Friday, September 30, 2005

Back to Iraq

So this past week one of Kate’s regular fellow-gamers shipped out, heading for Baghdad. Actually, he’s heading for West Texas first, apparently because after being in Texas for a while, Iraq starts looking good. His area of expertise is setting up health and sanitation systems, something that’s in desperate need both in Iraq and in the states bordering the Gulf. This is his second trip –he did his bit in Gulf War I a few years back. For the past couple years, he’s been in this on-again off-again status about deployment, but the boot finally dropped.

My thoughts are with him, and also on the conflict he’s going into. And it does make me think of another war in Southeastern Asia. No, not Vietnam. I'm thinking of the Philippines. 

The Philippine-American war is truly a forgotten war, as it is known as that only in the Phillipines. When its called anything in the States its called the Philippine Insurrection, and treated as a footnote to the Spanish-American War, even though the Philippine conflict lasted longer and produced more casualties on all sides. Yeah, that’s one similarity to the present state of affairs. One of many.

The Philippine-American War took place during that wonderful euphemism of history that we called “The Age of Imperialism” in our history books, an uptick of military activity between the Civil War and WWI. Its like we caught a case of Imperialism like one gets a mild dose of the clap, but a shot of patriotism cleared it right up. Actually, it represents the time when we stopped just invading neighboring countries (Canada, Mexico, most of Central America) and started taking our tour world-wide.

OK, here’s the short form – you remember the Spanish-American War? The Maine and San Juan Hill and the Roughriders? No? OK, that’s a discussion for another war. Let’s just say that in the course of that war we invaded the Philippines, another Spanish holding, and with the help of the locals, routed the Spanish there as well. The locals were under the impression that we would kick out the ruling elites, then leave (promises were apparently made). Instead we set up bases for the long haul, and the liberators became occupiers. 

Any of this sound familiar?

The Philippine-American War had a relatively short pure-military phase and a much longer guerilla phase. It was declared unilaterally over by the American side, though the locals continued the fight. A lot of progressives argued against involvement in the Philippines, including major writers of the period (such as Mark Twain). The war resulted in the Americans putting up permanent bases. And over a period of decades the Americans kept handing offices and responsibilities back to the Philippine people, while restricting the true power to the parts that were still American-controlled or American-influenced

Atrocities by the Americans were common – there was such a market in “trophy skulls” (heads of defeated rebels) that graveyards in San Francisco were raided to keep up with the demand. If there was an Internet in those days they would have traded them for porn.

Eventually, the plan was to hand over power to the Philippine people (actually, the ruling elites, but still locals) by the mid-forties. The Japanese (also in a period called “Imperial”) upset that timetable and Americans left (temporarily). They returned and retook the islands with the help of the (you got it) local rebels, who were then sold out AGAIN to put power back in the hands of the ruling families. Even today, there are parts of the Philippines that one does not go to, for fear of guerilla activity (though most of the cities are under control, and the nation has a relative democracy in place, punctuated by corruption and strongmen like Marcos).

Now the point of all this, is that, from a US government point of view, it all worked out. The US has ended up with an ally in the Western Pacific that we have relatively tight control over, that allows us heavy use of our military power (The Philippines were a major jumping-off point for troops heading for Viet Nam). There continue to be flare-ups in hostilities, and the ruling elites have moved into the leadership positions established by the Americans. And the same thing could happen in Iraq.

The trouble is, it may take a century to get there, as well.

More later,

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Movie: Woo!

Serenity - Directed by Joss Whedon, Starring Nathan Fillon, Gina Torres, Summer Glau, Written By Joss Whedon


Just that. Woo.

So I got to an advanced screening last night (the film opens on Friday). They've been doing this for months now, advanced screenings to build buzz for the movie, and I got in because someone (like Stan) mentioned that there were free passes available through for the press, and bloggers were counted as press. So I abused my position and the Lovely Bride and I attended a showing last night up in the U district sponsored by the University Film Club. I think we were the oldest people in the place (unless there were some OTHER well-preserved vampires), and the most of them were big fans of Firefly, the TV show that this movie grew out of. Many of them were wearing orange knitted hats, a reference to the series that I will not explain here. So we had a friendly audience that laughed and gasped and cheered along with us. And . . .

Woo. I mean it. My tongue dried out from hanging my mouth open so much. This is a really good film.

OK, so Firefly was a space western put together by Joss "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Whedon. A motley crew of rebels, outlaws, and fugitives do small jobs in a broken down spaceship, armed with six-guns and old west attitude. When a young doctor and his spooky sister come on board, things get interesting. And that's all I'm going to tell you about the plot.

But, you know, Woo.

I'm trying to think of another SF film where the script, dialogue, acting, and special effects all came together so amazingly. Usually you have to excuse one piece or another because of its genre roots, but its all here. The script is tight. The dialog sparkles. The acting and direction are subtle and engaging. The characters are horribly and wonderfully human. And the battle sequences are everything that mix-master quick cuts of the recent Star Wars films were not. They were poetic.

Go see this movie. That's all I'm going to say - go see this movie.


More later (woo!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Local Politics: Potpourri

Bits and pieces from the front.

The 1st distict King County Council has see-sawed back and forth between Edmonds and Ferguson, but at the most recent count has Ferguson up by about 1000 votes. This is enough to negate the need for a mandatory recount, which disappoints their GOP rivals, who love to put about that close election must therefore be a botched election (unless a Republican wins - then it is something called a "mandate").

However, we do have a very tight race that may necessitate are recount for second place in the Sherrif's race, which is also disappointing to conservatives because all those involved are cops. Rahr holds her commanding lead, but Fuda and Schmdt continue to vie for each other with a fractions of a percentage point difference.

