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Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.

 

Traffic Court

Tomorrow morning I have a date with traffic court. While in Renton, I parked in a one-hour space for a meeting that actually ran more like 90 minutes. Sure enough, I was ticketed by the time I rushed back to my car. Boo! But worse, I was also cited for not having up-to-date license tabs on my car, the fine for which was double the parking fine! Ironically, I was parked half a block away from the Department of Licensing, and I was able to go over there and get a print-out of my records, showing that I had, indeed, paid for my tabs some six weeks before receiving the ticket.

Armed with this evidence, I waltzed myself over to the Renton City Hall to try to take care of the situation right away. I was certainly willing to accept my guilt at parking over-time (much as it's irritating) but I was not so willing to just take it in the behind on the no tabs fine when I could easily prove I'd paid the tabs on my car! Of course, because I was dealing with the government, nothing was as easy as all that. No, I had to enter a plea, and they scheduled me for a court date. I wouldn't have picked April Fool's Day as the day for my court appearance (I can be superstitious that way) but it was not up to me.

Tomorrow I go down to Renton City Hall, once again armed with my evidence. It will undoubtedly be a waste of time. I predict I will have to wait a good long time for my turn, only to have the whole thing resolved one way or another in less than five minutes. Either they're going to accept the proof from the department of licensing, or they're going to say tough titty. Probably completely at the whim of the presiding judge.

Fingers crossed that I get my way on the matter!

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Wargames

In the context of games and gaming, my friend Robin Laws pointed several of us to this article.

I'm reminded of the American Revolution and the Battle of Bunker Hill. The better trained, better armed, superior forces of the British lined up to fight against the colonists, only to find that the rules had changed. The would-be Americans didn't shirk from using "partisans" and "irregulars" nor did they hesitate to use guerrilla warfare. "All out war for all out victory" was the new doctrine. The British eventually won Bunker Hill, but they lost the war.

They had won the battle, but at a terrible cost: out of 2,200 troops, 268 British soldiers and officers had been killed; another 828 were wounded. The Americans also suffered heavy casualties with 115 killed and 305 wounded. The British armyís military victory at the battle of Bunker Hill was a moral victory for the colonists, however. Colonists throughout America realized that the conflict was no longer just a rebellion of Bostonians and other Massachusetts colonists against British occupation. They had proved to themselves that, united, they had the ability and the character to confront the superior force of the British army. The cost of British victory was so great that serious doubts were raised about English leadership; many now understood that war with the colonies would be hard, long, and expensive to both sides.

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Weekend Part Deux

I had planned to do some gardening yesterday, as spring is definitely sproinging up in Seattle. Yesterday ended up having several beautiful sun-breaks (interspersed with rolling grey clouds and sprinkles, of course) and the temperature got to be a glorious 70 degrees. However, I wasn't even yet out of bed before that plan changed!

Instead of gardening, I accompanied Chris on a jaunt to Ray and Christine's place, where the Germans and Russians were scheduled to fight to the last chit in true Advanced Squad Leader glory. Chris has been searching for someone to play ASL with him for years, so when Ray relocated to Seattle, it was a match made in heaven. Upon hearing that Chris and Ray had arranged a play date, Christine passed a message through Ray to Chris to me that we should get together and do "girly things" while the boys played. So long, potting soil, hello pedicures!

Christine and I indulged in some Passion Tea, browsed the garden store, and stopped at Pasta & Co to pick up fixings for dinner. Off to the local QFC for wine and sodas, and we were set. Ray whipped up some homemade pasta when we got back, Chris shook up a few martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives and we noshed and caught up on gossip. We hadn't seen Christine since some time in January, though Ray's dropped by the house a couple of times since then. Plenty to catch up on. We hung around for dinner, downed a couple of bottles of wine, and eventually dissolved into talk of games and politics. The four of us are of a similar mindset: disenfranchised liberals who look with no small amount of horror and disgust at how international crises are playing out. It was refreshing to talk to someone on "my side" of the issue who has an informed, logical opinion. I've about had it with the gloating knee-jerk conservatives who assume that I oppose the war only because I hate George W. Bush to his core and that I must be some sort of peacenik nutjob completely divorced from reality. Ug. I can feel my ire rising just thinking about it. It was good to vent and commiserate with people I like and respect, and especially nice to do so without stumbling across any unfortunate revelations about their political beliefs.

Anyway, we called it a night, and I properly paced myself so that I didn't collapse in a heap and unintentionally spend the night, as I've so often done after similar nights at Ray's (especially if, after a late dinner and several drinks we throw in a DVD in the dark, basement home theater: that's just asking for me to pass out for the night on the couch. I'm so old and weak.).

