Saturday, November 22, 2003

Blog Silent, Blog Deep

Grubb Street is going quiet for the next week to ten days. Basic upkeep plus concentrating on finishing a short story. Its not because I have run out of things to say.

Check back early next month.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Five By Five By Friday

A large one this time:

1. List five things you'd like to accomplish by the end of the year.
• Find full-time employment
• Finish writing two short stories
• Clean out the Archive Room Downstairs (Hehl-LO Ebay!)
• Pick up a book contract
• Call the plumber about that leak in the upstairs bath.

2. List five people you've lost contact with that you'd like to hear from again.
(I've been blessed in that I am still in contact with most of the people I choose to be in contact with. But still a few have fallen by the wayside.)
• Joe Karpierz (who I know does ego-scans on Google, so write, man!)
• Cathy & Dave Collins (A couple, but each counts.)
• Chris Lee Birdsong (old girlfriend)
• Leila Lee Larsen (old girlfriend)

3. List five things you'd like to learn how to do.
• Paint and Draw.
• Bake (cooking is not brain surgery. baking is).
• Speak to large groups without fear or nervousness.
• Not talk to myself at traffic lights.
• Perfect that mind control device I've been working on.

4. List five things you'd do if you won the lottery (no limit).
• Pay off the house.
• Ensure the college educations of all my nieces and nephews.
• Buy the first hybrid SUV that rolls off the assembly line, and paint it dark blue with electic lightning bolts on the side.
• Fund local politics, including making Fairwood/Bensen Hill its own community, and protecting more land inside the growth boundary from development.
• Found an organization that awards Knighthoods to Americans.

5. List five things you do that help you relax.
• Read
• Cook
• Walk
• Hot bubble baths
• Tai Chi (but only when my chi is mighty!)


So the first winter I moved out here, I got a phone call from my mom back in Pittsburgh.

"Hi, Honey."

"Hi, Mom."

"I hear you have some bad weather out there."

I got up from my desk andwalked to the back porch. The sky was blue. The grass was still green. Birds were picking a suet on the feeder. I was working in my short sleeves.

"Uh . . . no. Where did you get that idea?"

She got that idea from the Weather Channel, that was breathlessly reporting that the passes had closed. The passes are about an hour's drive away and several thousand feet higher up, and indeed, they were shut, sealing off that entrance to the Puget Sound area. The idea of something like this shutting us off from the rest of the nation appeals to me, and probably accounts for some of the insular nature of the region.

So I explain to Mom that out here, snow is measured by altitude, not latitude. It can be snowing like the dickens up in the passes, and we have nothing down here by the Sound. I told her she should call back when it hits the 500 foot level, which is the height of Benson Hill.

Last night, the snow level hit 500 feet.

I awoke to a wonderful carpet of about a half-inch of snow, enough to cover the unraked leaves, grass, and other sundries in the yard and wrap the area in a white blanket. And the radio was reporting on the threats of the dreaded black ice.

Now, when I was a lad - heck, even five years ago, we didn't have this black ice. We just had slick roads. Now there's that dreaded black ice, which LOOKS just like wet asphalt, but is insideous and nasty and tricksy. The Weather Channel (and others) have grabbed this new meme and made it part of the mental landscape, so that every time it gets cold and wet, people panic about the dreaded black ice, and drive accordingly. Which in Seattle, means to say, badly.

I had to be up early to drive a pair of friends to the airport, and found the roads to be wet but not a patch of dreaded black ice. The snow was on Benson Hill, and at SeaTac as well (the airport is on the hill on the opposite side of the Renton valley), but the lowlands were clear and just wet. Its pleasant, and the air has a nice clean, metallic flavor to it.

So of course I could get into work. Everyone else will have to deal with the dreaded black ice, and worse yet, people trying to avoid the dreaded black ice.

So I'm just glad I'm here.

More later

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Pirates of the Cerebellum

So for the past five days, I have been laboring under a curse. The name of that curse is: The Song in Your Head.

You know what I mean - you hear a song, and nothing short of a lobotomy seems to be able to get it out of your brain. It has dug in, spearing deeply sidewise into your gray matter and sending off barbed hooks, lodging it deep within your mind. It is with you when you awaken and when you are working and it is the last thing you hear before you sleep. The Song in Your Head. Worse yet, the esoteric song no one else has even heard of.

