Sunday, August 31, 2008

PAX (and the Company Bowling Shirt)

Well, my ears are still wringing and I have a mild hangover that a single beer cannot account for, but I can safely say I survived a day of PAX. It is still going on today, so if you're of the geekerati, go have fun.

PAX moved to the Washington Convention Center last year and is already bursting it at the seams. The exhibitor's hall was blocked by regular nerd-jams, and lines stretched everywhere. I touched base with friends new and old.

And that's something incredibly nice about the PAX fans - they know how to queue. All those hours spent in an outpost looking for group seems to have paid off.

The exhibitor's hall was a continual rumble and flashing of bright lights as everyone had their games running at peak efficiency. There are a lot of good-looking games out there, in particular NCSoft's newest - Aion (prounced "Ion"), It is just beautiful, and I found myself drifting back to the booth time and again just to watch it (not a smart move, by the way, if you're wearing a company bowling shirt - I ended up answering a wide variety of questions from people assuming I was on booth duty).

Oh, and the strangest thing I saw was the Iron Chef game for the Wii, complete with animated Alton Brown head commenting on your work.

I was there for a panel on Guild Wars, and we had a packed house, which absolutely gob-smacked me. We had more people this year than last year in the same room. We can't say anything about the newest version, unfortunately (Or rather, I said several times that day - "I could tell you, but I would be wrong."), but still the outpouring of support for the game was amazing. We have some of the finest fans in the world.

After the panel we had a party at Gameworks, and again, before the party, everyone queued up along the sidewalk leading to the event. The company bowling shirt? It does nothing as far as giving you a good place in the line. I actually ended up directing traffic as the line extended past an active parking garage entrance. I would complain about having to wait, but one of the founders of the company was in line about twenty feet ahead of me, waiting for the party as well. The company is egalitarian that way.

The party itself was a delight - they had a scavenger hunt for company employees, getting autographs from some twenty+ people on the list, who were wearing red wristbands. I was not wearing a wristband, nor was I on the list, but I WAS wearing the company bowling shirt, and so was struck up continually. And the fun thing was, I was drinking with author Will McDermott, who WAS on the list, but dressed in mufti. So I took delight is saying "I'm sorry, I'm only the decoy, but HE (pointing at Will dramatically) is your QUARRY." And then I got to watch Will get mobbed, which was fun.

As it was, I signed a lot of stuff - a shirt, a pants leg, some original art, and a lot of copies of The Art of Guild Wars. And I ran into a lot of people who really enjoy the game, and I was delighted to meet and greet everyone.

So know I've got a mild headache and the sides of my mouth hurt from smiling so much. Thanks to all our fans.

More later,

UPDATE: Have some photos of the booth, the talk, and the party here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


That was the week that was. I got most of my convention news off the Internet this time, and so was spared much the filtering of the professional pundits. Even so, I caught enough of it to wonder if the phrase “Fully-informed electorate” is an oxymoron.

The Veep Choice - Obiden? Good call– strong foreign policy, willingness to bare his teeth, served alongside McCain in the Senate. On one hand he has strong corporate ties (Senator from DuPont), on the other, he has that wonkiness that I admire in my politicians. Good choice, but a safe one.

First time I’ve ever listened to Michelle Obama. Yeah, I can see where Obama gets his support. But where’s the scary terrorist knuckle-bumper the media promised?

Good lord, did Obama clone Rudy and Vanessa from the Cosby Show? Should I feel embarrassed to think that?

Hmmm – it seems the mainstream media keeps talking about the Democrats being too nice, then not showing any footage where they tear into McCain (That’s not a maverick – that’s a sidekick!”). I guess they’re waiting for someone to get truly nasty, then flip the coverage to “mean, mean Democrats”.

OK, Media, I don’t care if it is true. Stopping using the phrases “Out of the Park” and “Nailed it” in describing speeches. Now.

The Wild in the Streets/ 1968 redux meme failed to play out, primarily because the anti-war forces had moved into the convention center, leaving only the cosplayers outside to insult FOX news.

One protest that DID overwhelm the police was an unscheduled Veterans march, which scattered the cops before them to the convention center itself to present their demands (out of Iraq, decent Vet treatment). They were greeted and accepted, and then moved off to the “free speech are”a (also known as the “Freedom Cages” or the “John McCain experience”).

And yeah, I think the high-fenced, media-ignored “Free Speech Zones” are the stupidest thing that the last decade of politics has brought us. Since it carries the implicit assumption that free speech doesn’t exist elsewhere, and supports the idea that protesters should be pre-arrested.

Another meme that fizzled was the PUMAs – the dead ender Clinton supporters who would rather vote for someone who shares none of their candidates beliefs over a candidate who beat her in the polls. Most of the Clinton supporters voted their conscience, then joined the party, though there will be five new McCain voters that will get a lot of press time.

And yeah, not everyone voted for Obama on the first ballot. These are Democrats we are talking about. They can’t even order lunch without with a discussion of vegan farm initiatives and strong arguments about the wisdom of ordering from a sandwich shop versus a deli.

And you know who had the best coverage from the floor? The Stranger. What the freaking hay? The Stranger? When I moved out here, that was where the grungers, hipsters, and emo skateboard punks hung out (the old hippies were all at the Weekly). Now you can’t tell what city you’re in reading by the Weekly, and the Stranger is delivering real news from the floor. Wow.

And speaking of which, the local Dems were hot and heavy in Denver. Lots of shots of the Governor and Jim McDermott, who was always there when a blogger had a camera.

John Kerry’s speech raises the standard issue democrat complaint – Where was this guy when we needed him? That’s a larger issue in American politics – the conflict of candidate and campaign.

Four years ago I noted that his young guy, Barack Obama, gave the best speech of the lot, and we should keep an eye on him. I didn’t see an Obama-2004 level speech from this crop of newcomers, but they were strong, start to back.

And the big night – Yeah, beautiful, well-written, well-delivered, with a lot of details and stuff to hang your hat on. Energy independence in 10 years, measured withdrawal from Iraq, tax cuts for non-millionaires, holding the idiots currently in charge responsible. Reminds us that we actually expect things from our presidents.

The speech was so good, it apparently made Pat Buchanan’s heart grow three sizes, plus two.

So of course, an AP hack kissed his master’s whip and delivered a boiler plate hatchet job of “nothing new” for general consumption, trying to forget the speech as quickly as possible and regain control of the narrative.

And the strangest thing is – a few weeks back we had a wingnut fundy calling on his followers to pray for rain for Thursday Night. Not only was the weather fine in Denver, but now a hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast, bringing up all the bad memories of three years back, with the GOP convention in the offing. I’m not saying that God is a Democrat this year, but she’s either got a nasty sense of irony or is a horrible shot.

More later,

Friday, August 29, 2008

WotC Goes to War

So a few posts down, I talked about how a staffer for the McCain campaign, Michael Goldfarb, decided to use D&D as a slur. A lot of the gaming sphere has been talking about it, but I figured it would go away, mere road kill on the highway of modern elections, to be replaced by the next big scandal.

I was seriously wrong. Wizards has fired back, and fired back hard. Not only from the banks of Wizards, but from the heart of Hasbro itself.

This is something amazing. While the politics of the employees and management of TSR/WotC/Hasbro has run the gamut from hard left to far right (with every flavor in between), usually the official response from the company when under assault has been a stoic patience - not get involved in such things, to take the hit, to not fire back. This is calling out a national campaign for not only its slimy tactics, but also for getting its facts wrong, and smearing a game and a company that has over the years supported the troops is unprecedented.

I fully support Mr. Leeds and Mr. Charness in their comments, and I am proud of my old company for standing up to bullies and supporting gamers, soldiers, and those who are both.

More later,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Curious Pot

So after rolling some kayaks and fighting the Lake Washington chop, the Lovely Bride and I came back to the house, napped, and went to Anthony’s Pier 66 for dinner. I really like Anthony’s – it's got a good view of the north end of Eliot Bay and a great menu, particularly its fish (of course). The food was wonderful and the service was excellent, at least until the waiter got slammed by an eight-top that rolled in right next to us.

That happened late in the meal, when I ordered hot tea and the LB a sorbet (note to all restaurants – You DO have a sizable percentage of customers with egg allergies – if you put more than just sorbet on the menu that the LB can eat, she will visit you more often). Anyway, the waiter dropped this curious plastic pot of tea in front of me and had to dash off to another emergency.

I picked up the pot, and noted that there was no spout. Indeed, the top looked flush with the rest of the pot, and the leaves themselves were steeping in a swirling mixture that looked like parts of Lake Washington that I has just paddled through. No tea ball, no visible strainer. But for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to get the tea OUT of the pot and INTO my cup.

A younger me would try experimentation, but I had just gotten my linen suit BACK from the cleaners, thank you. I instead chose to flag down another waiter and say “OK, you got me. What’s the secret?”

The small plastic pot slips OVER the mug of tea, the base acting like a cover to the cup. The tea comes out of the base of the pot, which is opened by the lip of the mug pressing upwards. That way the tea steeps faster (being loose), but drains fully through the leaves without leaving any dregs in the cup.

