Friday, October 31, 2003

I Become Employed, Kinda

Bad news and good news and bad news and good news The bad news is that a very promising position evaporated on me this week. The good news is that I have a gig, anyway. The bad news is that the new gig is only temporary. The good news is that its a bit of stability in their ever-chaotic world.

Last week I had a very encouraging interview with a company doing a new Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). Interview went well, and I had great hopes. Unfortunately, they passed on me, primarily because I did not have sufficient experience playing MMORPGs. Let me make this clear - I didn't get the gig because I didn't play enough games. The irony there is thick enough to slice with a knife and serve with garlic butter (they are still look like a good group of people, and I hope they succeed).

On the other hand, my old, old company, Wizards of the Coast, is behind schedule on an interesting and important project (of which I cannot speak, of course), and needs a hand for the next six or seven weeks (into mid-December). They had hit me up early, and I demurred. Now I called them back, we had the interview (which is weird, since everyone in the room has known each other for years) and I will start Monday. Rules wrangling, primarily, but its a solid gig with the potential of growing into something more.

So now I'm in this weird grey area with the challenges of both being employed and unemployed at the same time. On one hand, I've got a gig, I know most of the folks there, I'm comfortable with the task at hand, and I'm quickly warming to the project (I am round-heeled when it comes to new projects - it takes very little to get me excited about them). On the other hand, this project has a definite end to it, at which point I will be back out on the street again, so I still have to push for finding permanent employment. So I am working and looking for a job at the same time, which is weird, but I think I can handle it. Sort of like Freelance with a change of venue.

The last good news is that I'll be among people again - freelancing is a horribly lonely business. Its a break for Kate as well, since I won't be doing the personality-change thing, moping around the house one moment, then embodying sudden manic, misdirected energy ("Look honey, I rearranged your spice cabinet - by size of the containers!")

More later,

"Oooo Izita Puppy? Yezzitiz! Yezzitiz! Izza Cute Widdle Puppy!"

Several months back, Monte and Sue Cook lost their their longtime pet, Wilbur the rabbit. Now, Monte has gotten a new dog, Rufus, andits the cutest thing on four legs.

More later,

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Life on the Outside

One thing I enjoy: An electric tea kettle I got Kate for Christmas last year. Heating unit at the bottom, turns itself off when it boils. I've pretty much abandoned sodas except at meals and gone to tea.
One thing I miss: A T1 Line
One thing I will never understand: That Ashton Kutcher is the breakout star of "That 70s Show".


And speaking of "That 70s Show" (currently being syndicated ad nauseum), allow me to channel my inner Red Foreman [[For never watching the show, that's the father - his character is Richie Cunningham from "Happy Days" who grew up to become old and bitter. His big line is "I know what your problem is. You're a Dumbass."]]

One of our Senatorial Candidates is a Dumbass.

I really didn't think I would have to talk about Senatorial candidates yet - its a year away. The seat is currently held by Democrat Patty Murray. Running initially as a "little old lady in tennis shoes", Patty turned out OK in the governmental department, looking out for Washington State's interests. After casting about for a number of better candidates (who all said no), the State Repubs settled on Representitive George Nethercutt. Nethercutt is pretty forgetable as a legislator, known primarily for running on a platform of Term Limits when he first got elected, then breaking that vow when it came time for him to stand down.

Now Nethercutt said something recently that's gotten national press - at least a little more than normal. Here's his quote on the current situation in Iraq:
"So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I'm indicting the news people. It's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day, which, which, heaven forbid, is awful."

Now, that's a pretty stupid statement, but it follows the administration's current meme that "things are going swimmingly in Iraq, so don't look too hard." But the fact that the lights are going on in parts of Bagdad a bigger story than the fact we're losing people over there? That's the sort of willful callousness that is ticking folk off.

But that's not what makes him a dumbass. Politicians say stupid things all the time. Trent Lott is talking about "mowing them all down" in Iraq, which is a bigger wince to anyone looking for a solution. And Patty Murray, his opponent, a few years back, pointed out that Osama Bin Ladan was liked by some people overseas for building schools. The Repubs jumped all over her on that one - Nethercutt himself accused her of having "an unbalanced world view".

And no, adding "which heaven forbid, is awful," does not get you out of the fact that this was a stupid, callous, and insensitive statement. Janna over on her blog already chewed this boy out, so I won't get more into it, other than to say - she's right, he's wrong. You're in moron territory, George, but not quite a dumbass.

So after this blows up, Nethercutt complains about the media. Again, pretty typical on all sides of the political agenda. How dare the media reports what he says. They took it out of context. They took it out of an hour long discussion. They left out the "heaven forbid". They gave it an ugly spin. All those things were true for the Patty Murray comment that he so gleefully locked onto early. Its par for the course. No, complaining doesn't make him a dumbass.

What makes him a dumbass is he then takes out advertising in the Times and the P-I to complain about it. The Times ran it in the Sports section, which is a little weird (you say something stupid about young men dying, you might want to address their mothers with the explanation). So now he comes off as a whiner and a dumbass. He said something very, very stupid. He may even believe in this thing that he said, which is very, very stupid. But then after being caught saying it, he them proceeds to get into a public argument with the press. Which allows the press to rehash the entire issue, then show fortitude by "standing behind their reporters".

And even the advert itself is an odious piece of slime, slamming the media again and pushing his own merits as pro-war being on the Defense Appropriations Committee. Which sounds pretty good, until you look at a voting record - Patty Murry voted to raise the hazardous duty pay for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nethercutt, friend to soliders, voted against it.

As a public service, here's a list of cities in Washington State Nethercutt may want to shy away from for next few months - Mount Vernon, Fort Lewis, Concrete, Vancouver, Arlington, and Tacoma. All of these have lost local boys in Iraq. He might run into some people there who may take serious issue with his priorities. Serious issue.

Which, heaven forbid, would be awful.

OK, I'm done now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Life on the Outside

Tuesday was a domestic day. One of the advantages of life outside the normal corporate framework is the ability to make time for small but important things in life. You can set aside a day to do all the errands that you would normally have to dump on evenings or Saturdays. Grocery shopping. Getting the process started for rolling over 401Ks. Getting the oil changed. Having lunch date with a friend that we've pushed back three time already due to work schedules. Short walk along the Soos Creek (knee is still acting up).

And taking back the kitchen.

That's an important part of the process here. Even if you help out your spouse in the kitchen, or cook on your own once a week, you fall into ruts. When you're working with your spouse, you are the sous chef, doing the chopping, dicing, and stirring as need be. When you cook on your own, you may grab one or two old reliable recipes because you have other things to do. Tuesdays Kate does pizza with her regular gaming gang, so this was a chance to re-establish my kitchen props.

I did a mild sausage and tomato sauce yesterday, and served it over pasta. No biggie. The dish was from a Italian cookbook that is pretty straightforward (no weird cooking terms, no arcane ingredients). The recipe was to serve it with polenta, but I went with pasta, hedging my bets. Sausage, bacon, onions, carrots, red pepper instead of green (Kate hates green peppers), realized halfway through I didn't have any red wine open, so I went with a reduced amount of red wine vinegar, which gave it in interesting kick. The end result was pretty good, and in addition it got me familiarized with working around the kitchen on my own - where everything was (or had been moved to), how to make substitutions, keeping track of everything, and getting it all cleaned up.

