Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Seasoned Greetings

'Twas the day AFTER Christmas, and the cleanup's begun ....

Yesterday was our annual Holiday Feast, and a good time was had by all. John and Janice, Janna, Steve, Bill and M'iko, and Wolf and Shelly, with a special new guest, their sweet-dispositioned child Heidi. We did the roast, brined turkey, with one of the best carving jobs I have ever done, traditional cranberry sauce, dressing, two types of mashed potatoes, poppyseed rolls, green beans with chipote butter, and a carrot/zucchini dish that went over well. Appetizers were our traditional rumaki (bacon-wrapped scallops and black olives), and stuffed mushrooms). Dessert we indulged on a cranberry cheesecake and a pear/cranberry tort. Needless to say, way too much good stuff, and we're still cleaning up today.

As the season has turned out, we handled a number of miscues, known and revealed. The tort was supposed to have a sweet red wine reduction that got TOO much reduced (to a dull reddish-black paset), so it ended up having a DRY red reduction instead with a backup wine. We sat down to the table forgetting the dressing, which we had crisping in the oven, and got a bit too dry (fortunately we had the savior of dry stuffing at the table - gravy). And I was so busy with the cocktails (I really have to stop treating them like chemistry experiments) that I had forgotten about the bird for an extra half hour. Fortunately, it NEEDED the extra half hour (It was a large bird) and it came out perfect.

Conversation was great, since this feast has become a holiday tradition, and young Heidi was a delightful, gurgling presence at the other end of the table (She didn't want out turkey, we, in turn, didn't poach on her Cheerios). Learned much I did not know, including that the Mint did commemorative coins back in the 20s (including one celebrating Confederate veterans) and a recommedation for Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragons, whether CSI has ever done a show on penny-smashers, and the existence of a channel that plays Music Videos like MTV used to.

And I did my share of the cooking wearing my new Christmas present from the lovely bride, a kilt. Actually, a dark green utilikilt made by a local company here in Seattle. It made things much more comfortable in the hot kitchen. I haven't quite decided if it is my style. but it is very comfortable.

More later,

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Season's Greetings


From all of us at Grubb Street, we wish you a safe, happy, and (relatively) sane holiday season.

More later,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tis the Season

I have to say, the holiday season has been more of an uphill push this year.

Mind you, most of October was a mad dash for the now-award-winning Nightfall to go live. And November was mostly spent in transit to far-off lands like Germany and Pittsburgh. So December was going to be a little easier, in theory.

Such was not to be. Starting with the insanity of the heavy snow and ice following Thanksgiving, we have seen a multitude of weather challenges - heavy rains, heavy winds, really heavy rains, REALLY heavy winds, colder temps than normal. The recent windstorm STILL has people in the dark, and everything else seems to have balled up behind it.

And yes, it all ripples out. A single traffic light out of commission snarls traffic for five blocks in every direction. A single block without power jams up everything else. Even such holiday norms as the tree and the cookies have been a challenge - the tree is lovely but fought me every step of the way, and the Lovely Bride's had to conquer several baking disasters. It has been a challenge of a season this year, but as we close in on the of it, I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

And by light, I mean the radiance of an oven cooking a brined twenty-pound turkey on Christmas Day. That's when I know I will be getting some downtime.

Well, after the dishes are done.

More later,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Announcing . . .

Yeah, I want to enter the main ballroom with this rolling off the chamberlain's tongue.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Count-Palatine Jeffrey the Antique of Barton in the Beans
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Accompanied by his Lovely Bride:
Lady Madame Catherine the Antediluvian of Piddletrenthide Under Booth
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

More later,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Bit of Good News

Guild Wars Nightfall took PC MMORPG of the Year from Gamespy.

You may now resume your normal Festivus activities.

More later,

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Ongoing

The mere fact that the Lovely Bride and I have power and have cleaned up the yard does not mean that its all over.

Power is still out to a nice chunk of the Western Washington area. The utility companies are still addressing the "big chunks" - areas where blown-down trees have blacked out entire neighborhoods. Mostly it seems that these "big chunks" are either in older neighborhoods with older infrastructure (White Center, Rainier Valley, West Seattle) or in new territories where the houses have gone in recently (Fairwood, Petroviski, Redmond Ridge).

The newer developments are particularly vulnerable since they reflect the developer tendencies to level everything except a few trees when they're putting in the new housing. Those few trees, sometimes kept as a "beauty strip" along the roads (where the power lines are) no longer have the protection of the rest of the forest that they grew up with, and are more vulnerable to being toppled.

And given the strength of the winds, it is not just new developments that are in peril. Our huge cedar out front has lost of lot of bark - on the windward side of the blow. Near as I can figure, this bark flaked off when that part of the tree was in tension from the wind load (wood does well in compression, not so good in tension). We've seen a lot of trees come down in our area of late, and this isn't helping matters for the survivors.

The air smells burnt at the moment, which is the result of pollution from a million people suddenly deciding to use their fireplaces. Coming down the hill, Kent and Renton were under a cloud that would Victorian London proud. Add to that the new category of death and danger as people are running portable generators (and in some cases charcoal grills) indoors. We are seeing more fires as well as people are not used to dealing with flame.

