Discolor Online

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


Out of Town

Rough week for Green Ronin's ownership. Saturday night Hal's dad died. Yesterday, alone in Vancouver because Chris had gone to Boston for the funeral of his aunt, I found myself drawn to Stamps Landing.

This was Nigel's place. We gathered here every week, our erstwhile writers group, and this was the birthplace of Bootstrap Press, our Adventures Unlimited Magazine publishing group. As my friends and family mourn their loved ones, I mourn with them. Inevitably, my thoughts return to Nigel for the greatest mourning I've ever done was for him.

I was in town for Kate's final performance for Shakespeare camp. She was great! Jess and Shelby were up in Vancouver for the weekend, so they came to the show and we hung out afterward. Had a picnic, watched people flying kites, stopped at a candy store, walked the entire seawalk between Cambie and Granville (and back) looking for Nigel's memorial bench. Kate and I read every plaque on every memorial bench along the whole route but didn't find it. Got choked up reading all the memorials for others, anyway. All in all it was a beautiful day.

Today we head down to Portland to see my grandma, the one who was so close to death in April. She's recovered now and back in Oregon to visit family. Not to be morbid, but this may be our last visit and I'm going to take it. Will be gone (and away from the web) until Wednesday, when Pramas also returns. Then it's prep for Gen Con. Where did July go?


Sushi, Baby Gramps, and a Good Cause

Last night we joined Family Frog Taco for dinner at their favorite sushi place. Although Evan and Rona attended our wine party, the logistics of being hosts to more than 20 people at once meant that we didn't get much of a chance to hang out with them, and certainly not with Zoey who keeps growing up when we're not looking. The sushi was great, especially the Lion King Roll. This was a new addition to the menu and something we've never had before. Basically, a California roll topped with salmon, tobiko, and that gorgeous thick Japanese mayonnaise all put under the broiler until the salmon is cooked and the sauce is golden brown and bubbly. We licked the plate clean on that one.

After sushi we went back to FrogTaco HQ which I'd visited once (on the day a piano was being moved) and which Chris had never seen. Zoey was so funny with Chris I laughed until I cried. We had a really good time and it was great to see the house and hear about the recent family vacation to the Oregon coast.

After triple-checking that I wouldn't get lost in the dark on my way out of suburbia we hit the road and decided to swing by the Can Can for the Baby Gramps CD Release Party, which was due to be starting up exactly then. We'd seen Baby Gramps at the Can Can once before and he was on fire. Last time he had everyone in the place shouting out "fuck-a-doodle-doo!" and clapping their hands within minutes and this time was no different. They were joined by The Bad Things (whose music you can sample at their MySpace page... I recommend Kill). Where Baby Gramps scrabbles and scratches fiercely on his steel guitar and belts out vocals reminiscent of Popeye possessed by the spirit of some tantric-chanting monk (and who wouldn't want a live show of that?) The Bad Things are a seven-member ensemble who could probably be forced into the category of "gothic folk". They play everything: accordion, concertina, stand-up bass, banjo, guitar, mandolin, penny whistle, and even the saw. We had a ring-side seat right next to the tiny little stage (so small that some of the band members asked to use our table to put their drinks on) so we snapped a couple of photos of the show, which I've put up at Flickr.

In other news not about me, I'd like to remind people that Game Industry Luminary (and my dear friend) James Wallis has begun the first day of his 146-mile walk for charity. Read about it on his blog and view photos as he posts them along the way at his Flickr photostream. If you haven't already sponsored him, consider doing so now HERE. It's for a good cause.


Panos Kleftiko

We had dinner at Panos Kleftiko last night. It's the best Greek restaurant in Seattle, I swear. I've become a little obsessive about photographing my food lately because I'm having so much fun blogging about food. I don't want to turn my blog into a food blog exclusively but I am really enjoying building this catalog of food photos and write ups (not to mention expanding my recipe page). Anyway, last night I was writing down the items we were ordering on my Palm (to be sure I got my spellings right) while Chris ordered from the waitress. I think I freaked her out a bit because in the middle of taking our order she blurted out, "Why are you writing things down?" I was caught off guard as no one has ever questioned me about writing down what I'm eating or photographing my food before (though I have received several amused looks from people on the photographing no one has ever acted like it was sinister or suspicious or anything). Anyway, I tried to explain that I keep a food blog but I don't have any sense of whether she even knows what a blog is, let alone grasped why anyone would want to keep track of what they eat.

Anyway, her dubiousness about my activities did not stand in the way of having a nice meal. As usual, I've posted my photos to Flickr.

A couple of my favorite shots:

I love the label on this bottle of Retsina. I love the illustration of the little drinking guy with a key in his belly! What's up with that? I especially love that it's a registered trademark. I didn't get it in the photo but the top of this bottle is sealed with a bottle cap like a bottle of beer. (If white wine with a pine-resin taste doesn't appeal to you, you probably want to skip the retsina.)

These gorgeous beans were so good I woke up craving them this morning. Each one was half the size of my thumb and just delicious. I really do wish I had some right now.

Check out the heavenly slab of feta! The cheese topped off a bread salad that was so delicious I could have licked the plate. Perfectly spiced, tossed in a lemony vinaigrette, sprinkled with olives and capers. If Panos Kleftiko were open at lunch, I'd eat their bread salad every day.


Aunt Connie

Got word that Chris's elderly aunt Connie died last night. Chris is scrambling to see if it's at all possible for him to make a trip out to Boston for the funeral on short notice. Unfortunately, I'm scheduled to go up to Vancouver this weekend to see Miss Kate perform in Twelfth Night for Shakespeare Camp and then bring her back with me for her week-long visit on Sunday, turning around right away on Monday to head to Portland, where my grandmother (miraculously recovered from her near-death experience earlier this spring) is back for a few days to visit the family. I'm already missing the barbecue being held in her honor by attending Kate's play, I dare not miss the opportunity to see her on Monday. If Pramas goes home, he'll be going alone.

