Friday, June 30, 2006


It has been a while since I have allowed my mental health to be determined by the Internet:

According to experts, my personality type is :
World Leader
Ink Blot Personality TestOther people like me display these traits.
  • They have been abducted by aliens
  • They are good in bed
  • They like rap music
  • They listen to Brittany Spears
  • Take the Ink Blot Personality Quiz at

    Hmmm. I may have to take desperate steps.

    Warhamster - Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down

    So the vacation game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has been moving forward, and we've started in on the Ashes of Middenheim adventure. We had a good time last night, though they did not fight a single creature, and the printed adventure has quickly become more of a springboard than a hard and fast guide.

    Here's the general plot - the heroes arrive in the big city with their orphans, loot, and a holy relic of Sigmar. The priest they give the relic to turns up dead almost immediately. They have to play CSI and determine the cause and what to do yet. The signs point to ratmen and a trip into the sewers.

    But what was really amusing was the character interaction and NPCs. Our Camp Follower Character got into it immediately with a local pawnbroker (pulled directly from the book). The orphans gave the elf a hug before being marched off to the temple orphanage and made him promise they would visit (winging it, though the orphans were part of the intro adventure). The Watchman in the team dealt with other watchmen, who took on a Wisconsin yah-hey-dere accent. And the dwarf character, who has this Dylanesque mumble, got into a long discussion with an NPC Dwarf, and it was decided that all Dwarfish sounds like a Dylanesque mumble, with the two of us competing to see who could be the least comprehensible.

    There were some pitfalls. There were more than a few places where player knowledge outran character knowledge (which was not always a bad thing). A minor clue was a written handout, and no one in the party could read (a local accolyte of Sigmar has become their go-to-guy). Another handout was a warrant where the goal is listed (check out the murder) is listed, but the dates needed to be filled in (I found what I think is the calender under "Religious Celebrations" in the main book, but no idea of how long the months are). And the idea that the last people who saw the deceased are, by law, expected to help in the investigation is a very interesting idea that is thrown off, possibly to keep the players lashed to the plot. Oh, and you are describing a series of murders, a timeline is probably a good idea.

    But here's a thing - at one point the plot narrows down to a single die roll, for a Advanced Skill (which means that if you don't have the skill, you can't make the roll). Only one person has the skill and he blew the roll (remember, these are starting characters). And with that blown roll, we are suddenly off the reservation, the plot grinding to a halt, and while I can piece together what happens next, I have left the safe confines of the written adventure behind.

    And here's another thing - as experienced players, from the clues they have, they are thinking that the plot will lead to combat in the sewers. However, our Camp Follower is not set up for combat, and has developed an urgent allergy to the concept. I think she's playing completely in character, but the adventure is very much in a go-and-fight mode. So while the concept of non-combat oriented characters is a good in theory, it starts having problems unless the adventures back it up. In D&D, the underlying conceit - that you are heroes are naturally disposed to heroic and adventurous activity - provides a more easy access to the game than a more realistic (but troublesome) worldview where you are a reluctant hero (at best), and you continually have to look for justifications for your adventures.

    Anyway, it's going well, and we'll pick it up in two weeks with the next installment, which I may or may not mention here.

    More later,

    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    Local Politics: Carpet Bombing

    So there are two piles of paper on the rug by my desk. One of them consists of books I've been meaning to review, and is a sad tale for another day. The other pile consists of mailings from Congressman Reichert.

    Now, the Congressman is standing for reelection, so you'd expect to hear from him - the sort of "Hey, I'm on the job, keep me!" sort of thing that quietly hides the fact that this year's Congress has the lightest calender in years. But now we're at six mailers (there may have been seven - the Lovely Bride sometimes chucks them out) and counting. Looking them over, it feels like a mild aroma of concern has crept into the Reichert offices. Reichert has gone from a safe incumbent to a chancy thing in the face of a strong candidate in Darcy Burner, and it is starting to show.

    Now, I'm late on getting around to these, primarily because they just kept on coming. So I got scooped by Horse's Ass, which not only seized on them, but also on the fact that they were sent out using congressional franking priviledges - in other words, at an expense to Government. Which means, at an expense to you. Yep, you're paying for your own junk mail. Wotta Country!

    HA seems to think this might be a scandal. Silly HA! We have a government where the Vice President shoots an old man in the face with a shotgun and everyone studiously looks the other way. You think they're going to care about franking? Maybe if it was the 90s, and a Democrat was involved. Don't you know there's a war on? What war? Let me check, I'm sure we have one somewhere.

    So I'm left with reviewing look-and-feel on these little gems. And they are all over the board, hitting all the traditional talking points. Controlling Spending. Stopping Domestic Violence. Strengthening Homeland Security. Lower Gas Prices. Energy Independence. Strengthening Education. And a big fold-out one stressing all of the above. Sounds pretty good! If only we had Mr. Reichert's party in charge out in DC, instead of the clowns that we do have. Oh, wait a minute.