Finally, when I say that the power companies are getting the "big chunks", that means that at lot of small bits are still unaddressed. Stoplights are out in many places (Getting to Crossroads mall in Bellevue is a near-imposibility), and powerlines are down. There are cases where half an apartment complex has light, heat, and comfort and the other is still in the dark. And then we get to the tertiary services of cable and Internet, which is spotty beyond belief.

So we're still in the midst of it all. It is not Katrina-level, but is probably giving people a lot of pause about what happens if a high-level county-wide emergency hits.

More later,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Time Out

So, I guess, now that Time magazine has recognized the blogs, I can stop blogging.

No, really, as "Person of the Year" the newsweekly has chosen - YOU. As in "You who are blogging, getting your news from the net, checking out videos on the Youtube, and otherwise not buying our damned magazine". It is lame (as in lamer than usual) choice, and has a whole lot of "We couldn't figure out what to put up so we punted."

Now, of course, when the newsweekly pays attention to something, that is usually a sign that it is past its prime. And indeed, there has been a lot of fallout and refinement among the bloggers over the past year. Some have settled in to a regular market and subject matter (politics, comic books), while others have gone private or stopped writing entirely. The cases of "someone posts someone private to the web and discovers that everyone can google it" are getting fewer and further between. People are drifting off to the "next big thing", whatever it may be (myspace, facepage, whatever). In a decade, online journals may be viewed with the quaintness currently held for Civilian's Band radio.

In the meantime, I'm going to get what I can while I can, and continue to run this private soapbox for as much as I can get away with (even if I do have to update to the next interation of the service).

More later,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Happiness is ...

... A neighbor with a chain saw and a need for a lot of maple wood.

We've survived the big blow better than most. Ron, said neighbor who burns wood through the winter, was over yesterday afternoon, and by the time I got home, the trunk of the toppled Deadfall Maples (Chosen #1 by Fox News as "Great Names for your rock band) had vanished, along with the major branches, leaving me only to gather up the remaining branches and other blowdowns, which took most of the day today. The yard still has a lot of stuff that needs to be gathered up, but it more raking than heavy lifting a this point.

The power and phone are on at the house, and at the place of business as well, which was running yesterday despite the fact we were in Bellevue and had three half-fallen trees leaning against the south wall of the structure. The roads, however, were an absolute zoo, mainly because the traffic lights were out in places, snarling traffic horribly. Even so, we had the traffic lights back up by last night.

Power remains a hit and miss affair. Our neighborhood is fine, but go a mile north and they're out until you get to Renton, which is good, then another spot of darkness through Newcastle and then back on in southern Bellevue, the out for most of Bellevue itself. One of the big concerns for people have been gas stations - those that have had power have been overwhelmed from drivers who normally buy elsewhere. In the meantime there are a lot of trees being sawn up, and downed bows and sawdust are common on the highway.

And anyone who doesn't understand the importance of infrastructure is welcome to visit Seattle. This was just a mild wounding at the hands of nature. It could have been much worse.

More later,

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Blustery Night

We're OK. House is unscathed, as are the cars, and all that we lost in the yard was the bird feeder, which was smashed flat by a 60-foot bigleaf maple.

But start at the beginning. The big weather story for the past two days was the approach of a huge windstorm. Usually these stories have two resolutions - either the storm fizzles and everyone looks funny at the meteorologists, or we discover that we aren't as well prepared as we thought when faced with the latest climatic challenge.

This was one of the latter cases. We had brought in the lawn chairs and tied down the cover to the hot tub, but other than that, we were pretty cool. I even went to the company Christmas party, in Issaquah.

Now Issaquah is further inland than Seattle, and when I got out of the party, it was a mild night, no wind, a hint of rain. Nothing much, but as I drove back towards Seattle, the wind and rain picked up, and my ears started popping from the pressure changes. By the time I reached Renton, I was driving very slowly on almost-abandoned highways. By the time I reached the bottom of our hill, the car was rocking from the wind buffets when it was stopped at the lights.

And ten minutes after I got home, a tree branch, six inches across at the base, dropped square between our two parked cars, damaging neither one of them. Twenty minutes after that, the power, flickering through the evening, went out entirely.

And the evening was spent listening to the wind howl, and the occasional crash of branches. One particular crash shook the house, but it wasn't a "hit-the-house" kind of thump, but a "something big came down in the yard" sort of thump.

That was when we lost the bird feeder. One of the Deadfall Maples (still available as a name for YOUR rock band), the last large one, came down, missing the Aztec Temple Sacrifice Grill, missing the giant standing cat bird bath, missing the bronze herons, missing the red maple that Longshot is buried beneath, and slammed into the bird feeder, rendering it unto flinders.

And we're in cleanup mode. Power and phone have come back on at the house (though not Internet, yet - I'm updating over lunch at work). Traffic lights were still out near Panther Lake (with resultant messes). Branches are littering the front driveway. No newspaper (power cut out at the presses last night). But we're OK.

