Discolor Online

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


Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

I'm very sad about this. In the last month two women I know (one mom with a son the same age as Kate, one the mom of a friend who is my age) have had breast cancer relapses (and the accompanying surgeries) and another has had a scare and is considering getting a preventative mastectomy because of her family history and repeated close calls. Firedoglake founder and passionate blogger, Jane Hamsher, recently went in for treatment in her third bout with this wretched disease.

AlterNet has a nice memorial for Molly.

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Melancholy Mood Playlist

Wow, what a response to my request for melancholy music! Across my various blogs and one mailing list where I made the request I received hundreds of song suggestions. I have a list of melancholy music that I could play for days straight, though I'm not sure that would be such a good idea.

I ended up making three playlists. One is for everything within reason that I could lay my hands on from the suggestions I'd gathered. One is the "short list" of merely three hours or so. That one might grow, hard to say. Then I went all brutal and created the "CD Mix" which had to be no more than 80 minutes long to fit. Tough choices!

Here's what I ended up with on the CD-length playlist:
Untouchable Face - Ani Difranco
Glycerine - Bush
Father and Son - Cat Stevens
I Will Follow You Into the Dark - Death Cab for Cutie
Between the Bars - Elliott Smith
I Want You - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Closer to Fine - Indigo Girls
Fire and Rain - James Taylor
Ache - Jawbreaker
Many Rivers to Cross - Jimmy Cliff
Have a Little Faith In Me - John Hiatt
Hurt - Johnny Cash
Trouble - Kristin Hersh
Go On Ahead - Liz Phair
The Only Answer - Michael Doughty
Don't Dream It's Over (Live) - Neil Finn
Poses - Rufus Wainwright
Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels) - Jim Croce
Mad World - Michael Andrews & Gary Jules
A Place Called Home - P.J. Harvey

This one was tough. I really wanted Jawbreaker's "Want" on this list but I couldn't find it in my mp3s or online for purchase anywhere. Pramas might have it hidden away on LP, cassette, or CD somewhere but in the meantime I included Ache instead. Unfortunately, I had to cut the Minutemen to make room for the overly long but perfect Elvis Costello. Boo. Normally I wouldn't break out the James Taylor or the Indigo Girls but they're exactly right for this mix and needed to stay. I also opted for some excellent covers instead of the originals (Johnny Cash, Kristin Hersh, Michael Andrews). The Death Cab for Cutie song was completely new to me but absolutely perfect for my purposes.

This was a challenge! I appreciate all the enthusiastic suggestions.



Tagged for a meme

My ruthless friend JD tagged me for the six word story meme.

My official contribution: He died still wondering, "What if...".

Bonus triplet:

Writing, she laid her soul bare.

Never pithy enough she gave up.

Six word story? Too much trouble!

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Gratinée des Halles at Cremant

Gratinée des Halles
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We've all heard that "it's never as good as the first time," but that doesn't keep the disappointment at bay when the saying is proved true yet again.

Last night we had dinner with John and Jenny at Cremant. After my birthday dinner, Chris and I had been aching to go back and J&J gave us the excuse we needed. Unfortunately, this time (despite the excellent company and a couple of outstanding dishes) I couldn't shake the urge to compare to the first time.

Cremant continues to be exceedingly popular. There were a few empty tables when we arrived that were immediately filled and stayed filled all night. The bar was constantly packed to overflowing with people waiting to be seated. Several large celebrations were taking place in the restaurant last night and it was definitely full of beautiful people. Chris and I spend a lot of money on food, we appreciate good restaurants and talented chefs, but we most definitely aren't beautiful people and although the waitstaff was by no means surly I still felt that we were somehow dining above our station and being treated accordingly.

For example, seated right next to me was a couple on a date. The man knew a little about food, mentioned Tony Bourdain's Les Halles in reference to the "Gratinée des Halles" but he was no more an expert in French food than I was. His date knew nothing and kept asking him to explain things on the menu to her. I overheard our waitress spending lots of time on multiple stops at their table going over the preparations of the different menu items. She bubbled and enthused in great detail when the girlfriend asked about the chocolate chaud, how exactly it was prepared, how it was "like someone melted a chocolate bar for you to drink," etc. When Pramas asked about the chocolate chaud, she merely said, "It's hot chocolate."

I nursed my glass of wine through the entire meal and when it got down to about two sips worth I waited to see if anyone would come by to see if I might like another. No one did. Our water glasses stayed full, the bowl with Chris's mussel shells was removed and replaced promptly and the service certainly seemed friendly enough if you weren't paying attention to how other tables were being greeted and effused over.

At the busiest point in the evening, the owner was in a fit of pique as late-dinner reservations were showing up but early diners were still lingering. Again, it was only obvious to me because I was paying attention to him in particular (happy to see the owner working the front) and aware of his grunts and growls. At least two parties of eight or more who had been seated before Chris and I even arrived at the restaurant were still lingering, so it's not as if it was our fault in particular but I still felt like we were overstaying our welcome. I would have happily wrapped up our meal a little more quickly but service was slow, with a long lag between dinner and dessert. The mousse showed up several minutes before the coffees and my chocolate cognac, dragging the dessert course out yet further.

