Wednesday, June 30, 2004


It is a tribute to how popular blogs are that even dead American politicians from the mid-19th Century get into it.

Check it out here. Its sort of like "The Daily Show" but without the messy current events.

OK, More later,

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

My Michael Moore Story

At the outset, I must warn the reader that my Michael Moore story does not feature any appearance by Michael Moore, though I will note that fellow blogger Jason over at Subversive Puppet Show did work for the man. Nor does the story contain any review of Fahrenheit 9/11, though such reviews can be found at Scarlett's , and the Mystical Forest, among others.

Instead, the story is about how books get made. Its a good time to tell the story because of Mr. Moore's current amazing and well-deserved success, and because tomorrow Spider-Man opens and all the film critics who are jittery about an opinionated movie (and who have just calmed down over The Passion of the Christ) have something safer to talk about.

I have this friend in New York who is in the publishing industry, with an emphasis on industry. Long-time friends know who I'm talking about, and while he will never likely read this entry (he, like a good chunk of New York publishing, is suspicious about any medium that doesn't rely on carbon paper), I don't think he'll mind my comments. He is involved in books as a medium of trade as opposed to a medium of art, and he is fairly successful in his vocation. He's given a lot of friends of mine good breaks to go in new directions - one ended up doing a King Arthur trilogy that put him on the map in a new area, while another broke out into alternate world thrillers thanks to his guidance. He views books a product, and while that attitude often offends those who see books as art, he has managed to serve both the muses and Mammon more often than not. In a highly competitive market he is always looking for an edge for his product - the new hot trend, a reduced price tag, a character in public domain, whatever. Something to sell the book in. And he's very good at what he does.

And we talk (sorry, in New York terms, we TAWK) every week or so. And occaisionally he suggests an idea (sorry, IDEAR) he's working on. A book that he'd like to see done, one that would be interesting and, more importantly, one he thinks he could sell in at a major house. We kick it around for a while. Sometimes the idea better suited for someone else. Sometimes we disagree on execution. And sometimes its just something I'm not interested in.

Case in point. About six months back, when I was just settling in on the new job, he called with a brainstorm. No one, he noted, has done a book on Michael Moore, linking the man's personal history to his cinematic style and politics. Sure, Moore has written his own books, and there's been a small forest felled for commentary on him, but no real popular biographies. My friend felt he could sell in such a bio of Michael Moore with a major house. I mean, Moore's got a movie coming out soon, right? And if I was interested, I could go to the library, dig up the Moore entry in Modern Biographies and hammer together an outline. Examine his youth. His exposure to cinema. The effects of Canadian Bacon on his career as a documentarian. Nothing too deep, but rather an accessable, quickly researched, straightforward book.

I wasn't sure - I had not read any of Moore's books, nor seen his movies, nor even found myself comfortable with his interviewing style (Though I must admire his Columbo-like approach to the interview - the VIPs he interviews often have that smug sense that they can get the better of him. Of course, he usually has final edit). I like his determination, and, yes, I will admit that he's an angry fat white guy, so there's some identity issues going on here. But the fact of the matter is that I took two weeks and never got over to the public library to check out the Modern Biographies entries, and when I realized my heart wasn't in the project, so I called up my New York Friend and passed on the idea.

And of course the movie came out and rocked the country for a week (mind you, it was up against White Chicks, though the Drudge Report had early reports that the Wayans brothers were going to take the weekend (and how pitiful is THAT for trying to spin)). It set new records for a documentary. Huge turnout, even in So-Called Red America (SCRA?). Very positive feedback. Dale Everett is telling his pit crew to go see it. So it was a missed opportunity. A big missed opportunity.

And so it was, for me. But my friend doesn't give up on a good idea, and there WILL be a popular biography on Michael Moore in the near future, but a film historian who my friend knows will write it (which makes a lot more sense). The only thing is the book was planned for when they thought it would be released, in November, so now there's a bit of rush on the project.

And that's my Michael Moore story. I had to tell it now because Spider-Man opens tomorrow and the world will spin onto its next new hot thing. But I felt it needed to be told. Mr. Moore would have wanted it that way.

More later,

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sunshine and Exhaustion

You know how people complain about how they get depressed in the winter with the short days? I think I've got the opposite of that. Summers here have always been tough on me.