Meanwhile, the State GOP has repealed the 11th Commandment. That is, the requirement that one not speak ill of other Republicans (yes, they really had a party rule on that). The rule has been used in the past to bludgeon recalcitrant candidates into line, more often by the Business-conservative GOP against the Social-conservative GOP. Odd that this happens after the primaries and all. The party officials hope to have new guidelines in place to encourage party harmony without making people laugh at them.

On a national level, former FEMA director Mike Brown has a new gig as (wait for it) a consultant to FEMA! Yep, we're definitely running government like a big corporation. Mr. Brown was on the Hill, blaming every non-federal individual around him for the disasters, including a head-nod to local political blog Horse's Ass, which had earlier outed his past experience, or lack of thereof. You know, its not fair in the competition for Best Local Blog if you're going to do real reporting!

More later,

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Play: Pulling Strings

Cathay: 3 Tales of China Conceived, written & directed by Ping Chong, Made in collaboration with Shaanxi Folk Art Theater, Seattle REP, September 10-October 9, 2005

The Lovely Bride and I have season tickets with the REP, which I like because its pins us down to going at a certain time to a certain place for a certain show. It can be particularly rewarding if the show is one that I might not choose to see on my lonesome. I mean, I can't really imagine waking up one Saturday morning and saying "Yaknow, I'm really in the mood for a good puppet show".

And that's what we have here, for the lead-off for the 2005 season as well as its new artistic director. A puppet show - well presented, ingenious, but ultimately as hollow as a marionette's head.

Cathay: 3 Tales of China consists of three smaller plays, given linkage by a pair of highly animated statues, who serve as smart-alecky Statler and Waldorf for the proceedings (and are the most human of the figures presented). The first tale is in the Tang dynasty of an eternal love overturned by duty to state, where the empress must die for the empire to live. The second tale jumps dramatically to WWII where the Japanese invaders destroy the life of a young boy. And the third takes place in a hotel in modern cosmopolitan China, with sort of a Grand Hotel vibe to it.

All of this is presented on a grand stage of sliding panels that move smoothly from one sequence to the next, and mixes all manner of puppetry. And from a technical end, it's brilliant, and got me thinking about how this form of entertainment can pull off stuff that normal theater cannot. The puppetry and staging allows quick cuts, long establishing shots, creates greater depth trough using different size puppets of the same characters, and effective camera work impossible with normal stagecraft. One scene, shown from a viewpoint of the ceiling above, top down, was particularly impressive.

The problem here, is that I found myself trying to solve the production challenges presented by the presentation as opposed to tuning into the play itself. How did they pull that off? Am I listening to a tape or a live speaker? Am I watching life shadow-puppetry or a pre-created projection? And that's the prob - I should not have the time to key in on such things. Beneath the shiny surface, the structure does not hold together, and the plot does not engage or really resolve. Both the first story and the second are resolved in the third, but don't seem to connect to each other at all. What is the underlying theme - that people suffer but the state endures? That China is always going to have its barbarians - be they mongols or rappers?

In many ways it reminded me of SF movies at the dawn of Industrial Light and Magic, where they suddenly had the power to create impressive-looking displays, but taking years for the scriptwriting to catch up (yes, some will argue that it is still an ongoing process). I cannot doubt the skill of the puppeteers - it is portrayed in every nuance. But puppetry is a cool presentation format. Not cool as in neat, but rather as in distant and removed. So without a strong base beneath it, it ultimately disappoints.

I know I saw a show. The question is whether I saw theater.

More later,

Friday, September 23, 2005


Of course, after saying that I'm so busy, I immediately fall into someone else's meme: NikChick put this up on her board.

1. Reply with your name and I will write something random about you
2. I will then tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.
3. I will pick a flavor of jello to wrestle with you in.
4. I will say something that only makes sense to you and me.
5. I will tell you my first memory of you (or at least a prominent one).
6. I will tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll then ask you something that I've always wondered about you.
8. If I do this for you, you must post this on your LJ.

So I sent her my name and got back the following:

Random: Tai chi master!
Song: Istanbul Not Constantinople - They Might Be Giants
Flavor: blueberry
Say Something: "I heard this rumor layoff were happening..."
First Memory: Doing a product trade with you back in the days of Al Qadim
Animal: Cheshire cat!
Always wondered: If you had to make a total career switch that didn't involve writing or game design, what would you do?

The answer to the question is that I would run a TV newsroom, with an acerbic head writer, a lunkhead of an announcer, and an assistant producer who could turn the world on with her smile. Or I'd just be a grumpy engineer.

So I meant what I said and I said what I meant - I'm posting this on my journal. However, I still don't enable comments, but if you are a journal-keeper that I know, send me you name and I will do the same for you, and post the most amusing later.

Oh, and by the way, have I mentioned Dyvil recently?

More later,

Local Politics: Fallout

I have things to say, but no time to say them. My weekend has gone from "a good time to catch up on things" to another weekend of rushes, frustrated desires, and previous commitments. I have yet to even pass fully into Friday night and I’m already feeling the stress. But I want to do a summary of the Primary Results and throw a closed parenthesis on this part of the election process.

First off, Reagan Dunn took out Steve Hammond handily in the 9th, leaving the rural areas with no strong representation on the King County Council. Way to go! We’ve made King County government more efficient by disenfranchising a good chunk of King County! While I’m no fan of Hammond’s politics, he conceded like a gentleman and offered both his support and his advice to winner Dunn. Dunn now is favored against Shirley Gaunt-Smith, the Dem, but I don’t think it was the “dunn-deal” it would have been with Hammond.