Here's the song that did it to me:
"Who'll make his mark?" The captain cried
"To the devil drink a toast.
We'll fill the hold with cups of gold
And we'll feed the sea with ghosts
I see you hunger for a fortune,
You'd be better served beneath my flag
If you've the stomach for a broadside,
Come aboard, my bonnie lads!"

Now, for people UNDER the age of 30, that particular verse is from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's song "Pirates" which appeared on their "Works" album back when I was still is college. It was overproduced anthem rock, filled with synthesizer riffs that slithered across the speakers and electronic chanties that erupted from a surging tidepool of constant key changes and tempo shifts. I loved such pretentious preachings and multi-rock chordation as an angry young man, but I've mellowed and besides, its been years. I could go for a couple decades before hearing it again.

So my wife played the vinyl album on Friday, played it, sang along for a while, then moved on to "Year of the Cat". But the song, the song, the horrid, pretentious long song became lodged in my mind and has haunted me for the past five days. Add to the fact that it brought back to me a time that was the emotional equivalent to biting down on tin foil and I knew I had to get rid of it.

You get rid of a song in your head by getting a catchier, sometimes better but often worse song in your head, and for the past few days I've been trying. Yellow Submarine. Chumbawumba. Dark Side of the Moon. Paradise by the Dashboard Light. The tune from Pirates of the Caribbean. Peace Train. The Donkey Kong theme. Nothing stuck for long, even suggestions from fellow writers over beer. I strongly considered a mallet.

Then T'Ed Stark came up to me with a song caught in his head that he couldn't get rid of, which proved the ultimate salvation. He had the ultimate worse song, the one that could not be trumped, and if it was maddening, it was at least more upbeat than this haunting overproduced horror out of my past history. It was my salvation song.

Of course, I'm talking about the theme from "I Dream of Jeanie"

Everybody now!
dah-DAH dah-dah-dee-dah-dah.
dah-DAH dah-dah-dee-dah-dah.
dah-DAH dah-dah-dee-dah-dah
BUMM (pock pah-pock-pock)

And now its in YOUR head.

More later,

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Peter Canlis Shrimp

I spent the day worrying my way through a short story. It just isn't behaving right now - I want to just finish it and then go back and fix everything, but my mind is being too literal and linear - I have to research cooperage extensively before I can put a long-handled bung hammer in one of my character's hands (We're talking barrel-making here - get your mind out of the gutter). Kate was similarly wrapped up with her tax prep studies. So about 5:30 Kate sat down in my office, declared she had no idea what we were going to do for supper, and would appreciate my input, seeing how I had purchased YET ANOTHER cookbook the day before.

So we went through The Northwest Best Places Cookbook (Vol 2) and settled on something that we had in the house. In this case it was Peter Canlis Shrimp (Page 46), an appetizer that we spun into a full meal, in a manner that would cause the restaurateur to fling himself from the balcony of his stylish and excellent restaurant if he even found out (so please don't tell him).

The recipe calls for about a dozen large shrimp, but we had a frozen bag of 40-count, so they served instead. We had the dried pepper flakes and even a fresh lime to squeeze. But instead of vermouth, all we had in the house was sake, so we made an odd replacement. Used the shells to make a Shrimp Butter that was extremely tangy.

The end result was interesting - I'd like to run it again with the vermouth. The sake had almost a "hollow" taste, but sake tastes like an absence of flavor as opposed to a strong flavor itself to me. The heat of the dish was about right - 1 teaspoon of pepper flakes was more than sufficient. We served it on salad and with fresh bread. It was nice, but then any dish that used a full stick of butter has a lot to recommend it.

Cooking is often the art of replacement and improvising, and this is an example of that. Still, I want to try the real thing now, as a result of this experiment, and figure out how its SUPPOSED to taste.

More later,

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Green Eggs and Hammond

Its quite obvious that Steve Hammond, representing the 9th district in the King County council, reads this blog. How else to explain that, two days after mentioning that the new development down the road has pretty much trashed 196th street, a road crew has patched the entire matter up with a new asphalt cover, and got rid of the metal plates and the potholes.

