Monday, December 30, 2013

BeJouled

This is a restaurant story, but before I begin I should note that I am no stranger to spices and heat. Long ago, the Lovely Bride was writing the recipe section for the Dragonlance book Leaves of the Inn of the Last Home. For this project I was both a contributor (gnome chicken, a descendant of my mother's 'city chicken' - breaded pork cubes on a skewer) and a playtester - or rather, play-taster (I have had more courses of Otik's Spiced Potatoes than any man not working at the Inn of the Last Home should have had to endure).

But I was regular play-taster for another recipe in that book - Fizban's Fireball Chili. This was a meat marinade perfected by former roommate Frank, who was, in mad scientist fashion, looking for the perfect chili marinade - one where the burn would "start at the tip of the tongue and continue all the way through the entire digestive system". So I am no stranger to culinary heat. At least, not in my younger days.

[And as an aside, Frank's "killer" chili resurfaced when he visited us in Lake Geneva one year, and served it for our friends. Zeb Cook and Tracy Hickman got into an ironman contest as far as who could tolerate the heat of the chili the longest. Picture two men sitting across the table, sweat pouring down their faces, a small tub of sour cream between them. The first one to reach for the sour cream lost. But I digress.]

So, returning to the present, the Lovely Bride and I got a case of the culinary adventures. Seattle is a foodies' town, yet we have our preferences, the places we go back to, and I am always encouraging her to expand her horizons. So when a copy of Bon Appetit magazine showed up bragging about the Best Restaurants and tagging two of them in Seattle, she was intrigued. Moreso because both of the them, neighbors in the same space with different head chefs, served tartar. The Whale Wins has a lamb tartar, and Joule was shown with its beef tartar. The Lovely Bride loves tartar, and, given a choice between the two, Joule took reservations while The Whale Wins did not, so we opted for Joule. Both restaurants, side by side, were located in Wallingford, and after a few sundry adventures in driving and parking, the kids from the hinterlands of Kent arrived.

The space was large and open, and I recommended to the Lovely Bride that she dress for warmth. I knew that Joule did a Korean barbecue fusion, but had little more than that to go on (remember - Culinary Adventure!) The restaurant is bent around the chef's stations, with a counter overlooking (we like to watch our food these days, but that is another blog entry), the floor concrete but the noise level minor. The staff was polite and prompt, and, apparently learning from previous experiences, prompt on keeping the water glasses filled.

I ordered a gin and tonic with darjeeling, tamarind, and lime, called an R. Kipling, which was a good start. The LB ordered a persimmon drink that she found too bitter. We cross-examined the waitron about allergies and what such things as what honshimeji and parpadelle were, marking us fully as Kenterlanders. We settled on two beef tartars (hers without the aioli, mine with), splitting a noodle dish of spicy rice cake with chorizo and pickled mustard green. The LB, having moved through these culinary wilds successfully, chose a ribeye (with celeriac fries - and yes, I believe that after hours the chefs all get together and make up names like this). I was going to go for the short rib steak, then reversed myself and opted for the octopus, bok choi, and bacon vinaigrette. Kate went for a darker red with dinner and I went with an alberino, a white with sort of a pineapple twang to it.

In any event, the tartar, the cause for our travels arrived, and it was hot. Not thermally - that was at the perfect temperature, neither mushy warm or just-from-the-fridge cold. It was spicy. The salmon aioli moreso. Delicious and not overly spiced, but the spices used were hot. Not tastebud-destroying (I've had enough of that over the years), but definitely a challenge to the unprepared. The two of us exchanged worried glances that our adventurism may had led us into a dangerous part of culinary town.

The spicy rice cake (and note, it says spicy right there, in the title, so its not like we can blame anyone), was moreso. Tasty, crispy around the perimeters, but with more heat that I expected. I was starting to sweat, both literary and figuratively, as the main courses arrived, with the fear that we had ordered an entire meal from the flaming-hot side of the menu.

Then, with the mains, disaster struck. The LB reached out an snared what she thought was a dried beet from the plate and popped it in her mouth, only to discover that it was not a beet but rather a dried pepper - small, pungent, and with the power to strip the paint from the walls.The staff (who apparently are on the lookout for such things) were quick with water, though water does nothing for the heat measured on the scoville scale. Would I be looking for that tub of sour cream?

And with the mains (and the LB getting over the explosion in her mouth), all things good returned. The steak was a perfect rareness (though they did not ask for doneness when they ordered, but it was done nicely nonetheless), and the octopus was incredibly tasty, cooked through but not gummy or rubbery. And bacon. Bacon with octopus. Never ignore the power of the bacon. 

We recovered both our wits and our tastebuds over the course of the meal, and had to pass on a variety of egg-based deserts. And in general, it was not what we expected, but it was something worth checking out. And when we got home, the LB said "You know, I think we should have gone for the LAMB tartar". And if we end up back there, on the other side of the building, I'll write that up as well.

More later,


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Merry Christmas


and a Happy Holiday Season from all of us at Grubb Street

More later,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dyvers Blogging

So Charles Akins has nice little blog called Dyvers, and he has put together the Great Blog Roll Call for RPGs. And in addition to the Roll Call, he also targets the Best Reads of the Week. And this is great thing, even though that a lot of the description in the roll call has the horrible line "Dark since XXXX", meaning that they are rarely kept going and may have closed up shop entirely.

This is the fate of a lot of gaming blogs, and there are many reasons. A lot of cool stuff has already been said. People are in abeyance with diverse systems until the next D&D arrives. But most importantly, I think that is it because there are a lot more different platforms out there for communication. Long form blogging is a bit more of a challenge in a world where you can slap up an image, a link, or a stray thought at a moment's notice.

But there is a extremely comprehensive listing here, complete with additions and notes. here's what he says about Grubbstreet:
Former TSR author Jeff Grubb's blog. This bad boy mostly focuses on his life and on the world around him, though on occasion he will stray into old tributaries.Updates: Depending on what's going on in his area, between two and twenty entries a month. 
I think that's a pretty fair cop, and a warning that sometime, somewhere, I REALLY should start talking about gaming again. But if you're looking for real content, here's a great place to start.

More later,

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Play: My Dear Watson

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Based on the Original Story by Arthur Conan Doyle, Adapted by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, Directed by Allison Narver. Through December 15

This is a Rep production, top to bottom. You know that in this space I kvetch about how it is called the Seattle Rep, and then they bring in some successful company from elsewhere or a one-person show or puppets, for god's sake, and I opine how I'm not sure that it is living up to the Repertory in the name. However, this adaptation of the classic a Sherlock Holmes novel is both original and native top to bottom. Adapters Pichette and Wright are both actors whose work I've enjoyed, and I've appreciated director Narver's work as well. And the bulk of the capable and competent cast list use the winning phrase "was last seen at the Rep in..." and then lists some of the titles we've reviewed here.

In addition, this could be a play that could easily taken on the road and play with great success back east (take THAT, other Rep companies!). In the theater calender, this would be considered the "safe" holiday play - something you could bring the out-of-town in-laws to, and it pulls out all the stops for stagecraft and presentation. And, of course, the subject is well-known to everyone, as all have encountered Holmes to some degree or another through their years.

And Holmes is hot. We have the action-hero steampunk Holmes on the big screen. We have the sociopathic modern Holmes (US and UK varieties) on the little screen. We have numerous PBS-versions of Holmes still haunting the DVDs, and various other media adaptations. And we have the original texts of course. And of the Holmes stories, the best-known is probably the Hound of the Baskervilles, with its spooky moors and man-killing, glowing yeth hound. And while watching the play I kept referring back to the Basil Rathbone movie version, and I would not be alone.