All my complaining aside, the food was still quite good. The French onion soup was among the best I've had, very rich and satisfying. The rillette was as good as I remembered it, though we did have to ask for extra bread in order to have enough to finish the pot. The smelt were delicious, but the mussels were not as good as Chris had hoped they'd be, John felt the cassoulet he had at Crow earlier in the week was better. The gratin of leeks was right up my alley. Not sure what Jenny thought of her duck confit. The chocolate mousse was divine, like someone had taken a chocolate chip and transformed it into something fluffy and light. Even so, when we stepped out of the excessive noise and heat of the restaurant and out into the cool, quiet of the night, I didn't feel any eagerness to find an excuse to return to Cremant as soon as possible, the way I did in November.

Perhaps that's best for our budget and our waistlines, anyway...



Best Melancholy Songs?

I'm in a mood and I want to make an iTunes playlist to reflect it. I'm looking for suggestions for your favorite melancholy songs, songs that ring true and press that emotion button. The Beatles' Eleanore Rigby covers that ground beautifully for me. Tracy Chapman's Fast Car is another in the right vein, the Pretenders' My City Was Gone, Simon & Garfunkel (The Boxer, Homeward Bound), Father and Son by Cat Stevens, Between the Bars by Elliott Smith, It Won't Be Long by Alison Moyet, A New England by Billy Bragg, The Boat Dreams from the Hill from Jawbreaker, Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt. Can be a little tricky because I'm shooting for melancholy but not maudlin. Doesn't have to be slow and ballady either. The Kinks' Come Dancing evokes that sense of nostalgia, or (showing my 12-year-old fan girl) even Rick Springfield's Jesse's Girl.

I'm casting a pretty wide net and I'm open to anything. Suggestions?



Bonnie: Bunny Escape Artist

After a year of living peacefully in the enclosure that takes up fully half of Kate's room, Bonnie has suddenly become much more determined to get out and roam the house whenever she can. I came up the stairs the other night to catch Bonnie guiltily coming out of the guest bathroom across the hall from Kate's room. She knew she was busted and shot with rabbit quickness straight back into her pen and shot like a bullet into the space under her cage, which is just big enough for her to squeeze into on her belly. She hid in there from me while I re-secured the pen. The next day, Chris caught her on the stairs (and she turned tail and ran from him back into her pen then, too).

This morning I was sitting at the computer when I heard a faint scratching that seemed to be coming from the living room. I looked and out hopped Bonnie from behind the sofa (where all the cords and wires lay, unprotected). Knowing what a menace she is (and really not wanting to have to replace another phone or lamp) I tried to get her to come to me and have treats. No dice. She didn't exactly flee from me but she was clearly not interested in anything but investigating the forbidden land behind the sofa.

I managed to coax her out by offering "cookies" (I've tried to train her that if I say "Who wants a cookie?" I have something yummy for her if she comes to me/sits up) and had to grab her more roughly than I intended to keep hold (as she realized she'd been tricked and tried to get away... rabbits are slippery!). Back into the pen she went and I gave her a carrot so she wouldn't be too huffy about being grabbed, but it's clear that a Bonnie Area Redesign is in order. I'm considering building up instead of out, so she could, in theory, hop up through a three or four-story bunny tower and see what Kate is doing up in her loft bed or something like that. We'll see what I can come up with. I wish the house could be better bunny-proofed so Bonnie could just have the run of the place but we have too many cords and boxes.


Hump Day

More like "Speed Bump Day" this week. I've been speeding along, busy busy, since last week. I had 1500 e-mails in my box that needed to be attended to when I got back to work on Tuesday. It's been a solid week of things going on day and night and tonight both Pramas and I are home, not going anywhere, not having anyone over, just hunkering down to take care of what business can be handled from under the covers and in front of the TiVo.

I was supposed to go to a PTA meeting tonight but I just didn't have it in me. Dinner was canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Tomorrow is another day of deadlines and people wondering why the hell I haven't yet gotten back to them about any number of pending issues. Tonight it's slippers and tea or else.


Monday Recap

Monday at ALA was about equivalent to Sunday at Origins: deadsville in the exhibit hall for a good part of the day. Luckily for me, Michelle had agreed to come help me out the last day of the show so I didn't have to sit there by myself for the whole day. Having someone to talk to made the time go a lot faster and the booth breakdown was easy. We donate all of our remaining samples to the library association and once I sweet talked a couple of GES guys into grabbing me a pallet I was able to get the whole thing done in maybe 15 minutes.

About 20 feet from the door of the building, I spied a guy who looked familiar. "That looks like JB," I said to myself. "That *really* looks like JB... Hey, waitaminute, JB is a LIBRARIAN. That IS JB!" He was working on a laptop in the building lobby and I hesitated a few minutes before going over to him. I haven't seen JB in person in at least 10 years and I wasn't entirely sure how I would be received. I decided to go for it and walked up to the table.