No, seriously, I've been exhausted for the past four days or so. After a long week I crashed hard on Friday and haven't quite gotten back on the beam yet. Part of it is that dawn breaks very, very early up here, and sunset comes very, very late. Its not quite Alaska, but as we round Solstice, we're looking at less that eight hours of darkness. And when we have clear weather (and its been perfect for the past week) it gets worse.

Its very pretty to sit on your back porch and watch the shafts of the westering sun between the trees at, oh, 9:30 at night. And its pleasant to have the sun's morning rays through you window when your house faces north. But the amount of sun makes me more than a little restless, and hence the exhaustion.

The work load has been pretty heavy of late, with a couple major projections rattling home to conclusion. And I have two new projects that I'm trying to get off the ground. And, oh yeah, I'm still playing City of Heroes. But doing everything is just leaving me a bit worn out.

How worn out? I spent the past hour watching election returns. From Canada. That's how worn out.

More later,

Saturday, June 26, 2004

More Alliterate News

The Origins Awards for Gaming were given out last night in Columbus, and a few of my writing group walked away with some statuettes.

Steve Sullivan ("Sully") took the Fiction award for Podo and the Magic Shield, which was published on the WizKids Web Site. 'Grats as well to Wizkids Webmaster Kevin Goddard, who fought for fiction on the site.

Matt Forbeck's Redhurst Academy of Magic took both best RPG Supplement and Book Design awards. Both are deserving, the but the latter in particular - the layout and presentation of the book was unlike anything else that year.

And Indy HeroClix took Game of the Year. I had a small co-design on this one, but the lion's share of the work was from Jon Leitheusser of Nothing Good (and I'm not saying nice things about him because he still owes me a Galactus :) )

In non-Alliterate news, co-writer and co-designer Ed Greenwood was admitted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. That reduces by one my list of people I think still need to be recognized (How about some love for Mike Pondsmith, now?). Make that "reduces my list by two", since Larry Bond was also put in. I don't know Larry at all, except that he is the designer of Harpoon Naval Miniatures and was instrumental in Tom Clancy's Hunt for the Red October, but he's been nominated for years and its finally a good thing that he's been in.

Whew. We really need to get the Alliterates Web Site back up.

More later,

Friday, June 25, 2004

Someone Sent Us Up the F-Bomb

One of these things is not like the others:

In an interview in Rolling Stone Magazine
On the floor of the US Senate
In the reporting of The Washinton Post
In front of your mother at Thanksgiving dinner

More later,

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Alliterate News: They Call Him MR. President

Fellow Alliterate Don Perrin has been elected President of GAMA - the Games Manufacturer's Association. Congratulations!

(Normally, this type of news would go onto the Alliterates Web Site, but its been balled-up for over a month now, so I'm starting to report Alliterateness here).

More later,

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Meanwhile, in another reality . . . .

There's a cool little blog I must recommend you to, Today in Alternate History. It summarizes various important events that happened on this date in other universes, Things like:

in 1999 reclusive scientific genius Jeff Grubb gave his first and only public interview in 15 years, to the on-line scientific journal The Drudge Report. Grubb, the inventor of the Grubb biomass filter and co-developer of the Grubb-Dickos stardrive, credits his success to the positive economic and creative environment of the second Carter and truncated Mondale administrations. "With the strong push for creator rights and a healthy economy," said the iconoclast inventor, "It was only a matter of time before someone, if not myself, would come forward with these developments. Carter and the late Walter Mondale were responsible for unleashing me on the world, but I'm sure they did some good things as well during their terms of office.

Check it out

More later,

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Play: Summer Trifle

The Play's The Thing By Ferenc Molnar, Adapted by P. G. Wodehouse, Directed by John Michael Higgins, INTIMAN Theatre though 11 July.

