Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eye of the North

We have gone live with Guild Wars: Eye of the North!

Everyone, happy dance!


More later,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

While You Were Out ...

Sweet lord, you leave town for a couple days, and all sorts of things happen.

- The Attorney General of the US stepped down, apparently because all the complaints about his lying, subversion of justice, and support for torture and illegal wiretaps was getting in the way of his lying, subversion of justice, and support for torture and illegal wiretaps. At least he wasn't using the dodge that he wanted to have more time to spy on his family.

- A GOP senator was picked up on a sex crime. I had to read this one twice, only because I thought they were talking about ANOTHER Republican Senator who was picked up earlier on a different sex crime. Criminny, is it a requirement to be a little pervy to be a member of the family-values party, or is it just the fast track to success? I keep thinking about Rep. Dave Reichert's bluster about facing down criminals - it seems like the GOP part of the house has a higher percentage of criminals than most of the bars in White Center.

- And speaking of the former sheriff, the president was in town briefly to raise money for Reichert's war chest. The president raised around $500k for Reichert, and $124k for his probable opponent, Darcy Burner, who ran an online town hall in competition. Just so you know the current administration is even-handed.

- And of course there is the note that members of the presidential motorcade were flipping off passersby as they tied up traffic in Bellevue. Not the protesters. They were flipping off the rest of the citizens, waiting for the presidential procession to pass so they could cross the street. Class act there, top to bottom.

- And while we're at it, this is your president on supposed "vacation". They make a lot of noise about him being on vacation more than anyone else, even Reagan (who was, you know, old and needed some downtime), but most of the vacations consist of running around at the bidding of his party, propping up favorites. In the morning he was in New Mexico, doing what he was doing for Reichert in the evening. But as far as most of America was concerned, he was back at the ranch, just clearing brush.

- So how about some good news for the GOP? OK, Republican incumbent for King County Council Jean Hague has come forward with the revelation that she was pulled over (McGaverick-fashion) for drunk driving. And of course the truth proved juicier than the admission, in that she cursed out the police officer (what IS it with conservatives and respect for authority?). Oh, and her campaign books are a mess, according to the PDC, with violations leaking out all over the place (oh, and a long term campaign aide? Embezzlement). Why is that good news? Because none of the mainstream Democrats fielded a candidate against her, and her opponent is a former Republican gadfly running under Democrat colors, Richard Pope. Who, even as his competition implodes, is considered to have only an outside chance.

- And changing gears slightly, among my least-favorite parts of the Sunday funnies is Opus, a bit of the 1980s trapped in a self-regurgitating loop as the same gags are retread over and over again until all the funny is pounded out of them. The comical wheat is separated from the chaff and then they publish the chaff. So it is no surprise that they are now "controversial" with a minor character going comically Muslim, with a chador made of a parrot scarf. Hardly the stuff to turn heads (indeed, the Seattle Times ran the strip, and, if I remember correctly, the building still stands). Yet some papers, blushing maidens of journalism, pulled it for fear of offending. Which will in turn offend the wobble-headed among the tighty-righties, who will crank up their hate of Islam, and leave the Muslims wondering what the hell they did THIS time to cheese them off.

- And a pleasant young lady at a beauty pageant completely botched an easy question with a stream of consciousness report. And this is supposedly treated as real news. You know, I have sympathy for her, since we seem to be hip-deep with people whose job it is to explain what the president REALLY meant to say.

- And it has been two years since Katrina waded ashore, and the administration is still trying to figure out what to do about it. But the ice that was shipped down there, then re-routed and eventually stored in Maine? They decided to finally let that melt. Good to know there was decisive action.

Man, I just shouldn't go on vacation.

More later,

UPDATE And in a textbook definition of irony, the fire department was summoned to the Burning Man festival when the Burning Man .... caught fire. No, I just can't compete with stuff with this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


As a rule, I prefer to not be in town for my birthday. Such a guideline usually results in mild adventures where I am dealing with new opportunities and experiences as opposed to hanging about the house (or worse yet, the office) and realizing that I am made of mere mortal clay.