Way over in the 1st Democratic primary, we have another nail-biter, where the margin of victory is very tight. Ferguson, who performed a strong ground game (I was moving a friend near Green Lake on Saturday and we were hit up by canvassers) took a lead, but Edmonds got strong in the mail-in votes, and while Ferguson widened the lead, it’s pretty evenly spread. No shenanigans have been alleged (in fact the Secretary of State pointed out it was a quiet election untainted by scandal, much to the frustration of his fellow Republicans).

The other close race is for who gets to run against Sue Rahr for Sheriff. Rahr took the lead spot easily, but Fuda and Schmidt are both real tight in the race for second place. I’m surprised, since I thought Fuda would do better. The Lovely Bride went for Rahr based on her political endorsements, I went for Fuda on the recommendation of his fellow officers.

Over for the King County Executive, it’s going to be Dem Ron Simms against GOP Dave Irons, as expected. The State GOP was kind of hoping for some election-related scandal to beat up Simms with in the general, but in the absence of that, they’re trying to spin that Simms victory as soft (he only got 69% of the vote in a light field). Of course, Greg Nichols race for Mayor got 56% in a race against relative unknowns, and Sue Rahr got 64%, yet no one is trying to push the idea of either one being vulnerable (indeed, the “no one can stop Nichols” vibe remains strong).

Speaking of Irons, this morning’s Seattle Times has a story that shows he’s embracing the same tactics that endeared Dino Rossi to me - approaching the issues by surrounding them on all sides. He’s apparently told one group that he is dead-set against Southwest moving from SeaTac to Boeing Field, while telling supporters of the move that he’s open to negotiations on it. And that tactic will work out fine, as long as each group doesn’t find out about the other (uh-oh).

Port Authority looks like its going to be Creighton versus Molloy, Berkowitz versus Hara, and Jolley versus Davis. The interesting one is Creighton, who I thought of as just another candidate, only to discover after the fact that he has thrown a lot of money into the campaign, won by a huge margin, and is part of the Dino Rossi/GOP/Pro-Development team. Pity you can’t tell that from just a name on the ballot. Remember that the position is non-partisan. The candidates? Not so much.

That’s the short update for the primary. Now we grind to November. I’ve already gotten a mailing for Julia Patterson (Democrat incumbent for the 5th District). Getting out there early and often apparently paid off for Dunn, and should work for Patterson as well.

Next up, we whine about initiatives!

More later,

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Things To Do Today

1. Vote
2. Promote Dyvil: First Edition
3. Engage in the Memes Du Jour

You scored as Aramis. You are Aramis, the Musketeer priest. Two natures war within you: one full of high-minded ideals and the other a sensualist. Your love life is an art form, and you are a Romantic who places great importance on the perfect date. Sometimes you manipulate people and events a little too much, but your heart is good nevertheless.









Edmund Dantes








Which Dumas character are you?
created with

OK, I'm done. More later,

Monday, September 19, 2005

Avast, Me Hearties!

It be "Talk Like A Pirate Day", me boyos! So join me in hon'rin' the Brotherhood o' the Coast, or I'll have ye keelhauled! Ya kin get yer Pirate Name generated here - Dirty Elizabeth (better known as Scarlettina, which be a better pirate name in itself) gave me tha' link!

I be Cutthroat Badfish, but that's CAPTAIN Badfish to yah, yah landlubbers!

Yarg, yarg, yarg, ho!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Local Politics: The Jeff Recommends

No Dyvil this time. I know, you want to hear about how I'm pushing this insane idea to raise money for the Red Cross AND give you a short, fun RPG, but I'm sorry, we're into Politics at the moment.

Of course, the Politics is not that exciting at the moment. We're at a primary where most of the choices have already been made in the political posts, and the non-political positions are all top-two, which means we will likely seem the same guys in a few months from now. So there's not a lot going on.

For the Fifth District King County Commissioners, its going to be Julia Patterson versus Orin Wells. For King County Executive, its going to be Ron Sims versus David Irons. For Mayor of Seattle its going to be Greg Nickels against an empty chair. Yep, the state GOP couldn't even find a sacrificial candidate for the mayor's race. Given that Nickels has suddenly withdrawn his support for the Monorail and asked for a FIFTH public vote on the matter (managing in the process to irritate BOTH Monorail supporters and detractors at the same time), they could be bashing their GOP-foreheads against their GOP-monitors.

For Port Authority, I'm going with Shelly in Seattle's recommendations: Molloy for position 1, Coates for position 3, and Jolley for position 4, but reserve the right to revisit the matter when the dust settles.

For Sherrif, I go with Fuda by a half-point over Rahr, with the same claim to revisit later. Susan Rahr has the support of every big group involved in the Sherrif's office except one - the officers themselves, who are going for Fuda. Mind you, Fuda has the "diploma-problem" that seems to be plaguing a lot of elected and appointed officials all of a sudden, so I'm very lukewarm about this.

That about wraps it up for the votes that I have any real say in. I'm not in the 1st District for King County Commissioner (Ferguson vs. Edmonds, a nasty fight), but I lean towards Ferguson. I'd rather see a more independent voice in this area. I shan't cry in my beer if Edmonds takes it - Whoever wins the Democratic vote in the 1st will likely take the general.