You get into habits - Kate and I do the Seattle Rep, so we are comfortable with Repetory plays, know the drill, know what to expect, and know the placing and where everything is. Now, about twenty feet from the Rep's theatres (The Bagley/Wright and the Leo K.) is the Intiman, which has a different, though equally solid reputation. The Intiman is smaller and more intimate, and tends to have plays that are a little more biting than those that fill the house for the Seattle Repetory. Homebody/Kabul and 21 Dog Years were Intiman plays, Over the Moon more Reppish. So this opulent Wodehouse adaptation of a Hungarian play was a bit of a surprise - more mainstream, but still a delight on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Even the set design, usually minimal in the Intiman plays, was ornate and deep. No framework doors and black abyssal backdrops here, but rather a rich suite at a Italian Castle, tastefully rendered. The small cast of seven dress to the nines, and evoke the Belle Epoch of the time before the world wars (will we view the 90s in similar fashion?). And as dressy as the stage and costume are, the plot is simple. The young lovers are split apart by the intentions of an aging Lothario and it is up to the optimistic half of a pair of playwrites to rescue the relationship (and in doing so the play they all are working on). The optimist comes up with a plan, executes it, and solves the problems. Very, very straightline.

And over this, the actors run riot in their parts. David Cromwell, as the optimistic playwrite Sandor Turai, delivers with David Nivenesque aplomb. Mark Capri as the aged Lothario is suprisingly delightful as the rogue made to pay a public price for his indiscretion. The young lovers, Quinlan Corbett and Heather Guiles, were solid in their parts, but upstaged by the fussy secretary (Larry Paulsen), the laconic butler (Clayton Corzatte) and the playwrite's pessimistic writing partner (Laurence Ballard). Ballard is a Seattle tradition in my playgoing career, having been in two productions a year for as long as I've been out here, and brings his usual zest and excitement to a role that encourages his strengths.

So it is a small play - a problem is discovered and solved, the Wodehousean requirement of making one of the players look very foolish in the process (in this case, Capri, who does a beautiful turn as an actor forced to recite horrible, tongue-mangling lines as pennance for his crime). My only gripe is one that I see in a lot of theater - the writer is a genius. Not the writer of the play, but the character of the writer in the play. Inevitably said writer comes up with the solution, manipulates the other characters, drives the plot, and wraps everything up. And of course, gets the last word. Mind you, I have no strong objection to writers being presented as brilliant, witty, perfectly mannered and sexy beyond belief, but I have encountered enough of them now that I can see them coming a mile off. I need a writerish villain, a literary thug, a dullard of letters, once or twice a decade to balance me out, but that may be nature of modern theater (I also marvel that there are no horror plays of recent vintage, but that's another rant).

In any event, The Play's The Thing a pleasant diversion, light as a buttermilk biscuit and as sunny as the area around the Seattle Center fountain (and is truth in advertising in its title). The dialog zings, the plot hums along, and the inside theater jokes appeal. Its a pleasant afternoon.

More later,

Friday, June 18, 2004


If you've ever wondered about how easily-manipulated the media is, just ask yourself this question - how many articles about dodgeball have you seen in the past week?

Thursday, June 17, 2004


I spent the past half-hour up on my roof.

As I drove up Benson towards home this afternoon, I saw a plume of black smoke rising from the direction of my neighborhood. I was too far to the north to be on my street, so I doglegged, and found a house burning on the next major street north of my house. I drove past it quickly (there was other traffic), but I got a quick look.

It was an abandoned dwelling, little more than a cottage, its windows planked over by plywood. The fire was in the back, which meant I could still see the front, framed against the darkness and the flames. A neighbor dodged across the street in front of my car. His wife was standing on the other side of the road, garden hose in one hand, cell phone in the other. I drove past, and noticed that the fire had already spread - a burning ash had set a secondary fire in the vacant lot next door.

I looped back around to my house, pulling over for the Kent fire vehicles barreling the other direction. I got out and smelled smoke - the smell of insulation and dead dreams. I walked around to the back, and pieces of ash the size of maple leaves drifted down into the backyard. I was downwind of the fire. I looked up at the roof, which has a low slope and is hard to see from the ground. I thought of the smoke rising from the vacant lot.

So I took the morning newspaper, as yet unread, and went up to the roof. I couldn't see the building - too many trees as well as a school and a new development between me and it, and as the sirens got louder the pillar of smoke went away. An emergency chopper, red and white, whirled overhead in long loops.

After about a half hour, I came back down. Checked on Emily (she has another virus, and is moving very slowly again - we have her on antibiotics). And wrote this.

So how was your day?