Back to the grind today. Need to finish a short story and start working on another. I've been accepted into a new fantasy anthology, for a campaign setting which I find particularly interesting - more when I know I can talk about it.

More later,

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Dave and Stan! get Slammed

Another story night at A Guide to Visitors at the Rendezvous, this time a slam as opposed to a curated show. The slams are smaller operations, lack as much planning – those who want to tell stories show up, their names are pulled from a hat, and they have five minutes to tell their tales. Tiny cash prize for the winners. The subject for the evening was Excess. Both Dave and Stan! felt they had tales for consideration. I got there early, and spent about a half-hour writing longhand – I have a logic conflict in a short story I am working on, and a change in venue helped sort it out.

Dave’s story was another story of his youth – drinking and shooting and being penalized by helping his mom work in a Parochial school, under the watchful eyes of the nuns (He’s never looked at Penguins the same way). Stan!’s was of his boss in Japan, who had his entire life written down in a voluminous day-planner, working out to the graduations and marriages of his children, and his eventual date for an affair (ten years in the future). Stan!’s delivery was top-notch, and for a heavy man with long graying hair under his cowboy hat, he captured the feel and flavor of Japanese society.

Neither one won, nor did my favorite, a young woman who lost the groom’s ring at a wedding, getting it caught in her pantyhose and forcing her to publicly retrieve it during the ceremony. The winner went to a tale of a young man who built a model of Rhett Butler for a school book float parade, and then pressed the manikin into service as a silent partner in gathering candy.

Time Change

Daylight Savings Time flipped this weekend, with the result of the sun going down later (relative time). This is a nasty time of year this far north, because folk are suddenly leaving their jobs in the dark. That, and the growing cloud cover (standing in the way of aurora borealis prompted by massive solar flares) contribute to a dreary, sad feeling up to the area.

There are exceptions to the grey darkness. Yesterday in particular, the westering sun dropped into the slot between leaden clouds and Olympics and cast the entire area in shades of red. The fallen leaves became an inferno sea of choppy water, and the pines themselves deep crimson pillars in the dying light. It had an otherworldly feel, for about a half-hour, until the clouds rolled in further, the sun dropped beneath the cascades, and greyness returned.

More later

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Play: Seinfeld and the Lesser Horribles

Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw, Seattle Repertory Theatre

Kate and I discussed whether this play could succeed as an Americanized version. Kate feels that Modern Americans have as much a sense of class distinction as any turn-of-the-previous century Brit, but there’s another thing entirely involved that would make such a transposition difficult to my mind. The British sense of humor involves with dealing with people you would never, even under mistaken identity, invite into your circle of friends. These are the Horribles, probably best known to Yanks by Harry Potter’s muggle Aunt & Uncle. The characters in this play are almost exclusively Lesser Horribles, and they leave you with the uneasy feeling that you might be one as well.

This particular Horrible collection is more upper class than we. Patrician papa is a self-made man in the Underwear Business with a country home, an understanding wife, a wandering eye, an unimaginative son and a coltish, willful daughter. Daughter is engaged to marry an Aristocratic Twit, who is the son of sage, titled Governmental Rajah. All (save perhaps the wife) are pretty vulgar individuals, a Monte Pythonish troupe but not as broad. So after a good patch of arguing in which it is agreed that the Aristocrat is a twit and the Son a dullard, and that the Rajah had once proposed offstage (a lot happens offstage here) to the coltish daughter who was marrying the twit, a plane flies overhead and crashes into the house.

End of Act One, and you hope for no survivors among the characters you have met.

Alas, no such luck. Instead we add two more characters, a handsome classmate of the Aristocratic Twit and a handsome, Polish, female acrobat (who also offstage had a relationship with the Gov. Raj). Coltish daughter makes a hard play for Classmate, all other males in the household make a play for the Polish Acrobat who, being a Shavian strong woman, cares for none of them. Add to that a lower-class interloper who seeks revenge on the Patrician but is quickly exposed as a socialist buffoon, and then, uh . . .

Well, not much happens at all. In fact, Shaw originally titled the play, truthfully, Just Exactly Nothing. We get a lot of discussion from the various social positions – Old Money, New Money, No Money. Importance and folly of education and all that. All characters save the mother and Polish acrobat are revealed as fools and hypocrites at least once, until the least likeable of the lot (the Twit, played to be hateable at first sight) seems the most redeemable. But redemption is not part of the package, unless you deal with a grudging, cross-generation acceptance by the Patrician for the Daughter. Daughter herself moves from one horrible, badly thought-out engagement to the Twit to one equally badly-thought-out (but honestly cynical, which I suppose counts for something with Shaw) relationship with the Classmate. There are no revelations or epiphanies here – only a few mild degrees of development if that. Its an Edwardian version of Seinfeld.

The cast manfully wrestles this one to ground (it was a headscratcher when it was first presented in London). The weakest presentation is that of the coltish daughter. She is supposed to be willfully independent, but instead projects all the gleeful, goggle-eyed evil of Hugh Laurie or Tim Curry. And even that feels unfair to the actress, in that her character is the closest thing to a protagonist demanded by the play. Shaw loves strong women, and recasting the female cast as mother, maiden, and crone might have made more sense. As written, though the women very rarely interact among themselves at all, instead acting as foils for the men, who across the board are, as noted, a pretty unredemptive bunch.

This one’s a split decision – Kate loves Shaw and Shaw loves strong women. I found it more than a bit tedious. It was not an afternoon wasted, but not one of the greats. Kate is threatening to make me watch Major Barbara. I have a nasty feeling that Shaw is an acquired taste, and one too much like British Cuisine.

Panos Kleftiko

So after the play, we headed for a Greek restaurant a friend recommended. All the friend gave was a name and a street – 5th Avenue, and a general location (“At the foot of Queen Anne hill”). Armed with this information, Kate and I marched almost to the sound, where we found that the 5th Avenue in that direction (labled South) was mostly residential. So we turned around, marched back to the OTHER 5th Avenue (labled North), almost despaired of finding it, then located the small restaurant a block north of Roy, up the street from the new Sushi Land. And found out it would not be open for another half-hour.

Which was OK, because the food was wonderful. I am not a big fan of Greek food (I’m more partial to the related Mideastern Cuisine), but this the best I have tasted in Seattle. The skordalia (garlic mashed potatoes) and humas (ground chick peas) were fantastic, and the lamb souvlaki was great, and the spinekopeta (spinach pie) was very tasty and perfectly done. The restaurant itself was a hole-in-the-wall, the first floor of a house, and could seat about 32, tops, with a tiny kitchen staffed by three workers who moved like acrobats themselves. We were among the first ones in, and the place was packed until we left, with people milling about outside waiting to get in. The staff was fast and friendly, and gave priority to diners who had to catch a later show.

Recommended. I left without getting a real address*, but you still have a better chance of finding it now than we did (and so I end the day well-fed, ethically confused, and with a knee still aching from last Wednesday).

[[*However, they have a web page, as all businesses seem to do these days. The address is 815 5th avenue NORTH]]

More later,

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

So when I was let go from the company, I stated the figure that was given to me at the time – we were laying off 23 people. Now that the survivors have picked through the debris, I understand that the number is closer to 16 – still a nasty chunk of talent to pry away from any small company, but less than the original figure. The larger number may have included contract workers, people from our office in Ohio, or just a plain misstatement from management at the time (it was a rather hectic day, and none of us were really counting). But as near as I can figure out – its 16 from the Bellevue office.