Ingenious, but a death trap for anyone who didn’t know the trick. I congratulated myself on my wisdom in asking for help, and wondered where that wisdom had been earlier in the day when I had rolled the kayak, repeatedly.

The meal itself was wonderful – LB had the flounder, I had the sturgeon, and the crab/corn chowder was great. But I can’t help but think of my many other meals there have been endangered by the new technology of the curious teapot.

More later,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Omar Kayak

Apparently, I am Groo the Wanderer when it comes to kayaks.

I spent my birthday the way I always choose to spend my birthday – away from whichever office I call home at that time. So in recent years I’ve ended up in Atlanta, on Mt. Rainier, and hiking up Little Si. This year I took the day off and chose to kayak on the Mercer Slough.

I’ve mentioned the slough before – it is bottomland that was underwater before the locks were cut and dropped Lake Washington. A series of channels were cut creating a network that looks like a backwards “P”, about two miles long. It is the home of ducks, geese, turtles, eagles, otters, and herons. Beautiful place, situated where you would least expect it.

So the Lovely Bride and I hied to Enatai Beach Park, which is situated under the Eastern support pillars of the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington. The LB had called in advance, and we called dibs on a pair of nice single- person kayaks. The LB got in hers, and was pushed out into the choppy waters of Lake Washington, but quickly got the hang of using the foot-controlled rudder. She was a natural.

I was less than successful. I got into my kayak, was pushed out, got five feet from shore, and immediately rolled the boat over. I pulled myself out, sopping wet, got advice from the helpful and friendly staff to lean back more to settle my weight, was pushed out, got out ten feet and rolled over AGAIN. Then the helpful staff pulled out an ocean kayak without a working rudder but with a broader beam for my …um … broader beam.

They pushed me out. I got fifteen feet from shore, hit some previously undangerous-looking rocks, had a panic attack, and rolled the boat over AGAIN. This was beginning to look like a Monty Python routine.

The Lovely Bride glided back into shore as I admitted defeat (I also told the helpful staff that “You know, this was MY idea”). So we reconvened and went with a two-person kayak, of which someone said was a sure way to break up a relationship.

Of course, I had sunk three boats at this point, so I definitely willing to be more accommodating in sharing the command of a two-person ship.

Lake Washington was extremely choppy from a solid wind blowing from the south, and we spent most of the first half-hour fighting our way around the point to the slough’s entrance. And luckily, we did not roll the boat again. The trek up the slough was wonderful, having a broad flat, calm space of water just south of a major city almost all to ourselves. We so plenty of ducks, a heron, heard but did not see a den of otters, a couple turtles, and almost no one else on the water. It takes 1 and a half to two hours to make the circuit - we completed it in three.

It was blissful. And even though I know now that I am closer to Steven Maturin than to Jack Aubrey, I had a great time.

Happy Birthday, me.

More later.


The Penny Arcade Expo, a riotous geekfest of computer games and nerd culture, will be down at the Washington State Convention Center this weekend. I will be in the Raven Theater at 4:30 for "ArenaNet Presents: 3 years of Guild Wars". I will either be holding down the writing end of the conversation or taking up space. I haven't decided which, yet.

More later,

UPDATE: For those interested, here is a listing of our events, signings, and panels, complete with my "Laughing Evil Overlord in a Hawaiian shirt" photo (man, I gotta get a new photo).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

American Terrorists


Now, these guys don't sound like the sharpest crayons in the box, but the law enforcement authorities did the job and did it well. They treated this as a direct threat and reacted accordingly, without alarm or further incident (except for the guy trying to escape out a 6th story window - like I said, not the shiniest of crayolas). Kudos to the cops and FBI.

More later,

Update: Larger article here, in which the potential assailants are referred to as "Meth-heads", "No real threat", and "the reported racist rantings of a drug addict".

In America, we don't just bust you, we mock you as well.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Paizo Press has announced that my article on the drow will appear in Pathfinder #15. I had a great deal of fun getting back to the "classic Drow" of the old GDQ, then adding enough Clark Ashton Smith to make them fun and ooky.

More later,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons Crowd

All I can say is that, McCain's campaign is fortunate that the most recent gaffe about his many mansions came up, because otherwise, this latest tempest would be all over the place. As it was, even my Mom heard about it.

Here's the story: A McCain staff blogger named Michael Goldfarb made the following comment about people questioning if the candidate's "Cross in the Dirt" story was legit (seeing how Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn told the same story 35 years ago* in The Gulag Archipelago):
It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.
It is the not the first time Mr. Goldfarb described the gaming community in negative terms en route to smearing other people. Earlier he uncorked this gem against the New York Times
But in their new role as bloggers, the paper’s editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons.
And this is part of the political campaigns that resemble storytelling and stand-up comedy. You have a line. You tweak it, your massage it, you refine it, and most of all, you repeat it continually until you get the feedback you desire.

I don't think Mr. Goldfarb got the feedback he desired. Instead, he walked into an dire excremental storm elemental as every D&Der with a keyboard (and what are the odds of THAT not being the case?) suddenly unloaded on him. In particular those who were veterans. And there are a LOT of Vets who played D&D in the service - there is a lot of "wait" in the armed forces, and games like D&D fill that hole nicely. TSR back in the day sent care packages to Iraq in Gulf War I, and in Gulf War II as well. So to be used as smear against others raised a lot of hackles. And folk are letting him and his boss know it.

My fellow Alliterate Matt Forbeck thinks all this is a dog whistle - Democrats = D&D = Statanism = Evil among a certain (older by the minute) audience. I think its just the standard issue anti-intellectualism that is rife within an organization that is not horribly techno-savvy. It might even a new flavor of the elitism attack, like arugula or orange juice. You know, "Our guy may have seven or ten houses, a private plane, a second rich wife, but at least we don't have D&D players supporting us, like our elitist, hoity-toidy opponent."

Anyway, back to Goldfarb - In the midst of this, an apology pops up:
If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American.
There are three things about this whimsical apology that are troubling. First, the apology lists the D&D starts in the 4E order. Obviously, the McCain campaign his ignoring the critical Grognard Vote! - the states are Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma (though there is a schism that flips the last two).

More telling and less funny is the fact that I can't trace this directly back to Goldfarb at all. All I get is crossposting from other sites, all leading back to Ace of Spades. Nothing from the original site, which is where such an note would normally go. It could have been a personal email, and that would make sense - the rest of the Ace site is pretty dead-nuts right-of-center.

The third thing is that this apology was dated on 1 August, BEFORE the whole storm unleashed about the most recent quote. The first quote showed on on the radar 31 July. The second quote is dated 19 August. So either the apology isn't meant (in that it kept on going, and got worse over time), or that it is entirely fictitious, like a lot of things that are coming out of the McCain camp right now.

I don't think that this is going to convince anyone that supports McCain to suddenly drop support, or even that the campaign is going to offer Mr. Goldfarb the "Phil Gramm Vacation Package" of publicly kicking him out the front door, then letting him back in the back (You did know Gramm's back advising him, right?) But it is one more item in the ever-increasing pile of bad decisions, miscues, and gaffes that seem to attach themselves like barnacles to this ever-listing ship.

I mean, you ignore the Grognard Vote at your own peril. They're the ones keeping your servers up.

More later,

*OK, to the accurate, according to the Wikipedia, The Gulag Archipelago was written between 1958 and 1968, and published in the west in 1973. But yeah, I read it. Parts of it. It was thick book - give me a break.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


So I've spent past week and half living alone, and I can safely say I don't care much for it.

No, there's no crisis - I sent the Lovely Bride back east for her mother's birthday, and stayed out here with the intent to work and savor the solitude. Which lasted about two days before the loneliness and low-level irritationset in.

Part of it is that I haven't been on my own for a while, so it took a little time to get back into sync. I eventually remembered I tended to do big breakfasts and light dinners when I am on my own. It took me about five days to remember that I could make omelets again (the LB is deathly allergic to eggs). It took me about that long to realize I could sleep in the middle of the bed.

I found that I didn't care much for using the hot tub when alone. And the pitcher of frozen rum slushies in the freezer stayed there. However, I relearned to make french toast (with a little cinnamon in the batter). I bought a steak and it lasted three days (as a meal, as the topping for a steak salad, and in an omelet with swiss cheese).

I found my weekdays were pretty full enough, between gaming and tai chi, so the weekends only gave the chance to fully engage with being on my own. But even so, when I was writing I would rather be reading, and when I was reading I wondered what was on TV and while watching TV all I could think about was what I intended to be writing. So if anything, I suffered a lack of direction.

Oh, and I didn't watch the Olympics much at all. Nothing held my interest. Except the rowing events on CBC. Whenever I passed them, I stopped and watched.

The cats were more confused than I. It took Harley about four days to realize that the Lovely Bride/Food Goddess wasn't coming back immediately, and she switched allegiances easily, following me from room to room. Victoria, imperious as always, has decided to wait it out, and treats me as a temp, to be tolerated at best.

And things have happened over the past week. I broke a flower pot while watering the outdoor containers. I caught (and released) a mouse that the cats had trapped in the basement. I dealt with hot days and a massive lightning storm overhead (power did not go out) and the fact that the garage door went up part-way in the middle of the night without explanation. I got a flat tire this morning and put on the spare. Did dishes and laundry, cleaned up the place a bit. And in general, I survived.

