Monday, May 31, 2004

I Get Mail

One of the experiments of this new web page layout is a mailing address for Grubb Street (presented here and in the "About Me" section above). So far I have been resistant to the idea of comments sections and other feedback, since I'm comfortable with one-way communications (alternate views are cheerfully recognized and encouraged to get their own blog). Those who know me and have a definite opinion can always get to me on my personal email. But I'm willing to experiment, and as a result created the address as part of the new layout. To be honest, I didn't expect much - maybe a comment or two on the new template, but nothing major.

Imagine my surprise when the first email I received was from Pat Sullivan, candidate for Position 2 State Representative from 47th District, running against incumbant Jack Cairnes. I had mentioned Pat in my write-up on 2 May regarding the caucuses - I referred to him at the time as seeming "very, very young". And for those keeping score, I had an earlier entry about Jack Cairnes and his strangely themed mailing back on 23 March.

Anyway, Pat Sullivan contacted me and pointed out that he is not as quite as young as he appears - he is 41 (which still makes him a spring chicken compared to my venerable age of 46), and has three daughters (which more than makes up the difference in our ages and puts him ahead). He has been a senior legislative assistant in the State House and Senate for 15 years, and served on Covington City Council for 7 years (and was Mayor of Covington for five of those years). And right now he's a legislative assistant for King County Councilbeing Dow Constantine. Not a bad record for such a youthful-looking politician - he has a great deal of experience both locally and in Olympia.

But don't take my word for it - his website is here. Go take a look. Check out his record, his stands on issues, and, of course, youthful good looks. Do this particularly if you're in the Fighting 47th District, since this will be more important as we move towards November.

And for the rest of you lot, the least you can do is drop a line about the new format. Does this scan better on your machines, or worse? More or less readable? Does the picture make me look fat(ter)? The jury is still out for me, so I'll solicit opinions (Yes, regardless of the choice, I'll keep the email address on the page).

More later,

Friday, May 28, 2004

Day Off

So I had clocked in 40 hours already this week and swore that I would take Friday off for a long-deserved long weekend. Kate and I are supporters of the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) and they are about to launch their big summer show tomorrow - Van Gogh to Mondrian - Modern Art from the Kroller-Muller Museum and we got a member-advanced look.

Kate and I are spoiled with art museums, in part because of our proximity to the Art Institute of Chicago for many, many years. SAM is much smaller, tucked into the top three floors of a narrow endcap of a city block (its slender frame is more pronounced since they have leveled the buildings uphill of it for a new skyscraper). Yet despite its size, I am always exhausted after a museum walk in the SAM - the exhibits are well-thought-out and challenging, the presentation is solid, and it hosts a mix of cultural styles and historical periods as well as modern art and installations. (OK, they go overboard on their text descriptions - let me tell you about their "Monumental Dynamic Peaches" some time, but its a good museum).

Anyway, Kroller-Muller (yeah, there are umlats in the name which I am doing without) was the daughter of an industrialist that started collecting art, in particularly current art in the early 20th Cent. She felt that the new styles of art allowed presentation of the unseen - motions, emotion, and symbolism, and ranged from the impressionists forward to the postmodernists, with stops at pontilism, cubism, neoplasticism and several other -isms as well.

The press pushes this as the Van Gogh show, and that's the center and heart of it, though it has a lot more. I was struck most by Van Gogh's sketch-work, which was detailed and very, very different from his painting style. You can see the animation of his painted works in his linework, but I was amazed by the underpinning his pen-and-ink work provided for his paintings.

And painting themselves were rich and wonderful. Van Gogh is one of the artists that does not transfer well to the printed page. There is a topographic nature to his work, the thick layering of bright pigments to produce a solid coherency. His works feel like they are in motion, and they are full of life. Even his still lifes and landscapes, absent of human forms, have a lived-in look that makes them look populated.

(I mention this because the exhibit kicks off with a group of pointilists, whose dot-based form to create color and shape produces wonderful work (all presented here seemed to be influenced by Seurat and A Sunday on the Grand Jette), yet they all seemed unihabited - even those pieces with human figures have them turned-away or indifferent, and the pictures themselves empty as a result.

There is a section on architecture and furnishings which appealed to the engineer in me (though I noted many patrons, after getting their Van Gogh jones, moving to the exits) and the exhibit finishes with the shapes and colors of Mondrian and his brethren, where modern art unmoors entirely from representation and drifts off into the darkest wilderness, into lands where you need both a translator and native guide to follow. All in all, its a very good exhibition.

Also there for the next two weeks is Only Skin Deep, an exhibit on photgraphy and race. Taking up one-half of a floor, this is photographs, videos, and other media showing presentation how racial groups look at each other. This exhibit I found both intriguing and troubling, as it underscored for me how easy it is to cull out one group from the herd of humanity for persecution, and how easily the medium bends to accommodate. It left me disturbed, but I recommend it - If you're a local and you haven't done the SAM, this is a good time to do it.

After a late, late lunch (Ivar's), we hiked up the hill to the new Library. The Monkey King liked it but refered to it as "The IKEA Library". I was interested in seeing it, and Kate was tolerant but dubious. Oddly enough, afterwards Kate was excited by the building and I was less impressed.

In general shape, the building looks like the conning tower of Imperial Star Destroyer. Indeed, stepping off the elevator into the 5th floor "Mixing Room"/Catalog Hub, you step out onto a catwalk overlooking two floor below you. At that point I leaned on the railing and said "Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this library installation". Kate giggled.

What won Kate over was the spiral, the fact that the floors of the stacks continued to coil upward, forming effectively one large multileveled room four stories high. I found the uneven floors unsettling, and brilliant colors (lime-yellow escalators, brilliant red stairways) off-putting. I probably will warm to it as I figure out how it works as a system (we both got library cards, since we're not officially part of Renton (which is not part of the Seattle Library system)). They are still figuring out some of the systems and how things really work (We had a long talk with an excited and exhausted librarian about some of the teething problems).