So we have an extremely popular character in that character's well-known work. Do we call spoilers at this point? Do you have to say "The kids die" about Romeo and Juliet? Does Celine Deon's voice swell in song and you lean over and tell your seatmate "The ship sinks, you know."? But there are some differences between original and adaptation so let us call spoilers and be done with it. Some characters have evaporated, or have their roles taken up by others, and scenes occur that work in the play (they hold a dinner party for the locals to bring everyone onto the stage at once, for example), that are not necessary on the printed page. And it does change the story, but let me deal with the excellent actors, first.

Darragh Kennan is an excellent Holmes, fitting well within the various Holmesian hordes. His Holmes is smug, often haughty,but extremely competent. More than a touch OCD. He knows his tobaccos and accents but not his Shakespeare. He is often wrong. He makes mistakes. He is a much more human Holmes than the iconic version and Kennan plays up the self-satisfied, too-clever-by-half version of him well.

Andrew McGinn balances Holmes acerbic nature as the more welcoming, warmer, more human member of the partnership in Watson. Watson is a continual quandry in Holmesiana, is that he is a capable Doctor but often takes the back seat as the expository character, the one which Holmes reveals his thought process to, and thereby to us. As a result, he tends to come off as a bit of clod, while it is through Watson that we see Holmes in the first place. In Baskervilles, Holmes disappears for a good bit of the plot (part of the first act and almost the entirety of the second) and Watson soldiers on, collecting the clues and interacting with the locals on a level that a chilly Holmes never could.

Oddly, the character that steals the show (and there are several would-be thieves in the talented group), is Connor Toms (previously in Red) as the Canadian heir to Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry. Recently imported from the Great White, this adaption runs with the fish-out-of-water comedy throughout, the front-facing Sir Henry trying to shake hands with everyone, tip the servants, and insisting people call him "Hank". He runs into the very proper English with its stoopshouldered serving class and repressed emotions like a hurricane making landfall in Scotland.

I mentioned others engaged in stealing the show as well, both with main roles and as part of the ensemble. Rob Burgess as the horrified butler Barrymore. Marianne Owen as both Barrymore's wife and a wondrous turn as Mrs. Hudson, both tolerant and knowing where to draw the line with her famous tenants. Basil Harris as the Doctor who brings the case to Holmes and serves as an interesting mirror to Watson. Charles Leggett as the bad neighbor with a generations-long grudge, Quinn Franzen as the of-course-he's-a-bit-spotty butterfly hunter and Hana Lass as his slightly-psychic sister. Within the confines of the play, they have a bit more suspicion cast upon each in turn as Watson (and Holmes, when he appears fully) has to examine when dealing with a phosphorescent hound on the moors.

And here's the thing that offended at least one purest in our group - in removing a couple of characters from the book they messed with some of the plot, and ended up in a different final place than the novel. It is interesting, but given the shotgun approach to modern Holmes stories, it is perfectly permissible. But it does feel odd, given that so much is so right. And what bothered me that we got a "villains speech" at the end when the mastermind explains all, which doesn't feel right for Holmes as well. Holmes is the guy that gets it right, explains it all, pulls off the sheet to reveal the entire plan, and the culprit says "Ay, that's correct. It's a fair cop." Not here, and now, a week later, I'm still not sure about it.

The stagecraft, by the way, was the Rep at its best, filled with sliding walls and projected images. They choreograph a chase through Paddington Station that is positively brilliant, capturing the feeling and flavor through other members of the ensemble, sliding pillars, pirouetting staircases, and perfect timing. This is to handle something that theater handles badly, given its limitations - showing a chase which involves more than running from one side of the stage to the other.

So, Hound runs for another week, then must close, so you should order tickets. This was the first Sunday matinee I've been to in a long time where the main floor was sold out, and a friend who knew someone at the ticket office said there would be no rush (last-minute, cheap) tickets. It is popular show, well-down and well-presented, and sums up everything that Rep company is supposed to do for its audience. A very proper, Holmesian Christmas present, indeed.

More later,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Boeing! DOW Breaks 16,000!

I am amused by the pundits and politicians who rant about the Socialists in government. Mainly because we have an honest-to-ghod self-identified Socialist in government out here, and it looks nothing like the pro-business, too-big-fail, corporate welfare, Wall Street-fluffing breed they seem to have in our capitals, state and national. If those guys are Socialists, then they are doing something very, very wrong.

In any event, one small marker of economy, the cheerleading section from the Dow Jones, continues to surge ahead as the rest of us seem to be picking ourselves off the mat. So that's good, from what I've been told. 

Seattle is doing very well, by the way, as measured by my personal rule-of-thumb measure - how bad traffic is. And by that single-point reference (which is, when you look at it, what the DOW is as well) business is good because traffic is bad. More people are now clogging the concrete arteries on their way to jobs. You'd think that we'd put a bit more money into public transportation, but you would be figuring against how these Supposed Socialists in power really think.

Giving money to public transportation, or public anything, of course, smacks of Socialism, and as such has been studiously avoided in Olympia this past year. Giving money to a massively successful corporation on the chance that they will stay in town, well, that's worth a special session of the state legislature. Said special session doled out the largest single largest package of bennies ever to keep the semi-hometown team of Boeing producing its new 777x here in the Puget Sound region, as opposed to shipping off the work to other, non-unionized locations.

And when I say single largest package, we're talking about 8.7 Billion with a B. And that is on top of all the other bennies we roll out as we see Boeing continually eye other dance-partners. Oh, despite the fact the aeronautical giant is reducing staff here in the Puget Sound region ANYWAY. And the fact that we've done this dance before and seen plane production go elsewhere anyway.

But Boeing puts out the collections basket and folk line up. The state legislature. The guv. The union at the national/international brotherhood level, who caved to its demand of frozen pensions, no raises, and no guarantees, and recommended the local workers do the same.

And the local union looked at what they were asked to pony up for the promise of the 777x, declared it spinach, and said to hell with it.

And yeah, it was a pretty rotten deal. So rotten that even the pro-business, anti-union Times had to recognize the stench. Of course, now that the machinists have nixed the deal, management gets to cry crocodile tears as it ships stuff to other, poorer, less-uniony parts of the country.

And the Seattle Times now gets to condemn both the unions for costing all this growth, and the politicians for larding out all this pork in the first place. They get to play both sides against the middle. For a more rational view, you have to go the NYTimes to find it. And wow, I don't often say something like THAT too often.

I get the idea that Boeing hates its workers. It is pretty obvious. It moved its HQ to Chicago to get away from them. It tried to farm out its 787 production (labeled by one wit here as the "Dreamsmoker") to a huge number of smaller, cheaper operations. And then had to come back to its Seattle wonks to fix things when these third-party guys confused batteries with hibachis. And despite the fact the Puget Sound continues to produce the lions' share of planes, despite attempts to farm them out elsewhere.

My opinion? I support the local unions on this for doing the right thing. Yes, it may reduce the number of jobs (or reduce the angle of the slide as Boeing tries to weasel away from Washington anyway). But my commute sucks enough already - adding more people to the job pool is probably a bad thing. Plus the fact that new airplane interiors are apparently made for Playskool Little People, so its not like I going to be riding comfortably in these new, lowest bidder airliners.

Want me to change my tune, legislature? Sure. Fund public transportation and get a decent roads package through your spending-adverse minds. The cries for austerity are loud right up to the point where a large corporation is involved. Then the gates are thrown wide on the shadow of a promise that a company seeking to save every nickel will not try to welsh on the deal. And if you MUST insist on giving money to aerospace giants, let's invite Airbus over to visit every so often.