But it wasn't particularly fun, even with relaying the data in the evening to the LB over the phone. It was sort of just running in place, and while I could do it, I can safely say I wasn't enjoying myself at it.

So the Lovely B returns this evening, and I will hear stories and tell her about the stuff I didn't cover in our evening chats, and things will get back to normal and I will be able to concentrate a bit more. And I'm looking forward to that.

More later,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Primary: Results

So votes are still trickling in (ballots mailed by Tuesday are still showing up), and the political factions are in full spin mode. The state results are here, and those for King County here.

But here's the important number - 27.3%. That's the percentage of registered voters that voted on Tuesday. In King County, the largest of the counties, that number is even lower - 19.75%. The Secretary of State predicted 45% interest in the new "Top Two" system, so I would be concerned about such forecasts in the future. But the upshot of this is we are dealing with a very small sample size, which makes it difficult to determine any firm trends.

Pretty much, if I have to have make a judgment on this election, it is that we loves us our incumbents. You shan't see any Supreme Court battles this fall, since Johnson, Fairhurst, and Stephens (the last running unopposed) all cleared the 50% bar for re-election. And pretty much everyone who is IN office has a healthy lead on everyone who is NOT in office, with two telling exceptions. One is Commissioner of Public Lands, which despite poor management is merely a dead heat, and the other is down here in the 47th State Rep race, where Geoff Simpson came in BEHIND Republican challenger Mark Hargrove, with a significant dissident vote for Leslie Kae Hamada. In both cases the incumbents are plagued with issues in their personal lives.

We also, in the self-destruction that democracy is prone to, approved putting I-26 on the ballot, which is pretty much an incumbency-guarantee plan. Not only that, we put the more odious of two options there for the general. I don't think it will help.

The primary also creates spin problems for both parties. If Gregoire 'put away" Rossi by outpolling him by four points in a crowded field, then didn't Reichert 'put away' Burner by outpolling her by three? Similarly, if Reichert is "endangered" by not getting 50% of the vote, then doesn't the same argument apply to Gregoire?

No, the number that matters is the low turnout. There few great surprises or driving issues for this election, and the results are pretty much what people would expect - there are even enough Republicans on Queen Anne Hill to guarantee a Republican challenger for Jim McDermott (who only got 73% of the vote, which may be a new low for him). This should continue in the fall, unless there is SOME OTHER ELECTION going on that might drive people to the polls.

Let us take a moment, though, to mourn for the small parties - Greens, Commons, Constitutionalists, Libertarians, and Independents of every stripe. The new process guarantees that your attempts will only be seen by the hardcore voters that already have declared for a particular party (which is not you). The newborn GOP (Graveyard of Progress) Party almost had the same fate, but did manage to eek out a second place in a minor category. Best of luck to it in the general campaign.

More later,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ia! Ia!

Today is the birthday of author Howard Phillip Lovecraft, author and originator of the Cthulhu mythos. In his memory, I'm pointing you to my entry on The Six Ages of Lovecraft.

More later

Comics: The Fifty Things

While I'm waiting for the dust to settle, let's instead celebrate New-Comic-Book-Day with a Meme - "Fifty Things I Love About Comics"

Jonny Quest
“Stupid, stupid Rat Things!”
Marvel Two-In-One
“I am power! I am life, incarnate!”
Jack Kirby’s run on Jimmy Olsen
“Presdent give Cerbus papers, Papersay Cerbus fine fine fine”
Power Pack
“Crisis on Earth-2!”
Foggy Nelson
“Oh my stars and garters”

Green Lantern when he’s in space
X-Men when they’re not
Starfire learning to speak Russian
The giant penny in the Batcave
Bouncing Boy
“This is an imaginary story …aren’t they all?”
“Selena has already decided not to buy the lawn furniture”
Kyle Baker’s run on the Shadow
Understanding Comics
Baker Street

Cartoon History of the Universe
Cutter and Skywise
Sugar and Spike
Beast and Wonder Man fighting Red Ronin
Dial H for Hero
Buck Godot - Zap Gun for Hire
Inferior Five
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk!”
Spirit Jam

Ambush Bug
Enemy Ace
Cheese Dip
Peter David’s run on the Hulk
Thor the Thunder Frog
Mrs. Arbogast
Paul Dini’s Batman done-in-ones
John Byrne’s run on Alpha Flight

“Make War No More”
Lord Julius
“A humble dealer in spices”
The Death of Captain Marvel
Martian Manhunter
“These Romans are Crazy”
Joker fish
“Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!”

More later,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


So while we're waiting for the votes to be counted (you DID vote today, right?), here's a question that I've been mulling over for the past few days.

Is art like crime in that it must be witnessed and confirmed for it to exist?

Discuss among yourselves. More later.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Jeff Recommends: Primary Season

So after all of this, does it really matter? Most of the categories have only two (at most) serious candidates, and we're going to have to go through this whole thing again in November, with the added overlay of the national race.

Pretty much true, but here's a trick. Not only are we voting one whether to add another initiative to the list, but we there is also a little business involving our non-partisan lines, such as our judges. Should someone get more than 50% in the primary, then they are given the prize and don't have to run in the general. And since there are fewer voters in the primary, you don't need as many votes to pull that off.

So yeah, vote. And if you don't like my recommendations, here are the ones for the Times, the P-I, and the Stranger. In addition, Shelly in Seattle has posted her own recommendations.

Here we go:
US Congressional District #8: Darcy Burner
Governor: Christine Gregoire
Lt. Governor: Brad Owen
Secretary of State: Sam Reed
State Treasurer: ChangMook Sohn
State Auditor: Brian Sontag
Attorney General: John Ladenburg
Commissioner of Public Lands: Peter J. Goldmark
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Teresa Bergerson
Insurance Commissioner: Mike Kreidler

Legislative District 47, Position 1: No endorsement
Legislative District 47, Position 2: Pat Sullivan

Supreme Court Justice, Position 3: Mary Fairhurst
Supreme Court Justice, Position 4: Charles Johnson

King Superior Court, Position 1: Tim Bradshaw
King Superior Court, Position 10: Regina S. Cahan
King Superior Court, Position 22: Julia Garratt
King Superior Court, Position 26: Laura Gene Middaugh
King Superior Court, Position 37: Jean Rietschel
King Superior Court, Position 53: Mariane Spearman

King County Initiative 26 and Council-Proposed Alternative
Vote NO on 26. I'd rather leave the choice blank, but given a choice between the initiative as written and the council-proposed Alternative, I'd go for the Council-Proposed Alternative (Ah, the illusion of democracy).

Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety: YES
Fire Protection District 47 Tax Levy: YES.

So get out there and vote on Tuesday?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Voter's Guide: US Congress

The one piece of encouragement that the current White Househas been able to take is that, no matter how low their approval ratings are, they are matched or exceeded by the horrible opinion we have of the US Congress.

And of course, you can see why. Eighty percent of the country is mad at the Congress for not standing up against this administration, and about the 20% left are cheesed off that it is not helping the administration against the other 80%. And the continual scandals that leak out of there - Vitters, Foley, Stevens, and now Edwards never cease to provide grist for the mills of commentators. The current occupant of US Congressional District 8, State of Washington, has made a lot of his ability to look criminals right in the eyes, but I don't think he was referring to doing so during Congressional Prayer Breakfasts.

Yet despite everything, we the people tend to return our congresscritters to office with amazing regularity. Over in the 7th, Jim McDermott has been found guilty of taping phone calls, appealed, got the appeal bounced, and forced to pay out a million bucks. Yet he remains such a dead-on favorite that his most major competition is Goodspaceguy Nelson.

So we have one Republican incumbent, three Democratic challengers, and two independents. The Dems are running against the Rep and the Indies are running against the entire system. Dig in.

Boleslaw (John) Orlinski, noted on his yard signs as B. John Orlinski is an independent a Polish emigre who helped form the first independent party in that nation, Renaissance during the Solidarity years, and was inspired to run by Ron Paul's candidacy. There is a warning that previous sentence, and it wasn't the word "Solidarity".

Richard Todd castigates the failings of a two-party democracy through the lens of The Federalist Papers, which recommends we browse. He is also the author of "Saga of the Polar Star" (What is it with authors this year?), which is published by Todd Merchandise. He argues that only an independent can serve the public interest as opposed to serving the faction that put him into office. I would offer the counter that an Independent would serve the factions that put him into office, it just wouldn't be factions that are wearing name tags.

James E. Vaughn evokes the ghost of Scoop Jackson, who is legendary to the five people who lived here in the 70s. He posts himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes both the extremes of the entire Republican party and the liberal Progressive Democrats. He gets the award this year of Worst Yard Sign, topping out even Jim Wiest's topheavy diamond-shape. Vaughn used the smallest typeface possible to put as much raw data on his signs (including a web site and a recommendation to google), which made them impossible to read from the road. He also used a cheap paper stock, which would have been OK, but it has rained since his campaign put up the signs. Good news - they look like they're biodegradable.