    Yeah, is more than a little disingenuous. Lowering Gas Prices when actually our Congress is straining itself not to notice three-dollar a gallon gas. Controlling Spending when the balanced budgets of the 90s are a pleasant memory. And even in the handouts themselves, they cross over themselves, toughting fiscal discipline while they have a little map showing how Reichert has secured funding for the 8th District. Not that I'm against pork - I'm just disappointed that there are no arrows pointing my neighborhood on the map. And worse yet, not a single mention of the dirigible tower I've been agitating for.

    Another thing with multiple mailing is that it has overtaxed their photo references. We're seeing doubling up, and you quickly know the preferences for the staff photographer - the Congressman in a dark suit talking to two concerned constituents. Sometimes the constituents are in uniform. He swaps out the dark suit for a bomber jacket when he's looking strong on homeland security, which make him look like Leslie Neilsen playing Jack Baur's uncle on a very special episode of 24.

    Oh, and there is one exception - Reichert, joined by constituents (a guy with a camera) receiving a demonstration on hybrid car technology. Which brings to mind that awful photo op from a few months back where various Congressmen posed around hybrids, then once they thought the cameras were off, climbed back into their SUVs. I'm sure this shot was taken at a completely different photo op, but still, the memory lingers.

    So where are we? Well, according to HA, we are passing into the official election period, when such self-congratulatory mailers can no longer be pumped for by people, so the GOP will have to dip into its war chest, strengthened by a recent fundraising visit by the President. Oddly enough, there weren't any pictures in any of mailings of Reichert with the Chief Executive. Which is strange, given that they agree on so many things, at least as far as the Congressman's voting record is concerned.

    More later,

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Having a Heat Wave

    Which in Seattle, means that the temperatures are in the high eighties.

    One of the nice things about this nasty bout of deadlines is that I have been confined to a shady place with air conditioning for the past few days, while the Lovely Bride has been enjoying herself in the heat - gardening, swimming, and laying out on large flat rocks.

    Of course, the building owners circulated a memo saying that the HVAC wasn't really designed to handle life above 80 degrees. So far, it has actually held out better than on most days (when our office becomes a muggy, sleepy, sauna bath).

    But this spate of hot, clear weather is not, as I've said before, proof positive of climate change. It is a data point, one game out of the entire season, and only when we take all the points together we get the result that we get that proof positive that we're cooking the earth like a three-minute egg.

    In other data points, the DOW is seriously below 11,000 tonight, and the Pirates are 17 games back. But as our administration says, they're just numbers.

    More later,

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    Working For the Weekend


    A relatively uneasy weekend. The Writers Weekend has just passed, and while it was very nice and Karen Junker and her team did a great job, I didn't get nearly as much time to spend at it, due to a big, honking, messy deadline that's coming up at work. One of those "We absolutely need it by Wednesday and by the way here are most recent changes" deadlines. So while I showed up to deliver my requisite panels and see some good friends and got to meet Jo Beverly, I didn't get much of a chance to embrace the entire happening.

    And here it is Monday and I'm already worn out - the work week has gone all ourobouros on me.

    On the other hand, I have finally stopped dreaming about this project, which has been a problem of late as well. Instead, I have been dreaming of a bordello/theater/eatery established in a barn in the flat farmland south of Chicago, surrounded by prehistoric mammals.

    Then again, that might just be the result of the heat.

    More later,

    Friday, June 23, 2006


    So a few days back a black cat crossed my path.

    No, wait, it wasn't a solid black cat - it had a single white paw. Does that still count? And it didn't officially cross my path, it crossed the path of my vehicle, and about an eighth of a mile away. So does that mean that the vehicle gets the bad luck, and not me?

    This got me going on further questions regarding black-cattedness. If I had a passenger, would they be affected as well by the bad luck? How close behind the black cat must you be in order to be affected? Does the bad fortune linger like radiation? Does it only count if you see the black cat making the crossing? Does the bad luck flow backwards from them like a comet's tail? Does it surround them like a sphere, becoming an ovoid when in motion? Is the bad luck zone a line with a binary tripwire, or it is zone in which bad fortune is accumulated over time spent within the zone? If the later is the case, then does speed of the person affected (such as in a moving vehicle) a factor? And if that is the case, why don't we recommend that people run as fast as they can when a black cat crosses their path?

    And if you change your path because the black cat, does that truly negate the effect? Isn't a path a declaration of intent in the future as well as history in the past? Do you have to catch up to black cat and cross in front of it in order to avoid the bad luck? And since cats rarely move in straight lines, what happens if its path curves away from you, or doubles back, or slams into other landmarks as the cat rubs up against buildings?