And I just found out my neighbor is itching to try out his new chainsaw on my downed tree, and needs more maple wood for his smoker. Things are getting back to normal.

More later,

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I have been having the oddest dreams of late.

They've been "unifed dreams" - ones where a lot of things happen in series, and where I have a mental "map" in my head of where I am and how it all fits together with everything else I've dreamed that night. At least, within the dream I have the feeling that it all fits together. I have dreamed entire towns and cities and nations in the past, usually with me walking/riding/driving through them.

But for the past week, I've been stuck in the same dreamspace, where all the previous night's dreams seem to feed into the current dream. The landscape is flat and southern, which is to say open fields and highways with tightly clustered forests in the mid-distance. Open highways. Blue skies. Fields of cows (not cattle - just cows). Diners. Leggy blonde waitresses with big hair. Rural towns made of tornado-friendly wood structures. Trucks and customized cars on the road.

I feel like I've been dreaming "Smoky and the Bandit" again and again and again. Can someone get in touch with Burt Reynolds and get his PO box? I'd like to send his dreams back.

More later,

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Every year, the Lovely Bride makes a wreath for the holidays. Part of this is because, every year, we have a large windstorm up on the hill, which brings down a lot of pine branches (and we have holly growing in the back wilderness).

And this year the windstorm hit this morning. I was awakened about 6 AM from the hail hitting the skylight. Then the wind. Then the lightning. Bright, close, lightning, much more of a midwest effect that we normally see in the Sound area. I lay in bed, counting the ticks between flash and boom, and figured the storm was moving off.

Then the power went off. For about an hour, but enough to mess up all the clocks. Finally, I got up and dressed in the dark (and my ensemble this morning looks like it - sorry, no pictures).

The sun came up, the clouds cleared, and the lights came back on. The bird feeder in the back yard has a decided list to it, now, and one of the plastic downspouts near the hot tub blew down, but otherwise, no real damage.

But the Lovely Bride is going to have to make a bigger wreath.

More later,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Year That Wuz

Lifted this meme wholesale from Nikchick. Its a little gibberish-y, but then at the moment I am in a bit of gibberish-y mood. The year in review, taken from the first lines of the first posts of each month

January: So I've been playing World of Warcraft for over a year now.
February: Well, someone woke up on the snarky side of the bed this morning . . .
March: So I’ve been doing an “American’s Top Forty” Countdown on the commemorative quarters the mint has been churning out.
April: Ah, the one woman show - another potentially perilous part of the theater experience, but the Rep tends to do it well.
May: So over brunch, the Monkey King and I were talking about his Friends List - he had made some shakeups recently - adding some people, removing others.
June: True conversation:
July: I was going to go on about comics, so consider yourselves lucky.
August: So Brainstormfront has sent me a note wondering why I haven't done much local politics, and sent me this link.
September: It is the first of September, and while the weather is still frighteningly warm and sunny, it is time for Grubb Street to suddenly turn boring.
October: Last year was rocky for the Seattle Repertory Theatre.
November: So Nightfall has arrived safely, rolling out on Friday to great acclaim and accolades, and I have to say that everyone did a fantastic job on it, putting in all sorts of hours to make the game as good as it is.
December: So, while I've been jetting around the country, other things have been happening:

But the last words of the month always is:

More later,

Thursday, December 07, 2006


So I've been thinking about the effects of D&D on Fantasy.

Stop laughing, I'm serious.

There are certain things about fantasy that were not true before 1975 that have become true later on. I'm not sure that D&D is specifically responsible for these tropes, but they have spread like wildfire. For example:

A multiplier of monsters: Certain creatures of myth and legend that were unique are now full races of the beast. I'm thinking of minotaurs in particular. Once there was a single Minotaur, connected with his maze. Now there are huge hordes of them (or in World of Warcraft, guilds of them).

A rainbow of dragons: The first Pern books showed up in the late 60s, but even given this, D&D did a lot to promote the idea that dragons come in flavors, like a box of Crayolas. In addition, the various flavors all breathed stuff other than fire. Do we have a reference to a chlorine-breathing Green before 1975?

Transforming a God: Tiamat was a many-headed serpent in Babylonian myth, a hydra-like deity pretty much forgotten. Now she (and definitely she) is a five-headed dragon, made up of the primary color prism of evil dragons.

A technology of gnomes: Yeah, I claim responsibility for turning the D&D gnome from short humanoid who speaks to burrowing mammals to its current Mad Scientist incarnation (something else you see a lot of in WoW). But I was making fun of engineers in general (as I am/was one). Previous incarnations include destructive gremlins of WWII and kindly cobbler elves. Were there the crazed inventor short people before Dragonlance lumbered onto the scene?

This is just what I've been thinking about. Are there others?

More later,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Ongoing Story

Raving Nutbars: We are shocked, simply shocked that a Muslim congressman wants to take his oath of office on a Koran instead of a Bible!

Rational Human Beings: Actually, congressmen are not required to take their oath of office on a Bible at all.

Raving Nutbars: We are shocked, simply shocked that congressmen aren't forced to take their oaths of office on a Bible!

(Should I ever be elected to public office, I intend to take my oath of office on a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 (first appearance of Spider-Man).

