Wednesday, December 31, 2003


So its not enough to encounter the white stuff out on the peninsula, it has to follow us here. Here, to the domain of temperate weather. The Noive!

Actually, its a really pretty outside right now - a mantel of white draped over the as-yet-unraked leaves in the back yard. The trees are heavy with it - its a wet snow that sticks to everything, and the bronze cat birdbath is wearing a white hood. Its down to flurries right now, but the air is cool and crisp and the decks and porches are bare (big overhangs on the eaves).

This sort of thing makes me happy I finished my short story yesterday and hand-delivered it to the editor - I don't want to leave the house at the moment. And since I have a project with an immediate deadline I am working on, Kate's in the kitchen, and nephew John Michael is downstairs with the X-Box (The Monkey King lent me some of his games, which were a life-saver), all seems right with the world.

More later,

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Pacific

So my nephew, John Michael, is out visiting over the break. He's nineteen, going to school for computer technologies back in PA, rail-thin, and growing his first beard, a sparse collection of hairs on his chin that makes him look like "Shaggy" from Scooby Doo (Aunt Kate teases him regularly about this). So we've been "doing stuff" in addition to all the other work I'm needing to get done over the break. Saturday I took him to the Space Needle and the EMP and shushi, and right now Kate's braving the unseasonably cold weather here to go to the Museum of Flight.

But the last two days we have been on the Olympic Peninsula, a huge chunk of land to the west across the sound. Most people think about Seattle as being on the West Coast, but actually, we're miles and miles in from the ocean itself, protected by this huge chunk of new mountains.

We got there by heading north, to Mount Vernon, then west across Deception Pass - a steep-sided narrow waterway that turns what was thought to be a peninsula into an island (hence the deception). Its a sharp-edged gorge, and we got there at a great time - right at sunset. Nice view, but as a result, I was driving south to the ferry in the dark (I seem to be doing a lot of driving in the dark in these stories). We ferried to the Olympic Peninsula itself, to Port Townsend, where we stayed the night, and had dinner with Steven, an old WotC buddy. Steven would join use the next day to explore the area.

Port Townsend is a nice, small community on the Juan de Fucca passage, which connects the Sound with the ocean and forms most of the northern border of the peninsula. Its an old, mildly eccentric town - their motto is "We're all here because we aren't all there." (They have bumper stickers for that). Indeed, the entire peninsula has a sort of an offbeat, eccentric nature to it - I ended up following a pickup truck with a full gun rack and a "No War for Oil" bumper sticker.

It was surprisingly cold out there. We had been out in this area previously in early spring, and while brisk, its been relatively mild. Now it is nasty-cold, and as we moved inland, we started to hit snow on the ground and wet icy spots on the road where they have sanded. My car (the four-door) now has a tan lower-half from all the road-grit it has taken on and looks like I've been running it down the Baja.

Kate's original plan was to hit Hurricane Ridge, overlooking the town of Port Angeles on the northern coast, but was disuaded by the fact that snow tires were needed to get up there and the ridge itself was wrapped in clouds. So plan "B" was to head to a beach she had been to before, on the Pacific Ocean - Third Beach, just north of the Giant's Graveyard. Got there in plenty of time, and hiked down about a mile through temperate rainforest to reach the beach itself. The beach was great, since it was one of the few sand beaches I have seen on the Washington Coast - most are black igneous rocks smoothed by the waves. The greatest peril is climbing over the huge pieces of driftwood that piled up at the high tide mark. To the south, the Giant's Graveyard was a scattering of spires marching out into the sea, like, well, tombstones.

We were the only ones on the beach at the time, and the tide was coming in, so we did not stay longer than a half-hour. There were small shapes in the water - either diving birds or otters, floating on the heavy waves. The surf was strong, and both Kate and I got wet from being in the wrong spot as the waves surged up the flat beach.

But it was getting late, and the wet roads were turning to ice between us and Port Townsend. We headed back in the dark, with a brief stop when a young woman flipped here truck ahead of us at Sappho Junction, right at the bridge across the Sol Duc river. She hit an slick spot heading down to the bridge, rebounded off the guard rail, and flipped onto her side right at the bridge itself, blocking the road. She was shaken up pretty badly but unharmed, thank goodness. What impressed me was that the amount of walkie-talkies and radios that suddenly appeared from the other drivers, and that one of the other women in the backup had an EMT rig in her trunk and was checking out the victim before the firetrucks got there, while others directed traffic and made sure the truck wasn't leaking anything but radiator fluid. Very prepared they are, out in the peninsula.

But it was another long drive back in the dark, navigating the twists in the road in the failing light. Passage across the Edmunds ferry and home in good time, but it was a long trip, and I'm still a little bleary-eyed about the whole thing. So today I'm spending rewriting a story that I finished right before leaving town, and doing some contract work that is due Monday.

More later,

Friday, December 26, 2003

The Five

From this week's Friday Five.

1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year? I'd say the work I did for the 'Kids. I think I did a good job, and I think people will like it. They are already releasing news about the DC Heroclix: Unleashed set on the Wizkids site, and its getting a very positive response (I particularly enjoy the Hal vs. Kyle Green Lantern arguments - for the record, I voted for Kyle). There are a couple more things that will be coming out that have not been announced.

2. What was your biggest disappointment? Definitely the layoff from Wizkids. Quick, sudden, and unexpected. Even so, it wasn't the worst moment of my life or my career. The worst part of it was the huggamugga caused me to blow a short story deadline, for which I am terminally embarassed (though the editor held the door open for me long enough for me squeeze in, I don't like running things that fine).

3. What do you hope the new year brings? I get back up again. The old saying is - "Failure is not being knocked down - Failure is not getting up again once you've been knocked down." That's a motto I can get behind, along with "Living well is the best revenge."

4. Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? If yes, what will they be? I rarely do - they set one up for regrets later. So while I could shed a ten-spot worth of poundage or relearn to play the piano, I will try the following: "Play more games". Particularly the video ones (which aren't really games, but that's another story entirely).

5. What are your plans for New Year's Eve? Um, playing games. Probaby European Board Games.

More later,


Cue the "Charlie Brown Christmas" music.

Kate and I had a pleasant and mildly exhausting Christmas. Pleasant from a standpoint that it was smaller - we normally go a tad bit overboard. This year Kate and I got each other books and clothes, with a big gift of a DVD player and a new cordless phone/answering machine which have been on the "need to buy" list for some time. I did indulge and got Kate a new, lighter Tai Chi sword.

The day was exhausting because Kate and I throw a Christmas dinner for single friends and couples without kids. A sit-down dinner for 13 people. And THERE we overdid. Poached salmon and a brined 20 pound turkey (more on that later). Green breans, stuffing, potatoes, carrots, rolls and biscuits (corn and bacon). Stuffed mushrooms and rumaki as appetizers, home made cheesecake and chocolate tart for desert. Three types of tea, late harvest reislings, a rouge, and mead. Verily, 'twas a spread, and it was good to gather everyone together (conversation went from movies to politics to the mideast to ancient cities, and at one point I volunteered my Britanicas to settle a dispute). My only regret always is that Kate and I are cooking and hosting and have very little time to just enjoy.

But it was wonderful, and one of the best parts was the turkey, a 20-pound bird that we brined, pulling a recipe from an Alton Brown article in Bon Appetite. Brining is immersing the bird in a salt marinade - in this case a combination of hot water, salt, sugar, vegetable broth, and chilled with ice (to kept the bird below 40 degrees). We brined it in a cleaned cooler we set in the upstairs bath, using bag-wrapped bricks to keep raise the fluid level and cover the entire turkey. After eight hours of this, we blasted the bird for a half-hour in 500 degrees to get the skin right, then slow-cooked for another 2 1/12 hours. Despite a series of follies involving the oven probe not working, we finished about an hour ahead of schedule, which allowed up sufficient time to rest the bird. The resulting turkey was, without a doubt, the best-looking and tastiest bird I've ever served.

So I'm converted to brining, which I have previously mocked as being the latest food fad. Still not going to deep fry the turkey, yet.

The end result was a wonderful meal with good friends and definite feeling of exhaustion. Next year we're seriously talking about doing a menu that involves more stuff prepared in advance, with a minimum of last-minute prep, so we can spend more time drinking and gabbing with the guests.

Yeah, we're already thinking about next year. More later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I Remain Employed, Kinda

It's been an interesting week past, and promises to be a hectic holiday week. One of the harder parts of freelance is that there is no official "time off" - no holidays, unless you declare them yourself (and work harder to keep up with the deadlines).

First off, I've agreed to take a position with True North, run by Rich Kaalaas. They're a firm that does web design, graphic design, and content for Hasbro (among others), including on-line activities, promotional copy, and flash animation. He's bringing me on as a copy writer, which is a new/old thing for me - I've done it before, but never as the headline part of my job. Rich is old-school WotC, and I am friends with two guys already working for him, Steve Winter (great editor) and Steve Conard (great idea man). So that starts on the 5th of January.

So, I am effectively still temping - I'm hourly, and it all depends on how much work they can scare up. But they do have medical benefits, excellent pay, and a lot of potential for growth. They seem to be building a solid rep as a company and, to be frank, it looks like its exactly the sort of thing I thrive on - a lot of cool stuff, all happening at once.

In the wake of this news, WotC has informed me that they wish to extend my current work out to the End of January. I was wrapping things up with a ribbon for the 19th of this month, since they hadn't said anything definite. Now, True North thinks it will eventually get me the hours for a full-time after a month, but the first month should be a bit shy, so this works out, since the Wizards work will be heavy in the early going, then taper off. So I'm back with them on the 5th, and go to the end of the month.