This morning I slept in decadently late, rousing myself just in time to shower and change and dash off to Etta's Seafood where Chris and I were meeting my friend Tim. I've known Tim since he and his college buddies were playtesters and game demoers for Ars Magica, back in the day. They were always referred to, fondly, as "The Michigan Guys" and I've lost touch completely with most of them. Tim, however, was working in the computer biz in the Bay Area and regularly played games with other friends of mine, also guys from the game industry. When he found out he'd be relocating to Seattle, courtesy of Uncle Bill, my friends said, "Well, you've got to look up Nicole," and so we met up again.

Had a fantastic brunch at Etta's and talked about the various ways in which our interests have caused us to travel similar paths (trips to London, visits to Skywalker Ranch, contacts with people in various industries who used to be gamers, what have you). And wouldn't you know, while we were finishing brunch, who should stroll past the window toward Pike Place Market but Ray and Christine! No doubt they were off to do some shopping for whatever typical Sunday meal they're planning to whip up tonight. I'm sure Tynes will be posting about it in his blog, since Mr. Johnny spends a goodly amount of time cooking, eating, and hanging out at Ray and Christine's as well. Heh heh.

Before parting ways with Tim, we strolled through the market ourselves and bought some sausages at Ulis and some fresh flowers, too colorful and spring-y to pass up! Tim is going to be living in corporate housing hell for the next 5 months or so, while his house is being built. The good news for us is that when he finally gets settled in, he's going to be living down in Renton, which we're much more likely to visit than any of the places we need to cross a bridge to get to. I hope to introduce Tim to the rest of "the gang" and maybe integrate him into some gaming, I think he'd fit in nicely with the rest of our very nice friends. Tim's specifically building his house to include a "gaming loft" where he plans to have a pool table and game area. Nice to have another old gamer friend in the area!

Chris is putting together an army for a 40K game with Jess this afternoon, and I'll be driving up to Burlington to pick Kate up from her weekend with her dad. It's been a fun, action-packed weekend. Now I just have to buckle down and get everything in order before Kate and I leave for Arizona for spring break. We fly out on Thursday night! Time is just flying by.

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WrestleMania

Got together last night with a friend who is in town for WrestleMania. So weird to think of people coming across the country for something like this! We met him at his hotel and then sauntered five blocks straight downhill to The Bookstore bar at the Alexis Hotel. Back when Ray and Christine lived in Chicago but came to town on business, the Bookstore was their favorite haunt. We looked around for Christian, the server who always had the best gossip about what celebs were in town, but there was only the slightly bored and irritated waitress to be found.

Hal had been going on about his ephiphany over bourbon in Vegas, so I went to their booze list and asked for some help picking a bourbon to try. Ms. Irritated didn't seem in the mood to help me expand my horizons and gave a couple half-hearted suggestions off the list, so I gave it the ol' college try and picked one at random. Turned out to be $13 a shot, and not the kind of thing that would make me wonder what I'd been missing. Shoulda stuck to the Macallan 18-year, at least I know that's what I like.

It was good to hang with Zev. We reminisced about the time we all found ourselves in Germany at the Essen Game Fair. Several of us had hooked up for dinner, wandering into a steak house of some sort where we were fairly unwelcome Americans. After hanging around too late at the restaurant, we searched for somewhere to carry on our rowdy conversation (extra-exhuberent because of riotous Paul, our loud, old-school-punker, stereotypical New Yorker friend) we found that Zev's hotel had no lobby to speak of, so we moved to the room. At some point, while we were in the midst of loudly discussing sexual deviancy or Nazis or stories of Paul's adventures, the phone rang. Mild-mannered Zev answers the phone and from our side of the conversation we hear "Hello...No...Yes, ok, sorry. Yes, sorry. Ok." We wait expectantly to be filled in on what's happening. Zev hangs up. Apparently the front desk had called up and said "Have you a fire? No? Then perhaps you could be quiet? Your neighbors are trying to sleep." Ouch. We tried talking quietly for another half an hour or so, but invariably the volume and intensity of the conversation would creep up and Paul would be half-shouting and Zev would be spasming "Shh, SHHH!" We decided it would be best to sneak out of the hotel before we got Zev evicted from his room.

Good times. Maybe we can do it again this year.

We tried to vacate The Bookstore in favor of cheap late-night eats at McCormick and Schmicks, but it was crowded with young couples and hipsters who'd staked out their turf early. We decided to pack it in and head home instead.

I briefly considered taking Zev to the Zig Zag, but since he doesn't drink I didn't want to drag him all that way from his hotel so he could drink water there too. Judging from other reports, sounds like we missed out on crossing paths with some other fun-loving friends out for the night.

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Punk Kitty

punk

I took an online quiz. The quiz was lame, but I like the picture of the Punk Hello Kitty that I ended up as. Maybe this should be the new Nikchick icon.