Anyway, unemployed life remains a jumble – it’s the disorganization of it all that really wears on you. I’m charging down a number of avenues at once, and I can’t let afford to let anything just hang until later. So my day is a mix of contacts, sending out resumes, filling out forms, small work, and rattling doors. So here are the bad things about being on the outside:
• Saturday is just another day.
• I miss the goldfish crackers in the break room (though my waistline doesn’t)
• I miss the people – I am a social creature, and as I said, we had a good group of people. Freelancing is lonely work.
On the other hand:
• Plenty of sunlight
• Long walks in the middle of the afternoon
• Nature - Watching the neighborhood cat stake out the bird feeder, and watching a Stellar’s Jay planting a nut in my window box.

Small victories, indeed, but ones that are appreciated.

Gotta go rattle some doors. More later.

Heavey Weather

So back to the local stuff. The political campaign in our neck of the woods has been rather quiet since the primary, but is now heating up again. I have yet to see any mailers, but I expect to see them in the near future.

(For those who don't want to dig through the Archives for the "Friends of Mr. Fortunato" sections posted earlier - here's the short version. I live in the 9th disctrict of King County, which occupies the southeast corner of the county. The previous office holder for the County council, Kent Pullen(R), passed on in office. Enumclaw minister Steve Hammond was appointed as interim office-holder, over two other Republicans, who challenged him in a rancorous primary. Now Hammond faces Barbara Heavey in the main election in a couple weeks).

The 9th is an interesting combo of rural areas and spreading suburbs – our chunk of the district is a gooseneck that spreads up towards the city along Benson Hill, which until about ten years ago was mostly farmland and a smattering of older house – now its malls and an ever-increasing amount of development. Development is heading up the list of issues on the docket. Hammond is pro-property rights and pro-development, Heavey comes out of the Department of Development and Environmental Services and pushes a more moderate agenda. Hammond’s push is very much “It’s your land, you should do what you want with it.” Not surprisingly, he’s getting a lot of support from developer interests who want to do things with your land. Most of said developers are not based in the 9th itself.

Heavey, on the other hand, comes out of the very bureaucracy that oversees and controls that development, and believes that growth has to be managed. She’s more flexible on land use, without throwing open the doors. She also recognizes that a lot of the restrictions on land use come from state and national requirements as opposed to county, and knows where to push. The weird thing is – Hammond’s approach plays well in those part of the territory were the inhabitants want to leave – selling their farms and large lots to developers to put up malls and insta-housing. Heavey’s stand plays well with anyone who has been living here a couple years and suddenly discovers that the big field down the block is going to become 64 new neighbors (needless to say, there are a lot more Heavey yard signs in our neighborhood). I don’t know if a voting base that wants to leave town is the best group of voters to be appealing to.

So the developers are pushing Hammond, while Heavey is getting support from “traditional” Dem groups – unions, lawyers, as well a good chunk from her immediate family (her publicly-disclosed files show a lot of “Heaveys” contributing, particularly in the primary). Both candidates have the roughly the same amount of cash – in the high 40’s.

The way the world normally works, Hammond should benefit from being the incumbent, and is still playing the “I was chosen by your former leader” card whenever he can. However, the Seattle Times just made its recommendation – for Heavey. More telling, it chose Heavey because it thought she was the more experienced of the two candidates. When you’re the incumbent, and the newspapers say that the other guy has more experience for your job, you’ve got a problem.

Which begs the question – Yeah, Steve Hammond has been in office only a few months, but what has he done in those few months? Has he moved forward on reducing regulation, or at least putting the pieces together? He’s attached his name to a proposal to reduce the number of districts on the council from 13 to 9, but a lot of folk are wondering if that will result not in less government, but the same amount of government with less public access, oversight, and representation? I still think Hammond benefits from incumbency (and though its tough to run against big government when you ARE the government, enough sound bites can distract folk from the obvious), and his message should play better as he moves south and east. We shall see.

More later,

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Five

No five this week. Pity.

More later,


So someone has put this blog address on the HCRealms board, so I expect to see a number of HeroClix fans to come over, and then leave confused, when they find a blog site filled with stuff that has nothing to do with HeroClix. Sorry folks, no secret info here. But since you’re here, let’s talk about comics. Or rather buying comics.

I am thinking about this because, with everything that’s been happening, I didn’t even get a chance to get my comics yesterday. And as every geek knows, Wednesday is comics day. And comics are my not-so-secret vice.

When I was a kid, I read comics – Sad Sack and Lil Hot Stuff from Harvey, World’s Finest and Superman’s Pal – Jimmy Olsen (when Kirby was doing wonderful, weird stuff) and Legion of Super Heroes. I was suspicious of Marvel, because they didn’t do complete stories, and there was no guarantee you’d ever get the next issue. We got them in drugstores and 7-11s and OK Stores, and they were always around. Eventually, I grew out of them.

Then in college I got sucked back in. Another student was into Marvels – FF, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. I got caught with Star Wars (the movie had just come out) and Howard the Duck (back when it was funny – no, really, it was). There was a local bookstore that carried all the majors, so it was easy to get a monthly fix of the books, but it was still pretty much the major two publishers. I started picking up the super-heroes as well (talk about your gateway drugs – you start with a movie tie-in, and move up to the hard stuff). I started running a Project: Marvel Comics RPG in college, which eventually evolved into the original Marvel Super Heroes RPG at TSR.

So after college I started checking out where to find comics in Pittsburgh, my home town. Across the Allegheny River from downtown there was the first direct sale store I encountered – it was called Eides (pronounced “Ides”, and now located on Penn avenue), and it carried DEPTH. Not just the Marvel and DC titles, but the Indies as well – Elfquest and Cerebus. Eide’s was my main comic book fix location (which meant a commute from the East End) until I got the job with TSR and moved to Lake Geneva Wisconsin.

Now, Lake Geneva was a small town north of the Illinois border, notable for the Playboy resort and the Dungeon Hobby Shop (both now gone), but NOT known for having any place you can get comics. So Kate and I (Did I mention Kate was a comic goob as well? She loved the House of Mystery creepy stuff as a girl, and I started sending her my Star Wars comics from college, and then she got really interested in the whole Wanda and Pietro as the children of Magneto thing) would drive up to a little shop north of Milwaukee called The Turning Page. Located near the Oriental Theatre in an old carpeting store, the place had character, but also carried just about everything, and for the first time I hit a store where they laid out the new releases. Kate and I would buy about two weeks worth, then go to a local Chi-chi’s Mexican Restaurant to read (Table for two, no smoking, good light source, please).

The Turning Page was probably the best store I’ve encountered. Eventually a few friends of friends set up a comic book wing in the local Video Galley in Lake Geneva, so we slowed the exodus to Milwaukee from once every two weeks to once every two months. The kids running the Video Gallery did pretty well, since they were just up the road from TSR, and the local game designers were a steady market. When TSR fell on hard times, so did they. TSR left for Washington State, and eventually, I followed them.

The local comic shop in Renton I won’t mention by name, because it ended badly. It was a pretty good shop, with the new releases culled out and pulling service (if you’re going to buy Cerebus every month, they pull it for you right off the top. The shop gets to know what they should order, and you get your stuff). The Renton shop remains popular with most of the WotC gang, and I would recommend it for others. I just can’t go back.