More later,

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Blatant Plug

While I was in Rhode Island this past week, my latest short story was published on the web, as part of a pdf file (a first for me). The story is "Singer for the Dead" and it is set in Monte Cook's Diamond Throne setting. The collection, Children of the Rune, may be purchased and downloaded here. For those preferring dead tree technology for their books (which, admittedly, are durable, portable, and can be read with a flashlight), the print version will be available in August.

What makes this an interesting book for me is that almost all of the writers involved are friends, and we're all in the same general generation of authors. While I have always enjoyed by Dragonlance short stories, I have drifted to the "Elder God" end of the spectrum among other, rising young writers in Krynn, while in the Thieves' World short stories I've worked on, I have been one of the "new kids" (Both series were a lot of fun to work on - Margaret Weis and Lynn Abbey are wonderful editors, and both series are highly recommended). A lot of the group here I have had social dealings with along with working in the same shared world. We've gossipped at parties and hefted beers and traded information on our City of Heroes characters in addition to worked together.

For example, I got to read the stories by Stan! and Wolfgang Baur in early drafts, since they are fellow West Coast Alliterates, which meet every second Monday at an ever-changing location in Seattle. Thomas Reid, in addition to being my former cube-mate at WotC, is another Alliterate, dating back to my Wisconsin days. Will McDermott, Miranda Horner, Bruce Cordell, Keith Strohm are all former WotC alumni and co-workers. Ed Greenwood and I go back to half-past forever on the original Forgotten Realms and worked together most recently on Cormyr: A Novel. And I attended Sue and Monte's wedding years ago in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I must confess I have no deeply personal gossip about Mike Mearls or Richard Lee Byers, but I did once score a six-pack from Lucien Soulban in exchange for introducing him to some of the editors at WotC.

The end result, for me, is a very comfortable collection of writers. These are all authors with experience in the care and feeding of shared worlds, turned loose on a new territory for the first collected fiction work in the Diamond Throne. The end results are really, really, good, and I recommend you check it out, either now in download or later when the paper version shows up.

End of Blatant Plug (now go buy the book!)

More later,

Shorter Bush Ad, ESPN Version

If you ignore the first three-quarters of the game, we don't suck too bad.

More later,

Monday, June 14, 2004

Scott and Chaz are Married

Yesterday, two friends and former co-workers were married in a beautiful ceremony at Lakewold Gardens, south of Tacoma. Rather than repeat information, Grubb Street wishes the happy couple the best, and refers the curious to The Divine Ms. J for a much more detailed report.

More later,

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Yep, its back.

After careful consideration and listening to those that wrote in, I'm going back to the old template (which I wisely saved). While I liked the mature feel of the parchment background, I was irritated that the Profile section had a large zit of a typo in it that could not be removed (I chatted with the creator of the template, and he said it was a result of how they made the profiles). But the piece that made my decision was the fact that a number of readers use this page as a home page for reading other blogs, and the new version lacked a links section and header. So I'm back to the old template, and will be dinking around with it in the next week, taking the stuff that I liked from the new template and incorporating it.

In other news, I have gotten over the mild headaches from City of Heroes (I've gotten brain calluses), and have been playing way too much of it as a result.

More later,

Saturday, June 12, 2004


In an earlier entry on the recent passing of former President Reagan this journal noted: "He brought down the Berlin Wall". Actually the Berlin Wall was brought down in 1989, a year after Reagan's successor was elected. A month after that, President Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signalled the end of the cold war, and the following year the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved. Also sited as instrumental in the destruction of the Wall were Gorbachev himself (who in early May of that year signalled the end of the "Brezchnev Doctrine" that kept the Warsaw pact nations from democratizing), and "Baywatch" star David Hasslehoff, who sang "Looking for Freedom" at the Brandenburg gate before attacking the wall with a hammer.

The Mgt. regrets the error, and claims that it was caught up in the heat of the mourning.

More later,

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Boy In the Bubble

Grubb Street has been silent for the past few days, primarily because I have been out of town on business. Now, I have had (erratic) Internet access during this time, but I have had precious little to report or comment on other than work.

My trip has been to Rhode Island, to Hasbro, WotC’s corporate parent and our largest client. The nature of the trip involved an upcoming game product I was working on, and served primarily as a last-minute checkup on the project. Playtests were played, discussions were held, general decisions were reached and specific bugs were squashed. It was pretty successful, as business trips go.

