Thursday, August 31, 2006

While You Were Out . . .

So after my respite from the wonders of technology, I spent a couple days trying to catch up with what was happening in the outside world in my absense. The most personal discovery (and the one I missed at first blush) was the sad news that Snaggles, Shelly's and Wolf's sweetheart of a dog, had a stroke. She is recovering from the worst of it, but is very fragile. Our thoughts and with her and with her owners.

Moving outward from the personal to the national, in local politics our GOP candidate for senator Mike McGavick chose to make a clean breast of his past. Yes, he laid off a bunch of people. Yes, his first marriage was a failure. Yes, he was pulled over for a serious DUI and got off without it on his record. Yes, he made sleazy and misleading political ads in earlier campaigns. But you should vote for him anyway, because this election is about character. I swear that it's like an early, funny Bloom Country strip, where Senator Bedfellow confesses to a littany of crimes and then shouts "Honesty in a Politician! Isn't that what you want?".

Speaking of honesty and politicians, there was a bi-partisan sponsored bill up that would make government spending just that more transparent, which has been help up by a "secret hold" requested by another senator. After the blogosphere, piqued at the idea, launched into investigating this, the "secret holder" turned out to be Alaskan Porkbarrel Senator and McGavick supporter Ted Stevens. And the reason Sen. Stevens, notorious for his $200 million bridge to nowhere, gave for his hold? He was worried about the cost. Jon Stewart is no longer needed - the senators are now writing their own punchlines. Update: Turns out my old porkbarelling favorite, Byrd of West Virginia, ALSO had a secret hold on this bill. Whew! And here I thought he had lost his edge to this young whippersnapper from Alaska!

Other news - there was a flurry of interest in Huricane Ernesto, until its decided not to hit New Orleans, at which point interest ceased. There was a similar lack of interest in Ioke, which caused Wake Islands to be evacuated, and John, which is Class 4 but ripping up the Mexican coast. Let's see, what else, - we had a nasty plane crash which killed 49, the result of a plane being on the wrong runway. And the tower was understaffed at the time but there seems to be more huggamugga about Conan O'Brien's opening skit for the Emmies, which also featured a plane crash. Oh, and apparently the skeezey guy who confessed to a ten-year old child murder isn't the one responsible, and was doing it for the attention. Which the media cheerfully provided. And yet another administrative official (Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who was previously terrorizing PBS for not being conservative enough, and from the heat of that tempest was removed and sent to another position in the administration) was caught doing illegal stuff. Just pile him on top of the others in the hall.

And Iraq. Still there. Still nasty. One of my regular readers passed this article on about the Marines who have served their time in the war zone being recycled back into the mess, with an eye towards expanded operations. Yes, one of the Lovely Bride's gaming group is still there in the Big Sandy. Yeah, I want him to keep his head down.

And it all makes you want to go on vacation again.

More later,

Monday, August 28, 2006

Living in the Past

So I've been gone for the past four days or so - left without a forwarding address, slipped this technological tether that I've created and headed out for parts unknown, with the singular justification of celebrating the successful navigation of forty-nine orbits of this particular rocky sphere (which remains, for a moment, a planet and not an inner-Jovian mars-like body). And to do so, I went to the ends of the earth.

Well, to Ashland, Oregon, to be accurate.

The Lovely Bride took the long drive down to near the California border for Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The drive down and back was made more painless by one of Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey novels in the CD player (The Fortune of War, if you're interested, which deals Aubrey and Maturin's adventures during our War of 1812, and which the LB enjoyed, though she wanted to shake Maturin vigorously in regards to his taste in women). And the trip south went well enough, through a dry brownish land of Christian billboards, poor drivers, and faded American flag stickers. The distant mountains were invisible in the haze and dust, and the fire danger was and remains high.

And then, Ashland, an oasis backed by steep pines. Like Madison and Austin, it's a deeply liberal community where you would not expect it. Like Lake Geneva and Port Townsend, it thrives off a tourist trade. In this case the trade is brought in by the Shakespearer Festival, which means it attracts a higher grade-point average than your normal tourist mill. As a result, the local shops sell t-shirts that say "I (heart) Math" and most of the tourists look like retired English teachers. The music store is called "CD or not CD). Even the local paper, the Daily Tidings uses words like "vie" and "shirk" in headlines on page 1, above the fold.