Dave Reichert is the incumbent, and of all the candidates in the voter's guide, remembers to pose in front of a flag, because there's a war on, you know. He wants a strong America with a well-stocked military, low taxes with an improving economy, increased jobs, lowered health costs, improved education, and a protected environment. Oddly, I like all these things, too. Pity we don't have them. Now, if ONLY there was some elected governmental body of capable individuals that could do these things. Hang on, it will come to me ...

Keith Arnold will cure the problems with the 2000 elections by stripping all the power away from the Supreme Court. Lay the voter's guide down and back away carefully.

Darcy Burner is the chief Democratic candidate in a rematch from the close election four years back. She attacks the failed policies of the past seven years, on many of the grounds that Reichert expresses interest. Unlike the Republican, she actually sketches out some plans to make this happen. Maybe he should go to work for her.

And that wraps it - one more thing to do, and then there's the vote itself.

No, I'm not going to do this marathon for the general election. I feel like I've bitten off more than I could chew already.

More later,


The ENnie awards have come out, and Hobby Games: The 100 Best has taken the silver for the ENnie Awards. The full awards can be found here.

Congrats to the thundering horde of contributors, and to editor Jim Lowder.

More later,

Friday, August 15, 2008

VG: State Representatives

So it's a quiet weekend, as a lot of people that I know are all out in Indianapolis for GenCon. Mystical Forest, who is armed with his Iphone and twitter, has been liveblogging at a furious rate.

For me, I thought it would be cute to examine the Voter's Guide in detail. Yeah, I'm living to regret THAT decision.

State Representatives, then. We have two positions in the 47th district, 1 and 2, that come up at the same time. I've always wondered why we time it so these offices BOTH have to be filled at the same moment, but them's the breaks.

Let's do position 2 first. Two candidates, so whatever happens, you're going to see these guys again.

Pat Sullivan is the Democrat and the incumbent. His candidate profile is pretty boilerplate and straightforward - not giving me a lot to work with, but I can appreciate that. First elected in 2004 to the position, before that mayor of Covington. Not mentioned here, but has a Muni League rating of Outstanding.

Timothy Miller is the challenger and willing to go on record as being a Republican. He's a little more florid in his prose. Traffic congestion is Staggering, health care costs are Spiraling, and property tax rates are Escalating. Strong action words. He comes from a strong engineering background, and is the creator of Traffic Tim (that may sound a little snarky, but actually, its kinda cool, and though from the site Tim looks like a work in progress. There is a pdf for an activity book).

Over in the first position, we have a little more activity with three candidates. The incumbent is Democrat Geoff Simpson, who packs a Municipal League rating of Very Good. However, he's carrying a lot more baggage into this contest in that he and his wife have separated, and, more importantly, he was several months ago briefly detained on a domestic violence investigation. An investigation cleared him quickly, and from what I can gather Mr. Simpson aided the investigating officers completely and professionally (unlike some other pols who have been picked up over the years). Simpson remains a solid leader, and even when I have disagreed with him (getting a NASCAR track out here) I have found his arguments smart and persuasive. Put me down as conflicted on this one.

His Democratic challenger is Leslie Kae Hamada, who lists herself as a published children's book author. This is true - Pee Wee's Adventure in the Woods is on Amazon, but its publisher is AuthorHouse, which is a vanity press. There's nothing inherently wrong with self-subsidized or vanity publishing - there seem to be a LOT of authors running this year who use this method of getting their message out - but it should be called on. More pertinent is the argument that since she will step away from her volunteer work, she can work year round for us. Well, that's good, but our state legislature is a part-time job for a reason, and most of us seem to like it that way (it provides less chances for them to get up to mischief). Her Muni rating is Good.

The Republican challenger is Mark Hargrove, who goes to ground on the fact that despite 16000 bills introduced (not bad for a part-time body), the important issues are not being addressed - traffic congestion, property taxes, reduced spending (ignore that reducing spending means less money to fix traffic), and property rights. Accuses the incumbent of looking out for Seattle-based special interest groups (like, um, NASCAR), and promises to look out for local special interest groups. His Muni rating is Adequate, behind the two Dems.

This one should prove to be very interesting.

More later,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

VG: Initiatives

Two more big categories to go, but here's the place where the current initiative on the primary ballot goes.

I-26 isn't the dumbest initiative ever proposed, but it is the dumbest (and only) one that's on the primary ballot. It basically proposes that we put ANOTHER initiative on the ballot this fall, an initiative that proposes all of the King County offices be listed as non-partisan. It is an initiative to ask if you want to vote on an initiative.

Good thing? I doubt it. We've just gone through all the superior court nominees, with the result that I can't tell you much except that they all have some sort of legal background and have that common sense, no-nonsense, voice of experience, voice for change outlook that is what YOU are looking for, and would be honored for your vote. Aa vital piece of information (political party) is lacking from the process about who you are voting for, and you'll have to keep your wits about you when you vote.

And the statement for is filled with enough goo-goo optimism to make even MY head swim, and its reaction to pointing out that this might not work (the anti-campaign) is an indignant "How DARE you insult the voters like that!". Look, I want to know what's in my cereal, and I don't feel insulted when they print a list of ingredients.

The Muni League is spuporting this initiative, and frankly, the Muni League is smoking crack on this. OK, let me be more fair - if we don't reveal what a candidates' party is, then voters will have to turn to other resources to get more information about the candidates. Resources like ... the Muni League! TaaDaa!

Me, I think the voters need all the help they can get (the past week of this blog proves my point that elections are getting increasingly difficult to manage).

Adding insult to injury on this, the OTHER question on the ballot is that, "If we DO choose to go forward on this initiative, which version would you like?" Sort of "You you like the fish or the meat, and even if you don't want the meat, how would you like it cooked?". The original initiative bans talking about parties on the ballots (though I GUESS you'd have the "endorsements" of the major political parties). A King County Council alternative makes declaring party allegiance optional (sort of like in the current "top-two", and we see how well THAT's worked out).

So let's just nip this in the bud, as Deputy Fife (so popular they named a town after him) would say. The Council measure is slightly LESS odious, but let's force our pols to be up front about where they are coming from.

More later,

Diana Jones

Wolfgang Baur and his Open Design project have co-won the Diana Jones award, alongside the the Indie RPG Grey Ranks.

I'm delighted to have contributed in a small way to the success of the line, and recommend people check it out.

More later,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

VG: Superior Court

From the US Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey:
"...not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."
And that's the perfect quote (replacing "It all depends on what your definition of is is"), as we turn our eyes to the painful task of Superior Court justice.

Washington State elects its judges, which sadly means that we have to VOTE on those wanting the job. More trying, as non-partisan positions, we have to PAY ATTENTION to what we're doing. And there are over fifty such positions up for vote. The only GOOD news in all this is not all the positions are being contested, so a lot of people are getting the job without anyone actually having to vote. Go Democracy!

The upshot of all this is that I have a LOT of ground to cover, so I'm going to cheat. I'm covering on the ones in my neck of the woods. Muni league recommendations, Exceptional recommendations via, and fun facts. Snide comments kept to a minimum. Note that almost all these candidates have courtroom experience, endorsements from well-known politicians, and put either scales or gavels on their yard signs. The Factoid section is the briefest glimpse of why they are doing what they are doing.

OK, turn over your papers and begin the WASL:

King Superior Court, Position 1
Susan Amini (Muni League: Good, 1 Exceptionally Well Qualified Recommendations, Endorsed by the Times and the P-I). Factoid: Blindness of her son taught her about the importance of fairness and equal opportunity.
Tim Bradshaw (ML: Very Good, 3 EWQ Rec), endorsed by The Stranger) Factoid: Involvement in YWCA's "Girl's First" has prepared him to manage a courtroom.
Suzanne Parisien (ML: Very Good, 1 EWQ Rec) Factiod: Breast cancer survivor.

King Superior Court, Position 10
Jean Bouffard (ML: Good, 0 EWQs, Endorsed by the Stranger). Factoid: Notes that every open Superior Court Race has a candidate from the prosecutor's office, of which she is not.
Regina S, Cahan (ML: Very Good, 4 EWQs, Endorsed by the P-I and Times). Factoid: Claims to be distinguished from other candidates from diverse experience and bipartisan support.
Les Ponomarchuk (ML: Very Good, 3 EWQs). Factoid: Parents fled the Ukraine because of the Nazis. Godwin Surrenders.

King Superior Court, Position 22
Rebeccah Graham (ML: Good, 1 EWQ, Endorsed by the P-I). Factoid: Daughter of an African-American father and Jewish mother.
Holly Hill (ML: Outstanding, 2 EWQs, Endorsed by the Stranger). Factoid: Candidate statement avoids ALL CAPs, but has discovered the italics formatting key.
Julia Garratt (ML: Outstanding, 2 EWQs, Endorsed by the Times) Factoid: Superior Court Judge Pro Tem since 1998, stresses that she is already doing the job.

King Superior Court, Position 26
Laura Gene Middaugh (ML: Good, 0 EWQs, Endorsed by the Times, P-I, Stranger). Factoid: Incumbent, Worked her way through law school as an intensive care nurse.
Matthew R. Hale (ML: Not Qualified, 0 EWQs, No endorsements). Factoid: Learned his union values working as a laborer and carpenter, Questions if you would want someone with different values. Did not provide a candidate picture.