So far, so good - I think I can serve two masters. Then today an opportunity shows up from Hasbro through True North which needs a designer/developer, which involves heading for corporate HQ in Pawtucket for the first week in January. The stresses of having two corporate masters (even in the same corporation) are already starting to be felt.

Did I mention I still have to do the world-building that's due on the 5th, and a short story that's due on the 1st?

And of course the Christmas shopping, which is done this year - Kate was the last one on the list, and I got her stuff today. And there have been a lot of parties and friends in the past week, so I'm working through a busy social schedule as well.

And despite it all, Kate and I got to see Return of the King. I have thoughts about it, but the interesting thing that I've heard from my friends is what I haven't heard - there's sort of a stunned awe that spreads through when discussing this. Its a huge film, and an amazing achievement. More on that later.

No really, more later.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Five for Five

A very sluggy net today, but here's the Friday Five:

1. List your five favorite beverages:
Diet Coke
Hot Tea (Earl Grey or Monk's Temple)
Sun Tea (Lipton)
Beer (Guiness)

2. List your five favorite websites.
The Writer's Almanac (initial page)
Echelon (politics)
Daily Kos (politics)
Gaming Report (industry)
PVP (humor)

3. List your five favorite snack foods.
Peanut Butter Crackers
Pretzel Rods
Ginger Snaps
Beef Jerkey

4. List your five favorite board and/or card games.
(Note: Games are social activities - playing these games remind me of particular people, and that's why I like them).
Settlers of Cataan
Magic: The Gathering
Robo Rally

5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games.
Civilization (all incarnations)
Railroad Tycoon
Warcraft/ Starcraft (various incarnations)

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

Except when it doesn't. I haven't been ignoring this on purpose, but I've been busy with about five jobs at once.

Job Number One is the Day Job, which concludes this Friday. It was helping with the Star Wars miniatures game (which has been announced, so I can say it). Yeah, its going to be a lot of fun.

Job Number Two is the Contract Job that follows the Day Job, and is due on the 5th. Its a bit of World-building, but will carry me through the holidays.

Job Number Three is the Looking for a Job, for that position that hopefully will open up after after 5 January that will see me through the rest of the year.

Job Number Four is a short story due to a friend at the beginning of this year. Its a collection that involves a lot of talent, and I'm very excited about it, but I can't tell you any more about it.

Job Number Five is the holidays. Shopping, of course, mostly for Kate, but also prepping for our annual Christmas Day Dinner. And a couple parties in the meantime.

So its a bit hectic. How hectic? I won't get to see Lord of the Rings until Monday or so (and that's because Kate is even more buried with H&R Block).

More later. No, really.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Mideast Meets Midwest

Two pieces of good news out of the Middle East today (or if you prefer, Southwest Asia). One of course is the Capture of Unabomber (well, he LOOKS like the Unabomber) outside Tikrut. No smart comments, just a commendation of a job well done to our military forces and one more thing that is no longer on their "Honey-Dew" list.

Second bit of news is that my friend Doug's daughter (who I remember from when she was a rugrat) is doing her Boots on the Ground in Kuwait. As with everything else in the military, this is subject to change, but it is a good sign.

More later (cold clearing up, so of course I spent it doing yardwork),


Saturday, December 13, 2003

How Po-Mo Am I?

Fighting a cold at the moment, so this will have to pass for real content.

theory slut
You are a Theory Slut.  The true elite of the
postmodernists, you collect avant-garde
Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal
articles for breakfast.  You positively live
for theory.  It really doesn't matter what
kind, as long as the words are big and the
paragraph breaks few and far between.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

More later

Friday, December 12, 2003

Five For Friday

Today's Friday Five.

1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays? Only if I'm not going anywhere. Usually I prefer snow and cold at a safe distance, so that if I suddenly take leave of my senses, I can go visit it ("Oh, look, Rainier is all white").

2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect? We have a traditional Christmas Day dinner party with friends. This year I'm thinking of brining the turkey. Wish me luck.

3. Do you do have any holiday traditions? We engage in Vegatation Sacrifice by getting a live tree. We set out candles in the window every year. Kate pulls out her collection of historical dolls and we turn the living room into a big doll-room. I add flour directly to the gravy, as Kate screams "Noooooooo!".

4. Do you do anything to help the needy?Nothing above the other 364 days - donations of cash and clothing. Well, maybe a little more at this time of year, but people need help in June, too.

5. What one gift would you like for yourself? "Let me pay off your house, Jeff - now get to work on that novel" :)

More later,

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A Little Nostalgia is a Dangerous Thing

So this little quote showed up at, in regards to Ken Hite's review of the the latest Marvel Universe Role-Playing Game. Bold and Italic mine.

"Marvel hired veteran game designer Dan ("Paranoia") Gelber, along with Jeffrey Simons and Evan Jones, to create its very own Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game (126 page full-color 7.5"x11" hardback with bound-in cardstock Character Action Display, $24.99), which bowed much earlier this year. As a superhero game, it suffers a trifle by comparison with Jeff Grubb and Steve Winter's 1984 masterpiece Marvel Super Heroes , but what doesn't, really?"

It only took twenty years, but NOW we're Geniuses (Bwah-hah-hah)!

More later

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I Visit Distant Relatives

This one takes some explaining, at least as to explain how, the day before Thanksgiving, I was trespassing with my brother on a farmer’s land outside the town of West Sunbury, PA, near the town of Slippery Rock.

First off, my sister is taking two classes at Slippery Rock, which was not only my father’s college but also his birthplace. The building that he was born in, a low structure on a small hill overlooking the road, is still standing. Also still standing is the building just up the hill from it where he grew up, and when a small child, had his picture taken in a goat cart. That picture, along with one of my sister, aunt, and uncle in their military uniforms, and a faded color shot of the entire Grubb clan at my grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary (I was what, 14? at the time) are hanging in my family room.

I digress. So my father was born, raised and college educated at Slippery Rock, and now his daughter is taking classes there and his grandaughter is doing daycare. My sister invited me up to see the monument and have lunch. My father is class of 1952, and through his efforts, teaming up funding from his class, and those of 51 and 53, arranged for a monument to Slippery Rock's Vets (who made up much of those three years of schools, including my dad). The monument consists of a bronze plaque on a chunk of local stone, with a brick plaza in front of it a trio of flags, right in front of the Alumni Center. Pretty much my father’s concept, though they brought in a professional designer who added some lighting and pair of Flintstone-style benches and collected the check. The incription reads:

Alumni Veterans Memorial
In gratitude to
the alumni of
Slippery Rock University
who served their
country so valiantly.
This memorial is a tribute to
those ROCK alumni who
answered the call of duty.

And in smaller type:

This project was made possible
by the classes of
1951, 1952, and 1953

And in smaller type still:

Planning Committee:
Zane Melxner ‘49, Robert Bidwell ‘51, John Grubb ‘52, Ron Becket ‘53, William Bearry ‘56, Robert Watson ‘70, Michael Saraka ‘89 (M), Eric Holmes, ‘93, Leo Gelbel 95 (they missed a apostrophe here), Tom Perry ‘02.

So I went up to Slippery Rock to view the monument and have lunch. The folks passed on the chance (Dad is little grumpy at the designer about those benches), but my brother Scott expressed an interest. Scott claims small interest in family history, but he’s searching the web for contacts for my mom (the family geneologist) and his ability to read German is particularly helpful given our Swiss-Germanic roots. Indeed, the depth of his knowledge on the road (going into depth about one ancestor, J.R.Black (my Grandmother’s line) and his history in the Civil War), impresses me.

For me, I have sense of direction, another Grubb heritage. We found the old graves of Gideon (Great great grandfather) and Peter (his father) in separate cemetaries. Indeed, the entire area outside of Slippery Rock, about an hour north of Pittsburgh, is littered with Grubbs, Aikens, and Blacks, standing sentinel beneath their tombstones.

Now, Western Pennsylvania in November is a grey, dreery landscape. There is greenery on the ground still in a lot of places from a warm spell, but the trees are denuded of cover, the air cool, and the clouds low and grey for the brief days. Traveling through the area, through identical vales and similar hamlets, is a bit soul-wearing and exhausting.

So at last we got to the homestead of Peter Grubb (Primeaval patronomic ancestor - Not Heinrich, the first over from Switzerland, but the first in these parts). It was granted to Peter after the revolutionary war and now sold and resold into other hands. We hallowed the houses on the property but got no answer, and ended up driving back into the woods along a one-lane road. The foundations were on the far side of stream, across from land the current family is developing for housing. The woods itself has overgrown the area, leaving little but a squarish hole with a few blocks covered with bits of snow that still clinging to the shade. If you didn't know what you were looking at, you wouldn't know what was there.

Here is my family (a good chunk of them, my father's line), tucked within a twenty-mile area of Western PA, beneath these low grey skies and empty trees. I've only visited during Thanksgiving break, but it always gives me the feeling of the Land of the Dead - barren, empty, and dark. I have fled west, like the man who married Gideon’s wife after he passed on, leaving her behind to buried, with her second name (Erikson) next to Gideon and Daughter Melvira.

And here is my youngest sibling, the sister taking classes at Slippery Rock. She has moved from the South Hills of Pittsburgh where we grew up, and gone to Cranberry, which is on the southern edge of this region. Into the region of ghosts that is my family history.

More later,

Report from Red America - About This War

“I think this war in Iraq is a mistake.”