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Rhetoric

My daughter was born in Canada. Both her parents are American citizens, born and raised, but her father has lived in Canada since going abroad for his Masters and Doctorate at the University of British Columbia. He continues to live in Canada by choice, and I can't say that I blame him. Vancouver, in particular, is a beautiful, comfortable place to live and I personally loved the time I spent there. I would not hesitate to live in Vancouver again, should the opportunity present itself.

This kind of rhetoric does cause me to worry a little, especially with my precious girl passing back and forth across the border once or twice a month. I hate to see international politics interfering with her family, but I've seen hostilities building between Canadians and Americans over the last few years (over NAFTA, over salmon, over timber, over marijuana, over terrorism, and now over war) and I've seen an increasing disruption in the border crossings, the scrutiny of our travel, and I can feel a brewing citizenship/nationalism issue in our futures.

I have to this point relied on Kate's father to make her claim of Canadian citizenship for her. I'm thinking that it might be in her best interest to have that secured for her, in no uncertain terms, before things turn even uglier for Americans than they are currently. When I gave birth to my baby in Canada, I was so relieved! Even then, in the mid-1990s, I was aware of what a greatly superior gift Canadian citizenship would be for her. I did not like the Rush Limbaugh influenced, gloating conservative tone the United States had taken, even in those days. It's certainly not gotten any better, in my opinion, over the last 10 years (though taking a particularly distasteful turn under the current administration). I'm glad Kate has the "out" of being able to retreat to Canada. It's not out of the question to think that we all might relocate there someday... the United States frightens rather than inspires, more with each passing week. It's not difficult for me to imagine a day when I will not be able to call myself an American, when the difference between the shameful conduct of my government and my morals and ethics will reach the point of no return, where the only acceptable option is to leave for a new home in a country more closely aligned with my views.

Canada is not perfect, but damn it's a lovely place nonetheless.

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Headache

I've been prone to incapacitating headaches since my early teens. I often went in for headache screenings with my general practitioner back before MRIs and migraine specialists were available, and I never received much in the way of a diagnosis. I was told that I probably didn't have migraines, because I didn't see auras or throw up. My doctor didn't appreciate my generally high pain tolerance.

After a few years of blessed relief from most headaches, the really bad ones seem to be back with a vengeance. During a weekend-long meeting we hosted here at the house I spent most of the time in bed, in a dark room, in pain. It hit suddenly, without warning, behind my right eye and though the pain decreased a few times over the weekend (enough for me to get up and participate in life a little) it took three or four days to fully go away.

Last night I was suddenly hit by another of these incapacitating headaches. It is the worst headache in recent memory. I might have had one to rival it in my teens or early twenties, but this was one that truly incapacitated me. I feared that I was going to vomit several times, and lay in bed just whimpering from the pain until I finally fell asleep. Awful.

If I had better health insurance, I'd go in to have it checked. Our insurance is more of the "Oh my god, I broke something!" variety and since the sum diagnosis of my headaches in the past has been "Yep, you sure do have headaches." I'm reluctant to spend the time or the money to hear once again there's little to be done. Of course, I occasionally twinge with worry that it's a tumor [cue Arnold "It's not a toomah!" ] and by not going to the doctor to be checked out I'm risking my life, but I've been waved off so many times it's hard to overcome my conditioning.

I hope that whatever is currently going on with my body will ebb again and I'll go back to the relatively headache-free state I've enjoyed for the last couple of years.

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Food Bliss

My new issue of Cooking Light arrived today. Typically, when a new issue arrives, I look through it greedily, in case there is anything that I can make without running to the store, this very day. Today, sadly, the pantry was "bare" for the snappy recipes I'd have liked to make. Tomorrow, however, is another day!

I've developed a system for going through the magazine and noting which recipes I'd like to try this month. Usually I make note of a dozen more than I end up making, but that's entirely because the magazine is so deliciously attractive.

My system is to write down the name of the intriguing recipe on the right hand side of a legal pad, along with the magazine issue and page number, e.g. Scalloped Potatoes with Shallots, Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic and Thyme. On the left hand side I make note of the ingredients needed for that recipe, e.g. 4 heads garlic, shallots, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, milk, flour, thyme, Yukon Gold potatoes, Pecorino Romano cheese.

This list then doubles as my shopping list (or pantry double-check list). I've found that I'm distractable and forgetful enough that it really helps to have the shopping list broken out by recipe. I can't count the number of times before I broke my list out by recipe that I came home with all the ingredients but one (usually something crucial, like buying all the marinade ingredients but not getting the bay scallops) because I forgot which ingredients were for which recipes. This usually results in having stray cans of artichoke hearts or jars of pimento hanging around the pantry, looking for a home. After two years of this behavior, I had quite the mish-mash in my pantry!