    Further, what is the duration of black cat bad fortune? Does it last a day? An hour? Until the next rest cycle, when good fortune recovers through inactivity? Until you forget about it? Can it be negated by any specific anti-black-cat activity, or is bad luck all of one specific type, regardless if it is gained by black cats or breaking mirrors or walking under ladders? Is bad luck a single state, or can it be increased or decreased over time?

    The sad conclusion is that real-world magic and superstition doesn't function like it does in the D&D Player's Handbook. Pity about that.

    More later,

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    The Longest Day

    So, you folks know that I rarely post about the day job, but I just had the longest day, spent on, as it happens, the longest day of the year.

    I spent yesterday in LA for auditions for voice talent for a future project. And while everything was really great down there, what I want to talk about was the trip.

    Leave here at 4 AM for a 6AM flight, 700+miles to LA, spent the entire time encased in a recording studio until about 6PM, back to LAX for a 9PM flight, then back another 700+ miles to Seattle and thence to bed by Midnight. I must have gone completely old-guy, because the very technology and organization that got me there, set up, and back has me amazed. Not just "big metal plane fly in sky" but the entire process where a 1500 mile trip leaves you back at the starting point in a single day. It just all worked. And the seats in the Alaska Air jet were pretty comfortable, even for those of us who are a bit wide-hipped.

    But what was really cool about the flight was passing over Mount St. Helens and San Francisco. Mount St. Helens was perfect in the morning sun, the crater smoking and the huge rising shark fin clearly visible over the rim of the crater. San Fransico we passed over at night, its perfect square-headed peninsula gridded with lights, making it a city that is instantly recognizable in the dark from the air. (Pittsburgh and Chicago are similar in this regard - Seattle is not).

    And since it was Summer Solstice - the sun was up by the time I reached the airport at 4:30, and as we flew back north, we flew into a retreating sunset, such that the northwestern sky was still be soft blue when made our final descent into Seattle.

    In other words, it was pretty cool.

    More later,

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Layoffs at Wizkids

    So, about a dozen days ago, the word went out. Not on the public net, but by emails, IMs, phone conversations, and private message boards. Wizkids, where I worked at one time, was experiencing a reorganization. And by reorganization, we mean layoffs - no one ever calls a hiring phase a "re-organization". As is customary in such events, a number of talented and dedicated individuals were caught in the crossfire and given their walking papers.

    And for over ten days after this - nothing public. Those affected showed their consumate professionalism while waiting for the company to make an official announcement. Finally, late on a Sunday night, the word finally was released in a fairly bloodless press release that says all the right corporate things and tries to shove the bodies under the bed as it reassures people that nothing's wrong.

    No number has been given. If a number is ever officially given, it will be lower than the real number. This is because the company doesn't count contract employees who suddenly find themselves without contracts, or full-timers who are suddenly contract employees, or people who were leaving "anyway" or those who find their position eliminated but found a similar, lower-paying position suddenly available. There are a lot of shell games and shading of the numbers at a time like this, but at the end of the day there are lot few people in the building than there were at the beginning of the day.

    The reasons for all this are purely business, and, contrary to whatever the fan boards are saying now, are not the result of any decision, or project, or cancelation of a project. With the mindless effortlessness of a cyclone, the decisions that led to these people being let go are far too arcane and remote to be obvious to everyday consumer. Its the chaos butterfly of business - a choice is made two years back that results in this. This is part of the disconnect between business and the people - the nature of the product that was being made, and the people making it, was a minor consideration, at best.

    I have great sympathy from those who were let go - I have heard from some, and have made recommendations for a few, and will keep my ears open for available position. I also have equally great sympathy for those that remain - this company was doing wonderful things with a short staff, and now finds its staff even further shortened for its efforts. Those that remain will have to deal with "survivor shock" as they pass empty desks and try to pick up the slack of projects now abandoned. I've been in both positions before, and will likely be in both positions again, and I understand.

    In other news, the DOW took a dive below 11,000 in the face of this development. No, probably not, but its a fitting testimony to those searching for new positions.

    More later,

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    Dad's Day

    So at least with Father's Day we get a holiday that is close to its original intention. Mother's Day was originally an anti-war protest, Memorial Day had another name originally anda murky origin, with several claimants to its founding, and even Flag day has a little haziness around it.

    Not so with Father's Day. It comes out of Spokane, Washington, and a Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd. Mrs Dodd was inspired by the rising celebration of Mother's Day, and wanted to honor her father. The idea caught on, and 1910 was the first year it was celebrated locally, became a national holiday in 1924 and officially recognized as such in 1972.