I heard that increasingly during the week I recently spent in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has its rep as a steel-town, and therefore a Industry/Labor/Democrat stronghold, but I was in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, the suburbs. This part of the territory is Red America - Scaife-Mellon country (he runs the Trib-Review, the “Republican paper” in the area, and was a leading Clinton-hatah), Talk Radio land (Rush Limbaugh honed his chops at KQV back in the 70s when it was rock station 14K), the Scarred, Scared, Scarborough Country (my folks keep the TV tuned to news and weather, and wonder why they’re so nervous all the time). So I was a known liberal among conservatives, but to most of them, I’m still local, and in some cases, family. So they can talk to me, and know that I will be, at least, polite.

But among my right-of-center friends and relations, there comes a moment when the sentence slips out. It happened once when I was out here in May, but four times on this trip. There isn't a lot of talk about politics and national affairs here right now (this after eight years during which not a single feather fell from heaven without family commentary picking up how it was all the then-administration’s fault). But it does come up, and there’s a pause, and then the sentence comes out.

“I think this war is a mistake.”

They say it in a quiet voice of “I think my spouse is having an affair.” There is disappointment in the voice, and the hint of betrayal. No anger. Just disappointment.

For my part, I say “Well, you’ll have that”, or "You may have something there," or something similarly neutral and polite. To me, its seems like a simple fact. This war IS a mistake. We dived into the underbrush, like a deer hunter chasing a six-point buck, and stepped into a bear trap. There's not a whole of discussion that's necessary at this point. It's a recognition of sad fact.

But what interests me is why they say it the way they do - in private, quietly, and to an understanding audience. Why so quiet?

Here's what I think - Consider that deer hunter with his leg caught in the bear trap. The hunter is really hoping that the guy who originally set the trap will come by and let him out. He hopes this because, if a DIFFERENT hunter comes along, even though he be free, it would be embarrassing. The story would spread. People would laugh at him at the local tavern. So he really wants the original trap-setter to show up, and refuses to call out for help because, well, others might find out, and that would be embarrassing.

I’m not worried that another hunter will come along, or even original trap-setter show up and frees us from this situation. I’m worried that the bear will come along instead when we’re caught in this trap. And that's my worry.

More later,

Monday, December 08, 2003

American Life - Unemployment

Be careful what you wish for. In an article below, I listed five people I would like to hear from, I mentioned Joe Karpierz, old college friend, gaming buddy, and individual who gave us the name Zrieprakus (spell it backwards), the evil lich in Azure Bonds. So when I get home from Thanksgiving vacation, there's a message on the machine from him.

Not because he saw my note. Rather, he's been laid off from Lucent Technologies. I called and we commiserated (because I have gone through not one but two layoffs since last we spoke).

In the course of the discussion, I found at that ANOTHER old friend was just sacked at Motorola. He's a bit more lofty in position, so is looking for another part of the company to land in, but he's scrambling.

And let's add to the mix a long-time reader of this blog who was put in the situation of having his department merged with another, and forced to re-interview for his own job. Welcome to the business equivalent of the Roman gladiator pits - two gold-color workers go in - one comes out.

All these guys are younger than I am, but not by that many years. It seems, having eaten most of the seed corn, most of the young talent, American corporations are now going after their veterans, at least those in low-to-no management positions, in order to maintain (heck, in order to make) their hideous profits. Because, you know, otherwise they might have to examine their own management decisions, and no one really wants that.

Have a happy economic recovery. But hang on, it gets worse.

American Life - Deployment

Just got the word from an old writing associate in the Midwest today. His daughter's unit is being deployed to Southwest Asia. No, they aren't getting much more specific than that. It could be Kuwait. It could be Bagdhad. But it definitely isn't Ohio.

And our gaming friend in Kate's Star Wars game, the one with disease-control background? He's on hold - should be ready to ship out but no one is exactly sure when or where. They've put his life on "pause". Don't worry, but don't go buying any green bananas, either. Its good to have him around (though his new military regulation haircut could qualify as a crime against humanity), but its not a reprieve, only a delay.

I'll try to be sunnier in the future. No, really.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Play: Plum Crazy

Over The Moon Written by Steven Dietz, Adapted from P.G. Wodehouse's "The Small Bachelor", Directed by David Ira Goldstein.

Why review a play after its closed? With everything going on, including the Pgh trip, we had to move the tickets to the last possible date for this frothy, frenetic comedy. So why talk about it - its not as if anyone you tell can go out to see it now?

Well, one reason is talk about the nature of the Repetory Ensemble, and the comfort level that it provides for the audience.

First off, let me talk about the play itself - PG ("Plum") Wodehouse, creator of Bertie and Jeeves, is in a class by himself, perfecting the British upper class romp and claiming it as his territory. I've made the comment (and earlier this year saw it repeated on-stage in "Afghanistan/Kabul") that Wodehouse wrote one story, but wrote it 150 times. While pithy, that statement is actually untrue. Instead Wodehouse used the same toolbox, the same repertory company of stock figures, and threw them together repeatedly to produce variations on the theme, the equivalent of literary comfort food. You knew where you stood with Wodehouse, and while he will through bumps and curves, its all as smooth a modern tube-coaster, and just as well-planned.

Right, the play. Wodehouse wrote of lot of his work while in America, which worked out well because it allowed England itself to advance through the 20th Century while he crystalized and preserved its Jazz-age thought-processes in literary amber. "The Small Bachelor", which this play is based upon, is a rarity among his works - a story set in America, and the Wodehousian characters are filtered through an American Lens. The ever-knowledgable Jeeves transforms into pamphlet-writer Hamilton Beamish, while Bertie of the Drones club becomes flustering, flummered George Finch. He's in love with Molly Waddington(who's in love with him), but match is opposed by the formidable Mrs. Waddington (cut from the same heavy cloth as all of Bertie's heavy-jowled terrorizing aunts). Add a cop who wants to be a poet, a former burglar turned valet, a manservant turned gossip columnist, a fortune teller, a pickpocket, and a father of the bride who loves the American West and you have the frothy mix of plan and counterplan and plans gone awry that all work out with everyone on-stage and pleased and resolved at the end of the play. Its light stuff, and it works very, very well.

Part of it is the adaption - Stephen Deitz catches the Wodehousian meter and description, and the characters dodge their way among the heavily verbal artillery. Yet the entire ensemble brings a great deal of physical comedy to the play that is the equal of Wodehouse's language, culminating in a great deal of dashing about and slamming of doors.

And this is where the nature of the Repetory Company truly comes shining through. Almost all of the actors here (the exception being Bob Sorenson, who plays Hamilton Beamish sharply), have been with us before on-stage at the rep, so their performances are leavened and tempered by previous experience. We have seen Jeff Seitzer, Officer Galloway, as Shakespearean fools, and Liz McCarthy, Molly, as the stalking vicitim in "Boy Gets Girl". R. Hamilton Wright was in "Boy Gets Girl" in a serious role, but was also the comic center of "Inspecting Carol". We know these people as actors, and when they look like they're having fun, we're more than willing to go with them. We're in good hands, and that smooths the path for the entire play, relaxing the audience.

How relaxed was the audience? They applauded a set change where an ornate garden wall dropped from the ceiling. The cast would have had the audience eating out of their hands, were there a sudden deficit of plates and saucers.

It was light, it was frothy, it was amusing. It was a perfect holiday play without needing to be about the holidays.(last year they did "Light Up the Sky", and the Rep generally tries to keep the fare lightweight in the holiday period). Kate and I both liked it, but the only sad thing was, given such a farce, that there was very little to talk about afterwards. It was generally devoid of deeper meaning, just a script and a director and a set of very talented individuals who put everything together and delivered the goods.

Good show. More later,

On the Road Again - Pittsburgh Edition

Seattlite complaints about the traffic always amuse me. We supposedly have the worst traffic in the world, though in part this is an idea actively supported by our development community, who believe the answer to this horrible situation is more roads (and with it, more government support).

Yet Seattle hardly holds a candle to Pittsburgh, which has traffic so absolutely rotten that it defies all measure. Imagine, if you will Seattle without the major highways, where all traffic is channeled down residential streets, where driveways and businesses regularly open out directly on major thoroughfares, where major four-lane roads are shrunken to two lanes every Sunday by a battery of churches along the main drive. Where the lights are not just badly timed, but deliberately counter-timed, so when the light turns green in front you, you can see the next light turn yellow (“Mt. Lebanon - we want you to savor every minute you spend here”).

The nearest “real” highway from where my folks live is about seven miles away, reached by an arcane connection of back routes. Out at the light onto Route 19, down to Gilkeson (which becomes Connor across the street from it) winding down Painter’s Run Road (four lanes going to two quickly, then a left, up the hill to Vanadium, wind down the streets, hang a hard left by the abandoned and burned factories, up a hill to a badly (of course)-timed light, hang a hard right, then a hard left again, and then, only then do you reach I-79. That’s the closest thing to a direct route.

Now, everyone knows that route, its everyone’s direct route, so its backed up, from the bottom of one hill to the top of the next. Add to that the driveways, the business exits, the odd and often imaginative parking jobs, and reluctantly admitteding to the advanced age of some of the drivers (some have yet to get a grasp on this new-fangled turn indicator device), and its like living in a driver’s ed film. Within five minutes of getting into town, I was sputtering at bonehead moves and talking back to drivers. Which means I was driving like a Pittsburgher, and the muscle memory was remembering the old driving habits.

Upon my return to Seattle, we had that massive windstorm that knocked out power on the East Hill for 9 hours, resulting in a 45-minute drive from WotC back up through completely snarled traffic. Here it was a cause for patience, and to be honest, most of the drivers did very well. Back in Pittsburgh, this would be called, of course, "The Normal Commute."