More later

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Play: Mom and Daughter

Memory House by Kathleen Tolan, Directed by Allison Naruer, Seattle Repertory Theatre, November 16 - December 17, 2006.

OK, I get it, finally. One act plays are like short stories. You don't have the requirement of the rising action, intermissional cliff-hanger, and changing of the sets. You can just tell tidy little stories.

And we have a tidy little story here. Mom and daughter, New Year's Eve. Mom Maggie (Jeanne Paulsen) is baking a pie. Daughter Katia (Sharia Pierce) is supposed to be finishing an college entry essay. Maggie is divorced and dealing with her ex's continued success without her. Katia is adopted, originally from Russia, and doesn't have a sense of her own heritage and identity. Maggie wants to hang onto her daughter but also let her go free and avoid the mistakes she made. Katia wants to be her own person but doesn't know what person that is.

Hey, I said a tidy story, not a simple one. And Tolan's script weaves around Mother/Daughter relationships, desires, and blueberries adeptly. Maggie and Katia have an incredibly good relationship, as such parental things go, and while the dialog hits the Mamet-levels in profanity, very little of it is done with heat or agression. You see a lot of family dysfunction on the stage, but this isn't one of those situations. There is concern and conflict, but you don't get the mad bomber attitude in most portrayed generational wars. Paulsen and Pierce have believable, understandable, likeable characters - you don't get the feeling that writer Tolan is setting up straw opponents, or that she is asking you to choose sides.

It works. It is straightforward and comfortable in a way that traditional theater can be. It sidles up to the big issues and goes for the heart and avoids being shmaltzy and embraces family values. The only thing I can criticize the production on is the pie itself - up in the cheap seats, many of the audience were critiquing the pie recipe (and Maggie's comical production of it) more than the other action on the stage. So add that to not working with children or animals. Don't work with pie.

More later,

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Little More Self-Promotion

So, while I've been jetting around the country, other things have been happening:

My short story, "Beowulf and the City of the Dark Elves", has appeared in The Further Adventures of Beowulf, Champion of Middle Earth. You can find a nice review here off Bookgasm.

Another short story, "The Sacrifice", has appeared in Furry Fantastic, and got good reviews from my parents. Hey, that makes me smile, since after all it is a story about human sacrifice.

And while other friends did all the heavy lifting, our previous game, Guild Wars Factions, won Multiplayer Game of the Year at the Digital Entertainment, Media + Marketing Excellence awards. Which I think is pretty cool as well.

More later,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Voyage Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Prestige

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Here are some place names:

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

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

More later,

Friday, November 24, 2006


Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh, with the family.

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

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

For all of that and more. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

It think the nerds have won, after all.

More later,

Friday, November 17, 2006

Guest Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,


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

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

More later

Thursday, November 16, 2006


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

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

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

More later,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Post Mortem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funny, that.

More later,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Back In America

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How do you say "arrrgh" in German?

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

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

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


More later,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So What Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Monday, November 06, 2006

Get Out And Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bible Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Saturday, November 04, 2006


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Friday, November 03, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later,

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I blame the Quakers

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


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

Patrick O'Brian and a hot tub.

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

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

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

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

More later,

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Night Before Hallowmas

Ah, Halloween, also called Hallowe'en, a perfect holiday of my childhood, existing as it did in a temporal bubble of relatively new neighborhoods filled with families with young children, of home-made costumes (devils, one year, Uncle Sams, the next (thanks Mom!)) of real candy bars before the bite-sized mass-packs. It is still like that, in many places, but increasingly its a party for the young 'uns elsewhere while us oldsters glut ourselves in the undelivered candy. Even though we have a lot more neighbors with the various housing developments going up all around us, few come down the dark, shadowy gravel driveway to that house far from the street.

Little did I know as a child that my experience was a transient phenomena, something that belonged to a particular part of America. Halloween, Hallowed Eve, the night before All Hallows Day or Hallowmas, wasn't all that big a thing before the 1950s. Our nation's early holiday-free years were absent of the day entirely, but with the arrivals of strong Irish imigration in the 1850s and Scottish in the 1970s, the holiday took root (it traces its origins to pagan celebrations co-opted by the church). Even then, for a hundred years it was more of a social gathering sort of thing as opposed to the house-to-house search for jumbo Snickers bars. According to the wikipedia it was more a case of Scots pride, much as Italian Americans use Columbus Day, Irish Americans have St. Patrick's, and Mexican Americans are increasingly using Cinqo de Mayo to celebrate their heritage.

And then, with the post-war baby boom and more disposable income, things changed. More costumes, more candy, more of a neighborhood adventure. One parent would man the door, the other (or an elder sibling) would take the youngsters. It was about the kids, but also a chance for the adults to visit, within the limitations of the patience of a small child hopped up on chocolate.

Since then, we've drifted a little. There are more local parties, in particular ones hosted at schools, in the daytime. Its a bit of nostalgia for the cool autumn nights, the houses with real pumpkins carved in front, the small ghosts, goblins, and princesses moving alonside their chaparones. Not for a time that never was, but for a time that existed only briefly, at a confluence of greater societal forces, and then continued to evolve.

