Jousting With Windmills

[NOTE: I may be getting a few -- or even more than a few -- of the details in this entry a little garbled, mistaken, or otherwise screwed up. Not too many, I hope. But in any event, I'm pretty sure the main facts are correct.]

As I have mentioned at least a few times, my username reflects two of my passions -- chocolate and science fiction. But as you may have also noticed, the overwhelming majority of my entries have a lot more to do with chocolate than they do science fiction. This time, it's definitely about science fiction.

As I sit here pounding away on my laptop, Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, is taking place in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately for me, I am still here in Louisville, Kentucky. But even though there is the slight matter of some 2100 miles separating me from the general revelry, I think my presence has been felt. (A phantom presence, perhaps, but a presence nonetheless.)

This actually started at last year's Worldcon, Aussiecon 4. During a meeting of the Mark Protection Committee (MPC) -- the committee that oversees the various service marks of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) -- passed a resolution that states, "Members of the Mark Protection Committee and any of its subcommittees must agree to decline nomination for a Hugo Award presented in a year following a year in which that person served in whole or in part."

On the face of it, this resolution would appear to be an innocuous means of preventing potential conflicts of interest. But it irritated me for three reasons.

First, there is already an exclusionary rule concerning the Hugo Awards. It's Section 3.12 of the WSFS Constitution, which states, "No member of the current Worldcon Committee or any publications closely connected with a member of the Committee shall be eligible for an Award. However, should the Committee delegate all authority under this Article to a Subcommittee whose decisions are irrevocable by the Worldcon Committee, then this exclusion shall apply to members of the Subcommittee only." This particular section has been part of the WSFS Constitution for as long as I have been a member (for the record, that would be since 1991), and most likely much longer than that. From everything I have seen and heard (or perhaps more accurately, what I have not seen and heard), this particular rule has done its job without any problem. And if there is some need to alter it, the WSFS Constitution does have an amendment process in place -- Section 6.5, and I won't quote that here. Suffice it to say that, in my opinion, the MPC violated Section 3.12 with their resolution. The WSFS Constitution has the authority to determine who is eligible or ineligible for a Hugo Award in any given year; the MPC does not.

Second, (again in my opinion) the MPC's action also violated one of the Standing Rules for governing the WSFS Business Meeting. Specifically, Standing Rule 7.6, which states, "All committees are authorized to organize themselves in any lawful manner and to adopt rules for the conduct of their business, which may include conducting balloting by mail and limiting debate, subject to any contrary provisions of the Constitution, the Standing Rules, or instructions given to the committee by the Business Meeting." Attempting to determine who may or may not be eligible for a Hugo Award violates the "contrary provisions of the Constitution" clause of this Rule.

Along the same lines, I could also argue that the MPC's action violated Section 5.1.4 of the WSFS Constitution, which states, "Meetings shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of (in descending order of precedence) the WSFS Constitution; the Standing Rules; such other rules as may be published in advance by the current [Worldcon] Committee (which rules may be suspended by the Business Meeting by the same procedure as a Standing Rule); the customs and usages of WSFS (including the resolutions and rulings of continuing effect); and the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised." Especially the "customs and usages" part. It has been my observation that the segment of SF fandom who is most likely to attend the WSFS Business Meeting has something of a reverence for tradition. Screw with that tradition at your peril.

Third, the resolution seemed to be directed solely at one person, Cheryl Morgan. Cheryl is a three-time Hugo winner; for Best Fanzine in 2004 (for Emerald City), for Best Fan Writer in 2009, and for Best Semiprozine in 2010 (for Clarkesworld Magazine, of which she is the non-fiction editor). She was also a member of the Hugo Award Marketing Committee (HAMC); a subcommittee of the MPC that, well, markets and promotes the Hugos. Based on what I have read, it is my understanding that Cheryl had contributed to the creation of the website for the Hugo Awards, and was the website's maintainer. When the resolution was passed, Cheryl was the only person who would be affected by its provisions. (Past Hugo winner Mike Glyer had been a member of HAMC, but not for the past couple of years, and he was the only other person who might have been affected by this resolution.) After the resolution was passed, Cheryl was re-appointed to the HAMC, but she felt obliged to decline in order to maintain eligibility for Clarkesworld Magazine.