The frustrating part, as far as I was concerned, was the meetings could be held in Nebraska or Ohio or the moon as easily as Rhode Island, for all the effect it had on me. There was no point where I stopped to think "Hey, I'm on the other side of the country". The life of the business traveler is that of moving through a bubble, passing through the surrounding world without really touching it.

Part of this is the fact that we have made it easier to travel. The pattern changes according to our state of national emergency, but in general, business travel has been smoothed out to am almost-frictionless plane. You give the employee a good hard push in Renton, Washington, and he slides out to Pawtucket though the gates of Boston and Providence with precious little impediment from the support mechanism. There is nothing to catch the hem of his garb as he moves between airport and rental car and hotel to remind him that he has moved thousands of miles from his starting point.

Similarly, the work load is such that there is precious little to see. This is my fourth trip to Providence, Lovecraft’s birthplace, but I have yet to see the city except for brief glimpses on US 95 heading north to Pawtucket. These were 11 and 12-hour days, well-spent, but leaving precious little time to encounter the world beyond the service workers and the hotel rooms. I made a major stride forward by finding the local restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, but it is hardly a victory to find the local mall.

So it was for the first three days of the trip. Thursday evening, after finally shaking loose (there was talk of wrapping by early afternoon, but actually I was one of the last to leave the building), I took the long trek up to Boston for a flight early Friday. My company had me booked into the Airport Hyatt, a deluxe building right on the harbor. The rental car place (slick, smooth, frictionless) was right up the road, so as opposed to shuttling I chose to walk along the harbor walkway back to the hotel.

It was a cool summer evening, the sun westering beyond the Boston skyline, its buildings unrecognized monuments to me. Water taxis danced over the harbor, and in the center a collection of sailboats circled like gulls. The evening light caught the glasswork of the monuments and splashed it out towards me. I ran into joggers, dogwalkers, and elderly couples. Not a businessman in sight. And even when I had gotten to the hotel, I ordered a nine-dollar margarita and sat on the back porch twenty feet from the water, watching the last of the sunset die and feeling the cool air descend. And for the first time in three days, I felt like I was in a place unlike any I had been in for months before, that I was on the other side of the country, and that I was really and truly traveling.

More later, after I take a long, long sleep.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Sound as a Dollar

Former President Reagan passed on this weekend after a long bout with Alzhiemers, and I wish his family and friends the best while realizing that we all must shake our fleshy shackles and pass on as does all flesh. To some degree I owe the course of my career to Mr. Reagan. Were it not for crummy economy of the first two years of his administration, and the gutting of environmental regulations, I might have remained an employed civil engineer specializing in air pollution equipment, and the world would be spared my literary work (but Reagan did some good things, too, so don't be too harsh on him for unleashing me on an unsuspecting world).

The media has been fun to watch all through this, trying to report relatively truthfully about Grenada and Iran-Contra without ticking off the hardcore believers who place RWWR next to FDR in the presidential pantheon. Indeed, there seems to be that sort of over-sensitivity normally ascribed to liberals in the right's protection of the man and his legacy - just waiting for someone to step out of line. The Murdoch press is even going so far to cast aspersions on the Kerry Camp for their blatantly political decision to cede the field for the week and not campaign. So from media there has been a head-nod to truth and pleasant rounding-up of the facts, which I think all of us hope to enjoy once we've passed on. The Berlin Wall fell on his watch, people, give him a break!

And there's a sharp intake of breath that, now that he has left the mortal coil, there will be the onslaught of memorial suggestions for the Gipper. While living, Reagan saw Washington's National Airport named after him - a irony, given that he replaced striking air traffic controllers and Reagan National has one of the nastiest flight approaches in the nation. There are folk who talk seriously about renovating Mt Rushmore for one more face. And there are those driving for putting him on money.

And the last one I whole-heartedly endorse. I can't find a lot of source about who makes the decision of who goes on our coins and currency, but the end results have not been promising.