And for Boeing Execs? Here's the secret to breaking the unions - pay your people in Texas and South Carolina better. No, seriously. Ten years of competitive wages in those areas will raise the tech levels of the work force and make the unions here looks like some ancient dinosaurs. Unions come into being because the management does not deal square with its employees. It is hard to argue about freezing worker pensions when your CEO's own pension went up by $20 Million last year. Practice a little of that corporate wisdom, and you will, long-term, win.

Otherwise, you're looking at coming back to Seattle workforce when your "lowest possible bidder" triple-seven starts getting cranky.

More later,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Also Fifty Years Ago


More later,

[The Update: Writing this after seeing the 50th anniversary show and, while it had more loose ends and plot holes than an half-knitted sweater, it was truly a glorious, wonderful thing, the pacing and comparisons between the personal and macro plots weaving together, advancing the character entirely, and both providing a resolution and setting things up for the future. So I'd like to take that egotistic moment and talk about the various incarnations of the Doctor from a personal level. There are none I would truly hate, but a couple places where the entire operation has gone astray. In general, they are a pretty good group.
   One, William Hartnell, was the archetype, and cannot be viewed save by through the black and white glasses of the past. I only saw a handful of his shows, and he plants the flag as the acerbic old professor, the type that every other Doctor plays against to some degree.
   Two, Patrick Troughton, is a bit of a mystery to me, after all these years. I've only seen him in one or two versions (usually the one involving Cybermen), and in his team-ups with later Doctors. More comforting than patriarchal, he has always been one of the "funny" Doctors.
   Three, John Pertwee, was such a creature of his era. The action hero Doctor, working for UNIT, confined to earth, and filled with all the things that made Britain so very British for me. This Doctor, the Avengers, and Monty Python explained what life was like in modern England. With Sarah Jane. And with Autons.
   Four. Ah. You always remember the first Doctor you encounter, and in college, for me, it was Tom Baker, with a long stretch of episodes that we got out of the Chicago public TV station (and yet, whenever I happen to catch one these days, it is always "Giant Robot"). The Bohemian Doctor, with a slew of suitable and increasingly interesting companions - Sarah, K9, Leela, the two Romanas. Yeah, it went silly more often in the later span with Doug Adams, but still, this is the real Doctor to a lot of us.
   Five. Peter Davidson, who was young and vulnerable and we had seen previously in the states as the feckless vet in All Creatures Great and Small. Often bewildered. In one of those wanderings astray, he had a pack of companions at once. Never understood the Adric hate, but I never cared much for Turlough for being the world's oldest schoolboy as well as the continual pawn of evil.
   Six. The Colin Baker Doctor was not a fave at the time, but I am more willing to give this part of the series credit for attempting to be different. A dislikeable Doctor, darker stories, higher body counts, an American companion, more moralizing (often heavy-handed), non-linear storytelling. Yeah, the low point for that era was the Trial of the Time Lord, but C.Baker himself I could not really dislike.
   Seven, with Sylvester McCoy, was a tonic in comparison. Patrick Troughton for the new generation - more elfish and amused with himself. A very comfortable Doctor, and Ace made the best of the later-day companions.
   I fear I never gave Eight, Paul McGann, much of a shot, I'm afraid. An Americanized movie from Fox felt like cultural imperialism, and the shoddy way McCoy was regenerated just left me upset. Yet McGann kept the fires burning on audio and in other media during the dark years without new TV Shows, and I was glad to see that he got a proper sendoff in this clip.
   John Hurt, who is ... The War Doctor? Eight-point-five? The Missing Doctor? Probably he will be the New Nine and everyone else just shifts back one, fits neatly into the cosmology. He fills a required whole admirably, and in the 50th is just spot-on. He pulls off the miracle of walking into everything and making everyone believe he had always been there.
   Chris Eccleston, the Old-Nine-Now-Ten was a perfectly suitable reintroduction to the line. Closer to the Pertwee action hero end of the spectrum, the reboot gave him a dark past without overwhelming him
   David Tennant, Ten-now-Eleven is my personal fave among the new group. Bright and exciting, he was bolstered by good companions with Rose, Martha, and Donna. The stories got a bit much in magical timey-whimey pull-the-solution-out-of-the hat, love-will-find-a-way but he evoked a lot of T.Baker for me. And I liked the glasses. In fact, I think that's one reason I liked the anniversary show so much was his presence.
   Matt Smith rounds out the proper Dozen (nothing to say about Peter Capaldi's Doctor, as we haven't seen much), now that we close in on the end of his tenure, was an OK Doctor for me. His Doctor roiled through manic and clever and confused, and falls in the Peter Davidson era, particularly when he threatens to get overwhelmed by his own companions. River Song comes into her own here, along with the Ponds and now Clara, who stood in very well for the entire line of companions in the 50th.

So, yeah, the 50th Anniversary show is worth catching, even if you've drifted off in the past couple years. It does a good job sealing up a nice little chunk of Whovian History, and continues the team-up tradition of inter-Doctoral bickering. And four of the actors who played Doctor Who were involved in a very amusing, backstage, inside-production comedy right here, and you should check it out. Yeah, a lot of the jokes depend on you knowing about the actors involved, but the sight of Colin Baker standing on his riding lawnmower to get better cellphone reception is just worth it right there, Yeah, go check it out.]




Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago



Dallas Times Herald Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

More later,

[Update: Someone asked: Why this picture? Part of it is because it was new to me - the PI was running the events of that day as a real time Twitter feed and this shot was taken shortly before the motorcade entered Dealey Plaza (I tracked down a better copy later, credited correctly). Part of it was because it seems so innocuous, so unsuspecting. And part of it because it sets the scene, and JFK does not dominate it.

Looking at the downtown Dallas of that day, the thing that most modern Americans would notice is that it is a security nightmare. Open windows, low buildings, fire escapes down the front of buildings, a large (but not huge) crowd of well-wishers. You see the security guys on the running board of the police car and on the back bumper of the limo alert, scanning the crowds.

The other thing I notice was about the car. It is what in those days would be considered a stretch limo in that it had three sets of seats. And that back set of seats, where the President and First Lady were sitting, were higher than the seats in front of them, to let the crowd get a better view. Look at the molding on the side - it rises after Mrs. Connally, and still Jackie is more exposed, higher up.

I mention this because the "smoking gun" of conspiracy theory is the so-called "magic-bullet". The bullet from Oswald's gun passed through the president, and into John Connolly, but the trajectory doesn't line up. This, of course, indicates there were other shooters, or multiple shooters, or the Comedian was on the Grassy Knoll. Unless of course, the President was sitting on a raised seat, which he was. Of course, the "magic-bullet" has worked its way into conspiratorial history, so this will rattle no true believers, but the evidence is there.]

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Late Anniversary

So without much fanfare or notice, we passed the ten-year mark here at Grubb Street, which was longer than a lot of my employment at most places over the years.  The first post was a modest one:
This is a test. This is only a test. In the event of real content, enlightenment would be provided. 
And real (well, mostly real) content followed. The next post was about the history of the original Grub Street. The next entry I learn how to do headers. By the end of the first month, I'd done a restaurant review (Canlis), a book-on-tape-review, made fun of a local politico, and called someone a pinhead. After that I was off to the races.

Over ten years. According to the sidebar, over 2000 posts. Mostly the same backdrop and organization as we started with. Most of the same spelling and grammar errors. It has slowed a bit, and part of that is because one-shot comments or pictures now go out to Facebook or Google+. But for long-form tomfoolery I keep coming back to blogging.