Then home for a nap (I told you the museum always is a big energy drain, and we topped it off with an uphill hike) and another episode of Firefly. And there was an interesting message to the site. But more about that next time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Bad Burrito

Well, this is irritating.

Things have been going very well for the past two days. Then I do lunch at this Mexican place at a friend's recommendation. Sometimes I do Mexican and there's no prob. Sometimes I do Mexican and live to regret it.

This is one of those latter times. The culprit was a "wet" seafood burrito, meaning it had a red sauce draped over it. Given the sauce and the fact that it was the "special" may have indicated that the seafood in question was insufficiently refrigged before being introducted to the fire.

Suffice to say that I'm not at all well at the moment, such that I missed my Tai Chi class tonight. I'm not really happy with that, but its better than trying to meditate while you are sweating heavily and belching up Bad Burrito.

In other news, Haetmunkey (yeah, I'll get the links back up) sends word that the Unitarians are now legit again in Texas:

Denison church's tax-exempt status granted

By Jay Root
Star-Telegram Austin Bureau

AUSTIN _ Reversing an earlier decision, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced Monday that a Unitarian church in Denison would get its tax-exempt status after all.

The decision came after the Star-Telegram reported on May 18 that the comptroller's office had ruled the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church was not a religious organization for tax purposes.

The status was denied, the state said, because the church "does not have one system of belief."

Stunned church officials said it was the first time in U.S. history that any state had denied tax exempt status to the Unitarians because of their religious philosophy. Father-and-son presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams are among past adherents of the Unitarian church.

Jesse Ancira, the comptroller's general counsel, sent a letter Monday to Dan Althoff, board president of the Denison church, informing him of the change.

"Comptroller Strayhorn asked that I review the file on your congregation's application for tax exemption," Ancira wrote. "After reviewing the submitted application ... it is my opinion that the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church is an organization created for religious purposes and should be granted the requested tax exemption."

Althoff and other members of the church could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said Strayhorn directed her staff to review the decision after questions were raised about it.

"She asked her general counsel to look into the matter and he overruled earlier staff decisions," Sanders said.

"Strayhorn directed her staff to review the decision" after people starting pointing at her office and mocking it. I love how bureaucracy works. (Yeah, that's snarky. Blame the Burrito)

And finally in a less-snarky mode, I want to note that this template is by Todd Dominey. Credit where credit is due.

More later (Brraaaak) (Excuse me).

Monday, May 24, 2004

Work In Progress

As you can tell, I'm dinking around with the format. Blogspot did a major overhaul, and I felt its time to add a few more toys to the mix. Missing features should be restored in the near future.

More later,

Pipeline, Part 2

The media catches up to the journals - The Olympic Pipeline is currently shut down because of a fire Sunday Morning (which does not explain the Mystery Noise nor the late-night helicopter, but those may belong to a different set of disasters). There was a leak in a sampler line that ignited, starting a three-alarm fire. As of today, the perimeter is still draped with police tape and guys in orange jackets are walking around over where the line runs.

The result is an example of Grubb's Law of Economics - Whatever happens, its bad for YOU. As a result of the accident, gas prices will probably spike (and they were just starting to begin to level onto a less-steep climb). So things are going to be messier for the next couple days.

Interestingly, most of the folk I work with were unaware of the news (it got less attention than, say, a major politician falling off a bike) even though they're working about a quarter-mile north where the fire was. I don't think most of them realize that the big hub for the Olympic is nearby.

More later,

Sunday, May 23, 2004


A pleasant day, though not all that I anticipated. Salty's had good food and a horribly bungled front desk (the presence of a high chair at our table indicated they were not entirely on the ball). We ditched the library tour after I mentioned they were expecting 30K people (which, if it were true, meant they would outdraw the Mariners). Instead Wolf and Shelly (Monkey King and Mrs. Monkey King in the links), Kate and I spent the afternoon just jawing on a variety of subjects.

Now, its interesting, in that three of the four have livejournal/blogs, and Kate professes no interest in journals at all, claiming to have a real life. And you'd think with all the stuff we shoot back and forth over the net, we'd be pretty talked out. But the journal entries (the secret Japanese garden, Penn & Teller in Vegas, pipeline fires) seem to just provide touchstones for further conversation. Not to mention the fact that there is stuff that you'll say when you know the audience as opposed to what you're saying in a public blog.

Wolf and Shell loaned us the Firefly DVDs, and when the Lovely Bride and I got home, we watched the opener (which set everything up, but which the network in its wisdom decided to broadcast out of order). Strong performances, and a very nuanced universe. Now when I watched a few episodes broadcast-live, I was less than impressed (I was told by the deep geeks that I had caught "a bad episode" whenever I stated this). I think part of that was that I never tweaked to the fact that it was "Space Western" until I watched it (the network promotion was a bit lacking on this part). In any event, the official opener was very, very good, and I can see how it had every right to succeed and no surprise that it didn't, TV being what it is. Kate and I swore "The Couple's Video Code" - we would only watch the rest of them together.

And Kate notes that the Serenity's crew reminds her of her Star Wars campaign. This makes me more nervous than I thought it would.

More later,


So Kate and I are planning on joining ShellyinSeattle and the Monkey King for brunch at Salty's (Where the Monkey King has won Brunch for Life - yes, its one of those disgusting stories about good fortune of friends). And I was planning on going into the office briefly in the morning to get some files to work on this evening at home.

Then I hit the police blockade on Lind Avenue.

Lind Ave (where the company is located) was shut down by a squad car with its bubble-gum lights flashing. I jog one street to the north, and find another squad car - Renton Police. The officer there informs me that there has been a pipeline fire and that the road is shut down all the way to Grady, which translates into - no one is getting to my office, which is in the middle of the sealed-off area. There was no plume of smoke or other evidence of a big fire - just the cop cars and in the distance, fire engine lights.