So this year the Lovely Bride and I bundled our way down to the Alderbrook Resort, situated at the bottom of the backwards "J" of the Hood Canal (really a fjord, but you knew that, right?). Nice place, nice rooms, firm beds, killer view across the Canal at the Olympic Range. Pricey, but the advantage of birthdays is that you can declare "I'm worth it" and few will quibble with you.

The clientèle of the Alderbrook is the established wealthy (those with access to helicopters, seaplanes, and/or yachts), loud golf outings, families with one or two well-behaved children, and people who liked to read on the various patios by the fire pits. The Lovely Bride and I fit into that last group, as I was continuing my quest through Tom Pynchon's Against the Day and the LB for her part engaged with Bill Gibson's Pattern Recognition. After PAX and the various deadlines, it was a break I truly needed.

Excellent massage as well. The spa's front desk is a bit of a battleground (if you're doing a resort, note that the spa is usually a different operation, and communications between the two are not always ideal) but the hot stone massage was bone-dripping wonderful. It left me a little dazed, which was solved with another hour or so out by the fire pit with the Pynchon.

As a hike, the LB and I took on the Big Creek trail west of Hoodsport, which, like many trails in the Olympics, consisted of a great amount of "up" followed by an equal if not larger amount of "down". My feet were rock-solid swollen after that, requiring the hot tub and resort pool (which is, as its setting would demand, Olympic in nature).

The downside was the resort restaurant, which was merely average, and as such not worth its price. We had several meals there, and with the exception of a shellfish appetizer, nothing stood out. The fish had been thawed and refrozen at least once, the rare lamb was cooked medium, the medium steak was cooked to only medium rare, the sauces were heavy, turgid things, and the breakfast menu was off-putting with its audaciousness (cappuccino-favored french toast - yaknow, I'll just have an omlette). The restaurant was out of tune with the rest of the resort - it was too pretentious for casual dining, but its customers were the shorts and sandal crowd. Service, however, was good (though at one meal we were left to pour our own wine - oh, the horror).

Today held only a small disappointment as we had planned to raid the Quilicene beach for manilas, only to find that the beach had been closed to clamming ("Honey, did you notice this big red sign saying "Emergency Closure" before?"). And after talking myself hoarse at PAX and subjecting myself to the risks of massage, swimming, and healthy exercise, I finally came down with the Lovely Bride's headcold, so I napped in the car as she drove, and am spending the evening napping and moving between the rooms, honking and sniffling, and feeling pretty darn mortal.

But, since it is no longer officially my birthday, that's OK. On to 51!

More later,

Sunday, August 26, 2007

PAX, Seattle

So yesterday I went to the Penny Arcade Expo, in downtown Seattle. The Expo, better known as PAX, has grown up around the comic strip that I link over to the right, and has grown by leaps and bounds, from an interesting weekend to near-GenCon levels. Indeed, with the demise of E3 as a consumer show, this particular shindig may step up to the plate and take its place.

My official role was a brief bit on one of the two ArenaNet panels. Guild Wars: Eye of the North has its preview this weekend, and goes fully live this Friday. So with the deadlines either dealt with or hanging overhead, we all looked and felt our best as we took the stage (oh, yeah, there's the little matter of stage fright I always get before talking to large groups). And things went really, really, well. The fans were appreciative and excited about the new game, my co-writer Ree, has revealed herself to be a styling goth doombunny at conventions, and we got a lot of good questions and feedback. So we done good.

But that was but a sliver of time, which gave me a chance to watch other members of the team go through the meet and greet (they did nicely as well), and prowl the floor, which had a lot of hobby gamers and former hobby gamers. It was kind of fun to see my past collide with my present in the form of old game designers now working with much younger companies and young companies that remembered the classic old stuff of pen and paper RPGing. It was a Nerdstock, with a lot of coolness.

