Saturday, December 31, 2005

Just a Meme Before The Year's End

1. You have $10 and need to buy snacks at a gas station; what do you buy?

Diet Coke, Beef Jerky, a Can of Pringles Potato Chips, two rolls of Sweet Tarts

2. If you had to be reincarnated as some sort of sea-dwelling creature, what would you be?

A chambered nautilus, a perfect combination of a hard and soft, flesh and mineral, always moving forward but always carrying its past with it.

3. Who's your favorite redhead?

The Lovely Bride

4. What do you order when you're at a pancake house?

A stack of silver dollar pancakes, and a side of link sausage

5. Do you own any... naughty toys?

I don't know. What is this year's definition of "naughty"?

6. Have you made out with anyone on your friends list?

I do not keep a friends list. I have the blogroll on the side of this site, and of that . . . no.

7. Describe your favorite pair of underwear:

Baggy grey cotton shorts with a string tie

8. Describe the last time you were injured:

Its been years since I've broken a bone, and have had nothing much to complain about other than occasional scald or cat scratch.

9. Are there any odd things that make you feel comfortable?

If they make me comfortable, they aren't odd, are they? Here's one - going into bookstores in a strange city.

10. There is no Question 10 on this list. What happened to it?

Question 10 was removed by Homeland Security. By reading this sentence you give tacit permission for us to look into your hard drive.

11. Tell me a weird story from your high school years:

Bob Bannerjee and I took over the morning announcements for a week. We were funny in a "Come hear the music that made Beethoven what he was - Totally deaf!" sort of way.

12. What is the wallpaper on your cell phone?

The default fish swimming back and forth. If anyone knows how to change it, sure, send me a note.

13. Soda?

Thanks. Diet Coke, caffene free. No, Pepsi is not all right.

14. Flavor of pudding?

Chocolate, old enough to have a thin layer of skin on it, with just a bit of milk on top.

15. What type of shirt are you wearing?

Slippery Rock Cow-Tipping Team T-shirt

16. Prescription medication?

No. Tums, but that isn't a perscription

17. If you could use only one form of transportation for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I like the Hybrid

18. How many people are on your friends list?

No friends list, but I have 37 entries on the blog roll to the left.

19. How many people on your list do you know in real life?


20. What are you listening to right now?

Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian

21. Most recent movie you watched?

King Kong. See the most recent entry.

22. Name 5 things you have with you at all times:

Wedding ring. Wallet. Key Ring #1 (house keys). Key Ring #2 (car keys), Watch hanging from my belt. Hope for the Future.

23. Would you rather give or receive a foot massage?

Give. I am ticklish, so it never works out.

24. Name a teacher you had the hots for:

None that I can remember. Of course, my parents were teachers in the same school district, so I always assumed they got together and shared gossip.

25. What is a saying that you use a lot?

More later,

26. What's one piece of advice that you think should be passed on to every child?

Flee! Flee, you Fools!

More next year,

Thursday, December 29, 2005


So John mentioned that a group was getting together yesterday afternoon to go see King Kong, and I hoisted myself out of my office chair to go with the Lovely Bride. John and Janice were there, along with T'ed, Marc, and a surprise appearance by Stan of the Stannex, up from San Diego.

The movie was amazing and wonderful and long. That is probably where most people will have comments - where to cut. Marc felt it dragged in the opening scenes, getting the team to Skull Island. I actually though that the opening section was great (capturing the feeling of the other island in the movie - Manhattan of the 30's), but the early sequences on Skull Island lingered too long for me on "spooky shots of skulls". And that the movie captured in full the feeling of vertigo one gets when being carried around eternally by a giant ape.

Yet there is a lot packed into the movie, even at its length, a testament to the original and to this re-presentation (I can't call it a remake because it feels so fresh). There is the adventure story, and the funny bits, and the horrific bits (the "survivors attacked by vermin" sequence was a shut-your-eyes-tight nightmare), and the monster on the rampage, and the lost world, and the love story (Actress Darrow and Kong) and the love triangle (Darrow and author Driscoll and Kong). And there is something else - in the subtext, as they say. It is a film about the creative process.