Yes, it could be that the road was so reduced to rubble that construction equipment risked breaking axles on it. Or that someone else with a little bit of real political pull might make 196th their standard commute and just happen to have Steve's home phone. Or even that they were scheduled to do it. But I prefer to wallow in self-deception on this one, connecting two random occurances and calling it a victory.


So this morning I went downtown for the Fifth Annual Seattle Cooks! Gourmet Food & Kitchen Show. It was in the Washington State Convention Center, which most people know as the building that turns I-5 into a tunnel right after I-90 runs into it.

This was a mixed bag, a full convention hall of food-related things. There were a couple restaurants (Icon Grill, Ray's Boathouse), a lot of small foodstuffs companies (Sausages, cheeses, and way too many rubs, oils, and herbal drizzles), representatives of basic food groups (The might Beef Council down through Discover Duck and the Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, to Egg-land, which is a franchise of premium egg-producers). Kitchen equipment (fridges down to cutlery), Dishware (original ceramics and Polish Kitchen pottery), and deserts (they had a new Chocolates stage). And then there were the weird ones - Steamers, jewelers, the Post-Intelligencer, and talk-radio 570 KVI (yeah, right-wing talker Sean Hannity always makes ME hungry for a good salmon rub) that you can only figure are there because they bought space in the program.

The talks were pretty cool - I missed the one on Kobe beef (though not the line for people wanting a free sample), but caught a good one on short ribs and one on a shrimp dish that made me purchase the cookbook (that, a loaf of fennel-seed bread and a whim purchase of hot chili teriyaki sauce were my only outlays. OK, admission and parking as well). The free samples (see above for oils, rubs, and drizzles, which one marketer has christened "Finishing Sauces"). One booth was doing a hot oil that blasted most people's tastebuds for anything else. I think an ice cream shop doing sorbets would have cleaned up here.

The best free sample, by the way, was macaroni and cheese from the Icon Grill. I got the recipe and it is much more involved than your standard Kraft box-o-pasta. But it was really, really good. If I make it I'll tell you.

The crowd was mostly my age or older - general food network groupies (Borders had a booth with cookbooks for most of the current hotnesses - Alton Brown, Emeril, and local fave Kathy Casey (who's cookbook I picked up, though from her booth instead of the big box bookseller)). The crowd was also both polite and maladroit, from the amount of times someone nibbling on a Moroccan Olive body-checked me into the Honest Tea booth. It was pleasant, and good way to spend a couple hours.

More later,

Strange Dreams

So I don't talk about dreams - they tend to be personal email from the un- or subconscious, but last night was just . . . strange.

My dreams don't normally have a vertical component. I rarely (and by rarely I mean once every two months or so) have a dream where I'm flying, or falling, or even looking up. A lot of my memorable dreams involve architecture, cities, and streets. So I'm an engineer at heart.

Last night was a series of very strange dreams, in that they continued and evolved through numerous scenes, and were all set among the mountains. A lot of people I knew were gathered in a town much like Concrete, Washington, a valley town on the Skaggit River framed by two great rills of mountains, with the river and a single main road down the center. We were in the basement of an old whitewashed church, which in addition to a movie theatre beneath the chapel, had a wet bar with mirrored tile and various prop sets, including a dungeon. I went for a walk and found myself going up the side of one of these mountains, which was being either excavated or the valley in front of it was being filled. It was all dirt, no stone, like a sand castle that has been scooped out, and yellow orange dozers were moving around.

I returned to the Church, where everyone was paying for the meal. I gathered the money, when a former WotC co-worker informed me I had forgotten the tax. I had not decided how much money people were paying, and people were just leaving money so I didn't know who paid. I yelled at the co-worker, and that brought me awake, angry and seething (which is a rarity as well).

The dream resumed after I got back to sleep. Still in the mountains, but our old high school (Mt Lebanon) was in it now. The interior of the building was TSR, and I was trying to clean my old cube (second floor, main building) when the Vice President of Sales from WizKids came in with gift bags and set them down, so other people came into my messy cube in order to get them. I took the last gift bag, and realized that it held something belonging to a friend, a magazine. In the magazine was a photo of a church basement with the dungeon. A young englishman informed me that his band had done the photo shoot, and they had to bring in their own vermin. I knew he was lying - that rat on the mantlepiece had been ceramic.

