Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fedor's loss

As the saying goes, anything can happen in sports, especially MMA.  

At Strikeforce's latest event Fedor vs. Werdum, Emelianenko, who earlier this evening was said to be the number one heavyweight fighter in the world, was defeated by Fabricio Werdum via submission 69 seconds into the first round.  

By winning the match, Werdum (now 14-4-1) has broken "The Last Emporer's" 28 fight winning streak and earned a title shot against Strikeforce's current heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem.  Emelianenko (now 32-2-1) is speculated to fall in the heavyweight rankings. 

With Emelianenko's loss in the record books, does this spell trouble for Strikeforce, who since singing Emeliankenko to a contract in 2009, has pretty much used the Russian fighter as one of their headliners and faces, in their rise of becoming a top MMA promotion.  While Emeliankenko losing may seem like a normal upset, it could spell bad consequences for Strikeforce's business.

Back in October 2008, the former fight promotion EliteXC had filed for bankruptcy not too long after Kimbo Slice, who at the time had been one of EliteXC's headliners, had lost his match to Seth Pertuzelli by TKO, 14 seconds into the first round.  

However, where Slice's loss came with controversy and EliteXC was in its toddler stage when it was shut down, Emelianenko 's loss was just a simple mistake and Strikeforce has been in business since 1986, when it began as just a kickboxing promotion.

A fighter can not be judged on just one fight alone, and there have been several fighters who have suffered losses in their careers and have gone on to make big comebacks.  One example is Brock Lesnar, who suffered his first loss to Frank Mir by submission, 90 seconds into the first round, back in Feburary 2008.  Lesnar has since avenged his loss against Mir and is now the current UFC heavyweight champion

Whether or not Strikeforce survives, Emelianenko still has a career ahead of him.  He may makit it back to the top of the mountain once more, but it's going to be one hell of a climb.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bard Tales: Harps, Dragons, and Ruined Walls

This was one of the last short stories I wrote that featuring my halfling bard and his merry dwarf friend.  Like a lot of his stories, these are set in the Forgotten Realms pre Spell Plague (or 4th edition as it is called outside of the storyline).  This Prelude is actually one of my favorite beginnings I've written.  It features two characters who were created by me and my best friend Tom, and they are about to get into some trouble...

Bard Tales: Harps, Dragons, and Ruined Walls


Marpenoth 24 1369 DR, Year of the Gauntlet

The Harper Valliant Rowanmantle sighed as his eyes scanned through the empty lobby of the Old Skull Inn. The handsome young man, who had just turned twenty summers only days ago, ran his fingers across his smooth clean shaven head, then grabbed a white dish rag from behind the bar and began wiping down the Skull's smooth cherry wooden countertops.

"Say Val, have you seen Eyan around?" asked Val's friend Roland Heronious in his low, but soft voice. Roland, who stood a few inches taller than Val's six foot height, and who was also a few months older than his friend, was washing out the empty ale glasses from the back of the kitchen. Like Val and like his aunt Myrmeen Lhal (who just happened to be the Lady Lord of the city of Arabel) Roland Heronious was too a Harper.

Val shook his head and looked back, watching Roland put away the last glass. "Eyan's still not back from delivering ale to Elminster," he answered with a grin, suppressing the urge to laugh as soapy suds flew into Roland's thick head of jet black hair. "He probably got caught up in one of Old Beard's grand schemes to save the Realms."

Roland shook his head, muttering something about how it's always the unlikely folks who the old wizard chooses to save the world. As he removed the white cotton apron and tossed it onto a nearby chair, he said," Looks like Lady Silvermane going to need a new Ale Boy. I am just happy to have the next three days off from the Inn. Rumor has it that its going to be busy in the next few days."

As Roland went to grab his dark red cloak from the coat rack behind the bar, Val quickly finished wiping down the tables, then put away the chairs.

Just as he was about to grab the keys to lock up for the night, a loud wrapping came from the Skull's front door.

"Who in the devil would be arriving this late?" asked Roland as he walked over and opened the door. Standing in the doorway, was a tall, broad shouldered gentlemen with thick brown hair and amber colored eyes. He was dressed in chain mail armor and carried a stainless steel long sword on his belt. On the front of his armor, the man wore a white tabard that displayed the crest of the Purple Dragon, the symbol of the kingdom of Cormyr.