More later,

Saturday, December 06, 2003

American Flight

So when I was growing up, train travel in America was in decline. Call them the Amtrack Years. There were still a few great lines, but the days of the Pullmans were gone, replaced by Interstates and the “Discover America” program that loaded small children into station wagons and sent them out to view the world’s largest ball of twine. And while the romance of the railroad hung on for many years, the reality was that passenger travel had passed, and the golden age of passenger trains was over.

Similarly, American Passenger Aviation.

In the past two years, it has become no fun to fly. Part of it is the grim reality of the After Eleven world, but even the unsmiling lines of shoe-sniffers at the TSA are no more than a recurring echo of the sixties, when “Take Thees Plane to Coo-bah” was a punchline on prime time sketch TV and those little detector gates first appeared. More importantly, the airlines have taken this historic opportunity to re-evaluate their positions and holdings, and in the name of security and the bottom line, have cut anything that resembles a perk or benefit for the passengers.

Flying Delta into Atlanta earlier in the year, I was confronted by brown-bag lunches , dispensed from bins at the boarding gates in a manner similar to the old Ford Trimotors. Flying into Pittsburgh on US Air (their motto - "we don’t have to like you anymore") I encountered for the first time that meals were only available in the main cabin for those willing to pay premium rates for the priviledge.

Was this news in any of the papers? Or was this reported alongside the latest news from Afghanistan, in the middle of the night, in the back pages of the Home and Garden section, in the eariest hours when no one is listening? Let’s get an incredible barrage of news on Michael Jackson, but something affects people (and makes advertisers look bad) gets quietly shuffled off stage left.

Kate and I got meals,thank you, because we had used frequent flier miles to upgrade to first class. Or rather, upgraded to the back of first class. They ran out of some of those few meal choices as they made there way down the cabin. The headsets were free, but the online music had been cut (replaced with the audio track for “Freaky Friday” in english and spanish), and some of the earphones did not work. The cabin staff on the trip out was surley to say the least, and since there was limited interaction with the passengers, hung out up at their forward station, griping. On the trip back, the crew was kinder, but had this weird vision problem that prevented them from seeing (or serving) the left half of the plane.

Add to that the fact that even finding a direct flight to the hub airport was a chore - We left later than desired, and returned later than intended. And this was for flights booked a month and a half out. The airlines are running fewer flights now, and filling them to capacity. Most of the people onboad have that beaten, herded look of people who have to travel as opposed to want to travel. The thrill, definately, is gone

The first class seats were still wide, but they were avatars of an earlier, more gentile age. Everything else has been peeled away in the name of corporate profitability. The SST is grounded, residing at the Museum of Flight next to an early Air Force One. The airlines have moved from the grand adventure of flight to the commonplace to how much flesh they can cargo at the least cost possible. They have in effect become bus lines with wings. And not horribly nice bus lines at that.

Welcome to the Amtrack Years of Flight

More Later,

Movie: Life O’Brian

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: starring Russel Crowe, Directed by Peter Weir, Screenplay by Peter Weir and John Collee, based on the novels of Patrick O’Brian.

Margaret Weis got me clued into Patrick O’Brian about seven years back - a voracious reader in addition to being a dedicated writer, she had the novels at her place. Up to that time, I was aware of C S Forester’s work (Hornblower), but not O’Brian and his heroes - Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey and naturalist/spy Stephen Maturin. Since then I’ve read about four of the books and listened to another pair on tape on the long trips to and from Bellevue. The story arc of the books involves the career of Captain Aubrey, who in turn is based upon life of Lord Cochrane, and many of Aubrey’s career highlights mirror those of the British captain. The time is the Napoleanic Wars, a period of various conflicts and military doldrums. The basic plot is: They sail around. Stuff happens.

Now Patrick O’Brian does not weave a sea tale as much as he extrudes it. His books, as historical adventure, lack the tight plot and rising action of modern books. The basic plot is: They sail around. Stuff happens. The high point of action can take place in the first or second third of the book, with the rest of the book “filling in the bits” around it. The books almost feel like the publisher would show up at O’Brian’s door once a year and cut off another slab of Aubrey’s life.

From this standpoint, the movie is excellent, in that it deals with but one section of an Aburey novel, shorn of all the accoutrements that usually hang about O’Brian’s work. The action within the movie, the pursuit of an superior French vessel with a captain the equal to Lucky Jack, fits neatly within the berth of an O’Brian novel, with additional barnacles of British society, letters to his fiancee (and later wife), the prize courts, the wildness of sailors on leave and the pigheadedness of the British Naval System (Indeed, one of the continual themes of O’Brian’s books is that the Britsh Navy survives because of captains like Aubrey as opposed to the bureaucracy that they support). The opposing vessel that is the movie has much faster lines and bigger guns - it the the unbeatable foe. In this way, the movie evokes nothing so much as Jaws.

The ritual and repetition of shipboard life comes across nicely in the film, as well as the stratified nature of ship’s society. The turning of the glass, the sending of mail home, the grinding of the holy stones on the deck. It captures the feeling of the era. Bits from other books in the series drift in, like being becalmed, the nature of the ship’s Jonah, and the impromptu brain surgery of Dr. Maturin. But the film never makes true landfall - even taking on supplies off the cost of Brazil happens at sea. When they do land, it on the deserted Galapagos, so the integrity of the crew as a single social unit, a single entity within the film.

And the crew is the star. Yes, Russel Crow and Paul Bettany take the lead as Aubrey and Maturin, but the rest of the characters, gleaned from O’Brian’s pages, take their turns as well. The ship’s master, Allan, acid-tounged grumbler Killich, the child midshipman Darby, young leader Tom Pullings all make appearances and lend their coloring to characters that are often a bit bland on the page. Aubrey from the books is tall, massive, bluff, and red-haired - Crowe is shorter, blonder, and more driven. Stephen from the books is shorter, stouter, and much more Irish than presented here - here he seems to belong to Buffy's secret organization of Watchers.

Indeed, Stephen Mauratin’s presence here seems an oddity in the way the movie is presented. Since the movie picks up in mid-adventure, there is no way to tell the movie audience that most ships of the Suprise’s size would not have a ship’s surgeon, or that Maturin serves as a British spy. Espionage has no purpose at sea, so Maturin seems to be an odd accessory aboard ship (though of course once he finds the walking stick insect, the rules of the movie indicate how the film will resolve).

This film remains true to the text, improving it dramatically through the strength of film (Peter Jackson’s version of LotR does the same). I see a lot of the mechanics of screenwriting operating here (characters are resolved, lessons are learned), but also some brave cinematic moves in stressing O’Brian’s world of random death, and the primaries remain blooded but unbowed by their travails.

Its a good film, thought one not aimed at the mass market (Indeed, it was outscored by “Elf”, a forgettable Christmas Comedy, on its initial weeked). Wier has done O’Brian well by taking his work into a new media, expanding it while remaining true to the core.

More later,

Thursday, December 04, 2003

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

OK, I'm back. I've spent the past week-and-change in Pittsburgh, visiting family for the holidays. It was fun. It was family. I got a lot of work done on a short story and made a lot of small blog entries, which I will get around to posting here over the next week or so.

The day I have written this, Western Washington State was hit with a massive windstorm. The winds came from the East this time, funneled by the Cascade passes to come down directly in my neighborhood. No real damage, though my umbrella for the patio table took flight and my neighbor brought it back, and it looks like another large tree came down in the backyard scrub, opening the vista on the Grade School behind us a little more. Power was out for about eight hours, during which time both Kate and I were at work. Of more concern was the fact the traffic lights were out, creating a traffic jam as bad as any I have seen up on the hill since the Nisqually Earthquake a few years back. Other than that, we weathered it pretty well.

Anyway, power is back on, and Kate and I made pudgy pizzas with a sandwich iron in the fireplace. We keep dry wood in the garage just in case we have an outage, along with a lot of candles. What are pudgy pizzas, you ask? They're a sealed sandwich - two slices of buttered bread with tomato sauce, mushrooms, pepperoni, and mozarella cheese, held together by a device that looks like a waffle iron with two long handles. You press it together and set it on the fire for a few minutes to toast it. Not bad at all.

We're also catching up on our sleep. In addition to being time-shifted from the West Coast, the guest beds were a tad bit hard compared to our heated waterbed, so both Kate and I have been enjoying deep, luxurious sleep, awakened only by the sound of large branches crashing into the yard.

More later,

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Blog Silent, Blog Deep

Grubb Street is going quiet for the next week to ten days. Basic upkeep plus concentrating on finishing a short story. Its not because I have run out of things to say.

Check back early next month.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Five By Five By Friday

A large one this time:

1. List five things you'd like to accomplish by the end of the year.
• Find full-time employment
• Finish writing two short stories
• Clean out the Archive Room Downstairs (Hehl-LO Ebay!)
• Pick up a book contract
• Call the plumber about that leak in the upstairs bath.

2. List five people you've lost contact with that you'd like to hear from again.
(I've been blessed in that I am still in contact with most of the people I choose to be in contact with. But still a few have fallen by the wayside.)
• Joe Karpierz (who I know does ego-scans on Google, so write, man!)
• Cathy & Dave Collins (A couple, but each counts.)
• Chris Lee Birdsong (old girlfriend)
• Leila Lee Larsen (old girlfriend)

3. List five things you'd like to learn how to do.
• Paint and Draw.
• Bake (cooking is not brain surgery. baking is).
• Speak to large groups without fear or nervousness.
• Not talk to myself at traffic lights.
• Perfect that mind control device I've been working on.