"Yes?" he responded curiously, no recognition in his eyes.
I paused, waiting to see if he would recognize me. Nothing, nothing...
"It's Nicole," I said.
A brief look of confusion as he tried to make the connection, then, completely boggled, his mouth dropped open. "Oh my god!" He hugged me and we sat down to do some catching up.

JB was a college friend of Lisa and Jonathan, a St. Olaf alum who I met after he'd been away getting his MA in History at Champaign-Urbana. He'd just returned to St. Olaf where he'd gotten a job in the library and had gotten himself sucked into helping out at Lion Rampant. When the company moved to Georgia, John pulled up stakes, quit the best job he'd ever had and moved, too. He was supposed to become the Ars Magica line editor and history guy, but he couldn't come right away with everyone else and in the couple of months that elapsed the plan had already begun to fall apart. By the time he got to Atlanta, he was told that he was going to have to get another job because the money we'd thought was going to be part of the plan of the move hadn't materialized. John got a job as a night clerk in a hotel for a while, then got a job at the Emory University library, a path that eventually led to becoming a fully fledged librarian. John was a great guy who was poorly treated by the Lion Rampant experience. I was in love with him at the time but the stress of the situation resulted in a painful, jagged break-up. When I left Atlanta and went running home to Minnesota, I left everything behind, including John. I've long regretted the additional pain I caused him in addition to the broken friendships and disappointments that the rest of Lion Rampant had layered on him.

It was wonderful, if a bit surreal, to catch up with him. His family is all doing well and just about exactly as I would have expected (the yuppie siblings are still yuppies, the rebel sibling is still a rebel, his parents are powering along through old age and continuing to do all the things they've always done). He's happily married, with three step-kids (one of whom is about the age I was when we were together in Atlanta) and is successful in his job, which is no surprise to me at all since he was always diligent and capable in his work. He's living in California. He hasn't had much contact with the other folks I knew in Georgia, though he did drop a couple of names from our old game group that I had forgotten. I caught him up on what I knew of the goings on of the various old LR crew: marriages and divorces, children (and rabbits), various game industry business decisions, who'd become millionaires, who had proven themselves to be manipulative ego-maniacal back-stabbers whom I will never forgive and no longer associate, and so on. We passed an hour easily. Unfortunately, I couldn't linger after that because I had to go home, get Kate, and get back downtown in time for a dinner with some other colleagues. Great surprise to see JB and wonderful to catch up and see him relaxed in his life and comfortable and centered in himself. I smiled about that all the way home.

Dinner last night was at The Pink Door and involved a roasted beet and arugula salad and wild boar risotto, but I refrained from taking pictures since it was a dinner meeting with business associates. Suffice to say it was excellent and a good time was had by all.

I'm looking forward to being home tonight and not wandering around downtown until all hours. The weekend was long and busy and I'm still pretty exhausted by it all.

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I don't want to be awake

I shouldn't be awake! I've had a long weekend and have to get up and do it all again today, I should be getting every minute of sleep out of the night that I can. Instead, I woke up with the lyrics from Eminem's Lose Yourself in my head at 5:00am and finally gave in and got out of bed at 6:00, staggering into the bedside table, knocking over Chris's beverage and waking him up in the process. D'oh. Not an auspicious start to the morning.

I was reflecting last night that I have been plagued by drama queens (heavy on the queen) over the last week. Last Wednesday I spent a couple hours in the afternoon taking Kate to an event where she and other little girls were being filmed and photographed for some PR (not Green Ronin-related). The room was booked until 6:00pm by the guy handling the PR event, and no one was listed as having the room after us so no one was rushing to finish up. All of a sudden this guy come waltzing in, little dog in tow, waving his hands and saying, "We have the room at 6:00!!" Now, it's about 5:50 when this starts up. At first the PR manager disputes this, and they leave the room to settle it. Meanwhile the photographing goes on and we're clearly winding up. They have about 5 or 6 shots left to go. Not good enough for this guy who comes back in the room (it's now 5:53) and starts threatening to move the backdrops himself, which causes the PR manager to get even more bent and ask him, firmly, not to touch anything.

I was just a by-stander in all of this. I was just waiting for Kate to be done. It wasn't my photo shoot, my company, or any of my business except that my daughter was coming perilously close to being caught in the middle. Still, it got my blood up and I jumped in. I told the guy that it wasn't yet 6:00 so perhaps he should stop disrupting our event and exit the room until 6:00. He was having none of it because he was convinced we couldn't possibly finish up and be out of the room by exactly 6:00 on the nose unless he paced around waving his hands and whining. I told him that since he was bent on disrupting our work he was going to owe me those additional minutes anyway. That about made his eyes pop out of his head. "I don't owe YOU anything!" "Why don't you leave the room for the remaining five minutes that we have it booked so we can finish up?" I retorted. "I will NOT. That might work with your child but that is not going to work with me, someone who is nearly FIFTY!" he frothed. "Why don't you act like it," I tossed back, and that was enough to get him to leave the room for two minutes but he was back again shortly and began moving furniture and directing his three friends around the room, touching everything that wasn't directly part of the photos. Even with all of that, our team managed to get the photos shoot wrapped up and collapse the back drop and leave the room by 6:01. All that needless prancing and posturing, all that hand-wringing drama! Over one minute of time... turns out the guy is some sort of theater guy who was practicing a play in the room or something. Drama over drama. Ha!