In particular, I got excited over the coming Penny Arcade adventure game and Pirates of the Burning Sea, which improves graphically every time I see it (and had queues for playing the demoes). Less excited for me was Warhammer, which suprised me, but the graphics and gameplay just didn't get me charged up (maybe I'm just spoiled). EVE Online looked good (and I grafted for a copy of Monte Cook's World o' Darkness), and I got a small Gleemax brain/stress ball. I was a little disappointed that the Ubisoft booth wasn't showing The Settlers (going for action-adventure in Assassin's Creed and Rainbow Six: Vegas instead). Ah, well.

But the place was packed, but not to an intolerable sense. I hear that they will be taking over the entire top floor of the exhibit hall next year. If they can create a command post for the traditional media, I think they would become the next E3, where people go to hear the next big releases.

Oh, and the cats have discovered the Gleemax brain, decided it was a large and juicy mouse, and are now batting it around the dining room.

More later,

Friday, August 24, 2007

Strange Dreams, Indeed

So you have those dreams sometime. The ones where days, weeks, and even months pass in the dreamstate, and then you wake up and realize that only a half hour has passed since you went to sleep.

And as a result of your time-distorted perception, you become ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that Federal Agents (alternately, aliens) have broken into your house and replaced everything with reasonable facsimiles of the originals.

You've had that dream, right?

No? Uhhh, me neither. I was, um, just checking. Yeah, that's it - checking.

More later,

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

HG:100 Meme

So Green Ronin has released Hobby Games: The 100 Best, edited by James Lowder, to nifty initial responses at Gencon, and has in addition just posted on their site the table of contents of all 100 games and the authors covering them.

And I thought this would be an opportunity to launch one of those "What X do you Y?" type memes. You know the drill - Copy the following list, and mark them up as follows:
Boldface if "I own this game".
Italics is "I have played this game".
Italic and Bold are "I both own and have played this game"
(Sorry, no bonus points for "I WROTE this game" - now you're just bragging.:))

Hobby Games: The 100 Best
Bruce C. Shelley on Acquire
Nicole Lindroos on Amber Diceless
Ian Livingstone on Amun-Re
Stewart Wieck on Ars Magica
Thomas M. Reid on Axis & Allies
Tracy Hickman on Battle Cry
Philip Reed on BattleTech
Justin Achilli on Blood Bowl
Mike Selinker on Bohnanza
Tom Dalgliesh on Britannia
Greg Stolze on Button Men
Monte Cook on Call of Cthulhu
Steven E. Schend on Carcassonne
Jeff Tidball on Car Wars
Bill Bridges on Champions
Stan! on Circus Maximus
Tom Jolly on Citadels
Steven Savile on Civilization
Bruno Faidutti on Cosmic Encounter
Andrew Looney on Cosmic Wimpout
Skip Williams on Dawn Patrol
Alan R. Moon on Descent
Larry Harris on Diplomacy
Richard Garfield on Dungeons & Dragons
William W. Connors on Dynasty League Baseball
Christian T. Petersen on El Grande
Alessio Cavatore on Empires in Arms
Timothy Brown on Empires of the Middle Ages
Allen Varney on The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Phil Yates on Fire and Fury
William Jones on Flames of War
Rick Loomis on Fluxx
John Kovalic on Formula Dé
Anthony J. Gallela on The Fury of Dracula
Jesse Scoble on A Game of Thrones
Lou Zocchi on Gettysburg
James Wallis on Ghostbusters
James M. Ward on The Great Khan Game
Gav Thorpe on Hammer of the Scots
Uli Blennemann on Here I Stand
S. Craig Taylor, Jr. on A House Divided
Scott Haring on Illuminati
Dana Lombardy on Johnny Reb
Darren Watts on Junta
Greg Stafford on Kingmaker
Lester Smith on Kremlin
Wolfgang Baur on Legend of the Five Rings
Marc W. Miller on Lensman
Ted S. Raicer on London's Burning
Teeuwynn Woodruff on Lord of the Rings
Mike Breault on Machiavelli
Jordan Weisman on Magic: The Gathering
Steve Kenson on Marvel Super Heroes
Gary Gygax on Metamorphosis Alpha
Greg Costikyan on My Life with Master
John D. Rateliff on Mythos
Chris "Gerry" Klug on Napoleon's Last Battles
John Scott Tynes on Naval War
Erick Wujcik on Ogre
Marc Gascoigne on Once Upon a Time
Mike Bennighof on PanzerBlitz
Steve Jackson on Paranoia
Shannon Appelcline on Pendragon
JD Wiker on Pirate's Cove
Richard H. Berg on Plague!
Martin Wallace on Power Grid
Tom Wham on Puerto Rico
Joseph Miranda on Renaissance of Infantry
James Ernest on RoboRally
Paul Jaquays on RuneQuest
Richard Dansky on The Settlers of Catan
Ken St. Andre on Shadowfist
Steven S. Long on Shadowrun
Peter Corless on Shadows over Camelot
Dale Donovan on Silent Death: The Next Millennium
Matt Forbeck on Space Hulk
Ray Winninger on Squad Leader
Lewis Pulsipher on Stalingrad
Bruce Nesmith on Star Fleet Battles
Steve Winter on The Sword and the Flame
Jeff Grubb on Tales of the Arabian Nights (But of course)
Shane Lacy Hensley on Talisman
Douglas Niles on Terrible Swift Sword
Ed Greenwood on Thurn and Taxis
Mike Fitzgerald on Ticket to Ride
Thomas Lehmann on Tigris & Euphrates
Warren Spector on Tikal
David "Zeb" Cook on Toon
Mike Pondsmith on Traveller
Zev Shlasinger on Twilight Struggle
Kenneth Hite on Unknown Armies
Sandy Petersen on Up Front
R. Hyrum Savage on Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
George Vasilakos on Vampire: The Masquerade
Kevin Wilson on Vinci
R.A. Salvatore on War and Peace
Jack Emmert on Warhammer 40,000
Chris Pramas on The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Steve Jackson on The Warlord
John Wick on Wiz-War