I look forward to game night every week, if only to have the chance to try out another one of my Cooking Light recipes.

This weekend I'm hoping the weather holds enough for me to go out and do a little yard work. I'd like to get my garden prepped and transplant some of the herbs to the empty flower box. I'm definitely ready for spring.

My friend Ashley was recently diagnosed as having Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. She and I could be twins, our "symptoms" are so the same! She's been evaluated, has done lots of reading on it, has taken a spate of online tests. We score similarly on the online tests and I recognize myself in some of the light reading I've done (though nothing as in-depth as Ashley has done). I suppose I should talk to my doctor about getting an evaluation myself, just to be sure. I would be pleased if I could effectively treat some of my symptoms, especially my distractibility and forgetfulness. Losing my keys or forgetting my lunch in the microwave happens so often, it's a running joke here at the house. Even Kate gives me a hard time about it!

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Vegas Recap

Las Vegas was awesome. The GAMA Trade Show was stellar this year, with three halls of exhibitors and record numbers of retail and distributor attendees.

Monday was largely a day for registrations, booth set-up, and seminars. Touched base with some good friends and started the convention off on the right foot by holding the official Green Ronin dinner at Picasso, a French restaurant in the Bellagio hotel that is simply out of this world. It was, without question, the best meal I have ever had. The service was like a dream, the food and wine were outstanding, the atmosphere was classy, soothing, calming and a welcome relief from the hustle of the long day of travel and convention prep. Simply amazing, I can't possibly convey how glorious that two-hour, five-course meal was.

Tuesday Green Ronin co-hosted a brunch for retail and distributor buyers. The room was standing room only: we had been told to anticipate ~500 retailers and in the end there were over 2100 badges sold, over 600 retail stores represented. The response to our announcements was enthusiastic, and there was much buzz around the room when we talked about some of our upcoming products, like Cartographica, our book of color fantasy maps, or Bastards & Bloodlines, a book of half-breed fantasy monsters. We were especially pleased by the response to our official announcement of our license to do a game book based on The Nocturnals.

Tuesday we were also pleased and grateful that the members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design chose to honor us with five Origins Awards nominations.
Game of the Year: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Role-playing Game: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Graphic Presentation of the Book Product: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Role-playing Supplement: Freeport: The City of Adventure
Best Game Accessory: Pocket Grimoires

Tuesday wasn't *all* fun and games, though, because it was also the first day that the exhibitors halls were open to all attendees, and the booth was packed. We talked until we were hoarse, we gave out hundreds of magazines, collected business cards, and stood until our feet ached. The overwhelmingly positive response was wonderfully soothing after hunkering down all winter for what seemed like endless work on difficult projects. It was all worth it to hear that those products were well-received.

Tuesday night we met with our sales and fulfillment partners Osseum Entertainment for yet more fine dining at Nobu's Hard Rock Casino branch. We had the chef's arrangement and it remains some of the best Asian cuisine I've ever enjoyed. Though we didn't get our favorites off the menu, like the Shrimp in Spicy Creamy Sauce, or the Miso Black Cod, or the Tuna tartar, we were treated to plenty of other wonderful, unusual, creative dishes. Yum, yum, I could eat my way through Las Vegas into bankruptcy, no problem.

Somewhere between Monday and Wednesday we discovered our website was hacked by a group claiming to be anti-war protesters. They erased our front page and replaced it with an anti-war message. I doubt they're really motivated by the war. We've had trouble with Russian hackers who have exploited weaknesses in the program we use for our message boards in the past, and our webmaster has been tearing his hair out trying to keep ahead of them this week as they've continued to break into our website, erasing back-up files and tinkering with things they had no right to touch. Very unpleasant, but essentially minor vandalism. And we've gotten a lot of love from the fans as they've found out about it.

Wednesday was another day on the convention floor, and lots of meetings. Lunch with one of our favorite retailers, Jim Crocker and as always he provided us with some invaluable insight into the industry from the retail perspective. Wednesday night we had a business dinner with two distributor reps (Marcelo and Nicole), our good friend Jeff (who does some freelance graphic design for us on occasion) and the Green Ronin staff. This time it was dinner at Red Square in the Mandalay Bay. Once again, wonderful wonderful. Sadly I had to call it an early night because of an early morning Board of Directors meeting. War breaking out made people a little more troubled and subdued than usual.

Thursday was the last day of the show and also the day I had to do the most politics. I hate politics. However, I have to say that the meeting was one of the best I've attended in the three years I've been serving, and I am quite excited about the direction the organization is taking. It's especially a relief to remove some of the obstructionist board members that have been serving in recent memory. People come to the board with their own agendas, obviously, but it's refreshing to no longer be under the thumb of people who are determined to be obstructionist bullies. We get so much more done!

