Monday, August 30, 2010

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

So yesterday, hot on the heels of my aviation triumph, I planned on just crashing. But then I saw a note in the Seattle Times that the American Cheese Society was selling off its leftovers at the Palace Ballroom in Belltown, at five bucks a hunk. Since I was thinking about hitting Pike Place Market that day anyway, I altered my plan, intent on getting some Gruyere.

And it was a zoo - locals and people brought in by the article and a news bit on KOMO. And the wrapped hunks of cheese were on tables and shelves all around the room, with no organization. How would I find Gruyere in this madness?

"Would you like some Gruyere?" said a man in a T-shirt saying "For the Love of Cheese!", who handed me two pounds of Gruyere and recommended I check out the butters as well. I ended up with a Vermont butter with sea salt, a pound of Romano, a pound or Parm (we go through a lot of that), and the aforementioned Gruyere. And with my swag, I retreated from the cheese-inspired madness, and picked up some garlic rosemary bread from the Three Girls bakery, visited a couple game stores, and then and only then crashed and took an afternoon nap.

Eventually my time will be fully shifted back to here.

More later,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Zoos and Zeppelins

The long-term readers around here know that I don't like to spend my birthday in the office, but rather try to get away and do new things, liking climbing relatively short mountains, getting hot stone massages, going on art hunts or sinkingd kayaks. This year I cheated a bit an ran things over into the next day, with a strange and brilliant day to wrap up my 53rd year and start my 54th.

The Lovely Bride and I started out in Tacoma, at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, which we had never been to before. The grounds spill down a hillside overlooking the sound, and this may be the most kid-friendly zoo I have ever seen. Many of the best vantage points (and some entire displays) were set at the 3-foot-high level. It is small zoo, but does have some unique creatures (walruses swimming upsides down, nurse sharks brooding in the depths of their tanks). It has a great Pacific Northwest Ocean exhibit. And as a bonus, the LB and I spent about a half hour watching a pair of zookeepers socializing a 6 month old clouded leopard cub. It was like playing with the housecat, except the cat in this case was at least 60 lbs.

From the zoo, a quick change into respectable dubs and to my favorite very very expensive restaurant, Canlis, for a long leisurely dinner, watching the sun set and the moon rise over Lake Union, and pretty much closing the joint. As is my wont, I went with the tasting menu with a flight of wines, which was wonderful. In this case, the tasting menu had a lot of molecular gastronomy in it (better cooking through chemistry). I usually post the menu, but in this case it does not do the meal justice, in the prosciutto course included both paper thin cuts and toasted wafers of the ham, served with vaguely identifiable but succulent cantaloupe and figs, or that the chicken course included homemade chicken sausage with a creamy texture like mozzarella, or that the ginger beer had encapsulated (reconstituted and re-formed) cherries in it. I could go into further details, but I went with the wine pairings, which were perfect and brilliant and left me a bit woozy at the end of it all. Of course, we had prepared for this eventuality, and caught a cab back to the suite we were staying in near the Seattle Center (with fireplace).

And then, the next morning, the Zeppelin. Yeah, you guys already know that airships can be blimps (no frame) and dirigibles (internal frame), and that Zeppelin is a model name (like Boeing or Ford). There is an outfit out of San Francisco called Airship Ventures which runs airship tours over the bay area, and they chose to come up here to Seattle to promote themselves. There was an article in the Seattle Times talking about it, and the Lovely Bride, sounding like a characgter from "Phineas and Ferb"said "I Know what we're going to do this Saturday - We're going on a zeppelin ride!".

We took the short (45-minute, merely hideously expensive) ride as opposed to the deluxe (90-minute, heart-stoppingly pricey) version. We took off from Paine Field, flew over the Boeing plant and the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier, made a long circuit over Possession Sound and Tulalip Bay, circled Gedney island, flew over Widby and Camano islands, sailed over the ferries, and back to our starting post. Boeing was test-flying the 787 while we were in the air, and we got to see that as well in flight.

And how was it? Amazing. I've ballooned, but that has always had the feeling of a stable platform at a height. The airship (the world's biggest, by the way - size of a 747 but much more manueverable) felt more like real flight. Oh, and you can put your head out the window, giving your hair a case of "zep-head". The initial takeoff and landing felt incredibly exciting, and in the air you could feel yourself cut through the sky. Plus the fact that the gondola was the size of a small bus, with room for a dozen people to move around relatively comfortable, and that windows were huge (including the entire rear of the gondola, giving an incredible view).

It was, all in all, a wonderful experience. The company will be out here until Labor Day, but the flights are apparently all booked up. They will be back in 2012, planning to take a sojourn east to the Oshkosh fly-in next year.

