Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Local Politics

Now it's the Democrat's turn.

A few weeks back the State GOP held a nominating convention with the intention of firming up their King County Council candidates in the face of the upcoming "top two" primary. The idea was to get one "official" candidate that would run as an (R), guarenteeing a Republican on the final ballot. Things did not work out as planned in the 9th District, which pitted establishment favorite Reagan Dunn against down-county minister Steve Hammond. Hammond won, and Dunn has yet to dismantle his campaign, and may still run, to the consternation of those seeking party unity.

And now the Dems have their own convention, with some similar results. Their Hammond-Dunn moments happened not down in this neighborhood, but rather up in the refurbished 1st District (Northwestern county, including Shorelinel), where two incumbents were pitched against each other. Carolyn Edmonds and Bob Ferguson both were on the council, Edmonds being the establishment favorite. Ferguson, on the other hand, supported the idea of the smaller council, and was outspoken in his crticism of the King County Elections Board. The plan was for Edmonds to take Ferguson out of the equation.

So of course, much like Hammond, Ferguson mobilized his ground game and beat the establishment favorite. Edmonds may choose to stay in the race (though she wisely avoided providing any Dunn-sized soundbites). And so the Dems in the 1st have the same problem that the Reps in the 9th have - the loser won't just stay down.

In the 9th (my district), the Dems went for Roger Larson of Bellevue. That made me wince a little, only because that's not going to play as well down in my rural territories. And the 9th is going to be the "swing seat" in that it includes big chunks of rural and urban landscapes. I don't know a lot about Larson (a quick Google turned up a couple letters to the editor and picture of him looking very stern at a ballot), but as I find out more, I will pass it along.

And speaking of of rural, the Dems came out of this process without even nominations for two of the more rural seats, the 3rd and the 6th. These areas tend to swing red, but even so not getting candidates on the bill is a failure of the the party. I mean, if you're going to go to all the trouble of hosting a convention to push your establishment candidates, the least you should do is get your establishment candidates lined up for all the slots. On the other hand, readers looking for a gig in the 3rd (Redmond and points east) and the 6th (Mercer, Kirkland, Bellevue) - here's a job opportunity just waiting to happen.

And, oh yeah, Christine Gregoire is still governor.

More later,

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Nonfiction: Veteran's Day

The Bonus Army: An American Epic By Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen, Walker & Company, 2004

I picked up this book back in February, at an appearance by co-author Paul Dickson. That adventure can be found here. So here's the quick version - The Bonus Day - is accessible and articulate and engaging, and turns a spotlight on a part of American History that has lay in shadow for too long, and in a way that seems all-too familiar at this point in time. Go read it.

Its a complex story that at its core is about what we owe to our fellow Americans who serve in our armed forces. Our Vets from WWI not only were being shot at, gassed, and plagued with disease, they were doing it at much lower pay than they would have gotten back in the states. To try to make up for arears, Congress announced it would pay its former vets a dollar per day served (Buck-Twenty-Five for time overseas), to be paid out far in the then-future. This payment became known as the "bonus". There were two ways to get the bonus. One was to live until 1945, the supposed payout date (this was passed 1924). The other was to die, and let your heirs get the money immediately. So the bonus soon known as the "tombstone bonus."

So a lot of vets had pieces of paper promising future payment, while the soup lines of the Depression got longer and things got worse. And number of the vets, among them Walter W. Waters of Portland, decided to take their case to the Capital for an early payout. Waters was one of those crucial pieces of the puzzle, an early organizer who became a recognized leader of the Bonus Army, without whom the whole movement would not have hit critical mass.

And critical mass it soon became, and would become 45,000 men, women, and children who headed for Washington to press their case. There were attempts to stop the marchers out in the hinterlands, but most state bureaucracies preferred to see the men move through their state and not stop. Some provided trains and motorized escorts to speed them on their way.

Another key player was DC police chief Pelham Glassford, newly placed in office to clean up the department. Glassford was a vet himself, and upon hearing of the huge number of vets about to descend on Washington, made arrangements for putting them up (as opposed to turning them out). Initially some abandoned government buildings were used, but soon Waters and other organizers set up military-style camps (one named Camp Glassford, and another Camp Marks, after another friendly officer).

The marchers came, and presented their case and lost - the Bonus failed to pass the House of Representitives. And instead of packing up and leaving, the marchers chose to stay. It was as easy to be poor and homeless in Washington DC as elsewhere. And after a few tense months, the government called out the Army under Doug MacArthur to roust them out. There was gas in the air and tanks in the street as the marchers were driven out of the city. It was an image disaster, as newspaper pictures of black smoke from the burning camps curling around the Capitol dome.