As I said, it ended badly. One Wednesday, the shop was shorted on the new Heroclix product, and the shop owner knew I worked for the ‘Kids. To be fair, the owner had spent most of the day having people call to see if he had product that he did not have. All those potential sales going elsewhere because he didn’t get his full order. Extremely frustrating. So when I hit the door after a long day, he unloaded on me. Hard. It was not a good thing, and probably the worst comic shop encounter I had had in twenty years as a customer. Definitely chewed me a new one. The next day, I did the research on why he was shorted (products arrive in waves, and not all the orders are covered by the first wave), called him to tell him he would get his full shipment as the rest of the containers landed, and went looking for another shop.

Now I have one up on the hill, on Benson. It’s a used bookstore place called Book World. Comics are a very small part of their operation in space, but heavy in percentage of sales. They have a pulling service, the staff is nice, and they have a few quirks (If you pay with credit card, you always have to have ID, even if they know you. If you pay with a twenty, they pull out this little pen to make sure it’s a real bill). They are NOT comics geeks. So far they’ve been pretty good – Nothing like the depth elsewhere (I supplement with a shop further away – Wonder World, when I have to), but Book World’s hours were better for me, and no one there knows who I am.

Which reminds me, I have to go get comics.

Politics later. No, I mean that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

You Kids Behave!

Don't make me bring out the Orbital Mind Control Lasers!.

Bodies in Motion

One of the misconceptions about being laid off is that you suddenly don't have a job. The truth of the matter is that your job changes from whatever it was you were being paid to do to the new job of finding a job. This new job begins the day you're laid off and ends when you change jobs again, from finding a job to an even newer job. People looking for jobs will continue to look for jobs until they have jobs, while people with jobs tend to not look for jobs until they need jobs - Newton's Forgotten Law.

I'd like to thank everyone who had contacted me to express their surprise at my departure, sympathy for my current plight, and assurance that I will "land on my feet". I have spent most of the day updating the resume (minor tweaks, since I tend to keep it updated anyway, because otherwise I forget what I've done), answering emails, sending out feelers to people in the gaming industry and related industries, working on the short story, doing lunch with a former boss, writing follow-ups, networking, and all the stuff you do when you're "not working". Situation is dire but not serious.

Broke from the routine to get some stew meat for dinner (Kate sent me out for a roast, without explaining all the various types of roast, and which type of roast she really wanted - she expected me to just know the right type of roast from all the cooking shows I watch - Wackiness ensued). Broke in the evening to go do Tai Chi, and then wrenched my knee before doing the warm-up excercises. I thought I could manage to baby myself through the entire form, but there is a move in the 42 sword form where you effectively curtsey while bringing the blade around. I made this grinding noise like a car stuck between gears and could not get up. So I have ice on the knee right now as I write this.

I've been thinking about giving the gorey play-by-play as I engage in the new job of looking for a job, but since I never really talked about the old job (except to say that they were a great bunch of guys, we were putting in long hours, and we took off that Friday to go see a movie), I'll probably gloss over it here. Besides, I really have to get back to local politics.

More later,

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I Become Unemployed

Yesterday afternoon, WizKids Games laid off 23 people, about a quarter of the workforce. I was among those let go. The primary reason for the layoff was our inability as a company to make our projected sales numbers. While most of us were aware there were problems, I don't think anyone anticipated the depth and suddeness of the necessary cuts.

Needless to say, I'm not particularly overjoyed with this turn of events. Neither are my fellow employees who was laid off, nor those still with the company after such a traumatic event. This isn't one of those fun situations for anyone. Still, I have the highest regard for my former co-workers, and I am sorry to be leaving them. I had a great time working with them - it was a young, enthusiastic, risk-taking company with a lot of talent, top to bottom. Unfortunately, sometimes risks don't work out, and this is the result of what happens when they don't.

So I stayed away from the blog for the day, contacted family with the news, put things in order, made a few contacts, cleaned out the gutters (we had a massive rainstorm last night that brought down 5 inches of rain and overflowed my rain gauge), went for a long walk along the Soos Creek with Kate, and stopped for a beer with a friend at the Whistle Stop in Renton. I don't think it has all quite sank in fully yet, but I have no doubt that it will. In the meantime, in addition to my suddenly-activated job-hunt, I have a couple short stories that need to be finished, so I will be hunkering down with the computer for a while. Its not going to be a lot of fun, but I think I can handle it.

No cute comments or snazzy exit lines here. I've got a lot of work to do.

More later.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Northwest Bookfest

So yesterday (after taking advantage of the sunny weather to work on the lawn and blow the pine needles off the roof(s), I motored over to the Northwest Bookfest located at the Sand Point Naval Station on Lake Washington. This was the first year they were charging admission as opposed to depending on corporate donations, and as a result the aisles were a tad bit more open than previously, and there were fewer booths as well. The staff took advantage of this with creative live performances of people reading - in bed, in a stuffed overchair, at the office breakroom. It was a very amusing gig. As years previously, there were a lot of local bookstores, local publishers, and a smattering of self-published authors. CNN-2 Book TV was there as well taping some of the more interesting panels, of which we were not.

We were late in the day with a panel discussion on Shared Worlds - Duane Wilkins from the University Bookstore put the panel together, and it consisted of myself, Stan!, Dave Gross, John Pelan, and Bill Dietz. Stan! and Dave are buds, and while I had never met John before, I was a big fan of a previous collection of new stories he edited, set in Ashton Clark Smith's Zothique. He's done a recent collection of Sherlock Holmes/Cthulhu stories, and I picked up a copy. Moderating was Bill Dietz, with Star Wars shared world history along with military SF. Bill was an excellent moderator, and while we had about a dozen people total in the audience (we were the last act of the day), it was a fun panel.

Now, readers of this blog know I've been questioning my own future in writing, either in shared world or for original stuff, and I seriously questioned if I had anything to say on this panel (or at least positive things to say). It turned out to be not really a problem, and I warmed to subject readily. It was a nice mental recharge for the writing, which I need right now.

More later,

Saturday, October 18, 2003


Stan! (yes, his name comes with the exclamation point) celebrated his 39th birthday with a dinner at Jimmy Mac's Roadhouse in Renton followed by Karaoke at Seattle's Best Karaoke downtown.

First off, the dinner. Everyone at the table had either worked for, or was married to someone who worked for WotC. Now the group included representatives (and owners) of a small host of gaming companies: Green Ronin, Malhavoc Press, The Game Mechanics, Sabretooth Games, WizKids, as well as one of the board members for GAMA. How our little group has grown up. Jimmy Mac's is one of those steak and chicken joints where you throw peanut shells on the floor and the staff serenades the birthday boy. Naturally, we gossiped about the industry.

Then Karaoke. Stan! who has lived in Japan, pronounces it Kah-ROAK-eh as opposed to CARE-ee-OAK-ee. SBK is in a chunk of as-yet-unskyscrapered chunk of land between downtown and I-5, near the Seattle Center. Glass storefront, but inside it looks like a cross between a black market medical clinic and an adult movie joint - wide, white halls with a lot of doors on either side and the slight smell of disinfectant and stale cigs.

The doors lead to small rooms with chairs, sofas, a sound system, and a couple TV screens. You select the songs you want from a book, type in the code number, it goes back to the mainframe, pulls the song and video, and sends it back. Its Mitch-Miller-Follow-the-bouncing-ball (for those who remember it), with different colors used for duets.