No, really. One of the group mentioned that if the director also writes the screenplay, you end up with a writer as a protagonist. And while that is true more often than not (and that's another rant), the fact that the Driscoll character is an writer is new to the mix (Bruce Cabot was Driscoll in the 1933 version, but was First Mate on the ship). Driscoll writes "meaningful" theater for the National Theater Company, but lets his friendship with movie producer Carl Denham get him onto the ship in the first place. Denham, desperate for the script, stalls Driscoll as the ship sets sail. Driscoll runs to the railing to find there is about 50 feet of the East River between him and New York City. Denham tries to console him.

Carl Denham: You see, Jack, there's no money in theater. That's why you should join film.
Jack Driscoll: I love theater more then film.
Carl Denham: No you don't. If you love it, you would've jumped.

Denham WOULD have jumped - indeed, the ship casts off early to keep creditors from shutting down the movie. Denham is willing to sacrifice everything for his movie - his fortune, his film team, even the lives of everyone involved. The Jack Black's version of Denham is more malignant than Armstrong's 1933 version, and walks the fine line of becoming the true monster of the film (Jack Black is known for best known for playing the protagonist's lumpy stoner funny sidekick in romantic comedies - he shows himself as an incredible actor here). When the survivors of one of Kong's attacks mourn their dead, Denham mourns the loss of his film stock. And in the end, showmanship wins out for him, transforming Kong into an obviously tawdry and highly successful broadway show. The question of "what would you sacrifice" runs through the entire film, from Darrow and Kong's relationship on down.

Black was incredible, selling himself as a misguided villain as opposed to a happy, bumbling windbag. And Naomi Watts shows you can act against special effects and really act - she beats Fae Raye where Jessica Lange never could. And Andy Serkis as the man in the digital monkeysuit creates another fully-rounded, completely believeable, completely imaginary character.

I have said that it has taken a while for story to catch up with Special Effects in movies. We took a huge leap forward in the seventies and eighties, but the stories slipped a few cogs, not keeping up with the tech. This faithful expansion shows a time where the movie and the tech were in synch, and produced great work. Even at the length, even with the more squidgy sequences (again, faithful to the original), it is a wonderful movive. It is worth making the jump.

More later,

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Meme of Fours

[It used to be Fives, but there have been staff reductions]

Four jobs you've had in your life: Game Designer, Author, Structural Engineer for air pollution control devices, Order of the Arrow Coordinator.

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Longest Day, Casablanca, the Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man (it shouldn’t surprise anyone that all of these are in black and white – I almost added the first sixteen minutes of The Wizard of Oz).

Four places you've lived: Pittsburgh, PA; Lake Geneva, WI; Mesa AZ; West Lafayette, IN

Four TV shows you love to watch: The Simpsons, Curling on the CBC, Seahawks Football (even when they aren’t winning), KTCS Cooks.

Four places you've been on vacation: Kangaroo Island, Australia; Kono Beach Village, Hawai’i; Paris, France; Crater Lake, Oregon.

Four websites you visit daily: News from ME, FARK, Monkey King, Horses Ass.

Four of your favorite foods: Deep Dish Chicago Pizza, Maguro Sushi, Smoked Salmon, Grilled Swiss Cheese (but not all at once).

Four places you'd rather be: Kona Village on the Big Island; The Art Institute in Chicago; Los Gatos Canyon in California; Five feet away from here, on my back porch, in High Summer.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Day After


Happy First Day of Hanukah, a Very Bonnie Boxing Day, and a Pleasant and Respectful Feast of St. Stephen. Or as we at Grubb Street have taken to calling it, Happy Recovery Day, a day of resorting the house after the Holiday Feast, which includes disposing of the leftovers, finishing the remainder of the mixed drinks, and hand washing the glassware that doesn't fit in the dishwasher.

The Feast itself was wonderful as always. We had eight guests, I managed to expand my cocktail-making repetoire, aided by a shaker and measuring glass that the Lovely Bride got me for Christmas. For appetizers we served rumaki (bacon-wrapped olives and scallops) and salmon-stuffed mushrooms. The salad course were arugula mixed greens with hazelnuts and persimmons and a citrus dressing. For dinner we served our signature brined turkey, baked ham, mashed pototes with herb bernaise butter. green beans with wild mushrooms, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sause, and homemade poppyseed rolls. Desert consisted of a chocolate hazelnut cherry brownie with choclate mousse and a green tea cheesecake with raspberries.

