Discolor Online

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


Cautious Distrust

In my post about the Iraqi constitution, where I've been having a vigorous exchange with Mollpeartree, we've been going back and forth about what reliance on Islamic laws and Shariah courts in Iraqi life could bring. I fear the constitutional set up, with its vague references to undefined "appropriate judicial body" (which could easily be determined to be a Sharia court) and with exceptions to the various rights of, say, privacy "long as it does not violate the rights of others or general morality". I see those statements and see multiple red flags and loopholes that in the end do not reassure me that Iraqi citizens will enjoy the sorts of personal freedoms and civil rights implicit in our promise to "liberate" the citizenry; I am concerned that we have succeeded in delivering the people of Iraq from oppression by a crazyass dictator to a different kind of oppression by religious extremists.

We need look no further than our own government and the situation with Gitmo to see how creative definitions come into play: by labeling our prisoners as "enemy combatants" the US can claim the Geneva Convention doesn't apply or deny even US citizens constitutionally guarantees enumerated in the Fouth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Amendments. Loophole. Special circumstance. Exception. It can happen. It does happen.

So, why my mistrust of Sharia courts in particular? Am I just buying into a bunch of left-wing anti-Muslim bigotry? I don't think so. Take a look at the situation with the courts vs. the Sky Kingdom in Malaysia: people are joining this wacky religious cult in Malaysia; despite a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, Muslims who renounce Islam to join the Sky Kingdom are being hauled before the Islamic courts and suffering harsh penalties, including two years in prison in solitary confinement for four particular unfortunates. Another time the commune was attacked by a Molotov cocktail-throwing mob. None of the attackers were ever tracked down or arrested; instead 30 women and a handful of Sky Kingdom children were arrested and detained by the state religious affairs department.

There are also the infamous cases of the Nigerian women Amina Lawal and Hajara Ibrahim sentenced to death by stoning, eventually (and after much international pressure) overturned on appeal. Or the rising demand (from the ever-weakening mullahs in India) that Indian Muslims resort to the mullahs, rather than to the courts, to settle their personal disputes and going so far as to call those who don't "anti-Islamic" and "agents of the enemies of Islam." Or the court in Saudi Arabia that sentenced a journalist to 275 lashes, ignoring a Royal Decree that forbids sharia courts from matters concerning the media and writers.

I'm sure these sharia courts make thousands of minor-league rulings every year, keeping in line with Islam and only rarely breaking out into things that grab international attention. But there are enough examples of extreme and distasteful actions that I cannot shake the cautious distrust I feel. If that makes me a godless worshipper of the flesh who has lost my moral and ethical anchorage I guess I'll just have to live with that.


On a lighter note

For those of you who hate my political ramblings, here's a quiz. Take taht, all you "Storytellers" out there! I love that I scored equally "Casual Gamer" and "Butt-Kicker"... just like real life!

You scored as Casual Gamer. You generally get left
out when people talk about gamer types, but there's
usually one in each game. You tend to be low key and
come to hang out with your friends. But, you fill a
very important and often underappreciated role of
taking on the job nobody else jumps up at. And,
typically, you also help to balance out some of the
stronger personalities in the group. Good on you!



Casual Gamer


Method Actor






Power Gamer




Law's Game Style
created with QuizFarm.com

Oh, and I'm happy to weigh in that, despite my early misgivings, The 40 Year-Old Virgin was damn funny.


Iraqi Constitution

Billmon has an excellent analysis of the situation in Iraq and why ongoing constitutional process (despite how badly some want it to be so) can't be considered a success for the democratic process or long-term peace in the region.

In addition to setting up a future of civil war and armed conflict between Kurdish, Shi'a, and Sunni factions, the constitution predictably whittles away the rights of women. Appallingly, our President bald-facedly claims that the Kurdish/shiite designed document "guaranteed women's rights and the freedom of religion". For just a few examples, access to education is only available to girls through elementary school, and women are given far fewer rights under Sharia than they had under secular government. Placing Sharia as THE influence of law is what has allows exactly the sorts of oppression and abuse of women as we saw in Afghanistan under the Taliban or in Iran after the revolution. Without constitutional protections, there is nothing to stop the women of Iraq from being victimized by radical religious interpretations that allow for honor killings, female genital mutilation, and being stoned to death. Sharia is, rightly or wrongly, used as the justification for these sorts of routine abuses in other countries. Read Persepolis; is this really what "democracy" should offer the women of Iraq?