The book captures the complex nature of the conflict, and its players, and notes many things that are familiar to modern readers. The Government tried to tie the bonus marchers to Communism, as anyone who protested the government was an obvious commie or commie dupe (there were Communists among the marchers, but they were kept to another camp. Indeed, it seems like Waters himself was flirting with Fascism at a couple points in his running of the Bonus Army). In addition, when the eviction came, the competitive newspapers picked up the story, while the new, hot technology (the movie newsreel) was curiously silent on the matter.

Obvious analogies can be made between that time and this, Dickson and Allen work to be non-political, instead stressing the differences between the unemployed veterans and the official bureaucrats. While Hoover gets knocked about, FDR is shown to also argue against the Bonus. When the bonus passed the Senate, Roosevelt went along with it, but even then there was one last ironic kick. Some of the marchers were sent to a New Deal work camp in the Florida Keys, and, again thanks to how bureaucracy functioned, failed to be evacuated in the face of a major hurricane.

The Bonus Army was important, not only because of its campaign for the Bonus, but for its sense of controlled and organized civil disobedience. Protesters would ring the Capitol in a continual march, a far cry from today's "Protest Zones" put out of sight and out of mind. The Bonus Army paved the way not only for the 1963 March on Washington, but for the GI Bill, which provided a better future for hundreds of thousands of Veterans (including my father, who used it to get out of the oil fields of Western PA*).

It's very important, at a time when we are facing more veterans (and less funding) than ever, that we be willing to pay the financial price for their personal sacrifice. This sets an important step in our history in place, and I highly recommend it.

More later,

*My Grandfather was an independent oilman, and Dad would work on his drilling rig. They would often hit methane pockets and natural gas while drilling. Grandad smoked a pipe. After the third time Dad's eyebrows grew back, he started thinking about college. That's the way my Dad tells the story, at least.

Monday, June 27, 2005

While I Was Out

So I've spent the past few days trying to catch up, not only on work that was put aside during my Jersey sojourn, but also on the news of the day. Let's see - Stock market dropped about 200 points, Oil prices are up, We're still at war, We're still avoiding talking about how we "fixed" the data to get into the war, A leading Republican accused everyone who disagrees with him of being traitors. Christine Gregoire is still governor. So I didn't miss much.

And then there is this. One of the local alt weeklies is running its annual "best of" contests. And its a host of questions that will do nothing else but convince you that your life isn't really as interesting as you would want to it be (what's the Best Dance Club? Adult Movie Rental Joint? Washington State Red Wine?).

However, entry 9 is "Best Local Blog". And so, I'm thinking. I'm local, and this is a blog. In fact, I may be too local, talking about road widenings and trees coming down in the backyard, but be that as it may, I would qualify. And while my own little vanity vote isn't going to get me anywhere, if I rally the teaming masses (both of them) who read this site, then we may have a movement going on here. So let's freep this catagory - go vote for Grubb Street ( Right now.

I know what you're thinking - there are other local blogs more deserving of this honor, and if I give you a moment, you'll think of one. And you're probably right, but they aren't huxtering for your vote, eh? And since a lot of the readers of this journal have their own journals, what's to keep them from voting for themselves? Nothing, but just remember I asked you first.

This, of course, is the danger of democracy - they let just anyone in. North of the Border, the CBC ran a show called "The Greatest Canadian" (no, it's not a contradiction in terms), with an open, popular vote, and some DJ in Winnipeg decided to campaign for himself. He made it to # 41 or so (I think he beat out Bill Shatner and Margaret Atwood, but I'm not sure). The CBC could have made a decision to exclude him, but instead gave him the placing, patted him on the head for his audacity, and went on with the countdown. So I'm sure that should Grubb Street win, the local weekly would be delighted to share that information with Seattle at large. And, by the way, if you're looking for "Best Steak House" I would recommend the Melrose Grill in Renton.

Adult Movie Rentals? You're on your own.

More later,

Friday, June 24, 2005

New Jersey

So I spent the week in the Jersey, outside Philly, visiting the Lovely Bride's extremely extended family. My mother-in-law, actress Nardi Novak, moved out there last year to be with friends and folk, and has a small apartment in Hi Nella. I spent most of my time out there driving from point A to point B, and nodding politely to family conversations (most of which seemed to involve how to best get from point A to point B). My Internet access was limited by Nardi's pokey computer and what little I had was spent mostly to get resumes out to computer game companies (thanks for Lady Gumdrop for a fist fulla leads).

Not that it wasn't fun out there. One of my lovely bride's cousins got married. Nardi killed in a excellent community theatre production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. We ate a lot of cheesesteak (one branch of the family founded Camden landmark Donkey's Place, which serves GREAT cheesesteak served on a kaiser roll). Went to the Jersey Shore (another cousin has a beach house at Sea City). I did a lot of nodding and tried to organize the collection of cousins, second cousins, third cousins, and levels of removal. They don't need a family tree, they need an org chart.