There were about a dozen of us in the room, with two mikes. Our song selections was definitely rooted in the seventies and eighties. Billie Joel, Elton John, U2, Some Cole Porter, some Beatles. I did “Back in the USSR", complete with Beach-Boys-stylin’ and Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”, in addition to a teamup with Kate on the B-52’s “Love Shack”. Kate for her part warbled some Tracy Chapman and Melissa Etheridge. Out of respect of my fellow singers, I shall reveal no more.

Now, I tend to be a tenor with a limited range, and Kate has described her own singing as “Eleanor Roosevelt takes a song and makes it her own”, but that’s not the point of Karaoke. Its about gathering with friends and letting loose a little. And everyone sounds a little bit better with the reverb turned up.

In any event, my voice is a little raw this morning, and I have the Northwest Bookfest this afternoon. I’m sitting on a panel with Stan! and Dave Gross on shared worlds, and we’ll see how that goes.

More later,

Friday, October 17, 2003


The company I work for has just anounced that it will be doing Major League Baseball SportsClix. This has been a been a big project that everyone involved has been working on for months, and its nice to be able to talk about it.

The only change we've had to make as a result of the playoff is that the product being sold in Chicago will have to increase the size of the warning about "Choking Hazard".

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

So I'm having lunch with a friend yesterday, and I mention I am blogging and he asks what's it about, and I say mostly personal stuff, some local politics, a few reviews, and my new-found professing of Republicanism.

"Oh," he said. "You me like that guy. And he named that guy.

"That guy?" I raised an eybrow, suspicious.

"Yeah, that guy." said my friend. He's been doing that bit for months, now.

So I checked it out, and, yeah, that guy has been proclaiming his new-found Republicanism for months now. And he's made a couple of the same points, but is a tad bit wittier, which makes sense given the fact he has to do it on a more regular basis (he says that as a Republican intellectual, its easier to be "the tallest tree in the forest, if you take his meaning.")

Now as a Republican, I welcome all these Garrison-Come-Latelies to the party, even those who got there before me. But I'm going to leave deep Republican thought to that guy, since he can explain it better, and besides, being on NPR, he has to deal with a rougher crowd (I hear that Terry Gross is hard as nails).

Back to local politics for me.

This just In - Irony not Dead

OK, one more shot. This one is coming off the wire from Knight Ridder and is being noted elsewhere:

Bush told his senior aides on Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and if he did, there would be consequences, a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used told Knight Ridder.

You know, you're SUPPOSED to at least let them get out of the paragraph before letting reality break in.

More later,

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Five

Once more the five. All done without looking:

1. Name five things in your refrigerator.
• Leftover squid rissoto from dinner
• Swiss cheese (from deli department)
• Sliced turkey breast (ditto)
• Milk
• A bottle of Covey Run Late Harvest Reisling

2. Name five things in your freezer.
• Girl Scout Thin Mints
• Kielbasa
• Chocolate Ice Cream
• Frozen Peas
• Cold Packs

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.
• Dishwasher Detergent
• Plastic Strainers/Collanders
• Sponges
• Spic n Span
• An empty orange juice container used for grease.

4. Name five things around your computer.
• A picture of my family
• An Award for Excellence in Gaming
• A VHS copy of "The African Queen"
• Business cards from my last job
• A Maltese Falcon

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.
• Triple-edged razor blades
• Tums
• Aspirin
• Sucrets
• Rechargers for electric shavers I no longer have

More later,


So I get back to my desk yesterday, and the message light is flashing. I have one of those phones that show the number of the person calling, and its my parents phone back in Pittsburgh.

My parents calling me at work. Not a good sign.

So I listen to the message. My mom should be a newscaster - she builds with a story over time.

"Jeff," she says in a grave voice on the recording, "This is mom."
[Oh my goodness, I think, what's wrong?]
"I just calling you tell you . . ." and she pauses.
[Oh jeeze, what is it? Dad? Scott? Gayle? The Grandkids?]
"There's been a tornado in Cranberry."
[Crumbs! That's where my sister Gayle lives!]
"Everyone is fine. It missed the house."
[OK, my heart can start beating again, everything's fine. Deep breaths.]

Actually, it wasn't a tornado, but rather a microburst, a collection of tornadic winds concentrated in a very small area. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, its still nasty. People have only discovered them in the last twenty years or so, mostly because we've only started looking for them. It savaged a local mall, flipped some cars, downed some trees, and sent a number of people to the hospital. This was about a mile away from where my sister lives, who, over the phone (of course I had to call) reported that the winds weren't that bad where she was.

So I'm relieved. One of the downsides of being far from family is that if something happens, you're far from family. Of course, while talking to Gayle, she casually mentions that my brother Scott was on the road behind a tanker that jack-knifed. Actually a mile behind it, in the resultant traffic jam, but that's no fun. We seem to be surrounded by potential danger and mis-chance all of a sudden.

And of course, as I write this, there's this not-so-dormant volcano nearby. Hmmmmm.

More later,

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Happy 122nd, Pelham

This, from the Writer's Almanac:

"It's the birthday of English novelist Sir P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse, born in Guildford, England (1881). He was one of the most popular writers of the first half of the twentieth century. His father worked as a magistrate in Hong Kong, and because his mother traveled back and forth between England and Hong Kong, he was raised mostly by a series of aunts. His books are filled with evil and terrifying aunts, and he once wrote, "It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core they are all alike. Sooner or later out pops the cloven hoof." While he was in high school, he found out that his father had gone bankrupt and wouldn't be able to pay for college. He got a job as a bank clerk and started publishing humorous stories and poetry on the side. He said, "[My] total inability to grasp what was going on [at the bank] made me something of a legend." He eventually switched to journalism, and it was as a journalist that he first traveled to the United States to cover a boxing match. He fell in love with America. He said, "Being there was like being in heaven without going to all the bother and expense of dying." He moved to Greenwich Village in 1909, and began to publish the stories that made him famous in the Saturday Evening Post. From America, he wrote about an imaginary, cartoonish England, full of extremely polite but brain-dead aristocrats, and his work was wildly popular in the years leading up to the decline of the British Empire. He is best known for books such as My Man Jeeves (1919); Carry On, Jeeves (1927); Thank You, Jeeves (1934) and Right Ho, Jeeves (1934) - books about a servant named Jeeves who is constantly saving his employer, Bertie Wooster, from all kinds of absurd situations.

Wodehouse was an extremely shy man. When his wife rented them an apartment in New York, he made her promise to get one on the first floor, because he never knew what to say to the man who ran the elevator. People who knew him said that he was incredibly dull, that he was never funny in person, and that he didn't seem to have any emotions. He said, "I haven't got any violent feelings about anything. I just love writing." Over the course of his life he wrote almost a hundred books of fiction, wrote for sixteen plays, and composed lyrics for twenty-eight musicals. When asked about his technique for writing, he said, "I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit." He is known for his metaphors and similes. He described one character as "A tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say 'when!'" He wrote of another, "He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg." In his lifetime, he was generally considered a writer of light entertainment, but he's since been recognized as a master prose stylist."

On a personal note, Bertie was the inspiration for both Giogi Wyvernspur and Tertius Wands from the Forgotten Realms. The difference between the two is that Giogi found love and grew as a person, while Tertius, like Bertie, remains a cloth-headed today as he was when he first sprang to life.