The man's thick mustache twitched as he looked over the two young Harpers. "I am Sir Stephen Sivill, servant to Cormyr. I would like a room for the evening. My servant is already in the stables, and surely there will be more Purple Dragons coming to Shadowdale in the days to come."

Stepping next to Roland, Val's baby blue eyes went to the man's sword, then back to the set of narrow amber orbs that lay inches above the knight's round nose. "My friend and I would like to help you sir, but we are closed for the evening," he said in a calm tome. "See, Lady Silvermane is in bed, sick with a terrible cold, so we've been taking care of the inn until she gets better. I'm sorry, but we just can't have any more visitors for the night."

The Purple Dragon's face stiffened at the young man's words. "Closed. This is an outrage. I'll have you know that I come bearing a letter from Tessaril Winter, Lord of Eveningstar." He handed Val a rolled up piece of parchment with a tiny miniature version of the Cormyrean symbol used for the wax seal.

Val opened the letter, read it, then tossed it back to Roland, who caught it with one hand.

"It says any Purple Dragons who come and stay at the Inn have a right to do so with the innkeeper's permission."

Roland's emerald eyes stared intently as he read the letter. He then ripped it and looked to the knight. "Aye it does, but as we said before Lady Silvermane is taken ill for the night, leaving us in charge. Neither my friend nor myself are going to her home and risk bodily harm as he try to rouse her. The last person who did that, found themself locked in the inn's basement."

"Barnabee was his name," Val began casually. "Very nice man he was." He turned back to Stephen and continued," Now if you want to come back tomorrow morning, I'm sure Lady Silvermane will be well enough to assist you."

Stephen's face flushed with anger. "You dare ignore an order from Lady Tessaril Winter, one of King Azoun's most trusted lords, who has been a friend to him for ages. Who in the nine hells do you think you are?"

"Oh no doubt Tessaril is friendly with Azoun," Val laughed as he stood face to face with the Purple Dragon. "Much like a common tavern whore is friendly with a wealthy merchant who buys her for the evening. As for who we are good sir, I am Valliant Rowanmantle, son of Brendan Rowanmantle."

The Purple Dragon's face darkened for a moment, then twisted in confusion. "As in related to the Cormyrean noble family?"
The blue eyed Harper nodded. "As in the nephew of Lady Shaeryl Rowanmantle Amcanthra."

Roland stepped next to Val and introduced himself. "And I am Roland Heronious, nephew of Lord Myrmeen Lhal."

This made Stephen let out a chuckle. "You want to talk about whores Sir Val-" The Purple Dragon gave a painful moan as Roland's right closed fist crushed the lower part of his jaw. The knight staggered for a moment, then fell unconscious to the floor.

Standing above the bruised Purple Dragon, Roland rubbed his hand, then looked at Val. "Looks like he won't have a problem finding a place to sleep."

"True," Val said as he watched the man's jaw begin to swell. "Good punch I must say, but why did you get to hit him and not I?"

"Because you're better than tying knots than I am Val."

"I'll grab the rope then, but what will Lady Silvermane say when she finds him tied up in the lobby?"

Roland grinned mischievously to his friend. "Who says we're going to leave him here in the Inn.


Underneath the cloudy night sky, Val and Roland walked through the grassy fields of Shadowdale and arrived at a small hill. Looking past the hill, they saw a beautiful four story wooden farm house. The house sat near the boundary of twelve acres of farmland that belonged to the infamous Bard of Shadowdale and Senior Harper, Storm Silverhand. On each corner of the farm was a very tall and very beautiful sculpted lantern that illuminated the acres of farmland.

"You think Storm is still awake?" Roland asked as they proceeded towards the farmhouse.

"Why wouldn't Storm be awake," Val answered quietly. "She is a Chosen of Mystra, and she doesn't need to rest, save the occasional nap she takes once every eight days."

The two friends continued towards Storm's house, but stopped when they spotted the silver haired bard standing outside, wearing a long white shirt and leather breeches. She appeared to be talking to a middle aged, but very beautiful woman, who was dressed in similar leathers as the Bard of Shadowdale. Flanking her on both sides were two very strong looking Purple Dragon Knights.