So I went off after the friend, and noticed the mountains surrounding the school - tall, narrow peaks truncated at the top, with greenery reaching almost to the plateaus. My friend (his identity changed as I walked) was ahead of me. He had to get to where he had parked his car. Earlier in the dream (either really earlier or filled in in the middle of the dream as a flashback) he had been plunging to his apparent death in his underwear, when he came up with an excellent tire commercial. He survived the fall, and now was successful and had a car, which he had parked as far away from the school as possible.

I finally had caught up with him (Kate was with me at this point, bundled against the cold -as we moved away from the school it got chiller). Now the magazine was an electronic handheld device, like a TV remote. Kate noted we could have walked there through the woods instead of across the parking lot, but I was too old and heavy to make it down the trails. And I awoke.

This was a weird dream, and like dreams, means something that is obvious to everybody else but is opaque to me. Probably work- and career-related. But the fact it hung with me through two awakenings, and dealt in imagery that is odd for me (We're talking dramatic, New Zealand, LOTR/Xena mountains), it bears mentioning.

More later,

Friday, November 14, 2003

Ghost In the Machine

So its been two weeks and I haven't talked about the new job. I never really talked too much about the old job, either, but it has been a change in my life and is now eating up the majority of my daylight hours.

It's been . . . nice. One of the things is that I know most of the people, and still interact well. There was this strange you've-been-out-with-mono-for-the-semester-but-now-you're-back feeling, but in general its be . . . nice. Part of it is that there a lot of other returning familiar faces at the company, both in permanent positions and other contractors. So its been . . . nice.

Part of its the position - I'm contract work, a financial ablative armor, the business version of shuttle tiles, the first members of the crew to be jettisoned should something go terribly, terribly wrong. In that respect, I live in the grey area between employment and unemployment, and that's a little creepy.

By the same token, I've got a clearly defined mission and limitations. The project is my reason for being, so I have less tendency to wander off to helping other people with their problems (Others have tried to recruit me thrice now for other interesting projects that which, while interesting, are outside my raison d'etre). I also am keeping track of my hours, and discover (surprise) that I have to put in LESS hours than I normally do to avoid hitting my 40 hours a week at Noon on Friday. Friday has already turned into a sleep-in-late day, so I get to the office with the rest of the card R&D staff.

The work itself has been interesting and challenging, and I have made the change-over this week from figuring out how the heck things worked to making positive contributions. The department consists of two other guys and a manager, but both the co-designers I would interact with have been out with family problems and major sickness, leaving me to deal with the manager. Which has been a lot of fun, and though we don't agree on everything, he's been surprisingly patient. Again, my temporary nature gives me a great willingness to learn from their previous experiences.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I'm rather round-heeled about new projects, but I've gotten comfortable much quicker than I thought I would. An acclimation phase of about a week borders on the near-miraculous. and I've been putting hard 8s (and 9s) into the project regularly, with provable results and more playtesting than your standard RPG ever sees.

So it's been . . . nice. I don't want to get too comfortable, since it all ends before Christmas. So this weekend I have to concentrate on other matters and see what I can do to get something going with the New Year. The other job that I have in addition to this job.

More later,

The Five

Its Friday, so here's a quick one from the Friday Five:

1. Using one adjective, describe your current living space. Comfortable.

2. Using two adjectives, describe your current employer. Creative, Bureaucratic.

3. Using three adjectives, describe your favorite hobby/pasttime. Arcane, Social, Talmudic.

4. Using four adjectives, describe your typical day. Focused, Creative, Productive, Exhausting.

5. Using five adjectives, describe your ideal life. Peaceful, Warm, Quiet, Challenging, Long.

More later,

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Evil Thought for the Day

The advantage of the Atkins diet is that there are more Crispy Creme donuts for the rest of us.

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

You may have noticed some changes. I went into the template and messed around with fonts and colors. I used the time-honored tradition of Mucking With It. Under the rule of Mucking With It, you go into the matter with a minimum of knowledge (in this case, a single page of the FAQ from Blogger) and then make incremental changes. Then you check it to see if you can notice any difference. If not, you change it back. If you blow it up, you change it back. If you notice a difference, AND it doesn't blow up, you keep it.

So I altered the colors and the typeface of the type, going with Courier in honor of my ancient typewriter mentality. After I made the color changes, I realized I had selected the school colors my high school, Mount Lebanon High (home of the Blue Devils - Fundies take note).


