Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Voyage Home

It all went swimmingly until we got to Seattle. But there were hints of what was to come. Call them warnings. Call them foreshadowings.

Here's a hint - all the LJs I pay attention to in Seattle are talking about snow. Here's another, the Seattle Times states that we should expect "snow showers" - wonderfully understated and clueless. And here's the big one - getting off the Skylink in Dallas- Fort Worth (an beautiful piece of machinery designed and built by my brother and the fine people he works with), and I pass the Monday Night Football game on a flatscreen. And I think "Hey, I didn't realize that the Seahawks were playing the Packers in Green Bay", because you can hardly see the field for all the white stuff.

And then, if it were a movie, the camera would hang on the screen as in the background I present my ticket and get on board the plane. And it would be revealed that we were looking at Qwest Field in downtown Seattle, covered with snow.

And even at the end of the flight, when we came in through low, heavy clouds, and ice was building up on the wings, did I not realize what I was in for. Not when I got the bags in the crowded terminal. Only when the Lovely Bride and I stepped out to the taxi stand to get a cab home.

And there were four hundred people in line. At least in our line. I heard the other line was worse. The rental cars already gone. The limosines all taken. The Shuttle Express overwhelmed. The traffic was murderous. the roads were ice. And most of the STITA cabs were apparently staying home.

Mind you, STITA EXISTS to serve the airport. They have the plum position. But only a few STITA cabs were running, one showing up about every five minutes. Then every ten. Then, around three in the morning, not showing up at all. The only cabs that showed up were Yellow Cabs. And they would only drive people downtown.

Now, knowing what the roads were like (now), I don't blame the Yellows for being, well, yellow, and wanting to keep on the overstuffed but generally safe highway. But every STITA cabbie who was not out on the road last night deserves to have his medallion pulled. Period. And the Port Authority should examine the sweetheart deal that gives them the lion's share of the work, if they're going to step up to the plate when they're really needed.

It was bad. It was beyond bad. It was a thousand people trying to get three cabs that show up in a half hour. It was a poor STITA expiditer (none of her cabs showed up, why was she there?) begging the Yellows to drive someplace else, passing out blankets to underdressed civilians back from Hawaii (did I mention the cab stand was in the sub-zero garage?), and giving priority to families with kids who had been standing there for over an hour. Finally, after THREE Hours, we found a Yellow driver who was willing to go into Renton, though not up the hill, to where we lived. We figured a warm hotel beat a cold parking lot and piled in with three other people.

And we understood why the yellows only wanted to drive downtown. It was a nightmare, as both our roads and our drivers cannot handle snow, and what hit the Renton/Kent area was a snow that would give a Pittsburgher pause. The cloverleafs were like day-old demo derbies. Cares were abandoned where they drifted off the asphalt. Still, he managed to snake down the backroads, avoiding the crashing on the main highways, and dumped us at the Holiday Inn we asked for.

Did I overtip him? Damn straight I overtipped him. I was losing sensation with my toes before he showed up.

And the Holiday Inn in Renton, where we ended up, needs to be commended for its actions above and beyond the call. Yeah, we're full up. A lot of folk are crashing in the lobby. Here are some pillows. A while later someone stopped by with a blanket. We slept for a couple hours, had a good breakfast at the Yankee Grill and then walked home (because the roads are still as slick as, well, ice). Yay, Holiday Inn! They were there when we needed them, when they could have just shut down the desk and wandered off.

Oh yeah, we walked home. The Holiday Inn is storing our bags (mind you, we are not paying customers - we crashed in their lobby) and we set out (no cabs still showing up, though daybreak has hit). We walk up Benson to the top of the hill, entertaining the idea that eventually a bus will show up going our direction. One finally shows up, when we're about a block from our turnoff. Aw, well, at least all my walking in Germany prepared me for this pass. I think it was two miles. The Lovely Bride, who is usually right about such things says it was four miles. Uphill. In the snow. Both ways.

Ah now, after spending nine hours en route from Pittsburgh to Seattle, and ANOTHER nine hours getting from SeaTac to my door 15 miles away, the Lovely Bride and I are home. And the sky is blue and the snow ( about 2-3 inches in the backyard) looks pretty, and there are no cars on the road right now, because nothing can get up the slight hill we're on.