The interesting thing is not how many of these games I have played, but that I remember the situations where I played them and who I was playing with. I have trouble finding my keys in the morning and I remember games of Diplomacy at TSR, Space Hulk at Tracy's (With the "Batman soundtrack playing in the background), and Formula De in the basement of the old Game Guild hobby shop.

Oh, and there will undoubtedly be cries of "What, they left Fuzzy Bunnies from Heck off the list!" as well as cries of "What, they included Fuzzy Bunnies from Heck on their list!". All I can say is, let the arguments commence. Allez Game-ese!

More later,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


So I guess I am a relic.

I voted in person this morning, 9 AM. No mail-in vote this time. Seriously outnumbered by poll workers, who were all at my age group and older, and very, very happy to see a live voter show up. First person to sign up for Rush (my district - I tell people we named it after the rock band). I was the "Break-in" guy, so about four of them helped at once (where to sign, where to print, remember to declare party).

Declined the offer to use the new hotness electronic voting ("It will pat you on the cheek when you're done" said the poll worker. "I like to leave a trail of my actions," said I.)

Small selection of choices (even smaller if you're GOP), filled out the ballot ("Remember to blacken in the oval fully"), and put it into the ballot box ("It doesn't matter which way it faces up"). About ten minutes out of my life, but I have the feeling that things are still slow there, as more people go to mail-in voting. Me, I like the idea of making voting a full-round action, something that you do at a certain time and place, and contributes to that sense of civic communion.

Like I said, I feel like a relic.

More later,

Monday, August 20, 2007


So WotC has announced the upcoming release of the Fourth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. And you probably knew about this way before the event, or if you didn't know, you could have predicted it, or if neither of those two you may be in the category that is thinking "Wow. They still make Dungeons & Dragons?"

Of the mechanics themselves there are bits and pieces being released for general consumption, but there are two items in the roll-out that caught my eye, one good, and one bad (from my Ancient-One-Like standpoint).