More later,

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Local Politics: The Jeff Recommends

So today I cooked breakfast, recovered from the head cold, watched the Seahawks lose, carved a pumpkin, and voted (absentee ballot). And so as a result you get Grubb Street's endorsements.

At the top, for US Senator, I'm going with Maria Cantwell. For a freshman senator, she's done a lot, and her creds for environment, security, and veteran affairs are very strong for a one-termer. Her opponent, businessman and lobbyist Mike McGavick, started slow, then joined the ranks of self-immolating GOP candidates like Nethercutt and Rossi.

For US Representative, 8th District, vote Darcy Burner. Incumbent Dave Reichert, another freshman, has less of a sterling record, and though he is not under investigation (a rarity for GOP members of Congress), he has been pretty much in the pocket of his party, not his constituency. It is time to clean house in the other Washington, and I don't see Mr Reichert going in with a broom. Burner is a self-made candidate, the national party arriving late in the day to help out.

For Supreme Court, I strongly suggest Susan Owens over Stephen Johnson. Interesting thing that there was a lot of attack ads in the primary targeting Owens was (along with Chambers and Alexander, who won their positions). The BIAW, who has been funding Johnson, promised more of the same for the general. But then things went quiet, at least around here. Either the BIAW spent some of its money on real research and discovered this neck of the woods was not particularly friendly to their pave-the-earth approach, or they're just hoping that Johnson's generic name would carry through - this is one of those cases where more people would be more likely to vote for him if they didn't know what he stood for.

For the local-local races in the 47th, let's put up a cheer for Claudia Kauffman for State Senator, and Geoff Simpson and Pat Sullivan for the two State Rep positions. I've supported Simpson and Sullivan before, and to be quite honest, both men have done a good job. With all the work I've been doing on the game, I've missed that there has been a really sleezeball campaign coming from the state GOP against Simpson, stating that his marriage has problems. Yeah, I know, the GOP lecturing on family values is like the Holy Father of Rome going on The Dating Game, but Mr. Simpson has come out swinging, smashing the otherwise innocuous and inexperienced Donna Watts flat. So now the state GOP is robocalling, whining that Simpson runs negative campaigns (As a point of fact, no. I was paying attention the last time, it was the state GOP that was running the negative campaigns then, as well). Enough of this foolishness - Vote Simpson.

Then there are the initiatives. I-920 involves cutting taxes on rich, dead people as the expense of education. That simple. Its supporters could have scored points by coming up with an idea on where the money they were saving for the wealthy was going to be made up in the budget, but that woud be - you. Heck, even Bill Gates Senior supports the estate tax. Vote No on this mockery.

I-933 is another "gimme-gimme" initiative, where if you're prevented from putting a subdivision in your backyard, the state must either reimburse you for the lack of potential value of your imaginarily-increased property, or let you proceed. In other words, the state should either let you break the law or pay you for obeying it. This initiative is not only repulsive but badly written, and far from encouraging growth will choke it off in costly lawsuits as people try to figure out what it really means. Oregon has had to pay out six billion to date on a similarly badly-thought-out law. I'm not saying we're naturally smarter than Oregon, but this is a good place to prove it. Vote Hell, No on this one.

I-937 will require utility companies to seek out and develop alternate energy source, which is pretty much wind power. Similar laws have done well in Colorado and elsewhere, even saving money for the states, so this is one that's been driven around the block. Vote Yes on this one.

House Joint Resolution 4223 allows the state to up the withholding for personal property from $3k to $15K. It is one of those arcane measures that you look at and wonder why the heck they're asking you, but its a good deal. You want to help the small business that the I-920 and I-933 supporters cravenly hide behind? Vote No on the initiatives, and Yes on this resolution.

King County Proposition #1 is even more arcane. Sadly, it is not the Seattle Proposition #1, which involves whether strippers must stay four feet away from clients (which would have been more fun to research), but rather whether the county can sell or trade property that they bought in 1910 and whose bonds were paid off in 1936. Sounds pretty dry, but some of that property is on Lake Union and close to Boeing Field, so it could be valuable (Yeah, I use mapquest to find some of the land, but some of the descriptions were positively opaque). I'm going to say vote Yes on this one, but I really would prefer some assurance that the County will get a good deal on this, and not see some sweetheart deal move in. Keep and eye on this one.

King County Proposition #2 is more direct - raising taxes a smidge for better mass transit. Controverial, but as Dick Cheney would say, it's a no-brainer. I'd rather see more people on busses. Vote Yes on this one.

The rest of my ballot are guys without opponents, so if the issues and candidates in your neighborhood are not covered here, I suggest you go looking to find out the answers you seek. Then post them on your own blog. Because knowing is half the battle.

And now you know.

More later,

Update: One more thing you should know. If you're voting by mail, be sure to put 63 cents worth of postage on the letter. Democracy is expensive.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Play: Flop Sweat

Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno, Directed by Jerry Manning, Seattle Rep, October 5 - November 5, 2006

Blame the exhaustion from making the live date. Blame the nascent headcold I am nuturing. Blame the two glasses of overpriced wine. Blame the fact that I had just started reading Scott McCloud's Making Comics and was really enjoying it and would rather still have been reading it. Heck, blame the fact that I'm finally becoming an old fuddy-duddy. But I found Thom Pain to be a shining example of bad theater at its worst.