And it was a wonderful birthday, so wonderful that I actually fell asleep that evening in the middle of a Call of Cthulhu game. Yeah, I was all tuckered out, so much so that eldritch beasts could not rouse me from my slumber.

Thanks to everyone who has wished me a happy birthday (and John and Janice for the cake), and yeah, this was one of the best.

More later,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Political Desk: Redux and Reax

So while I was gone, we had a primary here in Washington State. And remember when the conventional wisdom was that the incumbents were all in trouble because a new wind was breaking across our land? Well, forget about that, because things ended up pretty much as expected, and now there is a NEW conventional wisdom in place. Let's do the numbers:

The big number, a week after the polls close, is 40%. That's the turnout for the election. Not great, but not bad by any means. King county ranked in at 37%, which means that we need to do some work.

United States Senator: The top of the ticket will be Patty Murray (46 %) versus Dino Rossi (33%) with more conservative Clint Didier (12%) dropping out of the final. The conventional wisdom says this is a defeat for the Democrat, because an incumbent must have more than 50% of the primary vote to have any chance in the general.
I will note that Norma Gruber, who did nothing on her voter's profile, did better than most of the minor candidates because she was first in line. Just saying.

United States Representative Congressional District No. 8:
The general will be Dave Reichert (47%) against Suzan BelDene (26%), and the conventional wisdom says this is a defeat for the Democrat because the incumbent got a larger percentage vote, even if he didn't get a majority. Didn't the conventional wisdom just say that the incumbent must get at least 50%. Yeah,but  the conventional wisdom hates Democrats - I thought you knew that.
Alas, my favorite candidate, Caleb Love Mardini, scraped by with a mere .61% of the vote.

Legislative District No. 47 State Senator
Will be Joe Fain (56%) against incumbent Claudia Kauffman (44%). Ahah! rebellion against the incumbents. Well, actually, Fain has been blanketing the area with a strong ground game of pamphlets and yard signs, hitting early and often. A lot of cash being dropped here.

Legislative District No. 47 Representative Position No. 1: Will be traditional GOP candidate Mark Hargrove (40%) against Geoff Simpson (39%), with Seattle-Times endorsed Nancy Wyatt getting only 21% (It is the yard signs, I tell you).

Legislative District No. 47 Representative Position No. 2
: Pat Sullivan (54%) against Rodrigro Yanez (45%)

State Supreme Court, Judicial Position No. 1
: Jim Johnson (61%) keeps his job without further consideration. Why yes, we ARE comfortable with an incumbent owned by the BIAW. Thanks for asking.

State Supreme Court, Judicial Position No. 6: Richard Saunders (47%) against Charles Wiggins (40%) with Bryan Chuchcoff taking 12% and dropping out. Again, Conventional wisdom figures the slightly-more conservative incumbent is going to win it, but then, conventional wisdom has been hitting the sauce as of late.

And that's it, with a general election shaping up consisting of all the people we thought would be in the general election. But it will COMPLETELY DIFFERENT this time because we're looking at Initiatives this time!

More later,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Köln and Gamescom

And I'm back.

I have spent the past week in Cologne (Köln) Germany for Gamescom with a large group of ArenaNet employees. We were debuting Guild Wars 2 for public, hands-on consumption, and it was a zoo. The consumer booth was mobbed for most of the time, and worse when we were giving a public demo of the game. We all did Q&A sessions and threw T-shirts out into the crowd. And apparently the top-rated news show in Germany gave us a shout-out, and everyone decided to check out what the deal was. It was madness, I tell you, madness!

Oh, and we won the best MMO of the show as well.

My main task was doing demos and interviews up in the business office (a separate hall for press and business people), and signing copies of the german translation of Ghosts of Ascalon (Die Geister von Ascalon) on the show floor. And so from the former my voice is now shot, and from the latter I have a twinge in my right hand (we signed a LOT of books, and shook a LOT of hands). I also dropped in on my German translator, Panini, who had a booth there, and signed a bunch of books for him (and he sold out - three times - over the course of the show - he gave me a beer, which was nice). Oh. and answering questions from fans and throwing out t-shirts.

The show itself was amazing. People expected great things from us - it has been a year since we were last at the show, talking about lore and showing off our art pieces. I think we exceeded all expectations, and showed people what we were actually talking about with the game. The end result is that everyone (including the folk back here in Seattle, whose work-hours shifted to match Cologne time) is both incredibly pumped up and completely exhausted at this point.

I would have told you about this in real-time, but I was very busy with everything during the day, and in the evening, the Internet service sucked. I mean really, really, serious sucked rocks. The hotel staff (Hotel Barcelo, where their wake-up call software had to have worked off an old atari 800) was apologetic, but it left most of us without communication capacity.