Let me explain - about two complexes south of the WotC/Hasbro offices is the distribution hub for the Olympic Pipeline. Here's where the oil and other flammible materials come down from refineries in Annacortes to the north. Its company has been having trouble since the pipeline breach and explosion that killed several people a few years back, but its main effect on the local area has been the oversized double-length tanker trucks that are normally found on Lind. That and there is a fire station practically across the street from the distribution hub.

The news has been silent on this one - Northwest Cable News, the local 24/7, is dedicating all its resources to the opening of the Seattle Public Library downtown, and the nets have been horribly quiet as well. My question is - when did this fire start? Was it just this morning, or perhaps it was tied into the mystery noise from yesterday morning? Or about midnight last night, wheN I was kept awake laying in bed, listening to a single helicopter swoop and return, swoop and return, like a mosquito?

More later, if I get any information on this,

Python Attack

A little ditty by Eric Idle (mp3 file). Have headphones available or keep it away from small children or large overseers.

The FCC Song:

(I must be getting old - I didn't think of rhyming "Bush" with "Tush".)

More later,

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Mystery Noise

Married readers of this blog with sympathize. Unmarried readers will be amused.

Its been a long week, and it looks like it will be another long week next week, and I was really looking forward to sleeping in this morning. Normally my schedule puts me up and out the door while my Lovely Bride is still slugabed, but this particular Saturday she had to go to teach a tax class and I looked forward to sleeping until . . . oh, 10 or so.

But at 8ish my Lovely Bride heard a noise. According to her, it was a booming noise, and it shook the house, while she was in the other room. Neither I nor Emily the Cat could vouch for this noise, since we were both sleeping (soundly, I might add) at the time.

So my Lovely Bride comes back into the bedroom. The conversation went like this:

Lovely Bride: Did you hear that?


Lovely Bride: That noise. It shook the house.


Lovely Bride: I think a branch fell on the roof.

Me: Murrggle Lurrgle?

My Lovely Bride made repeated use of the words "noise", "shook", and "roof" until the system back-ups in my brain flickered to life and I hauled my previously-inert mass out of the waterbed.

So, despite my plans and deep, almost-comatose sleep, I was up and dressed and, half-awake, up on the roof in the drizzling rain looking for this massive branch that had to have fallen on the house in a location that I couldn't see from the ground when I circled the building, checking the roof and the foundation. Nothing but moss on some of the shingles (have to take care of that). Even checked the backyard in case another one of the great old trees had toppled. Nada.

So I got up too early for a mystery noise, and of course, cannot get back to sleep. Because Emily the Cat is hogging the bed now.

Murggle Lurrgle,

Friday, May 21, 2004

Friday Five, RIP

So the Friday Five is no more. But the Internet never let's anything truly die (Remember the Sloganator? Its got its own Yahoo! Group now), so now with have The Flyday Fyve on the LJ. They seem to be a bit tougher than "decribe your refrigerator". Here's the first one for me:

Name your top five cartoon characters, tell us what show they're from and why you picked them:

1. Wile E. Coyote - For providing the basic plot arc for Lord Toede. (I know, now I'm going to here from the Acme Lawyers).

2. Jonny Quest - I want that kid's life, right down to the Redball Flyers!

3. Norville Rogers - Better known as Shaggy from "Scooby Doo". The Shaggy diet plan - eat all you want, then burn off the calories running from monsters. Hey, you noticed he was a Jedi in the Cartoon Network's Star Wars cartoons?

4. Homer Simpson - I really wanted to vote for Lisa, the redemptive one, but Homer is closer to my natural shape. Sorry, Lisa.

5. Harley Quinn - Originally put into the Batman Animated series to make the Joker look a bit more manly (they did the same thing with Aunt Harriet in the old Batman TV shows), she remains the hottest animated babe since Tex Avery and Jessica Rabbit. Cute, chipper, and totally insane. Of course I find her appealing.

More later,

Just call me Chaotic Good and Be Done with it

Here's a more refined political chart, which asks more questions and then posits you not only on the Right to Left axis, but on the Authoritarian to Libertarian Axis as well. Again, to no surprise I fall into both the Liberal and Libertarian departments, with a score of -4.18 and -4.91. That puts me near Gandhi and the Dali Lama and . . . Dennis Kucinich (two outa three ain't bad. Its a better quiz in that there were more than a few questions that I was neutral about, but "no opinion" was not an option.

The Democrat Presumptive Candidate came in almost at the balance point, while the Republican Candidate was almost off the chart to the Right. Only one thing to do - Move the center of the axis up and to the right! That makes EVERYONE else Liberal and Libertarian.

More later

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Not Too Much of A Surprise

Another quiz - I'm just worn out - battling demons and yuan ti just takes it out of you.

(Deleted because the formatting was messing up my format - Suffice to say, it reports me as a Liberal, and very nice one, thank you)

More later,

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Bits, Pieces . . .

And other updates.

Those of you who want to read a college comencement address (and who doesn't) will find it here. Oh, yeah, its the William and Mary address by Jon Stewart I mentioned earlier.

A new bit of LJ foolery also works here on blogspot, where you can find out your color based upon your user name. Mine is grubbstreet. Yeah, its blue. Gotta prob with that?

A while back I went down a list of excluding various recognized religions and peoples as far as marriage was concerned. Good fun, right? But no, leave it to TEXAS to take me seriously. A State Comptroler is trying to remove tax-exempt status from the Unitarian Universalists (I know, it sounds like a contradiction), because to be a religion, you have to, you know, believe in something. Actually, the statement is you have to have a creed, which oddly enough, means that Baptists are out as well, which outa will play REAL down there. But seriously, Kate and I were married in a Unitarian Universalist Church - I am a Wandering Presbyterian and Kate is Up-From-Catholic (You know - get your rosaries off my ovaries?). So suddenly I may be in the same ball of wax as many other people whose marriage is not recognized in all state of the unions. To which I say "Austin, here I come!"

[Kate has just informed me that we also have a marriage license in addition to a church's blessing. Darn that intermingling of Church and State!]