    There is no real secret history to all this, but there is the following: Mrs. Dodd wanted to honor her father in part because he raised her and five siblings as a single parent. The day has spread to fathers everywhere, and is generally viewed as a chance to say "Thanks, Dad!" by children across the country.

    It is also apparently the day that the most collect phone calls are made.

    Thanks, Dad!

    More later,

    Update: For Father's Day, the three cats (Harley, Vic, and step-cat Gozer) pitched in and installed a CD player in my car (the Insight). I think that's pretty impressive, given that they don't have opposable thumbs or electrical training or anything.

    More later,

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Warhamster - It's A Dark World, After All

    So Thursday night my regular gang ran through the rest of the introductory Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure. We were joined by a halfling Watchman, in addition to the previous characters.

    The phrase I kept using was "It's a dark world". Why did this happen? It's a dark world. Why are these people nasty? It's a dark world. Why do we have Insanity Points? It's a dark world.

    As intro adventures went, it was OK - I would prefered to have all the informational bits in the adventure itself as opposed to scouring through the book. And while the main combat worked from a dramatic side, it was frustrating as the player's percentage scores were so low and their die rolls were so high - it did feel like they didn't have much in the way of options. There were some interesting bits:

    The camp follower has no viable combat skills, and as such is avoiding combat, to the point that when the other heroes go off into the woods after the missing person, she's more than willing to let them go and sit out that part of the adventure. It's going to be interesting keeping her engaged when the character definitely does not reward you for acting heroically. Just as worrisome, she has haggling skills out the ears, but I'm not seeing how to fit her haggling skill into the day-to-day mechanism of trade.

    In another matter, when the core of the adventure is that your village is fleeing a beastman invasion, probably it would be a good idea that others they meet on the road would be similarly concerned. The best the characters got was a firm "thank you - now get out", which left them hoping the beastmen would burn down their remaining villages. Then again, it's a dark world.

    Speaking of darkness, our dwarf bodyguard, before abandoning the town, dug spiked pit traps throughout the village to trap invading beastmen. It was amusing because in the written adventure, they encountered spiked pit traps dug by the former goblins for those that would follow.

    In a world where reading is an advanced skill (which means if you don't have it, you can't do it), its a real bad idea to leave a major clue in the form of a note. Just saying. Turns out that only one character in the group can read. Actually, this came up because they later got a book of chaos magic and at that point I remembered that most of them could not read it.

    If there is an orphan in the plot, everyone expects the orphans to run off or get kidnapped. Also just saying. The camp follower made things worse by telling the orphans that dwarves eat small children, then let the dwarf bodyguard watch over the kids. So they're traumatized. But it's a dark world.

    Also, telling the local NPC leader exactly what happened in the forest when they went after the missing person (and came back without the missing person) requires much more careful shadings of the truth than were employed.

    The other dwarf, the burgher, ended up with a holy relic, which he used to test whether the book of chaos magic was evil or not. The relic left a sizzling imprint in the book (GM's decision) and they decided to burn the book immediately. They are already not thinking in D&D terms, which I think is a good thing.

    And finally, I used a square grid for the first session, and wasn't really pleased with it. And I roughed in the distances for the second session, and wasn't really pleased with that, either. So I have to find a middle ground.

    But all in all, it went pretty well, and we're going to pick it up again a week from Thursday when we get together again. And I may report of our proceedings.

    Or I may not. After all, it's a dark world.

    More later,

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    DOW Breaks 11000!

    Apparently the most-traded stock has been the Duncan Yo-Yo Company.

    More later,

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    On The Road Again: Car Conversations

    So I'm in to work early today, and for the first time in years, have a whiff of nostalgia for Wisconsin.

    Here's the deal: my place of business is in the bottomland south of Bellevue, near the Mercer Slough, and consists of buildings on stilts. The roads wind through this area, and the parking lots of curved patches branching off from the access roads.

    So this morning I drive up, and there are two vehicles in the entrance to the parking lot, facing opposite ways, their drivers in discussion. Both are likely involved with building maintenance. One is a dark blue ford (looks like management) and the other is one of those golf-cart things. They're blocking the road. They're having a conversation. About thirty seconds later, I tap the horn, and they break up, and I get to park the car (mind you, the Hybrid isn't burning any gas while I'm sitting there, so its solely personal inconvenience).

    Anyway, it made me whistful for rural Wisconsin, where this kind of behavior is legendary. About once a week I would come across two cars, facing opposite directions, usually blocking the entire street, while their occupants (usually two old woman, or if trucks were involved, two old guys in gimme hats) would be talking. And it was customary to give them about a half-minute to let them wrap up the conversation, then remind them that you're there.

    So Management pulls in and parks, and I park near him. Still smiling, I get out and say "So, You're from Wisconsin?" The guy pulls out his cellphone, and, ignoring me, starts making an important call.