Thursday night I missed going out for dinner with my friend John Kovalic and his lovely wife Judith because I had a Board of Directors dinner. That is probably the most disappointing thing that happened to me in Las Vegas! Dinner was unforgivably slow in coming, an hour to get appetizers, over two hours to get our entrees. So slow that people had to leave to catch their planes without being able to eat the food they'd ordered! I was furious, starving, and had a miserable time because of it. Sometime after 10:30 I managed to hook up with Hal and Chris again, and we'd talked about going to a popular bar called Ghost Bar to have a little fun but I was not up to taking yet another cab ride out somewhere to *start* an evening of fun at 11:00 pm. Must be getting old, but I decided to go up and go to bed instead. Besides, the war footage was playing on the bar televisions at the hotel, and I just wasn't feeling very jolly or celebratory.

Friday we checked out of the hotel, shipped our convention display home, and had a few hours to enjoy ourselves before catching the plane home. We decided to do something we would never do at home: we went to a shooting range where you can fire automatic weapons! The place is called The Gun Store. I believe the Thompson was the hands down favorite of the three weapons we tried. Chris kept a spent casing as a souvenir, which turned out to be a slight problem once we got to the airport (but only after they made me pour my iced-coffee drink out of its clear plastic to-go cup into a less threatening paper cup). Apparently a completely spent and harmless shell casing needed to be examined by three different people before we were allowed to fully pass through security "just in case" (though just in case *what* was never clear).

This update is long enough for now, I suppose. I will be leaving shortly to go pick Kate up from my mother's house and heading back right away. Then we're done traveling for a while, until April.

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Airport

Those who know me have heard me ranting and raging in the past about airline security over the last few years. Ironically, I've been much less irate about airline security since the feds took over the screenings (and since airports installed enough employees and equipment to handle the job). In my most recent travels, I've been screened politely and efficiently by people who speak and understand clear English. These are appreciated and much needed improvements, necessary for passenger compliance and security.

This episode (originating in sweet home Seattle), on the other hand, is really over the line. People crushing their Dixie Chicks CDs is evidence enough of human hypocrisy and pettiness. This Seattle baggage incident, though, is EXACTLY why the TSA's next step in security screening is a terrible idea. Your personal information, credit reports, traffic tickets, goodness knows what else, passing through the hands of anonymous self-righteous "security screeners" in order to make a "security assessment" before you're allowed to board a plane? Yikes. (Yes, I've linked to a lefty news source about CAPPS II. It's my blog, and I've had enough conservative, war-mongering media for today, so screw it!)

Leaving for Las Vegas in a mere 6 hours. Suppose I should get to packing... wouldn't want to be late to the airport.

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Crap.

Just wrote a huge update about heading to Las Vegas for the Gama Trade Show when my browser quit without warning as I was posting it. Lost, lost, all gone.

That's the thing about blogging that's different than writing journals by hand. If I'd just spent an hour writing in my pen and paper journal, it would still be there when I put the pen down.

Grr. I'm not going to write that all up again. I'll report back on the trip after the fact, but now I don't have time to waste. 16 hours and we've got to be at the airport, convention display in hand.

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In A World Gone Mad

In A World Gone Mad

The Beastie Boys have released a war protest song. The lyrics include:

Itís time to lead the way and de-escalate
Lose the weapons of mass destruction and the hate
Say ooh ah whatís the White House doiní?
Oh no! Say, what in tarnation have they got brewing??!!!!???!!
Well Iím not pro Bush and Iím not pro Saddam
We need these fools to remain calm


It's not the most rockin'est BB song I've ever heard, nor is it filled with the cleverest of their pop culture references (Zoolander ?!), but damn, I appreciate every single person out there who does anything to protest the madness our country is participating in.

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Missing Children

I don't know a parent who doesn't worry about things beyond their control that could happen to their children. Bullies, diseases, car wrecks, bicycle accidents, drownings. It's always out there, on the fringes of your perceptions, "something" could happen. The fear of losing your child altogether, of having someone abduct them, of being unable to protect them from whatever migh be done to them in your absense, that fear strikes terror into the hearts of even the most steely parents I know. A missing child is a living hell, not to be wished on anyone.

The case of Elizabeth Smart, returned to her family alive after being abducted by a stranger, has reminded me not to give up hope. Long after she'd passed from the public spotlight, and long after many assumed that she was dead or missing forever, all it took was one person to keep her in mind when they saw something strange and she was recovered.

This is significant to me, because I also know a family who is suffering the same pain of not knowing that the Smarts lived with all these months. My friend's nephew has been missing since October 2002, an 11 year old boy who disappeared while riding his bike to a friend's house.