We claimed that we were going to help the plight of women in Afghanistan when we sent our soldiers to war there, to break up the Taliban and go after Al-Qaida terrorists. Yet "Violence against women remains dramatic in Afghanistan in its intensity and pervasiveness, in public and private spheres of life", and although the Freepers went bananas because Hilary Clinton said it, there IS compelling evidence that women in Iraq now are worse off than they were under Saddam, at least prior to 1991. You can read more here and here.

These things weigh on me. I'm ashamed to see the result America's "help" and "liberation" have held for the daughters of Afghanistan and Iraq.



My family is not so great at the communication thing. Tonight I called my dad for the first time in many months, since convention season is nearly over and we haven't talked since before the Osseum thing blew up. My Minnesota relatives missed all the drama.

Turns out that in that time my youngest step-brother has finally moved out of the house, bought a condo, and is engaged to be married and my step-mom completely shattered her leg in a golf incident and after a three-hour surgery and metal plates holding both bones in place she's going to be in a cast and putting no pressure on her leg for the next three months!

Looks like missed drama goes both ways...

Heard second hand from my mom that my brother graduated with honors this summer and was indeed accepted into med school in Portland. Apparently he and his wife have also moved, though no one has his address now. I expect it will take months for us to uncover his precise whereabouts.


Random and Assorted

Jetlag, fatigue, not to mention this full-on Con Cold I brought back with me have turned my brain to instant oatmeal.

Yesterday I was up at 5:00am. Or rather, I slept fitfully because of congestion and knowing that I had the alarm set for 5:20 (which always makes me wake up repeatedly, afraid I've missed the alarm) until I gave up on sleep and just got up. Showered and dressed and headed out to catch the bus into downtown because the two closest Flexcars to me were reserved for the times I needed them. Downtown is easy to get to and there are dozens of cars to choose from, but the getting up extra early thing was killing me. Drove up to get Kate in time to drive her back to Seattle for Zookids. Dropped her off, witnessed her trying on her uniform, got the schedule and took off again to return the Flexcar. I'd intended to bus back home, drop of her things and then bus back to the zoo in time to get her, but the 101 to Renton rolled up as soon as I got to the stop and I chose to go to Renton to check the PO Box instead (Kate's suitcase and gigantic stuffed dog in tow). Checked the mail, wolfed down a hot dog and a Mountain Dew and hopped back onto the bus, hoping to have enough time to jump off, drop her crap at home and head back to the zoo. At my home stop I decided I was cutting it too close and just headed straight back to the zoo, where I ended up waiting for over half an hour for the kids to finish up... I could have dropped her crap at home after all. Pick up the Kate, back out to the bus stop again, hearing all about what the Zookids are up to.

Things were timed right so that we jumped right onto the bus home without problems, at least until we got a bit south of downtown, at which point a crazy woman at the front of the bus started screaming and crying and moaning and cursing and getting into it with the bus driver, who eventually pulled over and demanded the woman get off the bus (which only made her go even crazier). The confrontation culminated with the woman (a misshapen, dwarf-sized middle-aged woman with stringy grey hair and features contorted with rage) jumping up and down screaming and spitting on the driver before leaving the bus, at which point the driver called the police and started yelling back about "that's assault". We were forced to sit there waiting for the police to come resolve the dispute, while tired working class people heckled the driver to just get on the road so they could get home. Finally, after policed statements were given and the bus began to roll again, we were treated to the driver's apology, his tearful "I'm a person, I deserve to be treated with respect too" speech and an offer of a free bus transfer to make up for any missed connections. Ug. Finally home in time for Chris to head out to the bank and for a meeting to nail down the release schedule for one of our upcoming lines with one of the primary authors. By the time he came home from that, I was dead asleep (as he had been when I slipped out of the house pre-dawn).

I'm already feeling sad that darkness is falling around 8:30pm again. I love the long summer days, when there's still light lingering in the sky after 9:00. The days get shorter all too fast for my taste. Too soon we will be looking at darkness falling at 4:30 or 5:00pm.

