Discolor Online

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


Holy shit.

Though I had a few lazy updates of my own to post today, I just read this account of what's going on with a friend of mine and it's wiped everything else from my mind. Can you believe this crazy shit? (Names removed to protect the innocent.)

5 weeks ago our house was burgled and the robber took K's computer. That same night our weird neighbor who never comes out of his house came out of his house to throw dirt clods at our bedroom window at one in the morning and call 911 to tell them there was a gang rape going on in our apartment.

A week ago, we were awoken at 2:30 to someone knocking on our bedroom window, then an hour later riging our doorbell, then an hour later pounding on our bedroom window again. We called the cops and when they came, they saw our neighbor, naked, running back into his house.

Yesterday morning at 5:00AM he woke us up again by hurling shit at the side of our house, smacking our window with a garden hoe, and throwing a giant abalone shell at our window. Again, when the cops came, he ran back into his house and refused to come out, but he did call 911 and report a rape in our house again. When we got home last night (so this is the same day) he was on our porch and started staggering towards us. We drove off, he didn't leave and kept coming at our car. The cops came and arrested him. We looked around in our house to find he'd put his checkbook under our door and that he'd left K six voicemail messages telling her he was coming over from 10:00AM to 5:00PM that day. In the process of looking around his house, the cops discovered K's computer, a bunch of her checks (which we hadn't realized he'd stolen), a check of hers he'd made out to himself, and a pair of her underwear.

So, I have a psycopathic next door neighbor obsessed with my wife and rapes in my apartment who's in jail now but they have no idea how long they'll keep him. And while this is happening, I'm trying to finish up our game to go out to Microsoft by next Monday.

That is just wrong and scary. I've been stalked before in my life, had strange guys following me around and one guy who actually broke into my house to hide under my bed or in my closets. I totally feel the sick, creepy fear all over again just reading their account.

Please, please let this guy do a good long stint in jail and/or a mental institution where he'll be off the streets and maybe, just maybe, get his mental problem dealt with. I mean, he's clearly got mental problems, right? He won't just be released to return to living next door to my friends, right? ::shudder::


Patriot Act

I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you! Who ever could have seen this coming?

Justice department using Patriot Act in nonterror cases

So, when, on the Justice Department's Patriotic website (beautifully named LifeandLiberty.gov) they wax rhapsodic about the great strides in law enforcement brought about by the Patriot Act ("The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism)"), the fact that they reference terrorism, terrorists, or terror 41 times on the front page alone isn't meant to reinforce with the public that the Patriot Act is all about stopping terrorism.


School Board Elections

Who cares, right? Well, I just spent the morning meeting with one potential school board candidate and all of a sudden I care about the Seattle School Board election! A mom of a fourth-grader from my daughter's school hosted this brunch and Q&A with Brita Butler-Wall. The attendees included parents of current and former Seattle school children here in the south end, teachers from my daughter's school and the nearby high school, school bus drivers, a labor activist, the president of our school's PTA, a former Seattle School principle and activist, and others I didn't have a chance to meet or chat with.

There are many issues before the concerned parents of kids in the south end of Seattle: the lack of a public alternative middle school, the negative impact of the WASL tests (passing the WASL is to be a requirement for high-school graduation in 2008), the district's $35 million "shortfall" and questions of where money went under the tenure of Joseph Oleshefski, the fact that we currently have no superintendent, the utter chaos surrounding the AP/SPECTRUM classes for students termed "advanced learners," allegations of grade tampering in area high schools, junk foods being sold in schools and the school district's contract with Coca Cola, the increasing reliance on funding from corporations and the business sector to keep public schools running, not to mention the disarray of the No Child Left Behind Act and other "soundbite" mandates of its ilk.

By pressing NOW for an alternative middle school to be made accessible to the children in the south end of Seattle, we might be able to see a program in place in time for the start of my daughter's sixth grade year. The current school board is inaccessible, suspect (how in the hell does an unexplained $35 million dollar deficit appear with no one held accountable?) and have been unwilling or unable to meet the needs of the children in this area. If you are a Seattle reader, please consider voting in the upcoming election for Brita Butler-Wall and the other "opposition" school board candidates: Irene Stewart, Sally Soriano and Darlene Flynn.


The Chance for Peace

This morning, returning from dropping Kate off at school, I found myself stopped at a light behind a car with a very wordy bumper sticker:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed - Dwight D. Eisenhower

'Wow,' I thought to myself, 'that sums up the sentiment that I was trying to get across in my September 11th blog. I wonder what the context of that quote is.'

So, when I got back home I fired up Google. I discovered this quote is a small section of a larger speech titled The Chance for Peace and given by Eisenhower in 1953.

Fifty years ago. As this was well before I was born (in fact, both of my parents were young children, younger than my daughter), I struggled to place the speech in context. With more Googling, I nailed down a few additional World Events: Eisenhower was sworn in as president, Queen Elizabeth was coronated live on television, Stalin died and Nikita Khrushchev was confirmed as the First Secretary of the Communist Party, Ayatollah Khomeni began the fight against the Shah in Iran, Pakistan declared itself the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Korean War was winding down, while the Cold War was ramping up.

The bumper sticker quote is from this larger passage. Upon reading it, I find it doubly relevant to the United States today:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

This speech, made 50 years before my silly blog, says better what I'm still trying to form into thought and deed for myself. For each $50,000 garbage truck we buy for Iraq, we join in the ban on family planning for the AIDS-stricken African continent. Nearly half a trillion dollars (that's $477 Billion, with a B) in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, meanwhile 35 million Americans live in poverty over 12 million of them children. And for me, this extends to daily life in the United States as well. We're using more energy, and more water, and it's not even fair to count the consumption per capita when we consider the poor and the increasingly destitute (say, for example, our Native American populations and the conditions of the reservations).

