and I hope we are allowed to come  back for many more years. The center is a shining gem for Gladstone. And now I have experience with Gladstones police officers, and my appreciation for this city surrounded by Kansas City has only increased.

Posted in Family

A Blast of the Past #53: home-grown fruit

Today’s post has an interesting synchronicity (wonder if I am using that word right). You see, the pictures in today’s blast include strawberries that we picked from our own plants back in 2002. This year, different house, we still have strawberry plants, but didn’t manage to harvest the few strawberries on them before nature helped herself. I did, today, however, pick a bowl of blackberries from the three plants we planted along the south side of the house 3 or 4 years ago. We really had a small harvest possible last year, but like the strawberries, didn’t get them harvested.  So this year we at least got the cereal bowl full, and some more still ripening. The number of canes keeps growing and spreading from year to year. Eventually it might stretch along the entire side of the house.

We also have blueberry bushes in front of the house. They were planted a few years before the black berries, but haven’t managed to fruit anything yet. Seems everywhere we go I try to grow fruit. Don’t always get a lot for the effort. Nothing yet on the lime tree, and only one lemon from the lemon.

Oh,I should mention all the cherries that grew on our three cherry trees this year. I just managed to finish eating them yesterday — had almost a month’s worth of them for lunches.

But this is a blast of the past. So here are the pictures:

Posted in Reviews, Social Issues

Hugo Awards: Voting for Best Short Story

Okay, the nominees for all the Hugo categories were announced awhile ago, but those of us who have paid our membership dues to be able to vote only recently got our voters packets. Those packets have samples or entire copies of the works in question, so we can read and compare and decide what we think is best.

So today’s post is going to be about my take on the Best Short Story nominees.

What criteria should I use for these stories? Well, the Hugo Awards are for science fiction/fantasy, and the category is short stories. So my judgment will be if I think it was a good story, and if I think it fits the genre.

By those standards, I basically disqualified “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris from voxday.blogspot.com  My sense here comes that this isn’t science fiction, but a parody of another Hugo nominee from another year, which was itself not really science fiction. Both definitely aren’t stories. But since enough people chose to nominate it, I won’t do them the disservice of not rating, so I put it as a 5

“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S.R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015) is definitely a story, and is definitely science fiction. I just don’t get this story. It might work for other people, just not for me, so I placed it 4th.

Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services) Is a story, and it happens in space, so it fits environmentally as science fiction. On those two counts it qualifies. Asymmetrical Warfare actually addressed more science fiction themes than Space Raptor — Space Raptor is actually a piece of gay porn set in space. But it is a story, and works within its subgenre (I suppose), so I actually placed this 3rd.

Now comes the hard part. From a purely science fiction perspective, “Seven Kill Tiger” addresses more obviously science elements, gene warfare, etc., and does it in a well-told story. From that perspective it should be first. “Cat Pictures Please” is more whimsical, a story told by an internet search engine that becomes sentient. Yet despite the fact that I don’t approve of the search engine’s politics, the air of whimsy about it, and that it gives us the answer for all those cat pictures on the web, make me give Tiger #2 and Cat Pictures #1.

And that is my analysis.  See the voting grid below:

Best Short Story

A science fiction or fantasy story of less than 7,500 words that appeared for the first time in 2015.

1
2
3
4
5
6
“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
1
2
3
4
5
6
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer ( Clarkesworld, January 2015)
1
2
3
4
5
6
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
1
2
3
4
5
6
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
1
2
3
4
5
6
Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)
1
2
3
4
5
6
No Award
Posted in Music

#101: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

Thou didst leave Thy throne And Thy kingly crown

When Thou camest to earth for me;

But it Bethlehem’s home Was there found no room

For Thy holy nativity.

REFRAIN 1-4

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus —

There is room in my heart for Thee!

2

Heaven’s arches rang When the angels sang,

Proclaiming Thy royal degree;

But of lowly birth Didst Thou come to earth,

And in great humility.

REFRAIN

3

The foxes  found rest, And the birds their nest

In the shade of the forest tree;

But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,

In the deserts of Galilee.

REFRAIN

4

Thou camest, O Lord, With the living word

That should set Thy people free;

But with mocking scorn And with crown of thorn

They bore Thee to Calvary.

REFRAIN

5

When the heavens shall ring And the angels sing

At Thy coming to victory,

Let Thy voice call me home, Saying, “Yet there is room —

There is room at My side for thee.”

REFRAIN 5

My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,

When Thou comest and callest for me!

 

Posted in Social Issues

Healthcare: The Annual Physical

As I start writing this post I am sitting at the doctor’s office for my annual physical. we always try to bring the family in every year for the physicals. It is a good annual tradition, and since the insurance — which we are paying for (well, we and the company I work for) — covers it, we might as well get our money’s-worth.

The physical is actually a money-saver to the insurance company. By detecting things early, and treating things before they become expensive, it actually saves them costs they would otherwise incur.

Healthcare itself is taken for granted by many today, seen as a right by others, as an unfulfilled social obligation by still others. No one really makes a case that we should put a price on health, that we should put a price on healthcare.

And yet we do everyday. every supplement purchase, every gym membership purchase (whether used or not), all such purchases, says we rate and put a price on health.

Prices allocate resources, which at any moment are finite. That is different from saying the resources are static. The finite resources do have an organic nature about them — they can grow or diminish. But saying that everyone needs or deserves a particular level of healthcare doesn’t change the finite nature of the resources. Requiring that everyone be furnished a certain level leads to resources being used for healthcare that would otherwise be used elsewhere — finite resources can be reallocated — but it is the proverbial rob Peter to pay Paul scenario.

Which leads me to the role of government in healthcare. When people have a sense of entitlement to something, they tend to waste it — either through use or the lack thereof. In the healthcare field the government is legislating entitlements for people (entitlements or “positive rights” seem to be a favorite government pasttime), which leads to a certain carelessness by the populace. Which leads to growth in expenses, which ultimately leads to cuts and delays for services — which is seen in all national health service countries.

If we go back to it, government is what created our current health bubble, going all the way back to World War II. Wage caps from the war gave employers no way to reward employees through salary or recruit new employees the same way. So they fell back on benefits, which weren’t capped. Thus corporate healthcare was promoted and spawned.

Before employer healthcare, the average person watched their medical spending closely, since it came directly out of their pocket. Corporate healthcare enabled more people access to better care, but it also made people more careless with the expense, since they weren’t seeing the direct impact on their pockets. Wage caps skewed the allocation of resources.

Today, with government pushing toward what becomes a one-size-fits-all health program, in the name of fairness for all, instead of getting better healthcare we are getting a system that skews resources without giving anyone the healthcare that is best for them, with an ultimate conclusion of healthcare rationing.

The current best step I see is the large deductible type policy that I have. It is linked to an HSA account that I fund each year, and that the funds can roll over from year to year. I budget ot be able to cover the deductible, so I feel comfortable that I have enough money to spend on necessary healthcare. But since it is my money, and I can see my account, I don’t like to spend unless I need to. It also has the advantage of the group bargaining power with providers for the price I pay for services. It combines individual accountability with collective bargaining.

Government programs divorce individual accountability and eliminate collective bargaining. In collective bargaining both sides have a say, and can choose to say no. With the government there is no chance to say no — which is coercion on a grand scale. Which doesn’t mean people won’t choose to resist, to follow their own self interest. Government can dam the river, but the water has to go somewhere, and will eventually find its way to the sea. The Dutch spend a lot of effort keeping the tide from coming in.