Kate helped me cook dinner last night: Tex-Mex Pasta Salad from Cooking Light. Pasta, ground turkey flavored with taco seasonings, cheese, tomato, bell pepper, green onion, black olives, and black beans in a "sauce" of sour cream, cumin, and lime juice. Not only did she help me cook it, she ATE it, and enthused about how good it was! Nearly ten years old and finally eating food!

Having run through about 40% of the credit card slips from GenCon, we're already at $500 in declined charges that I'm going to have to try and recover from people. Worse yet, I recognize at least one of the names as someone whose credit card we took at Origins with the same results.

According to Comics & Games Retailer, Blue Rose is in the Top 20 best selling roleplaying games for June 2005. Add that to our three silver ENnies. Yay us!

Tomorrow I have to have Kate to the zoo, in uniform and with a sack lunch, by 9:30am for the Zoofari. She'll be done by 3:00pm so it's just long enough for me to bus back home and have lunch and the bus back to pick her up OR stay around the zoo for hours on end and save myself the travel time. Can't decide which option to choose, neither is ideal. Sunday I have to be back on the road to bring Kate back to Mark's for his MIL's birthday party. Kate will be back from Canada and back on "school year" schedule on Thursday, just in time for us to catch our crack-of-dawn flight to Conquest San Francisco on September 2nd. Fingers crossed that I'm recovered from this lingering GenCon crud and caught up on everything by then!

Mark bought Kate the Nintendog; she's even more keen than ever to get a real pet. I can't imagine trying to handle a dog with our travel schedule, but I'm hoping we can find a cat that Chris can tolerate once school starts.


Shoot me now

Bleh, GenCon was great, but now I'm home with Con Crud and handling the inevitable fifteen things that fell through the cracks or caught fire, or that I screwed up before I left. Nothing like returning home to what amounts to a flaming bag of dog crap on your porch to kill that GenCon buzz.

I spent much of yesterday sleeping and coughing. Was annoyed to find out that a person who had placed an order through our webstore on the 14th, that shipped on the 16th had refused the package and had it returned while we were away at GenCon. God, I hate that shit! Place an order Sunday night and it's filled by Tuesday afternoon (on the eve of GenCon no less) and that's not good enough? Jesus H.

Conked out hard again last night and slept hard through the night. Feeling much better this morning, only a mild headache and much less trouble with my throat and voice. Am forcing myself to keep at it in order to catch up with things, as tomorrow I have to be up at 5:30am to pick up a Flexcar downtown and pick Kate up from her dad's, then take her to her Zookids orientation. Bad timing, feeling sick and having lots on my plate for GR, but this is the first time she's ever been involved in anything like this and I'm going to do everything I can to support her.

I had a bunch of great GenCon stories I'd planned to share, but somehow I find myself feeling deflated and unmotivated to write them up just now. Bummer.


GenCon Indy 05 - Day Three

I'm hoping that someone else will come up with the energy to post details about Last night's awards ceremony itself. I've seen very little but straight up lists of the winners reported. There were some great moments, off the top of my head: EN World's Piratecat did a great job as presenter and Dextra's lovely daughters were incredibly sweet handing over certificates and placing medals around the winners necks. A few people broke out in chuckles when one technical snafu with the nominees slides prematurely showed one of the winners, but I didn't notice it myself. I had to be filled in on why the audience was laughing. Paizo's poor Erik Mona (a fellow Minnesotan), in his effort to express his appreciation for all the support shown to the Paizo staff and their projects, enthused that "otherwise we'd be broke and doing PDFs" (or something very similar) which elicited groans and hisses from the audience, who took that to be a slight against PDF publishers. Mona tried to clarify that he hadn't meant to slight PDFs or their publishers, but the audience couldn't hear him with his foot firmly inserted into his mouth as it was. Funnier still was when Monte Cook took the stage to accept one of Malhavoc's awards and took the opportunity to point out to his good friend that he published PDFs. Mona will be a long time living that one down and will be taking a good ribbing from his WotC/Game Mechanics/Malhavoc/etc friends for some time to come. I've read one report that a "rabble rousing woman" yelled out, "Take that, Ryan Dancey," after one of the Black Industries winners was announced. The never-shy John and Michelle Nephew cracked up the audience for blatantly posing for pictures before giving their acceptance speech for one of their Ars Magica 5th Ed wins.