So in the wake of all the news and excitement, I am a little achey and jet-lagged, and going to spend a day or two getting both my voice and mind back. But I have to tell you, it was very, very cool.

More later,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Taking Five

So, after all that work on the primaries (so go vote already, folks), I've been taking a rest from the blog (in part because the Lovely Bride is back from vacation with her mom, in part because of really cool stuff with the day job). And it doesn't look like I'll have anything immediately major coming up on this site, since it is my turn to go out of town for a while.

So in the meantime, I have this really cute drawing from Zav, a French GW player.  Enjoy.

More later,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On The Road Again: Wilburton Redux

So long ago and far away, I talked about the demise of the Wilburton Tunnel in Bellevue, just north of the concrete tangle where I-405 meets I-90. The reason for the removal was more lanes and better traffic flow, but it hasn't worked out that way.

Let me lay out the current situation. If you're coming southbound on I-405, you have for a brief stretch six lanes of traffic. Left to right, they are:
 - Lane 1: An HOV lane continuing south on 405
 - Lanes 2 and 3: Regular occupancy lanes continuing south on 405
 - Lane 4: Regular occupancy lane that becomes an exit to I-90 East (towards Spokane and, legends have it, Chicago).
 - Lane 5: Regular occupancy lane that becomes an exit to I-90 West (towards Seattle), And ...
 - Lane 6: An HOV lane that joins the HOV lane on I-90 West.

Got that in your mind? Good. Now, getting on the highway from 8th, the southernmost of the Bellevue exits, after you merge, you're in Lane 5. If you want to head south to, say, Renton, you have to get to Lane 3. And with all these lanes, you should be able to easily, right?

But, ah, there's the rub. There is apparently something wrong with the entrance on I-90 East, where Lane 4 enters onto the highway. Something so wrong that the traffic backs up onto I-405 South, and forms a Wall of Internal Combustion (which is an old Magic: The Gathering card) between Lanes 3 and 5. Which means that everyone has to negotiate the changeovers between the lanes, slowing down traffic in those adjacent lanes as well. Add to that people from lanes 2 and 3 trying to get over to lanes 4 and 5, and the HOVs in Lane 1 trying to exit, and you have an unholy mess, as nasty as it was when we had only four lanes and a big concrete tunnel in the way.

Yeah, they will have to address this one, but it reminds me that working on highways is like doing the plumbing in an old house. Yeah, you may replace the leaky pipes in one area, but the change in pressure will spring the seams in a dozen more places.

More later,

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Jeff Recommends: Primary

So you've sat (well, scrolled), through my tour of the Voters' Guide (no, I'm not going to do it again for the general election). And the Stranger, Seattle Times, and Publicola have all made their endorsements (though the Times is not summarizing online. Thanks, guys). So here are the recommendations of the blog (positions with one candidate have no endorsement).

United States Senator: Patty Murray
United States Representative Congressional District No. 8: Caleb Love Mardini (OK, I'm a sucker for a good position statement).

Legislative District No. 47 State Senator Claudia Kauffman
Legislative District No. 47 Representative Position No. 1: No endorsement (choose which irritates you more: the incumbent's messy personal life or the GOP's sleazy attempts to capitalize on it).
Legislative District No. 47 Representative Position No. 2: Pat Sullivan

State Supreme Court, Judicial Position No. 1: Stan Rumbaugh
State Supreme Court, Judicial Position No. 6: Charles Wiggins (remember, if a court candidate gets 50%+ of the vote, they win right there. Yeah, it sounds strange and mildly unfair, but that's the nature of our elections right now).

So, the ballots are due in on the 17th, but do yourself a favor, go over to the pile of mail you've been meaning to sort through, dig out the ballot, and Vote, already.

More later,

Roux the Day

So of course, all this posting has been the result of my dedication to local municipal matters, right?

Well, actually it's because the Lovely Bride has been out of town for the past week, touring Yellowstone with her mom. So I've had some time on my hands.

Yep, it is true: I've been batching it for the past week or so, and it has been pretty darn quiet. I've spent one or more nights crashed in front of the tube, vegging out, but for the most part I've been living a quiet, relatively low-maintenance life - light dinners, reading or working in the evening, and retiring early.

Of course, every time the LB is out of town, I want to try something from a culinary side. Usually I run through a dozen eggs in an attempt to make increasingly less-sad omelets. But this time I decided to go with making homemade macaroni and cheese.