The Lovely Bride and I stayed at Pelton House, a beautiful B&B near the heart of town. which I recommend strongly. We stayed in the Earth room, which was the lower floor of a detached dwelling behind the main house, which afforded some privacy as well as access to a hot tub. I particularly liked the lack of what the Lovely Bride calls "frou-frou" - romantic gingerbreading and lace that collects dust and makes most husbands feel generally uncomfortable. In addition, they served a wonderful breakfast in the morning (bread pudding the first day, a sheared egg the second, and I must regret we could not stay for the morning meal today).

We took in three plays - Merry Wives of Windsor, Cyrano De Bergerac, and King John. For Windsor we were in the nosebleed seats, which gave me an appreciation for the capabilities of the un-microphoned actors, and frustration with the sound systems when they did rely on microphones during the dance numbers. Yes dance numbers - three in all, the third being the best. The play itself is the model of a situation comedy, in that it has an "A" Plot (Falstaff woos two women to get into their husbands' purses) and a "B" Plot (the young lovers separated). Falstaff is the marquee character (lovably portrayed like a favorite rude uncle by G. Valmont Thomas) but the juicy roles are in the hands of Jonathan Haugen as the jealous husband Master Ford and Judith Marie Bergen as a Cindi Lauperesque Mistress Quickly. The costumes were two parts Dickens and two parts Dr. Suess, and lead up to a final number of the cast as buskers in black bowlers and shell-sequinned suits.

Cyrano was the play I dreaded, for I knew the story and I knew it to be a bit long, but I found it the best of a very good group. The scheduled lead was replaced by Richard Howard, who was absolutely fantastic in the role. Howard carried his charge forward as the man brave and capable in all things except love. And while the Lovely Bride would like to shake Roxanne until she rattled (she has a lot to say of late about life-choices of the young and fictitious), I think Cyrano deserves a few lumps as well for his continual justifications for not coming clean. And the performance was wonderful, as the lead takes us through not one death speech for Cyrano, but the five or six ones that pile upon each other - a challenge to an actor to hold them all together before his character is at last allowed to expire.

And then King John, finishing my trifecta of old warriors. The problem with Shakespeare's historicals is that they were not horribly, um, historical, in nature, so I should let theme weigh in where accuracy fails. The place is given a patina of pre-WWI England in costume, set upon a mostly bare stage, and presented in the round (guarenteeing that at least for part of the proceedings you will be looking at the speaker's back). Poor John, rounded by history as evil (in the Robin Hood mythos) and weak (in succumbing to the Magna Carta), and laid out here as denied the approval he desperately desires. Michael Elich carries him off well, without falling piteously to his supposed nature. And the Shakespeare rejects both John and the young candidate Arthur (also dominated by his mother, as John is portrayed overborne by Eleanor) for an imaginary bastard of Richard the Lion-Hearted (Rene Millan) who embodies the true virtues of the British Crown, including loyalty. With enough propaganda of that day and this (and more than a few swipes at Rome), the Lovely Bride found the continual deal-making and oath-breaking to be a delight.

In the down times between plays, the LB and I walked through Ashland, discovering a comic book shop that has a better games section than most of the hobby stores in Seattle. And we walked the residential areas, finding lovely gardens and houses strewn with tibetian prayer flags. And we sat under the grape arbor at Pelton House, reading - I picked up and finished a short book on the Great Ashland Flood of 1997, as well as scrolled off another 200 pages of Neil Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, which is to say, advanced the plot just a little a bit. And we ate very, very well for the town has a host of extremely good resturants.

So in the end it was a wonderful close to the summer, a last bright gleam before plowing into some rather hectic deadlines ahead. But for the weekened, it was all about the past, and it was very nice indeed.

More later,

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Gotham City, Louisiana

Sometimes your remember exactly where you were and what you were thinking.

It was a year ago, and I was riding down the elevator from the offices at Pokemon USA, where I was doing some contracting work. PUSA is based in one of those tall, newish office buildings in downtown Bellevue, a building that was otherwise filled with law offices and financial planning corporations. So it should be no surprise that the elevators had their own flat-screen TVs in them, with their own "network: called "CAPTIVate", which flipped through the headlines in national, sports, and business. A typical trip up or down would bring you about three or four items.

And on my way down, I saw on the flatscreen that a hurricane made landfall in Florida. And at first I thought "This has been a busy season - we're already up to the Ks". And then I thought, "But despite that, they haven't done that much damage this year."