As for Jersey itself, the area south of Philly has a model railroad feel to it. The neighborhoods are small and tight and set in jewelbox fashion, and a fifteen minute drive takes you from the worst parts of Camden (Kate's first home was now a boarded-up relic in a neighborhood that looks like the set design of an August Wilson play) to almost-Disneyfied upper crust, with every class of neighborhood in between. While I joke that it always takes 45 minutes to get somewhere in LA, it always takes 10 minutes to get where you are going in South Jersey.

And so we're back. I've got a lot to catch up on. More later,

Monday, June 20, 2005


So in the past week a piece of legislation has popped up that has been grabbed by the lefty blogs with shock and anger. This is a pitch for a new amendment that overturns an old amendment – the 22nd.

The 22nd is the one that limits presidents to two terms. It got its start in 1947, in the wake of FDR’s death and officially joined the constitution in 1951. By overturning it, progressives fear, we open the door to “president for life”, and point to it as an indication of the conservative's desire to create our own King George. Never mind that four of the bill’s five sponsors are Democrats (Of course, the fifth sponsor is Sesenbrenner of Wisconsin, the sage head that turned off the microphones in a congressional hearing so he would not have to listen to people pointing out that the PATRIOT act was being abused).

But despite the concerns of the progressives and the presence of Sesenbrenner I am with the repealers on this. Supporters of the “In Party” have to deal with the fact that their guy cannot run again, regardless of their success, and therefore becomes a lame duck immediately upon re-election. The supporters of the “Outs” rightly point out that re-elected administration is EVEN LESS accountable in its second term now, since it doesn’t have to worry about reelection.

Actually, its even more frustrating that this. For the Ins, their operation becomes split between those who are going to see the lame duck through and then retire themselves, and those who want to keep going with whatever the next administration is. Instead of an imperial presidency, it’s a continual succession argument.

For the Outs it is little better, since there is no way to bring to bear the “will of the people” (or even the “will of the people who support the outs”) to bear. The only way to rein in a president is through Impeachment, which we think of as a “nuclear option” but as the most recent one pointed out, was little more than a “Vote of No Confidence”. Both Nixon's proposed impeachment (he resigned before things got going) and Clinton's full-blown case of impeachment fever happened in their second terms, when they supposedly had "nothing to lose". And today impeachment talk is in the air for a 2nd term president, this time from the disappointed Right Wing of the Ins party, angry at a deeply unpopular president. Would the various administrations have walked more carefully, and been more even-handed, had it been thinking of a strategy that lasted more than four years?

One of the great things about the Constitution is not only that we can patch it over time, we can change it again when the patch doesn’t work. Prohibition came into being to address basic problems in the country, yet it soon became obvious that the cure was worse than the disease, and Repeal, in the form of another amendment, followed. So too we can make our administration more responsible (or even force it to look more responsible) by getting rid of this lodestone. It was put into place by Outs (Republicans) who had been confronted by four terms (a lifetime) under the Ins (FDR Democrats) to "bring balance to the Force". And with the exception of Bill Clinton, its been the Republicans who have been nailed on the "no third term" law, hoisting themselves by their own political petard. The 22nd Amendment was a bad idea then, and it remains a bad idea now, regardless of who is in office.

More later.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Novel: Get Fuzzy

Mammoth John Varley 2005 Ace Books

I’ve been a John Varley fan for what seems like practically forever. OK, from the late 70s, at least, when his short stories started showing up in Galaxy Magazine. Cyberpunky before the genre even had gotten any traction, he wrote about a transformed solar system and posthuman development, its big novel being The Ophiuchi Hotline. He had an accessible style and advanced ideas and alien thoughts and his characters had a great way of taking everything in stride.

And he left the SF Business for a sojourn in Hollywood, a decade-long black hole that ended up with the production of a slightly average movie, but then he’s come back, and now, much like Poppy Z. Brite, is changing his act a little bit.

Mammoth feels like Varley’s movie book, his version of a film blockbuster, him doing Micheal Crichton, playing with science in a mass market sort of way. Its got the goods compared to Crichton, Cussler, and Clancy, but he makes me miss his crunchy near-future solar system goodness.

Here’s the general gist of it: Megabillionaire Howard Christian wants to clone a mammoth. His people locate one in Nunavut, frozen in the ice. Alongside the dead mammoth are two dead humans from 13000 years ago. Once of these humans is wearing a modern wristwatch and carrying a steel briefcase. And the story suddenly isn’t about mammoths at all (though they are a part of it throughout, including a young mammoth hybrid named Fuzzy), but rather about time travel.