Also in the Chance for Peace speech, Eisenhower lists off the following "clear precepts" which he says govern the United States and its conduct in world affairs:

First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.

Second: No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.

Third: Any nation's right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.

Fourth: Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

And fifth: A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of war, toward true peace.

Reading over those clear precepts, and looking at the path we're on at the moment, I'm sorry to say that I do not seen the United States on the path toward true peace. Increasingly, I feel a call to make a difference. If we had this "chance for peace" 50 years ago, how is it that we've ended up here?



Yesterday was supposed to be game night, but one of our guys is out of town all week on business, and another has parents in town helping him prepare for the impending birth of his daughter, so we were at loose ends when game time rolled around. I'd planned to cook up something scrumptious from the bounty of fresh vegetables I'd picked up at the farmers' market Wednesday. The farmers' market is in its last few weeks of traveling around the city, and will only be setting up across from Kate's school for another week or two, and this week it was bursting at the seams with fall goodness: pickling cucumbers and fresh dill, fresh peppers of all shapes and colors, tomatoes from cherry to beefsteak in reds, oranges, and yellows, huge bundles of fresh basil, okra, onions, the first of the fall squashes and pumpkins, the last of the summer peaches and pluots, a vendor selling salty oysters just plucked from their ocean beds at $5 a dozen. The bread baker knows us (Kate buys a heavy round loaf of honey wheat every week), the tart-maker knows us (Kate buys a cookie there every week) and the cheese vendors know us (Kate samples their cheeses and then picks the same mild gouda every week).

Instead of cooking last night, the remnants of the game group decided to get together in J&K's Belltown neighborhood and have dinner together. Kate suggested sushi, but Wasabi was packed with people when we walked over. We got the idea to try the nearby Marrakech (see this review from the Seattle Weekly). It was glorious: round, leather pillow-seats around inlaid tables, bench seats backed with pillows, dim lighting from ornate sconces, fabric on the walls and ceiling all give the impression that you've stepped straight into Morroco. The waitstaff is appropriately costumed, you select your own bread from a large basket that's passed around, your hands are washed before and after the meal by your server pouring warm water from an ornate silver pitcher over an equally-ornate basin and there is not an eating utensil to be found. The food was delicious, and (of course) we had the Royale Feast, so we got to try quite a sampling! We overheard the thrilled, soft-spoken owner telling another guest that the restaurant has only been open for two months, and it's packed every night, reservations-only on weekends. I have no trouble believing that.

Of course, stuffing ourselves on delicious food while in a warm, cozy, dimly-lit restaurant, resting on pillows and cushions nearly wiped us out and we all barely staggered the two blocks back to home or car afterwards. I fell asleep early and slept soundly, full of couscous, lamb, and Moroccan wine.

Today Kate has a field trip to the zoo, where she hopes her class will bump into Kathryn (who was just hired as the zoo's marketing manager). It would be quite the brush with celebrity for the second-grade class, at least as far as Kate is concerned. Tonight we join a friend for dinner at his brand-spanking new house, and tomorrow Kate is looking forward to a sleep over with friend Celia.

I'll be taking a mountain of orders to the post office, and then planting an assortment of bulbs in preparation for spring flowers. I also bought a medium-sized rhododendron and a more hearty lilac and I'm going to try again with the yard shrubbery that failed so spectacularly this summer. Wish me luck!


Nothing for All

I've been considering writing a couple of essay-style entries on subjects that keep percolating through my brain: my thoughts on forgiveness, what the soundtrack of my life would be, M.'s ongoing struggle with her alcoholism and how it affects her friends and family, my friend's little girl and how the poor thing has been diagnosed with trichotillomania over the last year...

Instead, I'm extremely busy with things that I've let languish all summer and I have no time to write anything thoughtful. I'm still thinking over all these things and more as they pop into my consciousness throughout the day, but I don't have the time to write anything insightful or interesting about the situations or my thoughts on them. I ran into this problem with my paper diaries over the years as well. The more interesting or unusual or thought-provoking the happenings in my life, the less I wrote them up. I wrote "catch-up" entries and tried to re-cap after a flurry of activity had died down, but they really lacked the impact or insight that I was looking to preserve.


Brunch and more

Brunch was a nice, casual affair today. Mostly it was the out of towners who came in for WedCon and we enjoyed more food, fun and games throughout the day. I settled on an easy brunch menu: a baked egg-vegetable-sausage dish (with vegetarian sausage), bread pudding with a raspberry-cranberry compote, homemade lemon poppyseed scones, thick-cut bacon, virgin mimosas, and lots of coffee.

I was very happy that so many people were willing (and able!) to come back over to the house today for more socializing. We finished up the day by having dinner at Ray's Boathouse with those last few stragglers willing to close out the weekend with us. Now, I'm just tired out. Long couple of days and lots of cooking and running around.


Verdict: Success

Ah, WedCon I went off fabulously well, if I do say so myself.

I spent the day cooking, which was fine with me. Several of us made a run out to the near-by Larry's Market to pillage their wine section, and as we were driving in I told the story of how it seems that no matter how often or how rarely or at what time I'm shopping that store I inevitably run one or both of a particular couple who live nearby. Sure enough, I'm not three steps in the door, when who should I spy about 50 feet to my right but that guy on his way out the door! It really is bizarre.

Chris and Hal, with the help of some of our early-arriving guests, helped get table coverings and chafing dishes set up while I finished food prep at the house. Jess and Kathryn picked up my order of tiramisu for me. By the time I arrived, things were looking good and I for one was starved. I dug into the food while folks trickled in and began chatting and setting up games.