I suppose the best way to describe my reaction when I read about what the MPC had done was that my sense of justice was outraged. I wouldn't say that Cheryl and I are friends; we really don't know each other that well. I will say that our encounters have been cordial. I just found it irritating (to say the very least) that someone who has possibly done the most in recent years for the marketing and promotion of science fiction's most prestigious award being forced out by a group who, as I understand it, seems to place very little value in that marketing and promotion.

I knew that I wanted to do something. I like to think that I have something of the knight errant in me, though I am probably far more likely to resemble Don Quixote than Sir Gawain in the execution.

Despite realizing that this was one of those times when Something Needed To Be Done, it was a few months before I actually did anything. Part of it was that I knew it wasn't a particularly urgent matter. Even if I had done something in September or October, nothing would have come of it until this past week, anyway. After all, the WSFS Business Meeting only takes place once a year, at Worldcon, and nothing could be done until the Business Meeting.

Well, earlier this year, I contacted Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee), SF fandom's Jedi Master of parliamentary procedure. I expressed my outrage at the turn of events, and asked his advice as to what could be done to reverse the actions taken. I knew that, as much as Kevin might have wanted to do something himself, he probably wouldn't, given his position as a member of the MPC. I also volunteered my services (such as they would be) to help reverse what had been done.

Kevin told me that the correct counter-action would be to submit a resolution to this year's Business Meeting. This resolution would be two-fold: First, it would reverse the action of the MPC, and second, it would instruct them not to take similar action in the future. Kevin also suggested that I get at least one person to second the resolution.

Another few months went by. I suddenly realized that Renovation was fast approaching, and that I needed to:

A. Write and submit that resolution to the Business Meeting staff, and
B. Get someone to agree to second the resolution.

(Not necessarily in that order, of course.)

For the seconder, I contacted Chris Barkley. I explained the resolution to him, and asked if he would be interested in seconding/so-sponsoring the resolution. He readily agreed, so the next step was writing the resolution, which I did based on a couple of suggestions that Kevin gave me. I emailed the resolution to the Business Meeting staff, and mailed a hardcopy to Chris, just in case they wanted something with an actual signature on it. Because of other things, I had forgotten to mail my site selection ballot for the 2013 Worldcon, and he was also going to deliver my ballot for me. (Thanks again, Chris!)

A day or so later, I checked the Renovation website, and I saw that the resolution was indeed part of the Business Meeting agenda. And now it was just a matter of waiting for the fireworks to start.

And from what I can tell, "fireworks" seems to be the right word to describe what happened. Of course, I had to wait to hear from Kevin and Chris for news of what transpired during the Preliminary Business Meeting (which is when the resolution would have been discussed). I was also interested in hearing about Chris's proposed amendment creating a Young Adult category for the Hugos.

I was able to get bits and pieces of information from the Renovation Twitter feed, and from what I could tell, the resolution had passed. The first in-depth report, though, came from Cheryl's blog. There has to be a little bit of irony in that because, like me, Cheryl was not attending Renovation.

Quick version -- the resolution passed. From what I read on both Cheryl and Kevin's blogs, the debate was quite vigorous, including a debate on whether or not the resolution was even legal. The Business Meeting first decided that it was legal, and then approved it.

My contention in introducing the resolution was that if there are changes to be made in Hugo Award eligibility, they have to be made in the WSFS Constitution, through the normal amendment process. Well, there was an amendment introduced that would have done precisely that. As soon as that item came up on the PBM agenda, Chris lodged an Objection To Consideration, and apparently, most of those attending the Business Meeting had already had their fill of the subject, and they voted to kill the proposed amendment without debate.