More later,

Monday, November 10, 2003

585 Days

The call came in yesterday afternoon. I mentioned earlier that one of Kate's fellow gamers in her Sunday afternoon Star Wars campaign is Army Reserve, and his wife called in the middle of the game to tell him that the call came in. They would be shipping out in about a week. Parts unknown, officially - he could be Fort Lewis or Ohio or Iraq. Given that his unit commanders have been asking all the soldiers to have their personal affairs in order, I'm not holding out too much hope for Fort Lewis. They played late and got his character to a stopping point, because they don't know when they'll be back together again.


Anyway, our reservist is a pretty nice guy, hopelessly right of center, but intelligent, and a good gamer and good father and husband (his wife's been up here to the house more than a few times). He teaches high school, but that has to go on hold for the duration. And the duration is 18 months. 585 days. His specialty is disease control. Two years ago he was studying hanta virus and prepping for jungle work. Now he may be heading for the Big Sandy.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. I wish to honor the men and women who have served their country, and have sacrificed on its behalf. But to be honest, while I wish to honor our veterans, it would please me greatly if we didn't make any more of them.

That's it for now,

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Play: Living in Dog Time

21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ by Mike Daisey, INTIMAN Theatre, through 22 November.

You know, there should be more one-man shows starring fat white guys wearing black. No, really. I’ve had enough plays on multi-generational female families, thank you, or historical black experiences (most of them by August Wilson). This particular show hit a little closer to home. And it was a weird experience in which an all-too-familiar figure (not my evil twin, but my evil twin's cousin's best buddy) talked about his experiences at a large, successful corporation, and what happened after he decided to leave, framed around the watching the implosion of the Kingdome from the upper deck of the building (described by Mike Daisey as “Lex Luthor’s Freak House”).

It’s a one-man show with a minimal set – a desk made of a door on sawhorses (a bit of Amazon legacy), a laptop, and a cup of Starbucks. Daisey conjures the rest of his universe in a sprawling remembrance that captures corporate life pretty well. He bought into the “new hotness” for a time – he drank the koolaid, but found it eventually shallow and soul-killing, and had to leave it behind. And it followed him to what happened next.

A lot of the experiences he covers I’ve seen – they are not unique to Dogs roaming the cubes? Been there. Strange motivational techniques? Oh yeah. Free food? Tell me about it. Goths on the job? Uh-Huh. How about finding that memo that details what everyone else in the department was making? Yep, that’s part of my life as well. Corporate life has some incredible similarities no matter where you are – the guy who spends his day checking his stock prices and playing video games two cubes over is not unique to the world.

Actually, what surprises me is that there aren’t as many plays about corporate life. Maybe it’s the fact that corporations provide the funding for a lot of theater that keeps them at a respectful distance. Indeed, Daisey is generally mild on Amazon, while saving his savaging for the now-defunct (and therefore defenseless), who Amazon teamed up with. His riffs on them left me gasping for breath.

Back to monologist Daisey - he is bright, engaging, vulgar, and hilarious, a man with a cause and a mean streak a mile wide. This is extended standup with a point, storytelling with a punchline, dissertation with a purpose. His geek cred is first-rate – when he’s fighting the evil memo, the music from “Amok time” plays. He pulled me in immediately, and I found a lot of common ground with his universe.

Again, Kate and I are split on decision – I loved it, and while she thought it was amusing, but pointed out Daisey himself wasn’t a particular virtuous character (which to my mind is part of the POINT – business life, even in the best of universes, does not reward virtuous behavior – the Boy Scout Oath is a sub-optimal operating system). However, since this is my blog, I get the heartily recommend it, and tell you to got see it. And I will ever further note that he’s doing a workshop performance of his next show, “The Ugly American” on November 23rd at 7 PM, at the INTIMAN.

More corporate theater. Yeah, I think the time has come. Go see this one.