In all, by the time it was really underway, we saw between 30 and 40 people at the event, including one kid roughly Kate's age who wandered into the hall and stayed for most of it, prowling around the room, snooping around the games, sticking his finger in my foods. I was most unimpressed, but a couple of guests seemed to take pity on the kid and invited him to stay, so I bit my tongue.

I was very pleased to see our friends from Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Minneapolis could make it, as well as folks from Seattle who pop up once or twice a year at holiday parties and the like. My friend Tim was celebratory as construction on his house has finished and we may be able to see more of him in the near future.

I personally played a couple of games of Kill Doctor Lucky but mostly tried to socialize. Still, others got in several games (mostly card games of various sorts) and the event had everything we could have hoped for.

Then I came home, visited with a couple of friends who weren't ready to head home yet, then with the fellows who are staying over. Finally got the kitchen cleaned after today's marathon cooking session, just in time to host a brunch tomorrow for those who didn't get to see enough of us today.

On that note, best get to bed so I can get things started nice and early for brunch!


Vivid Dreams

In the few weeks since my grandmother's funeral I've been having vivid dreams. Twice I've dreamed that I was at "the cabin" (though the house and the surroundings were not the cabin of my youth), where my grandma was restored and with us again. The dreams, though steeped in unreality, were vividly realistic at the same time. Grandma was the grandma I knew and loved, before her crushingly slow slide into Alzheimers. In both Grandma dreams, they had an ending that involved us knowing that our time with the restored Lila was temporary and that she would be leaving us again. In the most recent, she died and disappeared (maybe ascending to heaven?) and Grandpa matter-of-factly announced that it was time for him to take up smoking. The Grandma dreams both left me feeling distraught upon waking, because the Grandma of my dreams was more vivid than any recollections of her that I can call up by conscious choice. In my dreams, she was as real as real, down to the soft scent of Oil of Olay wafting around her.

I've had other vivid characters popping up in dreams, including one this morning that was full of people from my junior high school who I haven't seen in years (Danny Hunt! T.J. Chandler, Rob Webber, Eric Buss). I'm sure there'd be more to it, if some telephone solicitor hadn't called the house just then and woken me from it.


Bwah ha ha!

Ok, this made me laugh out loud with delight. Now THAT'S a battle cry!

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Skulking out of the cliffs, swinging a meaty axe, cometh Nikchick! And she gives a mighty bellow:

"I'm going to defoul you so utterly, Jesus himself will forsake you!!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys


WedCon Flux

Argh, t'WedCon schedule be cursed again. Some scurvy dogs double booked, but for them I hold no pity. One fella's crashed his car; run aground on t'afto'a minivan and he's stayin' homet'nurse his bruised ribs. One poncy elf has play rehearsal that night: what self-respectin' pirate has play rehearsal? Poor ol' Pirate Mike was scheduledt'board a plane in Baltimore, but t'weather just won't cooperate. Who knew Baltimore would be in t'patho'a freakin' hurricane? One bucko's sister be in town from Detroit, another couple movedt'San Diego at t'last minute. T'best excuset'surface so far has been "Me buxom beauty's Police cover band has a gig that night." Now, that excuse freakin' ROCKS.

Ah well, t'more food and fun for t'resto'us. Today t'preparations begin, and I begin cookin'. Whiskey-gin'er chicken breasts, cold poached salmon, sweet and sour meatballs, buffalo win's, chinese chicken salad, t'popular spinach and crab dips I made for our cocktail party, stuffed pork loin roast with apple cider glaze, sesame green beans (vegetables from t'farmer's market), marinated roasted peppers (roastin' them meself) with olives and mozzarella, and (if I can swin' it) several orderso'tiramisu from Buca di Beppo -- which serves t'best tiramisu I've ever had (and I've tried a loto'tiramisu in me day). Beer, wine, and sodaso'all sorts.

Aye, t'food situation seemst'be well in hand. Chris be handlin' t'games and as long as allo'our Game Masters make it, and thar be plentyo'other gamest'go around, we should be set for convention infame.

If enough people make it and have fun, maybe we can do it again next year!


Misery Loves Company

And what good company I'm in! Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who responded to my last blog entry, both here and in private. I heard from people I didn't even know were reading, people who have been there and done that, people who used to be here and used to do this and have moved on to other rewarding endeavors.

In giving it some thought over the last couple of days, it's clear my discontent is two-fold. Obviously, as many of you have commented, the vocal members of the gaming fan base can be persnickety and critical. It's not just limited to the fans, either; at the worst of times my fellow industry professionals have been known to be critical and petty and vicious concerning the work of others. However, even without that element, even if I removed myself from or never was confronted with the petty criticisms that run rampant all around me, there's a more nagging feeling that I'm just not doing anything important or lasting or meaningful. That there are more important things that need to be done in the world, and I'm shirking.

I felt this way for a while after my daughter was born and people started treating me like an adult and a mother. I couldn't get over the feeling that I was going to be found out: I'm no mother, when did I become a grown-up? That I was only faking it, didn't know what I was doing or wasn't doing it "right" and sooner or later I was going to be found out, exposed. That feeling has faded as I've "faked it" as a mother for long enough and both my daughter and I seem to have come through ok. "Fake it 'til you make it," as a friend says to me. I guess where mothering is concerned, I've made it. But this career of making games, even after 15 years and especially in the face of the greater needs facing my immediate community, my extended family, my citizens of my country, the rest of the people in the world...I again feel like a charlatan, a fraud. Getting by doing what I'm doing only because no one is examining very closely what it is I'm up to; as if some authority figure is going to burst into the room at any moment, yelling, "Didn't I tell you to put those things away? Now, get out there and mow the lawn, and save some endangered species while you're at it, you slacker!"