And within the week I remember how stupid it was to think that second thing. Katrina powered across the Florida peninsula, picked up strength in the overheated gulf, and slammed into the south coast, destroying New Orleans and much of the coastline of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. And I followed the devastation thereafter, and the criminally insane response of our government.

I throw around phrases like "criminally insane" usually like they were manhole covers, but there is no other explanation for what happened and continues to happen. We have seen the botched evacuation and equally-botched recovery, the Big Easy generally forgotten and the rural disaster areas completely ignored. In the wake of the storm we saw oil rigs sitting on the shore near Biloxi - are they still there? And the crowning touch was a headline I caught earlier in the week (and I wish I was making this up) "White House to New Orleans: Help Is On The Way".

And it made me think about Gotham City, of all things. About '99 or so, the DC Universe got a touch of Millennial Fever and decided to nuke Batman's home town. Ok, it was actually earthquakes, bane of the East Coast, that nailed it to the point that the government blew up the bridges and kicked it out of the country. Because it was, you know, a total loss. As Bruce Wayne, Bats tried to head it off, but it was no good - eventually he had to go back into the city and try to rebuild it himself. Eventually Lex Luthor (of all people) steps in to help, an action that gets him enough good press to get him into the White House.

And at the time (never being a hardcore Batman fan), I thought it was pretty silly, even for a comic book - why would the federal government turn its back on an entire city? Who would believe it? What kind of political suicide was THAT?

Well, in the wake of Katrina, now we know. And a year later, things are still pretty bad, as stories bob to the surface like gas-bloated bodies finally drifting loose from the rest of the jetsam. The only difference is that New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast doesn't have a Batman to help them.

Or even a Lex Luthor.

More later,

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


So I haven't updated for a few days. And a big part of it is that some religious nutbag overseas determined that yesteday was going to be the start of WWIII, so a bunch of OUR conservative nutbags decided it was going to be the start of WWIII, so I figured, do you really want to know about my cat in the face of all that?

OK, in reality I've been a little focused for the past couple days. First on the galleys for my Beowulf story, and then for a particularly problematic chunk of the day-job. Nothing major, and it looks better now, but it was a long haul to get to a good point. So let's see how things are going with other, earlier posts:

On The Plutocrats, we're still a day or two from the ruling that Pluto is/is not a planet, along with/without three other large bodies. Stay tuned

On Cats on a Plane, Gozer has settled back in with her family on the other side of the continent. The cats here, Harley and Victoria, have finally relaxed as well, but Vic is still a bit twitchy (though she's always been that way). Now that she is no longer having to watch Gozer every waking moment, Harley has taken to bringing foam balls that must be thrown and leather shoelaces that must be dragged across the floor. Both are appreciative that they're still here.

On Senators visiting Washington, I've got nothing. There was nary a peep from the media, major and minor, in the wake of Sen. Santorum's visit here, which is odd for such a popular, newsworthy guy. For all I know (or you know), he's in Alaska right now, or Japan, huxtering for more bucks. Maybe he just kept heading west, chasing the setting sun. I don't know how I feel about this, but I am real curious all of a sudden where our political leaders are spending all their free time.

No sign of the Mouse. The Steeler's hat is still cool, but it has been decided by popular vote that it goes best with my pink flamingo shirt. The "Bill" that said I should be in opera was the Reverend Bill Barker, my first minister, who also wrote Everyone in the Bible (and played the bagpipes at weddings). And one of the reasons I was howling at my baptism was that I had stomach surgery the week before and was still sore.

And the Brits are honestly making progress on their Terrorist Case, though they don't want to tell the Yanks what's going on since our White House tends to leak like a sieve when given juicy gossip. And its been dry for most of August out here, such that our lawn, which is usually one of the last to give up the ghost, is actually turning brown. And the Mariners pretty much dived out of contention, to the point that they traded beloved veteran Jamie Moyer, and despite that got a pretty good turnout for a home game on a Tuesday night (since we couldn't find any street parkiing at Tai Chi). And that's about it.

Oh, and the new date for the end of the world is 12 September. So if THAT happens, you read it here first.

More later,

UPDATE to UPDATES And Pluto is no longer a planet. I informed the Lovely Bride over breakfast. Her Comment: "And now our children will experience gender confusion".

Nope. Don't understand it, either. But the rest of you can panic now.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Plutocrats

Iraq. Lebanon. Illegal Wiretaps. Corrupt officials. The mess left over from Katrina. The ongoing mess that is the Mexican elections. And what are we talking about today in the blogosphere?