I went with a recipe from here. I ended up at this particularly blog because the chef was on Chopped, a Food Network show that is a ramped-up, low-budget Iron Chef ("Two competitors? - Four competitors!" "Celebrity judges? - Food Network judges! "One mystery ingredient? - Three baskets full of mystery ingredients!"). And I wanted mac and cheese, but really didn't want to deal with the whole "Guy left alone cooks Kraft mac and cheese" thing (though when I do, I chop up little hot dogs into it).

So how did it go? Not bad. Didn't screw anything up too bad, though I was winging it making a half-recipe (and still had leftovers). Low-level chefs should be told that you should start the water to boil before you start the cheese sauce if you want things to time out OK. Oh, and if you are going to assume that your reader doesn't know what a roux is, you might want to indicate the kind of herbs you throw in on the end. But those are quibbles.

On the other hand, it was a first experience working with Gruyere, a cheese more expensive than I would otherwise try. And the idea of toasting breadcrumbs as a topping was a new thing for me that I will try more often. So I'd say it was a success, and adds one more thing to my culinary repertoire.

More later, 

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Political Desk: Bits and Pieces

Grubb Street will post its recommendations (such as they are) for the Primary late on Sunday. In the meantime, there have been some updates:

Remember when I talked yard signs, about how you don't put red on blue because it vibrates and is hard to read? I'm talking to you, Jim Postma and Nancy Wyatt. Your graphic designer is not being your friend.

The morning of the day I posted about the challenges facing State Rep. Geoff Simpson, the Seattle Times launches its own article on page 1, section 2, beneath the fold. Not on the charges facing the incumbent Representative per se (which is "old news"), but on the attack video launched focusing on the situation. This was an immediate and rapid approach for a newspaper that usually lets such things ... marinate ... for a while before wading in. Almost as if someone at GOPAC had flagged them at the start, so they could be first in line. (Rereading the article, it only promises that the attack ad WILL be running on local channels, not that it HAS run - at the time of the article, the ad was purely an online creation).

In response, the candidate's mom called me. Well, she robo-called, and said her son was a good man and that this was a horrible attack. She sounds like a nice person. We're still in the primary, and we've already reached the "mom" stage on this race.

As for the Times, it created its own buzz a few days later by not endorsing incumbent Dave Reichert for USRep. Instead they split their endorsement between anointed Democrat Suzan DelBene and Tim Dillon. DelBene I knew about, but Dillon has left so light an impression on me I had to go back to see where he came from. It turns out he is also a technocrat similar to DelBene, but also a councilman from Yarrow Point. And I then had to go look up Yarrow Point, to discover it to be an affluent community of about a thousand barnacled onto the side of Bellvue.

Anyway, there was much aflutter in the blogosphere about the whys of all this. Some have suggested that the Times is serious about its reboot 2010, while others point out that only now, after six years, the Times has realized that the 8th needs to upgrade its operating system. Regardless of its conservative bent in all things tax-related, the Times is very strong on its environmental reporting, and the idea that Reichert's devotion to conservation might be only skin-deep may have struck a nerve.

Instead, I think they are inoculating themselves with the dual choice. Reading through their reasoning, they lay out some traps for Ms. DelBene that they can later return to, should they decide to return to a more conservative candidate (her voting record is spotty). And by presenting a viable alternate GOP choice, they can still support their conservative heritage. Indeed, while they strive to put both forth as independent, viable technocrats, DelBene's and Dillon's politics seem poles apart.

Other than that, things have been pretty quiet here, about a week out from the election. A few more fliers from Sullivan and DelBene, and a robo-call about Jim Johnson's firm judicial support of his donors, but that's about it.

So, endorsements. More later,

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Political Desk: Feedback Loop

My lunch partner says "I've been reading your blog posts."

And I stop chewing, not knowing what is about to come next.

You see, I use the blogosphere as a broadcast medium as opposed to an interactive one. I don't allow comments. I don't track traffic. I don't find out what search terms get you to here. I try not to think about who is reading it, because when I do, I find I suddenly freeze up. I don't feel the need to provide a platform for every bozo (sorry, for every bozo-but-ME) to grind his axeware. I feel that when I realize that people read this stuff, itgets in the way, and that I start tailoring the message to the audience (I do that professionally, by the way, but here is where I get a chance to go out and play).

However, as a result of this, I often have the subject pop up, either in person or in emails. And I consider that par for the course, but it always surprises me.

Back to the lunch. It was a very pleasant conversation, in which we talked about audiences, and my three laws of politics, and the difficulties of the 47th District Position One. But I do get feedback in the form of emails and links and Facebook (back when Facebook could actually rebroadcast the feed - they've changed something (again) and I can't get it to work). Some of it is insightful. Some of it is in all caps. Some of it demands equal time. Some of it is a list of links demanding I review them all before ever posting on the subject again. And some of it has brought me in contact with interesting people - actors, politicians, the parent of actors, other writers, and so on.