4. List five things you'd do if you won the lottery (no limit).
• Pay off the house.
• Ensure the college educations of all my nieces and nephews.
• Buy the first hybrid SUV that rolls off the assembly line, and paint it dark blue with electic lightning bolts on the side.
• Fund local politics, including making Fairwood/Bensen Hill its own community, and protecting more land inside the growth boundary from development.
• Found an organization that awards Knighthoods to Americans.

5. List five things you do that help you relax.
• Read
• Cook
• Walk
• Hot bubble baths
• Tai Chi (but only when my chi is mighty!)


So the first winter I moved out here, I got a phone call from my mom back in Pittsburgh.

"Hi, Honey."

"Hi, Mom."

"I hear you have some bad weather out there."

I got up from my desk andwalked to the back porch. The sky was blue. The grass was still green. Birds were picking a suet on the feeder. I was working in my short sleeves.

"Uh . . . no. Where did you get that idea?"

She got that idea from the Weather Channel, that was breathlessly reporting that the passes had closed. The passes are about an hour's drive away and several thousand feet higher up, and indeed, they were shut, sealing off that entrance to the Puget Sound area. The idea of something like this shutting us off from the rest of the nation appeals to me, and probably accounts for some of the insular nature of the region.

So I explain to Mom that out here, snow is measured by altitude, not latitude. It can be snowing like the dickens up in the passes, and we have nothing down here by the Sound. I told her she should call back when it hits the 500 foot level, which is the height of Benson Hill.

Last night, the snow level hit 500 feet.

I awoke to a wonderful carpet of about a half-inch of snow, enough to cover the unraked leaves, grass, and other sundries in the yard and wrap the area in a white blanket. And the radio was reporting on the threats of the dreaded black ice.

Now, when I was a lad - heck, even five years ago, we didn't have this black ice. We just had slick roads. Now there's that dreaded black ice, which LOOKS just like wet asphalt, but is insideous and nasty and tricksy. The Weather Channel (and others) have grabbed this new meme and made it part of the mental landscape, so that every time it gets cold and wet, people panic about the dreaded black ice, and drive accordingly. Which in Seattle, means to say, badly.

I had to be up early to drive a pair of friends to the airport, and found the roads to be wet but not a patch of dreaded black ice. The snow was on Benson Hill, and at SeaTac as well (the airport is on the hill on the opposite side of the Renton valley), but the lowlands were clear and just wet. Its pleasant, and the air has a nice clean, metallic flavor to it.

So of course I could get into work. Everyone else will have to deal with the dreaded black ice, and worse yet, people trying to avoid the dreaded black ice.

So I'm just glad I'm here.

More later

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Pirates of the Cerebellum

So for the past five days, I have been laboring under a curse. The name of that curse is: The Song in Your Head.

You know what I mean - you hear a song, and nothing short of a lobotomy seems to be able to get it out of your brain. It has dug in, spearing deeply sidewise into your gray matter and sending off barbed hooks, lodging it deep within your mind. It is with you when you awaken and when you are working and it is the last thing you hear before you sleep. The Song in Your Head. Worse yet, the esoteric song no one else has even heard of.

Here's the song that did it to me:
"Who'll make his mark?" The captain cried
"To the devil drink a toast.
We'll fill the hold with cups of gold
And we'll feed the sea with ghosts
I see you hunger for a fortune,
You'd be better served beneath my flag
If you've the stomach for a broadside,
Come aboard, my bonnie lads!"

Now, for people UNDER the age of 30, that particular verse is from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's song "Pirates" which appeared on their "Works" album back when I was still is college. It was overproduced anthem rock, filled with synthesizer riffs that slithered across the speakers and electronic chanties that erupted from a surging tidepool of constant key changes and tempo shifts. I loved such pretentious preachings and multi-rock chordation as an angry young man, but I've mellowed and besides, its been years. I could go for a couple decades before hearing it again.

So my wife played the vinyl album on Friday, played it, sang along for a while, then moved on to "Year of the Cat". But the song, the song, the horrid, pretentious long song became lodged in my mind and has haunted me for the past five days. Add to the fact that it brought back to me a time that was the emotional equivalent to biting down on tin foil and I knew I had to get rid of it.

You get rid of a song in your head by getting a catchier, sometimes better but often worse song in your head, and for the past few days I've been trying. Yellow Submarine. Chumbawumba. Dark Side of the Moon. Paradise by the Dashboard Light. The tune from Pirates of the Caribbean. Peace Train. The Donkey Kong theme. Nothing stuck for long, even suggestions from fellow writers over beer. I strongly considered a mallet.

Then T'Ed Stark came up to me with a song caught in his head that he couldn't get rid of, which proved the ultimate salvation. He had the ultimate worse song, the one that could not be trumped, and if it was maddening, it was at least more upbeat than this haunting overproduced horror out of my past history. It was my salvation song.

Of course, I'm talking about the theme from "I Dream of Jeanie"

Everybody now!
dah-DAH dah-dah-dee-dah-dah.
dah-DAH dah-dah-dee-dah-dah.
dah-DAH dah-dah-dee-dah-dah
BUMM (pock pah-pock-pock)

And now its in YOUR head.

More later,

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Peter Canlis Shrimp

I spent the day worrying my way through a short story. It just isn't behaving right now - I want to just finish it and then go back and fix everything, but my mind is being too literal and linear - I have to research cooperage extensively before I can put a long-handled bung hammer in one of my character's hands (We're talking barrel-making here - get your mind out of the gutter). Kate was similarly wrapped up with her tax prep studies. So about 5:30 Kate sat down in my office, declared she had no idea what we were going to do for supper, and would appreciate my input, seeing how I had purchased YET ANOTHER cookbook the day before.

So we went through The Northwest Best Places Cookbook (Vol 2) and settled on something that we had in the house. In this case it was Peter Canlis Shrimp (Page 46), an appetizer that we spun into a full meal, in a manner that would cause the restaurateur to fling himself from the balcony of his stylish and excellent restaurant if he even found out (so please don't tell him).

The recipe calls for about a dozen large shrimp, but we had a frozen bag of 40-count, so they served instead. We had the dried pepper flakes and even a fresh lime to squeeze. But instead of vermouth, all we had in the house was sake, so we made an odd replacement. Used the shells to make a Shrimp Butter that was extremely tangy.

The end result was interesting - I'd like to run it again with the vermouth. The sake had almost a "hollow" taste, but sake tastes like an absence of flavor as opposed to a strong flavor itself to me. The heat of the dish was about right - 1 teaspoon of pepper flakes was more than sufficient. We served it on salad and with fresh bread. It was nice, but then any dish that used a full stick of butter has a lot to recommend it.

Cooking is often the art of replacement and improvising, and this is an example of that. Still, I want to try the real thing now, as a result of this experiment, and figure out how its SUPPOSED to taste.

More later,

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Green Eggs and Hammond

Its quite obvious that Steve Hammond, representing the 9th district in the King County council, reads this blog. How else to explain that, two days after mentioning that the new development down the road has pretty much trashed 196th street, a road crew has patched the entire matter up with a new asphalt cover, and got rid of the metal plates and the potholes.

Yes, it could be that the road was so reduced to rubble that construction equipment risked breaking axles on it. Or that someone else with a little bit of real political pull might make 196th their standard commute and just happen to have Steve's home phone. Or even that they were scheduled to do it. But I prefer to wallow in self-deception on this one, connecting two random occurances and calling it a victory.


So this morning I went downtown for the Fifth Annual Seattle Cooks! Gourmet Food & Kitchen Show. It was in the Washington State Convention Center, which most people know as the building that turns I-5 into a tunnel right after I-90 runs into it.

This was a mixed bag, a full convention hall of food-related things. There were a couple restaurants (Icon Grill, Ray's Boathouse), a lot of small foodstuffs companies (Sausages, cheeses, and way too many rubs, oils, and herbal drizzles), representatives of basic food groups (The might Beef Council down through Discover Duck and the Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, to Egg-land, which is a franchise of premium egg-producers). Kitchen equipment (fridges down to cutlery), Dishware (original ceramics and Polish Kitchen pottery), and deserts (they had a new Chocolates stage). And then there were the weird ones - Steamers, jewelers, the Post-Intelligencer, and talk-radio 570 KVI (yeah, right-wing talker Sean Hannity always makes ME hungry for a good salmon rub) that you can only figure are there because they bought space in the program.

The talks were pretty cool - I missed the one on Kobe beef (though not the line for people wanting a free sample), but caught a good one on short ribs and one on a shrimp dish that made me purchase the cookbook (that, a loaf of fennel-seed bread and a whim purchase of hot chili teriyaki sauce were my only outlays. OK, admission and parking as well). The free samples (see above for oils, rubs, and drizzles, which one marketer has christened "Finishing Sauces"). One booth was doing a hot oil that blasted most people's tastebuds for anything else. I think an ice cream shop doing sorbets would have cleaned up here.

The best free sample, by the way, was macaroni and cheese from the Icon Grill. I got the recipe and it is much more involved than your standard Kraft box-o-pasta. But it was really, really good. If I make it I'll tell you.

The crowd was mostly my age or older - general food network groupies (Borders had a booth with cookbooks for most of the current hotnesses - Alton Brown, Emeril, and local fave Kathy Casey (who's cookbook I picked up, though from her booth instead of the big box bookseller)). The crowd was also both polite and maladroit, from the amount of times someone nibbling on a Moroccan Olive body-checked me into the Honest Tea booth. It was pleasant, and good way to spend a couple hours.

More later,

Strange Dreams

So I don't talk about dreams - they tend to be personal email from the un- or subconscious, but last night was just . . . strange.