First off, the initial press release leads off with this line -

"Whether you storm a mad wizard’s tower every week or haven’t delved into a dungeon since you had a mullet and a mean pair of parachute pants, one thing is certain, millions of D&D® players worldwide have anticipated the coming of 4th Edition for many years."

Great, when the off-hand comment about what old gamers are like is ten years younger than you were when you started playing the game, you know you're old.

On the other hand, the roll-out itself was incredibly good. My old gaming group buddies, Bill Slavicsek and Chris Perkins spoke geekness to geeks, as shown in this video. In particular, the video with Chris as DM over the years (his hair shorter with every version) was amusing. AND the fact that play comes to a grinding halt as soon as grappling is mentioned is lifted directly out of our Thursday night game (and a bunch of other games as well.

Both Chris and Bill are generally shy people, and their ease at the presentation is a dead giveaway that they know what they are talking about. The presentation continues here, here, and here, and is worth checking out.

Now, were did I put my mullet?

More later.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Primary: Any Storm in a Port

Goodness, do we have a primary coming up?

Yep, the state primary has been moved up to August, and given (for this area at least) a pretty soft opening. Here on Grubb Street we don't vote for the Seattle City Council, don't belong to Renton or Kent (yet), and due to the recent provincialization of the King County Council, we have an off-year there as well. That leaves King County Prosecuting Attorney and Assessor (Partisan posts), a couple ballot measures, and two non-partisan positions with the Port of Seattle (Top two going to November).

Ah, the Port of Seattle. This is a non-partisan post, which means Republicans can run for it without having to admit they are Republicans, only that they favor "business and growth". And, being a large, murky operation with opaque meetings of late and access to a great deal of power (SeaTac airport, our ports, cargo loading, and a large amount of choice land), it is no surprise that here is where we tend to find a crop of scandals. And the most recent one stems from a Platinum Parachute given to the former head of the Port of Seattle, which was approved in secret by the Port of Seattle Council. The Port if Seattle investigated this charge and found the Port of Seattle innocent. And then gave itself a cookie.

So reform is in the air for the Port, and I'm going to recommend Jack Block, a longshoreman who sits on the Burien City Council (Burien being cheek-by-jowl on the Third runway of SeaTac) and who gets an Outstanding record from the Municipal League and the Sierra Club's endorsement. The incumbent is Bob Edwards who is apparently part of the problem.

For the other position, I am going to recommend Alec Fisken, who also gets the Sierra Club nod but (surprise!) is the incumbent in this case. Fisken is a progressive who has been fighting uphill against the tinted windows around the Port's meetings and needs some aid in letting some light in.

For the Democratic primary for KC Prosecutor, both candidates, Keith Scully and Bill Sherman are good, and this is a place where there is an embarrassment of riches. I'm going to go with Bill Sherman only because of the Municipal League rating. but I shan't cry if Scully gets the nod.

For Democratic Primary for KC Assessor, we have one candidate, the incumbent, Scott Noble. Yeah, sounds good to me.

There are a pair of ballot measures on the boards as well for King County, Proposition 1 is to retain a levy for regional and rural parks. Proposition 2 is to create a new levy for the regional trails and the Woodland Park Zoo. Vote YES on both of these. The local fire district has to huxter for money as well YES to them

And that's about it. It is a warmup for the fall, so vote early and vote ... well, early. They're figuring around a 34% turnout this time around, so your vote counts a little more than normal.

More later,


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

DOW breaks 13000!


Didn't I just just a month ago post that the DOW, our hothouse flowers of the stock market, broke through the 14000 mark? That the market was starting to recover from all the messes of the past few years and start making real progress?

Alas, such was not to be. And as much as I want to make a Rupert Murdoch joke about it, the man who Mike Royko once tagged as "The Alien" has little to directly do with it.

The thing is, the market of late has been a Potemkin village, a series of false fronts with not much supporting them on the backside with real progress. A big chunk of the growth has been is sub-prime loans and other chancy ventures. Now we have a reckoning, or as those in the biz like to call it, a "correction" (Doctor Evil quote-fingers apply). Apparently a "correction" is if the stock market loses some 10% of its value. No word on what happens when it gets past that mark.