This is not, and was never intended to be, a successful blog. Blogs that survive by bringing traffic back again and again do so by selecting an audience and a theme and sticking with it. If you want to talk about broccoli, every post is about broccoli, and your audience comes to your blog because of your broccoli knowledge, and both you and your audience self-select. Similarly, if you hatge asparagus, and your blog is filled with every asparagus recall and health warning about asparagus and crackpot theories about how asparagus was responsible for the Fall of Rome and again, you end up with an audience of asparagus haters. ("Yeah, I hit all the red lights on the way to work today. Thanks, Asparagus")

But I find that boring. It is tough enough for me to get through a full political season, or a theater season, or talk about collectible quarters on a yearly posting without freestyle medication. But I will confess that I am sympathetic to those who follow this blog in the faint, faint chance that I will get back to talking about games. And we will. Sometime.

By the same token, this is hardly a personal therapy blog where every problem is suddenly blog-cast out to the rest of the world. I don't write anything I don't want my Mom to bring up when I call home. But I do like the sense of variety. If this blog is selling anything (other than my most recent book or game - say, did I mention that Scourge is a really good Star Wars novel?), it is selling my public persona - amused and amusing (I hope). Thoughtful and on occasion thought-provoking. Not scary. Creative, capable, and available for the creative odd job.

Anyway, with the non-anniversary, I finally went back to the Google Dashboard and starting looking at feedback. I don't take comments on this blog (I do take email, but since that denies the public posturing of comments, I don't get a lot of them), but I can scan the number of hits particular entries have received. Here's what the top scorers since 2007 (which is when the feature apparently came on line) are:

An article about Spelljammer.
An article about Christmas Layoffs at WotC.
A political article about the recent Advisory Votes. Seriously, what's the deal here? Was I the only guy in King County writing about this?
An article about how D&D always competed with itself.
An article about the original Marvel Super Heroes game.
An article about the Forgotten Realms comic books.
One of my "DOW Breaks" articles, which became a regular feature where I pretend I know anything about economics.
And article about Lovecraft, and the difficulty of loving the writing and hating the writer.
A review of Playing At The World.
A link-filled summary of the first year's anniversary of Guild Wars 2.

So, were I smart guy, I would obviously fill my blog with stuff about the "Good Old Days" and not deal with anything else. But I don't, because this blog is for me, which means that sometimes I will talk about interesting stuff, and sometimes I will talk about interesting stuff FOR ME. And I'm pretty happy with it, and you know, the Internet is a big place, so you asparagus-haters can go off an find some other blog to follow.

And oh yeah, I'll get back to talking about gaming any time now. Really.

More later,




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Other People Are Doing

Just some quick updates on friends:

Troy Denning and Ed Greenwood will be joining Erin Evans up at the Northgate Mall Barnes & Noble tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 PM, to discuss the new Forgotten Realms series, The Sundering.

Tim Brown is closing in on the close of his Dragon Kings Kickstarter, with less than a day left. It has made its funding, but check it out!

Bruce Cordell has also made funding for his new RPG, The Strange, but it is worth checking out as well.

And lastly, our local Tolkien expert John Rateliff has had his magnum opus, The History of the Hobbit, appear in the bonus features of the new release of The Hobbit movie. Cool beans, indeed!

More later,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meanwhile, Last Night

Left to Right: Becky, Jennell, Stan!, Lorelei, Rob, John, Me, Will, Dave, Scott. Picture by Bruce Cordell.
This photo is from a gathering of my writer's group, the Alliterates, at our habitual watering hole. Bruce Cordell took the photo (he would have been sitting between me and Stan! (who's back is to the camera). Steve Winter, who is also a member, was off camera to the right, but this was the group for the evening. I've put it up on other social networks, but I just want to talk about the composition.

But what I like about this photo is how evocative and well-lit the scene is, making it look almost like an oil painting. We have already talked about the comparison with the Last Supper. The center of the picture, over Rob, John, and Lorelei, is the best-lit and the center of the work. Bruce took this at a moment when we talking in one relatively big group (due to the size, throughout the evening, we had three or four conversations going at the same time). The figures are naturally posed because most of us didn't realize Bruce was taking a photo (except maybe Lorelei, with her arms folded). I don't remember what we were talking about, though I always use my my hands when making a point, and the sight-line was between me and Jennell. The background is well-lit, but other-worldly, its color palate separated from the muted hues inside the bar.

It is rare when a random photo creates this sense of story and a uniformity of feel. It looks like Lorelei, Rob, and John are sitting in judgement as Jennell and I make some arcane points. It was a passing moment, but captured. No one is caught off-guard or looking dorky as a result. It is one of those chance things that just works.

And that's pretty cool. More later,

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Political Desk - Wrapping Things Up

After giving a couple days to settle, most of the results are pretty set. Late returns can flip the results, with the smaller elections having the most likely chance of suddenly changing sides. 

I-517 - The Inititative Protection Initiative - NO
I-522 - The GMO Labling Initiative - NO (apropos of nothing, the Farmer's Assurance Provision, also known as the "Monsanto Protection Act", which protects seed companies from litigation from their completely safe, currently unlabeled product, was just extended for three months. (um, yaaaaaay)).

Advisory Votes 3-7 - 3-4, 7 Maintained, 5-6 Repealed, not that it matters anyway.
King Count Charter Amendment No 1 - Yes
King County Proposition No 1, Medic One - Approved

King County Executive - Dow Constantine
Metropolitan King County Council District No. 5 - Dave Upthegrove

Port of Seattle Position No. 1 - John Creighton
Port of Seattle Position No. 2 - Courtney Gregroire
Port of Seattle Position No. 3 - Stephanie Bowman
Port of Seattle Position No. 4 - Tom Albro

City of Kent, Mayor - Suzette Cooke
City of Kent, Council Position No. 2 - Jim Berrios
City of Kent, Council Position No. 6 - Ken Sharp (Maybe. This one is still hanging fire, with only a couple hundred votes between the candidates, but has been fairly stable. Should Mr. Sharp win, the voters will have to sit through his upcoming criminal trial. Um, yaaaaaay).
Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5 - Maya Vengadasalam

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Position No. 2 - Larry West
Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Position No. 3 - Gary G Cline
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner No. 3 - Barbara J. Drennan
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner No. 5 - Tamara Sleeter

And in the bonus round, The City of Seattle went with the progressive machine candidate as opposed to the progressive independent, and King County re-elected the relatively inert Republican for county commissioner. 

More later,

Monday, November 04, 2013

Play: Banana Fanana Fo-Fita

Bo-Nita by Elizabeth Heffron, Directed by Paul Budraitis,  Seattle Rep through November 17

Let me be clear about this: I strongly support the presentation of original theater in this town. I'd much rather watch a new original production by a locally-working playwright, refined in-house, than the touring company of some road-tested, marketing secure presentation. And that WILL take you into risky waters, both for subject matter and presentation, and most of all into the deadly territory of the one-person play.

Ah, the one-person play. A single actor before you. It saves on cast and such complications like wardrobe or blocking, but for every K of D or Humor Abuse, you run the risk of a Thom Paine, a play that continues to rankle in my subconscious, much like "anything with puppets" rankles with the Lovely Bride.

And is Bo-Nita a K of D? No, but it is still pretty interesting.

Here's the short form: The entire play is a narration from Bo-Nita, 13, who is waiting for her mom after school. Bo-Nita is a bundle of anger and rationality and hormones, a precocious, self-aware, self-raised woman-child made old before her time, operating in the zone of that just-getting-by America with a scam-planning mom, a succession of her boyfriends, and a stoner grandma.  And she is telling a story about the time she had to deal with the apparently dead body of her stepfather, which grows weirder and stranger with each looping scheme and flashback.

And I'm watching this all, and something tickles the back of my mind. Unreliable narrator, under-aged protagonist, predatory stepfather, heart attic. Mature, as they say, themes. Am I watching a presentation of Vladamir Nabokov's Lolita?