More later,

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Taking Twenty

So I got this weird little email from a young(?) man(?) who wanted the answers to twenty gaming questions. So I passed them off to him, and post them here as well - I reserve the right to change my mind on any of them:

20 Questions in 2 minutes.

1. Favorite non-gaming recreational activity: Hiking, followed by Cooking
2. Favorite professional sport: Football, followed by Curling
3. Favorite deceased public figure: Mark Twain
4. Favorite living public figure: None. I have to to choose one? OK, um, Noam Chomsky.
5. Favorite musical artist: The Beatles
6. Last movie seen: The Rundown
7. Favorite movie: The Maltese Falcon, followed by Casablanca.
8. Last book read: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
9. Favorite non-gaming book: This week? Dune. Call back next week.
10. Favorite gaming book: This week? The Diamond Throne. Call back next week.
11. Preferred gaming system: D&D, followed by Marvel Super Heroes (original version)
12. Favorite gaming setting: Call of Cthulhu, followed by Toril (home D&D Campaign),
13. Favorite character of someone else’s creation: In RPGs? Fenetar the Paladin (created by Frank Dickos, and the model for Dragonbait), followed by Wally (created by John Rateliff), a 5th level d20 Modern figure with only a +1 BAB.
14. Favorite character of your creation: Whapamanga, the first d20 Star Wars Wookiee, who created the Wookie Voxbox and discovered that Darth Vader’s Force Grip has interplanetary range.
15. Most memorable die roll witnessed: None that come to mind.
16. Poorest gaming decision witnessed: “I jump around the corner and fire a lightning bolt down the hall” (See in those days, lightning bolts rebounded, and the corridor ended 10 feet away). tied with "I lift the lantern higher to see what's coming down the passage" (this was followed by the "Surf the Shoggoth" sequence).
17. Biggest gaming pet peeve: Fans who get basic facts about the Gaming Industry wrong when they rant on-line.
18. Favorite spell: Cure Light Wounds.
19. Proudest non-gaming moment: Marrying my wife.
20. Proudest gaming moment: (tie) As a D&D GM when Fenetar beat an Omnipotent Devil. And as a Cthulhu GM forcing one of the players to fall of the couch from a description of the eldritch horror.

If I get his website, I'll post it. More later.

Heavey Weather, Hammond Eggs

Finally have the election results. Had to go to the elections board page to find it - the local papers have been less than helpful in the matter. Its Hammond by about 500 votes. Surprisingly close.

What was interesting to watch was competing memes playing out in the local papers. They pitched the race as "Best Candidate against Conservative District Inertia", almost like Hammond was a cardboard cutout, a default Republican, but I'm not so sure that's true. I think Heavey ran best in the North, Hammond in the South, but both had supporters throughout the district. I also think that incumbency itself, even temporary incumbency, is worth about 500 votes.

But since Hammond has so many close friends in the developer community, maybe he can get them to repair all the damage they've done to 196th Street, where they have converted a farmer's field into the new rows of Insty-Houses.

On the other hand, were I Hammond, I would be pushing to get this area annexed by Kent and Renton real fast, and redistrict us away from him. But that would me.

More later,

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

Small change to the blog as you will notice to the right. I got rid of the default links and added a number of fellow bloggers, LJers, and websites that update regularly. I'll be playing with more tweaks as I go on, but this will do for the moment.

More Later,

Friday, November 07, 2003

Return of the Five

So I did the Friday Five for the month of October, and then decided I was done. Then two of my fellow bloggers then picked it up again. OK, I'll play. This week's Fab Five:

1. What food do you like that most people hate? Liver. Pan-fried liver is light and delicate and tasty and pretty much extinct around here.

2. What food do you hate that most people love? I pretty much like everything, but if forced into a corner and threatened with a bagette, I'll chose Chicken Wings. Bony, greasy, and it always feel like I've left half the food on the bird. There's a new Chicken Wings place going in near the workplace, so I know its only a matter of time before I get sucked into it.

3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you? Tom Sellick always looks a bit too well-preserved for my tastes.

4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find
Comedian Sandra Bernhard. You can quit laughing now. Ok, now you can quit. Now. No, I mean it. Quit laughing now. Don't make me come up there.

5. What popular trend baffles you?Fascination with the 70's and 80's. Pushing the limits of bad hair days into bad hair decades.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

On the Road Again

Now, if you'll remember, I earlier stated that the worst part of my old job was the commute, a crawl up the east side of Lake Washington up to Bellevue. And even that was not too bad, given books on tape.

So you'd think that, with the current contract work down in the Renton Vale, a mere hop, without getting on the Interstate, I would be happier. Instead I get one of those little life lessons.