"Tessaril," hissed Val as he and Roland made their way to the two women, their ears picking up bits of their conversation.

"...and that's why Azoun and Vangerdahast have laid this charge to Eveningstar," Tessaril said as the two young Harpers approached where she and Storm Silverhand were talking. "With Castle Krag as a stronghold, Cormyr could help protect Shadowdale from Zhentarim forces, and other dangerous foes." Tessaril turned to regard Val and Roland. "And what are you doing here?" Shouldn't you both be drunk at the Inn, trying to bed some noble lasses? Like mother like son."

Up until the last few words, Val wasn't sure if Tessaril's comment was directed towards him or Roland, but upon hearing the last part of the Lord of Eveningstar's sentence, Val's voice exploded with anger as he yelled," That's rich, coming from a dirty whore who still beds a married man."

The taller of Tessaril's body guards stepped close and pushed Val. "You have no right talking to Lord Tessaril like that."

Val balled his fists and stared at the Purple Dragon who had just pushed him. "We're not in Cormyr, so her presence has little power here." That said, he sprang forth and tackled the Purple Dragon, pummeling the man's face with fast, but powerful punches.

Before the second of Tessaril's bodyguards could react, Roland grabbed the man by the chest and flipped him in a fast suplex. Pinning his foe to the ground, Roland began head butting and striking hard with his fists.

Tessaril looked at Storm, her face filled with concern for her men. "Aren't you going to stop this?"

Storm Silverhand sighed and muttered an elven curse as she plucked the two Harpers from off of the two Dragons.

After Storm took her hand off of his shoulder, Val smiled down at the knight he had taken down, counting the many imprints of tiny hammers that now decorated the knight's face and forehead, which had from the magical ring Val wore on his right hand.

Tessaril glared at the two younger Harpers, then looked at the Senior Harper. "We will discuss this later." As soon as her men rose from the ground, the Lord of Eveningstar walked away, her men in tow.

"It looks like you two made her mad," commented Storm as she patted both Harpers on the back, a thin smile on her lips.

Both Val and Roland shrugged it off, as if upsetting the Lord from Cormyr had meant nothing to them.

"So what did she mean by Cormyr wanting to make a stronghold from Castle Krag?" asked Val.

Storm shook her head, then headed back to the farm house. "Come on you two. I'll make you both some tea and we'll talk about it."

*           *            *        *

to read the rest of the story, just follow the link

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dead men tell no tales but drunk men do

 This a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago, and I end up constantly changing from time to time.  It's about a couple of friends who have been drinking and decide to follow a random stranger into a quick adventure.  