And mostly I listen but do not comment on this blog (broadcast media, right?.) On occasion there is something I get that I feel is worth passing on. And that brings me to Caleb Love Mardini.

I made fun of Mr. Mardini's Voters' Guide entry along with the rest of the shambling horde of candidates for U.S.Rep, 8th district. And Caleb he sent me a nice email, along with something he has posted on his site, refining his message.

And I have to say, this is pretty darn impressive. Go read it. All of it,. I'll wait. Back? It is well-defined, well-organized, well-argued, and a good piece of writing in addition to being a crystallization of why he is in the race and what he hopes to achieve. I am very impressed with this, both as a political statement and as an independent work. Even if Caleb Love Mardini gets the "Miss Congeniality" prize out of this particular race, he has served notice that he knows what he is doing, what he is saying, and what he wants.

Which is one of the little gems of doing all this.

In closing, there is one reader of this blog who I am always paying attention to, regardless of if she says "I've been reading you're posts" or not. I'm not sure she reads everything (particularly the deep nerdy posts) or not. But that person keeps me from going too far overboard, from being to too harsh, and reminds me that I was brought up to treat people better than they would normally expect.

And to her, I can only say is, "Hi, Mom!"

More later,

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Poltical Desk: Precinct Committee Officers

So, there's one last thing, then I will boil it all down to the recommendations.

There's something I either never noticed or is new on the ballot, something new and confusing (as opposed to the rest of the ballot, which is old and confusing). I am being asked to vote for a Political Precinct Committee Officer.

Actually, the heading says: "Precinct Committee Officer is a position in each major political party. For this office only: If you consider yourself a Democrat or Republican, you may vote for a candidate of that party."

And I blink at it a moment as say, "Excuse me?"

The rest of these ballotary process has been driving towards making things non-partisan, and here we are asked to vote for political officers? And only for major parties? Are the Greens too dispersed to manage a race? Is this another way of putting a GOP name on the ballot? Is the state giving the parties this space and ink for free, or do they have to chip in for the cost of printing?

And for my neck of the woods, why are there only GOP candidates. Have the Democrats already chosen theirs? Does only one person (or no people) want the job? It is a plot to announce to the world that we have a lot of shadow Republicans, since the requirement on the voting is "If you consider yourself" one? And how do they check on this? Even initiatives have more of a check and balance system.

Since I don't consider myself a member of an organized party (which means I'm a Democrat*), I'm ignoring it, but I found this one most passing strange.

More later,

*Thank you Will Rogers, whenever you are.

Political Desk: The Ground Game

The color of this year's primary is blue. You can see it in the yard signs.

And yard sign, by the way, is a bit of misnomer. I have seen some of them on yards, but most of them occupy stretches of public and/or unclaimed land along major thoroughfares. They blossom along routes like Bellevue Way, such that it is a high point of my morning commute, seeing which new flowers have been added to the mix.

Anyway, blue. For a while, it was easy to identify the two parties - Democratic blue and Republican red. Now, it is almost awash in all shades of blue - navies and sapphires and teals and deeps. Blue/White makes a very readable sign (and is cheap, being one color on white), and seems more mellow than red/white (which has been taken over by people in Bellevue against light rail in their neighborhood).

Some of the blues are blue by heritage - Dino Rossi has always been a blue background kinda guy, as has Mark Hargrove (Geoff Simpson goes for a white background, as does Clint Didier, who eschews the blue). Others take advantage of the increasingly murky nonpartisan nature of positions like judges to appear safe and nonthreatening.

I am seeing red/white/blue signs, but the red is often used as an accent or a division between parts of the sign. Red on blue vibrates, which defeats the message of the traffic zipping past at 25 mph. Stan Rumbaugh just launched a r/w/b sign that works out very nicely.

Lastly, there are exceptions - oranges seem to be the radical color this season, which hope to stand out from all the OTHER blue signs. But blue feels like the color of the age, which is OK by me.

More later,

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Political Desk: 47th State Legislature

We delve down deeper, and as we do so, what we find affects fewer and fewer people, but those people are closer and closer to home. Everyone in the state has a direct interest in the Senatorial race. Fewer people are in the 8th, though those results will have a direct result on a larger whole. And fewer still are in our district, the 47th, which includes parts of Kent, Auburn, Renton, a hunk of still-unincorporated King County, Black Diamond, and Covington, and is about as local as we're going to get this year.

All three of our legislative slots open at the same time. I don't understand it either, but it does, with the result that we have the regular shot of reviewing and replacing. We open up on the State Senator slot, Joe Fain versus Claudia Kauffman.