Unfortunately, Chris's proposed YA Hugo amendment suffered a similar fate when it came up on the agenda. The reason for this seems to have been that there wouldn't be sufficient time to debate the proposal, given several of the items up for a ratification vote. I do know that Chris will be introducing the measure again next year at Chicon 7.

Yes, I'm feeling rather pleased as to how the matter turned out. I think I may still be blushing over Cheryl's thanks on her blog. You know, sometimes when you tilt at windmills, the windmills fall down.


How Many Licks? I Know!

I'm sure you've seen at least one version of the Tootsie Pops commercial. You know, the one with the tagline, "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know."

The rest of the world may not know, but I have known for years.

It takes 615 licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

How do I know this? Well that, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.

I discovered this little bit of information many, many years ago. I'm pretty certain it was on a Saturday, because I had seen that commercial at least once during my weekly ritual of Saturday morning cartoons. To be honest, that commercial really irritated the hell out of me. I think it was mainly because it asked what I thought was a legitimate question, and came up with a cheap shot punch line.

I think I had seen that commercial one time too many, and I decided that I wanted to know how many licks it really did take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. How many licks it really took, without biting.

Either there were already some Tootsie Pops around the house, or I went to the grocery store to get one. (Sorry, but I am a little fuzzy on some of the details.) I do remember that I armed myself with a grape Tootsie Pop, paper, and pen. I settled down where I would be undisturbed, unwrapped the Tootsie Pop, and I started licking.

With every lick, I made a tally mark on the paper. I didn't even think about keeping count, because I had a feeling that someone would probably try to distract me. I figured that it would be easier to count the marks after I finished my Tootsie Pop.

It took a while, but eventually, I finished licking off all of the hard candy surrounding the Tootsie Roll center. Once all the candy was gone, I finally bit into the yummy little nugget of Tootsie Roll, and thoroughly savored it.

After I finished the Tootsie Pop, I counted the tally marks. Counted them at least twice, if I'm not too terribly mistaken. And the number I came up with every time was 615.

I don't think I ever did anything like write the people at Tootsie Roll to tell them how many licks it took. I don't know if I've ever really shared it with anyone else until now.

But now you know. And the next time you see that commercial, you'll know that it takes 615 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. That, and a lot of patience.


Is A Sour Grapes Truffle Next?

Earlier this afternoon, I found myself at Mall St. Matthews. Specifically, I went by the Godiva store to pick up my monthly freebie. I spent the usual few minutes trying to decide what to get before finally settling on the Banana Split Truffle. This is one of the Ice Cream Parlor Truffles that they are featuring during the summer months.

As usual, I will turn to Godiva's chocolate menu for the description. They describe the Banana Split Truffle as "Banana cream and strawberry mousse in milk chocolate, topped with pecan pieces."

The particular truffle that I got had a scant dusting of pecan pieces. I think this just happened to be the luck of the draw; I did notice that some of the other Banana Split Truffles in the display case were topped with more pecan pieces. The pieces were easily flicked off the truffle, and I nibbled on them before starting on the truffle in earnest.

The milk chocolate shell on this truffle seems to have been slightly thicker than the shells on some of the other truffles I have sampled. As always, the milk chocolate was creamy and rich. I suppose "decadently creamy and rich" would be a good description to use (if I haven't used it before).

As luck of the draw would have it, the first of the two fillings I encountered when I bit into the truffle was the banana cream. From the way it tasted, I'm guessing that real live bananas (or formerly real live bananas) were used in the making of the banana cream. It had a pale yellow color, and quite frankly, I would have expected more of a white color to it. The banana cream was the softer of the two fillings.

Th strawberry mousse was a pale pink color. Like the banana cream, it tasted like it had been made with genuine strawberries. The flavors of the two fillings blended together quite well, both with each other, and that of the milk chocolate.

The truffle was enjoyable, although I don't know if I would have put both fillings in one truffle. I think I would have gone with just the banana cream filling as a solo act, but of course that is a judgement call on my part.