New Texas Motto - "Making those swells in Arkansas look all hoity-toity".

And finally, lemme check the Drudge Report - nope, nope, they're still fascinated by Kerry's Daughter's Breasts. He must be desperate for those hits nowadays. Maybe we could set up a warning system - "Today's forcast - Breasts, followed by more breasts, with Michael Moore breaking out towards dawn.

More later

Finally! A Shorter John Kerry ad!

You know that guy from the other commercials? I don't know that guy. Neither does my wife.

More later,

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

On The Road Again: Giving Me Gas

I feel a rant coming on. Yep, it's definitely a rant.

So as the average price of gas in the country crests 2 bucks a gallon (and its about two bits higher here in the Puget Sound area), more people have been asking me about my hybrid Honda Insight. In particular, its gas mileage.

For the record, it gets between 45 and 50 MPG driving around the city, better on long trips. Though I'm not really taking a lot of long trips at the moment. While it burns less gas (and powers down at stop lights, which is disconcerting to first-time riders), it still uses gas, so I'm still at the pumps - though not as often as my friends with the big SUVs. I'm not one to taunt them - They can still crush my car like a bug, though they'll spend half the tank getting into position to do it.

What has impressed me to date is the big shrug that this latest price surge has gotten - its like everyone has said - "Yeah, gas prices have been too low. Poor oil companies. We should be more like France or Germany. I don't mind spending a bit more. And its only going to get worse, yaknow." I mean, the orbital mind-control lasers must be burning out fuses at this point.

Of course, the current administration (Motto - "New Questions, Same Damn Answers") has both been buying up a lot of oil (at these inflated prices, so I guess they're HOPING it will get worse - otherwise they've been spending your cash on very expensive oil) and pushing the idea of increased drilling in Alaska again.

You folk do realize that if the abundance of Alaskan Oil had ANY effect on our gas prices, then we'd have the cheapest gas in the country in the Pacific NW, this close to Alaska? Instead we're about 25 cents higher than the average (and don't even ask about our neighbors to the south). Most of the Alaskan crude is heading to Japan and our new best-buddy China (which is good for the balance of trade but not for you filling up your tank). Actually, one of the locals out here has been tracking the fact that the number of refineries on the West Coast have decreased in the past two decades, despite increased drilling up north. And its refinery limitations that kicked off the first of this steady rise, as a lot of local plants reduced productivity for "regular maintenance" while two more refineries suffered messy explosions (Let's assume that those were ones that did NOT have "regular maintenance"), and there was a big pipeline spill north of SF a few weeks back. Let's say the system is pretty stressed at this point.

There is one group that should be happy with the current turn of events - those with "No Blood for Oil" bumper stickers. Good news, guys - We spilled the blood, and we stilldon't get the oil. Woo Hoo! That shows us! And if you think pipeline safety is sucky in this country, its worse in places where people are actively trying to blow it up.

Of course our foreign policy hasn't helped us much. We should be able to lean on our buds in Saudi Arabia for a hand (that sharp-talking smoothie we had in charge four years back managed it, and the current guy has family business deals with the Royal Family, so he should be even better), but the Sauds are a little busy with their own unrest and may not be able to help. In our own hemisphere, we have Venezuela, where we tried to kick out the current government. Oh yeah, they're going to help out. We'd better hope there is oil under Haiti, or we're going to have to start being nice to the Russians. What we may see is "Wal-Mart Roll-back" where the prices go up so they can then come down just a notch for a "special sale" in late October. Thanks guys.

But the good news is that gas will stay cheaper than milk per gallon. That's mainly because the Department of Agriculture has allowed the prices to float upwards to about 50 cents more than last year. Most of the increase will go to the middle men as opposed to local farmers, which sort of is fitting in our Through The Looking Glass kind of policy.

Me? I use the Hybrid for long trips (more than 15 miles) and don't tick off people with SUVs too much - they tend to get surley these days. And I await the day of the vehicle that Ed Begley Jr drives in The Simpsons - powered by my own smug sense of self-satisfaction.

More later,

Monday, May 17, 2004

Review: Jon Stewart, Naked

Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart, Rob Wiesbach Books, 1998

This particular book (not the book in general, speaking of all books of this type, but this single physical volume) has already had a life before it came into my hands. My friend Brian found this in a used bookstore in New York City, pulled it from the shelf, and saw that it was autographed "To my best friend Jeff - Jon Stewart". Brian thought "I have a friend named Jeff", and so he bought it and sent it me. Brian's like that.

So I have a book autographed by Jon Stewart to me, declaring not only his friendship but his "BEST" friendship. Though we've never met. And maybe Jon Stewart will come across this modest weblog (you know, he's ego-searching his name - Find all "Jon Stewart" minus all references to "Green Lantern"). And maybe he'll feel irritated with his so-called "Best Friend" Jeff, and decides to drop him like a bad habit and that his NEW "Best Friend" Jeff is the holder of the book. That would be me. So I'm hanging onto it, just in case.*

OK, the book itself is a series of ficticious and outrageous humorous essays about famous people, written in the pre-Daily Show era when Stewart still had his talk show. Ficticious. Humorous. Outrageous. Hitler on the Larry King Show. Van Gogh on an AOL chat room, Lenny Bruce getting a sitcom on CBS. The waiter at the Last Supper. Part of the humor is the offbeat setups. Part of it is also in a paen (as opposed to "direct rip-off") of Woody Allen's brilliant essays in "Without Feathers", both with its Judaic references and entries from the Department of Funny New York Words ("Rent Control", "canasta", "nosh", "Schmucks"). And part of it is sort of the rude nonsequiter East Coast college comedy magazine humor ("Knock Knock" "Who's There?" "Joke's Over Now! Bite Me! Hahahahah!") I should note that Jon Stewart graduated from William & Mary, and recently delivered an excellent commencement address there ("About the world. Well, we broke it.")

