Discolor Online

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


Take the What Should Your New Year's Resolution Be? Quiz

I wonder what my husband would think of that...



Snowfall is rare here in the Seattle city limits. Outlying areas, towns further up the foothills, get snow, but Seattle proper gets snow only very rarely. In the few years we've owned our house, we've had just a handful of snowfalls, maybe three? It started snowing last night after dark and I can still see a few flakes falling now.

Kate is at her dad's in Vancouver this week and all she could talk about was snow. She got a new winter coat, hat and mitts for Christmas from her easterly grandparents and I chuckled because the chances were very slim she'd get to use them here. She gleefully brought them to Canada with her. We saw a light layer of snow on the side of the road on the way north and she started singing about snow. I sure hope they've gotten snow up in Vancouver, too, or I'm going to know a very disappointed little girl. Such a shame she's missing our bi-annual snowfall.

I suspect this may make getting out of the house for our standing engagement at Jess and Kathryn's New Year's Eve party a little more difficult. We live atop one of Seattle's infamously steep hills and in order to go in the direction we need to go, we'd need to get up and down at least half a dozen more. Guess we'll see what the afternoon holds.


No Schedule

After a couple of days of obsessive tag-team Knights of the New Republic playing, Chris, Kate and I joined our newly married friends for a little celebration of the event, over killer meatloaf from Cook's Illustrated (tender, delicious, and wrapped in bacon), green beans, salad, bread, and wine. Yum, yum, I love having friends who know how to eat well!

While Kate amused herself over hotdogs and Harry Potter, we all laughed it up over more wine, then a dessert course of cheese, sherry, and some goodies I brought along from my stash. Received several compliments on how great Kate handles herself in "adult party" situations, which is always wonderful to hear. No one wants to be the parent of the kid who is a drag to have around! Kate has been extremely sweet and good-natured, and her natural animal empathy is a bonus. Friends who have pets that don't normally like strange people (let alone strange children) are consistently amazed that their pets willingly come up to Kate and investigate her, sometimes even allowing themselves to be petted and played with. Kate desperately wants a cat or dog of her own who will snuggle up in her bed with her, but allergies and our nutty travel schedule keep us from having any warm furry animals for her to love...the pets of friends are the best we can offer.

Eventually, Kate and I crashed out in the spare room. I awoke at 6:30am to find the boys still up, chatting away, completely unaware that the entire night had passed! Wacky.

Thankfully, Chris has roused himself from his afternoon of slumber, because we have plans to meet another friend for dinner. This fellow is a former regular member of our game group, and we haven't seen him since his going away party some years ago now, when he left Seattle for the wilds of Edmonton, to (coincidentally) go to work for Bioware.


Can't blog

...too busy playing Knights of the Old Republic! Chris scores a critical hit on gifts for the season! TiVo for my birthday, Xbox for Christmas! Woohoo!

Definitely need to find a game we can all play at the same time, though. Right now we're taking turns playing KotOR, and that can't last once vacation is over and we're back to work. Too few hours in the day!


Geek Out!

Oh man, I'm totally a geek but I'm thrilled with the delivery of Green Ronin embroidered gamer's satchels that arrived today! Wow, they're NICE. I can't wait to appropriate one for my own use. After Christmas, we'll definitely have to get some pictures up on the website of these beauties.


Holly Days

Had a nice visit with my brother and sister-in-law. They left today for Chicago, where they're spending time with Angie's sister. They had originally agreed to drive from Chicago to Florida with A's sister and kids, so she wouldn't have to make the trip alone, but as it turns out A's sis's husband can make the trip after all, so now there is no room in the vehicle for everyone and Chad and Angie are left to rent a car and drive to Florida on their own. The price of being nice!

It was nice to see them, though I fell asleep too early after a day of early waking, too much driving, and a belly full of good food. Even my mother's husband was acceptible and decent enough company! Gifts were exchanged, Kate received a bounty (including a new guitar!), and we even spent a little time playing games together in true family tradition. Kate won a game of Farkle by 5000 points.

On the way back to Seattle I stopped at a Borders and bought Across the Nightingale Floor on CD and listened to the first two and a half hours of the story on the drive home while Kate and Chris took turns sleeping. It's a wonderful story so far, and the readers they have doing the narration (one male, one female) are excellent. I listened to the last half of the third CD today while I puttered around in the kitchen. I'm very much enjoying it.