And time travel stories have their own problems, usually revolving around the question of free will and predestination. In a free will universe, an open system, you create the problem of everything being negated though character action (“The reset button” that plagued a lot of Star Trek episodes). In a predestined universe, the only question is how you are going to put the blocks back together. Varley embraces the latter, and depends on some small cheats to pull it off – things disappear from the narrative text, only to show up later with an explanation of where they had been hidden, and why the characters (or the readers) did not have all the information. This is frustrating.

And there are more than a few holes in the plot. For example, if I (a billionaire capable of building a death ray into my humungous office building) find an anomalous body from the past that is an obvious time traveler, the first thing I do is run as many scans on it as possible to identify the body against a modern database, including anyone who is working around said time machine, regardless of whether I believe time to be an open or closed system. It sounds like Rule #2 of Time (Rule #1 is "Don't step on butterflies". But no one does thinks of this in the book (and we are supposedly dealing with real smart people in the book).

Now in the Crichton/Cussler/Clancy universe, this kind of stuff is expected. From Varley it’s a bit of surprise, and a frustrating one. The other problem is something that Varley does that is not akin to the other authors – he has characterization going on. Perhaps a bit too much characterization. The megabillionaire/badguy has enough quirks to make four movies with Christopher Walker – Howard Christian is a Howard Hughes/Bill Gates types with insecurities, a hard early life, a strain of kleptomania, a fetish for cars, a god complex, and a desire to be Batman. Varley's protagonists, Scientist Matthew Wright and elephant handler Susan Morgan, similarly have their quirks, and a five-year jump in the middle of the book allows everyone to evolve, or at least gain new quirks.

This is not Varley’s typical fair – he’s going in a new direction, and for that should be applauded. Oddly, the very things that have made him strong in his original works now prove problematic in his new field. Despite this he remains eminently readable and smooth. I'm just having trouble ignoring problems I would let pass in other "modern adventure technothrillers" (well, no, I would mock them as well, or avoid them entirely). But Varley gives me a higher set of expectations. This is the danger of any established author.

This is book really feels like it wants to be movie, and may have been a pitch once or twice. And it would be a good one. Perhaps that's part of the problem - Varley's earlier work was interesting and alien and utterly unfilmable (One painful attempt - Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, which was roasted by MST3K). Mammothone is down-to-earth, accessible, filmable, and almost pedestrian. And its a little bit more unsatisfying as a result.

More later,

Thursday, June 16, 2005

There is Nothing Wrong

There is nothing wrong with your computers - I am a little overloaded at the moment with job search, some freelance, and with a host of family-related visits.

Communications will resume when I get my head strapped on straight again.

More later,

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Flag Day

Yeah, it came as a surprise to me, too, and I only twigged to it because the Times did a review of a book on the evolution of the Pledge of Allegiance.

However, for your patriotic number-crunching enjoyment, here's a poll of the Approval/Disapproval Ratings for the US Senate. There are three Republicans in the top 12 (Two Senators from Maine and John McCain), and three Democrats in the bottom 12 (You can't really do a "top/bottom" ten, because there are ties). Washington State's Team Supreme are middle of pack. Former neighbor Rick Santorum? Number 93 out of 100.

More later,

Monday, June 13, 2005

Local Politics

This just in - Christine Gregoire is still governor.

And you'd think that after all the lectures after the 2000 and 2004 presidentials, the Republicans would lead by example and show how they are willing to move on, to coin a phrase. Instead, some of the rank and file have been beseiging the righty blogs, and, more interestingly, the local newspaper letter columns, not just with calls to organize, but rather with threats and promises that they will cheat like hell come the next election. Because my failure to find your fraud only justifies my future fraud.

I guess that means that if Michael Jackson is found Not Guilty of molestation, then the GOP Mayor of Spokane can put the moves on young men in a chat rooms. Hang on, Wait a minute . . .

But that's not what I want to talk about. Instead, let's talk about the State GOP nominating convention, which was this past weekend. Here's the story so far. It used to be that Washington State had a blanket primary, which meant that anyone could vote in either party's primary. The parties hated this, since it encouraged "mischief" - members of one party crossing the line to support the weaker candidate of the other party. So the 9th Circuit tossed it out. So what we have instead is a "top two" primary, which the says the top two candidates, regardless of party, go on to the general election. The parties hate this EVEN MORE, and are back in court to get rid of it. In the meantime the Reps (and later this month, the Dems - don't think they're getting a pass on this) are holding nominating conventions to put only ONE Republican (or Democrat) on the ballot. Everyone else is supposed to stay away.

So a nominating convention of less than 1d6x100 people per district is deciding who your candidate is. Oh, yeah, that's SUCH an improvement over those messy primaries.