And I check on the Wiki after I get back home. [Note 1 - I have not read Lolita; a knowledgeable friend pointed me to the superior Pale Fire at the time. And Note 2 - Since I am not a libertarian Republican Senator, I can't quote Wikipedia directly as my own work] And yeah, that's a good summary. Heck, even the protagonist/play's name is a head-nod, fed through "The Banana Song". But it uses the bones of the Nabokov piece and dresses it up in a belly-dancing outfit, and ends up rich in both humor and pathos. It takes it in a different direction.

And Hannah Mootz, as our singular unreliable protagonist, plays 13 very well, aware of her world and still naive at the same time. She has to negotiate around some concepts with language that may be a little old for her, but acquits herself wonderfully.

There was a bit of technical sabotage in the sound system for our performance. In order to get across the idea of the setting, there is a radio playing in the background. The problem was that the radio noise was running too loud, and creating not the feeling of a shared space in which Bo-Nita is talking, but rather that someone left a radio on while setting up the other theater. Worse, when Bo-Nita went into flashbacks, the radio noise continued, which left me wondering if it was an error. I was not alone - one of the other patrons was asking around during the play about it, which set the performance back further.

That aside, how was it? Pretty good. Not at the top of one-person performances but hardly bad. It does need some more time to get the tech and language down (I was doing mental calculations about when the mom and grandmom would be born to get Bo-Nita to 13 in 2013, which is usually a troubling sign of engagement). But good marks for something original within the confines of the Rep.

More later,

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Political Desk - Bits and Pieces

You'd think I'd be relieved to be done with all this political stuff, but in the process of writing these up, I came up with some stuff that didn't fit anywhere else.

The Secretary of Rock
1) According to my reports on blog traffic, the page with the MOST hits is about the Advisory Votes. Had I only known, I probably would have come up with a less-snarky title. Probably the surge in interest is because most of the other issues which are BETTER known have a lot more people commenting on them, and the stuff that is LESS well known affects fewer people. I'd like to point people interested in further information on the Advisor Votes to both the Washington Secretary of State's Blog for this entry on the matter, which is informative and only a little snarky, as well as this entry from Publico, which is informative and a LOT snarky.  (As an added bonus, the Secretary of State's Blog has pictures of her going as a rocker for Halloween. Yeah, I think she'll work out OK.)

2) On the GMO Initiative. Like most of you out here I have been pelted by fliers and ads saying how this is a bad, bad initiative and is confusing and terrible and scare-mongering and all sorts of things. Then I hit this response from the outspent pro-I-522 campaign:



Really? Consumer Union? The guys who put out Consumer Reports? An operation that makes it its JOB to point out confusing language, bad product, and poorly-written scams? They are saying that the language is OK? Huh. So if you need another reason, vote YES on I-522.

3) On stuff I can't vote for, let me dwell upon the Seattle Mayor's race. Like in Kent, the policy differences between the two candidates are very slight. Actually, you couldn't pass a city council resolution between the two of them. So the campaign is all about who is more likable. And Mr. McGinn is a bristly as his beard, and has cheesed off a lot of powers-that-be in his term. He didn't come up through the party machinery. He has supported another stadium down by the Port. He has opposed the tunnel, which, to date, has carved out less yardage that Marshawn Lynch on a good day.  Mr. Murray has strongly benefited by being the "Not-McGinn", and this is solid thing - all the polls are putting him ahead.

And that's cool, but I have been watching our paper of record, the Seattle Times, going in big for Mr. Murray. Not as deeply as they did for Rob McKenna last time out, but still they have used their newspaperly mojo to nice effect. It is not in the reporting- that's usually pretty good. But stuff that may reflect badly on Mr. Murray tends to get shifted to the middle of section B (Thursday morning there was a bit about how the Chamber of Commerce Pro-Murray PAC has been caught in an election violation), or gets very "soft" headlines (an article on an ad stating that McGinnn is misrepresented on his Domestic Violence record has a headline that doesn't really note that said ad comes from another pro-Murray operation). A small bit about Murray's unpaid parking tickets showed up in the on-line version, and only made print when other news groups picked it up. And this past Friday, a piece on how much is being spent on the mayor kinda softpedals the fact that Murray's campaign is outspending McGinns to the tune of $700k ro $450k.

Oh, and we have to go to the Washington Post (In the "Other Washington") to break the story that one of the big contributors to Mr. Murray's campaign is Comcast, who feels it will benefit better from a mayor who is part of the normal political process and not so independent. And that's not even getting into the relaxed attitude towards someone under Mr. Murray's supervision embezzling a bunch of cash and as a result perhaps costing the Dems a close race in the legislature.

Were all this stuff happening to the incumbent, and the papers would have a field day. In the Times, not so much. So yeah, even though I'm not voting in this (not part of Seattle proper, yaknow), I'd go with MIKE MCGINN for Mayor. As elsewhere, I'm just trying to spare us the later headlines.

4) And speaking of the Seattle Times slant, last time out for County Council, there was a leaning-conservative newsperson  (Susan Hutchison, now head of the state GOP) running for King County Executive, and the paper made of lot about how the position was non-partisan, so even TALKING about candidate's party allegiance was just not proper. This time out, a Dem (Shari Song) has a chance to uproot a relatively inert Republican (Reagan Dunn), and the paper is deeply deeply afraid that this will pitch the County Council into the hands of (gasp) DEMOCRATS!

Yeah, whatever. Go for SHARI SONG for those of you in District 9. With district representation, you really should have a councilperson who shows up.

And finally, this blog will not be reporting on the election results until Thursday or Friday. This is because the deadline for turning your ballot in (getting it post-marked) is Tuesday, so while they do release some results on election day, the bulk show up later (and the Times whines about how this is a bad thing). Sometimes the early votes will go one way, the later votes another. So stay tuned, and if you are a Washington Voter, it is not too late. Go vote.

More later,

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Political Desk: The Jeff Recommends

Very well. For the past two weeks I have mercilessly slogging through the ballot up here on Grubb Street, and have discovered a number of interesting things in the process, like the dimension of the Soos Creek Water District and the nature of those opaque Advisory Votes. Oddly, the Advisory Votes section has gotten the most number of hits so far, so other people are looking as well.

Below are the summarized recommendations from this blog, put together in one place for your convenience, right before the last weekend before the voting closes. It has been noted that the early returns this year, which may indicate either a) fewer people are voting in an election that doesn't have national repercussions, and/or b) people are still trying to make up their minds.

This is not the only place to find recommendations. The Muni League rates most of the candidates north of but not including Kent. The Voters' Guide will assure you which candidates are not axe-murderers, but, alas, not which ones have been arrested for stealing from their own mothers. Those with more of liberal bend can find the Progressive endorsements here, while those with more conservative in the political DNA can weep with the Seattle Times, whose editorial board tends to weigh all options equally before choosing the one that is most pro-business and anti-union. Those who want snark and bong humor with their insights are directed to the Stranger.

If you are interested in my logic, you can find the earlier posts here. Here's what we have:

I-517 - The Inititative Protection Initiative - Vote NO
I-522 - The GMO Labling Initiative - Vote YES

Advisory Votes 3-7 - Vote Maintained
King Count Charter Amendment No 1 - Vote Yeah. Not an enthusiastic Yeah, but Yeah.
King County Proposition No 1 , Medic One - Vote Approved

King County Executive - Dow Constantine
Metropolitan King County Council District No. 5 - Dave Upthegrove.