    Oh yeah, we're in Seattle after all. Forgot about that.

    More later,

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Grand Old Flag

    So, today was Flag Day. Of course, you were paying attention, even though this is not one of those holidays that we shift to the beginning of the week and give the post office the day off.

    Ok, actually it isn't Flag Day, it's National Flag Day, in order to separate it from all those other wannabee flags for the state or those 12th Man flags that the Seahawks were partial to. And we're sure this time that the day is right, since the 2nd Continental Congress approved it on this day in 1777. This means that our flag is older than our Constitution (and thereby, officially, our government) by nearly a dozen years.

    Of course, being a national holiday, there are a number of different contenders who claim the right of creating it. Fredonia, Wisconsin had a "Flag Birthday" on this date in 1885 and thereafter. Another claim, dating from 1888, gives the laurel to Colliers Township, PA. And even Hartford Connecticut, gets into the act with a claim from 1861 (which comes by way of Kansas, but there you go).

    Even the question of WHAT flag we're celebrating is in a bit of a muddle. Since the official word was 13 stripes, alternating red and white, with 13 white stars in a blue field in a new constellation, there have been a number of contenders, ranging from the traditional ring of the "Betsy Ross" flag, to twelve stars at the clock-points and a center star of the Third Maryland Regiment to the Bennington Flag with a rainbow of stars over the number "76" with two more stars in the corners. Indeed, the US flag has been under evolution for longer than we've been a nation, which is sort of encouraging, since even our flags get the occasional upgrade.

    And probably the only thing that's kept the US at its present size for nearly fifty years is that we haven't figured out how to design one with 51 stars.

    More later.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006


    So there's nothing to shut up a blog like a promise to write something. No, really. All you have to say is "Starting Monday, I'll be exposing the graft and corruption in the processed cheese industry" and it will be even-money that not only Monday will pass without an entry, but Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as well.

    So too, with my off-hand comment that I would talk about my experience GMing Warhammer. Since that was "next on the pile" I put other things aside, intending to talk about it, and instead did other thing like coming down with a cold and updating my character in Guild Wars.

    So, Warhammer Fantasty Roleplay (WFRP). Almost a year ago, now, a former WotC executive reviewed the game online, saying generally nice things, but making the arguement that it worked because of what it took from/shared with D20 D&D. Fans of WFRP were deeply upset because the new game had nothing to do with D20 D&D, in their learned opinions. And they were right - WFRP spurred off the game design evolutionary tree years ago, and a closer relation is good old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, the WFRP dwarf has "Grudge-Born Fury" instead of a mere "+1 against orcs and goblins", but you can see the connections and shared ancestors.

    Anyway, the upshot of all this huggamugga was that I got interested in WFRP again and picked up a copy, enjoying what was similar to old school AD&D (low rolls good in combat), and what was alternative to the original (a skill system) and what was just funky (you can be a fighter or a cleric, but you also get to be a rat-catcher, a charcoal-burner, or a camp follower). And when our Thursday night group decided to take a break from Eberron, I volunteered to run the canned adventure in the book.

    And it was pretty amusing. We had a dwarf burgher, his dwarf bodyguard, a sexually ambivalent human camp follower, and an elven rogue (the latter had longbow skills but could not afford a longbow right off the bat).And they were mired in the little town that was attacked by mutants (cries of "Gamma World" from the table - no, these were other mutants - chaos mutants) and have decided they will help the people relocate to a nearby big city (everything is named in funky Germanano-English, and I don't have the book at hand to confirm the names). There was much attempts by the players to think in d20 methods (sorry, no five-foot adjustments in this game), and keeping the players who had no real combat skills (camp follower) engaged in the combat (much looting occurred).

    And being the first time out of the gate, there were some screwups on my part. I forgot to subtract the toughness bonus from the damage done to the mutants, and to add 1d10 to the missile weapon damage. And it is clear that WFRP combat is not D&D combat - your armor does not affect your attacker's ability to hit - it only reduces damage. Further, the ability to parry or dodge is much more important to the character desiring survivability (My mutants neglected to do this, with poor results). The parry and dodge mechanics are such that it is effectively giving the entire party variable-strength cloaks of displacement, a tactic we had used with irritating efficiency in our Eberron campaign.

    So was it fun? Yeah, pretty much. I feel rusty as all get-out We'll run the rest of the original adventure (it is a short one) this week, and then decide if we press on or return to the familiar confines of D&D. But I promise you this - I promise to refuse to promise that I will tell you more about it.


    More later (about other stuff),

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Man Go

    So last night I was playing Warhammer FRP with my regular group of hard-core D20 designers and editors (more about that later) when Bill offered me a mango. He and his wife had received some mangoes and wanted to share them. So I took a mango and brought it home to the Lovely Bride, thinking it would be a nice surprise for her.