My dreams don't normally have a vertical component. I rarely (and by rarely I mean once every two months or so) have a dream where I'm flying, or falling, or even looking up. A lot of my memorable dreams involve architecture, cities, and streets. So I'm an engineer at heart.

Last night was a series of very strange dreams, in that they continued and evolved through numerous scenes, and were all set among the mountains. A lot of people I knew were gathered in a town much like Concrete, Washington, a valley town on the Skaggit River framed by two great rills of mountains, with the river and a single main road down the center. We were in the basement of an old whitewashed church, which in addition to a movie theatre beneath the chapel, had a wet bar with mirrored tile and various prop sets, including a dungeon. I went for a walk and found myself going up the side of one of these mountains, which was being either excavated or the valley in front of it was being filled. It was all dirt, no stone, like a sand castle that has been scooped out, and yellow orange dozers were moving around.

I returned to the Church, where everyone was paying for the meal. I gathered the money, when a former WotC co-worker informed me I had forgotten the tax. I had not decided how much money people were paying, and people were just leaving money so I didn't know who paid. I yelled at the co-worker, and that brought me awake, angry and seething (which is a rarity as well).

The dream resumed after I got back to sleep. Still in the mountains, but our old high school (Mt Lebanon) was in it now. The interior of the building was TSR, and I was trying to clean my old cube (second floor, main building) when the Vice President of Sales from WizKids came in with gift bags and set them down, so other people came into my messy cube in order to get them. I took the last gift bag, and realized that it held something belonging to a friend, a magazine. In the magazine was a photo of a church basement with the dungeon. A young englishman informed me that his band had done the photo shoot, and they had to bring in their own vermin. I knew he was lying - that rat on the mantlepiece had been ceramic.

So I went off after the friend, and noticed the mountains surrounding the school - tall, narrow peaks truncated at the top, with greenery reaching almost to the plateaus. My friend (his identity changed as I walked) was ahead of me. He had to get to where he had parked his car. Earlier in the dream (either really earlier or filled in in the middle of the dream as a flashback) he had been plunging to his apparent death in his underwear, when he came up with an excellent tire commercial. He survived the fall, and now was successful and had a car, which he had parked as far away from the school as possible.

I finally had caught up with him (Kate was with me at this point, bundled against the cold -as we moved away from the school it got chiller). Now the magazine was an electronic handheld device, like a TV remote. Kate noted we could have walked there through the woods instead of across the parking lot, but I was too old and heavy to make it down the trails. And I awoke.

This was a weird dream, and like dreams, means something that is obvious to everybody else but is opaque to me. Probably work- and career-related. But the fact it hung with me through two awakenings, and dealt in imagery that is odd for me (We're talking dramatic, New Zealand, LOTR/Xena mountains), it bears mentioning.

More later,

Friday, November 14, 2003

Ghost In the Machine

So its been two weeks and I haven't talked about the new job. I never really talked too much about the old job, either, but it has been a change in my life and is now eating up the majority of my daylight hours.

It's been . . . nice. One of the things is that I know most of the people, and still interact well. There was this strange you've-been-out-with-mono-for-the-semester-but-now-you're-back feeling, but in general its be . . . nice. Part of it is that there a lot of other returning familiar faces at the company, both in permanent positions and other contractors. So its been . . . nice.

Part of its the position - I'm contract work, a financial ablative armor, the business version of shuttle tiles, the first members of the crew to be jettisoned should something go terribly, terribly wrong. In that respect, I live in the grey area between employment and unemployment, and that's a little creepy.

By the same token, I've got a clearly defined mission and limitations. The project is my reason for being, so I have less tendency to wander off to helping other people with their problems (Others have tried to recruit me thrice now for other interesting projects that which, while interesting, are outside my raison d'etre). I also am keeping track of my hours, and discover (surprise) that I have to put in LESS hours than I normally do to avoid hitting my 40 hours a week at Noon on Friday. Friday has already turned into a sleep-in-late day, so I get to the office with the rest of the card R&D staff.

The work itself has been interesting and challenging, and I have made the change-over this week from figuring out how the heck things worked to making positive contributions. The department consists of two other guys and a manager, but both the co-designers I would interact with have been out with family problems and major sickness, leaving me to deal with the manager. Which has been a lot of fun, and though we don't agree on everything, he's been surprisingly patient. Again, my temporary nature gives me a great willingness to learn from their previous experiences.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I'm rather round-heeled about new projects, but I've gotten comfortable much quicker than I thought I would. An acclimation phase of about a week borders on the near-miraculous. and I've been putting hard 8s (and 9s) into the project regularly, with provable results and more playtesting than your standard RPG ever sees.

So it's been . . . nice. I don't want to get too comfortable, since it all ends before Christmas. So this weekend I have to concentrate on other matters and see what I can do to get something going with the New Year. The other job that I have in addition to this job.

More later,

The Five

Its Friday, so here's a quick one from the Friday Five:

1. Using one adjective, describe your current living space. Comfortable.

2. Using two adjectives, describe your current employer. Creative, Bureaucratic.

3. Using three adjectives, describe your favorite hobby/pasttime. Arcane, Social, Talmudic.

4. Using four adjectives, describe your typical day. Focused, Creative, Productive, Exhausting.

5. Using five adjectives, describe your ideal life. Peaceful, Warm, Quiet, Challenging, Long.

More later,

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Evil Thought for the Day

The advantage of the Atkins diet is that there are more Crispy Creme donuts for the rest of us.

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

You may have noticed some changes. I went into the template and messed around with fonts and colors. I used the time-honored tradition of Mucking With It. Under the rule of Mucking With It, you go into the matter with a minimum of knowledge (in this case, a single page of the FAQ from Blogger) and then make incremental changes. Then you check it to see if you can notice any difference. If not, you change it back. If you blow it up, you change it back. If you notice a difference, AND it doesn't blow up, you keep it.

So I altered the colors and the typeface of the type, going with Courier in honor of my ancient typewriter mentality. After I made the color changes, I realized I had selected the school colors my high school, Mount Lebanon High (home of the Blue Devils - Fundies take note).


More later,

Monday, November 10, 2003

585 Days

The call came in yesterday afternoon. I mentioned earlier that one of Kate's fellow gamers in her Sunday afternoon Star Wars campaign is Army Reserve, and his wife called in the middle of the game to tell him that the call came in. They would be shipping out in about a week. Parts unknown, officially - he could be Fort Lewis or Ohio or Iraq. Given that his unit commanders have been asking all the soldiers to have their personal affairs in order, I'm not holding out too much hope for Fort Lewis. They played late and got his character to a stopping point, because they don't know when they'll be back together again.


Anyway, our reservist is a pretty nice guy, hopelessly right of center, but intelligent, and a good gamer and good father and husband (his wife's been up here to the house more than a few times). He teaches high school, but that has to go on hold for the duration. And the duration is 18 months. 585 days. His specialty is disease control. Two years ago he was studying hanta virus and prepping for jungle work. Now he may be heading for the Big Sandy.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. I wish to honor the men and women who have served their country, and have sacrificed on its behalf. But to be honest, while I wish to honor our veterans, it would please me greatly if we didn't make any more of them.

That's it for now,

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Play: Living in Dog Time

21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ by Mike Daisey, INTIMAN Theatre, through 22 November.

You know, there should be more one-man shows starring fat white guys wearing black. No, really. I’ve had enough plays on multi-generational female families, thank you, or historical black experiences (most of them by August Wilson). This particular show hit a little closer to home. And it was a weird experience in which an all-too-familiar figure (not my evil twin, but my evil twin's cousin's best buddy) talked about his experiences at a large, successful corporation, and what happened after he decided to leave, framed around the watching the implosion of the Kingdome from the upper deck of the building (described by Mike Daisey as “Lex Luthor’s Freak House”).

It’s a one-man show with a minimal set – a desk made of a door on sawhorses (a bit of Amazon legacy), a laptop, and a cup of Starbucks. Daisey conjures the rest of his universe in a sprawling remembrance that captures corporate life pretty well. He bought into the “new hotness” for a time – he drank the koolaid, but found it eventually shallow and soul-killing, and had to leave it behind. And it followed him to what happened next.

A lot of the experiences he covers I’ve seen – they are not unique to Dogs roaming the cubes? Been there. Strange motivational techniques? Oh yeah. Free food? Tell me about it. Goths on the job? Uh-Huh. How about finding that memo that details what everyone else in the department was making? Yep, that’s part of my life as well. Corporate life has some incredible similarities no matter where you are – the guy who spends his day checking his stock prices and playing video games two cubes over is not unique to the world.

Actually, what surprises me is that there aren’t as many plays about corporate life. Maybe it’s the fact that corporations provide the funding for a lot of theater that keeps them at a respectful distance. Indeed, Daisey is generally mild on Amazon, while saving his savaging for the now-defunct (and therefore defenseless), who Amazon teamed up with. His riffs on them left me gasping for breath.

Back to monologist Daisey - he is bright, engaging, vulgar, and hilarious, a man with a cause and a mean streak a mile wide. This is extended standup with a point, storytelling with a punchline, dissertation with a purpose. His geek cred is first-rate – when he’s fighting the evil memo, the music from “Amok time” plays. He pulled me in immediately, and I found a lot of common ground with his universe.

Again, Kate and I are split on decision – I loved it, and while she thought it was amusing, but pointed out Daisey himself wasn’t a particular virtuous character (which to my mind is part of the POINT – business life, even in the best of universes, does not reward virtuous behavior – the Boy Scout Oath is a sub-optimal operating system). However, since this is my blog, I get the heartily recommend it, and tell you to got see it. And I will ever further note that he’s doing a workshop performance of his next show, “The Ugly American” on November 23rd at 7 PM, at the INTIMAN.