The only thing about Indy that I am not enjoying so far is the relative lack of nightlife! After the ENnies ceremony finished up and we all piled back to the hotel intending to have a couple of celebration drinks and hang with our tired, happy crew, we discovered that the hotel bars had all just made last call, at 11:30pm! Thinking this must just be a hotel bar thing, our group tried other bars and restaurants up and down the surrounding streets, finding one after another to be closed or closing. Frustration instead of celebration, argh! Finally made it to a restaurant/bar that was open and serving "late" ("late" being midnight on a Friday night) and had time to have a couple of rounds and make a couple of toasts. Everyone but Pramas decided to go home at a reasonable time. Pramas stayed out with the Fiery Dragon crew who were playing pool when we left them and eventually ended up going to an after hours place the waitress from our bar tipped them off to. Next year the ENnies need to end earlier or we need to have our exit/celebration strategy pre-planned!

So far this is the most enjoyable GenCon I've spent in many years. Sales are good, which always makes the ehibitors happy, but there's more to it than that. Several people have commented to me that there are so many happy people at GenCon this year, and I agree. The vibe is one of excitement, anticipation, eagerness. There are people everywhere at all hours of the day. Events are packed, hallways are packed, the exhibit hall is flooded with people, and they're happy people to boot! Contrasting this show to Origins, there is just not contest. Origins attendees did not have the same vibe, the same enthusiasm and excitement. People were not constantly spilling out from one hall or room to another, were not packing the events, did not seem to be walking around with smiles on their faces at any given time (as they seem to be here at GenCon). The GC staff and volunteers deserve a huge round of applause for their work in making GenCon such a memorable and beloved event.


This morning I was able to meet and chat briefly with my old Ars Magica pal, Dr. John K. He's had a pretty crazy year but with his long-awaited relocation to the Ann Arbor area it sounds like his life is settling down to a much-deserved "dull roar". After morning coffee with John, I ran my third Blue Rose game today, with a really fun group that included Leo Lingas, one of the Blue Rose illustrators who was really fun to have in the game (and whose baby is just too gosh darn cute!). It's been really interesting these last few days to see who picks which of the pre-gen characters and watch how they choose to play them. Interestingly, two different guys picked the same character and both decided to play him as a drunk, despite there not being anything that might lead them to that characterization in the stats. Two players in different games used their bluff skills to bluff about food/drink-related issues (one passing himself off as 'the best chef in all of Aldis' and the other as 'a famous wine taster,') which cracked me up.

Sadly, I have no voice left tonight. I retired to the room early yet again because I'm resting my voice for my last game tomorrow, to drink more tea and lemon and hopefully do something to sooth my swollen throat! Three days of constant talking and being in and out of the frigid air conditioning have taken their toll. Here's hoping I can limp through the last few hours of tomorrow. Now, once again, I must sleep.


GenCon Indy 05 - Day Two

No time to post much because I need to go out and celebrate! The ENnies were tonight and we were honored with several first and second place wins at the ceremony. If I can, I'll try to write up the ceremony in more detail later, but right now I'm holding certificates for Silver ENnies for Best Cover Art (Blue Rose), Best Campaign Setting (Black Company), Best Adversary/Monster Product (Advanced Bestiary), Best D20 Game (Blue Rose), Best Rules (Blue Rose), and Fan's Choice Best Publisher, plus Gold ENnie trophies for Best Game (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) and Best Publisher.

Wonderful ceremony, great venue, and awards that meant enough to me that they brought tears to my eyes (and not just for myself). Other big winners (off the top of my head and by no means a comprehensive list) included White Wolf (in several categories), Malhavoc Press, Paizo, Atlas Games, Hero Games (for Scott Bennie's adventure, congratulations Scott!) and our friends and OGL Interlink partners Paradigm Publishing for their First Place finish for Fan's Choice Best Publisher!

What a great, great night and a wonderful validation of the hard work we've put in this last, very difficult year.


GenCon Indy 05 - Day One

Man, today was one big, busy day! Got the last of the booth set up and ready in the nick of time before the hall opened, with the guys from Human Head and The Game Mechanics setting up products and props specific to their product lines this morning. Dozens of fellow exhibitors were stopping by and trying to pry copies of Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition and Thieves' World away from us before the hall opened and they would have to be at their booths. I was quite short tempered about the chaos in the booth area as we were trying to handle our last minute prep, especially when we had a period of about 30 minutes (about 40 minutes before the hall opened) when we thought our cash register was going to be tempermental and not work (despite my diligent programming and reprogramming). Fixed in the nick of time! The mood seems to me to be pretty upbeat and enthusiastic here, and the crowds are thick. I'm enjoying myself far more than I should be, considering what a brutal summer it's been.