Whether Pluto is a planet or not. Passionate discussions on the matter are here, here, here, and a real good summary of the entire huggamugga here.

Jeez, we're such geeks.

Here's the deal. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is trying to define what a planet is. That should be simple, right? A planet is an object that goes around a sun. Unless its another star. Or an asteroid. Or a comet. Or a moon that's going around a planet that's going around the sun.

Hmm. OK, it's not so simple. And to my mind the question is one of those mug's games, one of those situations which divides the knowledgeable and holds them up to ridicule by the ignorant. I mean - scientists! - they can't even figure out what a planet is!

But they walked into this mess, and now they're going to have to use their big juicy scientist minds to get themselves out.

The problem is Pluto. Discovered in 1930, its always been the oddball world. An inclined eliptic (about 11 degrees off the sun's equator). Smaller than Mercury. Orbit that takes it within Neptune's. Very different than the gas giants immediately sunward. Its always been the asterisk in our cosmology, the strike-crippled 1994 baseball season of astronomy. Various folk have suggested it was a runaway moon, but it was let into the solar family, the runt of the litter, and it drew a pleasing coda to the entire nine bodies.

Except it didn't. We have been dealing with an increasing number of 10th planets over the years, usually heralded with a Page 4 announcement and then forgotten about until someone discovers a NEW 10th planet. Xena (UB313, also called Lila), Orcus, Sedna, Quaoar, Santa (EL61), and Easterbunny (FY9). And they're allowed to count, since, after all, we let Pluto in. Why not let them in?

So what is a planet anyway?

The scientists of the IAU get to wrestle with this while the rest of us make cheap jokes at their expense. After a lot of deliberation, here's what they proposed:

A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.

Ok, that sounds good, but it lets in not only Pluto, but Xena/Lila (which is larger than Pluto after all), and the asteroid Ceres (which is a roundish spheroid) and even Charon, Pluto's major moon, which fails the satellite test (the balancing point between the two gravitational wells is between the planets, which makes it a double-planet, as opposed to the Earth-Moon combo, where the balancing point is still beneath the Earth's surface).

So suddenly we have the door swung wide and have 12 planets, two of which orbit each other, one of which shares a region of space with a lot of other, smaller, objects, and we have more knocking on the door every year. If Ceres is in, why not Vesta? Or Pallas? Or even Chiron?

But by the same token kicking Pluto out of the brotherhood doesn't seem right - its like disowning a baby brother because it turns out the adoption papers were botched. Similarly, rejiggering the rules feels weird in that it will sudden "make" Ceres a planet, and grants the late-comer Charon equal billing with its longer-known sibling.

And I'll admit I don't have a good handle on all this - I was thinking of confining the planetary definition to a roughly circular orbit, but that makes Quaoar more of a planet than Pluto/Charon (but knocks out the almost cometary Sedna). And the same for orbital inclination - Ceres is a bit more in the eliptical plane than Pluto/Charon is.

But all this point out the danger of science - it wants to be precise and accurate in a world that is sloppy and unapoligetic. The end result is that the IAU will provide a definition, take some hits and most of the rest of us will deal with nine planets, just like most of us still think of atoms a little tiny solar systems.

And of course, we're just going to discover another jovian gas giant out there in the Kuiper Belt, and suddenly everything is going get knocked around again.

(Apologies in all this to Shelly in Seattle, the Monkey King, Ironymaiden, Oni Anne and Sigtrent, who had to hear some of this already over brunch)

[And the ghost of Dave Bowman passed over this blog and stated "My god, its full of links"]

More later,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cat on a Plane

Gozer the Cat has been reunited with her family in Maryland, but it was a near thing.

For those of you following the story, we have been foster-owning a cat, officially named Sparks but known to all as Gozer, for the past couple months. Her owners, Charles and Tammy, were relocating to England, but needed someone to look after Gozer and ship her along after the quarantine period was up.

Planning changed over time, and instead of shipping her to England (which would have involved getting her to Vancouver first), we instead were able to send her to Philly, where Charles and Tammy could pick her up. So late last night the Lovely Bride and I put her in her carrier to take her to the airline baggage claim with the proper paperwork to send her on her way via a red-eye.

And we were informed that the cage was too small to ship her. The cage is supposed to allow her to stand. A regulation we didn't know about. Fortunately the Lovely Bride knew we had a larger cage at home. Unfortunately she didn't quite remember where the door to that cage was. So I minded the cat at the airport while she drove home at high velocity to fetch it.