Essay after essay of famous people doing horrible things or horrible people thrust into mundance positions is a bit wearing, such that writings that break the pattern are amusing in themselves (A former geek who goes back to his High School reunion seeking revenge, to discover that the majority of the people there are ALSO seeking revenge is paticularly amusing). But it also underscores an important point that has since become a part of The Daily Show humor - that the tools in the modern world we utilize for communications (Talk shows, the Internet, People magazines) are pretty damned crappy when describing the modern world that we are part of. The Modern Media is a box full of hammers, and we're holding a handful of screws. No wonder things are so badly screwed up, and we have so many ragged holes in the walls.

Anyway, if you happen to be in a used bookstore and comes across this book, and it turns out to be autographed "To my very best friend" and your name is listed, pick it up. Maybe Jon will call.

More later,

* I recognize another option here - that the autograph ITSELF is fraudulent, written by someone to give to the "Best Friend" Jeff, who might be a big Jon Stewart fan (but not so big that he didn't sell the book later, maybe to buy time on a MMORG or something). But I find that option to mere fantasy, whereas Jon Stewart will read me this and fly me out to The Daily Show. Or maybe just to have a nosh.

Hot Flashes

OK, its finally happened - Drudge Report went NWSF (That's Non-Work-SaFe for the acronymnally-challenged). I can no longer trust to fire it up at work without hearing the crackling sound of raised eyebrows behind me.

Strange enough was the parade of latest photos from Iraq that looked like Maplethorpe tripped out on corn squeezin's, but now he picks up Candidate Kerry's daughter at Cannes in a dress that screams "Wardrobe Malfunction". As the AP report (no, go look it up on your own) notes, there are certain fabrics that tend to become translucent under sudden, intense light. You know, like camera flashes. Now, what would possess anyone to MAKE A DRESS out of this material boggles me. OK. Hugh Hefner would. And Bob Gucionne. And maybe Larry Flynt, but only if there was an implicit promise of "going commando" attached.

And, I'll admit, the question "Does this dress suddenly go invisible at inopportune moments?" is not one of the FIRST questions that springs to mind when buying a gown.

But I digress. Reporting on this is a fair cop (pardon the horrible pun). Someone tangentially famous is caught with their anatomy hanging out, its fair to call them on it. Sort of like the Bush twins in the latest "Girls Gone Wild" video. That's not what bothers me.

What bothers me is that the same parts of the media that freaked out about Janet Jackson's Superbowl exposure seem to be the ones rushing this particular picture to the fore. You know, the right-of-center moralists. They need to show how evilevilevil the other side is. Even if it means they are pushing questionable images themselves. Sex! Licentiousness! Poor Fashion Sense! How can we trust these people? Honest, officer, I was just reading it for the articles!

Meanwhile, the liberal side of the blogosphere is concentrating on . . .

Middle-aged gay people getting married in Massachusetts.

Have we truly moved into the mirror world, the one where Colin Powell has the moustache and beard and yells at his handlers on camera? The conservative press is pushing purient imagery and the liberals are comfortable with their own sexuality? The Dems become the doughty stay-at-homes while the Reps have the nipple rings and video nasties? I mean, the conservatives have been wracking up a hypocritical record on defending marriage, and now seem to be set on inflicting their unbalanced morality on the rest of us.

In the meantime, I just hope Drudge goes back to showing pictures of politicians with silly expressions on their faces. And Michael Moore, in full-body shots. Just so I can tune in during work.

More later,

Lost Weekend

Crashed and burned this weekend. Don't know if it was exhaustion, or the H&R Block Gilligan's island-themed Party (it was just about as you would expect it). or trying to mow the lawn (unmown since the party two weeks previous, and overgrown to the point that wildebeast and gazelles were grazing out there) as the stormclouds rolled in, but I had a mild, sluggish cold and no desire whatsoever to continue on with anything or anyone. Kate spent the weekend gaming, reading her tax books, and watching Seabiscuit, and left me to my general lethargic grump.

So I read, finishing up a couple books. And I snacked. And I played a lot of Civ 3. A LOT of Civ 3. Its the comfort food of computer games. I have my standard plan - raise money, buy my tech advancements, invade only when I have to. Ended up with a diplomatic victory (I build the UN, am involved in a battle with lower-tech Greeks (not my fault, the Chinese dragged me in), and was elected King O' The World).

Yeah, I still have opinions, and stuff to write. I'll see if I can catch up. But I need a completely empty weekend every so often to recharge.

More later,

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Breaking It Down

Serv. Size 1 Blog

Posts About Daily Life: 14%
Trips and Experiences 8%
Local Politics 8%
Friday Fives 7%
Reviews 7%
National Politics 7%*
Blog-Related 5%
What xxxx Are You? Quizzes 5%
Gaming-Related 4%
Link-Related 4%
Shorter: Entries 4%
Quotes 3%
Writing-Related 3%
Food-Related 3%
Weather-Related 3%
On The Road Entries 3%
Creativity, Ravings, and Misc. Filler 12%

*National Politics NOT about the War 5%

Contents may settle in shipment.

More later,

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


So it was a long day today at work, one of those first in the office in the morning, last out at night kinda days. The long hours have been a rarity so far, but appplied in this case primarily because I wanted to nail a rules set to the ground by tomorrow morning so that five other important tasks based on that rules set could go forward. The entire proceedings left me a little drained, so I sat down to surf and came across the reunion special for the old Dick Van Dyke show.

The show itself was all memory, threaded together with a ghost of a plot (Alan Brady pulls the surviving cast members together to write him a eulogy). You're aware that Rose Marie isn't moving around so good, and Mary Tyler Moore has tight wrinkles about the eyes. And the good lines were given to the minor players - Alan and Millie Helper. And there is a heaping helping of clips. But looking at it I was struck by how much this show influenced my own upbringing and my view of the world.