King Superior Court, Position 37
Nic Corning (ML: Very Good, 3 EWQs, No endorsements). Factoid: Worked his way through college as a cement finisher.
Jean Reitschel (ML: Outstanding, 5 EWQs, Endorsed by the Stranger, Times, P-I). Factoid: Former Municipal Court judge, claims to have heard more cases than all other candidates running for open seats, Took the lead in writing the Misdemeanor Report, which was a direct-to-video version of the Minority Report.
Barbara Mack (ML: Very Good, 0 EWQs, No Endorsements) Factoid: Former Deputy Under Secretary of the US Department of the Interior.

King Superior Court, Position 53
Mariane Spearman (ML: Outstanding, 5 EWQs, Endorsed by the P-I) Factoid: Candidate statement is a full list of previous law experience and endorsements. Doesn't give me anything to work with.
Ann Danieli (ML: Very Good, 3 EWQs, Endorsed by the Times, the Stranger) Factoid: Also listed experience in court. Also doesn't give me much to work with. OK, who let in the mild-mannered professionals, here?

More later,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

VG: Supreme Court

I'm not writing about the Olympics, not because I have anything against China or against athletes, but because I've never been a fan of the Summer Olympics. Somehow, growing up, I missed the boat on getting fired up about the summer games, a deficiency that neither Mark Spitz or Kathy Rigby could overcome. The Winter Olympics, on the other hand, I'm a fan. Go figure.

But we move onto the court cases this time out, which are quieter than they have been previously. I can only surmise that the BIAW has bought enough access with previous campaigns and is just coasting on this one this time out (And indeed, they are investing in Democrats this cycle, just enough to cover the spread). So the court positions are a bit sleepy this time out.

Two resources are good for the court positions, one is Voting for Judges.Org which is an aggregator of endorsements and ratings from various legal bodies about the judges in question, as well as the Municipal League which provides ratings for judges and local elected offices. Both are worth checking out.

So, the Supremes. These are non-partisan positions, but that doesn't mean that the people running for them are not partisan, just that the position is. So you have to do a little more digging to understand what is going on. And often, lacking a party affiliation, just a name will sway people one way or another.

And just to make things interesting, if one of these guys gets more than 50% of the vote, then they get the election and don't have to run in the general. So FEWER people can make the decision.

Position Four we have incumbent Charles Johnson. We have a lot of Johnsons on the bench, and justice Johnson has been there longer than most. He is conservative and has gotten great marks from the various lawyer groups and the Municipal League. His candidate statement reflects this, being little more than a brief biography and a list of everyone who supports him. Its a pretty good argument, right there.

Jim Beecher, the leading challenger, flips the logic with the argument that after 18 years in office, it is time for a new fresh approach, from "someone with knowledge of present day litigation practices across Washington." Because, you know, being a judge keeps you away from all those lawyers on a daily basis. He still gets a positive rating from the Muni League and the law groups, but not in Johnson's weight class.

Frank Vulliet argues that the Judges are not working hard enough, should be trying MORE cases, and those cases that they do try are too expensive. He wants to re-org the entire system. Mr. Vulliet is currently working on a book with the working title "Taking Stock . . .: What’s Still Right and What’s Gone Wrong in America: What YOU Can Do About It". No, this is not a joke from the Colbert Report. Oddly enough, he has been suspended from practicing law for not keeping up with continuing legal education requirements, and when mentioned at all, is judged "Not Qualified" by the various groups.

Over at Position Three, We have incumbent Mary Fairhurst, who has racked up a ton of previous experience, a lot of "Exceptionally Well Qualified" ratings, and the endorsements of the major media, with the exception of the Seattle Times. I can only assume that she said something discouraging about Estate Taxes to earn the wrath of the Blethen family which owns the Times.

The Times is alone in preferring Michael Bond, who gets OK ratings from the various groups, and is running on the platform that Fairhurst rules too often in favor of government. The purpose of the judicial branch, per Bond, is to protect the people from the government of which it is part. Not a bad idea, but he doesn't have the oomph to back it up.

And finally, over in Position Seven, Debra Stevens is running unopposed, so I'm not going to say anything about her. So there, nyah!

More later

Monday, August 11, 2008

Commerical Interuption

We break from the exciting action of the Washington State Primary Voter's Guide to announce that this Wednesday, Issue #3 of the Worlds of Dungeons & Dragons comic ships, the gods willing and creeks not rising. The issue contains the first half of my adaptation of Ed Greenwood's Elminster at the Mage Fair and a Ravenloft story by Jim Lowder.

We now return you to our exciting coverage of the Voter's Guide. Next up - JUDGES!

More later,

VG: Insurance Commissioner

So it's an amazing thing that I am plodding through the Voter's Guide, and just when I hit Insurance Commissioner, I get scooped not only by the blogger Mimerki but by the Seattle Times. You know you're behind the curve when the print media beats you to a story.

The scoop, by the way, underscores a screwiness with the top two primary as currently envisioned. You are supposed to list party preference, if you have one, but there is no mechanism to enforce this beyond relying on your own innate honesty. Hence we've seen Republicans rebranding themselves as GOP, and in the case, denying their origins entirely in the hopes of bamboozling the voters.

Meet Curt Fackler, challenger for the Insurance Commissioner position, whose candidate statement blisters with indignation about the current incumbent is letting the insurance companies rip you off, and that we "need a regulator who will hold the insurance industry accountable, without party politics and elites of Olympia calling the shots". He states no party preference, and sounds like a reforming, consumer-minded firebrand.

Except in the real world. He is the Spokane County Republican Party chairman, a delegate to the state Republican Convention, and served as the chairman for the 5th Congressional District Caucus. No one is FORCING him to declare a party preference, and if people think he's more liberal from his statements, hey, them's the breaks.

The official Republican candidate (which is to say, the one that admits to being a Republican) is John Adams. Why yes, he DOES have a picture of THAT John Adams on his website and points out that he comes from a "historical Massachusetts family". He states in his candidate statement that he is pro-consumer in that we wants to restrict extreme judgments in court. The Times notes his campaign has been low-key to invisible.

Actually, this should be interesting to see if Republicans vote for the brand or vote for the nudge-nudge-wink-wink independent.

Oh, yeah, there's the incumbent, Mike Kreidler, running for his third term. And as incumbent, his campaign stresses that things are going pretty well, and that if you keep them, they will get better. No, really.

More later,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

VG: Superintendent of Public Instruction

After the relative thinning of the ranks downballot, we hit a bumper crop at the Superintendent of Public Instruction, because it all about the WASL.

The WASL (pronounced like the yuletime rum punch)sounded like a good idea at the time, and starts with a simple concept - are our kids learning? The Washington Assessment of Student Learning test is for all Washington students. Since then it has become a regular feature of debate every time the SPI post comes up. It has been years in the planning, has not been fully implemented, and depending on who is running, is either a complete success, a dismal failure, or somewhere between the two points and needs some hefty fine-tuning.

Oh, and this is one of those "Non-Partisan Positions", which means you get even less information than normal to make your decision. So you have to read (and do a little homework) before making a decision. Look on the bright side - if you're old enough to vote, you don't have to worry about taking the WASL, so don't belly-ache about it.

The incumbent is Teresa "Terry" Bergeson, who has been in the position since 1996 and been deeply involved in developing and applying the WASL, which has been a slow, frustrating uphill process. From her candidate's statement, they have succeeded, as "Washington leads the nation in accountability with some of the most rigorous academic standards in the U.S". SAT scores are up, and 91% percent of the class of 2008 met graduation requirements for reading and writing (math and science not so much). She says things are getting better. Her opponents beg to disagree.

Randy Dorn is a former teacher (Note: EVERYONE here is a former teacher) who points out that Bergeson has had 12 years to make things better, and things still are not done. He's pushing junking the unfinished WASL and replacing it with a simpler test that will take up less time and curriculum (and take longer to implement). He's also got the backing of the State Democrats, the WEA (teacher's union) and PSE (non-teachers/support staff union). The latter is not a surprise since Dorn is the executive director of the PSE. These two are the likely candidates for fall, though it is not inevitable.

John Patterson Blair favors "alternate education" and you have to run through his candidate statement a couple times before you key in on the word "vouchers". Unfortunately we don't have a position for Superintendent of Alternate Instruction. On the other hand, he's WASL-neutral, though overseen by Neighborhood Education Districts. And you thought the PTA was time-consuming.

Enid Duncan wants to free us from the WASL obsession of the incumbent, and that the goals of education reform are good but have been abandoned (probably having something to do with cleaning out the swamp and suddenly discovering the presence of butt-level alligators). Citing a return to basic principles, she wants to give teachers the best tools for teaching while being fiscally responsible. And there, as they say, is the rub.

Don Hasler of Spanaway has a plan - unfortunately its nor available for the Internet. Said plan involves paying teachers more (which I always in favor of) and revising the WASL (mend it, don't end it). No idea if he plans to revise it up or down, but if I send him my land address, he'll mail me the plan. It is good to have a plan.