Watched a bit of Tivo last night when we got home: The Caine Mutiny. Both Chris and I thought it was really not a very good movie, despite the four star rating Tivo gave it. Bogart took a bit of a different role for him, but I found the movie confusing at best, utterly unengaging at worst, and I can't understand the high regard people seem to have for it. We watched the Kid Notorious Christmas episode (I'm really enjoying that wacky show, especially when Donald Rumsfeld and his turtle, Mr. Pickles, make appearances) and later Kate and I watch Suspicion, which I'd seen before. Nothing like Hitchcock, even "lesser Hitchcock" like Suspicion, to wash away the bad aftertaste of a bad film. I quite enjoyed watching Kate trying to figure out what was going on. Tonight it will be 12 Angry Men, I think.

Today we all finished our Christmas shopping. Kate and I went off in one direction, Chris in another. We intended to meet up down town at Nikko for sushi, but when Chris arrived he discovered they were "closed for business" which sounds both ominous and permanent. We settled for I Love Sushi instead.


Christmas Craft Craziness

I've finished the gift baskets for my family. They include all sorts of foodstuffs that I made myself, plus crafty things that Kate helped with. Strawberry-Port Wine preserves (made this fall with strawberries from the farmer's market), caramelized honey with anise, Mediterranean herb oil (both recipes from the December issue of Bon Appétit), confetti bean soup (dried beans layered in a jar, with a recipe), chocolate-walnut rum balls, mocha kaluha balls, and citrus balls in a little box I decorated with ribbon, cinnamon-scented pine cones, and a Christmas ornament made from Kate's school photos. Kate also made book marks to include.

I have several plates of rum balls, cherry-chocolate fudge, and maple-walnut fudge, plus home made rosemary cheese crackers that turned out really great. I have ingredients for making mounds bar cookies, cherry-walnut bars, and a second sort of cheese cracker, but didn't get around to those. I do so enjoy crafty projects like this, I went a little crazy. Note to my friends: you may be getting fudge from me for Christmas this year! Am seriously considering bringing a whack of this stuff down to the fire station for Christmas, just to thin out my supply a bit!

I really need to go see RotK again when I'm not feeling sick. Getting that splitting headache during the movie really ruined it for me, and I find myself looking back on the experience and being unable to come up with any impressions of the film or the story other than "Gah, when will this be over so I can crawl into bed and die?" I wish the movie had done a better job of explaining why Denethor was so bug-fuck crazy and why it took our heroes so long to figure it out. I need to go back and watch it again to see if the pacing was as bad and the overall story as disjointed as my headache led me to believe. The massive fight scenes did little for me, mostly because it was just a lot of anonymous guys fighting. My recollection is that the film gives you very little reason to care what's happening if it's not happening to the members of the Fellowship; each battle includes a brief cut of a second-string character that you "know" (Theoden, Faramir) and then a lot of other utterly anonymous guys being cut down in battle after battle after battle. Kate saw this in the theater with us (the first one she's seen on the big screen) and said at least twice, "When are they going to get back to the ghosts?" And for some reason, the repetitive little "The King Has Appeared On Screen" and "The Fellowship Has Advanced to the Next Scene" musical snippets from the score REALLY bothered me this time out. Yes, I see, it's Aragorn. Yes, they've beaten this scene's monster/villain. If I never hear those eight over-used notes again, it will be too soon. Argh.

Well, I'm off to Portland to deliver gift baskets of goodies.


Return of the King

Went to see Return of the King last night, but halfway through came down with such a bad headache I just wanted to curl up and die right there in the theater. Took some of the fun out of it for me, that's for sure. Went directly to bed when we got home.

Kate and I are working on finishing up some of our Christmas to-dos tonight. We're heading down to visit my brother this weekend for "early Christmas" because he and his wife are heading out of town to visit her folks or something this year, so I need to get things finished up! Coming down with whatever it is that Chris caught at GenCon isn't making that any easier.


GenCon SoCal

So, aside from my unpleasant experience on the flight, GenCon SoCal was definitely a success for Green Ronin. I feel badly for the people who worked booths that didn't get as much traffic, and for those who brought gigantic booths and too much stock, and so suffered with massive union fees. We knew about the union and the drayage but didn't expect the raping to be so bad; that was the one real downside to the convention. $600 to move one pallet of product to our booth, plus our display. OUCH.

Thursday was very sparsely attended, but not entirely dead. People attended the events that we sponsored, there was some modest traffic by the booth, but the aisles were also empty enough that Kate was able to turn cartwheels to amuse herself without bashing into anyone. Combined with the harshness of the set-up charges, many exhibitors seemed to be in a panic about what the convention held for them.