Joe Fain started the race early with mailers to introduce himself to the voting community, and in his statement wastes no time in laying directly into his opponent. She is responsible for spending 800 million dollars in new taxes (for very broad values of the word "Taxes"). Bad politician - spending money. She is also responsible to larger class sizes. Bad politician - not spending money on our kids! Take a look at this double-whammy, incumbents. Yeah, you're expected to provide a balanced budget, and then made to pay the price for it.

Claudia Kaufmann is said incumbent in this case, and has her defenses up. She voted against higher taxes (The same taxes her opponent accuses her of spending? It is possible both are saying the same thing with different definitions). She puts in a personal story of her own cost-cutting (no reimbursement in special session). You get a better idea of the person running here, but I'm not sure if that will withstand the hammering.

For State Rep Slot #1, the current situation makes me said, since it is an example of the first law of the manifesto - Don't embarrass us. Geoff Simpson is the incumbent, and has been a strong progressive voice. He also has been engaged in a very messy personal life, which has resulted in a charge of gross misdemeanor assault in connection with a domestic violence incident. Mr. Simpson has been very up front about his situation, and has not sought to hide or sugar-coat. The fact remains, he is up on a charge, and if other candidates' personal lives are basis for decision (George Nethercutt's DUI charge comes to mind), then so too it should be in this case. He is challenged by two Republicans.

Nancy Wyatt packs a good resume, the type you look for in State Legislatures. She gets the Very Good rating from the Municipal League. Her problem? First line of her statement - "It's time to say no to the failed policies of our current elected officials!" The problem is, in Washington State and elsewhere, there has been too much saying no, and not enough viable plans. Pull that together and she's a strong contender.

Geoff Simpson's statement is short and sweet - all the progressive good stuff (transparent but frugal government) leavened with a bit of tough on crime, and the hot-button issue in our neck of the woods - traffic congestion (no, I'm not making this up). The Munis usually give him a Very Good, but have dropped him to a Adequate this time, likely because of his current legal situation.

Mark Hargove also goes short and sweet - much more of an introduction of the man as opposed to his politics. He was a lot more detailed in the 2008 campaign, but that was hard-fought all around, and may be looking a more accessible approach this time. Much of it is the boilerplate you see elsewhere (help small business, make government transparent). I disagree with the idea that you should expect the legislature to legislate while denying it the available tools (but then, I don't think we need new taxes, I think we need across-the-board tax reform), but he is solid and direct. No jokes, here. (He gets a Good from the Munis)

For Position #2, I have to sidetrack into Incumbent Pat Sullivan's mailers. I have warmed to Mr. Sullivan over the years, and his first mailer of the season indicates a string of awards he has been given. Which is a different set than in 2008, which was a different set in 2006. Does this guy have a U-Store-it somewhere in Auburn that is filled with awards?

Pat Sullivan shows what I expect to see across the board from the incumbents this year - a personal story about how they are tightening their belts in the face of the shortfall. That, plus promises of accountability makes him a solid contender with the Muni's rating of Outstanding.

Rodrigo Yanez is not a professional politician, which is cool in my book for the position he's running for. For the state legislature, a part-time body operating under restrictions, not being a professional politician may be a good way to survive the legislature. He introduces us from his business side and says that should carry over into government. He also thinks of the children. The easy joke aside, this year's crop has been light on those thinking of the children.

And that's it for the Voter's Guide. There are a couple other weirdnesses for the ballot I want to delve into, and a bit about the ground game, but we'll do the endorsements and get back to important stuff. Like collectible quarters.

More later,

Political Desk: 8th District U.S.Rep - Bonus Round

So for the senatorial candidates I filtered them all through the "I Write Like" Program. I tried the same for the congressional candidates, but ... well ... let's just say that there is a whole lot of Lovecrafting going on around here.

Instead, I decided to feed all their statements into the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, and the results were actually interesting.

The two highest-rated candidates on the list, which would require the greatest reading comprehension, were the two major party candidates, Mr. Reichert and Ms. DelBene, who are aimed at sophomores in college. I'm not making any judgments here, but I am going to guess that they had their messages gone over a couple times by seasoned professionals.

The bulk of the candidates are writing at the junior and senior in high school. The lowest of these (and low can be a good thing from reading comprehension) is Caleb Love Chachi Mardini, who comes in at the sophomore level.

The easiest to read? Robin Adair, who comes in at a 5th grade level.

Just one more piece of irrelevant information for the ongoing campaign.