They have not given up, and the Elizabeth Smart case has reminded me not to give up on them. With that in mind, I've come to the diverse and widespread crowd we have here in order to spread the word and to ask you all, just to keep an eye open, keep Shawn Hornbeck in the back of your mind the way concerned citizens did with Elizabeth Smart. Maybe, just maybe, someone will see him and bring him home to his family, too.



http://www.shawnhornbeck.com/

Thanks everyone

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Fever

Kate stayed home today because she woke up with a fever. When I called the school, I did so with hopes that she'd be going to school tomorrow, but they've got a "24-hour rule" that kids can't return to school until they've passed 24-hours with no fever. She was still feverish when I put her to bed, so she won't be going to school tomorrow either, even if she wakes up "better." The woman who answered the phone when I called Kate in sick dashed my hopes further when she told me that "it's going around" and they've had kids out of school with fever for six days or more.

Because we work at home, it's very difficult to have Kate home for days on end. She's an energetic kid, even when she's home sick and she needs attention. I'd drop everything for her in a minute if she was seriously ill, but it's harder when she's just bored and restless and when the big trade show of the year is looming in less than a week.

I'm especially disappointed that she's missing school this week, because she's going to miss school all next week as well. The aforementioned trade show is during the week, in Las Vegas, and it's neither possible to miss it nor practical to bring her along. I'd already arranged to bring her to my mother's in Oregon for the duration of the show. Looks like I'm going to have to have her doing some home study so she won't fall behind her class.

We played a game of Mag*Blast tonight. Kate has developed into a good little game player already. I wish I had the stamina to play more often. She still needs a little help understanding some of the non-attack cards in the game, but she delights in making the sound effects (and is sporting enough to laugh with us when she was caught not making the required sound effect, much more mature than I was at her age) and successfully added up the total point value of her cards into the 20s. Her teacher has commented on her good math skills, and the results from her COGAT testing were in the high 90s. Now I'm left to wonder if it's the gamer environment that's helped shape her, or if she was just born with good math genes. (Which must have come from her dad, since I'm not known for my math prowess!)

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Jimmy Carter

Say what you like about the man, mock him for being a peanut farmer, or asking us all to wear sweaters during an energy crisis. Jimmy Carter has my profound respect, which doesn't come easily. Whereas every word out of W's mouth is (to quote Bill Hicks) "like a turd falling into my drink," when a Nobel Peace Prize laureate speaks, I listen. Here's what I'm listening to him saying right now.

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Love and Marriage

Yesterday was the wedding reception for my dear friend Evan and his lovely bride. At my own wedding I did not have the traditional Bridesmaid or Maid of Honor, but chose Evan to be my Bridesman. Regardless of my mother-in-law's insistence on calling him "the other usher" he was much more than "an usher" at my wedding. In fact, he went above and beyond the call of duty, as he accepted the role before becoming unemployed in the great pre-recession of '01. He did not let his jobless status keep him from flying across the country to stand at my side, I didn't even find out directly that he was sick for most of the trip! He made sure I had a drink and that some food and cake were saved for me as I was dragged hither and yon for wedding photos and ritual dancing. He even rented the rental car after I was a complete space case and left my purse (complete with all credit cards, money, and passports) on the plane.

Evan's a super guy. In addition to being my Dude of Honor, he's also been kind enough to drive me to the airport on multiple occasions, watch my tomatoes while I was gone convention-hopping in the summer (I should have been more specific about that request, as I meant "watch" as in "tend" not as in "observe them withering" but that's neither here nor there), house-sit (and test out the alarm system while he's at it), bring dark beer and cheesy chips to game night, and slave away as our greatly-appreciated but sorely-underpaid webmaster for our little start-up company. For quite a long time I could not believe that smart, fun-loving, cuties were not lining up to have a chance with this guy!

Well, it turns out, he was just waiting for the right girl. And he's definitely found her. They radiate "rightness" when they're together and, as I expressed during a nerve wracking off-the-cuff toast to the bride and groom, Evan has blossomed. Blossomed isn't exactly the right word, the word I was probably looking for is "unfolded" I think. He's always been a quiet guy, a sly-boots quick with a quip when you least expect it, and since falling in love he's been all that and more...all the best parts of him that we've always enjoyed have been amplified.

It's a wonderful, wonderful joy to share wedding beginnings with dear friends. It was great to meet so many other people who love our friends, who know things about them that we don't, who know those things about them that we all know. There are far too few times in our lives where we unabashedly share our love for one another!

Happy wedding, Sassmaster. Happy beginning, happy life, happy everything. You two deserve no less, and I hope you have the best of everything and more.