Gozer took everything in stride - she was in a safe carrier. I, on the other hand, was sweating bullets since there was a chance that we would miss the flight entirely. Finally, with about ten minutes to go before the flight closed, the Lovely Bride arrived with the carrier, the cat-transfer was made, and Gozer sent on her way.

And I slept badly. Had we gotten all the paperwork right? Would they get Gozer on the plane? There was a changeover in Houston between planes, would something go wrong there?

Anyway, we got word that Gozer arrived safe and sound and is now with her loving family. And when we got home last night, both of the other cats, who spent the past couple months following Gozer from room to room, wanted to know what happened to her.

We tried to explain, but you know cats - they're always suspicious of anything humans say.

More later,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Senators on the Run

It's 2006. Do you know where your Senator is?

No, I'm serious. I was just thinking about this the other day. I sort of expect my senator to be one of two places. Either they are in Washington, the DC version, working on making my life a little nicer, or they are in Washington, the state, talking to people like me to find out what we want to make our lives a little nicer.

In reality, I have no idea where they are. They're like teenagers with the family car. They could be anywhere. I mean, ANYWHERE.

Neither of my state senators say explicitly where they are at any moment on their government web sites, and we find out about them only when they make news. Maria Cantwell is pretty easy to track at the moment, since she's running for re-election. Patty Murray, on the other hand, could be in China for all I know. OK, she actually WAS in China, on some trade mission, but I didn't know about it until our local media hunted her down to see if she would endorse the Democratic candidate for Senator from Connecticut (She does - no surprise).

And, to digress a bit, I don't really need to know where you're going to pop up next. I'm just curious where you've been. Maybe even a regular feature in the newspaper, with a colorful map. And part of this comes out of those long Presidential vacations where the news reports would dutifully talk about brush-cutting in Texas, then the Prez pops up in a fundraiser somewhere in Utah, and no one wonders if he's got a clone.

[And, digressing further, those long, frequent vacations have become a thing of the past, recently. He's been more at the job of late (It helps that protesters have staked out his "ranch"). It's been our Republican-controlled Legislature that has been taking long, festive breaks. I mean, looking at Rick Santorum's government web sight for the legislative calender, it shows August practically barren, except for a header reminding us that GOP is moving America forward. Uh-HUH. Which brings me back to the question of "Where is your senator?", so I guess it isn't much of a digression]

What I'm getting around to that my former neighbor, Rick Santorum is going to be in town tomorrow. He's fundraising for his re-election bid, which is doing so badly the GOP has had to call in help from the Greens. Anyway, he's rattling his tin cup on the "GOP-Strong East Side", at Daniel's Broiler in downtown Bellevue (I've eaten there - nice place - good view of the lake and Seattle, where the real power is, in the distance). The hosts for the event are the Faith and Freedom Network, some religious outfit. Then in the evening, he's off to stylish Mercer Island to beg for cash alongside failed Senatorial Candidate Nethercutt and failed Gubinatorial Candidate Rossi. No idea who he's sucking up to between about 4 and 7 - if he's smart, it will be Microsoft (where the REAL, real power is). Anyway, all the details we have are here, because none of the major dailies want to talk about it.

Now my point is NOT that the Pennsylvanian Senator's re-election campaign is being run out of Alexandria, Virginia (check the invite), but that most of the folk in PA don't probably KNOW he's out here huxtering for bucks. And won't find out from THEIR local media, unless he puts a foot in his mouth or something equally dramatic shows up. I'm sure that most of his constituents think he's still in Washington (the DC, not the state), or at least touring the state he is supposed to represent in attempt to at least convince people to vote for him. But perhaps I'm just old-fashioned.

But if you ever wondered how far Santorum would go to get re-elected, we now know its at least as far west as Bellevue, Washington. And should the good senator gets re-elected, there will be those out here who will be glad to remind him who helped him get there. But I'm sure we'll have Pennsylvania's best interests at heart when we put the squeeze on him.

More later,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Package from Home

"Expect a package," my mother said over the phone, "You'll just flip when you see it."

I've gotten packages from my folks before, and they have run from old stories found in a closet to Spider-Man coloring books to a three-foot high cat carved out of an old fence post (Which is pretty cool, you have to admit). So I had no idea what my mom and dad were up to this time.