Lynn Abbey has been a wonderful person to hang around. She's been a gem through the entire development process of the Thieves' World game and was extremely gracious when the throng of people waiting to buy Mutants & Masterminds distracted from the fact that she was on hand to meet fans and sign books for the Thieves' World launch at the same time. Happily we were able to guide the TW fans to her after the initial complete chaos of Opening Day subsided a bit.

I ran my first Blue Rose game of the con today, overcoming a decade of nerves and atrophy, but it all seemed to go alright and I think most of the people had at least an ok time of it. It was hard to tell with one person, and I definitely made some pacing mistakes (taking too long at the start to try and explain the peculiarities of the setting and specific abilities and other flavor, as well as how True20 works, etc, but it went along well enough and tomorrow will be better, as I've learned from my mistakes.

The rest of the gang are out playing a game of TW with Lynn and Rob tonight, but I passed in order to attend a seminar about Game Expo 2007, the Mark Simmons/Matthew Simmons Marketing trade show endeavor that is set to compete with the GAMA Trade Show for game industry dollars and attention in a two week period in March 2007. Curiosity got the better of me and I was mildly entertained. Not able to form a coherent analysis for the blog at the moment, but I may return to musing on it later.

I'm back in the room now, feeling a summer convention cold coming on. Amazingly, this is the first time this con season that I've been sick. At first I thought it was a sore throat from talking for 9 hours straight, but I'm now feeling a bit of congestion, too. I've ordered myself $10 worth of tea/lemon (and a thermal carafe) from room service and will be tucking in for a good night's sleep as soon as I finish this entry, lest I waste myself before the con is even half done!


Good News, Bad News

Good News: The new hard drive works, and I now have a computer that does what I need it to do in order for me to do my job
Bad News: I have no sound: no iTunes, no system sounds, no time to screw with it

Good News: The advanced copies of Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition have arrived at the convention center for GenCon. We will have them for opening day!
Bad News: The soul-raping drayage charges for that shipment are $63.00 short of doubling our drayage charges for attending the show. The M&M shipment alone cost nearly as much for the convention center to accept and deliver to our booth as everything else we shipped to the show!!

Good News: My ex- returned my Palm to me (accidentally traveled up to Canada with Miss Katherine) with all of my travel and convention information intact
Bad News: According to said Palm, I have entirely too much to do before we leave tonight for our three-legged Flight from Hell

Good News: We had a pretty fun game session last night and my plan of feeding everyone without having to cook in the sweltering house worked like a charm.
Bad News: It was Bruce's last session. He moves to San Diego for his cool new job while we're at GenCon. This makes me sad.

If you don't hear from me this week, assume Indy is keeping me fat and happy.



Less than one week ago, I made a two brief comments on two game industry mailing lists that apparently reminded the amnesiac members of the roleplaying community of a certain someone's unethical and improper accessing of elected GAMA Board members e-mail communications.

It seems this may have caused him some discomfort. A mere five days later, this same person pops up to spontaneously "review" some of the books we've designed for Black Industries, first attempting to establish his "fairness" by giving one book a good score (and loading the review with plenty of backhanded complements: according to the review every good thing that Pramas has done in his designs is directly attributable to what he "learned" at Wizards of the Coast) so that he can pretend some credibility when giving the next a poor one (a book well-received by the roleplaying community and award-nominated to boot, but let's not let that stop a us). The retaliation is so hilariously transparent I can't even bring myself to be annoyed: suggestions to improve the books included lines like "A system for creating magic items, and more magic items" and "Treasure tables and guidelines for determining what can be looted from the bodies and lairs of the monsters." Creating magic items?! Killing the monsters and taking their treasure, in WFRP?! Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. Holy missing the entire point, batman!

Of course, our illustrious (and surely impartial) reviewer isn't exactly known for his design chops himself, if the ratings and reviews of his book are anything to go by...


Freakin' Insomnia

Damn. Fell asleep watching Good Eats on the TiVo with Kate around 9:30. Woke up around midnight and have been up since. Did some crossword puzzles, took care of some software updates, thought I might fall asleep around 4:00, but no, still awake.