I mean, Rob Petrie has a job as a corporate creative, works with other creatives who both respect and like him, has a nice house, and a beautiful, supportive wife. A lot of how I deal with others comes out of watching the Dick Van Dyke show (mostly in syndication, now that memory kicks in, so I never really saw the cigarette comercials in the original). And the fact that I have a strong, mutually supportive relationship with Kate comes as no surprise to me, because that's what Rob and Laura had (Though I am much more likely than Kate to open a rubber raft in the living room).

And the show had no real "bad guys". Even Alan and Mel Cooley, the management foils, had their redemptive moments and their little victories. The plots were driven by basic weirdness of everyday life and things being a little out of kilter. I mentioned the show to Kate and she immediately mentioned the rock in the basement, the banjo-playing brother, and the Rosebud story. Forty years on, and this stuff still sticks in the mind.

Often I ask friends who are going through identity crisis "What TV Show are you in?" Its often a good shorthand for how they view the world. I know people who work in a very "M*A*S*H"-like environment. I've had my months and years as Bob Newhart, and there was a period when I bought into the idea that our game design department was the creative version of "The Right Stuff" (OK, that's a movie, but you get the point). Media does provide role models for our behavior, and an operating system for modern-day survival. One of the reasons that I am likely comfortable with what I'm doing is that it fits into a mode that I recognize. On my good days I can be Rob Petrie. On my bad days I can be Buddy Sorrel. On my worst days, which I want to be few and far between, I can be Alan Brady.

That's it. More later,

Monday, May 10, 2004

DOW Breaks 10000!

Woohoo! I knew that the economy would recover! Yep, all that hard work is paying off, because, after long months, we're finally seeing Wall Street recover its stride! Onward and Upward! Huzzah!

What's that?


Never mind

More later,

Wisteria Hysteria

I've mentioned a couple times about the wisteria being in bloom. Wisteria is an relative of the pea, with drooping flowers that look at a distance like bundles of light-purple grapes. There are a number of species and varieties, including two American species, but most of the ones that are used as ornamental plants are Japanese or Chinese, and are invader species.

The wisteria in particular is currently taking over the front of the house, along the front porch overhang, around the side, and now across the two-story front. Far from fighting this invader species, my lovely wife, in the thrall of the Alien (see below) planted it next to the water barrel and has been aiding and abetting its takeover by trailing it up the porch posts and providing plastic trellis-work for it to grow along. Its a fragrant, pretty blossom, though now that summer approaches it is shedding its petals, leaving a colorful litter on the front porch.

When Kate first put in the wisteria, I was doubtful, pointing out that it hangs low right in front of the door. Kate states that this the whole point. The Irish made extensive use of wisteria, so that when British soldiers came to search the premises (no Constitutional protections there), they were at least forced to bow or remove their hats before coming in. I don't know if this is true or not, but its a good story.

What I find interesting is that I connect ornamental wisteria with England and France (when we were there, Kate would often say "Look, Honey, Wisteria!" and force me to admire a huge, gnarled collection of purple blossoms that threatened to crush the building it was attached to). Instead, this was itself was an invader species, likely brought back when the sun never set on the various empires, and now makes its way to the furthest shore in the hands of other admirers.

More later,

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Pictures from an Inquisition

Despite occasional appearances to the contrary, I don’t currently have the capacity to post pictures on this journal. This is because I’ve never gotten around to claiming website space from Earthlink (and now Comcast) to store the stuff. When you do see a photo, it is from somewhere else on the web, and may or may not be there tomorrow. So bear with me as I move through this, because I’m NOT posting the pictures, but rather describing them. Most of them you’ve probably seen, but not the last.

Let’s start out with one from about two weeks back – flag-covered containers lined up in the cargo bay of a transport. War dead. It’s a somber, serious picture, taken by one of the cargo handlers. It’s sent to a friend, and run in the Seattle Times. Then the cargo handler who took it and her husband are both fired because the picture got out, and the picture is repeated EVERYWHERE. The conservapundits bluster about how this is a horrible thing at the time, but I’m not sure – we need to know that yes, this war has consequences, and we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by being in denial.

Then about a week back Nightline ran the photos and names of those that had died in the past year. Again, it was serious and somber. The pictures came from a variety of sources, from grainy shots blown up too far to family pictures to what looked like high school mugshots to military uniform pictures. I was struck by the fact that no one looks good in Marine Corps full dress. I was also struck by the diversity of the men and women we have lost, and that all but a handful were younger than I. And again, the pro-war forces huffed about how horrible it was, and one media chain in particular refused to run the show. I think of standing in military cemetary above the Normandy beaches, and thanking those that sacrificed then, and thanking those that sacrifice now.

And now there is this week and the horrific photos that come out of Abu Gharib prison. Odd twisted photos of threats and humiliation. Stuff that evoked Maplethorpe’s photo works, made more obscene by the fact these were not models, but prisoners. When I first saw them, I passed through that denial stage of the thinking process – was this staged? Who would be stupid enough to commit these acts, when we were trying to show the world that we were here to make things better? Who would be stupid enough to take pictures? And in the one case I expect a government denial, instead I get “Yep, they’re real. It happened. There’s more. And it’s much, much worse.”

And the naked human pyramids and hooded prisoners went out into the media, and this time there was less talk about protecting the American people, which made me wince again. In fact, the right-wing, which was previously harsh on anyone admitting that bad things happen in wars, seems to be positively enthusiastic about this. Drudge oozes There are videos with the breathless excitement of a pornographer. Rush compares the shots to a Britney Spears video (I think he’s being sarcastic) and saying that humiliating foreigners is an OK way for Americans to blow off steam (OK, I’m taking him off the list for the next garden party). This really creeps me out.

The perpetrators of these took the pictures. They got into the press because those involved didn’t want to be holding left holding the bag (or the hood, or the leash) alone, to show that this was condoned and encouraged by higher-ups. In fact, these shots were SHOPPED AROUND the media and government before CBS picked them up, and CBS waited to show them at the request of the military. These shots are from abuses in January, which begs a slew of new questions – How extensive was this? Who knew and when? Is this typical for other US Military Prisons? And most important, IS THIS STILL HAPPENING?