And once again, I have probably squeezed as much analysis out of one truffle as I possibly can.


Skyrockets In Flight?

Candy Bar Review

Hershey's newest candy bar is not really something new. I first encountered aerated chocolate back in 2006, when I reviewed Nestle's Aero Caramel (an import from England). This may be, though, to the best of my knowledge, the first time an aerated chocolate bar has been marketed here in the US.

The chocolate itself is the same milk chocolate you find in the standard Hershey bar. This was determined with a simple side-by-side taste comparison of the two. Trust me, it's the same thing.

The Air Delight bar is a shell of solid milk chocolate containing the aerated milk chocolate. Presumably, the solid outer shell serves to give the bar a more uniform appearance. Especially since the "Hershey's" name is molded into the top of each of the bar's six segments.

Pumping air into the chocolate hasn't altered the flavor any. As I said, it's still Hershey's milk chocolate -- however you want to take that. There is, however, a slight alteration in the texture. The Air Delight doesn't have as sharp a snap to it when you break off a section. Or when you bite into a piece, for that matter. For lack of a better term, it feels a bit softer.

This is not the only new product that Hershey's has recently introduced under the Air Delight name. They are also now selling an Air Delight version of Hershey's Kisses. I'll probably give them a try eventually, but I rather suspect that the Air Delight Kisses will be very similar to the Air Delight bar.

Now, what would really interest me would be a Special Dark Air Delight bar.


More Signs Of The (Upcoming) Season

As I said last time, I was caught a little off-guard when I saw Staples setting up their display of back-to-school backpacks several days before the summer solstice. I didn't think I would be seeing anything of that nature anywhere until sometime this week. But when I went by Office Depot a day or so later, I seem to remember seeing the beginnings of their back-to-school displays as well. (Kind of hard to tell with an office supply store, you know?) Again, well before Independence Day, which I came to regard as the start of the back-to-school season.

Well, Independence Day has come and gone. And today, I saw the first sign of another store getting ready to push notebooks, pencils, and the like. I was in Target, and as I walked past the section they reserve for seasonal displays, I discerned that it was rapidly being filled with various school supplies. I haven't been by Wal-Mart recently, but I would not be too surprised that they were engaged in similar activity.

I haven't seen any sign of back-to-school merchandise at Walgreens yet. What surprised me, though, was something that I did see earlier this week. It might have been Independence Day, or perhaps the day before -- the holiday weekend is playing with my perception just a little. In any event, whether it was Sunday or Monday, I walked into one of the local Walgreens, and I had my first sighting of Halloween candy.

Brach's candy corn, to be specific. And now that I think about it, I'm pretty certain it was Sunday.

I must admit, this was more than a little startling. Seeing Halloween candy side by side with school supplies isn't particularly unusual; particularly as the school year is beginning, and the stores are transitioning the seasonal areas from back-to-school to Halloween. But seeing the first sign of Halloween candy before that store has even thought about putting out the school supplies? That's more than a little unusual.

Something is telling me that this Candy Season may be just a little on the strange side.

Or maybe even more than just a little.


Really Getting An Early Start This Year

As I have mentioned from time to time, once summer arrives, I start eagerly anticipating the start of the back-to-school sales. One reason, of course, is that I really dislike hot weather, and seeing the various school supplies on the shelves reassures me that it won't be long before autumn arrives. Another reason -- probably the more important one as far as this blog is concerned -- is that the appearance of school supplies means that it's almost time to start the countdown to the start of Candy Season.

In years past, it has usually been at least a few days past Independence Day before I would get my first glimpse of anything resembling a back-to-school display. But I went by Staples earlier this afternoon, and when I walked through the door, I was greeted by quite the surprise. They were already setting up the display for the back-to-school backpacks.

My first thought was, Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish, what the hell is going on here? This was at least three weeks earlier than I would have anticipated seeing this in my wildest dreams.