Later that same night, Kate and I were lingering downtown. We were meeting up with Pramas where we were all going to catch the bus home together. Pramas had been working late dong usability teasing for the new game so it was about 9:15pm and Kate and I were chilling in the McDonald's on the corner, waiting. Kate was happily eating a cherry pie or something, I was watching the silent tv above the door where Ann Coulter was flapping her mouth and rolling her eyes in disgust over who knows what. Man, I have a visceral reaction to that horrible woman. Anyway, I'm just minding my own business when I hear this woman start screeching behind me and about the time I hear "...and don't you think it's a little late for your kid to be up?!" I realize she must be addressing the back of MY head because I'm the only person in the place who has a child with me. The screeching continues "...what I'm saying is corporate America should stay in corporate America..." and "...don't you look at me that way when I walk into a restaurant..." and "...don't tell me to shut up, YOU shut up!" Woo. I decided not to engage on that one.


The Qube Experience

Chris and I walked past Qube after the ALA show yesterday and saw that it was half empty so we decided to go. Unfortunately, my food obsession would not allow me to try a hot, hip new restaurant without batteries in my camera so we wandered around for far too long looking for anywhere in the after-hours Pike Market vicinity that sold batteries, as my camera was completely dead. When we finally made our way back to Qube it had filled up (and proceeded to fill up yet more while we were there) and we were forced to sit at the bar, much to my disappointment. After a long day on the show floor, I really could have used a chair with a back for starters. However, I figured this was my shot so I stuck it out and stayed at the bar instead of trying to come back another day.

While I made a visit to the bathroom, Chris ordered up a gin-based mojito-style drink from our harried-but-pleasant bar tender. I was trying to choose from the sake menu but was having trouble envisioning the difference between 250ml and 300ml bottles. He kindly pulled out a bottle from the fridge for my reference and I decided to go with the 300ml bottle of the Sayuri unfiltered. Cloudy, sweet, very light, perfect. I felt much better after a glass of that.

Chris and I decided the "Qubed Set" ("3-Ingredients, 3-Ways, 3-Courses) was the way to go, much to our bartender's relief as he was struggling to keep up with drinks and orders for everyone. While we waited for our orders we were served fresh, hot naan bread with two dipping sauces. One was a mango puree, the other may have been a baba ganoush, topped with sesame oil and sesame seeds. It tasted mostly of the oil so it was hard to tell what else was in it. This was very good and took the edge off both my attitude and my hunger.

The appetizer course for the Turf menu was sake braised oxtail in cabbage, beef bulgogi served kabob-style, and a spicy "keftah" meatball on chickpeas. Chris let me try a bit of everything he had all night and I can vouch that all of these items are fantastic and deserve thumbs up. In contrast, I had the Surf menu and my salmon was served smoked and rolled "sushi-style", roe as caviar on a miniature blini, and in a divine salmon tartar. The blini was good but small enough that I really couldn't share it in any meaningful way with Chris, so my opinion alone will have to suffice. The tartar was as good a salmon tartar as I've ever had and I would have happily eaten a plate of that alone. Delicious, delicate stuff. The smoked salmon part of the rolled salmon was fine but the rice was a real sour note: very cold, hard and crumbly texture, like eating leftover Chinese food out of the take-home box without bothering to heat it up. I did not enjoy the rice at all and would not order that combo again to avoid it.

The Entree portion of the Turf menu was, again, hitting on all cylinders. Chris chose wisely. Duck leg confit in a green onion crepe, perfectly roasted duck breast paired with pomegranate (out of this world), and the crowning glory of a piece of seared foie gras paired with a slice of mango and Earl Grey gastrique. Nothing short of outstanding on all counts and Chris generously shared it all with me. The Surf entrees included prawn "mousse" that was advertised as being poached in white wine. The little dollops of prawn seemed more like they'd been fried than poached but that's not a knock against them. Very delicate and tasty. The grilled giant prawns with curry and eggplant were the best, tender and prawny, not overwhelmed by the curry, and the eggplant so soft it was creamy. Swoon! Unfortunately, this dish was served with coconut rice cubes, which would normally be right up my alley (as I love coconut rice and curry!) but it was the same awfully-textured rice as in the sushi-style roll and even the addition of coconut couldn't make me eat it. Stay away from the rice! The sweet-sour-spicy prawn and pineapple preparation was the best thing on the plate and absolutely delicious so even without the rice I had a pretty satisfying meal. By this time we're six for six on Pramas' menu and four for six on mine. Even four for six isn't a disappointment, because the four were so, so good.