The opposite is true in my old digs in the 9th, which is the Hammond-Dunn matchoff - the GOP winner is likely to take the field. And, progressive that I am, I should therefore recommend the weaker of the two candidates. So I will call it for Dunn. I think with Hammond as candidate, there is a 90% chance that the GOP will take the district. With Dunn, it drops to 75%. This is for two reasons. First, I think that supporters of Hammond, particularly in the rural areas, would rather sit out the election than go to Dunn, while Dunn supporters would settle for Hammond (this is particularly bad news for Irons, who needs those rural votes to make a credible run against Simms - a Dunn victory may make that unlikely (oddly enough, this is the conclusion of Right of Seattle a local conservative blog, and apparently the only other one covering this fight). Second, I think the odds of Dunn saying or doing something teeth-grindingly foolish in the next two months is much higher than Hammond, giving the Dems a shot at the region.

And despite the paper's claim that there is no difference between these two pro-business, conservative candidates, I have to disagree. They both favor development, but Bellevue-based Dunn is with the developers, while rural-supported Hammond is with those who lands are being developed. Dunn comes off as being in the offices, while Hammond has been on the frontline of the development curve.

So those are my calls for the Primary - It is a pretty thin field, all in all, but as it's been said: If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.

More later,

The Brief (?) Update

So my weekends are starting to involve more work than my weekdays, or rather just as much, smooshed into a two-day frame. So this is brief and entirely Dvyil-oriented. (You know the drill - the write-up is here)

The news continues to spread: We got a mention from Mo of Space and Death, which in turn spread to Gamer Chicks, Chicks with Dice, and Toronto Gamers (Good Evening, Toronto! Are you Ready to Rock?!). We also got a mention on the Rpg Showcase podcast out of Wyoming. And Steve Miller started a thread on Monte Cook's board.

The hobby game industry continues to respond to the devastation of Katrina. Jason Mical has contributed both his work and his marketing skills to the charity Beyond the Storm project. And game industry founder Dave Arneson has put together a charity raffle for Hurricane relief at his local store and is willing to make himself available to help other efforts.

Yes, I know, the primary is coming up Tuesday, but I'm a little busy this week for well-researched, thoughtful endorsements. I'll make recommendation if I can, but I will point out that others, such as Shelly in Seattle, are already on the beat for their districts. Shelly also has some good general advice on endorsements in general as well.

More later,

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Local Politics: The Ground Game

Note: So after spending an evening coming up with every Dyvil pun I could think of (The Dyvil Inside, Dyvil in a Blue Dress, The Dyvil Went Down to Georgia), I decided to spare readers the onslaught (The Dyvil You Say?). Instead, if you’re interested in Dyvil: First Edition and seeing me give money to the Red Cross, go here.

We have crested triple digits already in four days. Hey, I’m impressed. In the meantime, let’s talk about Yard Signs!

At this stage of the campaign yard signs are rarely found on the yards. Instead they blossom, like strange multicolored weeds, in empty lots, and along highway railings and in the no-mans-land of public roadsides. They congregate at corners, each one pushing their own candidate in a flurry of strong primary colors. Red and blue are common, but greens and aquas and maroons have also shown up.

There seem to be two varieties of this politcal weed, evolving from different types of materials in to the same evolutionary niche. The two separate species are paper on a stick and plastic on wires. In this region, the old-fashioned paper on a stick version seems to still secure, as strong breezes (and passersby) tend to shred the plastic too easily. Of the current crop at the South End, only Ron Sims has gone the wire route. Everyone else is. . . um . . . wireless.

Of the stick variety, most of the signs tend to be one color – that is, one color on a white background. Some campaigns (Sims (yellow and black), Wells (red and blue), and Fuda (yellow and green) go for a two-color approach, which shows both deeper pockets but with it a tendency to spend money of frivolities. The Reagan Dunn campaign has rolled out a four-color version - the red and blue on white of an earlier edition of the signs plus a new yellow and black starburst asking you to “retain” Reagan Dunn. Nicely attractive, and creating two levels of collectability. Needless to say, these new editions have only showed up in the northern parts of the district (where Dunn could still be considered an incumbent).

There’s an advantage in the one-color approach, however, in that you can get more signs for the campaign dollar. In addition, if you’re an incumbent, you can use the same bloody designs (and sometimes the same bloody signs) you used last time. That’s the case with Julia Patterson of my new district, the 5th. She has carpet-bombed the area that has recently been ceded to her. It’s an awareness campaign, and it's worked – even though she doesn’t have any opposition for the primary, she’s well-established for the general.

The problem, of course, with placing your signs on public property is that they can disappear as easily as they appear. People may think twice before pulling a sign off your yard (well, some people don’t, but they are usually the dead-of-night-hope-the-owners-aren’t-watching-and have-a shotgun crowd), but anything in the public areas is sort of a jump ball. On my commute, I’ve regularly seen signs appear and then disappear the next day. I’d like to think that people have just taken the signs home to plant, but I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of that, yet.

Taking political wisdom from signage is similar to figuring out who is running China from the wall posters, and about as accurate. What do I take away from my daily commutes? White with Red or Blue remains the most popular approach, with Red, White and Blue works for those that can afford it. The Patterson campaign is going to the matresses early and hard - I expect to hear a lot more from her in the future. The Dunn campaign is spending like this is the general campaign (and for all intents, it probably is - the 9th is traditionally GOP, and the parts that were changing were tossed over to the 5th). Hammond remains strong in the South and East, and his signs are usually paired with Irons for King County Executive. The off-shades for the sherrif's campaigns of both Rahr and Fuda tend to look good by themselves, but get shouted out by the strong contrasts of everybody else.

But in general? Its a quiet campaign, even for the huge about of litter along the highway barriers.

More later,

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dyvil in the Details

Are we going to be subjected to a plethora of "Dyvil" puns for the next month? It's very possible. What is going to happen is that I'm going to continue to link to the original announcement so people who come to the site can get the nitty-gritty without the reviews, reflections, and rants getting in the way.

