Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The GenCon News

So the big news for me is that I will attending GenCon for the first time in many, many years. I understand it has grown a bit, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll be doing some panels with the Writer's Symposium this year, and helping out at the Kobold Press/Legendary Games/TPK Booth, which, from the map of the exhibit floor its so far from the entrance as to almost be the Region (Indiana joke).

Here's my current schedule (removing all notes for dinners, award shows, and personal stuff)

Thursday 4-6 PM, Booth #2639, shilling for Kobold Press, Legendary Games, and TPK Games

Friday 11 AM Book Signing – Exhibit hall (Bring your copies of old stuff - I'm not selling there).
Friday 5 PM  – Beyond Books – Other Writing Opportunities – Room 224
Friday 6 PM – Worldbuilding: Mythology – Room 224

Saturday 10 AM – Worldbuilding: Creating Magic Systems – Room 224
Saturday 11 AM – Worldbuilding: Flora, Fauna the Natural World – Room 224
Saturday 12 PM – Worldbuilding: Writing the World’s History  – Room 224
Saturday 4-6 PM Booth #2639, shilling for Kobold Press, Legendary Games, and TPK Games

Can't make it to GenCon this year? Still in Seattle? Well, I'd like to point out that fellow Alliterate Will McDermott is having a book signing at the MOX Boarding House in Bellevue to celebrate his most recent novel: Mage Wars:Nature of the Beast, based on the board game. 2-6 PM on Sunday, August 2nd.

Oh, and finally, this is not GenCon related, but I came across this video that we made about nine(ish) years ago when we were about to launch Guild Wars: Nightfall. I look at it now, and think "My, we were all so YOUNG back then."

More later.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Political Desk: Hospital Rounds

Public Hospital District Position 1 - You would think that when you get this far down the ballot you'd see a diminishing of passion. This is where we are seeing positive-messaged first-timers, good-government wonks, knowledgeable and/or retired professionals and the occasional guy who says "How hard can it be?" But here in this smallest of elections is a tempest that makes even the shenanigans of Bill Bryant's Port Commission look like student government.

At the heart of all this is Valley Medical Center, which is a well-run, well administered, highly professional hospital right at the bottom of the hill.I have no probs with day-to-day operation, and number of my specialists are there. At its very top it has been for years run by a superintendent who is in turn overseen by an elected board. And there has been fireworks since about the time I moved to the neighborhood, between a reform wing that is trying to reign in the power of the administrator (who is, admittedly, done very well for himself). and the supporters of the admin.

So, the insurgents get some traction, and the admin's favored candidates lost. About this time, Valley Medical merges with University of Washington Medical Center. As a result of  this merger, the former superintendent becomes the CEO, and the five elected members of the board are now watered down by a majority group of seven additional appointed UW Trustrees on a board of directors.The lists of the two boards are here.

And among those trustees? The supporters of the current admin who had just LOST previous elections. I swear, I saw pols from Chicago fly in just to take notes for their own ward elections.

So, we have three candidates, and one of them is supportive of the administration (having been appointed to that position to fill a vacancy), and the other two are trying to shake things up, though how up things can be shaken at this point is an open question. The elected part of the board is the part we can affect, so I'm going to push all the chips in on Savannah Clifford-Visker and Lawton Montgomery because it sounds like we're going to have the inevitable flurry of last-minute revelations about how things are being run (and as I research this, the nurses are currently working without a contract, over staffing levels).

More later,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Political Desk: Kent

Here's where we get serious. I am more than willing to be glib about other positions, from the standpoint that there are other news sources that will give countering opinions. However, when we get down to the granular nature of local city positions, it stops being a joke. For some people, this blog may be the only mention these candidates get. The Times recommendations stop at the southern border of Renton. I don't think the Stranger recognizes that the world exists south of Georgetown. The Muni league will get down to Federal Way but nary a word on Kent or Renton. And the Kent Reporter doesn't even get up to our neck of the woods near Panther Lake. So I need to be a little more responsible, quote outside sources a bit more, and a little less of a wise-ass than usual.

Just a little.