So of course, these brave financial entrepreneurs take such reverses in stride, and redouble efforts to grow their stocks. Yeah, right. The same folk who rail against government interference go nuts when the market decides to "correct" itself and demand government help. And so the Federal Reserve pumped a lot of money into the system last Friday to "preserve liquidity". And the stock market showed its appreciation by holding steady on Monday before taking a dives yesterday and today. Oh, and the Fed pumped more liquidity in today, but to no avail. Would the Federal Government work as hard pumping out the Gulf Coast a few years back, we might not have these problems.

Oh, and all those sub-prime mortgages, all that bad debt and iffy paper floating around? Your government is backing it up. So even if you're smart enough to avoid these sucker bundled loans and ARMs, your government isn't. Insert standard reference of those who pay taxes bailing out those that don't here, but you know the drill.

The interesting thing is, I've been doing some research on the big crash of '29. This was primarily for my Call of Cthulhu game - we're running Tatters of the King, an adventure which takes place in '28 and '29, but which avoids ALL MENTION of the stock market crash. Making it harder for me, it is set in England, so not only I am investigating the crash, I am trying to interpolate its effects on Europe.

Anyway, the research shows some scary parallels (including market jitters created by rumors that the Gummint would crack down on the phoney-baloney buying on margin practices). The Market hit its all-time high about a month before. slid backwards, fell off a small cliff on Black Thursday (24 October), was shored up by the banks for Friday, and then fell off a larger cliff on the well-remembered Black Tuesday (29 October). And all during this time, any faint economic heartbeat was seized upon as proof that the markets would reverse themselves and things would return to normal.

Which they did. By 1954. So buckle in. This may be a bit of a ride.

More later,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Story Time

Last week we held Media Day here at ArenaNet for our upcoming Guild Wars: Eye of the North expansion. We invited members of the online and paper computer game press to come into the office and play the game and talk to us.

The most amusing moment for me was during game's opening moments, when the heroes are attacked by the Destroyers, our big bads, and are supposed to help the dwarves escape by running at full tilt away. Instead, every one of these brave professional journalists stopped, turned around to face the eldritch horrors and took a screen shot to use with their articles. Needless to say, very few heroes reached the exit.

Anyway, as a result of the interviews, we have gotten a lot of good press about the game, leading up to its release at the end of the month - here, here, here, here,here, here, here, here, and here. And also, Allen Rausch of Gamespy and I had a long chat (OK, I did most of the chatting, I'm afraid) about story and games. Check that one out here.

And since I'm doing the major promotion thing, we're having a major presence at the upcoming Penny Arcade Expo, so if you're in the Seattle area, come on down and see us.

More later,

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lucky Chaarms

So I dropped in at IKEA in Renton the other day, an idea which scares some people (like, you know, me). Even scarier, I discovered that they had expanded.

Now saying that the IKEA, blue-walled purveyor of flat-pack furnishings, has expanded is sort of like saying the the Vatican has suddenly thrown up another wing. When I first moved out here, the IKEA was a big warehouse, half of which was store and half of which was indoor parking (a surprising rarity in a land with so much supposed rain). Well, most of that parking is gone, and they gutted out the warehouse next door for more parking, and gutted the next building over as WELL for the overflow lot. So yeah, they've expanded.

And like the Vatican, the IKEA is its own self-established nation-state completely surrounded by another, larger governmental entity. Actually, it is more like mitochondria in our cells in that it has its own unique DNA that doesn't match up with its surroundings. It is this little (well, big) wafer of European salesmanship in the midst of otherwise American consumerism.

Anyway, my goal was to find two items that the Lovely Bride has been unable to locate in more traditional outlets - a hand-held orange squeezer (which looks like a frozen, unbloomed flower, or a small, medieval mace), and the plastic lid you put on the plate you put the plate in the microwave. They were pretty common but specialized items, and I felt if they would be anywhere, it would be here.