    And when I got home, our 14-year-old Saturn was missing from its place in the driveway. In its place was a brand new Honda Civic Hybrid that the Lovely Bride had purchased earlier that day.

    And suddenly the mango didn't seem to be that important.

    So, we have a new car. We've been actually shopping for the past few weeks, test-driving on the weekends. We are both the car salesman's dream and nightmare. We know what we want, and also know what the MSP is and what we're willing to pay for it. A number of dealerships have been adding a "what the market will bear" surcharge to the manufacturer's sale price, which blew the deal with Bellevue (that is - they think they can find stupider, wealthier people than us). We ended up down in Auburn, with a nice price, though the taxes still were a nasty ding (and while in previous years sales tax has been deductable, the Congress has passed on extending it to this year, hoping to make it a pretty bonus for some other bill they need to get passed - remember, all politics IS local). The vehicle itself, alternately known as "Stargate Atlantis" or "Puddlejumper", is an ocean blue. All it needs are lightning bolts on the side.

    I'm proud of the Lovely Bride for keeping me up with the progress, getting my input, going on the test drives with me, and, most importantly, driving the deal home without me. Because I get to do the initial driving on the new car, since I don't jackrabbit start at the lights.

    And she liked the mango. Which was appreciated as well.

    More later,

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    DOW Breaks 11000!

    OK, just how does this happen? Only a few weeks ago, it finally looked like the stock market was going to elevate itself above where it was on Inauguration Day, 2001. I mean, it was this close of shooting past that mark in the mid 11-thousands and finally getting into the general black. I even had something written up in the "well, its about time" category.

    And yet it has fumbled, stumbled, bumbled and tumbled, and now is heading its way back towards the mind-10,000s where it has spent much of the past four years.

    Now, as national economic indicators go, the DOW is not the best in the world, all the moreso since there is a definite chasm between Wall Street and Main Street these days. But it has this nostalgic feel to me, like paying off that car loan. Yeah, you've wracked up a ton of debt since then, but just getting rid of that one payment gives you a feeling of forward progress, that things are going to get better. Instead, its like you're still paying for the car and the engine starts making this little ping noice that you've never heard before. And then the engine light comes on. It's a bit of a let-down.

    The fall has been so sudden and so far that even the business pages, who were ready to declare the next great bull market was upon us as we neared the magic number, suddenly got glum and non-communitive. With the exception of FOX, who is saying the down market is because we haven't attacked Iran yet (because the LAST two wars were such money-makers), most of them have been in a very cautious mode, careful not to say anything too troubling, in case Tinkerbell comes back to life and the stock market starts rolling again.

    And the stock market will come up again. You can only keep it down (or bumbling along) for so long. Businesses adapt to new climates, even ones of uncertainty, corporate malfeasance, overly honest bureaucrats, and weak economic policy. Things will recover, but not at a rate that anyone is particularly happy about.

    In the meantime - Ping.

    More later,

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Missed Date

    So, this is depressing.

    The Lovely Bride said over dinner tonight: "Did I miss the cow?"

    And I knew what she was talking about, in that way that couples know. She was talking about the cow scene. More importantly, she was talking about the cow scene from The Longest Day, which is one of those movies that I will watch time after time, whenever it comes on. A black and white classic with every male star the dying studio system could lay their hands on, it was the finest war movie of its era.

    And it was about D-Day. The Sixth of June. Yeah, and I forgot about it. And so, apparently, did everyone else.

    We call it "the cow" because for like three years running, the Lovely Bride would come into the TV room and find me watching the movie. And she would always come in during the same sequence in the film, when Allied paratroopers were coming down in a field, observed by confused cows. Hence, the movie is known in our house as "the cow". She would then sit down and watch the rest of the film with me, but to her, it is always "the cow film", even though she's read the original Cornelius Ryan book in the years since.

    But the point is, I forgot about it. And I forgot about it because our media (mainstream and rinky-dink blog alike) instead chose to focus on the Satanic nature of the day. I don't remember this happening in June of 1966. Who says we aren't more religious? No, instead, we were treated with stories of bad metal CDs and half-baked retreads of classic horror films and even the release of a new whine from Ann "No one has a right to their opinions but me" Coulter about how horrible everyone else is.

    And we forgot what happened on the Beaches of Normandy.

    Like I said, depressing.

    The heck with flag-burning ammendments - when are we going to get the federal government to mandate that The Longest Day be run on June 6th every year without fail?

    More later,


    The good news? The government caught some terrorists. Got a pretty good case against them.

    The bad news? It's not our government that's doing the job.

    And, pertaining to nothing, we cut the terrorism budget in New York City by 40%. In Seattle the cut was 22%. Because there are no terrorist threats this far north.