Thursday night my mom flew in to spend the weekend with Kate. YAY mom! I gave her a tour of the hall on Friday and then she and Kate spent the day at Disneyland. When Chris and I went back to the hotel for the hour between his last seminar and our dinner meeting, they still weren't back! Good stamina, mom!

Friday the hall was noticeably more crowded (it would have been hard not to be) and sales were much improved for us. This gave me hope for the weekend, so I didn't fret too much about where we were in terms of sales by the end of Friday. Friday night we joined a group of game industry folks for a fine, fine meal in Downtown Disney (the shopping strip between Disney's theme parks).

Saturday when we arrived at the convention center there were people in line at event registration, and a crowd waiting for the dealer's area to open. Saturday sales were much more brisk and much more in line with what I'd expect for a strong regional convention. Not quite as good as Origins, but better than DunDraCon (which has always been a decent show the times I've attended). We didn't have too many people attend our seminar, but then it wasn't listed in the summary of seminars, so I'm not surprised. We had many people come by to tell us they were excited about the Red Star announcement, and many people who came by to tell us that one or another game they'd played had been great fun. TS Luikart and John Polack did a great job of running their events and getting people excited.

Sunday was a typical Sunday, with bursts of sales as people made last minute purchases and then lots of down time. The GenCon LLC folks announced that there was going to be a collection for Toys for Tots of LA, which had only received a fraction of its usual donations this year. We ended up donating most of the rest of our remaining stock from the booth, three large boxes worth. (Chris says he hopes the "Tots" are old enough to be roleplayers!)

I didn't get out to examine any of the gaming or seminars that were offered. There was a special session of the Live Dungeon that was being held for exhibitors after hours, and I heard from people who had a fantastic time and from those who didn't enjoy themselves at all, so I guess reviews are mixed but it sounded like a neat idea to me. I did have a chance to see some old friends (thanks, Mystery Reader, for the CD of baby pictures!) including having coffee for an hour with fellow-former-Minnesotan Jeff Tidball, who has been sucked back into the game industry via Decipher and The Lord of the Rings RPG. Mike Pondsmith and I made our annual vow to get together in Seattle instead of seeing each other only at conventions, I saw a very relaxed-and-happy-looking Mark Simmons who seems to be enjoying his retirement from his GAMA Executive Director job.

Honestly, GenCon exceeded my expectations for a first-time convention in that location, at that time of year. I think the convention has a chance to really grow into something, but it will take a few years to really take hold. I worry that next year they may suffer a backlash from exhibitors who didn't do as well as Green Ronin did, or those who suffered particularly at the hands of the union, but if those hurdles can be overcome I think there is every reason to support GenCon SoCal. I think it will do better if people in the region really accept the idea of a four-day convention event as a destination and a thing to do rather than just something you drop by to see for a day. It was far, far from a "failure" just by virtue of having even 3000 people attend, in my opinion. I've certainly been to dead, dead, dead conventions where there were less than a dozen people in the dealer's room at any given time, for example. It's not GenCon, it's not Origins, but SoCal is off to a good start and it's certainly got my support.


Inauspicious Beginning

Those of you who just saw me at GenCon SoCal have heard this one already, but it's too outrageous not to share again. Alaska Airlines can officially kiss my ass.

When I made my reservations on Alaska to fly to GenCon SoCal, I used the seat selection tool online to select seats for the three of us together in Row 10. By the time we showed up at the ticket counter to check in, we were no longer seated together, and we'd been moved to the back of the plane, Kate sitting by herself in one row and Chris and I together across the aisle and in the last row of seats. The woman at the counter couldn't help us, but suggested that we try at the gate. We arrived at the gate not quite two hours before our flight and there was no one staffing it yet, no one available to help us. We decided to have lunch.

When we returned from having lunch, the guy at the counter said that he also could not help us. The person sitting in the seat we wanted had supposedly already checked in and had "already boarded" so we were told to deal with it on board the plane. We boarded and made our way to the back of the plane. When we got there, the row was empty! I said to the flight attendant standing there, "Do you think it will be a problem to seat us all together in the last row instead of split up like we are now?" Her response, "Yes, I think it will be. We're just going to have to wait and see." I was surprised and a bit irritated, but Kate and I sat down in the seats and Chris remained standing to wait. He decided to use the bathroom while we were waiting.