More later,

Monday, August 02, 2010

Political Desk: 8th District U.S.Rep

Washington's 8th District is a swing district that has never really swung, at least as far as its congressional representative is concerned. It is a large district that straddles King and Pierce counties, and includes the upscale and populous Bellevue and Mercer Island, the sprawling 'burbs of Kent and Renton, and great rural expanses to the south (where, I understand, EVERYBODY VOTES). While everyone makes note that it goes one way or the other in presidential elections, it has safely put a Republican in its seat for every Congress since its creation.

There is a lot less insanity and a lot more earnestness at this level, which is good. Let's move through the Voters Guide, and I will struggle to pull quotes from them, out of context, for your amusement.

Dave Reichert deserves his own writeup, because, in many ways, he is the embodiment of the three laws I set out at the beginning of this. His pull quote is respectable but trips the Irony Alarm - "Today we see two competing philosophies in this country: Those who believe we should grow the size of government and allow its deep intrusion in people's lives, or those who believe the American people already know what's right for them, their families and communities." Oddly, he's endorsed by the party that has increased the size of government and intruded deeply into people's lives.

Tom Cramer (Note, his robocalls remind us that it is Cramer with a "C") is pretty earnest, upping the ante in being anti Wall Street, pro middle-class tax cuts, and pro medicare. Take THAT conservative politics! Also calls out the H1B visa program, which may be what really chafes his hide.

Boleslaw (John) Orlinski has shown up before. Positions himself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Most of his statement tend to lean towards the fiscal conservative part of that political sandwich cookie.

Keith Arnold has the quotable pull-quote of the guide - "Reichert's party of "no" has used their Audacity of Nope to block and reverse anything that benefits the middle or lower class." He also warns that some candidates that claim to be preferring Democrats are flying under false colors. Yes, if only we had SOME way of identifying party preference other than a self-declared preference.

Susan DelBene (Del-BEN-ay - her robot also called) is a progressive technocrat with solid experience in a tech company. Because that trick always works. Here's the pull quote "The incumbent has been in elective office for 14 years. He and his colleagues in Congress have demonstrated they don't have the expertise or the political courage to solve the fiscal and economic challenges we face". True, but he's only been in THIS elective office for 6 years (and he's doing a better job of making the "needs a new broom" argument by touting his 33 years of service).

Ernest Huber is what we used to call a stem-winder. He unleashes on all sides with eloquent machine-gun precision, sparing no one. There are a lot of good bits, but here's his quote: "If you want more of Obama, then vote for Reichert. If you want a lot more of Obama, then vote for DelBene. If you want no more of Obama, then vote for me, Ernest Huber."

Tim Dillon bemoans the end of the American Dream, goes after deficits and budget cuts, and namechecks God. Light on specifics, other then we're going to get through this if we all come together. Right now. Over me. (shap-pock!)

Caleb Love Mardini also cares about the American Dream, and wants to revive it (this is an 8th level clerical spell). He argues well for public funding of political campaigns without using those buzzwords. We're also going to have to come together. Pull quote taken out of context - "We’re going to have to try things." (What are going to try? THINGS! How are we going to try them? TOGETHER!"

Robin Adair provides the most artistic of the Voters' Guide Statements, it is an avant garde work leavened heavily with Significant Capitals and "air quotes", along with the sly corporate irony of using "Goggle" as opposed to "Google" (thought I think Goggling something would be much more fun). There a lot of things I can pull out of context, but I think the most effective is "I have redefined economic Crashes." Good to know.

More later,

The Political Desk: Senator - Bonus Round!

About a month ago, all the blogs were running this "I Write Like" quiz, where you plug is a bunch of text from your blog, it analyzes it, and then tells you who you write like. This was followed by the shocked screams of hundreds of bloggers realizing they wrote like Dan Brown.

It turns out that the quiz was a promotion for a vanity press, and in addition was not a particularly GOOD analytical device, but as I wen through the Voters' Guide, I realized I had a LOT of statements by the candidates and/or their campaigns.


Here are the results - Is it any surprise the H P Lovecraft comes up most often?

H P Lovecraft - Mohammad Said, Paul Aker, James Mercer, Bob Burr, Dino Rossi (huh?), and Charles Allen.

Arthur C. Clarke - Goodspaceguy (well, duh).

Corey Doctrow - Mike the Mover

Kurt Vonnegut - Mike Latimer, Will Baker

Steven King - William Edward Chovil

George Orwell - Clint Didier

Margaret Mitchell - Shalk Leonard

David Foster Wallace - Patty Murray

Make of this as you see fit.

More later,

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Political Desk: Senator

Now things get interesting.

We have a veritable horde of candidates for US Senator this time. A Democratic incumbent. A couple solid Republicans. Democrats who are protesting the incumbent. Republican who got into the race before the party-sponsored dude showed up. And the Perennials - candidates who regularly show up on the ballot, running for something.