I suppose I just don't want to be accused of fiddling (in the engaging in nonsensical, trifling matters sense, not in the to play the violin sense) while the world burns.

Meanwhile, I spend the day preparing for WedCon. The guest list is in flux, what with people having car crashes, hurricanes closing down airports, and generally flaky and forgetful friends being flaky and forgetful. Still, I expect to see some 40-50 people on Saturday, and I intend to feed them all. If gaming kinda gets me down, cooking and feeding people is my joy, and catering WedCon is my current excuse.


I hate what I'm doing

Periodically, anyway. And right now, I have to say that I do hate it. HATE it.

I look around at the world, and I think that I might be doing something fun, something that I enjoy, something creative that brings pleasure and distraction to a troubled world... I enjoy self-employment, so I don't have to work in a soul-sucking corporation that's going to abuse both my talent and my good nature until I want to blow my brains out in their cubicle bay.

But no. It's not anything like that. It hasn't been anything like that for more than a handful of days over the course of a decade. Instead, imagine a job where every single thing you do (from how you file the business cards in your cubicle to what color you wrote your memo on) is up for judgement by any random guy who walks through your office. Worse, not only is every aspect of the job you do up for criticism, but the random guy who gets to critique, more often than not gets to critique your performance (or, a lot of the time, what he *perceives* as your performance) by shouting through a bullhorn in front of all your colleagues and competitors.

I'm just so ground down these days. No joy in Muddville. I work for a three-and-a-half person company. We put out 24-30 books a year by working with other professionals who contract with us to do art, writing, editing, fact-checking, design, you name it. We pay as generously as we can afford, and try to be fair in what we expect. We work hard, and largely put out superior product, if I do say so myself. IN SPITE of getting absolutely, totally, screwed with no lube on what seems like a regular basis by people who contract with us. We work our asses off so that the in the end, the customers get the book they were promised and we try to make our trials and tribulations as invisible in the end result as possible.

Artists who don't turn over their art, artists who want to be paid before they've even completed the work (and after they've agreed to other terms), artists who take the money but don't turn over anything even close to their best work for it, writers who turn in god-awful manuscripts, writers who miss their deadlines by a month, two months, FOUR months, people who ask for extensions on their deadlines and then after the extensions have passed tell us they haven't even started or turn over material that makes it clear that they did it the night before it was due (like some sort of high school term paper), people who screw us over for months and then bitch about us behind our backs about how we're, you know, kinda pissed off about it, people who say they're turning over a project that was clearly outlined and defined (let's call it The Game) and when we get it, what we get is The Adventure, or The Sourcebook That Couldn't Be Called A Game If You Lied. Oh, it just goes on and on.

And then, once we get this stuff in hand, and we bust our asses to fix it, to make up for the people who are screwing us and making the best we can out of it, there are still the usual heart-aches of printers not printing, shippers not shipping, hackers hacking our websites and e-mail, people using fraudulent credit cards to rip us off...you know, the usual costs of doing business.

So then, month after month, we put these products out to hopefully bring some small amount of pleasure to people. What kinds of comments do we receive? "The text density is below average," or "The sidebars are too wide, and there is wasted space because they put a double-space between paragraphs." (Except, you know what? It's NOT "wasted" and the "text density" is actually higher than your average book...because of clever graphic design and font choices, there are actually MORE words per page than our competition. Not that anyone actually *counted* the words in the book, besides us.) We weren't psychics, we didn't predict what a competitor was going to do and copy them, we didn't print on the inside covers of the book, we made the book/didn't make the book compatible with others, we made the focus of the book too narrow/too broad. It goes on and on, and it happens every single time. If it's not one guy, it's another. For every one guy who thinks Book is great, there's another guy who hates it with a burning passion and takes the fact that it exists as a personal affront.

Now, I don't take every single comment personally. You can't! But I do get worn down, when NOTHING is ever good enough, when project after project is like slogging through mud with a boulder on my back, all the while with guys ridiculing me at the tops of their lungs: "You made a typo!"

Dude, I'm not making enough of a living at this, even considering the relative success we're enjoying, to go on with it if what I'm getting is this. Spending a week in northern Minnesota, unplugged from my cell phone, unable to get online to check my hundreds of spam messages, looking around at the harsh-but-simple life that's available there...well, I guess it's made coming back here, and returning to the world of death by nitpicks, a little harder.

Maybe it's a midlife crisis. Maybe, looking around at the world and the people struggling and suffering, I'm just beginning to think if I'm going to work this hard and put up with this level of shit for what I do I could at least be A) benefitting more from it, or B) doing something to actually improve the lives of the people and the world around me. I'm just so tired of the pettiness, the squabbling, the scrambling, tired of working so hard and watching my partners work so hard, for such a meaningless, unappreciated, unnecessary end result. I'm not working this hard to protect endangered species, to comfort sick children, to befriend the lonely elderly, to help kids learn to read, to stop pollution, to rescue the abused, to build sustainable transit, to provide clean water. Why? Why am I wasting my time and talents, whatever those may be, so that some self-appointed expert on imaginary monsters can tell me that what I've done is essentially wasted my time *and* made enough of an error in doing so that I deserve public ridicule.


Very, very tired of it.


Busy Day

Since my personal and political musing seem to have offended people, you're all going to be treated to a rousing laundry list of what I did today instead of any thoughtful commentary. Feh.