While Chris was in the bathroom and Kate and I were sitting there, I turned to the attendant and said, in a conversational way, "You know, when we booked these seats we were all together up in Row 10. I don't even know how we ended up back here." I swear, that's all I said and I did not say it in any way that was adversarial, I did not raise my voice, I did not do anything whatsoever to provoke what happened next.

The flight attendant went off completely and started to angrily lecture me. Maybe I would like to set a better example for my daughter and stop pouting and having my temper tantrum, she said. She had already told me she was going to help me, and she had the power to help me, but not if I was going to be "uncooperative" and the more I pouted and threw tantrums the bigger problem we were going to have. Maybe I would like to take a different flight, she said. I was stunned. I tried to maintain my cool. "I haven't even begun to throw a tantrum here," I said, "and I most certainly do NOT want to take another flight." That made her even more angry and agitated, and I tried to end the conversation by saying, "I think we should stop talking about this. I would prefer not to talk about it anymore," which threw her into a complete rage. She said, "That's IT. I think you need to take a different flight. They don't pay me to put up with this garbage," and she stalked off to the back of the plane, where she got on the phone to the front cabin and reported that she had a disruptive passenger in the back.

All in the time it took Chris to go to the bathroom.

At no time did I raise my voice, speak rudely to her, yell, cry, curse, storm around, or in any other way cause a disturbance! I was in complete shock. When Chris came out of the bathroom, I tried to talk quietly to him about it, since he had no idea anything had happened. I tried to bring it up in a delicate way, so as not to freak out the attendant any further, and said quietly, "Honey, there may be a problem. You can Kate may have to go on ahead, I may have to take a different flight," because at this point I was completely expecting security to show up and haul me off the plane at any moment. Chris, obviously, was blindsided and confused. I think his response was, "What? What's going on?" at which point our psychotic flight attendant launches herself into the conversation, railing about my attitude and telling him that she was doing "everything humanly possible" to help us and I just wouldn't leave the situation alone.

At this point I was genuinely angry, but still trying to hold it together so as not to provoke airline security. I protested, "I'm just sitting here! I haven't said anything!" and she retorted, "You're saying something now." I blurted out, "I was talking to my husband." She said, "I was going to let that little aside pass, but I can see there's no point..." and I quickly said, "I thought he should know that he might have to go on ahead without me." She angrily said, "Oh, is THAT how it's going to be? Let's just go and arrange that! I don't need another two hours of this garbage." Next to me, Kate began to whimper that she didn't want me to have to take a different flight. The other attendant she'd called from the front arrived at this point to ask if there was a problem, and Chris and I both insisted there was NO problem. I ended up swearing that I would not say a word for the rest of the flight. The snarky stewardess said, "We're still deciding," and curtly told Chris to please take his assigned seat.

I honestly did not know, until the plane pulled away from the gate, if I would be hauled off the plane by security or if I would be allowed to take my flight. I did not say another word to anyone, I was afraid to even open my mouth to ask for a drink. It would not have surprised me one bit to have found security waiting to meet me at the plane in Orange County, the way that woman was acting. With things the way they are these days, I did not even make a snarky comment to anyone as we exited, I just bit my tongue and took it.

Meanwhile, in Chris's row, he ended up sitting next to a retired Alaska Airlines flight attendant, who quietly told him that he needed to get that woman's name and write a complaint letter, that her conduct was unprovoked and completely out of line. The attendant had been wearing a name tag during the whole confrontation, but after we took off she and the other attendant who'd come to the back took their name tags off! Chris took notes on their appearances, and noted the name of the attendant who'd remained uninvolved, so in our complaint we can say that it was NOT Jennifer who was involved in this ordeal.

Now, I understand that flight attendants need to be empowered to deal with rowdy, disruptive, belligerent passengers. I was none of those things! I was not rude, I did not curse, I did not rant, yell, threaten, cry, or cause a scene in any way. I was forced to quietly submit to treatment that was nothing short of abusive, my daughter was terrorized into thinking that her Mommy was going to be removed from the plane, at the hands of the very person I was told to discuss my problem with. Alaska Airlines WILL be hearing from us about this.

Thankfully, our flight home was pleasant as could be. We were all seated together in the bulkhead row, no problems. Our flight attendant on that flight, Wendy, was perfectly sweet, polite, and attentive. She got Kate a complementary coloring book, she checked to see if we needed drinks or needed anything from the overhead bin, and she wished us happy holidays. Much different than the horror show of our flight down.