It should surprise no one that I am not coming into work today. I need to sleep THIS little adventure off.

More later,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Prestige

So there are movies that do not invite much reflection. Sahara comes to mind - an adventure romp with a redneck rock soundtrack and little more logic than is needed to hold it into a semi-coherent shape. Then there are those that have depth, and invite running scenes, sequences, and lines back again, and re-evaluating them in new light. The Prestige is one of those films, and if you haven't seen it, hie thee hence to do so.

In a nutshell, The Prestige is about dueling stage magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) at the turn of the 20th Century. They're friends, then rivals, then enemies, and each plays the other in a series of illusions, lies, and tricks. To say more is to give the game away, and it is a very good game. The opening sequence is a bunch of top hats in a snowfield, and the voiceover asks "Are you paying attention?" And yeah, you should.

The thing is that this movie about stage magic moves with the smoothness of a magic act, but also hurtles between time and locations without losing the viewer. We're in a London prison, then we're in Colorado Springs, then we're on a stage in London years earlier, each shift smooth as silk, each point building to the final reveal, the Prestige, as the magic act is referred to. It should be a jumble, but instead it is a coherent flow.

This is one of those cross-genre movies that defines itself. Yes, it is adventure and romance and a mystery. Then Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) arrives on the scene and things take a definite SFish turn with Arthur C. Clarke overtones. Yet it resolves, and you see how the trick is down and you just let out the breath you've been holding and say, "yeah".

It is puzzlebox of a film, and there were a couple points where I was thinking "OK, I have this figured out" to find out that I was wrong, or just a little bit wrong. It is one of those films that does reward you to pay attention, and it makes me want to dig up the work of the original author, Christopher Priest (who is not the Christopher J. Priest (formerly known as Jim Owlsey) who writes Black Panther but a very different animal entirely).

Go see this film. Don't dig out any more information. Don't spoil it for yourself.T This is a film that rewards the open mind. Go enjoy.

More later,

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Here are some place names:

The Grey League
League of God's House
The Grisons
City of St. Galen
Bishropric of Basle
The Free Baillages
Orbe and Echalans
Canton of Underwald
Lower Argow
The Ten Jursidictions
Lake of Zug

Bits ripped off a fantasy map? Actually a reproduction of a map from 1794 of Switzerland. I've been going through the geneology thing with my mom, and the paternal line hales from those parts.

More later,

Friday, November 24, 2006


Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh, with the family.

Thankful for my folks, who are getting up there in years but are still active. Thankful for my younger brother, who is currently heading back from New York City, where his youngest daughter marched in the Macy's Day parade with the Baldwin High School Band. Thankful for my younger sister, who has become the de facto basketball coach for her son's team. Thankful for the Lovely Bride, who helped my mom prepare the Thanksgiving dinner, and the fact that the meal went on without any homicides.

Thankful for my fellow writers and friends. Thankful for the opportunities I have. Thankful for a friend coming back from Iraq (though he's injured his back loading up stuff to head home). Thankful for some quiet time. Thankful for starting a new project.

For all of that and more. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


So I'm sitting in the SeaTac airport, awaiting departure. The Lovely Bride is doing Tai Chi across the way, by the moving sidewalk. A pleasant woman (I thought of my age) asks me what she's doing, and we fall into conversation, as people tend to. And I find out she has grandkids and her first husband died and she was heading for Dallas and yes, Heathrow is a terrible airport. And she asks me what I do and I tell her I design games.

What types of games? Computer games? Usually this follows with an explanation about how games are more than computer games, but at the moment, yes, computer games. And card games and RPGs and board games as well.

Do you know what my favorite board game is? She asked. I expected Scrabble or Monopoly, but she said Iron Dragon.

And I blinked at her in suprise. Iron Dragon, designed by Tom Wham, published by Mayfair, with a cover by Larry Elmore. A fantasy railroad game, where you use crayons to draw on the board. And she and I talked bout it, and other railroad games, and, yes, Scrabble as well.

But I was surprised that this mild-mannered-seeming woman played train games. And more importantly, played a fantasy train game.

It think the nerds have won, after all.

More later,

Friday, November 17, 2006

Guest Review

One of the downsides of my recent absence has been that I missed one of the plays at the Rep. Instead, the Lovely Bride went with Steve Miller, who normally provides reviews here. Here's his writeup:

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby,Adapted for the Stage by Simon Levy, Directed by David Esbjornson, November 2 – December 10, 2006, Seattle Rep.