It was, of course, wonderful. Our guests were both vibrant and very comfortable with each other (we have done this for at least four years, and I realized when putting out the place settings that everyone had been here before). Bill brought a great late harvest reisling and John his selection of teas. Everyone brought conversation and appetites.

The only downside for the event was that the 22 pound turkey, dubbed "Turkzilla" by Shelly, was uncooperative, getting to the party an hour later than planned (the Lovely Bride and I have the meal planning broken down in ten-minute blocks, and were well ahead of the game before the turkey brought everything to a halt). By the end of it, Turkzilla's doneness was determined by which thermometer was used and who was jabbing the turkey with it, but it was fully cooked and succulent and delish. The only danger was I was going to run out of cocktails before it was ready. (I am up to three for the holiday party now, plus a non-alcoholic blush for the expecting and the temperant).

Of course, the lateness of the turkey gave me the chance to deliver the toast that I always considered previously:

"As God is my witness, I swore turkeys could fry".

Happy Recovery Day, the first day of the weeklong Festival of Leftovers!

More later,

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

Grubb Street wishes you and yours a very happy holiday season.


Peace on earth, and to all peoples, good will.

Oh Christmas Tree

We have had the tree up for a while (and by tradition, will have it up until after the Lovely Bride's birthday in January), but only now have I gotten around to hooking the camera up to post a shot of it:


After much discussion, we once again decided the theme for this year's tree would be "These are our ornaments, we hope you like them". We have a wide variety of ornaments from various origins. Some are from our parents' households, some are purchases, and some just showed up one day and are on the tree because they have always been. There are paper cranes and nutcrackers, a yellow submarine and wooden dinosaurs, native american woodcuts, Spider-Man and Superman, a zeppelin, a cable car, and a gardener's glove, along with all manner of glass orbs of various ages.It is topped by a star in which is set a dove.

I have no idea who made one of my favorite ornaments, visible on the left-hand side of the tree. It was made (I think) by one of my mother's students from when she was teaching grade school, and is a long white spindle of lacquered paper, with metal settings a a great blue glass gemstone on the front. I don't know who made it, and assume that whoever did has kids 9may grandkids)of their own now, but it always makes me smile when I put it on the tree.

The presentation is always based on physics - heavy stuff towards the bottom, paper and other unbreakables on the side that flanks the entranceway. nothing glass low enough where the cats can take a swat at it. Birds towards the top, cranes to cover up the spots where the lights are not. All in all, a very nice job (Kate put on the lights this year - I tend to bury them deeped in the foliage).

Oh, yes, that is Harlequin on the left of the tree, manifesting her new mutant ability of Cat-Vision, moments before making a lunge for one of the metal bells formed in the shape of an apple.

More later,

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Flip Flop


So if you've been around the journal for a while, you got this entry about ANWR and the then-attempt to authorize drilling in it. And how a group of Republican Moderates stood in the path of that attempt, and how I sited Dave Reichert in particular for being among those moderates.

So this past week ANOTHER bill comes up, a defense bill which MUST pass, to which the GOP brass attached the drilling ammendment AGAIN. Now, I would have problems connecting drilling in Alaska with the defense normally, but in this case about 60% of the oil would be going to foreign markets, so making it necessary for US Defense is a bit of stretch. And on THIS bill, Dave went the other way, supporting the right to let Big Oil drill.

Now, this is part and parcel of the difficulties of being a representative, in that you have pick your fights, and to choose between your constituents and your party (or to more precise, your party's donors). Mr Reichert gained a lot of good karma for his stand on the first bill, and similarly needs to be rapped on the knuckles for his vote on the latter one.

And, as chance (and bad timing for his office) would have it, it turns out I just got one of the mailers from Congressman Dave's office, headlining across the front "Dave Reichert - Protecting our Environment". It has one of those "mail-in and tell us what you think" cards, and question number 1 is "Do you believe that the US should drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska?"

I'll be glad to tell you, Dave, but it sounds like you made up your mind already. But thanks for asking.

More later,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Cats that Came for Christmas (Update)

So it has been a little more than a year since the household gained its two new members, Harlequin and Victoria. About a year ago a friend, Brainstormfront, moved back to Wisconsin, leaving the two four-year-old cats with us.