And the package arrived yesterday when the Lovely Bride was out of the house so I picked it up on the way to work. The package contained a number of things - some pictures of the flowers we sent Mom on her birthday. A map from National Geographic showing the Havasupai Indian Reservation (a tale for another time). My admittance form for Nursery School at the Bower Hill Community (Presbyterian) Church, and a note from my baptism from the minister (Rev. William Wright? The name springs to mind - though it's just signed "Bill") that reads (and I quote) "A day you will never forget! Be sure to enroll him in opera school as early as feasible!" I will assume from this that I was a "howler" but I never remember my folks using this fact against me in later life.

Oh, and a birthday present - a Steelers baseball cap. A LIGHT-UP Steelers baseball cap. Flip the switch, and fiberoptics flash in yellow, red, blue, and then all together to illuminate the Steeler's logo on the front.

I just love technology.

So I wore the cap to work. And when most of the young people in my office pod got in, I turned it on. And they thought it was AWESOME. And some people came over from the next office pod. And I turned it on. And THEY thought it was AWESOME. And so I kept springing my glowing hat on my co-workers for the rest of the day. And they thought it was hilarious. OK, one die-hard Seahawks fan in a pink mohawk threatened to bring in her own regalia, but in general, they thought it was way-cool, and that I have awesome, way-cool parents.

And they're right about that.

More later,

Monday, August 14, 2006

Schrodinger's Mouse

So late Saturday night and the Lovely Bride was gaming with her gang - the Saturday Night Star Wars group, and had the door from the dining room the garage open. They leave it open so the cats can go out and hunt mice, and yes, I have come down on Sunday morning to let them back into the house when they've been accidentally shut out.

Only this time, something came in from the garage.

We think it was a mouse - it was small and grey and fast, and immediately followed by three cats. The cats put aside their differences and worked as a team, tracking the mouse from rrom to room and from heavy object to heavy object, flushing it from various hiding spots in the house.

It was late, and the cats were enjoying themselves, and the Lovely Bride left them to their fun and went to bed, expecting in the morning either to have a small gift of dead mouse presented or at least a mouse-fur hairball.

Of course, when I got up, there was no mouse. Not even mouse-bits.

Now the mouse may have escaped the house (it was quite small) but I believe that unlikely. More likely is that the mouse was fully consumed, or its body is in some cat-proof corner. Most likely is that that its still around the house somewhere.

So I have a house with a half-alive, half-dead mouse in it. And cannot confirm it one way or another. Another proof that the presence of the observer's pets affect the nature of the observation.

More later,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Spy at the Airport

So you know from the previous posting that I got down to LA and back before all screaming hell broke loose. Among the other concerns one has when flying ("Will my luggage be lost?", "Will the drink cart miss me?" "Will the fat guy coming down the aisle have the seat next to me?") I've recently had to add "Will a terrorist operation leave me stranded in a city far from my home?"

Now I can add, "Will a terrorist operation not be severe enough to strand me a city far from my home, but be severe enough to completely screw up the grid, necessitating huge waits and strange new request from the TSA?"

In particular I'm thinking about all those gamers at GenCon, who on Wednesday arrived for the convention and only now are emerging, blinking in the hard sunlight like mini-Rip Van Winkles, into a world similar to the one they left behind but so very different. After being told for four days of intensive Indiana heat that the most important thing is to hydrate themselves, they are now supposed to surrender their waterbottles and fizzy drinks. How will they ever adapt?

The news, such as it is, is pretty good. The Brits, using local sources and working within their laws, cracked open a conspiracy to pull off a massive bombing attempt. They did it by treating these potential criminals, not as military targets, but as, well, criminals. Hard work, investigation, resulted in not only heading off the potential attack but making the case against those involved. If no one in the US Government has said thanks (and I haven't seen it yet, but they may have), then congratulations to the United Kingdom. It is no surprise you gave us James Bond.

Our side of the pond? Well, not so much. Having been alerted what was coming, our government was immediately prepared to send out press releases stating that this attempt proves that we needed to invade a country that had nothing to do with the attack. That and the necessity of questionable and widespread phone taps. And drilling in Alaska. OK, they didn't ask for that one yet, but it's only a matter of time. The American people, for their part, shrugged and grumbled and waited in the SeaTac parking lot for three hours and change to reach a very haggard young man who has been saying "I know its just perfume - please pour it out" all day.