“The Great Gatsby”, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel that lays bear the darkness in the heart of the Jazz Age, is currently being brought to life at the Seattle Center in an adaptation by Simon Levy. Levy has captured the essence of the book and transferred it to the sage in such an expert fashion that I found myself wondering during the first act, “Do I really not remember this book?” and the actors mostly give excellent performances. The set design is also spectacular.

When I read “The Great Gatsby” many years ago, I was severely bored by the book’s early parts and very irritated at the story’s Nick Carraway, who is alternatively appalled and impressed by the irresponsible and decadent ways of his rich cousin Daisy, her husband Tom, and their circle of friends. It wasn’t until Nick becomes the facilitator of a meeting between the mysterious, fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby—who turns out to be a former lover of Daisy who still desperately wants to reunite with her - that the book became interesting to me.

With Levy’s adaptation, however, the story grabbed me from the first moment, and I was so engrossed in it that it was unrecognizable to me until well into the first act. Yes, Tom as a bastard, Daisy was frustratingly vapid, and Jordan was an inscrutable middleground, but the story was engaging to a degree it hadn’t been before, and Nick wasn’t quite the annoying twit. Having since skimmed the novel again, I now can see that I need to credit Levy for taking Fitzgerald’s novel and creating a faithful stage translation that grabs the audience in ways the novel fails to do.

Some of the credit for making this play such fascinating viewing must also go to Matthew Amendt, who gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as Nick Carraway, and he brings an impressive amount of depth to this character who admires Jay Gatsby for his strong spirit but nonetheless refuses to be drawn into his obsessive dreams. The growing unease, eventual heartbreak, and ultimate revulsion at the callous superficiality of America’s upper-class that Nick experiences as events unfold are brought splendidly to life by Amendt as he slips in and out of a character participating in the play’s action and his role as narrator.

An equally impressive performance is delivered by Lorenzo Pisoni, who plays Gatsby. Pisoni manages to convey a character who is the embodiment of the Roaring Twenties—the ultimate playboy party-host—yet who still something odd about him. With the sometimes awkward delivery of Gatsby’s favorite salutation--“old sport” --Pisoni conveys hints of Gatsby’s true background and nature before we learn of them through the unfolding of the plot. Similarly, Pisoni expertly conveys the overpowering love that Gatsby feels for Daisy—a love around which he has shaped his life and for which directed his every action for five years of his life—with looks and body language in ways so convincing that makes the tragedy of Gatsby’s final fate, and the way Daisy so casually dismisses his very existence, hit home with great force.

While Amendt and Pisoni are the most impressive performers in the play, the other principle cast members also make a fine accounting of themselves. Heidi Armbruster (as Daisy) presents a vapid character who provides just enough illusion of possessing empathy for others that she seems a believable object for Gatsby’s love, while Erik Heger (as Tom) plays her self-important, hypocritical, philandering, abusive husband with such vigor that the audience can’t help but hope for Gatsby’s success in taking her away from such a man. Hager’s performance is a bit much early in the play, but as events mount, his intensity is exactly what the role requires. Finally, Cheyenne Casebier (as Jordan) is excellent as the one person among the idle rich that seems to be a decent person on the level of Nick or Gatsby, but who is ultimately revealed to be as soulless as Tom and Daisy.

The staging and the set design is as impressive as the actors. Set designer Tom Lynch manages to move the action from the mansion of Tom and Daisy, to the squalid apartments of Hell’s Kitchen, to Gatsby’s sprawling pleasure palace, and back again. It’s awe-inspiring what he’s done with a backdrop painting of summer clouds, a few walls, and a few significant pieces of furniture. Heck, he even managed to get Gatsby’s pool on stage in a way so effective I wouldn’t have thought possible. Finally, the graceful changes of scenery that happen as Nick addresses the audience were exceedingly well conceived and executed.

“The Great Gatsby” is a fabulous play that is well worth seeing. Director David Esbjornson and everyone involved have good reasons to be proud of their work.

More later,


Bellevue, as I have noted before, is in the grip of a construction boom, such that high rise cranes dot the landscape, all working on new buildings. Yesterday evening, one of those cranes came down, killing at least one.