More corporate theater. Yeah, I think the time has come. Go see this one.

More later,

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Taking Twenty

So I got this weird little email from a young(?) man(?) who wanted the answers to twenty gaming questions. So I passed them off to him, and post them here as well - I reserve the right to change my mind on any of them:

20 Questions in 2 minutes.

1. Favorite non-gaming recreational activity: Hiking, followed by Cooking
2. Favorite professional sport: Football, followed by Curling
3. Favorite deceased public figure: Mark Twain
4. Favorite living public figure: None. I have to to choose one? OK, um, Noam Chomsky.
5. Favorite musical artist: The Beatles
6. Last movie seen: The Rundown
7. Favorite movie: The Maltese Falcon, followed by Casablanca.
8. Last book read: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
9. Favorite non-gaming book: This week? Dune. Call back next week.
10. Favorite gaming book: This week? The Diamond Throne. Call back next week.
11. Preferred gaming system: D&D, followed by Marvel Super Heroes (original version)
12. Favorite gaming setting: Call of Cthulhu, followed by Toril (home D&D Campaign),
13. Favorite character of someone else’s creation: In RPGs? Fenetar the Paladin (created by Frank Dickos, and the model for Dragonbait), followed by Wally (created by John Rateliff), a 5th level d20 Modern figure with only a +1 BAB.
14. Favorite character of your creation: Whapamanga, the first d20 Star Wars Wookiee, who created the Wookie Voxbox and discovered that Darth Vader’s Force Grip has interplanetary range.
15. Most memorable die roll witnessed: None that come to mind.
16. Poorest gaming decision witnessed: “I jump around the corner and fire a lightning bolt down the hall” (See in those days, lightning bolts rebounded, and the corridor ended 10 feet away). tied with "I lift the lantern higher to see what's coming down the passage" (this was followed by the "Surf the Shoggoth" sequence).
17. Biggest gaming pet peeve: Fans who get basic facts about the Gaming Industry wrong when they rant on-line.
18. Favorite spell: Cure Light Wounds.
19. Proudest non-gaming moment: Marrying my wife.
20. Proudest gaming moment: (tie) As a D&D GM when Fenetar beat an Omnipotent Devil. And as a Cthulhu GM forcing one of the players to fall of the couch from a description of the eldritch horror.

If I get his website, I'll post it. More later.

Heavey Weather, Hammond Eggs

Finally have the election results. Had to go to the elections board page to find it - the local papers have been less than helpful in the matter. Its Hammond by about 500 votes. Surprisingly close.

What was interesting to watch was competing memes playing out in the local papers. They pitched the race as "Best Candidate against Conservative District Inertia", almost like Hammond was a cardboard cutout, a default Republican, but I'm not so sure that's true. I think Heavey ran best in the North, Hammond in the South, but both had supporters throughout the district. I also think that incumbency itself, even temporary incumbency, is worth about 500 votes.

But since Hammond has so many close friends in the developer community, maybe he can get them to repair all the damage they've done to 196th Street, where they have converted a farmer's field into the new rows of Insty-Houses.

On the other hand, were I Hammond, I would be pushing to get this area annexed by Kent and Renton real fast, and redistrict us away from him. But that would me.

More later,

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

Small change to the blog as you will notice to the right. I got rid of the default links and added a number of fellow bloggers, LJers, and websites that update regularly. I'll be playing with more tweaks as I go on, but this will do for the moment.

More Later,

Friday, November 07, 2003

Return of the Five

So I did the Friday Five for the month of October, and then decided I was done. Then two of my fellow bloggers then picked it up again. OK, I'll play. This week's Fab Five:

1. What food do you like that most people hate? Liver. Pan-fried liver is light and delicate and tasty and pretty much extinct around here.

2. What food do you hate that most people love? I pretty much like everything, but if forced into a corner and threatened with a bagette, I'll chose Chicken Wings. Bony, greasy, and it always feel like I've left half the food on the bird. There's a new Chicken Wings place going in near the workplace, so I know its only a matter of time before I get sucked into it.

3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you? Tom Sellick always looks a bit too well-preserved for my tastes.

4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find
Comedian Sandra Bernhard. You can quit laughing now. Ok, now you can quit. Now. No, I mean it. Quit laughing now. Don't make me come up there.

5. What popular trend baffles you?Fascination with the 70's and 80's. Pushing the limits of bad hair days into bad hair decades.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

On the Road Again

Now, if you'll remember, I earlier stated that the worst part of my old job was the commute, a crawl up the east side of Lake Washington up to Bellevue. And even that was not too bad, given books on tape.

So you'd think that, with the current contract work down in the Renton Vale, a mere hop, without getting on the Interstate, I would be happier. Instead I get one of those little life lessons.

The route down to work is mostly back roads, with enough mistimed lights, local trucks, and school busses to drive anyone to madness. So far its taken about 15-20 minutes to get down there. And forget about books on tape - I would not want the distraction. And where the route hooks up with larger arteries the roads are jammed and the drivers seem to be coming to terms with basic Seattle traffic laws for the first time.

Q: What do you do when a light turns green in Seattle?
A: Wait for the truck with two trailers that ran the yellow to clear the intersection. Bring a book.

Its a little more than passing strange, but I'm getting more irritated about traffic coming up the hill than I ever was on the highway going to Bellevue. And of course since most of my commute is a hill climb, my mileage has dropped on the Hybrid (aw, well).

Life's little lessons, ah well.

Oh, and for those who expect quick election results, keep waiting. The Hammond/Heavey race is STILL too close to call, though the most recent results has Heavey pulling ahead as a result of absentee ballots.

More later,

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

And the Eyes in my Head see the World Spinning Round

Normally, I don't believe in these "What Fill-in-the-blank Are You Tests" that are on the net, and moreso, have little patience with those friends who engage in them under the false flag of real content. But when three of my bloggin posse, Wolf, Janna, and Dave, all took the same one, I just had to try it, and of course, in my case the winner is:"

I Am

Which tarot card are you?

Undirected Creative Force. Open, receptive, devoid of pre-conceived notions. Beginnings. A young man holding the white rose of innocence in his left hand and grasping a vagabond's staff and satchel in the other, wanders with his gaze to the heavens, about to step into and abyss. His is the transformative journey of the spirit from innocence through experience into wisdom. his guardian and friend is the white dog symbolizing his own puppylike trust and faith, for which the world labels him The Fool.

OK, I agree with it. And, no, this isn't supposed to count as real content. The race in the 9th is still too tight to call, which actually surprises me.

More later,

Monday, November 03, 2003

Heavey Weather

Well, tomorrow's the election, and things have been relatively quiet, compared to the primary. There have been a pair of mailers, one from each candidate, and my cooking this evening was interupted by a pro-Hammond phone call. In the interest of reporting on local issues, I would have hung around for the speil, but I had a fritatta in the broiler (there's an excuse to use on your next telemarketer). And I should note to the Hammond camp that, if you want to cheese off the electorate, of COURSE you should use telemarketers.

So the mailers - Heavey's is pretty nice, playing to the areas that are threatened with being annexed (Perhaps there is a different mailer for those areas further south?). Stresses her native unincorporated-ness, and mentions the Journal and Time endorsements (the PI one came too late for press, apparently). Other side quote the King County Journal endorsement, with boxed text and emphasis to push her point - she is the more qualified candidate. A solid move, and very professional.

Hammond is, thank goodness, a tad bit more entertaining. The text side states "Steve Hammond. Leader. Respected. Effective. Advocate. Word. Association." Hammond does a comparison of himself and Heavey, but, well, he's shooting blanks. Endorsed by King Co Police (nice), Private Property Rights Group, (read - developers), Alki Foundation (community business leaders - read - developers), and the Affordable Housing Council (read - developers). Heavey, he notes, is 75% funded by Seattle liberal interests. He states that Heavey says she is opposed to tax increases but recently prepared a proposal on impact fees, which are just like taxes except they are different (they are assessed against developers). And when she was a manager at a King County agency where the morale was "bad".

My god, given all that, I can't see Heavey standing a chance against this paragon of virtue, who has the endorsement of the ghost of the previous office-holder (Yes, he's still playing that one, along with the long-time resident card). Examining his mailer, I hit weird word combinations, strange capitalizations, and oddly fuzzy "facts". His mailer, like the fritatta I cooked for dinner, seems a bit underdone.

Now perhaps things are hotter in other parts of the 9th, but things have been pretty quiet here - Lot of Heavey signs, a few Hammonds. I still expect him to be stronger in the south, and it will be interesting if Heavey's "Vote the person" tactic will work. All three major media endorsements have been very strong in the "Yes, she's a democrat, but regardless of that, she's the best candidate for the job". I'd like to see capable people in office, and for this reason, make the following politcal recommendation:

Never try to eat an entire fritatta by yourself. Make a smaller fritatta next time.

So remember to vote tomorrow, regardless of where you are, even if Heavey and Hammond are NOT running in your local area. And watch out for those fritattas.

More later.


So this weekend, wife Kate, friends Wolf and Shelly, and Snaggles the wonder dog packed into Wolf's Jetta and headed over the mountains into the Yakima valley. The Yakima is a shallow, dry basin just on the other side of the pass, best known for its wineries, which is why we went there.

The winery valley is about fifty miles long with dry weather and volcanic soil, good for grapes. We hit the southeastern end first, the closer northwestern second. When it was flurrying on Queen Anne hill, we had about an inch of snow as we were walking among the petroglyphs underneath basaltic cliffs.