I liked my aunt-in-law Connie very much. She was Chris's dad's sister and lived closest to them of all his aunts and uncles, so Chris saw her often throughout his life. She was sassy and stubborn, a combination I respect. She was always very sweet to Kate and never failed to come bearing gifts for the girl, which she would gruffly hand over as if she just happened to have an embroidered sweatshirt in Kate's size or dolls and sweets just laying around that we might be interested in. She was a smoker and hosted my mother (also a smoker) in her home when Chris and I got married and my mother traveled out from Oregon for the ceremony, where the two bonded. Connie wasn't used to driving herself very often by that time, though she did own a car, and my mother absolutely refused to drive someone else's car in unfamiliar territory. I watched the two of them square off about who would do the driving to Salem, where my mother wanted to be a tourist, with fascination. Two sassy, stubborn ladies digging their heels in... Connie finally gave in (I just don't know what tipped the balance, perhaps feeling pressure to be a hostess?) and I took a truly harrowing ride with them as Connie drove dangerously slowly, passed cars and careened through construction areas, and stopped dead in the center of the street just to look around and get her bearings. We were lucky we weren't killed, though it's a funny memory looking back from safe retrospect.

We saw Connie briefly when we were back in Massachusetts last Christmas. Unfortunately Macular Degeneration had robbed her of her sight and independence in her last year and she was miserable about it. Connie was no social butterfly and was fiercely independent, purposely gruff and abrasive in order to protect her privacy and fend off the unwanted nattering attention of the other bored, elderly ladies in her building. She read voraciously and it was a terrible blow to her to lose the ability to read, or watch tv, or cook for herself.

Chris and I had Greek food tonight (at the excellent Panos Kleftico, which I'll post about separately) and toasted Connie.


The Media

I haven't gone on a politically-tinged rant for a while, but after watching last night's Nightline, I feel one coming on.

On their website, between such hard-hitting topics as "Man-purses: Hot or not", "Could You Catch Fire During Surgery?" and "Man Puts Puppy in Pants" Nightline has posted a four-page transcript an interview with Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos, who is getting a lot of media attention as "the World's Most Powerful Liberal Blogger" and other such titles. I find Kos interesting: he's unabashedly opinionated; his family fled a war-torn country when he was a child, he served in the Army during Gulf War I (though he was not deployed to the region), he entered the army as a Republican and has somehow ended up as "the World's Most Powerful Liberal Blogger" and a supposed "kingmaker" for Democratic candidates. As with Glenn Greenwald and Kevin Phillips (a former Republican electoral analyst amd author of The Emerging Republican Majority"), I'm always interested in the personal stories of people who started out in different circumstances than my own and yet end up standing beside me on political issues. So I tuned in.

What I noticed about the version of the interview that aired on television, compared to the four-page transcript, is that many things Markos said that clarified a position or statement were missing. His harsh words for slain for-profit mercenaries, a two-year-old comment that he's repeatedly called to justify or defend, are thoroughly explained in the transcript (his loyalties lie with his enlisted brothers and sisters who are doing their duty for the country and not waging war for personal profit, how our soldiers are being killed and maimed and burned by the hundreds and how offended he was at the overblown attention the mercs for hire got in the news) but are cut short in the televised interview. In the transcript he spends a great deal of time trying to explain that DailyKos is a community; the forum bears his name but there are a great many people who participate, who blog about their own local issues or pet interests and get involved in discussions, activism, debates, and disagreements. In the televised version, the reporter is seen restating the idea over and over again that Kos is the power, sending his minions out to do his bidding; then, changing tactics, the interviewer stresses that the DailyKos picks in the last election were overwhelmingly defeated, cutting out most of Kos's explanation of what they're trying to do in local and regional elections.

All this is pretty common and not at all surprising to me. It's the nature of print versus television. It's the nature of the way the whole story was being framed: big, bad liberal bloggers "bringing down" loyal Democrat Joe Lieberman. Kos is well aware that he's "flavor of the month" and it's a big deal at the moment to focus on him because he's got a big, popular blog and this blog thing is hot. And the segment is only a few minutes long... only so much can be covered, things have to be edited down and kept snappy and exciting. Nature of the beast and all that.

What I wasn't prepared for and was truly shocked at, though, was the interviewer's voice-over focus on Kos's personal life, particularly his finances. For example, at one point on camera Kos is asked how much he makes. Cut to his "I make an excellent living. Absolutely...I bought a house in Berkeley, so obviously I'm doing good enough for that." The interviewer then comments in smarmy voice-over as we watch Markos playing the piano, "And good enough to buy a new grand piano to replace this one, which seemed to work well enough...." Oh, I see how it is. Buying pianos when his old piano still "seemed to work well", eh? Frivolous! I mean, the house in Berkeley is one thing, but piano buying? Liberal! Elitist! Very suspicious...

Seriously, what the hell? When Ann Coulter is invited to talk about her latest manifesto, when she yowls about evil environmentalists and their "repudiation of America and Christian destiny, which is Jet Skis, steak on the electric grill, hot showers, and night skiing", do people stop to ask her what kind of living she makes or comb over her recent purchases? Are frivolous pianos the cut-off? Are only homes in Berkeley worth commentary or are $1.8-million houses in Palm Beach also worth a little sneering condescension? How does endorsing a candidate that your former business partner has gone to work for compare to committing voter fraud? I ask again, seriously, what the hell?


Slice of the City

I found myself out in Belltown last night around 1:00am. (Rumors that I was once again at Umi Sake House are, um, completely accurate...) Ray and I were catching up after his week-long business trip to the unique hell that is Orlando, Florida while Chris banged away on his current project for work. Our bartender was very friendly and quite into Ray's Snakes on a Plane t-shirt. Next thing I know, they're deep in a discussion of Thomas Pynchon and Gravity's Rainbow and his upcoming book (self-described on Amazon, in part "The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.") while simultaneously setting up ten Jagermeister and Red Bulls (Jager Bombs) for a group of young Asian hipsters.