Port of Seattle Position No. 1 - John Creighton
Port of Seattle Position No. 2 - Courtney Gregroire
Port of Seattle Position No. 3 - Michael Wolfe
Port of Seattle Position No. 4 - Tom Albro

City of Kent, Mayor - Suzette Cooke
City of Kent, Council Position No. 2 - David Wade Schwartz
City of Kent, Council Position No. 6 - Bailey Stober
Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5 - Maya Vengadasalam

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Position No. 2 - Darold R. Stroud
Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Position No. 3 - Gary G Cline
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner No. 3 - Barbara J Drennan
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner No. 5 - Sue Bowman

And that's it for Grubb Street. Of course, I DO have opinions on stuff I CAN'T Vote for, and a lot of bits and pieces, but that is More Later kinda thing.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Meanwhile, On Grubb Street

Kate and I carved a pumpkin last night inspired by the pumpkin designs in Lion's Arch.


Happy Halloween to All!

More later,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seventy-Five Years Ago




Orson Welles summons a Martian War Machine into the homes of Americans everywhere.

More later,


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Political Desk - The Final Details

I've finally reached the bottom of the ballot, and with it such specialized positions as the Soos Creek Water and Sewer Commissioner Positions # 2 and 3, and the Public Hospital District No. 1 Positions # 3 and 5. These are write-ups that will concerns pairs if not trios of readers, made worse by the lack of information on the ground. Often at this level we are left with the comments in the Voters' Guide, and unless one of them suddenly confesses to being an axe-murderer, you wouldn't know from their presentations.

The Soos Creek Water and Sewer is responsible for, you got it, water quality and sewer services in the Soos Creek watershed, which starts just north of Grubb Street and flows south into Covington and Maple Valley. It is a diverse area, including both old farming plots, salmon streams, older homes with septic tanks, ancient pipes, and sprawling new developments. So it is a challenging region, dealing with both expansion as well as maintenance.

For Position #2, we see a rerun of three years back, with Larry West versus Darold R. Stroud. At the time this blog recognized both for their abilities and favored Mr. West (and we lost - oh well). This time out I have to recognize that DAROLD R STROUD has done the job and deserves to be returned to the position.

For Position #3 we have incumbent Gary G. Cline and Alan Eades, who has been a long-time employee of the water district. Again, from their descriptions in the Voters' Guide, I can pretty much say the neither is a self-confessed axe-murderer and sounds pretty calm and rational. I'd go with GARY G CLINE, but again, I don't think we would be wrong with Mr. Eades.

The Public Hospital District No. 1 is Valley Medical, which is just down the hill. And in general, I am positively disposed to Valley Medical - they have been an excellent health-care organization with a talented, positive, capable staff, and have used their services both intentionally (surgery) and unintentionally (emergency room, of which we will not go into detail). However, it has always managed some huggamugga and scandal every time there is an election, and this year is little different.

Previously, the commissioners were five in number and elected positions. Since the last election, Valley has merged with UW Medical (all the cool kids are doing it these days), but as a result, the board consists of the five elected positions and eight UWM appointees. So there is not as much local control as there once was, and while most of the candidates think the merger was a good thing, they vary about the details. 

So, this deep in the weeds, who to recommend? Fortunately, the Renton Reporter (sister-paper to the Kent Reporter) has been actually talking to the candidates (or trying, at least), and tracking the contributions to give a bit of clarity. They have articles on Albert P. Haylor versus Barbara J. Drennen for Position 3, and Tamara Sleeter versus incumbent Sue Bowman for Position 5 (Spoiler, last time out, this blog went for Ms. Bowman). 

The articles illuminate both in correcting the record (Ms. Bowman stated in the Voters' Guide that Ms. Sleeter did not live in the district - it has since been ruled that Ms. Sleeter does), and in following the money. In particular, Mr. Haylor and Ms. Sleeter have gotten their largest donations from the current president of the board and from the current president's medical practice. OK, so we know that someone would like to staff some friendly faces on the board. 

All approve to various levels about the Alliance with UWM (from enthusiastic to resigned), all have interest in how much hospital executives make (from outraged to concerned) and all have the patients at heart in their write-ups. And, of course, none appear to be axe-murderers. I agree that the Alliance with UWM is a necessary things (though it is apparently being challenged in appeals court, so stay tuned), and am going to go with SUE BOWMAN for Position 5 and BARBARA J DRENNEN for Position 3.

And with that, we hit the end of the ballot. Summary and updates to come, as we have More Later, 

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Political Desk - A Town Called Kent (Part Two)

OK, despite the moaning and wailing and the rending of one's garments, there are OTHER races going on in Kent, my new hometown.

There is a second race going on for Kent City Council which is overshadowed by the one we've been talking about. And it feels a bit more reasonable. Council Position No. 2 pits Jim Berrios versus David Wade Schwartz. Both are local businessmen with civic interest and ties to us up on the hill. Mr. Berrios has a long time in the neighborhood (and has run for office before), while Schwartz is a transplant who was uprooted by the Link a few years back and relocated south. Mr. Berrios therefore comes off with more of a local knowledge base, while Mr. Schwartz has a definite gung-ho attitude.

I’m going with Schwartz for two reasons – one is that he supports the local B&O tax, which is a rarity (most business-candidates don’t care for it, including both Messrs. Stober and Sharp). I think it is a good thing from the standpoint of funding a lot of the necessary repairs in the community.

Secondly, and this is totally frustration on my part, Mr. Berrios is the CURRENT head of the Chamber of Commerce. The PREVIOUS head of the Chamber of Commerce is Mr. Sharp, who, we have noted, stands accused of stealing from his own mother. And yeah, it is completely unfair to count another man’s faults against a candidate, but frankly, running the Kent Chamber of Commerce is not the sell-point that it once was.

So DAVID WADE SCHWARTZ for City of Kent Council Position No. 2

Kent is also electing a Mayor, and it is a microcosm what we're seeing up in Seattle itself. We have two candidates with similar positions. Both support many of same things (such as the ShoWare Center) and both are against the same things (like coal trains).So the tipping point seems to be about methodology – and whether getting along with the city council is a good thing for a mayor.

Suzette Cook is the current mayor – she’s on her second term going for her third. Her administration includes the entire Hansen Dam situation, and I will be honest that this has appealed to me. She's got the city through the rough times of the recession and crime is down, interest is up, and things look like they're going pretty well.

Tim Clark is a 16-year veteran councilman who has also been involved in a lot of the long-term goals of the city. He's pushing for greater transparency and fiscal responsibility, as well as working better with the city council.

I'm not a fan of council/mayor lockstep, or think that the mayor should necessarily be sort of an ad hoc addition to the council. They have separate roles and I actually prefer there to be a little friction between the two, such that the two sides keep an eye on each other. By the same token, I think Ms. Cook has made her case that she has worked with the council.

I think Mr. Clark would be an excellent mayor, given his experience, but this time out I'm still going with SUZETTE COOK.

And finally, we have Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5, for which the contenders are Bruce Elliott and Maya Vengadasalem. Both candidates present themselves well, and neither one has been arrested for stealing from family members (you're just not going to let that one go, eh?). But, looking at the raft of endorsements, I am going to recommend MAYA VENGADASALEM.

More later,




Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Political Desk: A Town Called Kent (Part One)

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit na├»ve. I tend to look for the silver linings. I tend to think the best of people. I am, as they say in Chicago, a goo-goo – a good government type, to be laughed at and reviled by those in power. And most of the time I'm cool with it.

But this race.  This particular race. This race just makes me sad.

I am talking about the City of Kent Council Position No. 6. I already vented my frustration on getting the primary wrong over here. Short version – I read the write-ups for the primary and said “Yeah, they all sound pretty good”. And then I find out that one of the candidates has been arrested for stealing from his own mother. No, seriously. Candidate Ken Sharp has been accused, arrested, and will stand trial on November 20 for pillaging his mom’s saving account of nearly $300,000.