For most of the newly-shrunk King County Council, there's no problem - there's one candidate from the establishment anyway. However, in the rebuilt 9th, there are two - Steve Hammond, and Reagan Dunn. Hammond, if you remember from early in this journal, was the "least crazy" of the candidates put forth to replace the late Kent Pullens (the other two were the ever-mobile Pat Roach and Phil Fortunato of the Great Big Signs). Reagan Dunn is the son of Congressperson Jennifer Dunn, and had the support of Mom and other party heavyweights. The loser would bow out, the winner would run as a Republican.

However, something odd happened that is not so odd. Favorite Dunn lost to Hammond. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise. While Hammond is a former minister and the more conservative of the two, a small convention is exactly the place where the more conservative party faithful come out in droves (that goes for the Progressive wing of the Dems as well). Hammond went to the mattresses, did the ground campaign and upset Dunn by a narrow margin.

So Dunn, golden child and rising star of the establishment, is bowing out as promised, right? Remember which party we are talking about? No, citing that Hammond has broken the 11th Commandment ("Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans"), Young Dunn is going to soldier on and run anyway. The party has threatened to go to court to prevent him from using the (R) after his name on the ballot. Great way to build solidarity.

And here's the kicker - there were more votes counted than there were delegates. I know, the Irony Gods are working overtime in Washington State. Instead of demanding an immediate revote, of course, the party swept it under the rug, noting that Hammond's victory margin was larger than the number of additional votes.

So this shows some of the weaknesses of nominating conventions as opposed to general primaries - even when you try to guarentee a result, the voting population will do what it pleases. There was an additional matchup, in the newly-jiggered 7th District, between incumbant Pete von Reichbauer and . . . old friend Phil Fortunato. Von Reichbauer discovered he had opposition only two days before the convention, and while he dusted Fortunato, 75-26, it underscored the dangers of complacency.

Open primaries were a smarter idea. And in a few weeks, the Dems get to reinforce this lesson.

More later,

Editing note: Went back in to correct a screaming typo - I originally said the Mayor of Seattle when I mean to say the Mayor of Spokane. The GOP Mayor of Spokane is the one promising government jobs to young men he picks up in chat rooms. The Democrat Mayor of Seattle, on the other hand, has been in Chicago talking with other Mayors about adopting the Kyoto Accords, which have been rejected by our national government (and accepting a "Most Liveable City" award).

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Week That Was

So, I'm a lumberjack (and that's OK).

In the end, we took down and sawed up four trees from the Deadfall Maples (naming rights still available), cropping it to a six-member group. First fell a dead snag in the wind, then the second tree in full leaf, then we took down two more dead snags, because when they fell, would have done serious damage to the house or brought down still more trees.

And by "we", I mean myself, my Lovely Bride, and my extremely competent next-door-neighbor Ron, who provided the gas-powered chainsaws, had them sharpened up, and called dibs on the largest of the fallen trees. In exchange, all the wood from the downed trees is going to his woodpile, which should keep his kitchen fireplace going well into the next decade.

There were a few adventures. We dropped one of the snags accidentally on top of the Aztec Temple Grill (also a good name for your band), and smashed some bricks, but given that the darned thing was put together without mortar in the first place, it was easily repaired. We moved the bronze cat birdbath out of the way of where we thought the tree would come down, and, of course, almost dropped the tree right on the new spot.

So, we sawed up the trees. We hoisted the stumps back into a relatively artistic arrangement. The Lovely Bride gathered up the leaves and branches and put them in the back part of the lot, which is our widerness area/briar patch/composting site. Then I mowed the lawn to get all the stragglers. Then a heavy rain hit to help drive down the sawdust. The casualties are a bent gutter and a smashed set of lawn furniture.

And I, for one, am exhausted the day after finishing all this.

More later,

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Dave Sutherland

Veteran TSR artist and cartographer Dave Sutherland has passed on. As a fan I remember him for his art in the very young days of TSR (The cover of the original Monster Manual, the first Empire of the Petal Throne). As a co-worker I remember him for pushing the our maps in new directions (The 3D maps of for the first Ravenloft, not to mention that the Ruins of Undermountain maps came from his campaign). As a friend I remember him for his kindness and warmth and engagement with everyone around him.

More later (I guess),

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Inauspicious Week Continues

And then the second tree fell over.

I mentioned earlier the Deadfall Maples (still available as the name of your rock band) at the NW corner of our house. The Deadfalls are a combination of dead snags and live trees growing from a common stump. The stump, however, has started to rot, so we have realized for a while that they would have to come down.

On Sunday, one of the snags, a pole about 30 feet long, bounced off the house, and thundered to the earth, missing the patio furniture by a few feet. We sawed up what we could with our dinky electric chainsaw, and called our neighbor, who is a wonderful guy with all these cool tools.