The cats are doing well, one year later. For most of the year, they had run of the house, with exception of the top floor, which was Emily's domain. With our elder calico's passing, they now fling themselves throughout the house at high velocity between naps.

Harley and Vic are big cats, as large as Longshot was in his prime, and more muscle than fat. The two are similar in appearance, and only the fact that Harley has white socks on his paws makes her dramatically different than her sister. Harley is the social animal, and during the Lovely Bride's game nights, can usually be found at the gaming table (and often ON the gaming table) demanding attention. Harley is also the escape artist, and never seen a door that she did not want to go through. This has resulted in her being locked in closets on numerous occasions, and at the end of the day, I do a "cat patrol" to make sure the kittens are in the house (and not, say, in the garage).

Vic remains more of an enigma. Very much a on/off cat. She will flee from people, then turn around, jump in their laps, and demand full attention. Then, once her tanks have been topped off, leap away. Of late she has been jumping into bed and kneading the Lovely Bride (this is a bad thing as far as the Lovely Bride is concerned). Vic gets expelled for her crimes, then thumps on the doors until she is let back in. The only way to stop her is to pick her up and lavish attention on her (hold her and pet her and call her George). This mortifies her and she runs off again.

The cats have found the cat toys of Rogue, Emily, and Longshot, and are often dragging, batting, and leaving them around the house. Their favorite toy is a set of rawhide bootlaces from my old boots. Harley will drag them into the room, expecting me to drop everything and run around the house with her (she is usually correct). Vic waits for Harley to get the human to play, then she leaps in as well. Another favorite is the laser pointer, which they know is connected to my hand but don't seem to care. We use the latter to distract the girls from the outer doors (one human brings stuff in, the other distracts the cats).

So the pair of them have settled in nicely. Last year they ignored the tree (since it was here when they got here, and they were hiding behind the bookcases for much of it. Now, they are intrigued the idea of a tree filled with shiny dangling things, and I add to my duties the location and replacement of lost ornaments.

But more about that another time.

Monday, December 19, 2005


So after the play (see below), the Lovely Bride and I left the theater and saw a gathering at the Seattle Center Fountain. We wandered over and discovered that it was the Solstice celebration for Winterfest (yes, Solstice is still a few days, but this was the celebration). It was a wonderful (if chill in the gathering gloom) experience, with fire performers ringing the fountain, figures celebrating the old and new years, and people representing the planets, in orbit around the fountain. Mercury was a kid on rollerblades weaving around the fire performers, a heavily wrapped Venus next out, Earth Mother in the next ring out, Mars in camo, Jupiter regal in purple. Most of the crowd were at the Jupiter orbit (the ground level surrounding the fountain). Further out, slowmoving Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and solitary Pluto moving very slowly and lonely at the outmost edge of the lawn. No sign of Charon or other Transplutonian bodies.

Interesting thing is that there is a bit of closure for our year as well. Way back here, I mentioned that there were firedancers practicing at Gasworks Park. At the time I saw a lot of strange rigs - stuff that looked like sunbursts on pikes, fans, and hula hoops. This was part of the same group as performed here, and yes, they set the hula hoops on fire (for the record, the fire performers were Cique de Flambe, Ignis Devoco, and Northwest Fire Conclave).

In the end we got light-stick bracelets (provided by the Science Center) and headed home, but it was a sweet, mystical end of the day. Wish I had brought a camera.

More later,

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Play: Rocky Marriage Picture Show

Restoration Comedy by Amy Freed, directed by Sharon Ott, Seattle Repertory Theatre, thorugh January 7, 2005

The Holiday Play. Always a thorny issue within the scheduling of the theatrical season. It is not a time for deep thought or controversy. You can go with season fare - the Christmas Carols and Black Nativities, or you can go for something light and frothy and humorous. The Rep has gone the latter direction to produce a Christmas cookie of a play - oppulent outfits, clever stagecraft, a familiar spice of Rep regulars, and good actors. But the cookie is made of two conflicting tastes, creating a weird admixture in the end.