I'm rarely out late like that and when I am it's almost never in the midst of hipster central. Belltown was hopping. The sidewalks were more crowded than downtown on a busy shopping day, cars clogged the streets. Still chuckling a bit at the bartender's youthful enthusiasm for his own Honors Thesis work, we worked our way back to Ray's little car and tossed back the convertible roof. After a sweltering day, it was a perfect night for a top down cruise...

Perfect, but for the belligerent homeless guy who blocked our exit. "Run me over!" he bellowed, showing several missing teeth, matted hair, a filthy shirt hanging open to his waist, standing with arms spread in front of the car. "Not tonight," says Ray. "Have any change?" the guy asks with faux sweetness, holding out cupped hands. When no change was forthcoming, he once again began to yell: "Fuck you! Fuck you! Give me change or run me over!" then, more softly, "The revolution has come. I'm non-violent. The revolution is here and you'd better get the fuck out of here. I'll steal your car," as he moved over to stand over Ray in the driver's seat. As Ray pulled away, the guy went back to shouting, "Fuck you! DIE, DIE! Get in an accident and DIE! I hate you!" Half a block away the street still swarmed with hip twenty-somethings dressed in their best finery, staggering in the arms of their buddies, winding down another wild night of youthful excess.


Bite of Seattle

With record-breaking hot weather forcing us out of our house the last couple of days, I tried a pre-emptive strike and dragged Pramas out to the Bite of Seattle where I hoped to enjoy some food and sunshine before the weather became too oppressive. We mostly succeeded.

We got a late start in part because Chris desperately needed a haircut before wandering around in the hot sun. Downtown the bus to the event was packed so tightly that the driver had to throw open the doors at stops and call out, "Sorry, we're full!" before rolling on past forlorn would-be riders waiting on the hot sidewalks. Luckily we got on early enough and got a seat but it was outrageously hot and uncomfortable anyway.

Arriving at Bite, we exited the bus at the first opportunity and walked in the other direction from the rest of the crowd for a bit, eventually winding our way back to the main attraction. It was just too hot and too crowded. We wandered a while, took in some sights, browsed the food offerings and eventually dug in. I've posted photos at my Flickr site.

One thing that amused me was that we saw four different bands on three different stages and every single time we saw one guy (a different guy each time but always one guy) out in front, singing and/or dancing away to the bad. Black Dog even commented on their Biggest Fan during their set, "Everytime we're out, whether we play Bite of Seattle or something else, this guy is always out there!" Amused the heck out of me.

After we'd finished investigating the Bite, we headed back to Pacific Place to enjoy their air-conditioning. We toyed with seeing a movie but nothing was timed right. Instead we nestled into a restaurant/bar to steel ourselves with a couple of icy cold margaritas before heading back to the hotbox that is our house on days like today. The sun's starting to go down now and the house is opened up and cooling off as best as we can manage. It ought to be more comfortable in another couple of hours.


Book Club Reading

I've been part of an online book club for the last couple of years. I joined purely to spur myself to read again. As a kid I was an avid reader, bringing home stacks of books from the library, reading under the covers when I should have been asleep, reading on car rides until I became carsick, reading at family gatherings to occupy myself. In recent years my reading has been confined to mailing lists and blogs, newspaper or magazine articles. When I did read for enjoyment, I was reading cookbooks, cooking magazines, and recipes.

The idea of the book club was that we would each pick a book for the group to read and discuss. As its turned out, we're all readers for different reasons, with wildly different tastes and schedules. Of the people in the group, most are lucky to eventually finish each month's book (often weeks or months "late") and most of the time conversation rarely happens beyond "I read it. I thought Scene/Character was engaging/unrealistic," or "I just couldn't get into this book. I never got past page XX." Even so, the structure of having a group that is a good motivator where merely reading for enjoyment or to simply pass the time is not.

I've enjoyed being part of the club, such as it is. I've enjoyed being challenged to read books I never would have picked up on my own. I've expanded my definition of "reading" to include listening to audiobooks, which are a godsend for those long boring bus rides or drives to drop Kate off with her dad. Especially when driving, or even when doing household chores, the time passes much more pleasantly listening to a book.

Not including the books I've read or listened to with Kate (such as Inkheart and a whomping stack of Nancy Drew) since joining the book club I've read or listened to:

Under the Tuscan Sun
The Time Traveler's Wife
Garlic and Sapphires
The Virgin Blue
The Lady and the Unicorn
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Life of Pi
Year of Wonders
The Invisible Man
Trickster's Choice
The Secret Life of Bees
The Sparrow
The Summer Guest
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Self Made Man
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Trickster's Queen
The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Kushiel's Dart

I'm currently listening to Middlesex and enjoying the familiar Greekness of the setting and characters. The reader is fantastic. Other books I have in the listening queue (some I've started but not finished):
A Game of Thrones
The Stolen Child
The Kite Runner
The Devil in the White City
American Theocracy
One Woman's Army

Books recommended to me I have either not started or not yet finished:
Open Secrets
The Human Stain
Evidence of Things Unseen
Don Quixote
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
We the Living
Holidays on Ice
Bark of the Dogwood
Agent to the Stars
Palace Walk
May Contain Nuts
Tender at the Bone
Geek Mafia

I have, of course, read other books. Kid books with Kate. Dry political books that were not for entertainment. Books on caring for rabbits. Even though I feel I read very little compared to some (or compared to myself when I was younger) I do spend a great deal of time reading. Perhaps writing more book reviews would be a good way to direct my writing. Will give that some thought.


Wine Tasting

Now, despite the fact that I just had a wine party, I'm no kind of wine connoisseur. Basically, I know what I like when I drink it. I can recognize when I like one wine better than another, just like I can recognize when I like one up of coffee better than another. And if it turns out that I like a cup of Folgers once in a while (or whatever they're serving at the diner these days) so be it.