The dessert course was a winner all around. I was a little jealous of Pramas' assortment of mini ramekins of creme brulee because I do so love that classic dessert. The vanilla classic-style was everything a creme brulee should be, just perfectly prepared. The "basil-perfumed" dark chocolate topped with candied ginger should have been right up my alley but I'd already had a bit of my own dark chocolate mousse and there just was no comparison. By far the best dessert of the six was the caramelized banana: fresh, simple, creamy... everything it should have been. To my surprise, I adored all three mousses as well. Normally white chocolate and milk chocolate desserts are too sweet for me but not the mousse at Qube. The milk chocolate was delicate and not too sweet at all, the white chocolate was creamy and smooth without a hint of that sticky-sweet white chocolate unctuousness.

As we were leaving the two guys who had been sitting on the other side of Pramas at the bar stopped me to comment that they'd noticed I was taking pictures and wondered if I was a critic or something. I try not to be so conspicuous with my food photoing but when one is seated at a crowded bar, it can't be helped. So we had a funny conversation where I explained a bit about my food blogging, chit chatting about my various experiences at restaurants, what I thought of Qube (did the green walls and orange pillars bug me?) and so on. Unfortunately, Chris had already made it to the door and had come back in to wait for me so I didn't want to hang around overly long talking while he wondered what had become of me but this is the second time where discussion of my food blogging habits has led me to a pleasant and enjoyable conversation with fellow restaurant patrons. I invited them to drop by the blog (if they can remember it's Nik (with a K) chick dot com (not dot org or dot net). The whole exchange was fun and funny and I left Qube well-satisfied with the food and with a smile on my face.

Qube is open for lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner every night from 5pm-10pm, and late night dinner menu from 10-12 on the weekends. It's only been open a month or so and still has its "Grand Opening" sign up but it's hip and hopping. I'll be back, definitely.

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Carmelized banana creme brulee

Carmelized banana close-up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Chris and I went to Qube last night. I have to catch the bus to the convention center in 10 minutes so I can't do the write-up right now, but I didn't want to deprive everyone of the photos of the gorgeous food all day, so here they are while you wait.

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Fifteen Hour Day

Fifteen Hour Day

Chris and I left the house at about 7:45am and didn't get back until 10:50pm.

The first full day of ALA was a learning experience. We knew it wasn't our target market for most things but we weren't sure how our new project was going to be received. I was very pleased that the people who stopped by the booth were at the very least politely supportive. People took our literature. A subset of gamer-librarians made sure to look us up because of their own interest, though not necessarily because of their jobs. In addition to that we learned a little more about the organization, got some feedback and heard about some initiatives that are being launched from within the ALA that are very interesting. I'm feeling very good about our decision to exhibit, though next time I would try to hook up and work with our distribution partners at Diamond. I think everyone else from the Seattle game industry that I've seen at the show is here under thee Diamond umbrella.

After the show let out, Chris and I ran across the street to finally see the Borat movie. I think the movie works best when you don't know what's going to happen next. Unfortunately, I'd seen enough scenes in previews, reviews, and in one horrible link in someone's LJ that I'd seen too much. The parts that were totally surprising to me made me howl with laughter and surprise at the outrageousness of it all but I really wish I'd seen the movie earlier before little spoiler here and there crept into my brain.

Since there was nothing particularly planned for dinner at home, we agreed to treat dinner as if we were at any other convention and we ate out at a new place that Ray had recommended. I don't have time tonight to unload the photos from the camera but I'll get to it as soon as I can. Review and recommendation will be forthcoming.

I wasn't quite ready to go home after dinner so Chris agreed to walk over to the Can Can with me but even though it wasn't yet 9:00pm, we were told it was standing room only for the show (and I'm just not willing to pay a $10 cover for standing room and $8 cocktails, no matter how much I enjoy Ultra and the Can Can's Bella Rouge). Instead, we made our way up to the Comet Tavern on Capital Hill because I'd heard that Speaker Speaker had a show. Unfortunately for me, when we got there we were told that Speaker Speaker's set didn't even start until 12:30am and it didn't take much time for me to do the calculations and realized there was no way I could stay for that (starting with I wouldn't be able to catch a bus back home and had no idea where the nearest available Flexcar might be) and get up and be down at the convention center and ready to go when the hall opened at 9:00am tomorrow. Instead I pouted and sulked and tried to will the circumstances to change before finally giving in and walking back downtown, exactly where we started, to catch the bus home.

Too completely exhausted to write more tonight. Maybe tomorrow…


Oh crap

Yesterday I was vaguely dizzy all say. I get that sometimes with sinus pressure or other things affecting my inner ear. It's not falling down, room spinning dizzy, just a sense of being slightly off-kilter. I hate the sensation but it's not debilitating.

This morning I awoke both with the dizziness AND with one of my headaches, though, and that's much worse. Because of course I'm up against the wall and intensely busy. The ALA Midwinter meeting begins tonight and I have to go down to the convention center where I will, by myself, be setting up Green Ronin's booth, hauling boxes of product and all the manual physical labor that goes into getting ready for a show. Then, I don't even get to hang around and enjoy the opening ceremonies and reception because I have to spend several hours in the car driving Kate to her dad's for the weekend.