In coins, there is no argument about Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, the most-popular and lowest-denominations. The FDR dime has been a bit weird (I like the Mercury myself), but Roosevelt was just as charismatic and just as polarizing as Reagan (back in my father's day, Republicans and Democrats celebrated Thanksgiving on different dates, so deep was the national division). The Kennedy half-dollar was a bit overlarge, but spawned in good intentions out a national mourning. The Eisenhower dollar was a manhole cover of a coin, the Suzy B was mistaken for a quarter, and the Saquajawea was pretty and golden, but tarnished quickly. A Reagan dollar coin would be a good thing, and if anyone can make the dollar coin work, it would be Ron Reagan.

In the paper money, again, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln have places held for them. Hamilton was not a president, but he was the first treasury secretary, and the only one most folk will remember, and has the support of most surviving Federalists. Grant was another Republican with a scandal-ridden administration, so we can't say that either fact keeps you out of the running. And Franklin on the hundred - yeah, I'm good with that. Even though he's not a dead president.

[Everything over a 100 is not really in circulation, though they supposedly exist. Larger denominations were moved out of circulation during WWII to keep counterfeiting at bay, and the practice continues to reduce use of untraceable large denomination bills. Besides, we have a lot of (sorry guys) second-tier stars and trivia-question answers at the upper levels, which makes me wonder how they got there - McKinley, Cleveland, Madison (OK, so he's due), Salmon P Chase (no, I'm not making that up) and briefly, Woodrow Wilson. I think we can safely say Reagan rises above this group.]

My personal candidate for a Reagan bill would be the twenty, currently occupied by Andrew Jackson. One of our more "colorful" presidents, he is most famous for the "Trail of Tears" which led to Oklahoma. After that, you're into his destruction of the Bank of the United States for memorable events, and then on to folksy anecdote. And admit it, who would be better for folksy anecdotes than the Gipper?

One killer argument is that twenties are already called "Yuppie Food Stamps", since they are the most common bill in the upper-class wallet (and will usually cover a meal for two). The Yuppies were also a spawn of eighties, and connect strongly with the former president's era. Its a match made in heaven.

So I'm going to put my recommendation forward - put the Gipper on Twenty. He'd be an improvement, and it wouldn't be on some bill that we wouldn't use. Let's give the man a real memorial!

More later,

Saturday, June 05, 2004


Weird, because I had such a PLEASANT Friday.

I've set up for a trip to RI to meet with the big client. I found out that the control of another project is passing into the hands of people I think can do it real well. I spent two and half hours in the dark yesterday afternoon watching the new Harry Potter movie (quick review - sweet and spooky and wonderful - if you are aware of how story unspools, it is a nice, coherent bunch of plots). And Poker Night at Phil's, and though the pots were running pricier than I am used to, I ended up in a long and polite discussion on religion and rationalism with a magician named Master Payne.

And then a harrowing nightmare that evening. No idea where it came from, or what repressed oogie-boogies of the subconscious are at work.

In the dream we were at a mall, shooting off guns - I'm not a gun-fancier, but the pieces were heavy and comfortable in my hands. Also present were some friends, as well as Indiana Jones, GIJoes, and Marvel Super Heroes in their civilian identities (a collection of boy-toys, I got that part). In the middle of the shooting a group of them drifted off while I was putting holes in golden coins held up at arm's length by Indy. I go looking for the rest, and they are in one of the stores, looking somber. I taunt them for not being happy and shooting things, and one points to the painted sign that had just been hung up. New Orleans had been hit by atomic device.

And I wake up sweating and breathing hard. Got the licensing tie-in angle, but why New Orleans? Its one of the few cities in the country that I've never been to, and I don't think I have any friends there right now? The idea of the frippery of what I do for a living in the face of darker matters is not lost on me, but that's hardly my subconcious at work. Is there something else working here? Maybe.

More later,

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Shorter Campaigns So Far

Bush: Still Not My Fault!
Kerry: Still Not Bush!

(Actually, the ad-wars seem to have shifted away from here for a while as Washington has gone from a swing state to +8% for the challenger).

More later

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

City of Headaches

Before I begin, I want everyone to know that this past weekend I hit the art museum and library (as previously noted), played Dos Rios, a European board game, and met with my semi-regular Call of Cthulhu group for a game that ran past midnight, visited the Mima Mounds with Shelly and the Monkey King (yes, I'll fix the Links sometime in the next week) cooked some, and mowed the lawn (long overdue) The only thing from the previous weekend I had thought of doing and did not do was make it out to Folklife at the Seattle Center, so I missed the monorail fire. And on top of that I've put in two long days at work dealing with minor crisis and just got back from Tai Chi.