Still, when I saw this article from the Wall Street Journal Online, even I was skeptical. House wine from 7-Eleven? "Value-priced" bottles from $2.99?

Favorite line from the article: "We tasted a far higher proportion of "Yech" wines than we would have expected."

They're drinking crappy, cheap wine and we're supposed to believe they're honestly surprised when it tastes like crap? Please, even I don't buy that!


Memory Lane

The Gamestas have put up a podcast interview with Sam Chupp during which he talks about his earliest days at White Wolf and some of his experiences with the various people and projects there.

Sam joined White Wolf as I was on my way out. He came in to take my job and though I was ready to leave when I did it was still a rough transition for numerous reasons. I was young, barely 21, and had already put four years in with the Lion Rampant/White Wolf crew. I was homesick, burned out, disillusioned, and exhausted. I'd moved three times in eighteen months to follow the company around and had been caught up in all sorts of teenage/young adult drama in the process. I was really, really ready to go and at the same time was broken-hearted to be leaving. In walked Sam, into the middle of all of that, and to his everlasting credit his first words to me were, "So, can I get you some coffee?"

Listening to the early portion of the podcast, I was reminded of how similar my experience at White Wolf was to his. There have been four or five or more generations of Wolfies since then. Very few remember the days of working in the rental house... most of those who do remember didn't actually live there like Mark, Lisa, John and I did in the earliest days. Everything else was so much the same, though. The warehouse in the garage... everyone being rousted carry boxes of product up the hill because the trucks couldn't get close enough to the house... the tremendous, youthful, creative energy of the place... the inevitable realities of needing to pay attention to accounting practices and profits and the tensions that arose over credits and projects without "heart".

I've long since forgotten many of the slights I was sure were going to be grudges I held to my dying day, I no longer care about uncredited work or broken promises of being paid back in shares of the company. We were kids; we're grown ups now. It's been 15 years since I left White Wolf and we've all managed to settle into our lives pretty well. Stewart Wieck, bless his heart, has made sure I've gotten a copy of the new editions of Vampire whenever they've come out. I look back on those days and I wouldn't want to repeat them but I'm not sorry I lived them, either. In hindsight, I wish I could have been a better person, handled myself with more maturity, had the benefits my middle-age now affords me but that's the point of it. White Wolf was a learning experience for us all. I've done everything else in my life because I learned the lessons I learned there.

Sounds like Sam's settled into Life After White Wolf, too. The rest of the podcast is some talk about game theory and the many projects Sam has going on. I've burned out on game theory personally (and have no desire to continue conversations with the intense game theory devotees who, for example, honestly believe I've perpetrated brain damage on innocent gamers through my life's work in the game industry...) but more power to him and everyone else who enjoys keeping at it.



Thank goodness for leftovers! I've been dining on leftovers from the wine party for the last two days. Chris made a double batch of his famous hummus at my request so I could be certain to have some left over, which I enjoyed today for lunch. It matches shockingly well with the O Organics Blue Corn Tortilla Chips With Sesame Seeds that Evan and Rona brought as a party gift. So good! I've also been tucking into the leftover cheese and bread...and, of course, I have to finish off those two open bottles of wine. Even with the vacuum seal, one must do one's duty. Tomorrow it's going to be the last of the Salad Nicoise and some melon wrapped in the remaining prosciutto, no cooking involved.

Ah, bliss.


Wine Party Menu


Stormhoek Wine Party

The Group
The Group,
originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We had a party and Stormhoek supplied the wine. I'm completely worn out. I've posted our photos of the event but a full recap will have to wait for the moment. Suffice to say we had a blast and the wine was good!


Busy Weekend

Tonight we're hosting dinner Geek Dinner #77 of Stormhoek's 100 Geek Dinners in 100 Days.

Stormhoek is a South African winery looking to increase its marketshare through some unconventional internet marketing. With the help of Hugh MacLeod (and his intense interest in what he calls the "Global Microbrand"), Stormhoek is reaching out to geeky wine lovers all over. You supply the party, they supply the wine.

And so, with the general theme of "Game Designers Assemble!" we sent out the invites. We have a great cross-section of game geeks scheduled to descend on the house tonight. People who have run game companies large and small, convention owners, designers of card, board, miniature, roleplaying, MMOs and console games.

Today there will be prep for the party and cooking, lots of cooking. Tonight there will be food and wine, conversation and general good times. Perhaps even some blogging.

Tomorrow we've been invited to brunch at Chris and Bill's "new" place (new in that it's the first party we'll have attended there since they moved in last year) and I do still have it in the back of my head that I might want to hit Volunteer Park for the Outdoor Theater Festival to see the guys from the other night's Heavenly Spies event do their Hamlet gig. Or, I might just collapse into an exhausted heap and call up some Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare on the TiVo.


Atomic Bombshells

Last night the Atomic Bombshells were performing at the Can Can, so we traipsed off to the show with Ray. This makes four nights in one week that I've gone out and three of those nights I've been to the Can Can. Unheard of! Chris and Ray had seen the Bombshells before (Ray's seen them many times) but this was my first Bombshells viewing. I'm still trying to get over the fact that there are several competing burlesque troupes in Seattle. Next up I'm going to have to hit a Glitzkrieg show to see how they stack up. You know, for science. (Glitzkrieg also sport a cool Krysztof Nemeth logo, marking them well within six-degrees of separation of my friends list.)


First Books

My friend JD is participating in Blogathon 2006. He writes:

Money raised from your sponsorships will be donated to First Book, an organization that fosters reading among low-income children.

Subsequent discussion has veered into reminiscing about our own first memories of books. In my highly literate crowd, most people can't remember a "first book" so much as a group of early books they had contact with. What a privilege! What a bounty! Reading has been a great joy to me from a very young age. I learned to read early, I was fortunate that I took to it naturally. My ability to read (and following that, to write) has carried me far in my life. I'm aware that this is not the case for everyone.