Back from SoCal

V. v. tired. Will post more after a rest.


Galactica, Part Two

Hrmph. I was all set to like this, too. It ended on a bad note, much too much like an episode of the X files for my tastes. Starbuck and Boomer as chicks I could handle. Even "the new cylons look like us, down to the blood!" part I could handle. The kid named Boxie, they almost had to do a kid named Boxie. But when they got to "...and they may not even KNOW they're cylons...sleeper agents could be ANYWHERE," [cue ominous music, dah duh,] I felt my enthusiasm for the whole show up to that point just deflate.

Maybe I'm just too cynical for these things anymore.

We're headed for the airport and GenCon SoCal this afternoon. Sunny and 60° sounds a lot better than 39° and raining, if nothing else. I'll try to blog from the con, with updates for those who can't be there. We're making an announcement at the show that we're pretty darn pleased about, for starters.


Battlestar Galactica

Caught the first episode of the new Battlestar Galactica tonight. I must say that for all the howling from the original BG fans, and the unhappiness Richard Hatch has expressed, I thought it was a fine "reimagining" of the campy, moralistic original series. Just as Starbuck and Apollo's feathered hair and capes represented the disco-ball sensibilities of the '70s, the cigar-chomping tough-chick Starbuck and estranged, conflicted Apollo represent the sensibilities of the '00s.

The acting was fine, the special effects were delicious, the homages were fun, and I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.


Baby Zoey

Evan stopped by to pick some things up before we leave for GenCon SoCal on Wednesday and brought with him the 3-D ultrasound pictures of his soon-to-be-born daughter, Zoey. You could make out tons of features, her tiny fingers, each pudgy little hand, her nose and eyelids and hair. The result was just like they'd actually been able to stick a camera right in the womb with her (although I'm betting Rona is glad it didn't feel like that). As Kate said, "It looks like the door opened a little and there's light shining through on her."

It was really, really cool. I wish they'd had that kind of technology when Kate was in utero. I didn't even get a regular ultrasound picture to keep!

Edit: You can see some of the Zoey pictures by following the link to FrogTaco Blog.


Persistent Vegetative State

Back in the early 90s I first heard of the condition known as persistent vegetative state. This is the official term for what is people often refer to as "life as a vegetable." A stroke or a brain injury puts you in a coma, and you stabilize at a point of mostly unconsciousness without evidence of higher brain function, ability to communicate, or hope of recovery. I was so horrified at the thought, I immediately wrote up a statement that I carried around in my wallet for years, stating that I did not want to be kept alive through sustained interventions, including feeding tubes and rehydration.

It's the "hope of recovery" part that hangs people up most of the time. Everything hinges on that hope of recovery. If you have hope of recovery, even partial recovery, things are different! Patients with terminal illnesses and the elderly in the last stages of their lives will often have a "DNR" (Do Not Recessitate) order in their files. When their bodies fail, treatment is withheld and they are allowed to die rather than employing medical technology to wring life briefly back into them. Medical ethicists have drawn the line at withholding treatment. It's ethical not to begin a treatment (especially one that has questionable effect on the patient's quality of life) but they have decided it is less ethical to stop a treatment once it's begun.

Back to the hope of recovery issue, of course we want our doctors to do whatever they can to save us and our loved ones in time of injury and illness. They decide our hope of recovery after they've tried their treatments, and stories of miraculous recoveries keep hopes alive through it all. Once treatments are begun, it becomes unethical to stop them. Eventually, we arrive at the conclusion: they've done all they can, they can do no more, recovery stops, and this is your new life.

The condition has been in the news again recently because of the case in Florida of Terri Schiavo, who has been lingering in this state for over a decade. Her husband says she wouldn't have wanted to live like this and requested to have her feeding tube removed. Her parents and sibling say she's not the vegetable everyone thinks she is, and if she just "had a chance" to recover, she could be brought back to a more conscious existence, be taught to eat again, and her husband is just trying to bump her off so he can be rid of her.

Make no mistake, this is a terrible situation. I hope never to have to face such heartbreaking decisions in my own life. In Terri's parents' place, I don't know what I would do. Could I bear to see my sweet girl lingering in half-death, nothing of what makes her her left but the shell she came in? Could I live with myself if I didn't do everything humanly possible to protect her as long as there was the faintest spark of life left in her body? Terri's husband has been portrayed unkindly, as disloyal and loathsome for having gone on with his life, having a girlfriend and a child. I can sympathize with him, I can't bring myself to blame him for not putting himself into a state of suspended animation, ready to pick up again where things left off in 1990 if that miracle should happen and his wife suddenly return. I could never ask that of my spouse.