I need to take something for this headache but I also need to eat something first and I can't even face getting up to eat something. I have no idea how I'm going to face getting down to the convention center and all that awaits me there.

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Jonathan Coulton

I wrote about seeing Jonathan Coulton perform at the Pre-Bumbershoot literacy fundraiser back in September. The whole event was enjoyable and right up my alley and I've been accumulating projects from most of the night's participants (I bought The Decemberists album The Crane Wife based on hearing Colin Meloy do "O Valencia!" that night) and so on.

I recently picked up the audiobook of John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise, presented (I won't say read) by Hodgman himself, with Coulton in accompaniment. That, plus Stan!'s recent mention of Coulton at CES sent me off on an insomnia-fueled Jonathan Coulton-themed YouTube extravaganza. Months ago I was convinced I was the last person in the world to have seen the WoW machinima video for Code Monkey (and if I'm wrong and you are the last person in the world and still haven't seen it, go watch it!) and I've definitely got a soft spot for the Re: your brains song I saw him perform. I saw lots of less interesting fan-made videos for his songs and video clips from a performance in Santa Monica last fall which got me thinking, I should see if Coulton (normally HQ'd out in Brooklyn, NY) might be performing in Seattle at all.

Success! Coulton is playing Seattle at the Tractor Tavern on February 24th

Of course, I will be in micky fricky NEW YORK at New York Comic Con that day...

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So after getting an Xbox 360 for Christmas and playing with it for about a week, it had a hardware failure of some sort and we can no longer play any games or DVDs on it. Joking about my anti-technology aura aside, I know that some percentage of any product of any sort will be defective. Book bindings, tires, computers, flashlights, dishwashers...whatever can be made has a chance of being flawed. It's the nature of the world. Sometimes we can work around it ("You just have to jiggle the key a little, like this...") and sometimes we can't ("Hey, why is my computer on fire?").

I've been pretty patient about it, I think. I researched errors and possible fixes myself online. I searched the official Microsoft Knowledge Base. When I finally called tech support and talked to the young dude who was helping me, I walked through all the steps without complaint, understood that they would send a box and I would return the console for repair or replacement. It's covered under warranty, it's only two weeks old!

After waiting over a week, I did finally get a box in the mail. I followed the instructions: remove everything from the console, all cords, all media, the hard drive itself, etc. Check. Put the console in the included plastic bag. Check. Put the bagged console in the box. Check. Include the paper with your name, serial number, and repair request number. Check. Seal the box. Check. Apply enclosed label, checkity do! Step 8 is the final step. It is printed in bold letters: Call UPS at 1-800-742-5877 to arrange pick up. Indicate that any pick up service fees (if applicable) should be billed back to the original shipper.

So. I call UPS and (I know you're all surprised here) they will not pick up the box unless I pay $10 and "fuel surcharges". Ah, I say, but it says here on the instructions that I am explicitly following that charges should be billed back to the original shipper. Too bad, so sad, says the UPS employee. They don't know who to bill those fees to! They couldn't possibly tell whose account should be used based on, oh, you know, things like who paid for return service tag that is being used in the first place.

Now, this is just a mild inconvenience, really. I mean, there's a brand new, shiny UPS Store walking distance from my house. I can easily drop this there, save myself the $10+ and get it on its way to Repair Center, 5700 S. Int'l Pkwy, McAllen, TX 78503. But seriously, if you're going to include explicit bold face instructions, shouldn't they actually be...I dunno...CORRECT?

Because I found the whole thing so irritating, I called the Microsoft tech support people to register my complaint. This time I was not so lucky as I got a guy with an almost indecipherable Indian accent who put me on hold three times. Because of what I can only assume were language difficulties I didn't get very far in explaining to him that what I wanted was to make them aware that the explicit bold face instructions that came with the box that Microsoft (or their subcontractor) was sending out were WRONG and COULD NOT BE FOLLOWED, because UPS would not bill pick up fees to the original shipper. I suggested that perhaps someone, somewhere, could pass along this feedback to whoever was responsible for the whole fixing defective Xboxes issue and avoid a whole lot of additional, unnecessary frustrations all around. In order to find out if he could do this, he had to put me on hold again. When he came back, he said, "Thank you for so patiently waiting..." and hung up on me.



Reconfiguring Nikchick's Recipe Pages

I've given Nikchick.com a new 2007 makeover, with a new color scheme, a new look and feel, more links and widgets, and a more prominent placement of my recipe pages. In the coming weeks, I'm going to be reconfiguring the recipe pages themselves.

As loyal readers know, I am a big fan of Cooking Light Magazine and I frequently use their recipes with fabulous results. My recipes pages are replete with recipes from this issue or that issue that I have personally tried and consider to be worthy of recommending. As a publisher myself, though, I've had a growing uneasy feeling about the copyright issues surrounding the inclusion of others' published recipes. I have seen it argued on recipes and copyright that you cannot copyright a list of ingredients or basic directions ("Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes") on the basis that a recipe is a scientific formula and the U.S. Copyright Office backs this up. This is the same rule that in game design circles is expressed as "You can't copyright game mechanics, just the expression of those mechanics."