Interestingly (to me anyway) is that my fondest memories of books from that "early exposure group" are of old stories that had been published thirty or forty years before I ever touched them. In fact, when my daughter was born, some of the first books I bought for her included reprints of those classics:

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
The Story About Ping
The Story of Ferdinand
Blueberries for Sal
Caps for Sale


Recipe Page Update

Meat on Sticks was the theme for dinner last game night:



[EDIT]: Just noticed that pork link was linked to the wrong pork recipe. Fixed now.



I agree with Elissa, these are pretty cute.


One Robot Dog

I've posted before that my friend Stan! is using as inspiration Kyle MacDonald's success with One Red Paperclip to hopefully trade himself into the robot pet of his dreams.

Just about a year ago, Kyle MacDonald began with one red paperclip. Almost exactly a year (and 14 trades) later, Kyle has a house. It can be done! Next up: getting Stan! his robot dog. C'mon, a robot dog is a way cooler goal (and not nearly as expensive as a house). Surely Stan! will be on his way soon.

Visit OneRobotDog and offer Stan! a trade.


Umi Sake House

Ray and Christine took us out to Umi Sake House in Belltown last night for a belated celebration of Mr. P's birthday. Umi is the latest creation of Steven Han (former owner of both Wasabi Bistro and the now defunct Bada, which Umi replaces). It boasts an incredible menu of both traditional sushi and cooked dishes, plus a shockingly deep sake list.

Both Ray and Jess had been to Umi recently and raved about the sake options, so we were eager to try them for ourselves. Umi sells sake by the bottle as other restaurants sell wine. We tried a smooth, sweet bottle first and then moved into a second, drier bottle. Both were great, very subtle and smooth.

It's always interesting to go to a place like this with Ray because his seafood allergy makes it a challenge. It never stops him from joining any number of his seafood-loving friends because there's usually something he a can eat no matter where we go, but Ray's been particularly won over by Umi because they have a fairly large selection of both vegetable sushi and cooked vegetable dishes (such as the mushroom bake that was heavenly).

Speaking of heavenly, after dinner we wandered down to the Can Can (aka Bachelorette Party Central... we saw five bachelorette parties come through Friday night and two large ones took up half the place last night) to take in The Heavenly Spies' Cabaret show.

The Cabaret show is different than the usual spy-themed burlesque show. Last night Agent Cha Cha Cha was missing, but they added the fantastic Ultra (all sorts of buff and crazy athletic... the things he did in those heels! And when he whipped his shorts off like a slingshot where they landed perfectly on the banister next to the frightened-looking table beside ours: priceless!), a singer, a pair of dancing sisters, and a comedian who expertly pulled off two sets of Bill Hicks-style ranting about working at Starbucks and political vitriol. Holy crap! After the show we closed out the place and chatted for a while with the comedian (Chris Maslen) and the Spies' "Mr. E" (David Goldstein) who, I kid you not, had earlier in the evening been doing Hamlet in Issaquah. They're going to be doing Hamlet as part of the Outdoor Theater Festival next weekend in Volunteer Park. I'm totally going.


Tuna and White Bean Salad

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced small
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced small
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (15.5-ounce) can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
12-ounces chunk light tuna
assorted baby greens

Combine all ingredients except greens in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Serve on baby greens.


Bust and Lark

Christine got tickets to see BUST last night and invited me to join her. As it was wargame night for Chris, I happily accepted the invitation.

BUST is Lauren Weedman's latest one-woman show. Weedman has been around. An alumnus of the Upright Citizens Brigade and Seattle's long-running Almost Live, she's also done bits on The Daily Show and Reno 911. She's writing a book and has written and acted in several self-referential plays. Weedman is well-known and well-liked in Seattle as near as I can tell, except for the people who still revile her as a "monster" for falsely claiming she was raped in college (something she's done an entire one-woman show about in the past).

What I can say about BUST is it has potential. Weedman's characters are excellent when given room to breathe. While different than a Mike Daisy monologue show, where Daisy addresses the audience directly and straight out tells us stories, Weedman has a larger story to tell and clothes herself in a dozen characters to tell it. Daisy weaves between starkly intimate and personal revelations to broader observations of characters around him (or, in the case of his Genius shows, characters from the shared history of our world). BUST isn't quite as seamless a story and is a bit too cluttered. Some of Weedman's characters started out very strong while others bled together and into each other; it still has the trappings of a work in progress but it's a good work nonetheless. I wouldn't recommend it for an audience that can't be patient with its self-indulgence but I enjoyed myself quite a bit. I'll certainly remember Lauren Weedman's name after this.

After the show, Christine and I strolled over to Lark, which I'd never been to. A light dinner was in order, and to our delight they were open for another hour, the perfect amount of time. We talked over many things including getting together this summer for some bike riding once I get my new bike and hopefully getting out into nature once or twice while the weather is still good. Christine has a non-stop round-the-world travel schedule over the next few weeks (starting with London and ending in Taipei... or was it Kuala Lumpur?) which sounds a bit frightening in its intensity to me. Hopefully we can manage a few bouts of rest and relaxation once that's over.

I must say that the next time I'm in the mood to blow a wad on a fine dinner out, I'll be quite inclined to give Lark another spin. Christine and I shared an order of the heirloom tomatoes with fresh cheese, the bourride of local rockfish with roasted cherry tomatoes and aioli (light and fresh), farro with mascarpone and morel mushrooms (which was rich and divine), and the manila clams with shallots, oregano, and housemade guanciale (brothy and full of rich bacony flavor). I had just one glass of a 2004 Altos de la Hoya which may have not been the correct official pairing for the menu we chose but was just up my alley and perfectly suited to my tastes. Quite lovely and a great way to end my first Kate-free summer evening out for the year.