So, walking into an IKEA is a strange thing in itself, with its carry-all bags and recycling bins. Very different from the stink of desperation and failure I always get when I go into a Walmart. Indeed, there is a feeling of Scandinavian progressivism that extends far beyond its blonde furnishings and low-priced Swedish meatballs. The layout of the store is a single lane that meanders through its huge vault, punctured by small but discrete openings in the walls. These do a great job separating the shoppers (who take the paths and are looking for many things) from the buyers (who want to go in, get what they want, and leave).

But it does create this weird vibe that you are rats in the maze, and in his secret bunker, Ingvar, secret master of IKEA, is watching your progress, flanked by two busty Scandanavian assistants in tight lab coats. "You see?" He says, as Sasha (or is it Inga?) marks down something on a clipboard, "By moving the entrance to the cooking implements three feet over from the Persian rugs, we have increased cross traffic by three entire percentiles!"

And I admit, I felt like a very smart little lab rat, being able to avoid the home furnishings and framed posters to get to the cooking tools. Where I found what I was looking for with very little difficulty. In non-American tradition, there was only ONE orange-squeezer (called chaarm - everything here has its own strange, cute name. There is a lab somewhere in Denmark filled with writers whose only job is to come up with these names). But it was a big bin of chaarms, negating the need for any other chaarms in the world. Similarly, there was only one "plastic-lid-you-put-on-the-dish-in-the-microwave", called a haaselhoff or something, but it was the only plastic-lid-you-put-on-the-dish-in-the-microwave you'll ever need. You can imagine Invar and his assistants testing hundreds of them is some clean, bright lab, just to bring you a bin of them.

And there was stuff there that I, Food-Network junkie that I am, could not identify - single-taskers that would make Alton Brown have a cardiac. I had to ask one of the well-informed clerks to identify something that looked like a cross between a rifle bolt-action and a robotic sex toy, and was informed it was a corer. I think its name was knurdel.

So, having grabbed my chaarm and haaselhoff, I fled for the exits, to discover that there are fewer secret doors the deeper you go into Invar's lair. I finally found myself in the new checkout area, where they have incorporated self-checkout. I was partially successful, for while the haaselhoff read properly, the tag on the chaarm was such it would not read and ANOTHER friendly, well-informed clerk ran it through. Properly armed with my chaarm and haaselhoff, like a knight of old with lance and shield, I fled to the indoor parking lot next door.

Though I left, I could have sworn I heard Invar's dry, Swedish chuckle behind me.

More later,

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Elliot S! Maggin

So my old comic book editor is running for office. Elliot was one of the editors on the now-classic Forgotten Realms book back in the 80s, but is better known for his extensive work as a writer, including a screaming bunch of good comics as well as novels on Superman and Kingdom Come.

Elliot has always had a political outlook, which spills into his public, personal, and fictional lives. Most recently, in the DC Universe, he was the Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen's campaign manager in the superhero's run for Mayor of Star City.

According to the Wikipedia, the 24th occupies parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and is strong Republican. It delivered for George Bush at 56% in the last presidential, and the local Dems got pasted in the 2006 election, but things have been bad for incumbent GOP across the board of late. Rep Elton Gallegy has been making noises about stepping down for medical reasons (he's been in office for 24 years), but has a massive war chest.

Elliot has company for the Democratic primary - other candidates include the Democrat candidate from 2006, Jill Martinez, businesswoman Mary Pallant, 2004 nominee Brett Wagner, and maybe former mayor of Ventura Richard Francis.

It looks like a crowded field. Maybe Elliot can get Oliver Queen's campaign manager to help out.

More later,

Monday, August 06, 2007

Victorian Battlemechs

So I was going to write about something else, but this short film caught my eye. Its from Blur Studios, which does the cyber-football players you see on FOX NFL games.

As one of my co-workers put it best "I want to play the game that this video is not the Hi-Res graphic for". Me, I'll settle for building the world.

More later,

Saturday, August 04, 2007


So the back of our house has a pair of balcony decks, one outside the bedroom and one outside my home office. And the Lovely Bride has built window-boxes to hang on the railings of those decks, and planted various annuals there.