In the past, I've always included the instructions for a recipe verbatim as the instructions are crucial in getting the result you expect from any recipe. However if there is a place where copyright could be claimed, the instructions would certainly be the likely place. As someone who has seen my own company's copyrighted products shared freely around the internet, I would prefer to keep my conscience clear on the issue of my collected recipes.

Going forward I will be presenting new recipes in a review format. I already credit the publisher of any recipe that comes from anywhere other than my family recipe box and my recipe page index already catalogs when I tried the recipes. I only include recipes that I've actually made myself, not just things that sound yummy. Going forward the recipes will include my own experience creating the dish and the instructions will contain commentary in my own words. I considered giving recipe star ratings or grades but I'd rather keep to a pass or fail system: either the recipe was good enough to keep (in which case it gets a recommendation) or it wasn't (in which case, I'm not going to waste everyone's time bothering to document the effort unless it's spectacularly tragic and can be shared for its humor value).

In that vein, I bring you my most current recipe page updates:
Beef with Spicy Cocoa Gravy
Peppered Pork and Pears
Pumpkin Waffles



Another Snow Day

Schools closed and roads slick and dangerous again today. That's okay... not like I have anything to do, like get ready for the ALA Midwinter Conference on Friday or anything.





Two nights in a row I've woken up early in the morning from nightmares involving Chris. In Sunday morning's nightmare involved Chris, a disgusting Larry-the-Cable-Guy-esque tow truck driver, a giant house that had been turned into a museum, and themes of anger and betrayal, secrets I couldn't uncover and I awoke still echoing with fury. Unpleasant.

This morning's nightmare was even more deeply horrifying. Pramas had a new job where they were completely into "Tie Theory" (the theory, he cheerfully explained to me, that men who wear ties to their jobs work harder and achieve better results). He was getting ready for work, wearing a really ugly yellow button-down shirt and trying to choose between two yellow ties with garish orange accents. I couldn't believe he was not only willingly wearing ties to work but willingly wearing these godawful ties. I gently tried to coerce him away from the yellow ties, "Don't you have any other ties? Yellow on yellow lacks contrast, maybe there's something else we can try?" That's when I noticed he was holding a large handful of ties, many of them those knit ties that were popular in the 80s. I'd never seen any of these ties before (and they were all horrible!) and I'm sure Pramas has never owned this many ties in his entire life. It was then that he looked at me with an unnatural grin and terrible, dead eyes and told me he couldn't wear any ties that hadn't been approved in advance by the management. In my dream I began to sob uncontrollably and awoke gripped in fear.

Stupid, I know, a nightmare about ties... but it scared the crap out of me and I've been up ever since.



Look at the perfect crust!

Look at the perfect crust!
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We spent the afternoon over at Tim's as he went step-by-step through his new (and nearly perfected) process for making deep dish pizzas. In addition to the pizza, he also plied us with homemade cheesecake and a few Xbox Arcade games on his 360. (Our 360 will be going in for repairs whenever Microsoft gets around to sending the box for us to ship it in...someday.) Heck of a way to blow an afternoon and we rolled home, full and happy, stacked with left-overs.

I'd intended to do some more blogging when I got back but after walking in the cold for just a little while I find that I'm tired and achy and I just want to crawl under the covers with some mint tea and read or watch something on TiVo.



Friday on the Town

Yesterday Kate and I went downtown to meet Pramas for dinner. We'd made reservations at Assaggio in honor of Rodney coming to town but the remnants of our most recent icy storm put a kink in those plans as Rodney decided he'd rather make the drive on still-icy roads to his aunt and uncle's house in the daylight hours and had to beg off dinner. Still, since we had made the reservations we decided to give the place a shot anyway.

I have to admit that my food photography is suffering lately. I find that when we go out to eat in dimly lit restaurants, my photos take a lot more fiddling and I'm very aware that I'm preventing my companions from digging into their grub while I screw around with the camera, so I try to rush and end up taking poor shots. Part of it is that my camera only has a smallish view screen by which I can line up and focus the shot, and in too-dim lighting I can't see anything but vague, shady blobs. Point and pray isn't a very effective technique. I also can't use my cool super-close-up setting (through which I've gotten some great shots in the past) because those shots turn out poorly in dim light, if they turn out at all. Assaggio was precisely this sort of restaurant, so I only got a few shots and none of them made me entirely happy. This is probably the best of the bunch:

We had two good salads, though I think Pramas got the better of them (shaved fennel, green apple, Parmesan and truffle salt), and shared the beef carpaccio. He chose the special (rack of lamb) and I chose sea scallops and ravioli in saffron-cream. Excellent! Kate had a half-order of Tagliatelle with Bolognese but didn't enjoy the meatiness of the sauce. Outside of bread and plain side salad, this place was not particularly adaptable to Kate's tastes. Chris finished off Kate's pasta so he skipped dessert but I had a hazelnut gelato and biscotti with a double espresso. Sadly, although the service was friendly it was also slow and I spent too much time sitting with empty plates in front of me waiting for the next course. I got my espresso way before the rest of my dessert arrived and it was only lukewarm. I made the mistake of waiting for the biscotti to show up, by which time the espresso was cold. Disappointing.