The news is still spreading - RPG Blog gave us a shout-out, and Jon of Nothing Good Can Come of This . . . put in a plug. We also got a couple mentions in the message section of, which also has a thread on other contributions from the hobby game industry. We're already at the stage where more people have asked for the game than I thought actually ever read this site.

Briefly, I in turn want to do a shout-out to our local paper, the Seattle Times. The organized media takes a hammering for not being as light and nimble as the web, but they have the chops to inform and instruct. In particular, they did a mighty fine job on personal disaster preparation this past weekend, and if you're in our neighborhood (and even if you're not), you should pay attention.

They also asked the question that was on my mind: We just saw the re-assignment, followed by the resignation, of the Director of FEMA, who had a spotty resume and deeply political ties. The Times went looking to see if anyone matching this description was operating locally, and found one, in the form of our own local FEMA honcho. Though according to the rival P-I, he's not a bad sort at all, and he has been studying.

I feel so much safer. You, on the other hand, may want to find out who's in your chain of command.

Oh, and on the Dyvil puns - it could be worse, I could be playing Hanson in this space until you pay me to stop.


More later.

Monday, September 12, 2005

And So It Begins . . .

So yesterday, about 10:30 AM, I posted that we were giving away the Dyvil: First Edition RPG (see the post directly below) for Hurricane Relief. Go read the post, the but upshot of it all is I'm kicking in a buck to the Red Cross for every copy we give away for the next month. Steve's original posting on the matter can be found here.

At the same I posted, I wrote to my fellow Alliterates and told them of my scheme, and asked them to pass on the word. Matt Forbeck, Jason Mical, and Don Perrin, all of whom have ready access to personal sites or journals, put up short notes linking back to me. The news has also been picked up in turn by, and added to their growing list of gaming professionals and companies, large to small, that are pitching in to help.

And if you want to link up and spread the word, please be my guest. You can hot link to the article by itself by clicking the little pound-marker at the lower left of the entry, so you don't have to put up with whatever-the-heck-it-is I'm ranting about at the moment.

Early responses have been surprisingly positive, and I am delighted to report that all the requests have gone to Steve and none of them to me. Woo-Hoo! The system works!

More later,

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Money Where My Mouth Is

If you contact Steve Miller at and put "Dyvil Roleplaying Game" in the title line, he will send you a copy of the game, and I will donate a buck for Hurricane relief. No, you're not asked to buy anything - this is one of those pledge drives things where I'm doing all the heavy lifting. You get a real short, playable RPG in pdf format and I get to see my finances drop a small notch.

Here's what happened: Steve Miller has created Steve Miller's 30-Minute RPG Challenge (also called SM-30). You write an RPG in 30 minutes. You edit it in another 30 minutes. He prints it up as a pdf file and then (usually) sells it and splits the take with you. He issued the challenge to me several months back, and I told him if I came up with a mechanic and a world concept, I'd consider it. I came up with mechanic based on all the six-siders I have around the house. And I thought up a world. So I wrote it down. Then I edited it (Well, wrote up a FAQ). And I gave it to him.

And then Katrina hit.

We first talked about doing this as a promotional thing (buy this pdf for two bucks and we'll give a dollar to the Red Cross), but I really want to get the money moving, so I'm taking this on myself. And, to be honest, this is exactly what it sounds like - an RPG written in 30 minutes. We're talking eight pages, tops, counting the donated cover art by Bradley K. McDevitt, I think giving it away for the first month makes perfect sense anyway, so I'm going to sweeten the pot - grab my RPG and I will go into the hole financially on your behalf.

In Dyvil: First Edition the war between Good and Evil is over. Good won. God rules. Unfortunately, you represent the forces of evil. Now deal with it. It's an interesting concept (Sort of a "World of Shiny-ness"), and one that actually has some potential beyond a mere 30 minutes. But I was putting it together quickly and playing it for the occasional laugh, so you get eight pages.

OK, here's the fine print - I'm springing for the first 500 copies sent out (the goal is make Jeff poorer, not make Jeff broke). Steve keeps track of discrete hits, so you can't just order a bunch of them. Its only for the next month - the offer is over on the 15th of October, 2005, and we probably will sell it (the exact same thing) thereafter. So here's your chance - you get a cheap (free) RPG and help out a decent cause. And if you're interested in Steve Miller's 30-Minute RPG or actually PLAY Dyvil and like it - go tell Steve about it.

More later,

Friday, September 09, 2005

Local Politics - Voter's Guide

But First: Mystical Forest links to leadership. Paul Kemp talks about the President's authority to act (quick version: He has it). Poppy Z. Brite has 14 of her cats rescued. Gaming cartoonist John Kovalic does a political cartoon comes up with a new product tie-in. And Lady Gumdrop's brother-in-law ships out for the Gulf. Our gulf.

But hey, let's look at the Voter's Guide for King County's primary. Here's the on-line link so you can play along

Let me pick on the cover a moment (not on the online version, thank gods), which continues the weird cartoony vibe of earlier elections, with the cartoon female pen ("Penny") darkening the holes of the pudgy, male ballot (Billy? Bally? Gimpy?). The Lovely Bride says I shouldn't fixate, but it has a weird, almost carnal feeling to it. I just keep staring at it and wondering what the next level of their relationship is and feeling shamed about it.

Add to the fact that Penny is voting for one of three office-holders (which is two more than in the majority of races inside - a cartoon pen gets more choices than we do). The candidates, in all their copyright-violating splendor are: E.T, Bambi, and Pinocchio. Now I think Bambi is the Democrat, catching that "deer in the headlights" feel. E.T. is an independent who doesn't realize he can't run because he's (wait for it) an illegal alien (thank you - I'll be here all week). And Pinocchio is the Republican. He was a Democrat, but he started carrying a pencil sharpener with him when he switched parties.