In general, the wines were excellent across the board. Kate and I prefer whites, Wolf likes reds, and Shelly prefers cherries (she was our designated driver). I really liked talking to vintners, so I was more impressed by the small operations, like Tucker Cellars, Pontin Del Roza, and in particular Bonair as opposed to the larger operations like Silver Lake and Hogue. The valley is a flux of small family wineries and larger corporate takeovers (Hogue was picked up by "the Canadians"). The season's weather had been too good, and there was an overstock on the grapes. The northern vinyards got theirs in, while those at the southern end had left a lot of grapes on the vine at the end of the season. My personal preferences were the Sunset Rosa from Bonair and also a spiced mead that they did.

We also ate - Kate wanted to try a northern italian place for lunch (we later did it for dinner), but it was closed and we ended up at at a mexican resturant across the street ("The Seven Seas"). The Yak valley has a strong hispanic influx from farm workers, and this place was a small resturant - beer signs on the walls and the big screen playing a Jerry Springer clone on Spanish Language TV. The food, on the other hand, was wonderful - I ordered at random and got a shrimp wrapped in bacon dish that was delightful, and the garlic soup was excellent.

(We did get to the italian place - Gasparetti's, that evening. I really liked it as well. though Shell had problems with the steak (She likes it well done, and had to send it back). The young man waiting the table, who turned out to be the manager, recommended a number of wineries for Sunday, which is how we ended up at Bonair).

Sunday we came back in daylight because of all the news about the snow hitting Seattle. A light dusting, melted before we even got back. Still, it was fun, and I would head back in warmer weather.

More later,

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Have a Rant

This is a small one, so you can read it twice if you want.

So Friday night I'm at the semi-regular Poker Game at a comic-book artist's house up in Green Lake, talking with a pleasant robot-builder in the kitchen (Yeah, I live in Seattle). She both works for Nintendo and is currently part of the National Novel Writing Month in a Month project that a lot of people are trying. The idea of NaNoWriMo is that what stops most people from writing novels is that they don't try, so this is a group activity where everybody tries to write a novel at the same time (December is "National Editors Throw Themselves Out Windows Month" - NaEdThroTheOutWind).

Anyway, in explaining the irony that someone with 20 years gaming experience somehow doesn't seem to have enough game experience for an industry that is about 20 years old, she came down hard on the side of the industry - of COURSE you have to have a deep understanding of Computer Games before even THINKING of writing for them.

I raise an eyebrow (though not my voice). So we have hundreds of amateurs plunging into the novel-writing field (which is a much larger and intricate work) like it was the Oklahoma land rush on one hand, but a deep and abiding understanding of nuance is needed to put text boxes in a computer game?

The thing is, I understand where this is coming from. Fiction, despite efforts to the contrary over the years, comes out of the amateur and the home. Where there have been attempts to formalize and restrain it, it always breaks free. Its very big tent, and I agree and support it. Computer games come out the Engineer-side of our universe, where things must be qualified and defined, where precise goals are set and then executed. Prerequisites are important when dealing with High Priest Engineering, and this is just one more example of that.

Not that I think you don’t need some level of understanding to write for computer games. All forms of writing have their requirements, quirks, and patterns. I would not think to sit down and write poetry and be bang-on perfect the first time (though as a writer, I probably have better odds of creating something passable). And in many cases, a knowledge of the tools is needed (a lot of on-line art comes out of a double-handful of programs, which is why they tend to look the same). I just think that its not the ultimate cut-level that some folk make it out to be. I've always railed against the idea of boxes - they always come down to "You've never done this before, therefore you obviously can't do it now." I hit it when moving from game design to fiction, from prose to comics, and now from game design to another flavor of game design. .

That’s my rant. More later,

Friday, October 31, 2003

I Become Employed, Kinda

Bad news and good news and bad news and good news The bad news is that a very promising position evaporated on me this week. The good news is that I have a gig, anyway. The bad news is that the new gig is only temporary. The good news is that its a bit of stability in their ever-chaotic world.

Last week I had a very encouraging interview with a company doing a new Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). Interview went well, and I had great hopes. Unfortunately, they passed on me, primarily because I did not have sufficient experience playing MMORPGs. Let me make this clear - I didn't get the gig because I didn't play enough games. The irony there is thick enough to slice with a knife and serve with garlic butter (they are still look like a good group of people, and I hope they succeed).

On the other hand, my old, old company, Wizards of the Coast, is behind schedule on an interesting and important project (of which I cannot speak, of course), and needs a hand for the next six or seven weeks (into mid-December). They had hit me up early, and I demurred. Now I called them back, we had the interview (which is weird, since everyone in the room has known each other for years) and I will start Monday. Rules wrangling, primarily, but its a solid gig with the potential of growing into something more.

So now I'm in this weird grey area with the challenges of both being employed and unemployed at the same time. On one hand, I've got a gig, I know most of the folks there, I'm comfortable with the task at hand, and I'm quickly warming to the project (I am round-heeled when it comes to new projects - it takes very little to get me excited about them). On the other hand, this project has a definite end to it, at which point I will be back out on the street again, so I still have to push for finding permanent employment. So I am working and looking for a job at the same time, which is weird, but I think I can handle it. Sort of like Freelance with a change of venue.

The last good news is that I'll be among people again - freelancing is a horribly lonely business. Its a break for Kate as well, since I won't be doing the personality-change thing, moping around the house one moment, then embodying sudden manic, misdirected energy ("Look honey, I rearranged your spice cabinet - by size of the containers!")

More later,

"Oooo Izita Puppy? Yezzitiz! Yezzitiz! Izza Cute Widdle Puppy!"

Several months back, Monte and Sue Cook lost their their longtime pet, Wilbur the rabbit. Now, Monte has gotten a new dog, Rufus, andits the cutest thing on four legs.

More later,

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Life on the Outside

One thing I enjoy: An electric tea kettle I got Kate for Christmas last year. Heating unit at the bottom, turns itself off when it boils. I've pretty much abandoned sodas except at meals and gone to tea.
One thing I miss: A T1 Line
One thing I will never understand: That Ashton Kutcher is the breakout star of "That 70s Show".


And speaking of "That 70s Show" (currently being syndicated ad nauseum), allow me to channel my inner Red Foreman [[For never watching the show, that's the father - his character is Richie Cunningham from "Happy Days" who grew up to become old and bitter. His big line is "I know what your problem is. You're a Dumbass."]]

One of our Senatorial Candidates is a Dumbass.

I really didn't think I would have to talk about Senatorial candidates yet - its a year away. The seat is currently held by Democrat Patty Murray. Running initially as a "little old lady in tennis shoes", Patty turned out OK in the governmental department, looking out for Washington State's interests. After casting about for a number of better candidates (who all said no), the State Repubs settled on Representitive George Nethercutt. Nethercutt is pretty forgetable as a legislator, known primarily for running on a platform of Term Limits when he first got elected, then breaking that vow when it came time for him to stand down.

Now Nethercutt said something recently that's gotten national press - at least a little more than normal. Here's his quote on the current situation in Iraq:
"So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I'm indicting the news people. It's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day, which, which, heaven forbid, is awful."

Now, that's a pretty stupid statement, but it follows the administration's current meme that "things are going swimmingly in Iraq, so don't look too hard." But the fact that the lights are going on in parts of Bagdad a bigger story than the fact we're losing people over there? That's the sort of willful callousness that is ticking folk off.

But that's not what makes him a dumbass. Politicians say stupid things all the time. Trent Lott is talking about "mowing them all down" in Iraq, which is a bigger wince to anyone looking for a solution. And Patty Murray, his opponent, a few years back, pointed out that Osama Bin Ladan was liked by some people overseas for building schools. The Repubs jumped all over her on that one - Nethercutt himself accused her of having "an unbalanced world view".

And no, adding "which heaven forbid, is awful," does not get you out of the fact that this was a stupid, callous, and insensitive statement. Janna over on her blog already chewed this boy out, so I won't get more into it, other than to say - she's right, he's wrong. You're in moron territory, George, but not quite a dumbass.

So after this blows up, Nethercutt complains about the media. Again, pretty typical on all sides of the political agenda. How dare the media reports what he says. They took it out of context. They took it out of an hour long discussion. They left out the "heaven forbid". They gave it an ugly spin. All those things were true for the Patty Murray comment that he so gleefully locked onto early. Its par for the course. No, complaining doesn't make him a dumbass.

What makes him a dumbass is he then takes out advertising in the Times and the P-I to complain about it. The Times ran it in the Sports section, which is a little weird (you say something stupid about young men dying, you might want to address their mothers with the explanation). So now he comes off as a whiner and a dumbass. He said something very, very stupid. He may even believe in this thing that he said, which is very, very stupid. But then after being caught saying it, he them proceeds to get into a public argument with the press. Which allows the press to rehash the entire issue, then show fortitude by "standing behind their reporters".

And even the advert itself is an odious piece of slime, slamming the media again and pushing his own merits as pro-war being on the Defense Appropriations Committee. Which sounds pretty good, until you look at a voting record - Patty Murry voted to raise the hazardous duty pay for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nethercutt, friend to soliders, voted against it.

As a public service, here's a list of cities in Washington State Nethercutt may want to shy away from for next few months - Mount Vernon, Fort Lewis, Concrete, Vancouver, Arlington, and Tacoma. All of these have lost local boys in Iraq. He might run into some people there who may take serious issue with his priorities. Serious issue.

Which, heaven forbid, would be awful.

OK, I'm done now.