    More later,

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Local Politics - Nice Guy

    So earlier I mentioned Rep. Reichert's challenger, Darcy Burner in the coming mashup over the 8th House District. The other big race is US Senator, with incumbent Maria Cantwell versus Republican challenger Mike McGavick, who gets his own "meet the candidate" article in Seattle Metropolitan. Unfortunately, the Metro site doesn't maintain archive files, so you have to get the review strained through the coffee filter that is this journal.

    I sort of expect the Metropolitan to go easy on McGavick, since the magazine itself is a vector for resturant ads and nostalgia (cover story - "150 People Who Shaped Seattle") - aimed at that civic-minded, upscale, mildly suburban but wants to engage with the city, boosterish, centerish voter. Too old for clubs, too young to sit around and complain how everything has gone to hell since the Californians starting moving up here. So its a good fit for an introductory article - a safe venue.

    And how does it do? Well, it's a little weird. Praising McGavick with faint damns. Bringing up some problems with the candidate but never really dealing with them. Keeping to the message ("He's a Nice Guy") but pointing to some disturbing storm clouds.

    The article kicks off with 1988, when McGavick was campaign manager for Republican Slade Gorton and torpedoed his opponent by turning an story in a student newspaper into an accusasion that the Democrat would want to legalize pot - a charge that stuck well enough to give Gorton the election. However, now McGavick is runing as a "Nice Guy" who can mend the partisan divisions in Washington. Indeed, this seems to be the heart of the campaign - Nice guy. Not threatening. Won't make waves.

    OK, politicians are not always a good fit from between what they say and what they do. That's nothing new. But the article surprisingly points out a slew of this behavior. He wants to protect the environment, but is getting heavy support from the Alaskan GOP who want to drill in ANWAR (To the point of Republican relic Ted Stevens is actively fundraising for McGavick). He disdains negative ads while admitting he used to make them. He is creditted with making Safeco solvent by laying off 15% of their work force. "No fun," he says - though for his job-killing he walked away from the company with a tidy little bonus package he's using to run for office. He claims to be a moderate, but it feels like he'll be a Reichert moderate - one that supports the Conservatives most of the time, with a few show votes to keep his indy cred going. It ties him to McCain at a time when McCain himself is doing that delicate tapdance of pandering to the right.

    So the end result is neither hard-hitting journalism nor gumdrop-draped love note, but an odd starting point for the candidate. It does feel like we're dealing with another reborn politician, who once engaged in all the sin and evil of hardball politics, but now that it is expedient, is suddenly "washed in the blood of the lamb" and expects a free ride from the media. And may get it as well.

    Speaking of the local press, I continue to be amused to see how the papers cover the Cantwell/McGavick race and the Reichert/Burner race, since each is incumbent/challenger, but one has a Dem incumbent and the other a GOP incumbent. The storyline seems to be that the Republican incumbent apparently shows his independence by not always voting with his more extreme conservative membership, while the Democratic incumbent's failure to toe the Progressive line reveals "deep divisions in her support".

    No conclusions there - just an observation.

    More later,

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    My Martial Arts Weekend

    So Saturday morning, the lovely bride and I went to support our Tai Chi and Wu Shu Accademy which was doing a demonstration at the Seattle Center. We were not performing this year, so had the luxury of not having to remember our moves and keep in step with our fellow students. As always the sword demos were coolest, but the youngest students got the most applause.

    And Saturday afternoon was spent with Steve Winter and Dave Gross. Dave's living in Canada now, but came down for the SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) festival. I really dread the day that he stops, because he's the only reason I end up going to movies at SIFF, despite the festival's proximity. The movie in question was The Five Venoms, a Shaw Brothers production from 1978. The youngest student of the Five Venoms school (known for its evil) is sent by his dying repentive master to recover the school's treasure and judge the five elder students, who may or may not be evil. Each of the five senior students has mastered one of the five fighting styles, each one named after a poisonous creatures - scorpion, snake, centipede, frog, and ,um, gekko. Yes, gekko. Apparently selling car insurance makes you poisonous.

    So there was a lot of nice kung fu actions wrapped around a longish plot about justice and corruption, sort of Law & Order with more hitting. The special affects were primitive and the furniture strangely solidto a modern audience used to epics where everything can be broken and used as a weapon. And the costume designer was probably Wendi Pini, since I swear one of the main characters looked like Cutter from Elfquest. Still, it was amusing (to the point that the audience filled with serious film geeks was laughing at it), and virtue triumphs as the young student teams up with one good surviving senior student (go ahead, guess), defeat evil, and go off to find the treasure (which you never see). Amusing.