Position 1 is the only position on the Kent City council with more than two candidates, so it will be the only one to speak of here. There are three candidates for the position, - Bailey Stober, Tina Burdell, and Hira Singh Bhullar. You can find the vimeo of their statements here. A fourth candidate is on the ballot, but has dropped out.

Bailey Stober has run before, and has been recommended by this blog, particularly in the face of the disastrous previous election where Kent elected a guy who ended up serving two weeks of his term before resigning to serve 43 months in jail for stealing from his own mother. Mr. Stober comes from a strong background working with the state, and to be frank, he was robbed in the last election, and Stober's election would have saved the City Council a lot of egg-spattered faces.

But, there is another piece of the puzzle here. Mr. Stober has been plagued with PDC (Public Disclosure Commission) Violations in his last two runs. Compared to stealing from your own mother, this is small potatoes, but it is SOME potatoes, and the eye for details is something you need for running a local government. Mr. Stober comes heavily endorsed, but I have reservations

Tina Budrell is a Microsoftie who has established herself as a community activist with the North Park Neighborhood Council (which is just north of downtown Kent and the Commons). She has been extremely active in the community, and has a number of credits under her belt at the local level. The Lovely Bride got a robocall, but could not repeat anything that was said. Sigh.

Hira Singh Bhullar works for Starbucks as a software developer. Most of what I see from him is pretty much the "I appreciate the community and want to give back to it" that makes up a lot of local politics at this level. And I will be honest, that is really cool, and he has a good history of local volunteer work.. This is the place where people get their taste of retail politics and local concerns, and I appreciate his contribution. In addition, he sent me a mailer. We don't get a lot of mailers up here any more.

I appreciate both Mr. Bhullar's and Ms. Budrell's local commitment, but if backed into a corner, I will recommend Tina Budrell, if only for previous experience with local government. Now watch, the day after I post this, she'll be connected with an Emu-smuggling syndicate down in Puyallup.

More later,

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Political Desk: Taking the Ports

Ah, the Port Authority, Seattle's resident hive of scum and villainy. Scandals and impropriety are rare in Seattle, where we bog down in process to the point of no return, but the Port always delivers. Whether it is denying a living wage to the workers at the Airport, encouraging coal and oil trains through the center of town, or pitting our largest domestic airline against our largest oversees carrier in an airport expansion, they will always be there to carry the freight (as it were) for industry over the rest of us.

Most recently, this manifested itself with a secretive set of meetings that allowed the port to let a Shell drilling rig moor here before heading off to despoil deepwater trenches in the search for oil that we don't need (we're exporting it these days, yaknow). The relevant bit of this is not whether a large multinational has the right to go to the ends of the earth to pour exploration dollars literally into a hole in the ground, but rather why all the negotiations happened in secret in a town than is often transparent to the point of immobility.

As a result, having "Port Commissioner" on your resume is sort of like having "President of the Local Chamber of Commerce" on your CV - it actually can count against you, and required further questions. An incumbent already has a foot in the hole.

So let's look at Position 2. The incumbent, Courtney Gregiore, has a lot going against her: She didn't blow the whistle on this chicanery. She is the daughter of a previous governor (always ticking off the politics-as-family-business box for me). And she's named Courtney, which makes me feel really, really old. Like having a minister named Scooter. On the plus side, she normally is a strong environmentalist, and is often a counterbalance to the oil and coal side of the equation.

Annnnnd... her opponents really aren't much opposition. One is a perennial candidate who was amusing when he declared that the answer to our woes is Space, but became much less so when he decided that the answer to our woes is to eliminate the minimum wage. The other, to quote the Seattle Times "is a self-described communist who said he would not support the Port's role as an engine of the capitalist system." (I think that's the Port's main job). His Voter's Guide statement speaks of the importance of electrification.

So yeah, Courtney.