The display wasn't fully in place yet. Based on what I remember from previous years, I would estimate that it contained somewhere between one third and one half of what it will hold when fully stocked. But still, the summer solstice hasn't even happened yet. It's usually not until somewhere around Independence Day that I see anything resembling a back-to-school display anywhere.

I didn't really notice anything else resembling a setup for back-to-school while I was there. Then again, nothing else is quite as noticeable as the backpack display; at least not in a store like Staples.

Granted, I will be glad to see the start of Candy Season once again, and I am hoping that when we see the Halloween merchandise appearing on the shelves, there will be some new candy products to review. But this is way too early to start the countdown to Candy Season.


A Lovely Bunch Of Twix

Candy Bar Review

I think I first read about this limited edition on Candy Blog back in February. At the time, it was still an upcoming release (Cybele had received some advance samples), and I filed the information away under "keep an eye out for these."

It was last month that Twix announced on their Facebook page that the Twix Coconut had been released. For at least the past two or three weeks, I had been looking at all of my usual outlets, but the Twix Coconut was noticeably conspicuous by its absence. I was beginning to think that Louisville would be the last area where the Twix Coconut would be released.

Then this past Monday, I walked into Speedway, and I finally saw the Twix Coconut on one of the displays. Considering that the manager was busy stocking the display with other confectionary products, I was guessing that she had just put the Twix Coconut in place a few minutes earlier. (This was something that the manager confirmed when I asked her about it.) Needless to say, I quickly grabbed a couple of bars for review purposes. (And I have started seeing them elsewhere. Slowly but surely, they are starting to appear on the shelves. Emphasis on the slowly.)

At first glance, this particular Twix variation is not that dissimilar to the original. A vanilla cookie, topped with caramel, and covered in milk chocolate. The variation in this case is that the caramel is coconut flavored. No actual coconut, though; just the flavor.

When I opened the package, the faint aroma I encountered was primarily chocolate. There was a slight bit of a coconut scent, but not much.

I had seen a few other online reviews of the Twix Coconut before I finally found the bars on sale, and two descriptions stood out in my mind. These were comparisons to both German chocolate cake and Samoas -- the Girl Scout cookies -- and I saw both more than once.

The coconut flavor of the caramel is very pronounced. It reminds me a little of the Snickers variation that M&M/Mars produced as tie-in with Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, although the coconut-flavored caramel in the Twix did not have the spice (whatever that spice may have been) flavor that the Snickers did. In fact, I would say that the coconut flavor in the caramel is probably the dominant flavor in this candy bar.

After finally trying a Twix Coconut, I have to say that both comparisons made in those other reviews are fair ones, particularly the comparison to Samoas. It's probably because of the cookie base of the Twix bar; it more closely resembles the crunch of the Girl Scout cookie than the softer texture of a German chocolate cake.

As I just stated, the coconut flavor in the caramel is the dominant one in the Twix Coconut bar. It does not, however, push the other flavors out of the way. It blends well with the flavor of the milk chocolate. Even the vanilla flavor of the cookie can be detected, albeit somewhere in the background. But as is the case with most of the Twix bars, the flavor of the cookie is almost always somewhere in the background.

As I noted at the beginning, this is a limited edition, and as always, the standard disclaimer for limited editions apply. Given that it is just hitting the shelves (at least in my area), it should be around for at least a couple of months. What happens after that is anyone's guess.


End Of The Candy (For Now)

Well, Easter has come and gone again. Which is not particularly a good thing for me. The Easter Bunny's annual visit, as always, signals the end of Candy Season.

The leftover Easter candy is quickly disappearing from the shelves, as the stores are quickly replacing them with items for the pool and beach. And I have never really bought into the whole "fun in the sun" idea. I would much rather the temperature stay below 25 degrees Celsius -- or if you prefer the Fahrenheit scale, that would be 77 degrees.

In other words, it's the start of a long dry spell. Other than some specially wrapped Hershey's Kisses or packages of red, white, and blue M&Ms, you don't see much in the way of Independence Day candy. Memorial Day isn't a particularly good holiday for candy consumption, either. As a matter of fact, both of those holidays seem more geared toward cookouts.