Shelly in Seattle was on the scene and files an eyewitness report.

More later

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Behold my SF Geekdom! Bold for read, Italiced for ones begun, but not finished.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Of course, most of these I read when I was in high school and college.

More later,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Post Mortem

So, the 2006 Election wraps up with Darcy Burner conceding the election after the towering stacks of mail-in votes failed to close the gap between her and Reichert. Mind you, I don't consider an election to be over until, um, my vote is counted but after a week, some sense of closure is needed. This is one more reason I am suspicious of any sort of voting short of showing up at the polling place and filling in the little dots with a #2 pencil (boy, I am turning into a old fogey).

That aside, it has been a pretty good year for the previously out-of-power party. When the Republicans crushed this big in 1994, there was a very strong "barbarians at the gates" sort of feel to the coverage - the brawling, sprawling, now-mighty GOP was going to deliver on the Contract with America and take it ... somewhere. So what are the general memes that have shown up in the past week?

You didn't win, we lost. Yes, the Democrats blew through the House and did much better in the Senate than expected and flipped more state houses blue and picked up a bunch of governorships, but that's not because they had better candidates or ideas or anything. It was just because people were ticked off about Foley. And Iraq. And corruption. And the economy. And the environment. And hypocracy. And Katrina. It could have happend to anyone. Don't be so smug.

Everyone hates incumbants this year. Which is why not a single Democrat lost his seat in the Senate, House, or Governor's race. The incumbant hate seemed to be confined to only one party (though the Dems would be well-served to stop Louisiana's William "Ice-Cold Cash" Jefferson from getting back in.

Winning Democrats are Conservatives. You know that opposing candidate that we spent millions of bucks telling you about? The one who we said was a liberal, a terrorist-hugging liberal, a baby-killing liberal, a tax-and-spend liberal? Well, now that he's won, we meant to say he was a conservative. It was a typo. But we won anyway.

Losing Republicans aren't Conservatives. A fave, led by Limbaugh himself. A sigh of relief that they're no longer under the obligation to support these false conservatives just because they're Republicans. Because, you know, conservatives win, and it these guys don't win, they're not really conservatives. Ergo cognito letsthrowthem underthebus. Mind you, no one wants to talk about the big GOP winner, that arch conservative Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.

Ohmigod! Now you're in for it! The voters will regret their actions because the Democratic congress will screw up! More than the current one! We've just driven the truck off the cliff, and handed them the wheel. But we only count who is officially driving when we hit the bottom of the canyon floor. The current kerfuffle about House Majority Leader is just the first taste - See! See! They're arguing already (um, guys - they're Democrats. You're thinking of the enforced hive mind of the GOP).

Ohmigod! Nothing will change! The voters will regret their actions because the Democratic congress will not do anything! We're not going to see anything change, and we're going to make stays that way! I understand they've pulled the president's veto stamp out of its secure location, and are currently searching for the instruction manual. As proof of nothing-ever-changes, they're pointing at the grey paladin, Murtha, since he was hipdeep in the ABSCAM scandal. Oddly enough, these same sources never seem to remember that young revolutionary John McCain was hipdeep in the S&L scandal. Funny about that.

The Terrorists Won! Yep, you we merely deluded by the ... um ... who are we fighting this week? No, really, Fox News sent one of their "memos" to be on the lookout for anything that can be interpretted as a terrorist group expressing relief that the USGovernment might become less Keystone-coppish. Because dealing with terrorists is wrong. Unless, of course, you're Fox News, which benefitted from some mysterious benefactor shelling out a cool 2 mill to terrorists to get their reporters back. I don't think they're going to be reporting on that one. Because, you know, without the reporters, how could we tell you how bad terrorism is?

And there you have it. One or more of these memes will survive until Thanksgiving and become the new Conventional Wisdom. None of it will have anything to do with strong grass-roots and net-roots activism, an aggressive strategy, candidates that we unafraid to take stands and voters who were unwilling to accept the same old excuses and flagwaving.

Funny, that.

More later,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Back In America

Well, I'm back from Europe, and spending the grey, rainy, windy Sunday reacting to the remaining shifts in my bioclock. Why is it that, regardless of where I am, I feel this need to crash at 4 PM?