The route down to work is mostly back roads, with enough mistimed lights, local trucks, and school busses to drive anyone to madness. So far its taken about 15-20 minutes to get down there. And forget about books on tape - I would not want the distraction. And where the route hooks up with larger arteries the roads are jammed and the drivers seem to be coming to terms with basic Seattle traffic laws for the first time.

Q: What do you do when a light turns green in Seattle?
A: Wait for the truck with two trailers that ran the yellow to clear the intersection. Bring a book.

Its a little more than passing strange, but I'm getting more irritated about traffic coming up the hill than I ever was on the highway going to Bellevue. And of course since most of my commute is a hill climb, my mileage has dropped on the Hybrid (aw, well).

Life's little lessons, ah well.

Oh, and for those who expect quick election results, keep waiting. The Hammond/Heavey race is STILL too close to call, though the most recent results has Heavey pulling ahead as a result of absentee ballots.

More later,

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

And the Eyes in my Head see the World Spinning Round

Normally, I don't believe in these "What Fill-in-the-blank Are You Tests" that are on the net, and moreso, have little patience with those friends who engage in them under the false flag of real content. But when three of my bloggin posse, Wolf, Janna, and Dave, all took the same one, I just had to try it, and of course, in my case the winner is:"

I Am

Which tarot card are you?

Undirected Creative Force. Open, receptive, devoid of pre-conceived notions. Beginnings. A young man holding the white rose of innocence in his left hand and grasping a vagabond's staff and satchel in the other, wanders with his gaze to the heavens, about to step into and abyss. His is the transformative journey of the spirit from innocence through experience into wisdom. his guardian and friend is the white dog symbolizing his own puppylike trust and faith, for which the world labels him The Fool.

OK, I agree with it. And, no, this isn't supposed to count as real content. The race in the 9th is still too tight to call, which actually surprises me.

More later,

Monday, November 03, 2003

Heavey Weather

Well, tomorrow's the election, and things have been relatively quiet, compared to the primary. There have been a pair of mailers, one from each candidate, and my cooking this evening was interupted by a pro-Hammond phone call. In the interest of reporting on local issues, I would have hung around for the speil, but I had a fritatta in the broiler (there's an excuse to use on your next telemarketer). And I should note to the Hammond camp that, if you want to cheese off the electorate, of COURSE you should use telemarketers.

So the mailers - Heavey's is pretty nice, playing to the areas that are threatened with being annexed (Perhaps there is a different mailer for those areas further south?). Stresses her native unincorporated-ness, and mentions the Journal and Time endorsements (the PI one came too late for press, apparently). Other side quote the King County Journal endorsement, with boxed text and emphasis to push her point - she is the more qualified candidate. A solid move, and very professional.

Hammond is, thank goodness, a tad bit more entertaining. The text side states "Steve Hammond. Leader. Respected. Effective. Advocate. Word. Association." Hammond does a comparison of himself and Heavey, but, well, he's shooting blanks. Endorsed by King Co Police (nice), Private Property Rights Group, (read - developers), Alki Foundation (community business leaders - read - developers), and the Affordable Housing Council (read - developers). Heavey, he notes, is 75% funded by Seattle liberal interests. He states that Heavey says she is opposed to tax increases but recently prepared a proposal on impact fees, which are just like taxes except they are different (they are assessed against developers). And when she was a manager at a King County agency where the morale was "bad".

My god, given all that, I can't see Heavey standing a chance against this paragon of virtue, who has the endorsement of the ghost of the previous office-holder (Yes, he's still playing that one, along with the long-time resident card). Examining his mailer, I hit weird word combinations, strange capitalizations, and oddly fuzzy "facts". His mailer, like the fritatta I cooked for dinner, seems a bit underdone.

Now perhaps things are hotter in other parts of the 9th, but things have been pretty quiet here - Lot of Heavey signs, a few Hammonds. I still expect him to be stronger in the south, and it will be interesting if Heavey's "Vote the person" tactic will work. All three major media endorsements have been very strong in the "Yes, she's a democrat, but regardless of that, she's the best candidate for the job". I'd like to see capable people in office, and for this reason, make the following politcal recommendation:

Never try to eat an entire fritatta by yourself. Make a smaller fritatta next time.

So remember to vote tomorrow, regardless of where you are, even if Heavey and Hammond are NOT running in your local area. And watch out for those fritattas.