So yesterday, at dinner, I heard something go "thump" outside. I had the chance to turn to Kate and say, "Did you hear something?" when the second tree of the Deadfall Maples fell over. This was a live tree, heavy with leaves and seeds, about 70 feet high, and it thundered to earth in a slow, majestic fashion. It was like watching the Titanic go down.

It didn't hit the house. Instead it smashed the patio set into little plastic pieces.

Here's what happened - the first tree, though dead, was supporting the other trees in the cluster. When it fell over, that support went away. The second tree was OK with its canopy of leaves and seeds, but the added wieght of a day-long rain was too much for it, and brought it down.

So now we have TWO trees knocked over in the backyard- one partially sawn up and the other in full leaf. So that's what I'm going to do later today.

And yeah, we called the neighbor with the cool tools.

More later,

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

This Just In . . .

Christine Gregoire is Governor of Washington.

After seven months of relentless public bloviating and serpentine legal maneuvering by our local Republicans, Judge Bridges of Wenatchee County has dismissed the State GOP challenge of the election, and soon following, candidate Dino Rossi conceded the election with only a quarter of Gregoire's term completed. Rossi and the State GOP surprised many by chosing not to pursue the case to a higher court, but I think this was primarily because Judge Bridges laid a mighty smackdown upon the Republican's case, dismissing in its entirety and "with prejudice".

I really don't know what stronger terms he could use - if he had dismissed it "with extreme prejudice", he would have had to launch himself from the bench and physically beat the GOP lawyers about the head and shoulders with his little gavel. He ticked off the Republican charges and in turn, showed them without merit from the evidence presented in court.

Mind you, the case was in Wenatchee in the first place because the State GOP went shopping for a friendly venue. Further, the judge admitted all the forms of shakey evidence that the state GOP wanted in, allowing them to present their "proportional theories" of cherry-picked data. And the judge telegraphed from the start what he expected to be presented as clear evidence (he did not go as far as to say "This will be on the Final Exam", but he should have). And even with all this, the GOP could not make its case. They cried "fraud" long and loud, but when it came time to put the data on the table, they had nothing, and the Judge knew it.

There was no smoking gun, nor even a damp squib. The GOP's lawyers not only did not pull back the curtain to reveal the Great and Powerful Oz, they couldn't even find the curtain, and instead took on the appearance of a chimeric combination of Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion, wandering the streets of the Emerald City and accusing random bureaucrats of being the Wizard.

The Democrats, for their part, did their homework, possibly in part because they didn't spend all their time on talk radio predicting victory. The Judge did disallow a handful of votes which the Dems showed were illegally cast by felons - four of them for Rossi. This was the court's way of saying "see, this is how you make a case". And probably the finest moment for the Dems was reading into the record a quote from the GOP Chairman Chris Vance, declaring how fair and honest he thought the King County elections were (mind you, this was when Rossi was ahead, and he was pressuring Gregoire to admit defeat - since then, Vance has been the go-to guy for poisonous accusations).

Not that the Dems should get off scot-free (though wiping the sweat from the brows is perfectly understandable at this point). While the King County did OK, there are still holes in the system which we can plug (and in part is being pushed by our Secretary of State). While the system worked much better than other parts of our great country (such as, oh, say, Ohio, where the political stench is just getting worse over time), we could tune things up better. And by "we" I mean everybody, because both sane Republicans and Democrats benefit from fair elections.

Now the State GOP and its hate-talk allies are in fallback mode - it was never about the Governorship, it was about exposing all the problems in King County's election board (and blaming it on County Executive Ron Sims, who, surprise surprise, is coming up for re-election). The judge was obviously partisan by demanding facts. And while Rossi could have given a proper congratulations to the Dems in a "The people have spoken, and the court has confirmed" speech, instead told everyone that he was abandoning the chase only because he didn't think he'd get a fair trial at the Supreme Court level (as opposed to before a judge in a Republican county). At that point Mr. Rossi lost me - that was tooth-grindingly tactless and wrong, but very much in the standard playbook of baseless accusation.

Now here's the interesting thing - the Washington State election Challenge has been a caus celeb not only within our borders, but nationwide, and the National Republicans have raised money based on those "evil, evil Democrats" who believe in these radical concepts like "counting votes" and "not rolling over". And I can only assume they have had some success in fundraising. The question is - where did the money go? Because they definitely didn't use it for their legal team.

Maybe they invested it in collectible coins and beanie babies.

More later,

Monday, June 06, 2005

An Inauspicious Start To The Week

Both Sunday and Monday were busy, but for different and almost completely opposing reasons.