Position 5, on the other hand, is an open position, since Bill Bryant is stepping down to run for governor. Bryant promises to bring the same style of backroom shenanigans to the  Governor's Mansion, so congrats on re-election to governor Inslee. But in his wake, no less than nine candidates are vying for the support. They are (deep breath):

Mark Hennon, Activist, lists himself as an author and computer consultant. His site is still under construction. This is not a good sign.
Herb Krohn, Former conductor and labor lobbyist. who the Seattle Times likes. Promises transparency. Declares himself as pro-business, pro-environment, pro-taxpayer. Pitches as a centrist.
Fred Fellemen - Enviro, whale biologist, supported by The Stranger and a LOT of local politicians. 
Marion Yoshino - Neighborhood activist, whose neighborhood includes the airport. Jobs and environment platform.
Richard Pope - Runs for everything. Does not win, but has been invaluable at digging up problems on the other candidates.
Norman Sigler - Has the best-written website of the group. Has worked for both airlines currently feuding with each other. Running as an outsider.
Daniel Reandeau - I got nothing on this guy. No web site. A linked-in search says there is a Daniel Reandeu who lives in Port Townsend. Port Townsend is a port, right?
Darrell Byran - Co-owner Victoria Clipper, which docks at our port. I've been on it. It's a pretty cool boat.
Ken Rogers -Not Kenny Rogers, sadly. Former Board of Directors, Delta Airlines

Going over the websites (where available) and their statements, I agree with Ms. Yoshino's note that the airport needs better representation among the Port Commissioners, But I also really like Mr. Sigler's website - he mixes personal notes with an ability to handle the complexities of port trade. So for the initial round, I would recommend you consider either Marion Yoshino or Norman Sigler.

Nine candidates? Well, at least I don't have to consider all the Republicans running for President. That's something.

More later,

Friday, July 17, 2015

Political Desk: The Elections Election

I honestly think we're getting dumber about our electoral process all the time. Part of this feeling is my own grognardly nature, in that I remember back to the days when you had to WALK to the Polling Place to vote. Uphill. Both ways. But part of it is when we pass a law that makes the head of the elections board an elected position itself, and then freak out that actual politicians are running for the office. I swear, the Times is getting a serious case of the vapors over it.

But here we are. What should be a regular civil service position - Director of Elections, is now an elected position, with all the sturm und dross that comes with it. Fortunately, for this election we have the recently appointed deputy director, Julie Wise, running for the position. You know, the person with 13 years of experience in the operation who would have the inside track if this still was an appointed position. Stranger likes her. Times likes her. I like her.

If you don't think you want a career electoral bureaucrat in charge of an electoral bureaucracy, let me give you an option. Zack Hudgins comes out of my district, the 11th, and has served well and admirably. The guy has solid chops. But when I look through my notes, I say nice things about the guy, then always choose the other candidate when he has one. Well, I'm not one to argue with tradition.

More later,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Political Desk: What, Me Primary?

It is not yet August, and I've just received my primary ballot. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense to me, either.

Here's what passes for the thinking on this: The candidates and parties felt that a primary in the more temperate regions of September doesn't leave enough time to spend gobs of money on swaying your vote. Nor would it be enough to make you sick of campaigning, mailers, and robo-calls. So as a result they shuffled the primary forward into the realm of summer vacations and picnics. Yeah, that's going to work out real well.

The good news, such as it is, is that the ballot is pretty light for the primary. No initiatives. No judges. No state offices. A lot of contests are one or two candidates to start with (this is a top-two primary, which means for a lot of urban contests you see two democrats punching it out in November, and in more rural precincts two republicans). Still, this is the hand we've been dealt, and is a chance to get in on the early decision making, such as it is.

I will be dispensing my traditional blather in this space. I shan't be going into the big local event, the Seattle City Council, since I don't vote on it. So there. King County has the full listing of candidates and their statements here. The Seattle Times editorial board has cut its three-martini lunch short and put its blather here (it hasn't aggregated it yet). The Stranger got off its pot-fogged butts and has their blather here. The Municipal League ratings (which don't include Kent or Renton - thanks guys) are here. And as an added bonus, here's a slate presented by a group of CEOs in hopes of motivating their tech minions into voting for candidates that won't punish large corporations by making them take out the garbage or at least clean out the cat litters every once and a while, for Pete's sake.