After getting almost nothing accomplished that I meant to on the weekend, I had a busy day today. Got myself embroiled in PTA politics on Friday and gave my support to a movement to get an alternative middle school installed for kids in the South End of Seattle (the only alternative middle schools in Seattle are all in the North End; the kids in the South get nada) on Friday, so I did some research on that for myself this morning. Managed to get Kate up and get her a lunch packed and get her off to catch the bus for the first time this school year (I've driven her every other day so far). Did a bunch of research into the various candidates for City Council, Seattle Port Authority, and the two ballot measures that everyone is talking about (the "Pay a Dime More For Your Lattes and Fund Pre-Schools, You Yuppies" measure and the "Agree the Cops Have Better Things To Do Than Bust Potheads For Possession" measure) because tomorrow is election day. Was amused to note that some of the opponents of the latte tax measure include some of the swankiest restaurants in Seattle; am I to believe that the customers of El Gaucho "Seattle's Premier Steakhouse! who are asked to pay anywhere from $9 to $21 for an appetizer, and up to $47 for a steak, are going to be pushed over the edge by the extra 10¢ tacked onto their after-dinner espresso? Or are those restaurants serving pan-seared foie gras and kobe beef just some of those "small businesses" being unfairly burdened by this proposed luxury tax? Interesting way to start the morning.

Later, I went to pay for the hall where WedCon will be held this weekend, found out that we had to give a floor-plan for how we want the tables set up and that we could pay with money order ONLY, ran off to the post office to mail several things and pick up money orders (one for the hall rental fee, one for the refundable deposit).

While we're at the post office, I get two message notices on my cell phone. First is DHL telling me that they've tried to deliver a package to me twice and they need to figure out what to do with it; after spending 4 minutes 28 seconds on hold with them (gotta love those call timers) I was able to determine that they'd tried to deliver the packages at 7:40am and then again at 11:20am on 8/29, and then, finding no one here (we were in Atlanta for DragonCon, in fact) they held onto the packages until today, leaving no message or note or any sign whatsoever that they'd tried to deliver anything while we were gone. Ug. Agreed to just come pick the darn things up (two large boxes from our Canadian printer). The second call was from friends expecting their first baby in just two weeks, calling to say they'd had a bit of a scare (doctor, looking at the wrong medical records had called to say he wanted to induce their baby TODAY! Yikes!) and they realized they needed to gather the troops and finish the renovations on their house so that they have finished rooms to live in once the baby comes. I offered to help with whatever I could, and promised to meet them as soon as I could get Kate fed and get down to their house.

Finished running errands (went back to the WedCon hall with the money orders, dropped Chris off, went down to DHL to pick up packages, came home and sent off last minute corrections to our GenCon SoCal events listings, deadline today, etc) and finally peeled out of the house after 7pm to get down to Kent and help with the painting party. Saw several other mutual friends there and had fun painting and chattering and feeling helpful. Hadn't seen the house before, but got the dollar tour and admired all their re-model handiwork, including renovations to the master bedroom, the impressive feats of dry-walling and laying of tile and rebuilding of closets. They've been working hard on this house and you can really see it coming together.

Now it's midnight and I still have GAMA Trade Show paperwork to fill out. Tomorrow I must pick up the food and drink for WedCon, and maybe I can squeeze in a haircut too, if I'm lucky.


Now HERE is a game I'd play! Maybe we should run some at WedCon!


The Man in Black

"I can remember very well how it is to pick cotton 10 hours a day, or to plow, or how to cut wood. I remember it so well because I don't intend to ever try to do it again."

My mother and I were talking to each other this spring about how surprising it was that Johnny outlived his beloved wife, June Carter Cash. It was clear he never intended to, that he thought she'd be around long after he'd gone.

Bono of U2 fame described his sound thusly,"He is a character of truly biblical proportions, with a voice, all wailing freight trains and thundering prairies, like the landscape of his beloved America. He has a soul as big as a continent, full of righteous anger mixed with human compassion." Exactly!

In my formative years, spent in northern Minnesota and surrounded by hard-working men who worked in the mines of the Iron Range, who made their homes in what would seem to many an unhospitable climate, I often heard the music of Johnny Cash. I sang along with the simple, straight-forward lyrics. Cry, Cry, Cry, Don't Take Your Guns to Town, Ring of Fire, Folsom Prison Blues, A Boy Named Sue, I Walk The Line, One Piece at a Time...

I moved off into a world where I didn't bump into old Johnny much, a world of pop radio, a world of Shaun Cassidy and Rick Springfield, a world of New Wave and Punk, of Prince (before he changed his name to a symbol, and before he became a Jehovah's Witness) and Hüsker Dü and The Replacements.

In the last couple of years, as I've gone forward to finally recreate the music collection I've lost through decades of ill-planned, cross-country moves, break-ups, and restarts, I decided it was time to fill in a few of those old classics that were still lodged in my brain from childhood. Johnny Cash was the first I moved to restore.

Kate now knows all the songs on The Essential Johnny Cash, sings along to Hey Porter, Get Rhythm, Don't Take Your Guns to Town, A Boy Named Sue... and I feel like I've done a good thing.


Today is a Day

The anniversary of things I prefer not to relive. My friend over at Wrong Turn Journal who did some actual living through that which I only watched happening from the other side of the continent writes very movingly in a recent entry. An excerpt:

If one half of the country says to the other half: We are all products of a singular country and a singular culture, one achieved with sweat and invention and libraries of ideas and the blood of the committed and innocent. Can we agree to assume the best of the other side, in fact to assume us to be all part of one struggle? And may we further assume that we all have the same black mark on our soul that consigns us to act out of a combination of weakness and high principle, that commits us to the struggle but keeps tricking us into slackening when strength is needed most?