Those who oppose Michael Schiavo's actions include a woman who narrowly avoided having her tubes removed and eventually recovered from her state: a state that lasted 10 weeks, not 13 years, they're reluctant to admit. In the Schiavo case, the Florida legislature stepped in to override the husband's right to make decisions concerning his wife's care and the cessation of her treatments by passing "Terri's Law." They claimed they had the right to do this because Terri Schiavo left no written instructions or told anyone other than her husband her wishes.

I have told my husband my wishes. For the record, let me share with the rest of the world as well: I do not wish to be kept alive, in a persistent vegetative state, a state I consider to be a lingering half-death. I do not want to be fed and rehydrated for years on end. I do not claim to have the ability to speak to whether it is right or wrong for anyone other than myself: for myself, I do not wish to be kept alive just because those who loved me cannot bear to allow me to die. I do not feel morally justified in consuming the massive resources in skilled care, food, medicine, and straight dollars that keeping me alive as a lingering shell would take. Please, spend those resources on someone with a chance for a fuller life! I'm an organ donor, so if I've got to go, I hope to at least give my liver, my kidneys, my corneas, whatever I have to give, to those who wait so desperately for them. Don't leave me in a bed somewhere lingering until my wasted organs eventually fail. Please love me enough to just let me go.


Busy Social

Whew, I'm beat. Bruce has recently relocated to greater-Seattle and now that he's in our area, we decided to get together. He was planning to be at GenCon SoCal until he took this new job, but since he starts Monday that's unfortunately out of the question. Boo, too bad about that. Anyway, we got together with Bruce, Tim, and Randy Greer (who drove up from SF with Bruce).

First we had lunch together at the Columbia City Ale House, and chatted away part of the afternoon. Since neither car would hold five adults, we then took two cars up to the U District to investigate Bruce's cousin's newly opened chai shop. I had a Mt. Baker, a sweet and cinnamony creamy delight. Yum! The shop was virtually empty when we first arrived, but as we hung out there many people did cycle in and out of the place. I hope Bruce's cousin, whose name I didn't catch, has a very prosperous business.

After that, it was a jaunt up to Fire and Sword Hobbies near Northgate Mall. Fire and Sword is an interesting store, half miniatures games and half replica weapons and armor. Tim and I arrived well ahead of Bruce, Chris, and Randy, and when we walked in there were several young teens and pre-teens in the store, painting and congregating. There had also recently been a Warhammer tournament that was just breaking up. The store is tidy, the kids and parents who were there were clearly regulars, but it definitely did not have a "club-house" feel. The fellow on staff greeted us when we came in, asked us if we needed any help as we milled around, and checked to make sure we were finding anything we needed, but didn't hover. Exactly my kind of customer attention. It looks like the store is doing most of its business selling Games Workshop, though they also have a nice selection of Osprey books, Vallejo paints, DBM, and some Wargames Foundry blisters. The Foundry blisters were marked down, mostly Napoleonics. I guess the kids just don't appreciate quality. Finally the other guys showed up, and we looked around for a while more, then ended up getting drawn into a conversation with a knowledgeable gamer (who, at least at one time, hung out on EN World) when he heard us talking about GenCon SoCal. He and Chris talked for quite a while about Chainmail and D20, but eventually we wound things up and split.

I thought we might go home, but then we decided to visit Copper Sky (right next door) and have dinner before breaking up. Somehow I managed to spend 9 hours, roaming around Seattle and talking, talking, talking. Goodness we can talk!

It's nice to have old friends in the neighborhood. I look forward to more social weekends like this.




I like the part where the guy with the shovel cracks the kid with the snowboard across the head.


Wind storm and gall bladder

Tonight was supposed to be gaming night, but J&K had friends in town, and it took Evan over two hours to get from his job on the east side to his home in north Seattle, so once he got there he wasn't into leaving again. Between our place in the mid-Seattle and the east side lies some big lake or other, and when the wind picks up (they're talking gusts of 60 MPH here, and worse the farther into the foothills you go) the water whips up over the two highway bridges that cross the span.

Rick's hardcore, though. He showed up and had a little of my homemade smoked turkey and wild rice soup, and now it looks like they're breaking out the Settlers card game.