Which gets me to a story from the 70s, when I was in college. I was flying home from college (and yes, we had security in those days as well). I walked through the archway and I tripped the metal detector (It was my big western belt-buckle - it was the 70s. You had to be there). Anyway, the security guard asks me to empty my pockets. I reach into my winter coat pocket.

And my hand close around a water pistol I had put there the day before. Not a lime-green water pistol that looked like a raygun, but one that looked like an old derringer. Just like an old derringer. I flinched, and in a sheepish voice said, "Sir, I have a water pistol in my pocket. I would like to take it out and give it to you."

The guard's face had only a flash of amusement. Then professionalism returned and he said, "We'd have to confiscate it."

I nodded and said, "Can I get it back when I return?" He said yes, and I handed over the water pistol and got on my flight.

And when I came back, I went up to the same security post and asked for my water pistol back. And they looked for it in the storage area and handed it back to me. None of this "Sell it on Ebay" stuff.

But when I had handed it over the week before, the water pistol had been empty. It was handed back to me half-full.

Which made me wonder what the security guards were doing during the slow periods.

And yaknow, I never figured that THAT story would be part of the "Golden Age of Air Travel".

More later,

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Long Commute

Another daytrip to LA, this time for retakes and pickups for cinematic soundtrack for the game (short version - they were minor, but we packed them all into a very tight timeframe so we were jumping the entire time we were in the recording studio). Spent more time in the trip itself than in the studio.

And again, with the exception of a cabbie who didn't know how to get to LAX (and was relying on a navcomp that ignored the LA highway system), LA once again proved survivable. We wrapped early enough that I tried for standby on an earlier flight, and thanks to good travel Karma (lent my cell phone to a fellow standby passenger while all the suited businessmen ignored her) ended up seated between two Alaskan Airlines employees who were deadheading to Seattle for a Boston run.

Ah, Alaskan Airlines. I cannot say how much I appreciate your leg-room. I can even take a middle seat and be able to survive. We flew north as the setting sun converted the hills of mist-shrouded hills of California into an Eyvind Earle print, and watched a blood-red mood rise shortly before landing. And as an added bonus, we hooked in over the northern end of the airport, coming in over downtown Seattle and a brilliantly-lit Seahawks stadium (filled to capacity, I learned later, by a soccer match between DC United and Real Madrid).

So a little lagged, but otherwise good.

More later,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

An Open Letter to Steven Colbert

Dear Stevie,

As your minions who monitor the tubes of the Internet have no doubt reported (in a development promoted by both Alliterate Matt Forbeck and Shelly in Seattle, Peter Adkison has, on the eve of GenCon, has offered to be your gaming friend.

I have played both Magic:the Gathering and D&D (He was moderating) with young Mr. Adkison, and which to assure you that Peter would make a most excellent gaming friend. Yes, he's like that in real life.

You should grab this moving bandwagon with both hands, one foot, and your teeth, and not let go.

More later,

Co Inky Dink

In politics, timing is everything.

We have this Senator out here in Washington State., who has made her bones on standing up to Big Oil, such that she's been running TV ads mentioning how she's stood up to Big Oil. She's also driven the boodle-driven senior Senator from Alaska to distraction, but that's just a bonus.

So what happens? One of the Big Oil companies in Alaska determines they need to shut down their pipeline for corrosion. Which is good, since the oil companies are legendary for putting more effort into press releases denying that they're assaulting the environment than in actually doing anything about it.

Of course, this just HAPPENS to be within 100 days of an election. And now the press is already talking gas going up to Four Bucks a Gallon.

Amazing how that works out. Sixteen miles of corroded pipe needs to be shut down now, without a backup system in place, which will cause economic hardship in a locality whose senator has been giving them lip, and who is up for re-election. Timing is everything.

In other news, completely unrelated, the Senator's opponent, who has vowed to run a campaign based on civility, is eleven points back and just hired a guy who specializes in negative campaigning.

Not that the two items are connected in any way.

More later,

Monday, August 07, 2006

Due to Lack of Content

All you get today is a meme:

Grab the nearest book.
Open to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences to your journal with these instructions.