The flight back was only mildly hellish, as Heathrow lived down to its already-established reputation, and British Airways planes, I am convinced, see a mechanic the way typical Brits see a dentist. Here's a note to BA - it is considered poor customer service when the cabin electronics keep going out - it makes them wonder about the electronics that are keeping the plane aloft are functioning OK - a small thing that one thinks about when one is over Baffin Island.

The work in Germany, disregarding the bad fortune with the computer, went very well. I have to really say nice things about the place they put me up - the Astor in Dusseldorf. Nice rooms, great breakfast, quiet location, great staff. The hotel is done in what they refer to as "Scottish-African" design, which means tartan rugs, red walls and omnipresent photos of zebras. It sounds strange, but it was a very effective - If I had to spend a week-plus in an American hotel, I would have been tossing TVs out the window. But the Astor was such a nice place (along with a staff that was English-friendly) that it made it very survivable.

And yes, my encounters in Germany were generally with people that were smarter than I was - in that they could speak two languages and I was confined to English. To make matters more strange, my genetic makeup makes me look "typically German", with the exception that almost every German I met was in better shape than I was. As a result of this, other German tourists asked me for directions, with whacky results.

As for general Germanic stereotypes, I can say that the natives of Dusseldorf, at least, are in better shape than I am, dress better (the town is a fashion center), walk or bike everywhere (the roads are good, but there is no place to park), smoke (but I think the European brands are milder than American ciggies - they are much more tolerable), are dog-friendly, and wear scarves better than either Americans or Brits. Oh yeah, the whole Leiderhose-wearing, ompah-band beerfests? They blame the Bavarians for that impression, sort of the way Yanks blame Texans for that whole Yah-hoo Cowboy thing. They do, however, have good beer in North-Rhine Westphalia.

On the other hand, I am delighted to be back in the States, with my wife, my cats, my hot tub, my waterbed and plumbing that I don't have to guess about.

More later.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How do you say "arrrgh" in German?

And then my laptop broke. Other side of the bloody planet, and the laptop broke.

It fell from a height of all of 8 cm, in its supposedly protective bag. However, the Fujitsu design is such that a good, hard rap along the base is enough to disconnect the screen and send things spiralling into madness.

Right now I'm writing this at Blue Byte, the laptop slaved to another monitor, so it is not a crisis for work. But I am going to have to get it repaired (this is the third time it has happened) and in the meantime I am carrying around a 2 kilo paperweight.


More later,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So What Now?

Hmm, looking at the results from the other side of the planet, it's not too bad at all.

The "Gimme-Gimme" initiatives went down in flames. The Wind Power Initiative looks good. Cantwell took the top of the ticket handily. Kauffman, Simpson, and Sullivan took the local races (despite some brutally nasty stuff tossed at them by the state GOP). Owens won re-election to the Supreme Court nicely, as all the air went out of the BIAW. At the House of Reps, Burner still remains close at this point and many of the ballots are soggy, but even if she is edged out, she has made a spectacular run and Reichert, as a member of the minority party, is now in a position where he can vote his mind as opposed to his orders.

So it's over, right? Actually it is just beginning.

America has tossed the Democrats a badge and said "Here, kid, you be sheriff for a while". The House is the most volatile of governmental bodies, and reflects that change first. Even if the Senate doesn't go Dem this time, the trend lines, as the pollsters say, are there. People want a change. Enough of this craziness.

And the Dems will have their hands full. Not just with avoiding the amazing level of corruption their conservative brethren have turned into an art form, but in really governing their part of the government. Face it, with six years of one-party rule, we haven't seen a whole lot of positive things happen (unless you are rich or incorporated). Now comes a time to move forward again for the American people.

That's what we expect. Move forward. Don't embarrass us. Get the job done.

And yeah, there are going to hurdles and weirdnesses. After 12 years of freezing out the Dems, the GOP is suddenly going to talk about how the minority party is a vital part of the House and must be listened to (Translation: They blew all the bridges, and suddenly discovered they were on the wrong side of the chasm). Expect all sorts of rule changes in the House, sudden, quickly-concluded Ethics investigations that gloss over previous crimes, and a massive uptick in paper shredders and electromagnetic drive-wipes. And the fact that any further problems will be laid to rest at their feet, because one thing the modern Republicans do well, it is to blame others.