Sunday I went up to the U-District to work at the Suzzalo Library alongside the Monkey King. Suzzalo has this huge, Hogwartsian reading room which reminds me very much of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittburgh, but with better lighting. I completed a short story in this quiet place without an Internet link, and when we took a break, I learned of the strangeness that is bubble tea at a local coffee shop.

Then I, the Monkey King, Shelly, and Frabjous Dave went to the Circus. Well, actually we went to The Circus, the 1928 classic silent film that got Charlie Chaplin an Oscar. This played to a packed house at the Neptune, as this was the film every SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) fan wanted to see. And it was brilliant and great and the entire house was completely under a spell cast almost eighty years earlier. Amazing stuff.

Then we adjourned to the Big Time Pizza for slabs of 'za and beer, including a Triple Boch that left me partially phased with another, cotangent plane of existence. And that was OK, since I also discovered that the Frabjous One was a serious Shakespeare conspiracist, and he put forward the best argument that Edward DeVeres authored the Cannon that I have ever heard in a bar while I was partially fused to another plane.

And so I returned home late and happy, only to discover that a tree had fallen on my house in my absence.

It was not a major disaster. We have a stand of maples near the northwest corner of the house - some living, some deadfalls (and "Deadfall Maples" is a great name for a band, if you looking for one - just remember to send me a check for its use). With the neighbor two houses to the west leveling his forest out front, the maples are now getting a lot more wind, so it was only a matter of time before one came down. It bounced off the house, tearing a shingle and bending a gutter, then bounced off the balcony railing, taking out a window box, then plummeted to earth, destroying a flower pot, bending a pink flamingo, and missing the patio furniture by about a foot. So really, there was little damage that we've found.

However, we have a big tree in the backyard, and I spent the bulk of the day sawing up what I could and collecting and disposing of the branches. I still have a huge log in the backyard, but I have to get a bigger chainsaw.

And that's been my Sunday and Monday. I have a feeling it's going to be a weird week.

More later,

Evil Alien Devil Squash

There is a lot on my mind at the moment, so for the moment, enjoy this Evil Alien Devil Squash!

More later,

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Our Chi Is Mighty

Though I will admit that I look like James Bond villain in the picture below, with the Lovely Bride as my villainous and brilliant chief scientist, actually it is the pair of us in our Tai Chi uniforms:


The occasion was "A Glimpse of China - Seattle Chinese Art and Culture Festival" at the Seattle Center House. For those of you not from the area, the Seattle Center is Seattle's chief cultural hub - the original site of the 1964 World's Fair and still-home of Seattle landmark, the Space Needle. The Center is the site of the ballet, opera house, several theater companies, the Science Museum, the Experience Music Project, and Key Arena (home of the basketball champions Seattle Storm, and, oh yeah, the Sonics).

Anyway, about 20 of us from the Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi Academy were performing the 24-form in our white silks, and we held together pretty well. Our Chi was mighty, and no one fell over. I don't have any photos of our performance, because I was repulsing the monkey with the rest of the group. When the photos show up at the academy's site, I will provide a link.

But the stars of the presentation were not us oldtimers, but the Jedi Younglings:


The kids performed some amazing moves, are more limber than I ever was, and, oh yeah, have cooler uniforms.

Not that I'm jealous, mind you. For such feelings lead to the dark side.

More later

Friday, June 03, 2005

Fist Fulla Movies

I have a horrible approach to watching movies - I don't catch the film when it comes out, then I wait a week so there isn't as many people there, then wait a couple more weeks for it to hit a budget theater, then wait a couple months for it show up on DVD, then don't rent the DVD, then flip past the edited-for-television version in order to catch a rerun of Iron Chef. While I recognize the triumphs of the art of cinematography, I am exactly the type of consumer that makes movie moguls pound their heads against their desk until bloodstains start appearing on their blotters.

But with my recently-altered circumstances, I have a little more time on my hands and a little more desire to get away from my home office (the walls do start to close in after a while). So I have seen four honest-to-goodness modern films in the past month.

Hitchiker's Guide the Galaxy was OK. Just that, OK. It was amusing and well put together, but as I watched it I came to realize that knew all the jokes. Including the jokes that I had sworn I had forgot. I enjoyed the radio show, and the books, and the TV show and the breakfast cereal, and as I progressed through the film, I had this definite feeling of deja vu. I knew where we were going, like a production of Shakespeare that you've seen in different forms. Now you're just watching to see how they pull it off. A friend suggested that, before going to see a movie, I should hit myself in the head with a shovel so as to drive all such facts from my brain and just enjoy the film.