"The British global military triumph of 1763 was especially overwhelming on the ramparts of North America. But within twelve years, the northern half of the Western Hemisphere would erupt again, this time in a civil war that pitted Whig against Tory, splintering the great empire almost before the ink had dried on London's brave new maps. This new war, like the previous one, would have as its initial center the well-trodden warpath between Albany and Montreal."
- Kevin Phillips: The Cousins' War: Religion, Politics & the Triumph of Anglo-America

So these memes are always a little odd, in that they don't really apply well to all books. These lines are actually on page 124, since 123 is occupied by a chapter title (not a real sentence) and two huge single-sentence block-quotes by Gibson and Pocock. And anyway, if you follow the instructions to the letter, aren't you supposed to right sentences 6, 7, and 8?

OK, it's more than just a meme. It's a commentary on a meme. But that doesn't mean I'm not busy.

More later,

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Blue Angels

The Blue Angels are in town for Seafair, which usually means more traffic jams than normal because they shut down I-90 over the lake, where they perform. The Monkey King mentions that instead of instilling a sense of pride or technological wonder, they are a reminder that we are at war, all-day, every day.

And I have to concur. This time last year I was working for a CCG company on an upper floor of a Bellevue skyscraper, and there was a lot of gallows humor about jets and highrises, in particular since we were looking out level at the planes, not up. This year I'm beneath a canopy of trees, so the jets are heard, not seen. But all I hear is the rumbling roar of the engines, and I think of people for whom the sound of turbines is not a sign of enjoyment, but a cue to seek cover.

More later,

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Local Politics: Going Green

So Brainstormfront has sent me a note wondering why I haven't done much local politics, and sent me this link.

Well, the reason for no local politics is in part that I haven't much felt like it - I'm not some cable pundit that has to be perpetually indignant about something - and the fact that things have been pretty quiet. Initiatives are slowly making the ballot and candidates are officially registering and we've moved within the time frame where Dave Riechert's office can no longer use my money to tell me what a great job he's doing.

And the link, about McGavick's huge, golden parachute, is not news in itself. It is news that someone, as in a descendent of the firm's founder, is suing him about it. McGavick, who is crossing the state in a big winnebago, reassuring Washingtonians that he is just one of the guys, states that the suit is purely political. Probably. But then, someone giving you 28 mill when you're walking out the door to run for office, when they don't have to, may just be a little be political as well.

But that's not what caught my eye. Rather, its this little note from my home state, and former neighbor Rick Santorum. It seems that the Santorum/Casey fight has another candidate, a member of the Green party. Sound good - diversity is supposed to be good, and the candidates currently range from conservative to wingnut.

Except ... the Green candidate's coffers are swelling because of contributions from conservatives who are also supporting Santorum. Well, not all of them. The candidate himself put in 30 bucks. But the remainder of the 66 thousand bucks are from Santorum supporters. The PA GOP is funding the Greens.

Now, playing around with the party system is nothing new for the GOP. In 1996, the national party was stunned by Perot's Reform Party carving off a small but significant chunk of libertarian-minded Americans. So in 2000, a plucky band of conservatives fought their way into the convention, shut down everyone else, and nominated Pat Buchanan. The former Nixon speechwriter and talk show host then sat on his hands for the rest of the election, refusing to offer any real fight. So the GOP has a history with mixing it up in other party's parties for their own benefit.

Now in Washington State, we also have a Green candidate running in the McGavrick/Cantwell race. And I just bet the liberal blogs are checking over the Green's contribution list. (Ahem. I SAID "I just BET the LIBERAL BLOGS are checking over THE GREEN'S contribution LISTS!"). In particular since McGavick's "I'm just a regular guy in a Winnebago" tour is turning into a "I'm just a regular guy in a winnebago with a check from an insurance company worth 28 Mill in my back pocket and still down 11 points" tour. So opening another front on Cantwell, accusing her of being too conservative, is a win situation (and indeed, the local GOP applauds "additional candidates that promote diversity and don't steal voters from our base").

You would expect me to condemn all this behavior. And you would be wrong. Instead, I want to figure out how I can get a piece of the action.

I notice that there hasn't been any noise about a Green Candidate in 8th district, where Darcy Burner is surprising Dave Reichert both on fundraising and issues. This would be a perfect place to open up another front, on the left of Ms. Burner. For that reason, I am willing to make myself available as a candidate for US Rep, 8th District, but only if I get sufficient backing. And you Santorum supporters in PA know what I'm talking about here. Wink Wink. I promise to spend the bulk of the funds raised on wild fundraising parties, and the rest I'll just squander. But you know you can't resist the opportunity.

If you want to talk, you can reach me here at Grubb Street. I'll be standing out in the back yard, with my bushel basket, waiting for the contributions to rain from the sky.

More later,