And this is particularly maddening given that Mr. Sharp is running as the sound-businessman, former President of the local Chamber of Commerce type. Despite the appearance that American Business seems to be overwhelmed with thieves and sociopaths these days, would it have KILLED them to have a guy in charge that wasn't, you know, ripping off his own mother?

And even Mr. Sharp is exonerated (and yeah, I’m still an optimist), I’m going to say that a guy with major criminal charges is going to be a tad bit distracted when it comes to governing.  And if found guilty, he would have a hard time making it to council meetings.

So, we have the other guy at least, Bailey Stober. Well, not so fast, cowboy.

As might be expected in such a situation where a candidate is facing serious time, there has been a lot of mudslinging going on, primarily in Kent Reporter’s letters to the editor and their Facebook page. A wide variety of claims have been made against Mr. Stober, some of which have risen to the point of being commented upon by the candidate. In general, the mud has been flying so thick that the Carpinito brothers are looking a bumper crop this year (local joke).

But in all this kerfuffle there is one point that does stick – Mr. Stober has not put in his paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission (you have to dig it out here from the database), which shows his campaign raising money but not its expenditures. Normally this is a small point, but it is the one I can look at, dust off the muck, summon my goo-goo mojo and say yeah, what’s the deal here?

And to further cloud the issue, there is another candidate in the mix, now. Former council member Debbie Raplee has recently put her name in as a write-in candidate because of concerns about Mr. Sharp’s legal problems and Mr. Stober’s residency requirements (Mr. Stober has denied there is a problem). And while I respect Ms. Raplee’s decision, we knew about Mr. Sharp’s ongoing legal situation for some time, and only NOW she decided she needed to enter the race?

So where am I on this? Well, if all accusations against both candidates are true, then Bailey Stober remains the better choice, because his accused sins are venal, not mortal. Furthermore, they are not currently before a court of law. If NONE of the accusations on both sides are true, I’m going to recommend  Bailey Stober still, because he’s going to be more focused on the job.

So we go with BAILEY STOBER, with a good sharp kick to get his bloody paperwork in.

More later,


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Commercial Break

Breaking from the non-stop political coverage on this blog, I'd like to take a moment to talk about other stuff that friends and colleagues are up to with this newfangled Kickstarter thing.

Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook have successfully funded a new game using the popular Numera system. The new game is called The Strange and is currently wracking up the stretch goals.

Tim Brown  has just attained the funding levels for Dragon Kings, a union of games, art, and music, which is a thematic descendant of his earlier work on Dark Sun (and yeah, I'm going to write a bit for it).

Lester Smith is doing Cthulhu Haiku.II, a collection of horror poetry and short fiction. Yeah, horror poetry. Make a SAN check on that one.

AND I am currently reading the pdf of my first funding of a Kickstarter: Islandsof Ignorance, the third Call of Cthulhu Companion. Excellent stuff here, and I'm looking forward to my hard copy.

More later,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Political Desk - Any Port in a Storm

Ah, the Port of Seattle. Usually this is a hive of scum and villainy, good for scandals and vandals. This year, not so much. Yes, we had Rob Holland (who this blog endorsed) stepping down after getting nicked for abusing  a Port-authorized credit card to the tune of $3K for personal uses, but that is almost quiet for the Port. Most of the Port news over the past couple years has involved their concerns about yet another sports stadium going up North of them, and the possibility of teaming up with local rival port Tacoma for better coordination and to stop undercutting each other.

The Port is (on paper) a non-political office, but here’s a tell – check out the endorsements. Usually you can find most of the Dems on one side and most of the Reps on the other. An endorsement from failed gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna? Yeah, you might want to avoid that guy, though people do grow in office.  So here’s what we got.

Position 1 – Pete Lewis versus John Creighton. This is interesting. Eight years ago this blog cast a baleful eye upon Mr. Creighton for getting a lot of cash from the Republican side of the aisle. Now, he’s getting top marks from the Sierra Club, labor, and a slew of Democrats,  and it is his opponent who’s getting the endorsement from McKenna and the Seattle Times. I’m going with JOHN CREIGHTON on this one.

Position 2 – Courtney Gregoire versus John Naubert. This one bugs me because I hate the idea of politics as family business, and Ms. Gregriore is the daughter of former Governor Gregoire, who I like, but still there’s the principle of thing. Plus the fact that as an old guy I am resigned to vote for someone who is named Courtney. But the fact is that she’s got experience in the area and has strong labor and enviro endorsements and actually has a functioning web site. Plus she gets an Outstanding from the Muni League, which may be excessive, but pushes me in her direction. Go with COURTNEY GREGROIRE for this.

Position 3 – Stephanie Bowman versus Michael Wolfe. Ms. Bowman has had the job since April, and comes well recommended. Mr. Wolfe comes out of the travel industry (and yeah, the Airport is a port). I’m going with MICHEAL WOLFE but can perfectly understand if you would prefer Ms. Bowman.

Position 4 –Tom Albro versus Richard Pope. So, Tom Albro. Incumbent, pro-business, kinda conservative, endorsed strongly by the Seattle Times (which is usually a warning). But also effective, aggressive, and competent. Yeah, he’s got an Outstanding rating from the Muni League, but he ran the Muni League for a few years. But he has also been strong on reforming the Port and pushing for transparency.  So yeah, TOM ALBRO.

More later,



Monday, October 21, 2013

The Political Desk - King County Elected Positions

Only three elected positions in King County this round. One of them (Sheriff) doesn’t even have an opponent, the county-wide one (Executive) is a bit of a blowout, and even the local one for our district (#5, to replace Julia Patterson) is a bit of a walkaway. But, let us be complete.

Dow Constantine blew out his opponents in the primary, and looks to do so again. And for good reason – he’s been competent and solid in his first term. If you reward politicians for doing a good job, he’s done it. His opponent, per his web site, has been endorsed by the King County GOP and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, with “Verbal Support” from the “Tea Party”. So good luck with that. Vote for DOW CONSTANTINE for King County Executive.

Andy Massagli, who is running for Julie Patterson’s seat here in 5th, is in a similar situation –  also endorsed by Republicans and not given much of a chance against Dave Upthegrove. But Mr. Massagli comes across as pleasant, rooted, grounded, has a sense of humor and is generally nice (his wife wrote his piece for the Voter’s Guide, and while I don’t think it was effective, it was nice. Mr Upthegrove comes out of the legislature with a host of endorsements, and gets an Outstanding Rating from the Muni League. That’s a lot of positive firepower, so vote DAVE UPTHEGROVE. (Yeah, I could make fun of the name, but with my moniker, I’m going to get away with it) but I want to watch Mr. Massagli for the future.

More later

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Political Desk - King County Measures Twice, Shoots Foot

So, moving down from the state level to the county, we have two proposals. On is the King County Proposition No. 1, Renewal of an existing levy for Medic One – Emergency Medical Services. I'm good with Medic One, though I have to renew it every year, it seems. Yes, let’s go with YES on this on.

The other one is King County Charter Amendment No. 1, which is completely different from King County Proposal No. 1. This is to create an appointed office of county public defender, a department of public defense, and a public defense advisory board. Sounds like a lot, so the question is, why are we doing all this NOW? Don’t we HAVE a public defender for King County?

Well, we do. Well, did. For 44 years, we had four nonprofit corporations providing public defender services for King County. These tended to get high marks for their services than similar public programs in other cities. In the middle of the year, King County chose to end those contracts with the nonprofits and pull the public defender’s fully into the bureaucracy within a Public Defender’s Office. This was because of a court case from a public defender stating that the public defenders were de facto county employees and should be treated as such with regards to benefits.