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Shanghai Knights

It seems like it's getting more and more difficult to find family entertainment. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have pretty loose standards about what Kate is allowed to watch. She's seen plenty of Jackie Chan, she's seen lots of anime, she's even watched a couple of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with us. We've watched PG-13 movies together and even a few R-rated movies. Fellowship of the Ring was no problem for her.

However, she's still a bit on the young side for things like The Recruit or How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, regardless of their PG-13 ratings. The Quiet American or Tears of the Sun are far in the future. While searching tonight for a movie to go see as a family, we considered Daredevil, but the savage reviews put me off. Shanghai Knights was just what the doctor ordered (having seen Shanghai Noon with Kate, she knew what to expect) and blessedly saved us from having to consider Kangaroo Jack or Jungle Book 2.

[Brief rant: Are we so creatively bankrupt that the only thing we can think to create for "child friendly" movies are so-called sequel movies to 50-year old "classic" cartoons? What is with the spate of re-hashed movies like Cinderella 2, Jungle Book 2, or worst of all 101 Dalmatians II (not to be confused with 102 Dalmatians, the live-action sequel to the live-action remake of the "classic" cartoon)?! Hello, Disney? Can't you even pretend to have an original thought by at least giving us "sequels" with somewhat evocative names like Cinderella and the Temple of Ultimate Evil, or Mowgli: the Parent Trap?! ARGH.]

Anyway, Shanghai Knights was bland, inoffensive entertainment for the whole family. There were a few chuckles, many groaners, and while some may complain that Jackie Chan wasn't doing his "Jackie Chan Thing" enough, I'll admit to being relieved that he's cut out some of the wild "stunts for stunts sake" craziness that has marred some of his other American films. I love Jackie Chan and I greatly feared that as he aged he would continue to push himself to do jaw-dropping stunts until it killed him. NO threat of that in this movie, and that's ok with me. Owen Wilson does his Owen Wilson patter. It's exactly what I expected it would be and it saved me from kid-movie hell. Woot!

If you're looking for a decent "kid movie" I can recommend The Wild Thornberrys Movie with a clear conscience. If only there were more quality movies like that out there for us!

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Strong Bad

Strong Bad rocks. Don't believe me? Check it out!




Don't forget the t-shirts.

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Friends

Last night Chris pointed me to a story about our friends Charles and Tammie that another friend, Monte Cook, had written up for his website. Monte's "Line of Sight" column changes frequently, and I don't think he keeps an archive, but for now the story is up here. I highly recommend it.

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Patriotism

\Pa"tri*ot*ism\, n. [Cf. F. patriotisme.] Love of country; devotion to the welfare of one's country; the virtues and actions of a patriot; the passion which inspires one to serve one's country. --Berkley.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

This is the reason given by one of Washington State's representatives ("It's an issue of patriotism,") who walked out of the chamber as an invited Imam gave the opening prayer for the session.

This on the heels of our leader George W. Bush taking time out from his war-mongering to spend a minute flogging his "faith-based initiative" plan. One of his recent speeches was full of language such as "...governments can and should support effective social services provided by religious people, so long as they work and as long as those services go to anyone in need, regardless of their faith. And when government gives that support, it is equally important that faith-based institutions should not be forced to change the character or compromise their prophetic role." and "I think the charities helping the needy, it should not matter if there is a rabbi on the board, or a cross on the wall, or crescent on the wall, or religious commitment in the charter." I guess the President's religion-loving message didn't manage to circulate down to some of his party members out here in the wilds of Washington.

I also came across pro-war organization, based in Kirkland, calling themselves "the true voice" of America. I've watched their pro-war television commercial. Once again, as with the first Gulf War, we're being told to "support our troops" as if the the lives of our soldiers are casino chips with no value until they're cashed in. Is it so unbelievable that someone like me might be opposed to military invasion of Iraq precisely because I support our troops and don't feel forcing an irritating dictator out is worth the cost in human life? Why the hell must I be painted as "a terrorist apologist" for trying to uphold decency, and wanting to employ diplomacy (actual diplomacy, not cowboy diplomacy ala Bush)?

See? Jangly and inflamed all over again.

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Innate?

I've been pondering the seemingly inherent gentleness of Fred Rogers this week. I've always wished that I was able to naturally be kind and gentle, calm, nurturing, whatever you want to call it. I have a tender heart but that's not the same thing. Fred Rogers saw people throwing pies at each other on television and was disgusted enough to make it his life's work to do something better.