David Blomstrom invokes Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as a suitable role model for education reform, is angry that the race is being reduced to the WASL, has been fighting WASL for a decade, deplores "software terrorists who exploit children" and is attacking Bill Gates "right in his home town". His committee is called "David Blomstrom vs. the Seattle Mafia". He also wants to know why the Seattle Media ignores or even lies about him, creating the first recursive candidate statement which answers its own questions as it asks them.

Remember, I'm reading these things so you don't have to. No, I won't take the WASL for you. There are limits.

More later,

VG: Commissioner of Public Lands

It is sometimes difficult to describe where I am coming from. I don't mean in this blog, I mean in real life. I live in unincorporated King County, between Renton and Kent. My postal address is Renton, but my property abuts a Kent school. The area north has been sucked up officially by Renton (after flirting with the idea of becoming Fairwood), while our neighborhood is going to eventually become part of Kent (or so the theory goes). So after trying a number of ways of telling people where I live, I just settles on Panther Lake, the largest local feature (and there is a Panther Lake in Federal Way as well, so that doesn't always work, either).

Anyway, the neighborhood is covered today in the Sunday Seattle Times/P-I in the real estate section, with a big push for how affordable everything is (if you ignore the $600k megamansions) and how it still shows its rural roots (which we seem to be intent of burying under a carpet of new housing). It mentions the one solid restaurant on the hill (Paulo's) but admits that most people leave the area to go anyplace interesting (in Real Estate terms - "Quiet bedroom community").

That only has a tangential connection to the Commissioner of Public Lands position, but it was worth mentioning in passing.

Anyway, in CPL we have the same prob we have in AG - two candidates in a top two election. So we're going to see these guys again. We also have some scandal in the race, which says something about Washington's political establishment that we have to dig this far down into the list to find it.

Incumbent Doug Sutherland is former mayor of Tacoma and has support from the big timber operations. According to his candidate statement - "runs government like a business because good business and environmentally responsible stewardship go hand in hand." Unmentioned in the writeup is that he was targeted by a sexual harassment investigation from an employee (inappropriate touching and remarks) in 2005. This only surfaced recently, and the traditional press was going to ignore it entirely until the blogosphere brought it up (another case of an "open secret" that doesn't get shared).

But this is small stuff (Sutherland agreed at the time that he violated policy and apologized - no suit was filed). A more serious lapse of judgment was his department's involvement in the Chehalis flood earlier this year. Investigations pointed out that a major contributor to the floods, which inundated the lowlands and closed I-5, was overharvesting (strip logging) of forests up in the watershed. The heavy rains caused slides, which then funneled the wall of water west into the towns.

This one is more serious, and responsibility has to be laid at the DNR and the Commission of Public Lands (who, in turn, refers to the incident as "an act of God"). This time they were asleep at the switch, and Chehalis and Centralia paid the price.

Sutherland's challenger is Peter Goldmark is a rancher from the far side of the Cascades, and plays the cowboy card a lot, while noting in passing that he is also a molecular biologist. He stresses endorsements from labor, conservation, and education groups, as well as Senators Cantwell and Murray.

Like I said, we'll be back to these guys. More later,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

VG: Attorney General

So we're back with the Voter's Guide and with it Attorney General. And again we've got that weird enforced moderatism that Washington State is subject to. The Republican/GOP party is trying to get some traction over the Governor's dealings with the local tribal casinos, in commercials that have just a whiff of racism to them. But the Rob McKenna, the Republican attorney general is out there defending the Governor and saying that everything is on the up-and-up.

Mind you, McKenna is also assuring everyone that this top two primary is completely legal, and will stand up to a challenge by the political parties that hate it. I will note that there are only two candidates for HIS position, so we'll see both of them in the general election come fall.

And the Voters' Guide has a interesting dualism as well - McKenna points out that we're doing well, while challnger John Ladenburg pushes the idea that we can do better. And indeed, McKenna's office gets points for increased transparency in government, such that the state is getting awards for it. McKenna points out that we've dropped six places in identity fraud. Ladenburg works from the same base set of numbers, and counters that we're still #9 in identity theft and #2 in consumer fraud.

So this one is definitely in the "to be continued" category, and things like who's backed each candidate and what you think about the top two primary will probably ultimately have more effect.

More later,

Rant: Flawed Vessels

So I have to deal with the fact that a public figure that I've admired has proved to be guilty of the sins that flesh is err to. Oddly enough, I'm not talking about Brett Favre.

My own political history with John Edwards has been played out with this blog. I wasn't a supporter originally, but when I found myself in his camp, found I like a lot of his policies and thought he could do the job. Indeed, as an Edwards supporter I got to engage in my own smugness when the top two Democratic candidates were pummeling each other - the dog I backed had already retired from the field with honor. Still, I am disappointed by the news that he had an affair, which he confirmed it on Friday.

Now, you'd think after the relentless bombardment of inappropriate behavior from the conservative side over the past six years, I would immune to this type of thing. Truth of the matter is, I find myself drifting more and more to a zero-tolerance position on the fine art of stepping out on your spouse. And if you're playing the "good-husband/family man card", you are putting your personal behavior on the table, so you really should live up to the talk.

More to the poinit, such activities underscore a basic error in judgment, considering, you know, that we're dealing with a figure with a published schedule and who is surrounded by the media. And while the political press is not adversarial (a rant for another day), it is opportunistic. It will likely pop up that those covering the campaign were aware of the affair (the young woman was videographer and working alongside them), but that no one was sure lacking positive proof (like, the candidate confessing - and if you're asking, no, you don't get points for being brave and honest on the television, you get points for not having the affair in the first place).

In short, the media close to the candidate was covering for him, as has happened with a number of "open secrets" about the private lives of public individuals. But once the cat is let out of the bag, everyone has to get into the big story. The information was released on a Friday afternoon, the day the Olympics began, when the Russians invaded a neighboring country. But Russia is far away and China gets its feathers ruffled if you talk about the weather, while Obama is on a vacation and McCain is reducing his press time. And most of all, this is a Democratic Sex Scandal, which the media KNOWS how to handle.

And yeah, there's a feeling of "Judge not, lest ye be judged" in looking at this, though if the Book of Matthew isn't your style, there's the basic Karmic justice that occurs when you declaim inappropriate activity on a Monday and by Wednesday the photos of your time as manager of the Suicide Girls Lacrosse Club show up on the Internet. But there has been a lot of judgment going on, and I don't feel like equivocating if this is better or worse than Alaskan corruption or Congressional shenanigans or Vice-presidential misadventures. If it is bad behavior from a conservative, it is bad behavior from a progressive.

Then there is the "flawed vessel" argument - just because the man is wrong, doesn't mean the ideas he exposes are wrong. That is true, but we have seen a plethora of leaky terracotta over the past decade, and but it doesn't make it any easier. Yeah, we DO expect our leaders to hold themselves to a higher standard - that's why they are leaders. Call it the Captain America school of political values, and it applies to all parties.

I like what Edwards was fighting for, and while I think his national career is done, he probably will continue to serve his state. In his apology, he stated "Feel free to beat me up", and there will be no shortage of that in the coming days, as this story continues (yeah, continues) to unspool. The irony is, Edwards aspired to the highest office of the land, and for the next week or so, will get all the scrutiny and judgment that comes with the office.

OK, sermon over. Back to the Voter's Guide. More later,

Update Admit it, you would click on a link titled Suicide Girls Lacrosse Club.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I interrupt our death-march through the Voter's Guide (up next! Attorney General!) to sadly report that the the Internet, it has failed me.

This weekend, and for the next two weekends, southbound 405 will be completely shut down as they demolish the Wilburton Tunnel.

I know what you're thinking - 405 has a tunnel? Well, its more of a train overpass for the the old Burlington Northern/Santa Fe line which hugs the eastern edge of Lake Washington, crosses the highway over this bunkerish tunnel, then passes underneath the northbound lane, then flies across a valley on the Wilburton Trestle, a beautiful, almost model-railroad sort of bridge.

But I can't find out when the Wilburton Tunnel was built, from sources on the net, nor much about the history of this vital artery. I THINK the original 405 passed through the Wilburton tunnel both ways, then the northbound lane was added later, but I can't find out when this happened.

I CAN find out that the Wilburton Trestle was first built to cross an arm of Lake Washington over a hundred years ago, a reminder that the lake was once eight feet higher before the ship canal was punched through, and that the land my office stands on was once underwater.

But on the tunnel itself? Nothing on the net other than numerous reminders that no one should head south out of Bellevue for the rest of August. And nothing about who Wilburton was in the first place.

The edge of the Internet. I have found it at last.

More later,

Update: The net may fail, but netizens are always on alert. In this case Stan! came through with some bits a pieces. this article says the tunnel is 36 years old, which puts its construction in 1972 (the closest I found was a Bellevue history site that only alluded to the idea that I-405 started to "take shape" in 1962).

Stan! also found that the Wilberton trestle and tunnel shared a name with a lumber mill, and that trestle, tunnel, mill and surrounding community took the name from the Wilbur and England logging camp, a boomtown established in 1900. The mill closed in 1918 in part due to the fact that Lake Washington had receded.