Mississippi after Katrina

My friend Sheila recently returned from a trip to visit her in-laws at their home in Mississippi that was in the path of hurricane Katrina. She shared her observations with me and gave me permission to share them with you:

We got back last night from visiting my in-laws. This is the first time I've been down there since Katrina hit. My in-laws have rebuilt their house and are fine, but the scars of Katrina are everywhere from the FEMA blue roof tarps to the abandoned houses. I started noticing the trees once we started heading south of I-20. Every so often there were tall pines arching towards the west. There were also trees that were snapped in half, the trunks like jagged spears jutting out of the ground. Some trees just lay where they fell, ripped from the ground roots and all. The further south we drove the more common these sights became.

Monday we drove down to the coast. For miles inland, the trees are dead. They still stand, looking like a barren winter forest, but spring will never again bring new buds to these trees. The salt water from the storm surge got into the trees and killed them. In Waveland/Bay St. Louis, the destruction still lines the streets. Most of the businesses are still closed because the buildings are destroyed. The schools and many of the houses are abandoned. Further down in Biloxi, we drove along the beach (the beach road was gone at Bay St. Louis). The stately mansions that once lined the beach are gone. There are just empty slabs or FEMA trailers left. The giant casinos are gone. The tourists, which were the lifeblood, are gone. The beaches were mostly empty with large areas roped off, I'm assuming because of the debris in the Gulf. Evan had to use the bathroom, and we had to drive for quite awhile before we even found a business open where he could run inside.

It's been almost a year, and it still looks like a war zone. It's overwhelmingly depressing. I wonder if these towns and cities can ever come back.

New Orleans, with its concentrated human tragedy, gets most of the public focus. It's worth remembering that the storm ranged over hundreds of miles. The Sun Herald ("South Mississippi's Home Page") is running a continuing feature called Before and After that shows before and after photos of homes, businesses, historic sites, and coastline. There are hundreds of pictures that give a little visual impact to Sheila's words above.


A Long 24-Hours

We were invited to watch fireworks from Jess's place overlooking Lake Union last night. Forces were working against us from the start, though. The idea was to hop the bus for a short ride to the Flexcar I'd reserved, drive to Jess's place and get there by about 7:00 (in advance of most of the crazy traffic). HA! The scheduled bus passed us with its sign set for "Atlantic Base" and kept on going. We waited for 35 minutes before a bus actually came to the stop, and then it was packed with rowdy teens and seemed to stop at every single possible stop and traffic light along the way. (I was ready to start cracking heads when two young teenage boys decided they had to jump up and start screaming "Hobo! You're a hobo!" out the window when they spotted a homeless guy crossing the street.) Finally we made to the car, late but hopeful.

This was followed up by the most round-about and incorrect directions I've ever gotten from Google Maps. Apparently Google maps does not recognize Jess's address and sent us to the wrong part of the city (on the wrong side of a highway that intersects the neighborhoods and makes getting around even more difficult). Chris tried repeatedly to call Jess for directions but we weren't getting any cell phone reception and we drove around for a long time as more and more people crowded into the neighborhood to attend parties and view the fireworks. Even after finally getting to the right side of the highway and to the right neighborhood, I had no luck finding any parking. Eventually dropped Kate and Chris off, telling them I'd find parking where I could and make my way back.

An hour later...

I parked nearly two miles away and walked back, downhill the entire way, finding three different sets of pedestrian stairs, crossing the highway again. It was insane! I swore to myself to cab back to the car after the party if that's what it took as I had no intention of walking back up to where the car was. Thankfully, Jess soothed my frazzled nerves with a shot of icy chocolate vodka, followed by a couple of servings of his famous macaroni and cheese and topped off with some truffle-popcorn (to die for!) and some chocolate chip cookies for good measure. Throw in a couple of mixed drinks, some fine fireworks, and Miss Kate entertaining the hell out of a new crowd of adults who had never enjoyed the Kate experience before and we had a great time. (At one point Kate overheard a reference to The Tick and exclaimed, "The Tick! I love The Tick!" which prompted someone else to say "That's the coolest ten-year-old ever." At another point, close to midnight, I came in from having been out on the deck and Kate was holding court as six adults sat around in a circle on the floor playing Cadoo with her. It was hugely entertaining.)

As it turned out, we decided to make the walk back to the car and it wasn't that bad. Certainly not as bad as I feared it would be on the way down. The night was calm and cool, the worst of the post-fireworks traffic had disappeared, and Kate was happy and chatty instead of being tired and whiny (which I'd dreaded). Made it home and collapsed into bed sometime between 1:30am and 2:00am.

Had to get up fairly early in order to get Kate packed and ready to go to her dad's (which included making sure Bonnie was packed up and had everything a bunny might need, plus getting the bike rack and Kate's bike mounted onto the Flexcar). Tried to get Kate a cinnamon roll from McDonald's but even though it was only 10:25 when I pulled up they were already serving lunch, the bastards! I made it to the exchange location, only nearly losing Kate's bike twice on the freeway twice. After spending all day driving, I took advantage of having the Flexcar to take my knives to be sharpened at the farmer's market and picked up some fresh food for a quick dinner: homemade bacon and asparagus ravioli (sold to me by genuine Italian immigrants who saw me off with a "Ciao, bella!", with chopped yellow tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano, and goat cheese on top with some Rainier cherries for dessert. Chris was sweet enough to make dinner tonight so I could finally sit down and relax.

So...Kate and Bonnie to Canada. Check. Knives sharpened. Check. Dinner prepared. Check. Yep, sounds like I'm free to park myself and finish watching Season One of Lost, finally.


Declaration of Independence

I was going to write up my thoughts on the Declaration of Independence. Bruce did it for me here.


Indigo Girls

So I did, in fact, end up at the Zootunes concert last night. It was mostly an amusing series of misadventures.