Inside, there is a "Life of your Ballot" flowchart that just begs for satire from both sides ("Step Five: Be sure to explain to the nice lawyers that you aren't dead!"). And when we get to the candidates - well, there it goes downhill a bit.

I really miss the 9th, since that's the only county race in South King that has any real passion in it. Goldy over at Horses Ass already lit into Reagan Dunn's twisted language (look for the 1 September entry) that makes it sound like Dunn was admiring terrorists and promising to bring those hard-working terrorist values to the Council. No, he doesn't mean it that way, but the Dunn campaign needs an copy editor, in case anyone out there is interested in a gig.

Hammond's statement is interesting in that he can portray himself both as the incumbent (yes, both men were originally selected for the posts they now occupy, but Hammond at least was re-elected once) and an outsider (even though he won the caucus vote). Hammond also makes a grim point - even if elected, he would be the only rural member on the council. The redistricting has pretty must pulled the teeth of the rural voters, which is a shame.

It's also a shame I don't get the mailers for Dunn and Hammond to get an idea on the ground campaign, but I have to press on into the 5th, which is much less interesting. Julia Patterson runs a pretty straight positive campaign bio ("I'm a native! I'm experienced! Like the way things are going? Good! I'm doing my job!") while Orin Wells is just a bit - odd. Here's the paragraph that raised my eyebrows:

"In 1773 the "Boston Tea Pary" was staged to protest special tax advantages the British Parliament had given to the East Indian Company, a special interest group. When representitives start passing legislation based more on pressure from special interest groups and their own policial futures than input from the citizens, it is time to make a change."

First off, its the East Indies Company. And calling them a "special interest group" is sort of like calling Microsoft or Boeing a special interest group. Which is true, but they're not normally thought of as such in the conservative playbook. Maybe Wells and Dunn are both secretly "smash the state" radicals? More likely, Mr. Wells needs an editor as well - I think the GOP can swing a group rate (author holds imaginary cell phone to his ear and silently mouths "call me!").

There is a lot on the Port Commissioners, which is a non-partisan post, so you have to read their writeups to figure out if they're really GOP or Democrat under their non-partisan labels. Those that talk about growth and opportunity tend to get developer money and are really GOP, while those that speak of jobs and the environment are part of the Blue-Green alliance and are Democrats. I believe its a "top two" runoff, so I'll worry when I get closer to the final date. You guys can read up on these on your own.

The sheriff's race consists of three cops - ET, Bambi, and ... no, no, I have that wrong. Current Sherriff Sue Rahr was Reichert's assistant and hand-picked replacement, and in many ways this election is a referendum on Reichert's last term as sheriff. Her main opponent is Sgt. Jim Fuda, who I know from the fact that he has the biggest bloody signs I have yet seen in a campaign (I mean, they show up on Google Earth maps), and Lt. Schmidt, who I will confess to knowing nothing. Its another of those "top two" races that the political parties hate when its applied to them, so we'll see two of these names again for the general.

The Kent Mayoral looks interesting, but to be honest our neighborhood around Panther Lake hasn't been swallowed up by the township yet, so like in the 9th, I am missing the ground campain. In general, it feels like a very typical and mostly lackluster primary, but of course, I'm planning on voting, if only to get an idea of the lay of the land for the November ballot. And regardless of where you are, I recommend you do the same. Because somebody has to win these things.

More later,

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Big Muddy

According to Looka, the legendary Commander's Palace restaurant has been destroyed. Or it hasn't.

According to China Meiville, Six contractors were shot on a bridge in New Orleans. Or they weren't shot. Or they weren't contractors.

According to the Boing Boing, either the evacuated citizens in the Astrodome are doing well. Or they aren't doing very well at all.

FEMA is either doing a heckuva job or creating a helluva ballsup.

A murk is descending on the American South, a thick miasma of claims and counterclaims. Personal horror stories and political spin are colliding like warm air masses, creating thunderheads of indignation and frustration. A new storm is coming.

FEMA lies at the heart of the storm. There are a whole bunch of stories of volunteers and aid being turned away and resources being ignored. Foreign aid sits on the tarmacs of their home countries. We're even sending people to the wrong cities. FEMA's brass waited until after the storm hit to propose sending help, knowing it would take an addition couple days before to get the show on the road.

We haven't seen so much upper-echelon bungling since M*A*S*H went off the air.

Make your rep worse? Sure. How about leaning on Reuters to censor its reporting on the storm's deathtoll. How about trying to turn a bunch of firemen into public relations operatives, and then get snippy with them when they would rather be fighting fires. And check the last paragraph for the wincing punchline.

I don't think that we understand how huge all this is. This is bigger than just getting people out of the Superdome. We have a huge populace that drove out of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and are living in motels and with relatives and in government camps, if they're lucky. While a lot of the media attention is on New Orleans, places like Biloxi are getting kicked in the shorts by mismanagement.

Yet through it all, one voice of truth and reason shines through. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Onion.

More later (local politics for sure).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Good Ink has picked up the news of the new Irrevents stories on its legendology site, and mentions yours truly by name (which is always nice). Chapter 2 is now up.

More later,

Monday, September 05, 2005

FEMA dreams

I remain deeply engaged in what is going on in the Big Easy for purely personal, and I must confess, slightly selfish, reasons. I have an active volcano in my rear-view mirror as I make my way up I-405. Deep beneath my office building, a number of faultlines cross and re-cross. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is shaped perfectly for shotgunning a tsunami into Puget Sound. So one of the reasons I don't mock those who live in hurricane- or tornado-infested areas is that I have a rather large sword suspended above my own head.