The Muni league will not help us here. Vote-For-Judges? Sorry, not their bailiwick. We are on our own with this one.

We do have the Voters' Guide, which is the various campaigns' level platform to talk to the voters. Everyone gets their turn at the mike. Some use it as chance to connect with their audience. Some use it to introduce and define themselves. Some use it to identify pressing issues. And some use it as a moment to leap off into the abyss.

So into this heart of darkness we go - Oh, one more thing - [Spoiler Alert!]. I'm going to be supporting Patty Murray, the Mom in Sneakers who has grown into quite an effective political elbow-thrower in office. I know, you're surprised.

Norma Gruber has no entry in the Voters' Guide, and as such cannot be mocked. However, she gets top billing on the ballot, and I bet she still gets more votes than some of these people.

Mohammad H. Said is a perennial, ran against Murray six years ago. His statement reads like free verse. Supports Obama (I think), and feels he could have been his Secretary of Health (This just in: We don't have a Secretary of Health at the national level. We have a Secretary of Health and Human Services).

Goodspaceguy is another perennial ("Ten times, voters rejected Goodspaceguy’s economic program!" - he says under "Elected Experience"). He believes that the answer to our problems is in development in spaaaaaace. Should be commended for running for a position that actually has influence in this area.

Mike the Mover, perennial. Uses his space to attack Wall Street and college football coaches. First use of the phrase 'fake boobs' in a Voters' Pamphlet.

Paul Akers
is a Republican that actually presents a plan. I have some doubts about how it would work out, but HEY, it's a PLAN. Supports a balanced budget amendment and term limits. I like this. More, please.

Mike Latimer
is running a pro-God platform. "We have kicked God out of our schools, out of our government and out of many of our churches along with His laws." Which, except for the Pledge of Allegiance, our money, and all those sermons and politicians invoking her, is pretty accurate.

James (Skip) Mercer is a UW Professor, who wants to deal with the debt, illegal immigration, and keeping Afghanistan from becoming another Viet Nam. Disagree with some of his points, but sounds sane. I'd like to see him and Paul Akers get together and chat.

Clint Didier went to three Super Bowls, has a game plan, is endorsed by Sarah Palin, and is running as an outsider. And I will be honest, he shows an honesty in his beliefs that I can respect, even though I disagree almost completely with those beliefs. He would be a good candidate, bringing a lot to the table for discussion. He also would be a horrible senator.

Shalk Leonard is not talking political donations and the Seattle Weekly has nice things to say about him. America also talks to him. And I think he's dogwhistling isolationism, but he's darned poetic about it.

Patty Murray loves her some italic fonts. What she says is pretty boilerplate - pro job creation, anti Wall Street, pro-education and pro-Veterans, and her resume backs her up. But she sure uses a lot of italics.

Bob Burr wants you to know that we're living in a plutocracy, and that we're not doing enough for financial reform and energy. He also supports public finance for elections.

William Edward Chovil - I give you his statement in full "What kind of America do Americans want? The one our founders planned for us? The one America's anti-founders are giving us now? I am pro-life, pro-liberty, pro-gun, pro-audacity, pro-Sarah Palin, and John Gault, Pro-charter schools and home schools. I am against cap and trade, against Obama Care, and against the new-world-order." Makes Clint Didier look all moderate, doesn't he? (And it is spelled John GALT - please correct that in your home school syllabus).

Dino Rossi
is a perennial (two tries for Governor) and a latecomer to this race, but has the advantage that he's the "official" GOP candidate. Condemns the massive deficit, but fails to note that we've piled up the bulk of it in GOP administrations. Starts the statement that we're in trouble but finishes that our best days are ahead of us. In the past has tried to remain as nebulous, happy talking, and nonthreatening as possible, but the presence of viable conservative alternatives have actually made him take some positions as he tries to win the middle without cheesing off the base.

Charles Allen has a list, and it is quite a list: Rebuild our manufacturing base, expand our industries, restore entrepreneurial spirit, dramatically cut Federal spending, reduce our national debt, fight to protect our environment, reform American energy policy, lay the building blocks of a green economy, ending the war, improve health car, make in-state tuition free, fund our teachers, police, and firemen, and be completely transparent. What's not to love?

Will Baker. FACT: Perennial. FACT: Uses his "Community Service" space in the form to lay into Secretary of State Sam Reed for not printing up these Voters' Guides. FACT: Uses his "Statement" space to argue that the biggest issue of the 2010 campaign is whether Obama used political shenanigans in his congressional race of 1996. FACT: He also the word "FACT" a lot.

There you have it, my friend, the fruits of democracy. The problem with it is that they let anyone in.

More later,