This is another theatrical chimera in this season that is a hand-off between artistic directors, a new play by Amy Freed (who wrote the appealing Shakespearean romp The Beard of Avon) built on two earlier works. Restoration Comedy is a slamming together of two plays. The first, Love's Last Shift by Colley Cibber, was a sentimental comedy, which spurred in turn The Relapse, by John VanBrugh, which was quickly written, debuted on Boxing Day, ran for but a week in its original production, and has been better remembered by the ages. Freed merges the two into a single, not-necessarily coherent whole.

Love's Last Shift is the first act, which is the tale of a wastrel husband returned to London on the news of his loyal wife's death. Unfortunately for Loveless, the husband, his wife Amanda is alive and wants him back, and to do so intrigues to become his mistress. Under the tutelege of Loveless's friend Worthy, she picks up enough deceptive skills to bed him and bring him to heel, making him foreswear his wicked ways. Virtue triumphs.

Hang on, says VanBrugh, in The Relapse, which is the source for the second act. VanBrugh uses the main characters from the first play to show that the leopard doesn't change his spots, that the problem lies within the wife's expectations, and pretty much blows up the resolution from the first act. The various sources I have present The Relapse as a response, argument, or blastback from VanBrugh, but Cibber himself was in the second play (according to my old Britannica, portraying his creation from the first play, the faddish Fashion Vanity (promoted to Lord Foppington within VanBrugh's work, much as Cibber was promoted).

Its a bit of hairpin turn as far as plot goes. We establish the reality of the characters in the first act, then overturn that (all-too-suddenly) in the second. We go from the triumph of virtue to the easy necessity of vice. The second act (and The Relapse itself) also involves an unrelated subplot of Lord Foppington's brother stealing away the Lord's bumpkin bride, which is sort like the "B-plot" in a sitcom - what do you do with the actors who are not in on the main plot?

The actors, as usual for the REP are excellent. Stephen Caffrey vamps and swaggers through the role of Loveless, who as a character has an arc as tepid as a hamster's heartbeat. Caralyn Kozlowski has more to work with as Amanda, and I think that this revised work more is her story than his. Suzzane Bouchard sizzles as Berinthia, the temptress of the second act, utterly believable and delightful as sensual flirt. REP regulars Laurence Ballard and Bhama Roget hoist a number of comic supporting roles broadly and admirabily. Jonathan Freeman' Lord Foppington makes you smile, but could be even more over the top - while Amanda holds together the two acts, his character has to lash together the two odd halves of the second act.

So, we have a lot of costumes - opulent day coats and gowns, but also heavy on the tight corsets, heaving bosums, and thigh high boots. Delightful eye-candy, but also working against the arguments of virtue in the first act and a celebration of the moral murkiness of the Restoration period. The set design is clever and the play swings amusingly through anachronism, throwing accuracy to the wind (velcro? head mikes?) in order to underscore is un-serious nature.

In the end, it was one of those plays that works well if you don't think too much about what it is saying. Which makes it a relief in the holiday season. But this is a play that almost demands it OWN sequel to wrap up the characters, left in midflight at the end of the play.

More later,

Friday, December 16, 2005

We Three Dragons

With everything that has been going on, I have been remiss in a little shameless self-promotion in this holiday season. Available now in your finer stores (and in your less-fine stores as well), is the We Three Dragons collection, which is a collection of three stories by myself, James Ward, and Ed Greenwood. Each of us took a traditional Christmas tale and gave it a fantastic spin. Mine was "The Knight, Before Christmas", is the shortest of the three (Ed took on "A Christmas Carol" and James re-imagined Oscar Wilde's"The Selfish Giant" in a draconic vein).

Just a note, in case you're looking for that stocking stuffer!


More later

Thursday, December 15, 2005


So, I'm back, and my fingers ache a little from all the typing I've been doing for the past week. But that's not what I want to talk about.

For the past week, it has been cold here in the Puget Sound area. I don't mean Wisconsin 30-below-with-a-wind-chill-that-comes-from-Minnesota cold, but cold for the region, enough to send the weather wimps into a tizzy. Highs in the 40s, and lows just below freezing. For the weather wimp I have become, it is time to pull out the fleece and wear a sweater around the house. I tend to like to keep the house temperature low during the day - the Lovely Bride has the gizmo controlling the heat to drop it during the day, then bring it back up for when she comes home - I know she will be coming back because the heater kicks on and I start getting sleepy from the warmth.