That influences what I am particularly concerned about as well as my level of concern. I am not as worried from a local or state level because the mayor of New Orleans is not the mayor I have to worry about in this situation, and the governor of Louisiana is not in my chain-of-command. I do worry about the actions of FEMA because it IS in the chain if something bad happens out here, and my presidential administration is, well, sometimes you just have to go with the president you got.

So now I am curious about Seattle's Emergency Plans. On a personal level, we stock extra water and supplies and have some basic evac plans, including a rally point outside the city limits where the Lovely Bride and I will meet up in case we have to get out of town separately. Via Making Light, Jim Macdonald talks about "go bags", which are a darn fine idea. When we first moved out here, some of my fellow designers had houses in the "15 minute zone" of Mt. St. Helens. That means that when you hear the siren, you have 15 minutes to get OUT of the 15 minute zone. Both the Lovely Bride and I grew up as fire safety was coming into common knowledge (safer near the floor, touch doors before opening, know how to get out of the house safely). And this is the same thing, on a much bigger level. As I know more about Seattle's plans, I'll pass them along. And for your part, you might want to check out with your locality as well.

Speaking of plans, China Mieville remains one of the hardest-working bloggers in the business right now, cranking and linking at high velocity. So much so that one of his most damning posts may get lost in the shuffle - the idea that New Orleans' plan (approved top to bottom by folk who are supposed to protect them - and us) was to have no plan when came to the poor and carless. This one is seriously twisted, and again, I recommend you to check out with your local authorities because, you know, your car may be in the shop when Godzilla wades ashore.

I mentioned Mieville as being unabashedly socialist, so here's an good one from the more conservative end of the spectrum, brought in from Mark Evanier's excellent site (which usually talks about old TV shows, comic books, and Garfield cartoons). Brendan Loy is a second year law student and weatherblogger who found himself covering Katrina from tropical depression to destructive force (start here and move up). Loy's cut is to the conservative side (Venezuela's Chavez is a dictator and a corrupt thug, while Pat Robertson is merely a marginal figure on the right, listened to by few - on the other hand, he pinned back the Washington State GOP's ears over their behavior during the election case). Watching the progress of the storm from depression to storm to Florida to Gulf to Louisiana to Alabama, he provides a good realtime account. Again, it told me something I did not know - that Katrina as a Category 5 lost some of itse energy when it clipped Louisiana, and was a Category 3 when it punched into Alabama and Mississipi. It is cold comfort to Biloxi - like being hit head-on by a slightly-smaller truck, and a reminder of how deadly these storms are.

I bag on Anne Rice like some people talk about Al Gore - a reflex reaction based more on public image more than any crime, real, imagined, or literary, they may have committed. Yet Ms. Rice turns in some of her best writing here. You go, girl, um, ma'am. Also, Poppy Z. Brite checks back in from the limbo that has consumed her life. She's OK, and so is her spouse, but the rest remains a huge unknown.

Cartoonist John Kovalic notes that Lou Zochi is OK, and if you ask who Lou Zochi is, he is to gaming what Fats Domino is to rock 'n roll. John also yanks an article from the New York Times with the headline "White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage". As god is my witness, I thought this was an Onion headline, and had to go to source to make sure it was real (Like so many things that have stopped me dead in my tracks, it is - its a free subscription to find out). Its good to know that administration has its priorities straight.

And in other Gaming News, John Wick is donating his month's take from his small pdf operation, Wicked Dead to the Red Cross. I think that's a great idea.

I know a lot of people are hitting overload here (and I know I am after tapping in all these links), and the more I look the more I appreciate those folk who are providing OTHER distractions and news of their lives. I'm talking about things like this, also from Jim MacDonald on Making Light, which only a writer or editor could laugh at. This crazy Internet has created its own set of de facto reporters out of whole cloth, who because of their immediacy are in turn influencing the mainstream coverage. I'm not going to link to it here, because one thing the media loves to examine and discuss is itself, and as you may have noticed, there are more important things going on. I'm going to go back local news for a few days, unless something else goes casters up.

As for you and yours, think about a go bag.

More later,

[[Editor's note - Nope, you're not dreaming - I changed the text. An alert reader pointed out I goofed on Fats Domino - his chosen genre is rock 'n roll, not jazz. Naturally I was swept up in New Orleans stereotypes. The Mgt regrets the error.]]

Sunday, September 04, 2005


It still feels like a Shadowrun adventure, and not one of the cool ones with dragons and elves.

I've been tuning in way too much to the stories coming out of the Gulf, and trying to find the answer to the basic question - why would anyone stay? The answers seem to be as diverse as the people - poverty, responsibility, family, posessions, jobs, lack of jobs, pets, hurricane fatigue (four previous evacuations in the past two years), a faith in god or a lack of faith in government all seem to be turning up as well. And yeah, a few lunkheads and damned fools that would just sit still regardless.

But the thing it is, they were right, at least as far as the hurricane itself. I'm speaking heresy here, but most of the city weathered the hurricane itself OK. Day after Katrina hit, the media was leading with a "dodged the bullet" angle as the storm jinked at the last moment and slammed into parts of the country with less-well-known scenic attractions. And indeed, had the levee not given way, the story of the next day would have highlighted the brave souls toughing it out in the dome, but otherwise be a pretty standard story.

But the levee did give way, and all hell broke loose.

China Mieville (a review of Perdido Street Station is here), of all people, has been picking all this up on his journal, tracking how New Orleans' disaster planning was outsourced to an operation called IEM last year. News that they were awarded the contract (by FEMA), mysteriously disappeared from the company's website, then reappeared later, after its absence was noted. China's blog also covers the arrival of private security forces in town, another cyberpunky twist. Check him out, but be warned - I'm a liberal, he's a socialist, and he is a lot less forgiving.