I wish I was making this up. It was an angst-driven, whiny, confused one-man show, an impressionistic painting of swirling oils that, if you let it wash over you and against you, will eventually clot into a picture, but not a particularly, deep, enjoyable, or interesting picture, and in any event ends up making your skin itch. Sort of a theatrical magic eye painting. You look hard enough, you might see something. Or you might just strain your eyes.

The play starts and stops fitfully, with the actor breaking through the plane of the stage's edge to engage the audience, then proceeding to bite them. Every damn time, until he has forced a sort of fearful victimhood on his prey. Sort of "Knock Knock", "Who's there?" "Only retards answer knock-knock jokes!" No, this line was not in the play, but it could have been. Worse were. Pretentious, mean-spirited and ultimately predictable, from the opening monolog in the darkened stage to the protagonist in business suit and no socks to the lack of a curtain call - instead the actor doing a meet-and-greet in the lobby afterwards. This is tolerable for the first work of the angry young man in some loft space or community college, but out of place here.

How bad was it? Imagine you're hanging out with that bipolar friend, the mildly schizo one? That overly intense pal from college that wants to prove that life sucks, that his life sucks, and therefore, YOUR life must suck, who wants to engage you so desperately that you are thinking of fleeing the room just to escape the terrible gravity of the black-emo-hole that is his world.

One did flee, in the opening five minutes. He was, I think, a plant, an innoculation, calculated to keep the rest of us captive by showing the actor flying off at the mouth at him. The next six people that took off, though, were real, quickly hitting the limits of their tolerance of this foulmouthed, unlikeable, unengaging character.

The actor himself, Todd Jefferson Moore, was pretty good, considering that he was charged with the task of carrying this huge chunk of emptiness onto the stage and creating a character of the type best avoided on public transportation. He wasn't responsible for the bile-driven naration and attempts to wade his way out of it, and best of all (and this is a good point)- sells the character truthfully. Mind you, he isn't a character would want to talk to for one minute more than absolutely necessary.

So what we have here is an avant-garde play that is completely predictable, a mounting rage against the world that neither illuminates nor entertains, a postmodern joke without a punchline.

Knock, Knock.

More later

Friday, October 27, 2006

It's Alive!

Nightfall went live late last night. Hilarity ensues.

More later,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Massively Multiplayer

The shoe dropped yesterday that the World of Warcraft expansion, Burning Crusade, already delayed to the end of November, is further delayed to the end of January and perhaps beyond.

In other, unrelated news, Guild Wars Nightfall is set to go live in less than two days. Just sayin'.

More later,

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dream - Space Suit Mummies

So in the dream I was in my car (the little Hybrid), at the Mt. Lebanon High School parking lot, a wide expanse of asphalt with a great view. Except I didn't get a great view - the car was surrounded by pickup trucks and SUVs, so I looked away. When I looked up, the trucks were gone, and I surrounded by mummies in space suits. I knew they were mummies and not zombies because they were very, very dry through the visor, and they were wearing the suits because otherwise the rain would disolve them.

One of them reached for the doorhandle, and there was that moment of I-must-move-but-cannot you get in dreams and horror movies. Then I reached for the keys and fired the engines up, and drove of in a heavy rain, space suit mummies in hot pursuit.

Yeah, my subconscious is trying to tell me something, but it might as well be in Catalonian for all the difference it makes.

More later

Monday, October 23, 2006

In Other News

Ms. Julia Martin is recovering well. Eric at Mystical Forest keeps us up to date.

I have developed a nasty addiction to "Top Chef", running on Bravo, which is one of those "Reality-Survivor-Shows" (which I loathe) but this one involves Cooking! I can just imagine the three-beat they used at the meeting for this one (and I am already rooting for the French Chef - we are soooo easily manipulated).

And speaking of easily manipulated, the Seattle Times claimed to examine each candidate individually, and then chose from the select group that backed their publisher's pet campaign to get rid of taxes on rich people. They endorsed both Republicans Dave Reichert and Mike McGavick. The Times has not matched the Wall Street Journal's chasm between what they report in the news section and what they say on the editorial page, but you can see it from here. Meanwhile, the P-I endorsed Burner and Cantwell, which involved much less denial of their own reporting.

The RNC, by the way, has bailed on sending any more money to McGavick's campaign. He joins Burns of Montana and Santorum of PA for those left to their own devices.

And yes, I can think of a Republican who is not in deep trouble this election cycle. Schwarzenegger. Weird, huh?

I have received my absentee ballot, since I will not be in town on election day. Go and do likewise.

So both the Seahawks and the Steelers lost their quarterback and the game last weekend. However, all coverage of the Seahawks mentions how the 4-2 team is "cursed" by the loss of last year's Superbowl, while the 2-4 Steelers are still destiny's team, sure to be back for the Big Show. This particular situation could be used in journalism classes to teach about slanted coverage, if only anyone was still teaching journalists anything anymore.