I say all this because I want everyone to know that I have a real life when I say this: I also started playing City of Heroes seriously. Maybe a little too seriously.

Those who have followed the story so far know that I missed on a job opportunity because of lack of direct experience with MMORPGs (Massively- Multiplayer- Online - Role- Playing- Games, a phrase just made for Zippy the Pinhead to wander around saying). For that reason (among others), I got Groucho the wheezy laptop PC, with state of the art graphics card. This was followed by a two-month period where Groucho was in the shop because the screen died immediately. But I got it back, and picked up City of Heroes as my first big experiment in MMORPGS.

And then spent a week trying to update all the internal software so I could run the danged thing. There was a brief period where a friend-of-a-friend suggested a hack to make my laptop think it was a desktop, but that resulted only in the old graphics driver being balled up and shrinking my screen to half its side. Bringing in another friend (who does IT and plays in Kate's Star Wars campaign (Thanks Chuck!)), I found out that I could get it working.

Now, City of Heroes is a super-hero RPG - you are a hero in the overly-metagened metropolis of Paragon City. Your job is defeat the forces of evil, ranging from gangbangers like Hellions and Blood Brothers up to the minions of mechanical Clockwork King and the nasty Nazi 5th Column and beyond. You do this by finding them on the street (usually robbing little old ladies) and by taking missions that involve indoor encounters. The outside world has a huge horde of other heroes, but the indoor missions are for you (and any members of your superteam you bring along).

So I've been playing for little more than a week. I have a 6th level Tank named Celtron 2000, a 5th level Blaster named Pyrotic, and a 1st level Scrapper named The Crimson Moonbat. I've never done MMORPGs before for any length of time, so I've been growing used to the interface - I've gotten the movement and most of the attacks down, though I use the keyboard for determining what superattacks I use instead of mouse-clicks (it works faster for me). I've mastered the art of jumping, discovered that you can take fire escapes up to the top of local buildings to get a great view and find bigger bad guys, and know that while the Clockwork attack in mass, the 5th Column are poor losers, and will dispatch a hit team if you foil their plans. I've made a few mistakes (and spent an amount of time in the local hospitals) but the learning curve has been enough to keep me engaged.

Maybe a little too engaged. I've been having "architecture dreams" about Paragon City (those dreams where you know the layout of your dreamscape almost exactly). And I work up this morning with a dull, localized headache right between my eyes, a bit of disorientation at the edge of my periferal vision, and sluggish feeling. Its either the flu or perhaps a bit too too much City of Heroes. I'm betting on the latter.

This shouldn't suprise me too much. When the early first-person shooters came out, I made myself motion sick pacing the activity of Doom and Quake. So now need I break from City for a day or three. Now, I am very impressed both by the game's eye-candy (your hero is almost custom-built - I have seen very few other strongman midgets in yellow and brown with celtic designs) and the gameplay. The game designer in me has made more than a few guesses about how the game plays out based on how I would pull it off, and I've been right about half the time (One place I was wrong - I never thought of running around on telephone lines, which you can do in the game).

Its very enjoyable, and despite my activity in the real world, is a major time-suck. Now I have to back away from it and see if the ache in my brows ebbs. So I have to activate my Rest power and regain my Health and Enduance, but not too close to where the Clockwork spawn. . .


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Notes from the War

In updating my personal emails, I got two bits of war news:

First, my friend's daughter Allison is still in Qatar, and has been joined by more of her unit. According to her father, Qatar is the "New Caledonia" of the Gulf Theater (people who remember "McHale's Navy" will understand that comment).

Second, another friend and former D&D player from college, now a doctor and Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, has been chosen to be a Flight Surgeon at Johnson Space Center. This means he's going to be connected with NASA, working with the astronauts, riding the Vomit Comet and other cool stuff. That's the good news. The bad news is that before he gets to Houston he gets a three-month tour in Bagdhad, starting this week or so. Our thoughts are with him and his family.

More later,