Thanks, Stan!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

VG: State Auditor

The Stranger, one our two free weeklies, has posted its endorsements. The Stranger has a punky, in-your-face attitude that makes it sometimes rude, occasionally unfunny and usually NSFW. Still, its a set of endorsements. The other free weekly, the Seattle Weekly is still recovering from being gutted following its purchase by a conservative chain a few years back. So there's not much there - a blog entry about Sam Reed and that's about it. All the old hippies who used to work at the Weekly are now over at Crosscut complaining how the city has gone to hell ever since they put in the floating bridges.

But as we make our way downballot, things start thinning out. Ten challengers for Governor, four for Louie, three for Treasurer, and now three for State Auditor. Who, you know, audits.

Brian Sontag has been on the job for a long time, he’s got broad support from Reps and Dems, and from both sides of the Cascades. That pretty much sums up his candidate statement, and like Sam Reed, he’s a keeper.

Glen Freeman (Constitution Party) flips the argument – Sontag’s been in office forever, it is time for a fresh set of eyes (preferably his). He dogwhistles the Constitution/God connection with the Kent Covenant Church, but avoids the obvious mention in the candidate statement, unlike his other Connies.

J. Richard (Dick) McEntee takes the “Things Suck!” approach, challenging that the auditors office is not performing enough audits, while at the same time straining resources by performing too many expensive audits. In other words, the food is terrible, and the portions are too small. Initiative 900, demanding performance audits, should have (says McEntee) brought in a billion dollars. Since we don’t have a billion dollars, then it must the auditor's fault!

Me, I blame those durn floating bridges.

More later,

VG: State Treasurer

Does it bother anyone else that Paris Hilton has a more thoughtful energy policy than the McCain campaign? Still off-base, but more thought out.

Anyway, State Treasurer – Our Top Two primary gives us three choices for two slots here, consisting of a Democrat, a Democrat, and a Republican endorsed by the Democrat who currently holds the job. Ah, Diversity!

And to be frank, I’ve got no smart-alec cracks here. This is one of the abundance of riches situation that I wish we would be faced with in every race. Allan Martin (R) is the Assistant state Treasurer, so he knows the ropes to start with. Jim McIntyre (D) is a state rep with long years on the Economic and Revenue Forecast and House Finance councils, in addition to being a UW Prof. Changmook Sohn (D) is our chief economist, the former HEAD of the Executive Director for Washington State’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council and responsible for predicting economics.

Wow. No air engines or god-derived constitutionality here. You pick ‘em.

More later

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

VG: Secretary of State

One of the joys of Washington State government is that all the state executive positions are up for grabs at the same time. So you’re not just electing a chief executive who brings in all his cronies- you get a say in who those cronies are. This also produces administrations which are a forced mixture of Reps and Dems, with the result that a more balanced and moderate state executive emerges.

It does make problems for the parties, however, since you can’t blame everything wrong in the executive branch on the other party without admitting culpability, nor can you take credit for everything being peachy keen without having to admit that the other party helped.

Case in point, the most powerful Republican in Washington State, our Secretary of State, Republican Sam Reed. Overseeing the state elections, he had the duty of presiding over the last election’s real squeaker, dispatched his job fairly, and has ever since been vilified by his own party for not putting politics before principle. Since then he has winnowed out the voting roles in a way that did not trip any political sensibilities on both sides, and has been working through the nightmare of the primary process. I do not like the Top Two primary, which he has been working to implement, but I cannot help but feel he is one of the good ones.

That said, Democrat challenger Jason Osgood points out the most worrisome point in our electoral armor – computer fraud. In the past few elections, there have been hints and allegations of nefarious dealings and outright incompetency with the electronic vote counters, and Osgood, a computer security guy, hits the nail on the head. Problem is, the elections are more than just computers.

Mark Greene represents the Party of Commons (no, I haven’t heard of them before, either), He believes that the Top 2 primary is more egalitarian. I beg to disagree. Should he end up in the final, he has made a strong case for his point.

Marilyn Montgomery of the Constitution Party also goes after previous election fraud, of course, that fraud is about people voting without proper ID. She favors the restrictive Indiana photo ID law that keeps nuns from voting. Obviously Sam didn’t winnow the lists far enough if we’re still letting the brides of Christ have a say in government.

More later,

VG: Lt. Governor

Last time I gave you the link to the voter’s guide. Here’s one to help with state executive candidates – its from Spokane, and covers their locals plus some bits and pieces on the state level executives. Importantly, it also tells you what the state offices DO.

After the crowded field for Governor, there are a lot fewer candidates for Lt. Governor, which is surprising since it seems to be a much easier job. Near as I can gather, it is a great position for understudy and state spokesman, and involves things like traveling the state pushing official initiatives, traveling the globe on trade delegations, and, where needed, being knighted by the King of Spain.

In fact, in the past, I’ve thrown my support behind any candidate who runs on the platform of getting rid of this office, but since no one is running on those terms, let me go into the guys who are running.

The incumbent is Brad Owens and he’s done a pretty good job, the job being what it is. Actually he’s been a pretty good side kick, not as mouthy as Robin or as overdosed as Speedy. More of a Kid Flash. His candidate profile actually stresses some of the things he has done, and he’s comported himself pretty well. He's been a follower of the First Commandment of Washington Politics: For God's Sake, Don't Embarrass Us.

Republican challenger Marcia McCraw, on the other hand, looks pretty innocuous as well, and has as her credentials Makiki Council, which made go look up Makiki (it is a neighborhood of Honolulu, near Wakiki Beach). So yeah, if your need for change reaches the Lt. Governor level, go crazy.

Arlene Peck, the Constitution candidate is running on a Constitution and Christianity platform. At least she’s up front about it. She promises a combination of small government and Biblically proscribed moral values, because those two things have worked so well together in the past.

We have a ghost candidate in Randel Bell, listed as a Democrat but lacking a web site, contributions, or replies to any requests for information. Maybe his mates chipped in and got him the position on the ballot for his birthday

And finally, we have the GOP candidate, Jim Wiest, who last time ran with Dino Rossi (also now GOP). His candidate write-up is interesting in that he plans on ending the homeless problem. Great! He doesn’t explain it, but gives a web site address. Which doesn’t work. But he does give it a name, so we have Google and we find similar sites in Calgary, in Massachusetts, and, and ... Ah ... Here’s the one, not the site itself, but apparently in response to a request from a forum in Whatcom county. So his plan for ending homelessness is --- voluntarily incarcerating them in a former federal facility for rehabilitation, and deporting the ones that refuse (estimating that number at 50-75% of the total).

End the homeless problem by outlawing being homeless, locking up those who are, and sending the bulk who refuse to another state. Oh. My. Ghod.

Thank the lord the Republican party isn’t running him. He might prove to be an embarrassment.

More later,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

VG: Governor's Race

So let's start our tour of the Voter's Guide with the Governor's race, which is the most packed of the group, with ten candidates who would normally be split up as minor challengers within the big parties and minor party candidates in the general. In the Voter's Guide, these were assigned an order based on a d20 roll (and no counting higher Dex or the Improved Initiative Feat), so you have a scramble of explanations, serious candidates cheek-by-jowl with the nutters. Me, I'm going to list them as the Inevitables, the Well-Intentioned, and the Deluded.

Let's start up with Chris (Christine) Gregoire, who is an inevitable because she is the incumbent. In her write-up, she naturally stresses a position of "Things don't suck" - We had a 2.7 Billion dollar budget hole, which we patched. We had huge unemployment, and now have the third-fastest growing economy in the nation. We had overcrowded prisons, so we built more. Things don't suck, so vote for me.

The other inevitable is Dino Rossi, who, being the leading challenger, represents the position of "Things Really Suck". We're heading for a 2.5 Billion dollar budget hole, traffic is horrible, and sex offenders are roaming our streets (Boo!). He promises to relieve the traffic problem and solver the budget hole without raising your taxes. No idea how this is going to happen - maybe we'll start taxing those sex offenders. But things really suck, so vote for me!

Then we move into the well-intended with Chris (Christopher) Tudor, the manager of the College Inn up in U-District, running as an independent. Now, he sounds frighteningly sane in his voter's guide - he's running against political parties in general. Downside is no political experience, but that's not a killer, particularly when dealing with state government. I strongly recommend that if you're sick of the top two, this is a great place for your protest vote.

John W. Aiken comes across as pretty sane as well, and is the leading candidate for the Republican Party (Rossi is campaigning as a member of the G.O.P. party, whatever THAT is). A lot of civics class basics here, but there is an interesting turn in the local Republican party to casting itself as pro-environment.

Also well-intentioned BUT HEAVY ON THE ALL_CAPS KEY is James White, pro-family and pro-Constitution, with side orders of energy and environment. Can't find a lot to hit him on from the Voter's Guide, so if you trend toward the law-and-order types, take a look.

Duff Bagley is the Green party candidate, and while I admire all the coolness he advocates, he does take a bit of poetic flight in his Candidate Statement - "Our Climate Crisis demands profound cultural change now. As in childbirth, pain will attend this change." And hopefully, as in childbirth, drugs will be readily available.