On the other hand, Seattle's new slogan is "Metronatural". Yeah, even I think it's a crock - "It's not natural - it's Metronatural."

The new Doctor Who is great. Yeah, he's one of those people who can wear dark-rimmed glasses and not look like a total nerd.

And lastly, we go live in less the four days. The wear is starting to tell, particularly on the younger designers who are putting in plenty damned hours.

Most later,

Saturday, October 21, 2006



Hello! This is the National Republican Congressional Committee. We're calling you today to tell you that we're pouring $1.3 Million into the race for the Washington State Eighth Congressional District.

And we're not using that money to tell you what a swell guy Dave Reichert is. That would be too much work. Instead, we're using all that money to tell you that Democratic Challenger Darcy Burner is a bad, bad person.

She wants to raise your taxes! She wants to let illegal immigrants sleep in your beds! She wants to give away your job to farm animals!

How do we know all this? We're making it up! We grab some random quote off the radio that we never show and then run down the hall, screaming at the top of our lungs! Its easy to do, particularly when you're trying to run a smear campaign from the other side of the country!

How can we get away with it? We assume that you're all morons. That you won't bother to check out the facts behind our attacks, and just be scared enough to vote for our guy. Hey, it's worked for years. Why not now?

Back to Burner. She's a negative campaigner! She's a horrible nasty negative campaigner! She's a negative campaigner because she keeps showing pictures of Reichert hanging out with the President. Our horrible-unpopular GOP President! If that's not negative, we don't know what is!

Why are we doing this? Well, we're kind of desperate. We're hip-deep in this scandal where we've been keeping skeevy GOP Congressmen in office because, even if they may have a host of nasty little perversions, they're still Republican. And as you know, it's OK when a Republican does it. No, really! So if we sound a little strident and whiny, that's why.

We figured a year ago that we had this seat in the bag. The Incumbent does what we tell him to do, and doesn't ask a lot of questions. Now, all of sudden, this nobody shows up and starts running a real campaign. Next thing you know, the Conventional Wisdom on the race has gone from Leans Republican to Toss-Up, and our opponents have all this archival footage of the horribly-unpopular Prez hanging out with our boy.

And it's not just here! We're tossing money into Idaho! Ida-freaking-ho! And Montana! How can we screw something like Montana up? Man, someone is going to get promoted to a position where they can't do as much damage over that one!

And we're giving up on races that we don't think are going to work, like the Senate campaign of Mike McGavick. Which is why he is suddenly trying to turn himself into an anti-war candidate. You see, when you don't give them cash, they go off the reservation!

So you're going to get a lot of mailers that look like they came out of a high school art project and radio ads with scary music and TV ads where we show Darcy Burner's face in black and white (Black and White! Bad!). And robocalls like this one, where you can't talk back. Lots and lots of robocalls. How can we do this?

Did we mention we're pouring 1.3 Million Bucks into this race?


Thursday, October 19, 2006

DOW Breaks 12000!

After six long years, we get a totally new milestone. A sign that corporate America is finally on the mend after world terror, uncertainty, and general economic mismanagement.

The business section of your local paper says you should be happy about this. If not, why not? Discuss among yourselves.

More later,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Julia Martin

Julia Martin, an old friend and editor of more D&D projects than you can wave a stick at, is in the hospital with what may or may not be a stroke. Our thoughts are with her and her husband Eric.

Update: Here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Seattle Weekly, RIP

Once, a long time ago, I watched a lot of AMC, American Movie Classics. It ran a lot of old movies, black and white stuff, and a smattering of original programming, with no commercials. Then they decided to "improve" it, and added commercials and sent most of the B/W films further up the pay-channel scale and got most its movies from the same 70s-80s vault that TBS and TNT pull from. And I stopped watching.

Ditto TV Guide. Once this was a necessity in the household, a digest-sized weekly booklet that told you not only what program was on, but what episode, and did movie summaries as well. And then its owners decided to improve it to make it more marketable, and turned it into another People Magazine clone, its TV schedule outdone by the Sunday newspaper. Farewell, TV Guide.

And now the Seattle Weekly. It is one of our free weekly papers, and if you're from an urban area, you know what that means. Tabloid sized giveaways in honor boxes and bars, some content up front, restaurant and club news in the middle, and skeezy escort ads and personals in the back pages. Usually left-of-center and struggling, their success measured in the size of their editions and the thickness of their advertising.

For many years, the Weekly was the best little local paper in Seattle, with a stable of solid columnists, a local, left-of-center political view, and real investigative journalism. Youth oriented, activist, and willing to handle stories that the big two (the P-I and the stodgy, estate-tax-fixated Times) would not.

Then it (along with its related papers, including the Village Voice out of New York) was sold to New Times Media, a group out of Phoenix, who kept the Voice name (now called Village Voice Media) but has been gutting its papers of alternate voices in favor of more "local events". So the interesting stuff at the front has disappeared, along with investigative journalism. Such old political columnists like Mossback and Geov Parrish are history, replaced with features on Pet Obituaries and (I wish I was making this up), a humor column called "Ask a Mexican".