    But as a result I think I'm coming down with a headcold, so today was spent hanging about the house, reading a little, going for a walk with the Lovely Bride and practicing my Chen form (since I missed last week's practice due to an overly long overseas phone conversation). So its been quiet.

    So, how has your weekend been?

    More later,


    In the small and rapidly-climate-changing world department - I got an email from James Lowder, former book editor at TSR, about an editorial in today's LA Times by Elliot S! Maggin, one of my former comic book editors at DC, connecting Al Gore to Superman's dad. Go give it a read here.

    More later,

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Comic Book Doldrums

    (A one-sided phone conversation, recently overheard)

    Hello, Welcome to the Marvel Universe Emporium!

    Why yes, we have superheroes here.

    The Mighty Thor? I'm sorry, but he's dead. Yes, the other Norse gods, too. Ragnarok. Shall I put you on the call back list when they return?

    Captain America? I'm sorry, but he's currently wanted by the Government. Yes, I know he represents the country. It's kind of complicated.

    Iron Man? I'm sorry, he might be crazy. He was also recently the Secretary of Defense. No, I don't know if the two are connected.

    Hulk? Off-planet. Yes, his bosses didn't like him, so they shot him into space. No, I don't know if he had any robots with him, why do you ask?

    Daredevil? He's in prison. It's kind of complicated. We do have a temp in the position, will that do? No?

    Yes, we do have super heroes. We wouldn't be much of a superhero universe without them, would we?

    Fantastic Four? It’s a bad time, they're breaking up. Thing? He's rich now, so he sets his own schedule. No, we don't represent the New Warriors anymore. Legal liabilities. Exception for Nova. No, he's in space.

    Nick Fury? He's dead. Or maybe it was his LMD. Or maybe it was both him and his LMD. I'm never sure.

    Why yes, we do have mutants! We always have mutants!

    No, he's been depowered. He's been depowered too. She's been depowered. No, he hasn't been depowered, but he's dead. No, he's depowered. Depowered. Dead. She's getting married. Depowered. Depowered. Depowered. Dead.

    Who do we have? Well, we still have Leach. His ability is to depower mutants. What do you mean, that's ironic?

    Of course we have Spider-Man. What kind of a super-hero universe would be without Spider-Man?

    Well, he's a little runny.

    Well, quite runny.

    I think he's a bit runnier than you'd like.

    Well, let me see. No, wait he's dead! Cat got him! Hang on, he's alive again, but has new powers. And even newer powers because he has an armored battlesuit from Iron Man.

    No I don't know what a radioactive-spider-themed hero needs with an armored battlesuit.

    No, I don't know why a god would need a starship, either. Do you have a point?

    Dead. Dead. Depowered. In space. Depowered and dead. Dead, no, alive, no dead again. On vacation. Revised. Made retro. Dismantled and rebooted. Parental leave. Revised, dead, depowered, alive, retro, dead again. Lost in the timestream. Dead here, but doing real well in another universe.

    No, I really don't know why comics are doing so poorly. Why do you ask?

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Cat Update

    True conversation:

    Lovely Bride: Have you seen Emily?

    Me: She's out front.

    Lovely Bride: Out front?

    Me: Under the tree.

    Lovely Bride: What's she doing under the tree?

    Me: Because that's where we buried her, dear.

    Of course, she was looking for Victoria, not the late Emily-cat, but now that we are back to temporary three-catness, it is hard not to make the mental slip and equate the all-new, all-different X-Cats with their original versions. Harley is lumpy and affectionate and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, and feels a lot like Longshot. Vic wants to be dominant and petted only when she chooses to be petted, and feels like Emily. And Gozer has long silky fur and smaller and wants to curl up in your lap, and reminds me very much of Rogue. The truth of the matter is that they are three separate individuals from their originals, but the connections are there, such that conversations like the one above have become common.

    I am also reminded that the original feline trio didn't get along, and so too we're having adaptation problems between Gozer and the two installed cats. Its a lot of hissing and growling and Gozer making a run at the two larger tabbies. Gozer herself has settled in nicely, meaning that she is no longing hiding up on top of the furnace, and her fave places in the house a) are right next to the Lovely Bride or I, b) right next to the other cats (making them growl), or c) hiding under the bedspread in the guest room when she's tired of a or b. The immediate result of her presence is that ALL THREE cats are now clingy, in that they want to be reassured that we still love them. Harley and Vic* have taken to lairing on the chairs in the dining room (always a favorite hiding spot) and on the sills of windows (which gives them good sight lines).

    So Goze is more relaxed, the other cats a bit more edgey. We can live with it, for the time being. No one has started shredding books in frustration, and things may just settle down. I'd declare the end of major Feline operations, but I know cats, and I'm no fool.

    More later,

    *Was "Harley and Emily" in the first draft, which shows you how easy it has become to connect the old cats and the new.