But you Dems knew that when you came in the door. Don't let us down. Fix this.

More later,

Monday, November 06, 2006

Get Out And Vote

So this is the last note before Election Day, and I have very little to add than what I said below. But I will say it again, anyway:

US Senator: Maria Cantwell
US Rep, 8th District: Darcy Burner
State Senator, 47th District: Claudia Kauffman
State Rep, 47th District, Pos 1: Geoff Simpson
State Rep, 47th District, Pos 2: Pat Sullivan
State Supreme Court Judge: Susan Owens
NO on I-920
NO on I-933
YES on I-937

Cantwell's opponent, Mike McGavick, has pretty much imploded, and has concentrated his final week on a hail-mary attack on John Kerry. He chose to attack Kerry because he was afraid Michael J. Fox would kick him to the curb.

Burner's opposition, Dave Reichert, keeps throwing off signals that he'd like to self-destruct, but his political masters won't let him. He's been making a lot of noise of his 35 years of public service, though only two of those years have been in the position he is now defending. And you get the feeling that he would be much happier fighting criminals on the streets than voting alongside them in Congress (Heck. Ney of Ohio was convicted for god's sake, and kept drawing a paycheck).

Reichert put himself into a tempest in a teapot as well, with the whole question of the President getting flipped off a while back. Here's the story - Bush is in town campaigning for Reichert (who wants to make clear that he's not a sockpuppet for the administration). They're tooling along in the motorcade, not owing each other anything at all, and this school bus driver flips off the president. Now, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the driver in this case. You don't do things like that. It doesn't matter that we have video of the president doing the same damned thing - its not like the President is a role model anymore (nor is the Veep for the moment - I can see teenagers trying to get away with profane language and lax gun safety by saying "The Vice President did it!").

Anyway, the school bus driver gets canned, and Reichert claims his office had nothing to do with it. OK, but then it cpmes out that his office DID complain, but only after a week, and the school district had already taken action (someone in the Bush camp complained). OK, not the earlier story, but close. THEN it turns out that Reichert was telling a completely different story at campaign stops, about how he personally called the next day and got the driver fired.

So Reichert suddenly has a truthiness problem, one that gets up to the USA Today level of coverage. Its cool if he went after the offending driver - it makes him look like the badass sherrif he wants to be. And its cool if he chilled his jets and checked into it after some reflection - nice measured response. And its cool if he let it slide - turning the other cheek. But he claimed to do all three, depending on who he was talking to. So he's thinking that at least one of his audiences is made up of idiots.

So pile this on top of the other missteps of this campaign - surly interviews, not knowing anything about media consolodation in a debate, blowing off the League of Women's Voters and the AARP, trying to simultaneously hang with the president and get offended when others talk about him hanging with the president. Meanwhile, his opponent has run a school on how to go from grassroots campaign to serious challenge and national appearance.

Yeah, so based upon what they've DONE, I strongly recommend that the natives of the 8th go out in the rain and vote for Darcy Burner. It is time for a change, and she has demonstrated that she organizational skills to make the big time.

Oh, and the school bus driver? Has a new job, driving a bus in Renton. So I'm going to be very careful on my morning commute from here on out.(sigh)

More later,

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bible Stories

So I awoke this morning to the sound of bells from the churches of Duesseldorf. I've been left to my own devices today, and while I had planned a laundry day, the autowashes were shut, so I ended up walking into the Altstadt (old town), cruising a farmer's market, and the museum kunst palast (art museum), which was doing a show of the art of Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)).

An early Baroque painter, Caravaggio was a rebel in this time for using ordinary people for his paintings, choosing non-standard presentations for traditional works (mostly religious paintings), and reducing or sometimes subverting religious iconography within the work. His life was that of a hot-tempered brawler, guilty of murder in one case and on the lam, but his art appealed as often as it shocked the sentiments of the day.

The paintings themselves are mostly on biblical subjects: the Holy Family with an infant John the Baptist (an early team-up before either was a superhero), the Death of Mary. The Taking of Christ, the Dinner at Emmaus, and a passel of saints - Jermone, Sebastian, and Francis. Yet his working from life models and choosing non-standard presentations creates very different appearances for these then-traditional stories.