Carltin Belldom sighed after downing his seventh mug of ale, oblivious to the loud conversations that were taking place all over the Lenlal Pub. After setting the empty glass onto the bar, he felt a numbing feeling go straight to his head. He slowly looked to his left, attempting to adjust his vision, which at the moment was making everything around the pub appear blurry and at an odd angle.
"That's it, I'm done for the evening," the young broad shouldered warrior whispered as he ran his hands through his dark brown hair.
"Oh come on lad," said a gruff voice from behind the warrior. "You've only had a dwarfling's serving of spirits this evening. You're as bad as the wizard over there."
Carltin turned his head back, seeing the black bearded dwarf named Sorbek Ironkegar, holding a Tallman's mug in each hand. Like all members of his stout race, the dwarf had a strong resistance when it came to ingesting ales and other alcohols.
After taking a long swig from the glass in his left hand, the dwarf pointed over to a small square table in the corner where a burly ork in dark blue robes appeared to be passed out. In front of the ork was a half-empty glass of thick Red-well wine.
"A disgrace to drinkers everywhere," the dwarf declared in a slurred speech. "I'm going outside." While Sorbek proceeded to walk towards the exit, the warrior shook his head, then slowly rose from his seat, taking small steps while also trying to keep the room from spinning.
After successfully avoiding any collision with the other patrons, Carltin reached the table. After unceremoniously planting himself next to his unconscious friend, the warrior gently shook his friend. "Rashil are you all right?"
"As okay as a disgrace can be," Rashil Firefingers mumbled as his yellow eyes looked up at his friend.
Carltin shook his head and gently patted the wizard on the back. "Don't...don't you listen to So..Sorbek, know how dwarves are about ales and owls...I mean alcohol...that wine looks delicious."
Smiling at his friend's words, Rashil's droopy eyes shifted to his drink. "It is all right...very, very smooth...the barkeep says that...a quarter of a glass can, it can knock out most humans for hours."
"Really?" questioned the human with a half-smile. "Well we will have to...just see...about that." Carltin reached out for the glass, but quickly drew back when he felt a strong hand on his shoulder.
"Can I help you?' asked the warrior as his head turned to face the stranger, a tall and slender gentleman with light gray hair. He wore a dark leather vest over a white silk shirt.
"I suppose you can," answered the stranger with a sly smile as be brushed some dirt off of the dark leather vest he wore over his white silk shirt. "You two look like a couple of strong able lads who could assist me in a task."
Carltin glanced at Rashil, who lay his head back on the table. The warrior then leaned towards the stranger. "My name is what is this task...and who are you for that matter?"
The man leaned back as the strong stench of alcohol from the warrior's breath brushed past his nose. "I am Broose Sandrellus, a bard. A historian if you will. I am planning to visit an old acquaintance at the docks this evening and I might need someone to accompany me and carry the goods I am acquiring."
Normally Carltin would question such an offer, especially since the task the bard was speaking of sounded similar to stealing. Yet due to his impaired state of mind, the merely shrugged at the bard. "I'm in…what about you Rashil?"
Carltin and Broose looked at the ork, who immediately responded with a thumbs up, followed by," We have to get my staff...your sword....your armor back from the inn down the street."
Broose looked at his two new friends with a wide smile. "Well then Carltin and Rashil, let us get your gear, and then we will be on our way."
Just as Broose stood up, the wizard's hand shot into the air. "Wait...what, what about that rat of a dwarf? Are we leave him here?"
Carltin nodded. "Yeah...Broose, we also have our rat of a dwarf friend."
The bard shrugged his shoulders, but then noticed someone sleeping in the opposite corner of the room. "I am sure he will be fine gentlemen. He is sleeping right over there." Both Rashil and Carltin looked over in the indicated direction. Through their distorted perceptions, they weren't able to really see if it was their dwarven comrade the bard was speaking of. Nevertheless, they trusted the historian's words.
"All right," whispered Carltin. "Let's be on our...way." 


To read the rest of the story, just follow the link to my fiction page: Al Stover's fiction drawer

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Local investigator hunts ghosts for over 20 years

Local investigator hunts ghosts for over 20 years

Al Stover / Reporting and Photography

published in 41.12 of the SFCC Communicator

As the wind echoes around him, Chris Martin walks around the graveyard, pulling out his audio recorder and asking the ghosts who supposedly haunt this area, permission to walk around and take pictures of the area.

Just as he turns around, something brushes his shoulder.

This is routine for Martin who has been investigating the paranormal for over 20 years. He said takes a different approach to investigating the paranormal.

“I’m in that gray area of looking at the lighter side of ghost hunting,” Martin said. “You've got to have fun.”

As a child, Martin would go through his grandmother's scrapbooks which contained photos of UFOs, obituaries, and the Loch Ness monster. Martin also said he and his family lived with a ghost.

“We named him Charlie, and he would leave stacks of pennies around the house,” Martin said.
Martin said that doing research was difficult when he started investigating.

“I had to go to the library to find books about ghosts and I ran into a lot of dead ends,” Martin said.

Martin said he has investigated many haunted areas in Spokane, including the 1000 Steps in Greenwood Cemetery.

“When I listened to the tape, I got a recording of someone laughing behind me,” Martin said.

In addition to ghost hunting, Martin works in radio and is a member of the charity groups, Stars Wars: 501st Havoc Squad, and Spokane Ghostbusters.

“It was just another way to do charity events,” Martin said. "We've only been around for three months."

Taylor Dewitt, 14, is the newest recruit for the Spokane Ghostbusters.

“I’ve also done a little paramornal investigating on my own,” Taylor said. “I’m hoping to get more into it.”

