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,