Which dovetails interestingly into another debate I've involved myself in over in the comments section of foldedspace.org. A portion of my small contribution to that long discussion:

...I can pretend I know what motivates them, what they're like inside, but I don't *really* know. Acting as if I do does everyone a disservice, including me, because it allows me to act without compassion.

The truth is that no one wants to suffer, and everything a person does is to deny or avoid their suffering. The worst thing we human beings can do is lose our compassion for those who are suffering, whatever form that suffering takes, because compassion is one of the few things that makes us different from the animals. Without compassion, we can't ease our suffering or the suffering of others.

Today is the anniversary of an unpleasant awakening, an omen of a darker future more full of strife than one I'd contemplated a decade ago. The giddy optimism of the cha-cha-cha dotcom start-up, where everyone seemed buoyant with possibility and opportunities hung heavy on the trees, ripe for the picking, seems like a near-forgotten dream to me now. The veneer has cracked, the rusted frame is peeking through: we could not sustain that wild decade of growth and unbridled consumption, and "the American way" is beginning to be shown for the falsehood it is. An unsustainable consumer society, built on the backs of the rest of the world, and it's only a matter of time before they refuse to make our sneakers and cars and computers for pennies and we will be forced to live within our means and pull our own weights. For me, this is the anniversary of the day we were hit with the bill we'd come to believe we'd never have to pay.


Just to keep my industry twin amused:

Robert E Lee
Robert E Lee: You are the very image of the
gentleman warrior with the soul of a river boat
gambler. You place a very high price on honor
and personal loyalty.

Lee is widely regarded as one of the greatest
generals in US history. Personally opposed to
slavery, he only joined the Confederate army
after Virginia seceded from the Union. Some
say that he personally prolonged the war at
least two years with his tactical brilliance

Which Civil War General are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


"Appropriate Action"

"Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation," said Cary Sherman, the RIAA's president. "But when your product is being regularly stolen, there comes a time when you have to take appropriate action."

Oh yeah, suing little girls for $150,000 PER SONG they've listened to on the internet is "appropriate action."

(Yes, I'm back from the wilds of Minnesota, and just as disgusted with the rest of the world as ever.)


Free Day

After a poor night’s sleep in the strange cabin (where my brother and I stayed up talking until 3am), we joined the rest of the family for some lasagna and garlic bread. We took showers, changed clothes, and then my side of the clan took off in the motorboat, the first time it had been in use all year. Kate wore the same life jacket that I’d worn to go boating when I was her age, and my dad let her drive the boat just like my grandpa had done for us. She drove the boat in circles, in and out of coves and folks in other cabins came out onto their docks to watch the fun. We saw one water-skier and one guy on a jet ski, and scared off a nearby houseboat when the motor boats intruded on their nature experience.

With no other family obligations, we decided it would be fun to go into town for a while. Dad took us (myself, Kate and my brother) into town to see if some of our family friends were around to go visiting. We stopped in unannounced, but no one was home, so we took a drive up the Echo Trail hoping to see some wildlife. No wildlife to be seen, but Kate managed to get in a good two hour nap. The Echo Trail dropped us back out on the main road, and we swung by the Kleists again to see if they’d returned. Steve and Theresa were some of my dad’s oldest friends, and a couple I remember with nothing but fondness from my childhood. They haven’t changed much at all, especially Steve who is still very active as an outdoorsman and quite fit and handsome, if a bit greyer. Dad and Steve swapped hunting and dog training stories and Theresa and I chatted about life and kids. Steve has known me since I was smaller than Kate, and remembers Chad toddling around in diapers. Unlike my family homes, which have all been bulldozed or remodeled for the sake of progress, Steve and Theresa still live out by the lake in the log-cabin-style home they lived in when I was a child. It was much more like coming home again than being out at the loaner cabin and I was glad for the chance to stop in.


Beer, Pool, and Darts

The family returned to the lake for a while after the service, hung around and had a few beers in the sunshine. Northern Minnesota was in the midst of an unusual September heat wave, so temperatures were in the 80s and soon enough the stories started flowing. Eventually we were overtaken by hunger and we moved on into town to have dinner at the Ely Steak House. After dinner, we split up, with grandpa, Dolly and the kids going back to the lake and the kids and uncles hanging out in the bar area of the restaurant, playing pool and darts. It was funny to see my dad and his brother, still quietly competitive after all these years. I played a game of pool with my cousins and failed to sink a single ball (I’m not a good pool player) then moved on to playing darts. I did a bit better at darts. We kids spent a lot of time trying to remember when was the last time we’d all seen each other. We decided it had been sometime in the mid-80s, very nearly 20 years since I’d seen Jack’s kids and much longer than that since all of us had been there with Connie as well.

We closed out the bar and drove home just as Josh and I were figuring out we were pretty well opposites on the political spectrum. Since Connie had gone home earlier with baby Eliana, I was the oldest cousin out that night. Josh is the youngest out of all of us, a twenty-something raised in Florida for most of his life. He and Johnny both have southern accents that really strike me as weird when I hear them, since I’m just not used to hearing any of the usual Lindroos clan drawling like that! Most of them speak like they’re straight out of Fargo, or displaced Canadians.


Birch Lake

My grandfather sold the lake house to my uncle almost ten years ago, when he and grandma moved to Arizona full-time. A few years ago they remodeled the house, leaving very little of the original construction untouched. Last year the dock and small rowboat shelter were damaged by ice and buckled during the winter, and when we arrived at the house this year it had been completely removed. There’s precious little of the house of my childhood left at the lake at this point, just the garage (an addition from the late 70s or early 80s), out buildings, and the boathouse for the speedboat my grandfather bought back in 1965.