Turns out the friends who invited me to the show didn't even know who the Indigo Girls were and certainly didn't know what to expect from one of these concerts in the park. We'd originally planned to meet at the North Gate of the zoo at 5:00pm. I decided to take a pretty early bus so I could be absolutely sure to be there before 5:00 because I knew there would likely be a big crowd. Sure enough, when we hopped off the bus at 4:40, there were already significant lines of people at all the zoo gates waiting to be admitted!

Kate had brought our walkie talkies, so I positioned her close to the entrance itself and then I walked back down the already long line to snag a place. The one issue: our friends had the tickets, so if we didn't meet up with them before the gates opened, we were pretty screwed.

The sound-check went long and a zoo volunteer came down the line to let us know entry would be delayed for a bit. Still no sign of our friends. Kate and I chatted on the radios until the line started to move. I made it all the way to the gate and had to step back out of line to let others pass. Finally our friends arrived at about 5:20, having only just then been able to find parking. We then walked all the way back to the end of the line (which had been steadily moving into the park this whole time) and when we joined it the end was exactly where I'd held my original spot. When we got to the field, nearly every inch was already staked out but we wormed our way into a smallish patch of grass between three other families and laid our blanket. We were at the farthest edge of the field, far from the stage.

I missed the opening act, despite being right there. They were poorly mic'd and neither the introduction nor their music carried to where we were. The kids and I played a few hands of Old Maid while the kids of the family in front of us alternately read various of the Narnia titles or watched us play. When the Indigo Girls themselves came on we settled down a bit. They opened with Closer to Fine and then went off into songs I don't know at all (since the last Indigo Girls music I heard was in '90-'91 when I was living in Georgia and Lisa Stevens was completely obsessed and learning to play their songs on her guitar in the old Lion Rampant/White Wolf house/office). I think Closer to Fine and Watershed are the only two Indigo Girls songs I could name off the top of my head. Anyway, it became abundantly clear that neither the kids nor my friends were into this (at one point marveling that so many people would pay $35 a head for tickets to hear two people doing an acoustic show in a field). At what I assume was the mid-point of the show, a surprise guest came on: Brandi Carlile was introduced and sang "Hallelujah" (which I gather was a popular Jeff Buckley song; I'd heard it somewhere but couldn't tell you where... kinda like I managed to pick up that James Blunt "Beautiful" song somehow). It was at this point that my hosts clearly wished they'd never come, so I suggested we leave. I figured it was better to let the people who paid for their tickets enjoy the concert they came for. It was a nice evening and the music, while almost completely unfamiliar to me, wasn't setting my teeth on edge or anything but I realize I have more eclectic tastes than many. I'd really come for the company most of all, so it was no great hardship to leave early. My friends gave us a ride back to the house, came inside to meet Bonnie (Kate had been dying to introduce little Evan to her bunny) and we're going to get together again sometime next month. Probably for bowling.


This is not a Gaming Blog!

Look, I've tried to be polite about this. I have links up to my archive of posts, I have a profile that explains exactly what I'm about. This is my PERSONAL blog. If you're lurking around here hoping to hear my latest thoughts on games, a recap of our weekly roleplaying sessions, what games I'm planning to buy at GenCon, or other such game-a-riffic content, you're going to be sadly disappointed. I don't write about that stuff and I have never claimed that I would. In fact, I have periodically reminded people that I do not intend to have that stuff here. (And while I'm being all specific, I guess I should say that I don't post the details of my sex life, either.)

Why? Because that shit bores the hell out of me. I avoid reading about games I wasn't a part of if I can at all help it, because it's BORING. Oh, I know you think your game is really interesting, but it's dull as toast to me. I don't care what level your fighter is at or how tough the displacer beast you fought was. Don't tell me about your character! I'm not interested in mot play by plays of other people's games. The fun is in the playing. Even when I was in my 20s and roleplayed three times a week sometimes I did not talk about gaming in the time that I wasn't actually physically gaming. I'm certainly not going to start now.

This is where I explore everything else in the world. My family reads this blog. My dear and distant friends read this blog. Industry colleagues read this blog with the understanding that I want to talk about things other than games with them. Don't like that content? Don't read along! I won't be offended.

Are we clear? No deep, philosophical game design ponderings here. No revelations of secrets, no screen captures of my WoW character, no strategic builds of new powers, no plots, no new monsters, and definitely no play by play recaps of our games.


Yearly Origins Awards comments

I don't really have all that much to say about the Origins Awards this year. I'm very happy to be disengaged from them at this point. I know the volunteers are trying to keep them afloat and turn them around but I also see that over the last five years they've been eroded terribly and this year's performance is not significantly better than the outcomes of previous years. Unfortunately, the awards are now operating under the burden of hostility, disenfranchisement, and other baggage left over from the bitter and divisive public struggles to control the awards that dominated the process for the first half of the decade (culminating in the disgraceful behavior of the Firm, Fair, and Friendly faction Ryan Dancey and his cohorts helped into power at GAMA a couple years ago now). Still, when I saw this comment in the thread about the awards on RPG.net, I was moved to respond.

I don't think that the requirement to send it product is a barrier. At least, this allows relatively unknown publishers to get a chance. Not having the funds for a full-blown ad campaign doesn't mean the game must be bad, but it definitely means that the game does not sell well, which decreases the chance that the judges actually know the game.

There are still many, many deep problems with the Origins Awards and I just don't have the internal fortitude to actively care about the outcome anymore. Still I think it's worth noting that in the past all that was required for a product to be considered for the award was that either the company that published it OR one of the people who had something to do with its creation (author, editor, artist, graphic designer, etc) put it up for consideration. At the time, that was considered to be too much to ask. Companies couldn't be bothered to even tell the committee "Hey, we released this product and it should be on the list of things you're considering."

At the time that process was in place, there was the inevitable hue and cry when something got overlooked, usually because no one involved in its production cared to make sure it was on the list. In fact, allowing people who had a hand in creating the game to submit the product information themselves was done to address the issue of having an incomplete list of potential products to consider. All that did was open up this gigantic public power struggle from a tiny handful of people whose sole concern was how to use the Origins Awards as the best marketing tool they could (whose goals were at odds with the people concerned with creating respectable awards that recognized excellent games.)