Chris (Christian) Pierre Joubert is definitely in the territory of candidate statement as expression of personal world-view. Here's part of the first (extremely long) line - he believe that "... Washington State should be leading the Nation in promoting a Spiritual Civilization based on holistic medicine, alternative energy, affordable housing..." That last can be attained through "compassionate solidarity and eco-construction technology (strawbale, wood, clay)". But if those don't work, there's always the non-compassionate house made of bricks.

Javier O. Lopez is running on Honesty, Ethics, and Integrity. Oddly enough, he is also running as a Republican. He is also the inventor of an "air engine", but is notably sketchy on the details.

We met Mohammad Hasan Said back in 2004 in the Voter's Guide, when he was a Democrat tracing our nation's problems back to Israel. This time out he rejects all parties, and gets deeply into his candidate statement before this line pops up: "Finally I would like to sound the alarm, that AIPAC and other Jewish Zionist Lobbies who represent less than 2% of American People are using the United States through their mighty power in the News Media, Financial Institutions, Hollywood and Entertainment Industry". Jewish Zionist Lobbies? Ah, it is good to see conspiracy theory represented - though next time he might want to go after the Knights Templar instead.

And speaking of conspiracy theory, we lastly have Will Baker of the Reform Party, who we also met in 2004 and noted then that he was well known for being arrested for disrupting public meetings (or to spin it slightly better - "familiar with the criminal justice system"). He devotes his candidate statement to declaring Christine Gregoire to be "The Cover-Up Queen". His logic seems unassailable:
A) Gregoire is corrupt
B) No one has found this corruption, so
C) Gregoire is a Master Criminal who is expert at covering up her tracks.
Um, yeah. Actually, I consider that having such a brilliant mastermind in charge of our state might just be a GOOD thing, but then I'm not running for governor.

More later,

Monday, August 04, 2008

Voter's Guide

Let's see if I've gotten this right - the current slam against Obama is that he's too POPULAR to be president?

In the meantime, my life has been enriched by the Voter's Guide for the upcoming Washington State Primary in two weeks. We have new system in place this time, the "Top Two" primary, which is to supposedly correct a problem that didn't really exist and in fact doesn't even do that. I've ranted about this before and (you guessed it) I'm going to rant about again.

The concept of the Top Two is that we have a completely open primary, from which the top two winners for each position go onto the general election. This form of primary is not unique in the US, as it is used in Louisiana, that bastion of free and fair political processes. Indeed, we're using a process that gave the world David Duke. Good Game, Guys!

What this means in real life is that if you like the Greens, Reforms, Libertarians, or any of the other parties in the system, you'd better pay attention now because you won't see any of them come election time. For most partisan positions, the two majors have already gotten their candidates up and running. For the non-partisan posts, well, things get murky fast.

That's where Grubb Street comes in. As public service, I'm going to be separating the wheat from the chaff, and printing the chaff. But its going to be very inciteful chaff, as I and the rest of you muddle through this mess we call the 2008 state primaries.

Buckle in, it's going to be a rocky ride.

More later,

Brave New World

Busy with some other things, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the release of the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting. Projects like this involve a number of great talents, but the one that carries the greatest load is the editor who has to pull it all together, in this case the talented and lovely Mike McArtor (hi, Mike!).

Here's a full list of contributors. You may recognize a few familiar names.

Keith Baker
Wolfgang Baur
Clinton J. Boomer
Jason Bulmahn
Joshua J. Frost
Ed Greenwood
Stephen S. Greer
Jeff Grubb
James Jacobs
Michael Kortes
Tito Leati
Mike McArtor
Rob McCreary
Erik Mona
Jason Eric Nelson
Jeff Quick
Sean K Reynolds
David Schwartz
Leandra Christine Schneider
F. Wesley Schneider
Amber E. Scott
Owen K.C. Stephens
Todd Stewart
James L. Sutter
Greg A. Vaughan
Jeremy Walker
JD Wiker

Quite an collection of talent, with many old friends and a lot of new talent. Now if the (cough*cough) author copies would show up.

More later,

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Kobold Clerics II

A couple days back I wrote up and published an Divine Channeling Feat for the wide-ranging Kobold mythos. Kevin James Kage wrote in with a better one. Here it is, with a minor tweak from me:

Channel Divinity: Fickle Finger of Faith - Feat Power
The gods do not always smile on us, so change allegiances as necessary
Daily - Divine
Immediate Interrupt
You miss with an attack using a Divine power source.
EffectReroll again for the attack, with a -1 penalty for the roll.

Originally it gave you a -1 Will penalty for until the end of your next turn, but that's one of those memory things that might not come up in combat, or if it does, the player might forget in the heat of the moment.

Kevin said it felt a bit more Cleric-like than the other one, which is more Warlock-y (and actually felt a little Kenderish to me, but never mind). What I like about Kevin's proposal is that it can be used for anyone worshipping a pantheon of gods, or ancestor spirits, or as the general default cleric. Problem solved!

And I think I'm going to put the one I made in my back pocket if I ever decide to create a Kender for 4E.

More later,

Update: So the playtest went well - the highpoint was me pushing a fey bear through a bar window. The kobold shifty step seems good. We had two kobolds in the group (the other one is a wizard), a dwarf, a dragonborn, and tiefling.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


In the wake of the fall of the towers in 2001, there was another crisis, one that has surprisingly since faded from view, drifting off like weaponized dust over a battlefield. And that was the anthrax attack.

Here's the History Channel version - In the weeks following 9/11, packages of white powder showed up at media outlets as well as the offices of Democratic congressmen. Letters attached claimed islamic origin and identified the powder as anthrax, and in the ensuing weeks, five people died of anthrax, and 17 more were infected. A media outlet tied the anthrax to Iraq, and the incident became part of the drumbeat to war.

And then things quietly faded from view. Whiled everyone was shucking off their shoes at the airport, things seemed unchanged in the mail system. There would be an occasional mention among the other news, small notes in the back of the paper that the anthrax didn't look like it came from overseas. That it was domestic. That it came from the same place that was helping in the investigation, Fort Detrick. That they had a suspect. That the suspect was no longer a suspect and was suing. That they had a new suspect.

And now the new suspect has committed suicide. And that the coverage is now along the lines of "Well, I guess that wraps THAT up." (Actually, the headline in the Seattle Times was "Will Suicide Close Case on Anthrax?", to which the P-I answers: ""After Suicide, Feds Consider Closing Anthrax Case").

And of course it wraps up nothing. We don't know exactly the evidence (it is under grand jury). We don't know the motivations, though the general guess seems to be that the suspect wanted people to pay attention to potential bioterrorism by engaging in it. I'm seeing a lot of reports of the suspect's instability, but a lot of that evidence comes from SINCE the attacks, when he increasingly became a suspect.

And what's all this bit with ABC News rushing in with the Iraq link, then fighting any attempt to change it? And the various media and government types that were already popping Cipro (an effective anti-Antrhax agent) before the attacks began?

It is odd that there are heavy 9/11 conspiracy theories that want to tie in our government into the attacks (under the idea of qui bono - who benefits), challenging every fact and tossing every assumption under the microscope. Yet on a domestic attack, a Tylenol fright made more major, with a path leading back to our own doorstep, there is little or nothing to be said from either the outside or the inside. Or how we're going to keep it from happening again.

Move along citizen, nothing to see here.

More later,

Friday, August 01, 2008

Kobold Clerics

Rain total for July - 1.25 Inches, most of it at the beginning of the month, with a brief burst last night.

Anyway, back to Clerics. From the previous entry, I am playing with what to do with my Kobold Cleric as far as the Channeling Divinity feat is concerned. I have four options.

1) Ignore it. I mean, you can channel divinity for other stuff, and you have to spend a Feat for an additional, tailored usage. Not bad, but a little frustrating - if you're not choosing one of the sanctioned gods, you're out of luck.

2) File off the serial numbers on one of the other gods' feats and use that. There is no Kord or Ioun or Raven Queen in this world, so why not rip them off? I might do this, but nothing feels particularly kobold-y

3) Steal an ability from a kobold in the Monster Manual. The choice looks like Incite Faith from the Kobold Wyrmpriest (Minor, encounter) Close burst 10: Kobold allies in the burst gain 5 temporary hit points and shift 1 square. Not bad, and like the Mob Attack we give to Kobolds, it encourages all-Kobold parties or the use of the Kobold Friend feat.

4) Design my own Feat. Of course I'm going to do this.

So the Channel Divinity Feats are nice but not great. They feel like a minor powers, in that they are particularly good within a set situation (fighting large creatures, fighting undead, you get a critical hit, etc).

And here's another wrinkle - the Kobolds of Zobeck, according to the DM, are a bit "flighty" with their deific preferences - changing from day to day. So this should be more about the kobolds and less about the gods (Ancestors, heroes, bits of felt found in the pocket, etc...)

Channel Divinity: Challenge of the Kobold Lords - Feat Power
Taunt your opponents into rush in when they should fear to tread
Immediate interrupt -- Melee
Trigger: You shift after hitting an adjacent opponent.
Effect: Your opponent immediately shifts into the space you have just shifted out of, if they are able to.

That last bit is to keep people from shifting into difficult terrain, or off cliffs, or large figures trying to move into medium spaces.

It's an interesting idea - we'll see how that works out.

More later,