More later.


So this weekend, wife Kate, friends Wolf and Shelly, and Snaggles the wonder dog packed into Wolf's Jetta and headed over the mountains into the Yakima valley. The Yakima is a shallow, dry basin just on the other side of the pass, best known for its wineries, which is why we went there.

The winery valley is about fifty miles long with dry weather and volcanic soil, good for grapes. We hit the southeastern end first, the closer northwestern second. When it was flurrying on Queen Anne hill, we had about an inch of snow as we were walking among the petroglyphs underneath basaltic cliffs.

In general, the wines were excellent across the board. Kate and I prefer whites, Wolf likes reds, and Shelly prefers cherries (she was our designated driver). I really liked talking to vintners, so I was more impressed by the small operations, like Tucker Cellars, Pontin Del Roza, and in particular Bonair as opposed to the larger operations like Silver Lake and Hogue. The valley is a flux of small family wineries and larger corporate takeovers (Hogue was picked up by "the Canadians"). The season's weather had been too good, and there was an overstock on the grapes. The northern vinyards got theirs in, while those at the southern end had left a lot of grapes on the vine at the end of the season. My personal preferences were the Sunset Rosa from Bonair and also a spiced mead that they did.

We also ate - Kate wanted to try a northern italian place for lunch (we later did it for dinner), but it was closed and we ended up at at a mexican resturant across the street ("The Seven Seas"). The Yak valley has a strong hispanic influx from farm workers, and this place was a small resturant - beer signs on the walls and the big screen playing a Jerry Springer clone on Spanish Language TV. The food, on the other hand, was wonderful - I ordered at random and got a shrimp wrapped in bacon dish that was delightful, and the garlic soup was excellent.

(We did get to the italian place - Gasparetti's, that evening. I really liked it as well. though Shell had problems with the steak (She likes it well done, and had to send it back). The young man waiting the table, who turned out to be the manager, recommended a number of wineries for Sunday, which is how we ended up at Bonair).

Sunday we came back in daylight because of all the news about the snow hitting Seattle. A light dusting, melted before we even got back. Still, it was fun, and I would head back in warmer weather.

More later,

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Have a Rant

This is a small one, so you can read it twice if you want.

So Friday night I'm at the semi-regular Poker Game at a comic-book artist's house up in Green Lake, talking with a pleasant robot-builder in the kitchen (Yeah, I live in Seattle). She both works for Nintendo and is currently part of the National Novel Writing Month in a Month project that a lot of people are trying. The idea of NaNoWriMo is that what stops most people from writing novels is that they don't try, so this is a group activity where everybody tries to write a novel at the same time (December is "National Editors Throw Themselves Out Windows Month" - NaEdThroTheOutWind).

Anyway, in explaining the irony that someone with 20 years gaming experience somehow doesn't seem to have enough game experience for an industry that is about 20 years old, she came down hard on the side of the industry - of COURSE you have to have a deep understanding of Computer Games before even THINKING of writing for them.

I raise an eyebrow (though not my voice). So we have hundreds of amateurs plunging into the novel-writing field (which is a much larger and intricate work) like it was the Oklahoma land rush on one hand, but a deep and abiding understanding of nuance is needed to put text boxes in a computer game?

The thing is, I understand where this is coming from. Fiction, despite efforts to the contrary over the years, comes out of the amateur and the home. Where there have been attempts to formalize and restrain it, it always breaks free. Its very big tent, and I agree and support it. Computer games come out the Engineer-side of our universe, where things must be qualified and defined, where precise goals are set and then executed. Prerequisites are important when dealing with High Priest Engineering, and this is just one more example of that.

Not that I think you don’t need some level of understanding to write for computer games. All forms of writing have their requirements, quirks, and patterns. I would not think to sit down and write poetry and be bang-on perfect the first time (though as a writer, I probably have better odds of creating something passable). And in many cases, a knowledge of the tools is needed (a lot of on-line art comes out of a double-handful of programs, which is why they tend to look the same). I just think that its not the ultimate cut-level that some folk make it out to be. I've always railed against the idea of boxes - they always come down to "You've never done this before, therefore you obviously can't do it now." I hit it when moving from game design to fiction, from prose to comics, and now from game design to another flavor of game design. .

That’s my rant. More later,