Shannon Potradz, a member Spokane Ghostbusters, has went with Martin on investigations.

“They call me the skeptic, but I want to experience something,” Potradz said.

Martin is going to San Diego for the Comic Con. He is staying at the Horton Grand Hotel, which is supposedly haunted by a poker player, according to Martin.

“He was shot while trying to run out with the money,” Martin said.

Although he usually finds nothing when he finishes an investigation, Martin said people are thankful that he showed up. He also said he doesn't charge for his services for ghost hunting.

“A lot of people want reassurance that there is nothing there,” Martin said.

If you are being haunted by a ghost

According to Martin, if someone thinks their house is haunted by a ghost, one technique they can use is rearranging the furniture.

“Ask if you may have moved something, or if there is any weird wiring in the house,” Martin said.

Martin also recommends using sage, or simply telling the ghost to vacate the house.

“Go into a room, make it silent, and tell them to leave,” Martin said. "But be careful if you say you miss it, the spirit may come back."

Ghosthunting equipment

Infrared thermometer - $39.99
Electromagnetic field (EMF) detector - which is can be found on Ebay for as low as $30
Candles - 99 cents - $19.99
Video camera - up to $90
Audio or digital recorder for noise or Electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) - $40- $256
Flashlight - $3.99 - $60

While investigating

One thing Martin suggested when going on a ghost hunt, was to be skeptical of everything.

“A lot of times you aren’t going find something, but when you do, it’s like a roller coaster,” Martin said.

Martin also said to respect the spirits by telling them they there is someone taking pictures and audio recordings.

“They still see this place as their home,” Martin said. “You wouldn’t want someone to just walk into your house without telling you why they are there.”

Interior Design graduates embark on next stage of their careers

Interior Design graduates embark on next stage of their careers

Al Stover / Reporting and Photography

published in issue 41.12 of the SFCC Communicator

Jasmine Maxey and Kourtney Rice look over plans of the hospital floor they are putting together. They look through stacks of wallpaper, trying to find one that would match the hospital's patient profile.

Maxey and Rice are two of students who are graduating from SFCC's Interior Design program.

Students in the program can earn A.A.S in Interior Design, or a Interior Design Professional Diploma, according to the SFCC website.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of people in the interior designers is expected go up 18 percent. Interior designers can make anywhere from over $20,000 to over $80,000 a year, depending on their specialty, experience, reputation, and employer.

As a child, Rice said she grew up in Oak Harbor, on construction sites with her parents. She said she researched a lot of public and private programs before settling on SFCC.

"Once I met with the program director, I was sold," Rice said.

Maxey had grown up in Port Angeles and had wanted to be an interior decorator when she was a little girl. After she had her baby, she and her husband talked about what she was going to do.

"My husband is a contractor, and interior design came up," Maxey said. "I took a test at SCC and it said I should be an interior designer."

Both Maxey and Rice learned that the interior design field is more technical than they had thought.
"It's nothing like the design shows, it's planning upon planning and very detail orientated," Rice said.

According to Maxey and Rice, they had learned the basic skills and knowledge in designing. In their second and third year, they worked on several residential and commercial projects.

"For a retail space, we redid the whole interior and gave the exterior a face lift," Maxey said.

In addition to learning about the technical aspects of interior design, Maxey said she learned how psychology can work into designing rooms for people.

"You learn how you function within a space and what decorations can increase comfort and lessen stress," Maxey said.

Rice said she also learned about different things from the projects the class worked on.

"When we worked on the hospital, I learned things about nursing and medicine that I didn't know before," Rice said.

Maxey is working with Womer and Associates, a Native American enterprise that specializes in architecture, engineering and environmental services, according to their website. She plans on attending Washington State University. She also said that SFCC’s Interior Design program was very time consuming and expensive.

"You don't have much of a social life, but you get to be so creative," Maxey said. "You get back what you put in."

Rice is currently doing an internship for Joanie Wick back home in Oak Harbor. She said there were moments when she had to remind herself why she had started the program.

"I had to get pass the stress," Rice said. "This program in itself has challenged me to become much more time efficient."

To read the story on the Communicator website follow the link

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