At least the internet is working at the moment. The last several days we have been having terrible service, with lots of "operation timed out" and "www.whatyouwerelookingfor.com cannot be reached" messages. HIGHLY frustrating in the lead-up to GenCon, when lots of things need to be done (including, you know, internet commerce and frantic e-mailing).

Tuesday night we leave on our Hell Flight (Seattle to Salt Lake City, SLC to Newark on the red-eye, Newark to Indy so we can arrive Wednesday morning as we wanted to). I'm not ready.


Busy Week

Bruce has posted about our rousing trip up to Vancouver, BC on Tuesday. Since Pramas couldn't join us, I decided not to gloat too much over it, but now that the silence has been broken by someone else, I will say that Tojo's remained excellent as ever, and the Canadian sablefish as sweet/buttery/succulent as ever. Tojo's baked oysters, tuna tataki, suntan tuna (tuna rolled in nori without rice and tempura-fried so the outermost edges are cooked while the center remains red, cold, and delicious), sweet shrimp cakes with two sauces, a selection of maki and nigiri...it was fantastic. I risked insulting the chef by requesting a Golden Roll be added before dessert because it's a Tojo's original, and just so good (creamy scallops, crab, avocado and sushi rice rolled in a thin, sweet egg crepe instead of nori). Dessert was coconut ice cream, with fruit, a bit of fruit sauce and yogurt topping. The bill wasn't even too outrageous as we were driving back to Seattle immediately and so skipped the sake. Usually much sake is consumed on any given trip to Tojo's as well. I've been going to Tojo's for 12 years now and it's always failed to disappoint. I'm glad Bruce got to enjoy it before his move to San Diego!

Today was Kate's first day of Zookids. We found out Tuesday night that parents were expected to stay for the day of orientation today. Surprise! Good thing I have a flexible schedule and an understanding boss. She's beyond excited and part of a very sweet group of kids. She bonded with another girl, also named Kate (so our Kate will be Katherine for the program). When the introductions were going around and the other Kate said "Hi, I'm Kate. I love big cats, especially snow leopards..." my Kate's jaw dropped and it took about half an hour for the two of them to decide they were "fraternal twins" and spend the rest of the day walking around the zoo with their arms around each other. All the Zookids are really great, fun, and funny. Paulson came with his brothers, and spent some time talking to the Kenyan storyteller we listened to in the African hut because their family is also from Kenya. Safaa wears a head scarf, but I couldn't place the style; it reminds me a bit of the Russian Jews I've seen, wearing long sleeves and head scarves. Safaa's favorite animal is the comb crested jacana. Logan catches bugs and snakes whenever he can. Evan, the youngest of the group, is a sweet boy who has a great memory and excellent presence for a six-year-old. He likes sharks. Olivia plays soccer and was hard pressed to choose a favorite animal. Deanna is a vegetarian and she thinks it is cruel to kill animals.

There are two more orientation/training sessions (all on Thursdays, which means Kate will miss at least two days of Aquarium Camp in Vancouver) and then the kids are expected at their first big event, the Zoofari membership appreciation day the weekend before Labor Day. A group of former Disney Imagineers are among the people creating the Zoomazium, and the zoo wasn't kidding when they said they want our kids to be hands on and very involved in the planning of this kid-space. One of the training sessions includes a tour of the former Disney guys' new company and a discussion about the kinds of things the zoo will be building. If the slide show is anything to go by, it's going to be a VERY cool project.


Monday Morning

Fell asleep too early last night and had mad lingering dreams into the early morning. Finally propped myself out of bed around 5:00am. I've been sitting in front of the office window as the western sky has gone from a uniform indigo blue, to pale-striped blue-pink-violet. I love that early morning summer sky color; early morning winter is just black changing to grey. Am reminded how quickly this summer has gone and that we're on the downslope of these lovely light days already. I demand the summer days last into September to make up for the craptacular June we had!