And every year, as we move towards high summer, I forget to water said plants for a week or so, and everything turns brown, and it is my fault (my balcony, you see).

So the LB came up with the solution. This year she planted peas among the annuals. And since I like to eat raw peas from the shell, I am watering more often, since nothing beats sitting on your back porch, eating raw peas within easy reach.

Smart woman, that Lovely Bride,

More later,

Thursday, August 02, 2007

H. P. Baumcraft

So a long while back, I talked about the local comics convention, and the large number of books dealing in the shared realities of H.P.Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and Frank Baum's Oz. And part of this is because both exist in this nebulous copyright territory where some pieces are clearly in the public domain, while others may not be (depending on who you talk to).

But then I started riffing on REALLY sharing the realities between the two, and ended up with a list of mashup titles, suitable to drive any copyright lawyer up the wall.

Here's what I got:

Beyond the Gate of the Silver Slippers
The Statement of Dorothy Gale
The Winkies in the Walls
The King in Yellow Brick
At the Munchkins of Madness
The Call of th'C'wardly Lion
The Nameless Emerald City
Rinkitink, Reanimator
Pumpkinhead's Model
The Tik-Tok on the Doorstep
The Dreams in the Wicked Witch House
The Dreamquest of Unknown Kansas
The Doom that Came to Ozma

More are left as an exercise to the reader.

More later,

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Novel: Four Color in Black and White

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, Pantheon, 2007

This is a bit weird - not the book itself, it is pretty traditional pop lit that attempts to straddle the domain between Real Literature and Comic Book Heroes, but the way that it has heaved up on my horizon, and all the pieces that fit into it.

So first I saw this book on Scalzi's site. Literally saw it - he posted a picture of books he is reading at the moment. Then Bill and Mi'ko had a copy, and I borrowed it from them. Then when preparing this review, I discovered the author was the brother of Lev Grossman, who wrote Codex, which I reviewed here. And Lev Grossman's name popped up in a comment from Sacnoth for an article he wrote on Harry Potter.

Small world, eh?

OK, the book. I have seen it pitched as a "funny" take on funny book heroes, but it is not, despite a relatively light tone. I mean, you're competing with FUNNY funny books, and mere text ain't going to be able to surpass the physical humor of a Plastic Man comic. Soon... a little wry, a little learned, and a little mocking of the tropes and traditions of the comic book universes. You know, origins (everyone has one), arch enemies, secret IDs, Headquarters and super teams. The chapter headings pull from the full plethora of catch phrases in use. I wouldn't say it was funny, but I would say it amuses.

The book alternates between narration by Doctor Impossible (archcriminal and perennial punching bag for the good guys) and Fatale (Cyborg without a past and newbie on the Justice League-ish super team). Doctor Impossible seeks to take over the world while ruminating on why he does what he does. Fatale goes behind the looking glass to see that her heroes (Batman-clone, Superman-Clone, Wonder Woman-clone. etc ...) are not what they appear to be to the common man.

It is all very neatly done, but it has been done before, in the comic books, in the 80s and 90s. Astro City is probably the best example of the "grounding" of the supermen, but even in print with have Wild Cards, and both of these go deeper into the psyches of their targets. Soon ... embraces without question many of the tropes that it purportedly satirizes (all the superpowers seem to have gone to the same high school, evil geniuses are evil geniuses because ... they are evil geniuses (following along the idea that "knowledge is bad")).

The book bounces along nicely though, except for two chapters where the author seems to say magic is a fraud, and with it the magic of comic books, but these moments pass and we move to a four-color conclusion. I guessed the second-act reveal but not the third-act, which makes sense if you think about it, but only if you stop and think about it. But style works, and works best when Doctor Impossible has the podium, both recognizing his weaknesses and lockstepping his way to his next defeat.

Its amusing, lacking the hard edges of Watchmen or the deep background of Cavalier and Clay, but its something to curl up with on the back porch and read while drinking a frozen rum punch.

More later,