Because of the number of family members in town, there wasn’t much room at the lake house, even with the remodel. My aunt and uncle, their three adult children, other cousin and her baby and my grandfather pretty well filled up the house, so my side of the family was offered space in a nearby cabin, less than a mile down the road. The folks who own the lake house across the creek from my family’s property have another much more rudimentary cabin they keep for their family that they offered us. I certainly appreciated the generosity, but it felt strange and awkward to be staying somewhere other than with the family.

I suspect it won’t be long before what remains of the cabin of my memory is remodeled or dismantled. My aunt and uncle are not interested in boating or fishing the way my grandparents were, so keeping a dock or boathouse is not important to them. They don’t have the same fondness for saunas and swimming, so the beach and the bay have become much more weedy than I ever remember my grandparents letting it get, and the sauna my grandfather built is being used as a storage closet. I’d say it hasn’t been turned on for a good five years, and isn’t likely to see use again. The sauna was always one of my favorite places in the cabin and its loss is just a symbol of our larger losses.


The Ride to Ely

My step-mom left the house shortly after 7:00am, intending to pick up each of my three step-brothers on her way north. My dad was driving a second vehicle and taking me, Kate, my brother, and my cousin Connie and her infant daughter with him. Connie drove up from the south to meet up with us, and then had to pack up everything necessary for the baby (playpen, diaper bag, baby foods, multiple changes of clothes, a portable high chair, car seats, a stroller…I’d largely forgotten how much baby stuff goes along with traveling with a baby!) and we got on the road around 7:30 ourselves. We rode happily along, with Kate and baby Eliana amusing each other for much of the trip. At one point during the drive, all three Lindroos cousins were on their cell phones to their respective spouses, since we’d all forgotten to make good on our promises to call them when we arrived at Dad’s house. I was amused and gratified to see that I’m not the only one in the family with that trait. We managed to meet up with Carol and her boys, arriving within minutes of each other thanks again to cell phone technology at the Wilbert Café, one of the oldest restaurants in Minnesota. The Lindroos clan all ordered pasties, and while the fillings were authentic and delicious, they had the soggy crusts of pasties that had been prepared in advanced and microwaved to order. Definitely NOT like Grandma used to make. With full bellies again, we made straight to the Presbyterian Church in Ely for the memorial service.

The Memorial

The memorial service for my grandmother was held in the same Presbyterian church where I was baptized as an infant, and where I attended preschool. I took Kate downstairs into the room where cake and coffee were to be served after the service, which doubled as my preschool. I have a photo of my preschool class with all of us sitting on a little two-step stair. I wandered into the nursery room itself, and wondered at how tiny and fundamentally unchanged it was. Two ladies who knew my family and yet were unfamiliar to me were in the basement area setting up the coffee and home-baked bars that had been donated by the church women of my grandmother’s generation. Upstairs people were mingling and greeting each other. When we returned upstairs, I joined my aunt in arranging photographs of my grandma on the altar. My cousins (her children) had also arrived at the church, but we were generally mingling in our immediate family sub-units. Kate amused herself by chatting with Bonnie Starkman, who was serving as the organist for the day. Bonnie and her husband were friends of my parents when I lived in town, and had boys my age and my brother’s age. Bonnie was very sweet to Kate, just as she’d been to me when I was Kate’s age and it was wonderful to see her again,

The family was all called to the back room to talk to the pastor, a youngish woman somewhat older than me and somewhat younger than my dad. I am quite certain she never knew my grandmother, and I found her generic memorial speeches and prayers empty and not a comfort in any way. Bonnie began to play the organ, people were seated, and then the family was paraded out to take our seats in the front. Grandpa, his children and their spouses took their seats in the front row, and then we cousins all sat side-by-side two rows behind. Prayers were said, songs were sung, and the whole thing seemed to be generally removed from my actual family and our experiences, but I hoped that the event was some comfort either to my grieving grandfather or his and grandma’s aging, frail friends and relations.

Toward the end of things, my Uncle Jack stood up to say a few words of eulogy on behalf of the family. Finally, something that really seemed to touch on my grandmother’s life and our experiences with her! Jack’s speech was enlightening, touching, full of love and grief and truth about my grandmother and while he says he was reluctant to be the family “spokesperson” at the memorial, he did a great job and I’m very grateful that he accepted the unpleasant duty when it was thrust before him. It was Jack’s speech that brought tears spilling over for the cousins, and our hearts broke all the more as we sat behind and watched as our beloved grandpa quietly sobbed in the front pew for his wife of 62 years. The rest of it, all the blessings and talk of being reunited in the next life and all the prayers and hymns, really brought me no comfort whatsoever, but Jack’s speech meant everything and was the only thing I needed.


Defeat of Jesse James Days

Kate and I arrived in Minnesota just in time for the start of Northfield’s “Defeat of Jesse James Days” celebration. The town square was taken over with food vendors of all sorts: shish kabob, roasted corn on the cob, grilled shrimp skewers, grilled pork chops on a stick, corn dogs, pronto pups, prime rib sandwiches, fried cheese curds, battered mushrooms, funnel cakes, sno cones, lemonade… Missing this year was my dad’s annual favorite of smoked turkey legs, replaced by a vendor selling barbecued pork sandwiches.

After the decadence of Atlanta, it was low-end fair food of the highest order.

After strong-arming Kate into eating the second half of her hotdog, we strolled down to the waterfront, where carnival rides had been set up. The place was crawling with kids from town, ready to plunk down their money for a chance to win a stuffed bear or ride in a spinning strawberry until dizzy. Disneyland this was not. Shady looking guys with tattoos and frightening scars intoned a practiced patter meant to lure us into games of chance. Filthy, sweaty, surly men ran machinery and herded kids onto rides through a series of grunts and hand signals. Ropes and wires and industrial-strength power cords criss-crossed the grass, lines for one ride spilling over and across lines for another, families exiting from the wrong side and plowing into kids rushing forward to take their turns. We gripped grimy handles and squished into uncomfortable seats with total strangers, and spun wildly around and around and up, down and around again to Kate’s utter delight. On every ride, she tossed her hands in the air, screaming and squealing with delight, waving back to grandma or grandpa waiting on the ground. It was pure small-town, Midwestern carnival and she had the time of her life.