Happy Birthday, Plum. More later,

Monday, October 13, 2003

Dave Tells a Story

So the second Monday of each month, a group of writers known as the West Coast Alliterates gathers together to drink beer, critique each others' work, and complain about the unfairness of the universe. This month, however, we did without the critiques and minimized the complaints in order to offer our support to one of our number, who performed brilliantly before a live audience.

A Guide to Visitors is a story-telling venue with both open mike slams and "curated shows" on particular themes, operating out of the Rendezvous bar in Belltown (just north of Downtown, 2320 2nd Avenue). The Rendezvous itself is a nicely renovated bar with a small attached theatre, originally used to screen movies for MGM back in the 20s. The theatre seats about 50 without claustrophobia setting in, and there were about 49 of us in the room.

The theme for the night was Ghost Stories, and one of our number, Dave Gross led off with a tale I had never heard him tell before, of him scaring his younger brother with the "Ghost in the Attic" and what happened when the tables were turned on him. Dave was relaxed and personable, a natural talent on the stage, and made both his cruelty and comeupance hilarious. His story was a great opening bell for the five storytellers who followed him.

Not that the other five were slouches - Jake Warga, who has done gigs on "This American Life" told of a haunted summer camp, going into the field with modern ghost-hunters and a psychic. Julian Tudor told a more personal tale of his last meeting with his father after his death. Dave Beck, host of the local radio show "The Beat" did probably the second-funniest bit, dealing with an ill-fortuned Dodge Caravan, literally the Dodge Out of Hell. And Jean Lenihan told a creepy story of electrolysis.

It was the last tale, however, that managed to truly raised the hairs on the back of my neck. It was by the bartender, Owen Clark, who an hour and a half before was pouring drinks up front. He told a bit of the history of the Rendezvous and the theatre, and the three ghosts (that they know of) haunting the place - The Applause, the Fedora, and the One at the Door. Of all the tales, it created the most effect after the show was over. I was checking over my shoulder on the way to the rest rooms.

The hostess for the evening was Jeannie Yandel (who gave me the correct spellings of the names, though I blurred her name in my notes). One of the things that struck me was that how stories tended to beget stories - At Intermission we gathered around, and in quick succession, heard about other ghost stories, being terrified of a broken gas main lighting up the sky, a nuclear war dream, and the most recent large earthquake. It was a good group, and an excellent set of speakers (and though I am playing favorites, I think Dave held his own against a strong field).

Anyway, this is exactly the sort of thing that I would never do back in the Midwest, but given sufficient support and opportunity, would try out here. If you're local, check out the A Guide to Visitors website for their next show.

More later


So if you watched the Seattle/Forty-Niners game last night, you saw a sample of another Puget Sound Weather Pattern - the Wind Storm. Yeah, the 49er kickers were not that bad (I don't think so at least), but the severe hooking of the kicks was primarily from a strong wind coming off the Sound. You don't see it in the uniforms, but look at the ref's shirts and the sideline personnel - all the fabric is rippling from the wind.

This has more important effects than just throwing a football game in our direction. There have been storm surges on the Pacific beaches, and a winter storm watch in the Cascades. In our area, its been a couple nights of rushing wind pushing the trees aside, and a new fall of leaves and pine needles. I had forgotten about the latter - with the dry weather, I haven't had to worry about visitors tracking in needles into the living room. Now I have to get out the vac for that, and the blower to get them off the roofs (we have low, sloping roofs, and if left there, the needles will form a foundation for moss.

More later,

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Monkey Alert!

Friend and fellow author KiJ Johnson has a story on the web, "At the Mouth of the River of Bees" that may be found here. She is one of the founding simians and lynchpins of the Thousand Monkeys writing group, and the group has not been the same since she and Chris decamped for Kansas.

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

Well, if you want to get people going, just start talking politics.

Thanks to Janna and Eric for the kind words about "I take a stand" and cross-links from their own journals. No. I'm not sending it to Salon. Like they need one more witty liberal.

My conservative younger brother, always the contrarian, has chosen to become a Democrat just to spite me. I strongly encourage him to get his own blog, and I encourage his fellow workers (who apparently read this but don't "get" the play reviews) to encourage him as well.

Actually, the way blogs work, all of my younger brother's co-workers can get on the same blog. A blog of purchasing folk working for a transportation company in Pittsburgh. No, its not a silly idea - here are a couple personal blogs I pay attention to that belong to total strangers. One belongs to a tuna fisherman, and the other to a young pastry chef). I just tripped over them en route to other things and now check in about once a week and learn about the tuna industry.

And, since I threw out a couple Loosey-Leftie Blogs the last time, here are some Tightie-Righties that I regularly check out here and here. The latter is an anonymous staffer on Capital Hill.

And since this particular entry has turned into a link-fest (and I haven't quite got the hang of it, yet), here's one that friend Larry Weiner posted over to me - Emeril versus Cthulhu.

Actually, I'm starting to like Emeril. More later.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Rainbow Season

The dry spell has broken, and while Seattle has not fully returned to daily rains, they are getting more common (about an inch of rain since the start of the month)* And this time of year, we're talking rains varying from thin mists to heavy, midwestern spatters, skies of dark ragged clouds pregnant with moisture moving low against the gray overcast, and, of course, rainbows.

Rainbows are large and spectacular out here - full bows spreading across the sky, brilliant spectra catching in the westering sun, hot, almost radiant colors against the shredded grey clouds behind. I was driving over to my Thursday Gaming Group tonight, and caught a full bow over Soos Creek, shining like strings of hard penny candy, its foundations firmly planted in evergreens at either side.

Beautiful stuff. Makes you willing to put up with the traffic.

*My folks gave us a rain gauge as a present. They may have intended it as a joke, but I've got it mounted on the back deck and check it at the start of every month.

The Five

The Friday Five (found here) for this week:

1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones?
Professional Baseball, Professional Football, Curling. No, Really. Curling. I will curl up on a Sunday Morning on the couch and actually watch curling.

2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes?
I'm from Pittsburgh, growing up there in the 60s and 70s. So we're talking about Stargell and Clemente in baseball, Bradshaw and Joe Green in football. Bears and Green Bay when I lived in the midwest in the 80s and 90s. Currently it would be Ichiro of the Mariners and Hasselbeck of the Seahawks. I wish the best of luck to the Cubbies - I have friends in Chicago who have suffered enough.

3. Are there any sports you hate?
Golf. Basketball (Pro or college). Went to school in the Midwest but never understood the appeal of March Madness.

4. Have you ever been to a sports event?
Two Mariners games this year, early in the season, against the A's and then the Yankees. My first baseball game was the Pirates at old Forbes Field (the home plate is still preserved in the hallway of the Law Building of the University of Pittsburgh, which was built on that site).

5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play?
Little League as a kid through grade school. My modern physical activities are non-competitive (Hiking, Biking, Tai Chi). OK, some bocce as well, and (more rarely now) volleyball.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Red Wind

Blogging has been good in that I have been able to shake off a little of the literary rust that's been clogging up my veins for the past few months. And just as well, since I really have to finish a short story I promised someone six months back.

So as I prepare for a short story, I go back and read some Raymond Chandler. Part of it is delay, but part of it is also inspiration.