So stay tuned and we'll try to make this as painless as possible. Well, for me at least.

Sadly, more later.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Earthquake in Sensurround

Everyone on the West Coast has by this time read this article. It is an excellent description of the potential hazard of a major quake in the Cascadia fault, and how we are pretty unprepared for it.

Not that we aren't more prepared than we were. After the Nisqually Quake of 2001, there was a lot of improvements in building design and even such laggards as I have made sure to tie down our china cabinets and water heaters. But for something this massive would overwhelm whatever attempts people would make to protect themselves from devastation. When it happens, it will be pretty bad.

We can do more. A couple years after the quake, I was working for a company in downtown Bellevue in one of the new skyscrapers. And I was very aware of the fact that several faults crossed right underneath Bellevue. I asked what the earthquake plan was, and was told that everyone should take a shard from the server and walk down the fire escapes. No rally points, nothing beyond just getting out of the building.

The article itself does move around geographically, though, and that seems to increase the apparent damage. While Seattle itself will likely be flattened by the quake itself, it is the seaside communities that will be primarily wiped out by the resulting tidal wave. The article allows the reader to conflate the two, such that Seattle would be destroyed both by quake and tsunami.

How much Seattle gets of such a tsunami would actually depend on where the quake epicenters. Far south along the plate we have the bulk of the Olympics between us and the worst of the waves. If it breaks are the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then we have a nice shotgun channel pointed right at Whidby Island.

The only ironic humor that I can take out of the article is the comment that "everything West of I-5 will be toast". Grubb Street if fives miles EAST of I-5, so I guess we'll be fine (oh, quit laughing. I'm clutching at all the straws I can). Yes, if the big one hits, much like the big one they have been awaiting in LA, it will be pretty harsh.

Of course, let us make lemonade out of these lemons. I recommend that all natives of Seattle spread this story. Send it to relatives and would-be job prospects. One of the great challenges to our neck of the woods is that we have become TOO Successful. Rent is skyrocketing. The roads are clogged. And every single-story building in Bellevue seems to be under siege by high-rise developers. And people STILL want to move here. We need to scare them off, and the idea that we will all die from a massive earthquake may just be the thing.

And if it doesn't scare them off, we'll tell them about the ACTIVE VOLCANO.

More later,

Friday, July 03, 2015

(More of) The Gaming News

The trouble with reporting on what's going on stuff in gaming would be easy. But nooooooooo! You just mention one bit of news and another truckload shows up, including stuff you had learned earlier but just hadn't mentioned:

ITEM: In addition to the ENnies, GenCon also is the site of the Diana Jones award, which since 2001 has presented a Lucite-encased fragment of the Indiana Jones game to the game/person/thing that best embodies the spirit of excellence in the game industry, as determined by a shadowy, neefarious, and largely unknown committee. The short list of nominations has been published, including the massive Guide to Glorantha, which, by the way, I am still reading. No, really.

ITEM: The Ed Greenwood Group was established a which back with the idea of launching new worlds and concepts in a variety to mediums. This week  they unleashed a plethora of announcements on agreements with the Gamehole Convention in Madison, Twin Fire Productions, Dungeons and Dragons Under the Influence, ACD Distribution, and the latest incarnation of Amazing Stories,  Oh, did I mention they were working on their own RPG as well? Yeah, they're a pretty active group.

ITEM: Also I got to see this week Lester Smith's new d6xd6 Expanded Edition. In addition to simple, straightforward rules for roleplaying, the book contains a slew of new worlds, including concepts by a number of the Alliterates - Rob King, Doug Niles, Steve Winter, Steve Sullivan, and Matt Forbeck. Which is what happens when you drinking on a regular basis with other game designers - they all get together and decide to put on a show!

ITEM: Lastly, there is a generational nature to gaming. Tracy Hickman's son, Curtis has been working as the Chief Creative Officer on a new product called The Void, which is two parts Dream Park, two parts Matrix, two parts Lazertag and all wrapped up in virtual reality. Find out more about it here (oh, and Curtis has an interview on Australian TV here, and I am amazed he has a beard now).

More later,