But what has been particularly interesting is the freezing fogs that have rolled in. Because of the temperature just hanging at the freezing point, combined with the moisture in the air, we are getting fog in the evening, which quickly becomes water on the road, which becomes a thin layer of pebbly ice, perfect for curling but less than ideal for walking on. It has been a bit perilous in the evenings around here, and the lawn has been white with frost every morning.

In other news, the yuletide spirit has hit World of Warcraft There are wreaths and lights and a device that turns people into Santa Gnomes and Santa's Workshop Elf Gnomes. And snowballs. Lot of snowball fights in Stormwind this time of year.

More later,

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I'm not ignoring you, I'm just busy. Deadlines. If you need a bit to chew on, here's Ted Chiang on Magic versus Technology, which I find pretty interesting.

More later.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Frosted Mini-Rants

There are things I think, things I know, and things I think I know.

Coming back to Seattle after a near-month on the road, I was interested to see the local Starbucks move out out of its niche next to the Fred Meyers and into what had previously been a Burger King. So now they have a drive-through, I thought at the time. Then a couple days later, I noted that ANOTHER Burger King, this time in Burien, was gone, replaced by ANOTHER Starbucks (with a drive-through). Once is an accident, twice is an incident, and three times will set precident. I'm wondering if BK is abandoning the field in the South End, much like Dunkin' Donuts, which quietly pulled out last year, turning its franchises into a gaggle of independents.

In other news, The War on Christmas is back. It's sort of the "silly season" for rightie pundits - there is nothing else they CAN talk about at the moment, so they go back to the old favorite of "Everyone Hates You!" in this season of Peace on Earth. Of course, this year it has been blowing up in their faces like badly-baked fruitcakes, when everyone from Fox to the President is saying "Happy Holidays" (since they obviously didn't get the memo), driving the pundits to even greater levels of caterwauling. And like the fruitcakes, my own take on all this is now a year old.

And speaking of misfired messages (and sounding like Andy Rooney), I never "got" Doctor Pepper commercials. I mean, they advertise for a lot of crap on the tube that I would never buy, but at least I could respect the thought behind the ads. Not on this carbonated nightmare-inducer. Not only did the "Be a Pepper" jingle leave me cold, the attempt to co-opt niche musical genres (hiphop, motown, country, and salsa all come to mind) with an "established star" and a "rising star" belting out their love for the product just left me scratching my head. So it should be no surprise that the current ads, with a a bunch of young teenage boys crushing on a mini-van driving mom who has the drink in her back seat (with the not-so-subtle musical score "Tracy's Mom has got it going on"). Somehow, it has lecherous overtones - all that's missing is a heavy-breather saying "Candy, Little Girl?"

So burn that image from your brains as I note that the bowl games are announced, and I think there are more college bowls than there are NFL Playoffs. Twenty-eight of them according to my paper, and still no real idea what it will resolve. OK, I can get behind the Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Gator Bowls. I'm not a total barbarian. I'll even give you the Holiday and the Liberty. But the Houston, Music City, Emerald (San Francisco) and New Orleans (Lafayette) bowls seem to be spreading it all a bit thin. Then there's the sponsored bowls - the GMAC in Mobile, Alabama, the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Capital One in Orlando (What's in YOUR backfield?) and my fave for this year, Mieneke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte (where, I understand, you're not going to pay a lot for that penalty). And then there are the ones I have no clue about if they're sponsored or not - is the Alamo Bowl pushing for car rentals? Is the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando plugging chicken wings and beer? Is the Insight bowl about computers, or merely personal revelations?

I dunno, but I'm not watching any of them. This holiday season, I am trying to embrace this thought, ganked from John Kovalic:
More later,

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wonder World

And a favorite comic/game store is shutting down.

Wonder World, based out of Burien, is shutting down at the end of January. Situated in among a series of strip malls and small local businesses, across the street from a struggling (later defunct) department store, Wonder World was a smorgesbord of gaming, comics, anime, paperbacks, figures, miniatures and toys. When I moved out here eight years back, I was impressed with the depth and scope of this place. I quickly filled out a lot of my back stock (Harn supplements I hadn't seen in years), and hit the store every week or two, to see what was in (and picked up a lot of games that otherwise I would have missed). Even when I had my comics held by another store (more recently Book World), I would rely on Wonder World for the missed issues as well as exposure to new books that might not be ordered by other stores (such as Ex Machina and Invincible).