Instead, I've always been jangly, edgy, feisty, inflamed. My mother shielded me from as much of the world's ugliness as she could, but everyone opens their eyes eventually. When I saw what was around me, I was overwhelmed by the wrongness of people. I used my anger as a weapon to beat back what I could; I defended my junior high school friends from bullies, I wrote impassioned letters to the head of the corporation that sold my favorite sports team, often I just yelled "It's not fair!!" or "Why would someone do something like that?!" and I spent a lot of time in tears. If I've had a motto, it's been "You want a fight, I'll give you a fight!" I am not a calming influence by nature and for most of my life I have believed that you can't affect change without being passionate and behaving like a wildfire or a volcano, changing the landscape of your life.

I know I'm getting older, and I hope I'm getting wiser. Fred Rogers is evidence that you can change the landscape of your life without raging around. He tended his landscape like a gardener, planting the seeds of change and tending their growth. My self is so familiar as the confrontational wild woman, I haven't the first idea how to be otherwise. I've spent a good deal of my life wishing I could remake myself only to find that I am essentially the same as I ever was. I appreciate all the more the people who have, for whatever reason, the right internal make up to flex a higher moral character and undertake (and succeed at) such meaningful endeavors.

Shit, I really need to find something to do with myself that doesn't have anything to do with the game industry. Releasing the latest book of big, bad, icky monsters for your half-elven ranger and his party of intrepid heroes to slay is just not spiritually uplifting or morally significant, even if it has paid the bills.

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First Grade Love

My daughter has a boyfriend. She's happy to tell anyone who will stand still long enough to hear her story, but only if it comes from her own lips. Heaven forbid that I should talk about it. As she put it, "You don't know who I want to tell. I'll tell who I want to tell." Why she wants the nursing assistant in the pediatrician's office, or the crossing guard, or the office administrator we've never met before to know she has a boyfriend is a mystery I can't decipher.

What I can relate to is being in love with a boy from your kindergarten class. For Kate, that boy is Alexander. She wanders the house, saying his name in a dreamy voice. She confesses her excitement at pending playdates and her heartbreak at long separations from him to her favorite comfort items: blankey and Ruffles (a floppy, stuffed dog only slightly smaller than she is. Thanks Grandma Carol and Grandpa Glenn!). Alexander is a geek in the making, a sweet-hearted young boy with round framed Harry Potter-esque glasses who plays collectible card games and takes riding lessons. He's adorable, in that bookish way that I myself find so attractive in my own men. I'm not at all surprised Kate is completely in grade school love with him, and, from talking to his mother, it's clear the feeling is mutual. For Valentine's Day Kate received a letter addressed to her in childish grade school scrawl. Inside? A Harry Potter valentine that she clutched to her heart with a teen-like squeal of delight.

For me, it was John Lahti. John was in my preschool class. He was small and lively, the youngest of three and a real rough and tumble boy. How I enjoyed being rough and tumble with him! We went through kindergarten and first grade together, until I moved away after my parents' divorce. Even then we kept in touch through the occasional letter or phone call until I was in fifth grade. I would beg to visit him whenever I ended up back in my birthplace for some visit or other. The last such visit we had together was the summer between fourth and fifth grade. John and I went to the corner store to spend my summer fun money on penny candies and had a "camera fight" while horsing around his house, in and out of various vehicles his family had parked around. The idea of the camera fight was to sneak around and capture a photo of the other person without being seen. We burned through a couple of rolls of film that way, sucking on candies the whole time. We lost touch when John's family moved from Ely and I continued my westward migration with my mother and brother, moving every year or so. I was definitely as completely, innocently smitten with John Lahti as Kate is with her little boy friend.

Unfortunately for Kate, Alexander is no longer attending her school, and he is very busy with activities: music classes, riding classes, chess club, cooking class. She pines for him and there is nothing I can do to help her. I've tried to connect with his family to arrange play dates, but our schedules rarely sync up. The one play date we successfully arranged went swimmingly, the kids listening to the insipid Kidz Bop CDs and pretending to air guitar around the house, lots of playing with toys that otherwise sit neglected for months at a time, lots of heart-to-heart kid time where they talk about the cool things they've read or watched or seen or done. The kinds of things that seem profoundly important in a child's life, and so completely inconsequential in adulthood. Tomorrow was supposed to be another one of these long-anticipated play dates, but Alexander's mom phoned while I was at the post office to say that she needs to reschedule for Friday if possible. Kate met the news with tears and wailing. "I've been waiting so patiently! My heart is crushed!" My poor girl, she feels everything so intensely. Like her mom that way... I do so understand her sometimes.

I'm glad Kate has this friend for whom she can feel such adoration. I know a lot of parents would cringe or worry over her blissful crush, but I don't. Not now, not at age 7. She is a wonderful, sensitive, passionate girl and there is much time for disappointment, rejection, limitations, and difficulties ahead of her. I'm glad she has time to experience acceptance, fulfillment, possibilities and adoration for a while first.

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