Answers are wrapped up in a fog of war (note here – the first court martial has been ordered regarding this particular case yesterday). It leaves me shaken in a way that the bunted coffins and somber call of names did not. It is the sad realization that we have blown it, have we have shown that we are not the paladins we claim to be, that we are as vulnerable to human abuse as anyone else. What kind of people do you think we are, we asked the world. That’s been decided, replies the world, now we’re just haggling about the price.

One last picture. This is one you haven’t seen, unless my friend sent it to you. It shows a gangly, short-haired young woman in desert fatigues, cutting a cake. Behind her are a number of other soldiers, also in fatigues. Some are clapping, she’s smiling and looking at how she slices the cake. Her name is Allison, and it is her 22nd birthday. She’s on the far side of the world, in Qatar, doing her boots on the ground.

This last photo is a reminder. All of the craziness is not done, and it is up to all of us to help resolve it. I’d like Allison’s 23rd birthday photo to be with her family, back in Wisconsin. I’d like to see an end of abuse of other people by Americans acting in my name. I’d like to see the loss of American military to go back to be news, not status quo. I’d like us to bring the democracy we claim for Iraq to Iraq, even if that means that they may not agree with us. And I’d like to know why we’re there, but in that I’m like a lot of other people.

I’d like a lot of things. Now I just have to figure out how to get them.

More later,

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Real Headline

"Push for Productivity finally adds hiring back into the mix

"Companies rediscover that to get more work done, they need workers."

Well, Duh.

More later,

Thursday, May 06, 2004


I must confess that my attempts to get "bondage" mentioned in the ad copy failed horribly, but that Heroclix succeeded. Tells you where the ad dollars are coming from.


More later,

Bad Quiz (no donut)

So here's a quiz result:

You are most like Raven. Quiet and usually soft
spoken, you don't like crowds and can be
slightly gothic. You try to repress your
emotions for one reason or another but one of
your most powerful emotions is your anger. Your
temper sometimes gets the best of you and when
that happens those in your way would wish they
weren't. You seem somewhat creepy to others and
you earn a few odd stares but who cares? You
aren't an outdoors person and avoid venturing
outside when you can. You are generally the
smart one and maybe not by trying to, the most
cynical and sarcastic of the bunch which can be
good or bad. You don't like anyone invading
your privacy and you don't seem to be all that
social. But for what it's worth you can be
quite handy in a tough situation. You are drawn
to the darkness or night most of the time. You
appear mysterious and/or potentially dangerous
at times and not everyone trusts you right

Which Teen Titans Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

OK, but I don't really recommend it since this is a Bad Quiz. Its a bad quiz because as you take it, you know which answer automatically links up with which Teen Titan (if you have any familiarity with the Teen Titans, and if you don't, why take the quiz). A better quiz asks general questions and calculates which figures would answer the same way. This quiz? Its effectively asking off the start "What Titan are you" and just counting the number of times you vote for a particular titan.


More later,

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


So I was going to write up something about the Fifth of May and how much most people don't know about Mexican History, under the title "Cinqo, hold the Mayo". Instead, Brainstormfront sent me this link, which sends my thoughts in a different direction.

Marv Wolfman is a great comics creators, and from my time at WizKids, I know he's also a fan of the Heroclix game. Which makes me very, very happy to see that he likes what we did with both Cyborg and Raven, part of the Unleashed set for DC Heroclix. The Unleashed set is probably the best thing I did in my near-year at the 'Kids, and I am particularly happy with the fact that its gotten a very positive fan response (why yes, I DO lurk on the boards over at

I did a lot of things, great and small, at the 'Kids, and had a great time working with the people there. I am particularly happy with Unleashed, and with the non-player Galactus rules (the player-Galactus was added after my departure), as they both represented a great deal of personal sweat and toil. But glory is fleeting and time marches on. Now the next set in the offing is for Marvel, called Ultimates, and while I had a lot to do with the figure choice, beyond that, my main contribution was on the first drafts on the more common figures (the layoffs occured when when I was half-way through the unique figures). A lot of development, revision, and playtesting occurs over the course of the design project, and I have faith that the gang has taken the ball and put together a really good product. I'm looking forward to seeing what they did with it, and I don't doubt I'll be pleased with it, but Unleashed was the personal high-water mark for my tenure there.

I was thinking about the 'Kids for another reason, since I just hit the six-month mark at the Wizards of the Coast offices, first as a temp, then as an employee/consultant with True North Media and Arts, our kinda-freelance web design team. I know its the six-month mark because Outlook refused my password, and I had to get a new one. For security reasons, everyone gets new passwords every three months, but because I use a Macintosh at work, I have to drop in on Technical Services down the hall and feed a new one in as opposed to making it up at my desk. Its no real trouble (though I was on a tight deadline when it conked out on me, the process is relatively painless and the TS folk are cool), but since this reminder hits every three months, its an interesting clock to keep track of my time and accomplishments there as well.

But more about those accomplishments later,

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


To: All Employees
Fr: The Mgt.
Re: New Building Security


In an effort to increase our corporate security, we have installed new electronic locks throughout the campus. The previous key-cards will no longer function with these new locks - however, since the key-cards also double as ID Badges, employees will still be required to wear them on neck lanyards and/or produce them if called upon by building security.

The new security system functions off a DNA Identification/Activation system. Saliva inserted into the locking mechanism is analyzed and access granted if it matches the database. Temperature is also monitored to prevent fraudulent entry, so it is highly recommended that employees place their tongues directly into the identification slot as opposed to merely licking their finger and inserting it. The latter method has resulted in a number of false alarms for building security and will be discouraged.

The new sensors are mounted next to each external and internal door, in the same location as the previous locks, at belt-level. Kneeling pads have been ordered and will arrive in 4-8 weeks, and we ask for everyone to be understanding in the meantime.

Remember, building security is up to the employees, and good security is worth a little personal discomfort.