I like Chandler for a number of reasons. He worked in a genre and mastered it. His language is both ornate and realistic. And he was about my current age when he started writing. As a result, his stuff has a deeper, lived-in feel to it than a lot of hot young writers.

And he's written probably my favorite opening paragraph. Here it is:

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

It captures that edgy, enclosed feel of a hot California night right there, claustrophobic and sweaty. The passage is from the short story "Red Wind", and after this opening its pretty typical Chandler - which is to say wonderfully written, but slamming against the edges of the hardboiled detective fiction box (The narrator is getting a drink at said cocktail bar. Its him, the bartender, and drunk at the end of the bar. Another guy comes in and asks if anyone has seen a woman - he describes her. No one has. Then the drunk pulls a gun, addresses the newcomer by name, and puts three bullets into the newcomer's heart - you know, typical hardboiled stuff).

Anyway, Chandler remains one of my faves, and I go back to his work regularly before I start my own. If you haven't checked out his stuff, I recommend it.

More later,

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I Take a Stand

In light of the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to eliminate the blanket primary in Washington State and thereby punish independent thought (see entries earlier in this blog), I have decided to declare a political party.

I have decided to become a Republican. You should, too.

It is a decision that I come to after much deep thought and consideration, asking that basic question “What’s in it for me?” The fact that I consider this a basic question is already an indication I should be a Republican. Here are some others:

Siding with the Big Guys – So much is going wrong with the country, and I think its better to stand with the people doing the damage as opposed to those on the receiving side. It is better to be at the grip end of the bat as opposed to the business end, if you take my meaning.

Low Entrance Fee – Let’s face it, the bar is not particularly high to be a Republican anymore. It used to be you had to have some deeply held beliefs about fiscal conservatism, personal responsibility, and sound money policy. Now you just have to have deeply held beliefs in whatever the party believes in this week, and you get in. It’s a faith-based initiative.

Diversity – There are not a lot of Intellectuals in the Republican ranks. There ARE smart, thoughtful Republicans, but they’re smart enough to shut up and let the rest of the party lead. You go to a Democrat function and you’re in competition with other smart people. Go Republican and the chances that you are the smartest person in the room increases dramatically. I think this is what appealed to Dennis Miller. Downside is – no one gets your jokes anymore.

Blood of the Lamb – One becomes a Republican and all is forgiven. It’s sort of political baptism. All of the sins of the past are washed clean and never spoken of again by proper people. The idea of tracking a person’s actions twenty, thirty minutes after the fact and holding them responsible is so 20th Century. Unless they’re Democrats, and then everything they’ve ever done (in this life and previous lives) is fair game For example, recently Kelsey Grammar indicated his interest in politics. Had he chosen Democrat, the media would have noted his past drug history, but as a Republican, they all nodded sagely and welcomed him to the fold. General Clark, on the other hand, chose poorly, and much research has been done to prove he is really a Republican, and we don’t want him anyway.

Blood of the Lamb II – More importantly, the age limit of “Youthful Indiscretions” has been raised to 60. I have another 15 years to screw up!

Kid Glove Treatment – If I do screw up, the Established Media will be loath to report it. You only play “Gotcha” with Democrats. If I screw up and get caught, the story will be buried. And If I screw up and get caught and somehow the story gets out (stupid internet!), the Established Media will then fall upon itself, sitting around wondering what it did wrong, and STILL not follow up on it.

Job Opportunities – OK, let’s assume I screw up, get caught, the media pays attention, and I get convicted of, oh, conspiracy, lying to Congress, and destroying evidence. I can STILL get hired by a Republican Administration! And put in charge of investigating OTHER PEOPLE! John Poindexter is SUCH a role model for the struggling ex-con! Who says Republicans are unforgiving?

Mission from God – Democrats hear voices in their heads and they seek medication. Republicans hear voices in their heads and consider it revelation to invade other countries.

Company in My Sins – Face it, the cool kids are all over in the Republican party. These days you talk about a Republican who is a “substance-abusing, draft-dodging womanizer” and people have to ask for another clue to know as to who you’re talking about. You can’t help but look better by comparison.

Trump Card In Arguments – I think this was an Amendment to the Constitution or something. You get the last word in all arguments. You get your choice of “Why do you hate America?”, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?” and my favorite, “Shut up! Just shut up!”

But most of all -

I Don’t Have To Be Nice Anymore – Not that I was particularly nice before, mind you, but now I don’t have to feel guilty about it. Those that disagree with me are traitors. Don’t you know there’s a war on? Why do you hate America? Woo-Hoo!

I’m sure that after reviewing all of the above, you’ll agree with me that becoming a Republican is only right-thinking choice in this universe. Come on over to the Dark Side – the water’s fine!

(This is SO why I don’t have a comments section. More later)

Monday, October 06, 2003

The Blog Goes Ever On And On

A pretty good day, all things considered. Got into the office at dawn, accomplished real work on a new project that suddenly manifested in my area at the end of last week, got some playtesting notes that were promising, and got home early enough to sit on my back porch as the rains started moving in.

Its been still too dry our here, even with fogs in the morning, and I could go for at least a week of rain. What most people don't tell you about Seattle is that most of the rain is in the evening and overnight, so that sleeping with your windows open (we have wide eaves out in our architecture out here) is a viable option. In any event, I had the chance to sit on my back porch as low dark clouds swept up from the south, and the early breeze pushed out before the stormfront stirred the treetops, rattled the windchimes and brought down the first dead leaves of fall down onto the recovering lawn. The sky gets darker still, then the first heavy drops of rain, moving across the backyard, south to north, away from me. I stayed on the porch, dry under the eaves, until enough puddles gathered on the deck to splash back from the falling drops.

This is a reason I like it out here. Really.

Its been an interesting blogging experience so far. Pretty much its been the "target audience" of a) family far away from here b) distant friends wondering what I'm up to, and c) more nearby friends who want some cheap entertainment. I have found that blogs are a good way of getting communications out - I have a friend who was in a car accident a few weeks back, and I only found out via her husband's weblog (I mean, its not like you send out Hallmark Cards - "I'm OK but the car was totaled").

And I'm pretty happy with Blogspot, the service that handles this, so far. A lot of the gang I know are on Livejournal, (for example here, here, and here), but I'm comfortable with the ease of use. There are several additional features on Livejournal, but I really don't need them.

One such feature is the "friends" section that lets you catch the most recent updates of other LiveJournal friends. That's nice, but getting a chunk of someone else's blog is sort of pulling it out of context. A lot of my blogging stuff is tied in one way or another with earlier entries, and if someone is interested, they can just follow my thinking back to its source. I may put in links here, when I get the chance, but I feel no rush yet.

Another Livejournal feature, which again I could enable here with a little work, is a "Comments" section. I'm pretty comfortable with this being a one-way medium as far as updates and great thoughts, and if you have any updates and/or great thoughts, you can always email me. Or you could get your own blog, I suppose. And if you don't have my email address, how the heck did you get here?

That's about it - I'm a little dry on great thoughts at the moment. In part its the weather - the coolness of the evening, the sound of rain in the backyard, the low hum of the computer fan. Its pretty pleasant, all in all. A pretty good day, all things considered.