What is boils down to, however, is real estate. As I've noted elsewhere, comic shops (and game stores and used book stores) depend on cheap commercial space, and lots of it. The reason that Wonder World was so large and diverse is that it was in a backwater area, where the rents were cheap. I was talking with Dave, the owner, who stated flat out he was getting the space for "warehouse rates".

Not anymore. That defunct department store across the street? That and its entire block is going to be ripped up for one of these big upscale mall/condo operations that are now in vogue. Recharge the downtown district! Make Burien a destination! Improve the tax base! The net result of this is that the owner of the building that contains Wonder World wants to go upscale as well. making major renovations and hopefully bringing in more profitable tennants.

Exit, Wonder World, at least as a brick and mortar. They're already doing a good Internet business, and the plan is to disperse the stock into storage and keep going with the company online. But the ability to go and brouse through back issues of forgotten games and low-distribution comics will be gone. I support Dave and his gang for their decision, and at the same time I'm going to miss the place.

More later,

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hardsell and Numbers

A storm blew through my dining room just now.

I don't know about you folks, but we get a lot of calls about refinancing. Most of the time I ring off with a "we-don't-take-phone-solicitations-please-put-us-on-your-do-not-call-list". Sometimes the Lovely Bride calls them on it, challenging them to beat her fixed-rate mortgage (which is pretty good - the Lovely Bride handles the family accounts, and the only debt we're carrying is the mortgage, which, this being Seattle, is pretty durn high).

So about a while back a money management marketing guy cold-calls in, and Kate says, "Can you beat an X percent fixed mortgage?"

The MMM guy says "Yes, we can."

The Lovely Bride says, "Fixed rate?"

The MMM guy says, "Uhuh."

The Lovely Bride says, "Just a mortgage refinance."

The MMM guy says, "Yep."

So the marketing guy dispatches two of his people over the house this morning. I have their cards, but let's call them Hardsell and Numbers. Hardsell is tall, loud, and passionate about what his firm can do for us. Numbers is shorter, quieter, and has his calculator out within minutes of sitting down at the dining room table. Not quite Bad Cop/Good Cop. More of Blustery Cop/Quiet Cop. They remind me of Penn and Teller, who unfortunately are NOT the people you want the thinking about when you're renegotiating your mortgate.

The Lovely Bride has the files out, ready to do business. I am there as the least-knowledgeable being in the room (only because I had to lock the cats up to keep them off the table).

And it became quickly clear that they could not beat an X percent fixed mortgage, that they would love to get us involved in larger financial planning, and that the plan is to sell us the latest "hot thing" in adjustable mortgages (presented in a jumble of acronyms, - a START with a 1 percent ARM (and maybe a 2 percent LEG)). My BS detector at this point is screaming like the Robot in "Lost in Space".

The Lovely Bride is not amused. Restates what she's looking for. Hardsell pushes harder. Numbers and I get real quiet. Stormclouds start to gather along the dining room ceiling, and lightning flashes in the Lovely Bride's eyes. Hardsell starts using phrases like "We want to educate you" and "If you will only listen." The Lovely Bride states for a third time what she wants. Hardsell finally, exasperated, admits that this was impossible. The Lovely Bride thanks them for their time. I show them out. Hardsell is literally muttering as he storms out, Numbers slides out after him with a weak smile.

Here's a clue to the Hardsells of the world. When you use the phrase "We want to educate you" you're being condescending and insulting. When you have to use the phrase "If you will only listen," you're already lost the sale. The best you can do is get off the field with your dignity intact.

And you might want to think twice before sending in another team to contend with the Lovely Bride.

More later,

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dan Hooker

Dan Hooker, my agent at the Ashley Grayson Agency, passed away on November 24. While I have worked with both Ashley and Dan, Dan was the one to steer me through my first non-TSR/WotC books, Liberty's Crusade and The Last Guardian, and held my hand when I needed it. More information can be found here.