Meanwhile, my stomach is acting up again. My symptoms are very much like those described by friends who have had gall bladder problems, which was definitely not the first prossible problem that came to mind! But Christine planted the seed of the idea while we were talking last weekend, and after I checked it out with friends I knew who'd had gall bladder troubles of their own, they've encouraged me to at least get things looked at.

Of course, this is where being self-employed really sucks, because despite the fact that I have some insurance coverage for catestrophic events, the rest of my medical comes straight out of my pocket, albeit at a slightly discounted rate. That means, if I'm going to spend $200 cash money, right now, out of my pocket, I'd better be really damn sick. I do NOT want to go in to get checked, spend 5 minutes seeing my doctor and having her tell me I need more fiber in my diet or something simple at that price. I'm still paying off the $120 bill from Kate's visit for antibiotics a while back!

The worst of it is not knowing, of being completely torn about what to do. I miss the peace of mind tha came with living in Canada! When I lived in Canada, we paid the top of the premium scale for coverage and that was that, we had insurance. If I had, I dunno, a rash, I didn't have to try to self-diagnose first. I could go to the walk in clinic, spend the same 5 minutes, and not have to spend the next several months paying off that debt. I could get treatment early, lessening the impact of my illness on everyone. I know the Canadian system isn't perfect. I knew a guy who hurt his knee and had to wait an obscenely long time to have surgery, for example. But I'm generally healthy and never had anything but the best care while I lived in Canada, including for through my entire pregnancy and childbirth. What a luxury basic health care seems now!


What is it with the South?

I really do feel like the Southern United States is a strange and hostile foreign country sometimes. I grew up about as "Northern" as you can get, born so far north that we were nearly in Canada. I was raised to believe in tolerance, equal treatment, hard work, fair play, getting ahead in your life through your own gumption, doing unto others as you would have done to you, and leaving people who weren't hurting you alone even if you didn't agree with them. I understood these to be "American values."

I lived in Georgia for about 18 months or so. I worked temp jobs doing phone surveys for Southern Bell, as a clerk at the Winn Dixie in Duluth, as a "children's book editor" for a fly-by-night company that paid temp workers minimum wage to check out children's books from the library and retype "facts" about states which they then printed off (single sided), spiral bound, and sold to school libraries. Ug, that was a terrible job. I worked the temp jobs so that I could subsidize my "real job" of working for Lion Rampant/White Wolf through the first printing of Vampire: the Masquerade. Someone else was recently telling me they knew "Employee Number Three" at White Wolf, someone I knew because he came in after I'd already put in my year and a half in Georgia. Apparently those of us who moved down, lived in poverty, subsidized the company with our own outside jobs, we don't count as Employees Number One, Two, Three, or Four anymore. Heh. But I digress...

I was miserable in Georgia, mostly because of my working conditions and my incompatibility with most of the people around me. I spent one tormented birthday at a restaurant with my "friends" who spent the whole night loudly berating me for being a "bleeding heart liberal." And this was in relatively liberal and cosmopolitan Atlanta, not like I was in Tinyville, Alabama. In the four years I spent living in Vancouver, BC, I never felt nearly as foreign and unwelcome as I did in my year and a half in Georgia.

Even now, things most shocking to my sensibilities continue to originate from the southern states. Things like: Alabama's ban on vibrators, which still stuns me that anyone can support. Or the southern states' steadfast determination not to repeal their laws banning sodomy, solely so they can selectively enforce the law against gays while all the frat boys at Georgia Tech can still get their knobs polished. Or how about this: a seven-year-old boy being disciplined at school in Louisiana for using "foul language" and "behaving inappropriately" because he told a classmate he has two mommies and explained what "gay" means. Guess what? Being forced by administrators to write "I will not say the word GAY at school ever again" over and over isn't going to make this boy have a mommy and a daddy instead of two mommies, it's only punishing him for something no more under his control than the color of his eyes.

These issues go right to the heart of my values: selective enforcement of laws, or laws meant to restrict some people but not others are neither equal treatment nor fair play. Punishing people for what they do in the privacy of their own homes, how they structure their families and their lives, is not doing unto others, and it most certainly isn't leaving people who aren't hurting you alone.


"Liberal" Talk Radio

I laughed out loud when I saw the headlines. "The new network is being assembled to counter the influence Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators have on the American electorate.