Opening up the nominations to the general public was no better, as this resulted in the nomination of many games that were not eligible by the rules of the awards (not released in the right time frame, not released in the right format, you name it). Still, that did not stop people from complaining over the perception that their personal favorite game was overlooked. ("What?! Where is My Life With Master?!" [My Life With Master was on last year's ballot.] "These awards suck." )

Now we're in a phase where not only do companies have to submit the information about their games (which was struggle enough to get them to knuckle down and do) but they have to actually send multiple physical copies in for review. The requirement that those judging the product actually see the product is not a bad one, but requiring a company to do that just gives already unenthusiastic participants another reason to say "Why bother?" and results in potential nominee lists even more anemic than they were when this trend toward constant revisionism started.

Worst is the fact that the awards change EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Not just the process, but from top to bottom: who participates, who judges, what awards are given out, how they're given, every damn thing. The categories of the awards have changed every year... and despite all the outraged cries for "transparency" a few years ago that gave us the Origins Awards Task Force, an eviscerated Academy and the new (ever-changing) process, there still appears to be little rhyme or reason to the changes that continue to happen like clockwork every year.

People who care about what happens to the Origins Awards need to consider many things going forward if there is any hope whatsoever to pull them out of their current tailspin. Why do the names and categories of award change every year? Why are there EIGHT "Vanguard" awards given in a year when there are only THIRTEEN juried awards given across all categories of games? Why is the "Game of the Year" given to an expansion and not, you know, an actual complete game? Why do none of the juried awards recognize any of the same products as the publicly voted Gamer's Choice awards? And, of course, the inevitable questions about why products that are quantifiably better (or at least "worthy") in the minds of the public continue to be left out of the consideration. Until issues like these can be addressed, all the category shuffling and deck chair rearranging isn't going to make a lick of difference.

I don't expect to have more to say and I don't mean to slag on the current batch of volunteers, but I remain convinced that the Origins Awards are in poor shape and nothing that has happened over the last couple of years has given me any inspiration to believe that the situation will improve. Certainly not electing Phil Lacefield as the Academy Chair (I bring him into this as he was the only other candidate willing to run for the position against the current chair last year). The Origins Awards need astute, qualified leadership first and foremost and the dearth of candidates for that crucial aspect of the process alone is enough reason to despair for the future of the awards. The other flaws are just so many more nails in the coffin.


Salty's Brunch

Yesterday we went to Salty's on Alki Beach for brunch. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we'd wanted to go for Chris's birthday but his birthday coincided with Father's Day this year and the brunch was booked up. We hadn't been back to Salty's since last year's jaunt with Bruce and Tim, but everything was remarkably the same, down to the pleasant view and excellent weather.

I've posted photos of the food and whatnot at my Flickr page.

After stuffing ourselves, we took a short walk in the sun. Kate roamed the shore, collecting pebbles and whatnot, while Chris and I stuck to the sidewalk and talked. The view was lovely, the weather gorgeous. We were careful not to walk too far, though. Last time we were out we got carried away with the group and walked for freaking miles without sun screen or water or even decent shoes and paid the price for our folly later. This time we only walked as far as the first near-by pier, where we saw a family fishing for crabs. After two of their crab traps came up empty, everyone on the dock cheered and gathered around when they pulled up a trap with a big crab (and an even bigger starfish) in it.

After our walk, I dropped Chris at home where he had (as always) more work to do. Kate and I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon downtown, shopping and generally being girly. Kate is a great fashion consultant and helped me take advantage of some great sales down at Macy's. Of all the clothes I tried on, I ended up buying most of the deals Kate found. She's got good taste! We finally rolled back home on the bus about 9:00pm. Exhausted, I fell sound asleep not long after and slept hard and through the night. I didn't even wake up when kids were setting off fire crackers in the park next to our house at 2:00am.



Chris, Kate and I went to see Superman at the Cinerama together last night. The number of people (from adults down to little kids in Superman pjs) who came to the show emblazoned with Superman logos was impressive. Yay geeks!

Chris and I were wondering what kinds of previews we could expect before the show. We saw a preview for Spiderman 3 (a year off still), M. Night Shyamalan's latest "something spooky is happening" offering, and the trailer for Snakes on a Plane. I've seen the trailer for Snakes on a Plane twice now, so when it started up I was eager to see how the rest of the audience responded. The audience was totally into it. Cheering and clapping at the preview. I've resolved to go out to see Snakes on a Plane as soon as it's released. Who is going to run out and see that movie except keeners like me who are totally into it? I want to be part of that audience, with their whooping and cheering enthusiasm for the campy action that Snakes on a Plane promises. Bring it on! Poor Kate, ever since she heard about the movie, all she can ask is "But how do the snakes get on the plane??"

I have not seen the original Superman movies since I was a kid. Since before Christopher Reeve had his terrible, heart-breaking accident. Hell, I'd forgotten there were Superman movies beyond I and II (though I'm pretty sure I saw the one with Richard Pryor in it when it came out). I have no sentimental fondness for Margot Kidder as Lois Lane but young, hale Christopher Reeve is Superman to me, no questions. As the opening credits rolled and the Superman theme started to play, I got choked up, the way I get choked up sometimes hearing the national anthem or Christmas songs. I didn't expect that reaction from myself. Just goes to show, I am still a big, sentimental sap. So sue me.

I've got little to say about the plot of the movie itself. Any comment I might make has already been said elsewhere anyway. What I will say is that Brandon Routh is an excellent Superman. He is an Alex Ross painting come to life. (I suppose if you're an Alex Ross hater that's not going to sell you but I'm an Alex Ross lover and I mean it as a positive.) The torch has been passed. Routh owns the role now. Long live Superman!