Another thing the show did was, surprisingly, open up the entire old question of "What is Art". Most of the pieces displayed were not originals in the traditional sense. Rather many were duplicate studies worked up by Caravaggio or copies made by later artists, duplicating his work in detail, though not his exact artistic style (and historians rely on that physical style of working to identify Caravggio's work, though others might have used that style as well). A plethora of copies (indeed, we are confronted with a wall of St. Francises contemplating skulls) makes figuring out who painted what and when a mess.

The point the curators worked towards, however, is that concepts and presentation that Caravaggio used were what was important, so it does not matter if you are viewing the original of a work or the third-hand rendition of that work, provided that those concepts remain true. The Death of Mary is not the original (that is in the Louvre and is too delicate to travel), but the copy (by another hand) contains the same work, while another piece, which might be a preliminary drawing, appears nearby.

The idea that art can only be by the hand of the original artist is pretty important, but may in the end be a blind alley. Warhol did all the prelimiary work, but left his silkscreening to others. Rodan, though shown in a newsreel with a big block of stone and a mallet and chisel, really worked in clay and plaster, and had others make the transfer to stone and metal. Even the idea of restoration involves removing the pieces of paint and fresco laid down by the original artist and replacing them with exact duplicates (a Steven Wright joke goes here, but I will pass). So I am looking at copies of Caravaggio's work in a museum - does that mean I don't see Caravaggio's meaning and intent?

Maybe this is it: Art exists solely to be created. Everything that happens afterwards is merely marketing.

More later,

Saturday, November 04, 2006


So Election Day is Tuesday, and I’ve left the country. Which is a pity, since we’re in the closing days, when the attack mailers get bloody and the partisans are out in full force. And a large number of friends and allies are all working on GOTV drives. GOTV, Get Out The Vote, is the bright, happy face of electioneering, of making sure that your base is motivated to go out and do the right thing, wrapped in a flag of civic pride and responsibility.

But the dark side of that duct tape that binds together democracy is Voter Supression, and is a common enough tactic as well. A lot of the negative mailers and ads you have seen are not to convince you that candidate X should be run out of town, or that when voting you must vote “NO” on Candidate X by supporting his opponent, Candidate Y. Part of it is to make you so sick of the process that, unless you are mindless hard core for Candidate X, you’re going to stay away entirely. And that’s just fine, too.

Hence we hear about Mike Riley’s tax problems. Hence the state GOP, having thrown Mike McGavick under the bus, thinks that it’s a real problem that Claudia Kauffman is a lobbyist. Worse yet, she's a lobbyist for the Muckleshoot tribe (Why yes, we DO play the race card up here – we’re just not very good at it).

And there are darker forms of voter suppression. Giving out incorrect voting information (Democrats are allowed to vote on November 8th), or hitting minority neighborhoods with leaflets saying that el Migra will be waiting at the polls to check your citizenship.

So as I can't make any GOTV phone calls, let me help with this latter part, at least. I’m thinking that the following flyer might turn up under the windshields of the cars parked outside the Evangelical Presbyterian Church this weekend.


Greetings, fellow Brother of Christ! With the coming election, your vote is extremely important to turn back the rising liberal conspiracy in this country. And now voting is more important than ever.

As a result of HR 45603945, Section A.9, the American RIGHTS amendment, you can now update your tithing at your local polling place. Representatives of an ecumenical group of Christian faiths will be available with information provided by your local church, keeping track of your charitable giving. If you have been unable to tithe, or lax in your tithing, this is an excellent chance to catch up on your financial obligations to Jesus while you do your duty for your country.

So remember to vote this Tuesday, and bring you checkbooks!

Now, in keeping with conservative thought, I have done the hard part (coming up with the idea), and now rely on you to do the easy part (printing, formatting, delivery, explaining the police that no, officer, you would not think of doing something like this). And of course, if anyone is dumb enough to try, in good conservative thinking, I will deny you. Three times, if need be.

And if Homeland Security is reading this, this IS a joke. Yes, I do want to be able to get back into the country.

More later,

Friday, November 03, 2006


Did I mention I was in Germany? Oh, yeah, I'm in Germany right now. Will be for the next week or so. That's why I needed that absentee ballot, since I would be absent. And while I really miss the last week of attack ads (When things really get juicy), it is just something that cannot be helped. I had to miss the Steven King reading as well. Sorry guys.