I’m not so certain about the ruling and the result, as King County was noted for having excellent and progressive results with its non-profit approach, and (for once) I don’t think we are well-served to add another chunk of responsibility at a time when most government is seeking to privatize as much as possible. But that’s not what this measure is about. It is about approving the creation of such a department in a way that maintains much of their previous independence. I have my doubts, but I will go for voting a grudging YES on this.


More later,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Political Desk - Advisory Votes: Whole Lotta Nothing

We have FIVE Advisory Votes on the ballot, which are the result of our badly-sprained initiative process. These are tax measures with have been approved by the legislature, but due to our system, now have to be brought before the people. BUT they are just advisory, which means that they really don’t mean squat – they at best can provide cover for the politicians who voted with the people, or allow a claim of personal heroism for those that voted against it.

Further, all of them take the following format: “The legislature eliminated/extended, without a vote of the people, [some loophole or special consideration], costing approximately [large sum of money] in the first ten years  (so divide that number by 10, which makes it less large) , for government spending.” That is pretty scary language to say – We did “THIS” which will bring in “THIS MUCH MONEY” for the budget and probably doesn't affect you directly.

And the thing is, almost all these things are extensions of existing taxes or eliminations of loopholes. But due to our TOTAL FREAKOUT about anything that even smells of taxes, they are referred to as “a new tax”, which they really aren’t. And then we ask you, the voters to Maintain or Repeal this “new tax”

Let me get to the quick of it. If you hate taxes in any form, under any definition, against anybody, and want a magic pony that you don’t have to feed or clean up after, you should vote to repeal all of these. If you feel this process is more than a little broken, but want to keep them from looking in your pocket for more operating revenues, vote to MAINTAIN these decisions.

And, if you want to know what you are voting on, here’s the deal.

Advisory Vote No. 3 (Substitute Senate Bill 5444) eliminates a tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-held property.
Advisory Vote No. 4 (Senate Bill 5627) -  CREATES an excise tax on commuter air carriers instead of a property tax. (Does this mean they are no longer paying property taxes? Is this a tax change as opposed to a tax increase or maybe a tax shift or a tax polymorph?)
Advisory Vote No. 5 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846) extends an insurance premium tax for some insurance on pediatric oral services (Braces? Surgery? The little toothbrushes they put in the bag?)
Advisory Vote No. 6 (Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971) eliminates a retail tax exemption on certain telephone and telecommunications systems.
Advisory Vote No. 7 (Engrossed House Bill 2075) extends an estate tax on certain high-valued property.

You see part of the problem here as well. CERTAIN properties? SOME insurance? Which ones? The Voters’ Guide is unclear, as the law does not require explanatory statements or arguments for or against. It does give us a list of how these votes originally passed, and to be frank, there are not any that are even close. (and most of the guys I’ve endorsed in the past have voted Yea on these, so since I PUT these guys in charge to do exactly these votes, I'm going to support them).

I’m going for MAINTAIN on these non-binding bits of political theater, but I do want to know more about the Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971 (to see if it includes candlestick phones). But that’s just me.

The Political Desk - I-522: What's in Your Shopping Cart?

 I don’t fear GMOs, but by the same token, I’d like them to be labeled. Let me explain.

The most expensive initiative on the ballot, in terms of how much money people are willing to spend to stop it, I-522 requires we label food that is genetically modified. This is more than just Mendelian crossbreeding, but getting into the heart of the matter and throwing a gene into the genetic chain that might improve yield, or extend shelf-life or act as a naturally-growing pesticide. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Yes, you can throw that factoid out in the next dinner party. 

And to be honest, this is a pretty cool thing on the face of it. March of science and all that. My friend Wolfgang Baur has provided links from the American Academy of Science (the guys who publish SCIENCE, and usually part of the calm voice of reason) that indicate that GMO crossbreeds are generally as safe as normal crops. Of course, given what we’ve done with our normal crops over the years, that is praising with faint damns (we wash our fruit these days, but more from the concern of pesticides and chemicals than dirt and debris).

But I am still in favor of labels. Why? I’d like the data. I DO read the nutritional information on my multiple attempts to cut calories. I read them to make sure that there are no eggs (the Lovely Bride is allergic) or are free of MSG (gives the mom-in-law headaches). Yes, if you’re tweaking the genes, I’d like to know that there's a bit of chicken in there BEFORE the Lovely Bride has to hit the ER.

And it is not just me. Japan suspended import of US wheat this summer when some GMO wheat was found in an wheat field in Oregon. They found it when a farmer could not clear the field using Monsanto pesticides, in a bit of irony. So yeah, other people want to read the labels as well.

Both sides are pushing hard on this. I think the pro-labeling side is raising the specter of Frankenfood and the overwhelming pressure from Monsanto, who apparently read about the calorie companies in Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl and said “Yeah, that’s the dystopia WE want!”. Plus, their opponents of the labeling have been hiding their contributions, finally coming out only when the State Attorney General threatened a lawsuit (The big hidden contributors? Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle. So, what ARE in those Fritos?)

But the anti-side is pushing hard that it is a bad law – too many loopholes, not enough definitions, too many corner cases. Fine. Then let’s pass it and you can spend all the money you are currently putting in to defeat it into helping make the law better. Close those loopholes. Tighten up the regulations. It is not like you guys don't have access to the corridors of power or anything. 

I’m going with YES on this one. Not because of any scare tactics, or that Pepsico doesn't want you to know what is in the Doritos, or because Monsanto wants to be a calorie king, but because I want data. I read the box copy, and I vote.


More later,

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Political Desk - I -517: The Initiative Protection Initiative.

In this off-est of off-year elections, we have just two initiatives in the hopper, and one of them is an initiative to make it easier to file initiatives. Yes, it is just as recursive as it sounds.

I-517 is an initiative that will set penalties for interfering with initiative-gatherers, demand that any initiative making getting sufficient support get on the ballot, and extends the initiative-gathering season. To no one’s surprise, this initiative is being fronted by Tim Eyeman’s group, who has made a tidy profit launching initiatives onto the ballot to keep the government from actually governing.

Now, you would think that I would oppose this initiative just on the grounds that Tim Eyeman is behind it (and indeed, this is a reason the anti-campaign uses in their argument in the voter’s pamphlet), but you would be wrong. I think this is the greatest boon to freedom of speech in the face of an increasingly limiting government.

Quite simply, should this pass, we should all become initiative-gatherers. Think of it. Instead of homeless, we have a raft of signature gatherers at every stoplight who could not be moved on. Instead of bringing your muskets to an anti-government rally, you bring clipboards. The Occupy movement passes out brightly-colored vests so that Westlake Center become awash in people signing one another’s’ petitions. And the government Can’t Do A Thing, because initiative-gathering speech is specially-protected speech.

For companies, it is even better. I can’t advertise my smoke-shop near schools, but I can send in a raft of employees into that same space to gather signatures. Strip joints are illegal in many communities, but I can parachute women in bikinis in to put an initiative on the local ballot that allow sexy barista cafes. And, the cool thing is, if we get enough signatures, it is the responsibility of the community to verify all those sigs and put them on the ballot! Free advertising! Genius!

I know, we COULD just stop being so draconian about our normal freedom of speech and freedom of association to allow people actually, you know, speak and congregate, but that is so old-school. With the I-517 hack in place, we will be up to our armpits in clipboards and vests, each one pushing its own agenda, and once we get corporate sponsorship (since that’s part of the initiative process already (thank you Citizen United)), we can all turn into our own initiative mavens. I’m thinking of hiring all my unemployed writer friends as signature gatherers for I-522, sponsored by Monsanto.

We the People become We the Petitioners! Brilliant!


(And yeah, the above is all sarcasm.  Let us have a good chuckle, then vote NO on this foolishness).

More later