I've also been thinking on the issue of conviction, personal belief, and living within your beliefs. For some reason, on my various flights this summer I came to ponder the issue of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions on the basis that it offends their personal beliefs. Why is this tolerated? In any other job, an employee who refused to do what they were hired to do (dispense medication to patients as ordered by their doctors) would be invited to find another job. Would employers stand for it if vegan grocery store clerks refused to ring up customers who wanted to buy meat, milk, or eggs? Would we say the bar tender was doing a good job is he refused to mix drinks for his patrons? How about police officers who refused to write tickets? I understand that people have convictions, I have them myself which is why I don't have a job clubbing baby seals. If my job required me to club baby seals, I would expect that in order to collect my paycheck, baby seal clubbing would be involved. If I could not bring myself to club baby seals , I do not expect that I would remain employed by Baby Seal Clubbers, Inc. Why is it even a question of "what to do" with the pharmacists?


Kate is a Zookid!

Shortly before we left for Tennessee I got the heads up about an open call for kids to be "Zookids" for the Woodland Park Zoo. Kate wrote a short essay and we sent it in literally the day before we left. She got a call-back to audition Thursday after we got back.

She was very nervous about the tryouts. She wrote and practiced delivering a one-minute speech in her own words that included lines like "If I had a super power it would be to talk to and turn into animals." :) The zoo had over 40 kids try out and selected 10. We got the word last night that Kate was among those chosen. Over the next year these kids will be junior spokespeople for the Zoomazium.

There's a little bit about the Zoomazium here.

The first meeting is August 11th! Thankfully, Kate was already going to be in town with me anyway. We'll be spending the day at the zoo where she'll be going through orientation, will tour the "Zoomazium" construction site, get fitted for her little uniform, etc. She's going to be SO excited. I'm excited for her!


Nikchick P.I.

Pramas posted recently about the excitement in the alley while I was out of town. Yesterday I did a little sleuthing, since the Seattle Police couldn't be bothered to do it, and after less than half an hour I had a lead on the owner of the golf clubs Pramas recovered. By the end of the day we'd made contact with the man and he'd gratefully come over to pick up his clubs.

I was particularly appalled to hear that Mr. Kessler's car had recently been stolen (and a police report filed) because it seems to me that knowledge would have made returning the clubs that much easier. In cop shows, the police are always going back to their desks, punching the name of some victim into their computers and finding out all sorts of things, leading them to, you know, solve crimes... In our case, we had Officer Mirror Shades (complete with night stick up his ass) and Officer Paunch (the amiable but donut-loving stereotype) and neither of them were at all interested in the recovered property, let alone catching the perpetrators.

Instead, I used the internets and returned the clubs to a nice 88-year-old man who was already waiting for the police to do something about the crime that had been committed on him. He kept saying "I can't believe this, it's amazing." It just seemed like a tiny little effort to make on my part. Score one for Nikchick, P.I.



I had an unusual experience while waiting to board my plane in Knoxville. On two different flights, soldiers in desert camouflage were amongst the passengers exiting the planes. Families (given special permission to pass the "Ticketed passengers only" line) waited with signs or balloons for their soldier to appear. As each soldier exited, the terminal erupted into applause, not only from the waiting families but from passengers waiting for other flights at other gates. I'd never seen anything like that before.

We also witnessed soldiers boarding planes, leaving their families. Children crying, wives giving their husbands quick, stiff-upper-lip pecks and trying to keep the tears away.

We had a couple of soldiers on our flight. One was met at the gate by wife and family. The one who exited right in front of me was subtly looking around, looking for someone, but no one was there. We moved off towards the baggage claim, our young soldier in front of us. As we crossed into the public area, he saw what he was looking for: a young woman holding a tiny, newborn baby swaddled in a blanket. They embraced for a long time as people passed around them. Kate and I started calling him "our soldier".

"I see our soldier on the escalator." Sure enough, there he was, coming to join the rest of the flight in waiting for baggage. He was cradling the baby, talking and looking much more relaxed than the tight-faced professional who exited the plane. I couldn't help stealing looks at them, a young couple, a new baby, a family relieved to be safe and together again, a father and a soldier who had been asked to do god knows what and who had done it and was allowed to come home. For how long?

Kate gave voice to my thoughts. "I hope he doesn't have to go back to war."

I thought about offering to take a photo of them, to commemorate this homecoming, and send it to them when I got it developed, but I didn't want to intrude. The stoic Scandinavian in me still clings to my upbringing, where you leave people alone to go about their business. We were not raised to applaud uninvited.

I hope President Bush enjoys his five weeks of vacation while our troops go on fighting his war. Now, more than ever, I feel "supporting" our troops means getting them home.


And then my job smacked me in the face

One hour. I've been back "at work" for ONE HOUR.