It will never work. Liberals are not mean enough. Liberal radio is the softball Fresh Air with Terry Gross (on that institution most hated by conservatives, NPR). Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have been preaching their intolerance, whipping up anger and indignation, ranting about immigrants and minorities and drug abusers and welfare moms who own *gasp* microwave ovens (available for $40 at Wal*Mart) for more than a decade. Ann Coulter has taken the shrill and vicious rhetoric to a whole new level and has best-selling books to show for it. Even if a "liberal" version of this tripe was marketed, who would want to listen? People who listen to conservative talk radio want to be outraged. They want to feel morally superior to the "feminazis" and have a chance to tell those commie peace protesters they'd better move to Russia where they belong.

I suppose a radio version of The Daily Show could be entertaining, but is that really going to "counter the influence" of any of these shows? For every one Al Franken the conservatives can point to, they've got dozens of Michael Medveds on their side.

More and more often, when it comes to political discourse I agree completely with David Neiwert. In this very long essay I've linked to, in particular, he hits on the particular unease I've been feeling. For much of this year, I was reading the blog of Damelon Kimbrough, an American game industry associate of mine who emmigrated to France a couple of years ago. Damelon's take on the politics of the last year or so was interesting, especially considering his perspective as an American in France, but what I found most intersting was that Damelon held many of the same opinions on some of the big issues as I did, even though we'd discovered years earlier that we came from opposite ends of the political spectrum. I like to think he came to the same conclusion because it was the right conclusion...but what was more astounding, more refreshing, was that he was exhibiting a basic decency, even on issues where we held differing opinions. It was notable not because I expected Damelon to lack decency but because exhibiting decency in political discussion had become so damned rare. We have no "discourse" about issues in America these days. It's all shrill finger-pointing and accusing dissenters of "treason" (thank you Ann Coulter, you foul harpy) and irrational "If you are against X, you love Saddam!" bullshit that spins my head. Unfortunately, Damelon has put his blog on hiatus, and will likely not return for more political commentary in the future, which is a damn shame.

I'm trying to imagine a scenario where launching "liberal talk radio" could contribute anything good to this situation, and I just can't.


End of the Year = Cleaning House

For many people, the end of the calendar year is a time of reflection, a time to renew your resolve, a time for goal-making, reconnecting with friends, taking stock of your life. Out with the old, in with the new! "Cleaning house" in everything but the literal sense.

I've spent many Decembers contemplating where I am, what has come, what lies ahead. Rarely does the approaching New Year ever lead me to substantial change or full-blown "progress" but not for lack of opportunity. My friend Jess does things like earnestly vow before all his friends that he's going to accomplish A or Z, which leads him to do things that I cringe to even begin, such as running in the Portland Marathon this year.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, in the cold and pouring rain, the sum of my debt to the house slammed home. I stood on the front porch as a torrential waterfall flooded over my clogged gutters and down the front steps. There was no way to leave the house without passing through this waterfall of icy November rain. After taking Kate to school through it, I returned home and realized it was up to me to stop the flood. Inside the garage, the ladder was inaccessible because of the household debt: boxes of product and packing peanuts for the mail order, items relocated to the garage because there was no room in the house for them, suitcases, battle boards, all in front of the ladder I needed. I ended up outside, clinging to the porch posts, digging cold mucky leaves out of the rain-filled gutters, scratching my arms on pokey metal bits, water running down the inside of my coat sleeves, paying with interest and realizing how much more paying I was going to have to do.

Instead of letting my brain occupy itself with more of the same navel-gazing I'm already prone to do, and somewhat in honor of the last bit of 2003, I've been doing some genuine, bona fide house cleaning. It began with the filing project (after the gutters were clear). I have a dauntingly large amount to do on that one, but it's a work in progress and I was deeply heartened by being able to see the substantial dent in the job I've already accomplished. With the help of my beloved, I've also been making progress on keeping the kitchen counters clean, the dishwasher and washing machine in constant cycle. Several years worth of old magazines that had been "filed" haphazardly around the house have now been put into organized magazine racks and shelved on new shelves thanks to Chris's hard work and IKEA. I can see the top of the mule chest and the bottom of the laundry hamper. My Christmas cards are signed, sealed, and addressed.

These are all very small things, of course. The debt I owe to the house is much like credit card debt in that it compounds in a very negative way. One meal's dishes left dirty on the counter can easily multiply, needing to be paid back with interest down the road. One evening spent doing "just one more thing" for the company is not without its price. Chris and I have both found that neither of us alone can do it all (or get away with doing nothing) but when we work as a team, we have real forward momentum. Out with the old! (In with the new only if the new really needs to be here.)