And for Sahara, I did just that, going to see it the day after the boom was lowered upon me (head, meet shovel). This is a goofy adventure movie that operates under the idea that if you just keep loading stuff up, no one will really question what is going on. There are plot holes the size of civil war ironclads in this, but it marches smartly along, feeling at times like an episode of "Miami Vice" with a redneck rock soundtrack. As an added bonus, you get Penelope Cruz as the World Health Organization scientist/hottie (you can tell she's smart - she wears glasses in a couple scenes). The Lovely Bride, who has a thing for this type of movie (she rented National Treasure while I was out of town, for similar reasons) had the most telling review: "It gives you the experience of reading a Clive Cussler book without having to, you know, actually READ a Clive Cussler book."

And then we watched Hellboy together on DVD, which was left here by Brainstormfront when he moved back to Wisconsin, and it was a bit of a letdown. Maybe the move to a slightly smaller screen did it in, but it felt stilted and empty. Great visuals but sort of a hollowness at the heart of it all. And I would be just the person to like a movie that mixes together Nazis, Cthulhoid monsters, and Jeffrey Tambor (who stole his scenes).

And lastly, yesterday, Revenge of the Sith. No way I can give this a fair shake, since I've been hip-deep in Star Wars for the past year and so was privy to a lot of bits that had not been revealed (for example, in an early draft - Darth Vader was to be revealed to made of chocolate. Darrrrrk chocolate). And most of the people I know were separated into hostile camps of "Doesn't Suck" and "Fooled Again!". Parts I liked (Obi-wan's humor in the opening sequences), parts I didn't care for (the tooth-pulling dialogue). All in all, it felt like going to Easter Sunday Sermon - you know you're going to have to go, you know what's going on, and you're there for societal reasons as much a spiritual ones. Episodes I-III seem to operate for me as the ultimate ret-con (retroactive continuity). If you watch all the films in correct order, you will find everything in Episode IV revised, changed, or deepened (right down to Luke looking off into the double sunset, or 3P0's comment of "Thank the Maker"). Its an interesting time-loop that has been set up, where the original generation's experiences with the film series will not line up with those who approach it in final running order.

In the meantime, pass me that shovel - I think I'm going to see more films.

More later,

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Novel: End of the World as We Know It

War of the Worlds: New Millennium By Douglas Niles, Tor Books, 2005

I don't normally review books written by friends. No, hang on, that's wrong - I regularly review books written by friends, when said books are in the process of creation, that morphic ur-state when the language can still be strengthened, the blocking altered, the dialogue sharpened and the furniture moved around the room. And such reviews generally consist of a face-to-face conversations, the criticisms cushioned by numerous pints of some local brew.

But this was one I was interested in, and a mutual friend sent me an advanced uncorrected proof. I've been a fan of the H.G. Wells original and loved both the Classic Illustrated comic book version with its bolts and rivets Martian tripods and the 1953 movie with its low-hovering melted jellybean ships. So this is a book I would have wanted to write.

And Doug has done SUCH a good job with it.

You know the basic (now public domain) plot. Mars invades Earth, sweeps aside the wonders of modern civilization, but in the end is defeated by a small thing they had not anticipated. That's where Doug starts, and builds anew, keeping much of what you expect and adding new twists of his own. If anything, Doug captures the extreme fragility of our early twenty-first century life, so tenuous that a good hard knock or three can push it over the edge. That fragility (along the hubris created by our advanced society) is one of Wells' original themes, and Doug expands upon it.

And Doug does more, bringing the basic plot up to 21st Century sensibilities as well as technology. Instead of the anonymous narrator of the original, Doug splits the tale between first person narration by Mark Devane, a former professor-turned-reclusive writer in the wilds of Wisconsin, and the third-person experiences of his daughter Alexandria, project manager of the Manned Mission to Mars project. Mark is gives the ground-level view of survival in a desperate, uninformed world, while Alexandria moves among the ranks of surviving terran power, aiding in the frustrating and futile attempts to repel the Martians. The plot moves elsewhere, with other characters and minor vignettes, but always returns to Mark and Alexandria.

This is a wedding of technothriller with classic science fiction. The understandable parts of the science and technology are there, right down to the reliability of old tech over new (one of the male heroes of the book flies an old A-10 Warthog, and ancient Harleys and classic cars survive the Martians' first assault). Yet overlapping this is the unexplainable nature of the Martian tech - we don't know how they do what they do, but believe that they are doing it. Wells' Martians were terrors of their age but look like quaint tripedal boilers today. Doug has brought back the terror they inspired.

Also, against the original text (and most technothrillers) there is a layer of character development and envolution, particularly in Mark's character. He flees society after an earlier nervous breakdown but with the Martian Invasion has to come to terms with his own need for society and his own role in the new world. This takes it the story above the level of your typical technothriller into a finer form of fiction.

A word of warning - I brought this book with me when we went on vacation. The worst place to read about the initial Martian attacks was while waiting on the tarmac in Vegas to take off. Let's just say that commercial aviation takes a shot to the heart.

More later,