Well, I have heard of a few limited editions that should be released in the next few months. (One of them should have already hit the shelves, and I'm a little irritated that I haven't seen it yet.) And I'm hoping that M&M/Mars will have something in the way of a movie tie-in, as they have for the past few years. If they do, I'm really hoping that they will be doing some tie-in promotions with Green Lantern.

Other than that, what I will be looking forward to is the beginning of the back-to-school season. Once the notebooks, backpacks, pens, pencils, and paper begin making their way to the shelves, it won't be long before the beginning of another Candy Season.


Mousse And Bunny

Candy Review

Okay, Easter may be over, but the reviews may be going on a while. Contrary to what I thought a few days ago, I did find a few things for review when I checked the stores on Monday. I discovered a particular treasure trove at Walgreens, but that's a subject for another entry.

I actually picked these up at Kroger the day before Easter. They weren't discounted yet, of course, but Kroger had them as one of their "10 for $10" specials. It was as good a reason as any to pick up a package.

Strictly speaking, the Chocolate Mousse Bunnies aren't chocolate. There's no cocoa butter in them; only cocoa. (All marshmallows are fat-free. Any fat -- including cocoa butter -- would collapse the whipped egg whites.) They are a light brown color, covered with a sanding of granulated sugar, and decorated with three little dots meant to represent the eyes and nose. There were eight Bunnies in the package I bought, in two sets of four connected Bunnies.

The initial taste that hits your tastebuds is that of the sugar crust. There is no specific flavor there; just an overwhelming sweet sensation. But that eventually fades away, and you can notice the flavor of the marshmallow itself. The chocolate flavor of the marshmallow isn't a strong one; it's a more delicate flavor, but it is noticeable. Eventually. Once you get past that initial sugar buzz. (I'm guessing that most kids won't care about the subtleties in flavor, and that most parents will be more concerned with keeping those kids from bouncing off the walls, ceiling, and any other bounce-producing surface.)

Since Easter is over, it's probably not likely that you can find the Chocolate Mousse Bunnies this year. Not unless you’re extremely lucky, anyway. But Just Born has been producing this particular version of their marshmallow Bunnies for a few years now, so it is popular enough that I feel safe enough to say that you'll see them again next year.


Last Egg Review Of The Season

Candy Review

I think this is going to be the last Russell Stover Egg I review this year. After all, I will need to have something to review in 2012, won't I? I don't think I'll be stopping by Walgreens or Rite Aid before Easter, so there's a good chance that I won't be finding anything I haven't reviewed among the remainders on Monday. So today, I'm reviewing the Coconut Cream Egg.

The Coconut Cream Egg is dark chocolate, covering a coconut cream filling. (I know I'm stating the obvious, but sometimes it's necessary.) After my review of the Raspberry Whip Egg, I took a moment to see what sort of aroma might be greeting my olfactory receptors this time when I opened the wrapper. The aroma of chocolate -- yes. The aroma of coconut -- unfortunately, not so much.

The coconut cream filling bears some similarity to a nougat. It is light and fluffy, but it also contains bits of real coconut in it as well. The coconut gives the filling an interesting bit of texture, and it may make the filling a little more dense, a little more solid. Unlike some of the other fillings, the coconut filling gives the appearance of being able to stand up on its own if the chocolate weren't present.

The coconut and dark chocolate flavors balance each other quite well. The deeper flavor of the dark chocolate keeps the sweet flavor of the coconut filling from being too sweet. This also makes the chocolate the flavor that stays on your tastebuds longer, although while the two flavors are present, neither one is dominant.

And as I have said many, many times before, the usual holiday disclaimer applies. The Easter Bunny's annual visit is fast approaching, and once he has delivered his bounty of eggs, candy, and other stuff, these will disappear for several months. They will be back, of course, sometime in late February 2012.