Speaking of FEMA, the media is finally looking at its director's resume, a tale which has a Pacific Northwest origin. A local political blog, Horse's Ass (which, ahem, beat out this noble site for "best local blog" (not that I'm bitter)), had one of its regulars detail said director's last gig as a commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association. As an idea of how well he did, well, there is no International Arabian Horse Association anymore. The weird thing is that this write-up (one of tens of thousands on the net every day) got picked up and carried and spread further and, lo and behold the story has hit the mainstream media with some serious questions being asked.

To the Interdictor, Looka and Making Light sites, add Boing Boing a techie site that normally concerns itself with filesharing, copyrights, and computer housing mods. It is carrying reports including this one from the Astrodome.

This stresses something very important here. As the immediate danger subsides and cleanup begins, we have a huge number of refugees scattered across the south. If you haven't checked out the Red Cross and other charities, go do so. Its going to be a long couple months ahead for everyone involved, and the Red Cross seems to have its act together better than the local, state, or federal authorities.

Speaking of the feds, the administration seems to have moved from "no one to blame" through "blame the victims" and have now settled on "blame the local authorities" (trust me, guys, there is more than enough blame to pass around here - you're all just going to have to wait your turn). My concern of the previous post has proved grounded - forces were put into place to help at the request of the local and state governments, but were not given permission to move out. It quickly gets murky as to why. I have this really sick sort of feeling that things were held up because someone didn't attach a cover sheet to the TPS report before sending it out.

OK, I'm all linked out. More later,

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Just so you know, the Red Cross is not being allowed into New Orleans.

I saw this on one of the progressive boards before I retired last night, and hoped that it was untrue, given the horrible state in that city and the fact that people were dying in the Superdome, a supposed rally point, because of lack of supplies. Yet with this morning, I found the Red Cross had posted this FAQ, facing up to the matter. They are not being allowed into the city, as that might encourage people not to evacuate.

Its the old saying - give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Make him wait five days for a fish, and maybe he won't need that fish after all. And you save yourself a fish.

So, does this mean we shouldn't be helping because we have yet again screwed up? No. According to the Red Cross, an area of 90,000 square miles in the American Gulf is currently a disaster area. That is an area larger than that of Minnesota. As large as Pennsylvania and Ohio combined. There is a lot of misery to go around, and hopefully we can get our freaking act together before the rescue attempt kills more people than the storm itself.

And now another story is showing up on the progressive and lefty blogs off BBC Radio. Northern Command military forces were in position to help before Katrina made landfall, but could not move in until they got an OK from the White House.

Man, I hope this one is untrue.

More later,

Friday, September 02, 2005


And when I awoke this morning New Orleans was on fire.

It just keeps getting worse. You think that it we'll touch bottom soon, push off from a firm footing deep beneath the surface, and glide back upwards to fresh air. But the bottom is made of tar and mud and old tree roots and you just keep sinking.

The engineering part of me is howling in incoherent rage. How could we let this happen? How could we cut funding to the levees? How could we let the horrors in the Superdome happen? How could we botch an evacuation so badly? When did "Run Away" become our Plan A for emergency response? If we supposedly can secure Falujah, why can't we secure the French Quarter?

The writer side of me bleeds for those affected, but has no wisdom to share. I've never been to New Orleans - it always gave me the same vibe as Vegas - a snappy, touristy heart surrounded by miles of struggling people to support it. The opulent floats of Mardi Gras have given way over the years to frat-boy binging, bare breasts, and beads. The gothiness of Anne Rice and Vampire: The Masquerade did nothing to lure me. It is only with Poppy Z. Brite's work that I finally felt myself warming to the city (the review is here. If you want to read the book, now's the time to buy it - Ms. Brite is on the lam from the hurricane, and we don't know if she still has a house anymore.

So I give you the stories of others. Shelly talks about the levees near her home of Quincy, Illinois. Mystical Forest, Bruce Cordell and Making Lighthave been picking up on the political side from other sources. Chuck Taggart is a DJ with KCSN in LA, but has his roots and heart in Louisiana, and has been keeping close tabs. A techie named Interdictor has become the eyes and ears of the web in New Orleans, broadcasting pictures from his building. He's a bit "Joe Jarhead" in a lot of his jargon, but after only two days of what his team has been through, I'd be more of a howling mess than a howling commando. Go read.

And, yes, the situation in New Orleans is dire, but there's a stretch of land for Lousiana to Florida that just isn't there anymore. Biloxi and Gulfport and half a hundred small towns, the buckle of the Bible Belt, have been blasted, often into nothing. You see and hear about New Orleans because that is where the cameras are. Go here, WLBT out of Jackson, Mississipi, for video skycopter footage of the destruction. It is horrible and sweeping and terrible and it just doesn't ever stop.

I got that last link off a Pokemon board, as the members of that community are pulling people together, checking on finding out where folk are, co-ordinating mutual support and relief efforts. All we do is these little things, knowing they cannot be enough in and of themselves, but praying that together they can staunch the rising tide of misery.

The Alliterates have restored their donation page, aimed now closer to home, and I strongly encourage others to join me in supporting the Red Cross and other legitimate entities.

The Engineer within me howls at the raw stupidity of the past week. The Writer has to press forward for both.

More later,

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More PC

I must be getting old, because when I hear someone say:

"Its too early to assign any responsibility for this tragedy."
All I hear is:

"Boy, did we really screw up this time."
But then I'm just getting old.

More later,