I never met Dan in the flesh, and did not know he was ill. It didn't even register that most of the negotiation for a current book was being done with Ashley. I deeply appreciate the breaks and advice he provided over the years. I'll miss him.

Authors, have you hugged your agent today?

More later,

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Susan Knapp Root

Margaret Susan Knapp Root, my cousin Susie, passed away on 27 November, after a long battle with liver cancer. Suzie was eight years my senior. She was my mother's sister's only daughter, and with her husband Tracy, owned and managed restaurants in Nantucket, Massachusetts and Naples, Florida. More details may be found here

My deepest sympathies to Tracy, and Susie's surviving brothers, Brad and Jay, and their families.

More later.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Believe me, I would rather be writing about the snow - its about two inches at Grubb Street's real-time offices, under a fog-shrouded sky. Pretty as a Christmas card.

However, Wizards of the Coast yesterday laid off 15 employees. Many who have been let go are people I know and like and have worked with previously. They include Peter Archer (director of book publishing), John Rateliff (games editor), Charles Ryan (brand manager, D&D), Joe Hauck (VP marketing, but I know him from his work in card design), Wendy Wallace (graphic design), Katie Roe (IT), Tim Thomas (web), Michelle Lyons (games editor), Mike Elliot (director of design, designer of Hecatomb) Teeuwynn Woodruff (new products), and Cornelius Lee (senior veep, marketing). The shoes continue to drop as the news filters through our various support system, so I apologize for missing anyone.

Most of those affected were long-term veterans with a deep, ongoing relationship with the company, many of them starting at the bottom and working up to management positions. A lot of history went out the door yesterday. My sympathies and support for those who were laid off, as well as for those that are still at the company - the post-layoff work environment tends to be pretty horrible, in particular if the work load remains at pre-layoff levels.

In addition, WotC closed 7 open positions (unfilled job positions). No word on contractors or temps affected, as their numbers sometimes disappear in the official counts. If there are additions, I will report them.

News on the layoffs can be read here. The ever-placid and elegant NikChick shares her thoughts here.

Me? I'm going to watch the snow for a while. More later.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Welcome Home (here's your bill)

So there was no hot water upstairs when we got home.

Let me explain something about this house. It originally was a tri-level, one of those houses were the entrance is on the second level, with a half staircase going down and a half staircase going up. About ten years back, the owners put in a fourth level (over the second level) and expanded the kitchen and dining room. In the expansion level they put in another 30 gallon water heater for the upstairs master bath. And, it turns out, they routed that water heater to the expanded kitchen as well.

We discovered this when we got home and found out there was no hot water upstairs or (to our suprise) to the kitchen either. Calls were made to Pat's Plumbing, who helped us with a shower problem the previous year (we had lost the lower hot water heater about four years back, and the guys who did it did not hook up the gas correctly - they were not invited back). Anyway, Pat's got out here the same day, and investigation indicated that the inner tank on the upstairs heater was going. There were already leaks, which killed the heating unit and had dripped down the adjacent flue into the fireplace. But no flood, yet. We ordered a new heater and watched as they manhandled the old heater out of its narrow space and installed the new one. Brought things up to code. Put in earthquake straps that will hold up to the point the wall falls in. I'm not sure, but somewhere along the way I think I approved underbody coating.

The guys doing the job were nice and professional, but I'm left with the frustration that I don't know my house very well, leaving me prey to this sort of thing (Kate loves banging down walls and rewiring, but will not touch plumbing, after having twisted a rusted shut-off valve, only to have it come off in her hand). The feeling is deepened, when we discovered this morning that sometime in the repair process, the water to the bathtub was shut off and not turned back on. We have no idea where the turnoff valve is and what they did. So another plumber has been dispatched.


More later,

Update: So the second plumber has come and gone. His initial ideas were that either something was blocking the pipe from when they emptied to the old water heater or that the valve failed (I marveled that a valve in an unrelated part of the plumbing would choose to fail immediately after plumbers visited the house). It turned out to be the former, but the tub handle was reattached too loose, frustrating him since the screw threads holding it had been stripped out. So we have hot water AND a functioning tub BUT we await a third plumber to get a new handle. I remind myself that for the bulk of life her, my bathroom has been a quiet, uncomplaining room that rarely called attention to itself.