More later,

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Friday Five on Saturday

So there's a website here that does a "Friday Five" - questions for general answers from the blogosphere. I'm going to do it for October. Here's the first one:

1. What vehicle do you drive? A 2001 Honda Insight Hybrid

2. How long have you had it? Little more than a year. Bought it a year ago June as Kate's car, then when I got a job in Bellevue, it became my commuter vehicle. It is named "Doc Bunny" after Kate's character in a Star Wars RPG.

3. What is the coolest feature on your vehicle?The engine turns off when you stop for a light, then re-engages when you take your foot off the brake

4. What is the most annoying thing about your vehicle?I park it outside my garage. Cats jump up on it to warm themselves on the cooling hood late at night, and set off the alarm

5. If money were no object, what vehicle would you be driving right now? A SHIELD flying car. When I was a kid, I really lusted after the 68 Corvette Stingray (with the arrowhead-shaped hood), but having driven one since I don't like the ride nearly as much. Anyway, its the 21st Century. Where are my flying cars?


The RundownStarring The Rock, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, and Rosario Dawn; Directed by Peter Berg, Story and Screenplay by R.J.Stewart

So Friday afternoon, our vice-president Jim Long took us to the movies (there will be a brief pause here as all people reading this in an office gnash their teeth). About twenty of us bounced over to the Galleria to see The Rundown. It was fun, a group activity that got us out of the office.

OK, if you're the type of person who has trouble believing in baboons in the Amazon, or that the music coming out of a Irishman's bagpipes is Scottish, or Asian martial arts actors as indigenous natives, then flee this movie entirely. Its not for you. It will just bounce you out of the roller-coaster ride, which is what this movie is truly about.

The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is Beck, a "claims expert" working for a bookie. He's only doing it so he can save up for a restaurant, so you know he's a nice guy. His final assignment is to bring back the bookie's son (Seann William Scott, from American Pie, and, um, some MTV Awards shows. The son is in a South American mining town ruled by evil Christopher Walken (redundancy in terms). The son is down there searching for a golden idol, with the help of Rosario Dawn (previous big thing - the good girl eye-candy in MIB II. The Rock goes to the Amazon and wire fu wackiness and explosions ensue.

The Rock is actually a very likeable screen presence, though his character arc is based entirely on the "Push him until he pushes back" model. He's a lot more tolerable than the Terminators and Rambos of the 80s, mixing a bit of Harrison Ford into the mix. Christopher Walken as the bad guy is ... Christopher Walken as a bad guy. You know what you're getting, and he chews the jungle scenery with aplomb, continuing to cash in on his spooky erudite madman schtick.

The Director's last gig was Very Bad Things and has a bad case of MTV quick-cuts, but it moves along the plot well enough. The screenwriter is out of Xena and Cleopatra 2525, so the action is along those lines, but with a bigger budget. The humor is along those lines as well. The best gag in the movie is in the opening, where The Rock has to get a Superbowl Ring off a deadbeat pro quarterback at a club, who is partying with his offensive line. As his cronies are introduced, they get a Monday Night Football heads-up display with their stats. Transposition of that bit onto the screen sets up an easy acceptance for the rest.

The plot moves along. You know what's going to happen in the way of major plot points, like a gymnast's routine at the Olympics. The only questions is how its delivered. Its wire-assisted martial arts sections are neat, its explosions are digitally enhanced, and in some places its special effects just suck out loud. However The Rock is a rock, holding the center of the movie together. He can do more, and is growing as an actor.

You have Showtime or HBO? This is will be on in 6 months. Otherwise its a pleasant way to spend a Friday afternoon. Thanks, Jim!

Thursday, October 02, 2003

On the Road Again: Bumper Crop

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS,” reads the bumper sticking on the car ahead of me, “IMPEACH BUSH.”

Now, on one hand that statements seems to underscore the kooky, kicky, crazy attitude of that gosh-darn liberal Seattle (and I have seen bumper stickers that say “RE-DEFEAT BUSH in 2004” already) but it also underscores something that a lot of people don’t realize about the Puget Sound area.

This is a military town. In fact, its more militarized than any place I have ever lived, with the immediate effects of military decision have great influence on the neck of the woods in which I live.

I’m serious. Growing up south of Pittsburgh, the only immediate military presence I remember was the NIKE site (missiles, not shoes) on the hilltop horizon while walking along Washington Road to high school. In SE Wisconsin, army trucks were often convoyed along the interstate from one destination to another, but other than that (and the mysterious giant radar station north of town) there was very little obvious military presence.

Not here. McChord Air Force Base. The Bremerton Naval yards. Whitby Island Naval Air Station. Fort Lewis army base. Bangor Naval Base, where the boomers are parked. And those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head without a map. Large chunks of land out here are militarized, along with former military areas that have since been turned over to civilian hands, like Sand Point, where used book sales are held in old Navy hangers, or Discovery Park, where beachwalkers pass beneath the foundations of old gun emplacements from the World Wars.

Its more than just land. Boeing is the second largest munitions-maker in the world (Lockheed is #1 by most accounts), and ranges from military aircraft airframes to cruise missiles in the Puget Sound area. Microsoft may seem be dedicated only to the driving computer-users crazy with their software, but has contributed a month of work in the past year, company-wide, to the task of software security. And even Boeing field, where the Museum of Flight is located, is right next to a couple hump-backed spy planes, which disappear on a semi-regular basic, only to be back the next morning.

And there is the people. Now, part of it is because I tend to work and hang out with young people, but I know a lot of recent veterans. I play poker with vets. Kate plays D&D with reservists. I have former co-workers who were in the last Gulf War. I have co-workers and friends with immediate family in harms way. There is a word for people like me in the Seattle area – Typical.

So military decisions have a lot of effect our in this neck of the woods, whether it be deployments, or reductions in benefits, or just the mule-headedness of bureaucratic thinking. Seattle is a lot closer to the front lines than any place I have lived, and its effects show on our people. There are a lot of local families worried about what is happening, and what they can do. There are way too many “local stories” in the papers about separations and deployments and losses. Our military decisions are personal to a lot of the population.

So the person driving in front of me could just be a fuzzy-headed lib. There seem to be more of them every day. Or it could a person whose sister is in the Reserve, or a parent with a child in the Navy, or just someone with a friend or even a friend of a friend in the National Guard. And if they’re not watching out for them, who is?

Support our troops.

Quick One

When I first saw the cover of The Repentant, I though it was weird. Its a full bleed cover with the title of the book on a tombstone halfway down the page, the entire painting done in "horror colors" - black, grey, and violet (Go to the bookstore - you'll see you can cruise the shelves by color sometimes). There's a cluster of tombstones at the top of the cover, but it just seemed an odd cover treatment.

Well, Brian Thomsen, editor of the book, pointed out to me what it was SUPPOSED to be. Those tombstones at the top of the cover have the names of the authors on them. If you look, my name is on the pedestal topped by the black ball. You can make out a few letters of the various names on the final cover, but for the most part, the effect is lost, both because of printing and because of the darkness. Great idea, but it just didn't work here.

More later.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Local Boy Makes Good

From today's Writer's Almanac, a very good daily dose of bits about writers and other creatives.

"It's the birthday of aviation pioneer William E. Boeing, born in Detroit, Michigan (1881). He went to Harvard, but left early to go into the timber industry. He became interested in flying, took lessons, and bought a small plane. On his first solo flight from Los Angeles to Seattle, he misjudged his landing and damaged his plane. When he learned that replacement parts would take weeks to ship, he decided to make his own, and that was the start of the company that became Boeing Aviation."