I'm sure there are wonderful, fun, creative people out there who are having fun with the games we design. I'm SURE of it, we sell thousands upon thousands of games and keep selling them... but unfortunately for me I don't hear from those people. I hear from the 20 total assholes. They're the same assholes, who rob the joy and fun out of everything they touch. No game can ever be "just" fun: it must be a realistic simulation of an actual historical battle or it must contain a detailed reconstruction of the economic system of Rennaisance Europe and the player characters can never allowed to be special or succeed or have even one advantage or else it's "broken" and we're "stupid" and "don't understand the IP" (regardless of being either the people who CREATED the IP or working hand in glove with them) and they're going to cry and threaten and slander and boycott and spew hateful, presumptuous garbage about everything we touch from now until they lock onto some other imaginary slight we or some other hapless designers commit against them. Is there nothing that will stop their incessant braying?

Why, oh why do they waste their energies and focus their misanthropic attentions on our fantasy worlds? Why aren't they angry about real injustice in the world they live in? Why aren't they out there protesting against hunger and disease and poverty, exploitation, taxation, ANYTHING? Better yet, why am I not out there doing something for the greater good, spending *my* limited lifetime contributing to society instead of trying in vain to please these assholes?


Funny Kate

At the get together, Kate cracked up one of the other moms with this exchange.

Kate: My mom whistles for me when she wants me to come home.
Mom (joking around): Wow! You're better than a dog!
Kate (dead serious and without missing a beat): Yeah, I have opposable thumbs.

Welcome to the Kate experience.


Edgy t-shirt update

I've received a correction from a reader who was involved in the conversation about the edgy Christian t-shirts. I came into the conversation in the middle. One particular t-shirt that was discussed was Body Piercing Saved My Life which isn't really my style now but which I probably would have thought was really the shiznit when I was attending Christian youth group rallies and Christian rock concerts. And honestly, that one is better than Read Between the Lines, Love Hurts, or the bloody cross images of the various Jesus Beat the Devil with a Big Stick shirts.

I should also note that while I did mentally attribute the likely defacer of the Kill Doctor Lucky box to one of our more religious kids, it could well have been one of the "hippie values" anti-violence household kids. These kids are nine. They're just getting the hang of applying their black and white beliefs to the shades of gray in the world. Kate and I have discussions like this all the time. I don't think it was malicious at all, I'm convinced it was aa child acting on sincere belief.

Might have more to say, but I've got to recover from this trip before I try again.


Bye Bye Tennessee

Well, the time has come. The moms and their kids (and some of their husbands) have made like Elvis and left the building. We were sad to leave, such a good time was had by all. Kate and I stayed at a freeway-side hotel in Knoxville last night and will be catching a flight back west in a couple of hours.

This is the first time many of the moms from Alabama and Tennessee have made it to one of these get togethers and I think we did pretty well considering so many of the rest of the attendees were socialist Canadians, urban liberals, atheists, and west coasters with "new age" spiritual beliefs. The drinkers and the tee totalers mingled successfully, neither the atheists nor the evangelicals burst into flame. It's the kind of experience that gives me hope for the country.

Still, there's no denying the differences. At one point some got into a discussion about the "edgy" Christian t-shirts (images of nails being driven through hands, blood dripping, saying 'Saved by His Blood' or some such) which the least religious of the group found shocking and offensive and which they couldn't imagine allowing their children to wear, whereas the evangelical moms were not shocked at all by edgy, in-your-face Christian images and admitted those shirts were popular with the teens at their churches. I found that conversation fascinating, because I'd left my copy of Kill Doctor Lucky out (thinking I might get some of the moms to play with me later that night) and someone (a child, I assume) took a red pen and crossed out the words "kill" and "Cheapass Games" on the box while I was off doing something else. The concept of a highly ironic game (a twist on the game of Clue) that involves trying to "kill" an imaginary character in a humorous fashion ("...with a tight hat") is so offensive as to prompt someone to deface my game? Really drove home that our group is not without deep differences.

Kate has had a wonderful time, made many new friends, has made memories that I hope will last a lifetime. She's thanked me for this trip multiple times (and called the trail ride a "dream come true") but misses Chris and will be glad to get home. I am sore, tired, and sunburned but I haven't had such a good time in years. I can't wait for the next reunion/get together.