And I fell away, but I did pick up a copy the past week to see how the mighty had fallen. The lead article was on long-lasting, high-priced restaurants. There was a humor article about Mayor Nickels sending nerdy emails that was listed under the heading "news/investigations". The Ask a Mexican was sent to the back of the mag, but the skeevy ads for adult clubs seem to have moved forward. Most telling, the letters section, usually one of the more interesting areas (the old Weekly published hate mail like a badge of honor) consisted of two letters, both supportive of the paper.

The Weekly has jumped the shark, seeking an audience that won't read it anyway. I was in a favorite watering hole on Friday and picked up this copy, which is important - used to be you couldn't get a copy after Thursday. There was a big, untouched stack of them by the door, and a much smaller, picked over stack of the Weekly's rival, the Stranger, which has its own rep about being more hip than those hippies over at the "Weakly".

But in the wake of the destruction of the Weekly, the Stranger has been changing as well, its political antenna vibrating in the breeze, its coverage moving in the voice the Weekly has left behind. And so The Seattle Weekly has succeeded where the Stranger has for years failed - it has made the Stranger a relevant, enjoyable paper.

Now if the Stranger would hire Geov Parrish.

More later,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Local Politics: Lies, Damn Lies, and Initiatives

So, the initiative process in Washington State was set up a method of allowing more direct access to government by the people. For many, many years, it was considered to lawmaking what the public access channel is to cable - strange but generally harmless. But now that huge amounts of cash can be directed through these initiatives, they have become yet another avenue for the wealthy and the corporate to steer the state, without having to worry about that meddlesome legislature.

There are three initiatives currently on the ballot this fall. Two of them are the wealthy trying to manipulate the less-wealthy to the advantage of the wealthy, but all three deal in deception.

Let's start out with I-920, which will get rid of the estate tax, a bothersome nuisance to the half-a-percentage point of estates that are large enough to qualify. Unfortunately, the people with these estates have money, which they will cheerfully pour into this campaign, using such megaphones as the Seattle Times (whose owner, being among the wealthy, is apparently determined not to die until he gets the tax repealed).

And so there is a lot a noise about how unfair this tax which hits the rich (which affects about 250 households a year) is to the little guy. Yep, you. About how it is horrible for family farms (in reality - family farms are exempt from the current estate tax). How it is horrible for small business (the definition of small business is rather large). How it punishes the wealthy unfairly (it does not tax the first 4 million of the estate. Let me say that again. First Four Million) and how it really is a nuisance tax (to the wealthy, perhaps - the tax provides about $100 million, which is directed to the school systems).

There is a lot of smoke about this one, but the bottom line is - feel free to vote for this initiative if your full-time accountant tells you it will work for you. You don't have an full-time accountant? Then you might want to vote no on this.

But actually, that's not the most odious and loathsome initiative on the ballot this year. That honor belongs to I-933, which basically states that if you can't develop your property because of regulation, the government must either reimburse you for the loss of value or waive the regulation holding you down. Funded heavily by out-of-state developers and supported by the Washington State Grange, the idea is that if you want to put in a subdivision, or a strip mine, or a hog farm on your property, and those nasty little regulations keep you from doing it, then you should be paid for not building it as if you had built it.

And like the anti-estate tax loons, the anti-regulation guys pitch I-933 as being a good thing for you, the little guy. How dare the government tell you what you can and cannot do with you land. Of course, the flip side is that the same laws that keep you from putting a dozen homes on your two acre lot also keeps your neighbor from putting a dozen homes on HIS two acre lot. A similar law was passed down in Oregon, and since then the state has seen a combination of outrageous development (strip mines in state forests) and a huge cash drain (about four billion with a b and counting). Plus the fact the initiative is so badly worded, that would be a field day for lawyers (and don't count on the State Supreme Court tossing it out - the developer-friendly BIAW has been working on packing the bench for years now).

Yeah, this is a hit-yourself-in-the-head initiative, which depends on you, the little guy, being really, really, really stupid. Vote yes on this only if you're planning on selling your property and moving to another state that has saner controls on property.

Finally, there is I-937, which will require utility companies to hit target numbers of energy conservation and use of renewable energy resources. It feels like the type of initiative that the system was put in place to enable - broad-support that should benefit the community in the long term. Cost (according to the Fiscal Impact Statement), is about $167,000/year over 14 years - a drop in the bucket compared to the other two give-aways. And similar bills in other states (like Colorado) have produced savings over the long term.

Here's the deceit, though. This is a wind-power bill. Doesn't say it, but it is. Hydro is excluded, geothermal is not sufficiently online (odd, given our location in volcanic territory), and similarly solar is undermanned (and before you make the always-cloudy joke, we have a lot of clear skies east of the Cascades, thank you). I'm a fan of wind power, ever since I first saw turbines dotting the hillsides overlooking Oakland, and I think its a viable option we should encourage. But just so you know - this is about wind.

So three Initiatives - two of the insanely bad (so vote no on I-922 and I-930), one with good intentions (I-937). Welcome to the vox populi of the initiative system.

More later,