So the reason I am in Germany is Blue Byte Software. While I was freelance, I did some work with them for a new world for their at-that-point-unannounced game. The unannounced game is now announced (Settlers 6, the latest in a popular series of town-building games). I had informed ArenaNet when I came on board I had this outstanding commitment, and they were very kind in letting me go off (after we got Nightfall live, of course) to work with the nice people here in Dusseldorf.

The first time I flew out here, a year ago, it was through Amsterdam on United Airlines, and its companion airlines, and I was impressed by the tech in the trip and how modern the Amsterdam airport looked. Real 21st Century stuff. I had arrived in the new millenium.

This time, not so much. I flew steerage in a British Air 777 into Heathrow, which has all the charm of the old Pittsburgh Airport. We took off late, landed late, letting off on a tarmac with insufficient shuttle busses and as a result only a half-hour to cross the airport, a supposed 55 minute minimum trip (be sure to allow yourself enough time, chirped the helpful boarding pass instructions). I ran between security points, and almost inflicted a cardiac on myself in the process. I will say that the nice people at the last security checkpoint, who with wide-eyed shock realized that my plane was about to take off without me, were very courteous and supportive.

And when I got onto the connector flight, the plane would not go - it needed a jump. No, I'm not kidding. I crossed Heathrow in record time, only to find that the plane couldn't start without a truck to fire it up. So we were on the ground for another half hour before leaving for Germany.

Did I mention they lost my luggage at this point? No, I probably didn't, but you probably could have guessed. I could cross the airport that fast, but not my bags. Blech. Amsterdam just wowed the socks off me with its efficiency and modernity. Heathrow was a throwback to really bad airports in the midwest. Needless to say, I was glad to get to Dusseldorf itself, and was even more pleased when my jammies caught up with me several hours later.

The work itself has been just fine (you know I don't share such things publicly). Part of it is discovering what the rest of the team has been doing, and what new challenges have cropped up. I'm here for the next week or, so, but through the magic of the Internets, can still harange people mercilessly. Particularly since my bioclock is out of whack and I'm just a tad bit cranky now.

More later,

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I blame the Quakers

And the Pennsylvania Dutch, who aren't even, you know, Dutch (What's with that?)

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
The Inland North
North Central
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

More later (yes, I DO know about the origins of Pennsylvania Dutch),

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


So Nightfall has arrived safely, rolling out on Friday to great acclaim and accolades, and I have to say that everyone did a fantastic job on it, putting in all sorts of hours to make the game as good as it is. But I also want to talk about two things that kept my own sanity through it all.

Patrick O'Brian and a hot tub.

I've mentioned the nautical fiction of Patrick O'Brian before - I am a fan of the entire Aubrey/Maturin series, and have been listening to a lot of the books on tape (well, CD) on the long drives up and back to Bellevue. O'Brian continually amazes me with his textural density, the huge amount of backstory, both historical and nautical, that a typical paragraph infers. Add to that the incredible spread of character in both Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Steven Maturin, in that their very personalities are both a much of muchness, larger than life, but still accessible. And if my early-morning conversations seem a bit more proper, in a Jane Austen way, or has a slight Irish burr to them, that's why. The Lovely Bride, when she has been trapped in the car, has enjoyed them as well, though when it comes to their love lives, wants to shake both the main characters until they rattle.

But the hot tub I have not mentioned except in passing, and it has been in operation for two months. It has a story behind it, involving the Monkey King and Shelly in Seattle. They purchased a new house and have a new child, The new house had a hot tub, which they were concerned about with the new child about, and so they offered it to us (the tub, not the child). What followed was a larger amount of work and expense than we had originally planned (sort of when someone offers you a boat) - preparing the ground (pea gravel to a depth of a half-foot), moving the beast, fixing the ozonator, getting the wiring put in, getting the wiring approved, fixing the ozonator again, getting a new cover to replace the one that had mildewed, etc ....

But end result was well worth it, as the Lovely Bride and I have relaxed in the tub in the evenings after work almost every night, as the deadlines loomed, watching Cassiopeia rise higher in the sky, and the moon grow gibbous over the nights. And while we're soaking, I tell her about the latest dispatches from the books I've been listening to, about Steven and Jack, and all feels right in the world.

And that's how I kept my sanity through all this. Your mileage may vary.

More later,