We returned to my dad’s house, played with the dog for a while, washed the carnival grime from Kate's body and turned in for the night. My dad had to drive back up to the airport in the late night to pick up my brother, whose flight had been delayed, and the two of them arrived back at the house at about 1:00am. I woke up as the dog greeted them and when my brother accidentally burst into my room, thinking I was asleep in the other, and then fell back asleep until about 5:00am, when it became apparent that I wasn’t going to get any more sleep that night and I got up and went into the kitchen for some cereal and coffee.



Damn it all, I'm sick. Don't think I have a fever, though I can't tell by feel due to the heat in the house tonight. Despite taking cold medicine all day, I've been just miserable. Nose constantly running, chapped from blowing, lips chapped from mouth-breathing for the last 24 hours, violent sneezing. I made it through five convention trips in four months (three of those packed into five weeks) but the filthy hoards in Atlanta and the constant, abrupt transitioning from the icy climate control of the indoors to the hot and humid outdoors finally did me in. I feel like the "before" shot in a Nyquil commercial. So, what did I do today? Rest, relax, sleep in? Drink lots of fluids and eat chicken soup? Well, not really. Caught up with orders that came in during DragonCon, stood in line at the post office, took some packages to Federal Express, did assorted chores in preparation of getting up at 5:00am for my trip to Minnesota. I feel terrible, but I just can't miss this memorial service. Everyone in my family is going to be there, even my brother and my cousins from far and yon. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't go because of the common cold...and yet my bout with pneumonia after GenCon 2001 taught me that these "con colds" can turn into something worse for me almost without warning.

Kate and I did curl up together in my bed to watch Shrek and sip microwaved Campbell's Soup at Hand (so as not to dirty any dishes before leaving home again). She kept saying, "We're the sick girls, having a girls' night in." Still have to finish packing, so I'd better get to it.


California Recall

I think the California recall is a huge mess, and I fear the ramifications such politics could have on the rest of the country. More and more I've been finding myself in agreement with people like Robert Prechter, of Socionomics fame. While I am not your typical libertarian (the World's Smallest Political Quiz pegs me as a "left liberal" but does note that I'm 90% in favor of "self-government" for ones' personal life) I am occasionally in sympathtic striking distance of those Libertarians who aren't in the anti-school, gun-nut, or religious-cultist categories. If you're a reader who disagrees and thinks I'm on crack, please just ignore me.

On the other hand, if your feelings on the issue fall more in line with those who oppose the recall, for whatever reason, please consider clicking here and adding your support to those who are trying to stop this three ring circus.


Leaving Atlanta

The boys left for DC several hours ago. Kate and I leave on 7:00pm flight, so we've got all day to kill here. I think I'll take a look at the MARTA schedule and see where we can go by train today. Might even go to the trouble of taking the taxi to the zoo or something. I'm sure Kate could kill some time at the zoo.

Last night's dinner was at a place called Noodle. The food was great, and the portions were huge. Kate and I shared a bowl of miso udon with tofu, which the waiter split into two "small" bowls (the small bowls were bigger than Kate's head). We were stuffed when we left and including the cab ride we still spent less than we've spent on any other meal this convention! Glad that we were able to find a place that was open on Labor Day. Lots of places around the hotel were closed for the day, especially since most of the convention attendees left yesterday.


Last Day

Today is the final day of DragonCon. Pretty much the same as all the other days. Since I'm not so much into the party scene these days, I kept clear of most of the goings-on, but I did work my way through the crowd enough times to amuse myself watching the people mingling in their incredible variety of costumes. A guy last night hads a light-up TRON costume that had people on the street cheering for him. Some of the BDSM-themed costumes made me glad Kate was back in the hotel room with Chris, though.

More fantastic restaurant experiences: Dinner at The Abbey with Dan Brereton and his lovely girlfriend. It was luscious! I had the butter-poached lobster tail, which was divine. The Abbey has an extensive wine collection, which Hal made good use of. Last night we had to find a kid-friendly place, since my ex-father-in-law dropped Kate off with me a day earlier than expected, but luckily Kate has cosmopolitan tastes and sushi was fine with her. We made reservations at MF (Magic Fingers) Sushi, which had super-cute waitresses, a massive list of fine sake, and sushi of sorts we've never tried before. Kate had an unpleasant surprise when her favorite tobiko (tiny, salty, orange roe) arrived in a green, wasabi-soaked variety, but Hal and Chris swooped in and devoured what she left. The Negi Toro Oshi, the Magic Finger's Special Roll, the California Eel Roll (combining the California roll and the Barbecued Eel Roll - Hal didn't care for it, but that just left more for me), the Philadelphia Roll were all generous 8-piece rolls. We also got some Negi Hama maki, the kohada nigiri, the mirugai sashimi and the albacore tuna tataki sashimi were all excellent. We ended the meal with mochi (mango and green tea). Yum!

No clue where we'll end up tonight, since it's Labor Day and who knows what restaurants will be open. The guys leave in the morning for an early flight to DC (where they'll spend a couple of days before heading to the Alliance Open House in Fort Wayne) and Kate and I leave in the afternoon for our brief stop in Seattle, before heading out to my grandmother's memorial in Minnesota on Thursday.