The Mgt.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Party of the First Part

So Saturday morning was the caucus for the 47th legislative district Democrats. Back in February, I reported on my earlier adventure in the caucus process, which resulted in me becoming a reluctant Edwards supporter. This get-together was to choose real delegates that go up to the STATE level which then chooses the hardest of the hard-core to go up to National level at Boston. Yeah, it sounds like a reality-show on FOX. By this summer, three people from the 47th will get the shot at paying their own way to get the convention. I will not be one of them.

First off, the caucus was held at Kentlake Senior High which is (of course) nowhere near Kent, but rather far to the Southeast, towards the geographic heart of the 47th, in Lake Sawyer (halfway between Covington and Black Diamond). We convened in the high school basketball court, home of the Kentlake Falcons. This is an area which has not yet felt the heavy tread of the developers, so its a nice area with a lot of woods (we were near the Elk Migration area). Driving the roads, though, I can see why transportation is such a major issue further to the south and east - every road is a small two-lane, and traffic backs up at the slightest provocation.

The Caucus itself was a zoo. The old-timers I talked to told me about when they would have 10 people for a delegation some years. We had 313 registered delegates total for the caucus, plus a host of other supporters and alternates. Registration stated at 9 and went well past the 10 AM deadline. All four of the delegates from Rush district made it down (Kristine and Geraldine for Kerry, me and Richard for Edwards), which made me happy for our group. Though we were not required to vote for who we said we were going to vote for, both Richard and I carried through with first-ballot votes for Edwards. Much of the rest of the Edwards supporters drifted, so Richard and I were two of the only three official Edwards votes. Without sufficient support, we were cut loose - Richard went to the Kerry camp, and I went back to Dean (I was originally a Dean supporter at the start).

For our Congressional district, the only candidates with sufficient support to more forward were Kerry and Dean. It worked out to 19 state delegates for Kerry, 9 state delegates for Dean. At this stage, we had to choose delgates themselves. Each person interested had a numbered card (shades of A Chorus Line), and spoke out to why they should represent Dean. These ranged from shoo-ins (the local Dean organizer, the woman who was the first local Dean contributor in the area) to college students, to Union folk, to a mother-son team and a firebrand Anti-Bush preacher (who was the walking definition of "preaching to the choir"). We had 19 people running for the 9 slots. Kerry's team (the "larger half" at the other end of the bleachers) had about twice that many. We got off lucky - Phil, who was a local Dean delegate up in the city, said his caucus had 135 delegate candidates. Figure a minute tops per speech and the math becomes horrible.

We got off easy on delegate speeches. Where it truly bogged down on us was vote counting, first for the initial preferences, and then for the delegates themselves. Tyler, who organized our original caucus, had other speakers available, but we exhausted the bag of tricks during the initial counts, so we started to see some real voter erosion as the caucus moved on. I got to hear for the first time 8th Congressional district candidate Heidi Behrens-Benedict (a smart, thoughtful woman) and Geoff Simpson (passionate, loud, and brought the crowd to its feet). Also speaking were Pat Sullivan (enthused and very, very young) and Mike Gregoire, husband of Gubernatorial Candidate Christine Gregoire (older, choppy delivery). There was a local blogger, who concentrates on academia, and a granger speaking out on the return of the blanket primary (which didn't go over well with this crowd - after all, it the organized polical parties that wanted to ditch the blanket primary in the first place).

Anyway, I had gotten there about 9:30, and with the huge lines for registration, speakers did not start until 10:15 or so. Computer screwup and double-checking inital ballots took another hour, hour and half. Then came the choosing of the delegates. By that time it was 12:30, and I had to go. I have no idea if the firebrand preacher made it, or the college students, or the mother-son team. I had to leave before the choosing of the alternates and the passage of resolutions calling for the creation of the Department of Peace, revealed what we gave away exactly to Boeing, and the impeaching the current president. That's because I had the Other party to worry about. Which leads me to . . .

Party of the Second Part

I'll be frank - I dread hosting parties. I particularly dread hosting garden parties, since Kate and I have had the worst luck with them. Last time we did a garden party out here we got cold, hard rain on May 1. Last time we did a May Day party in Lake Geneva, it SNOWED. So a Garden Party here also meant cleaning the house and preparing WAY too much food - Brats soaked in beer, burgers, and Kate spend way too long plank-cooking a salmon on the grill (it was very good, but she had to finish it the broiler - it was too thick for the bed of coals we had).

We had about thirty people who were from a wide variety of our parts of our lives. I've done parties were everyone was from my place of business, but this was a sprawl with people from former jobs, poker games, current positions, long-time friends and others. The end result was a very interesting melange of people. We thankfully have some friends who are fearless social interactors and will talk to anyonel. In particular, we had three couples with infants, and the kids were incredibly well-behaved. Our household is baby-tolerant but I worry about it being baby-friendly and completely baby-safe, but there were no problems (though we did hear from one couple afterwards - their daughter had blown through two nap periods over the course of the party and was now loudly resisting going to bed ever again).

So the food was good and the company was excellent (so I hear - the other problem with being a host is you don't get to smooze nearly as much as you do as a guest). The weather was great and the garden was as good as it has ever looked. Timing worked out great, the rhodies in the front and back were in full flower, and the wisteria was rampant over the front door (I really have to do a bit on the wisteria for this journal). The dandelions were defeated and the moles had yet to invade. Let me say to everyone - THIS YARD WILL NEVER LOOK THIS GOOD AGAIN.

There was one casualty (splinter from the pole). One total brain melt-down (I mangled the names of a friend's wife and child (both of whom I know) immediately upon trying to introduce them to others). No one set themselves on fire. No police were called. Furniture and lawn ornaments were given back-stories. Good food was consumed. Croquet variants involving use of multiple mallets were created by five-year-olds. Bocce was played in the mole-modified backyard. Lawnrolling was recommended. A good time was had by all.

And now I'm taking the day off.

More later,