After dinner Chris and Kate headed home, while I walked over to the EMP to join Ray, Christine, Carol, and some of Christine's co-workers for the 2007 Elvis Invitational. I think that may have been the coldest walk I've ever taken in Seattle. It was brisk out there last night. The Elvis-tational was fun for a while. I snapped some shots of some of the Elvises I found walking around, and a few of the amateur performances. Unfortunately some of these guys were REALLY BAD. You can just imagine their pals at karaoke night encouraging them to do it, how they'd "be great" on stage. They weren't. When we left a three-some made up of Alvin Chipmunk in an Elvis wig, a girl "chipette" and a guy dressed as Strong Bad. NO idea what that was about but I figured it was high time to get out of there and hit the new Heavenly Spies show at the Can Can.

The Spies were fun, good new additions to the group and some good new material. Undecided on whether I liked Double-Oh-Sassy's solo numbers, but Secret Agent Rhinestone continued to work it and rock the house. Ultra was sighted (and pulled on stage for a cameo). Toward the end it was mega crowded and the view from our unfortunate table in the bar was thoroughly blocked but it was otherwise a satisfying evening. Christine was setting out to give me a ride home when Ray noted we were practically on the front doorstep of the Zig Zag and Murray was working, so we went in for one last cocktail, Murray's choice. Whew. Quite the evening.


Shawn Hornbeck found alive

Back in 2003 I posted about my friend's nephew, Shawn Hornbeck, who had been missing since October 2002. The Elizabeth Smart abduction case had been in the news and it served as a reminder that "missing" was just that, and "missing" could yet turn into "found" and "returned".

After more than four years, CNN is finally reporting that Shawn has been found. Not a lot of details, as this is breaking news as I type this but he's found. He's alive.

I fell out of touch with my friend after Shawn's disappearance. The family focused all their energies into getting the word out about him, conducting searches, and she stopped sending updates as time went on. I'm choked up at this news, excited for them, relieved for them, afraid for them.

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Olbermann with links

Judging from the lack of commentary on the Iraq/Iran situation from my ranting yesterday, I'm betting the last thing you guys want to see from me is more. Much as I would love to write about cooking or crafting or Kate's cute new obsession with Myth Busters, I'm afraid I must disappoint you. I can't think past the escalating world-wide catastrophe the United States is smack in the middle of and so, it's back to the state of our country and the insane liars who make up our "leadership". It has to stop, the people have to stop it. Olbermann did a good job of listing out the gigantic pile of lies and today I present that list, with links:

I read this list last night, before the President's speech, and it bears repetition, because its shape and texture are perceptible only in such a context.

Before Mr. Bush was elected, he said nation-building was wrong for America. Now he says it is vital.

He said he would never put U.S. troops under foreign control. Last night he promised to embed them, in Iraqi units.

He told us about WMD. Mobile labs. Secret sources. Aluminum tubes. Yellow-cake.

He has told us the war is necessary because Saddam was a material threat. Because of 9/11. Because of Osama Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda. Terrorism in general. To liberate Iraq. To spread freedom. To spread Democracy. To prevent terrorism by gas price increases. Because this was a guy who tried to kill his Dad.

Because 439 words in to the speech last night, he trotted out 9/11 again.

In advocating and prosecuting this war he passed on a chance to get Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. To get Muqtada Al-Sadr. To get Bin Laden.

He sent in fewer troops than the Generals told him to.

He ordered the Iraqi army disbanded and the Iraqi government "De-Baathified."

He short-changed Iraqi training. He neglected to plan for widespread looting. He did not anticipate sectarian violence.

He sent in troops without life-saving equipment. Gave jobs to foreign contractors, and not Iraqis. He staffed U.S. positions there, based on partisanship, not professionalism.

He and his government told us "America had prevailed", "Mission Accomplished", the resistance was in its "last throes".

He has insisted more troops were not necessary. He has now insisted more troops are necessary.

He has insisted it's up to the generals, and then removed some of the generals who said more troops would not be necessary.

He has trumpeted the turning points: The fall of Baghdad; the death of Uday and Qusay; the capture of Saddam; A provisional government; a charter; a constitution; the trial of Saddam; elections; purple fingers; another government; the death of Saddam.

He has assured us: we would be greeted as liberators with flowers; as they stood up, we would stand down. We would stay the course; we were never about "stay the course." We would never have to go door-to-door in Baghdad. And last night, that to gain Iraqis' trust, we would go door-to-door in Baghdad.

He told us the enemy was Al-Qaeda, foreign fighters, terrorists, Baathists, and now Iran and Syria.

The war would pay for itself. It would cost 1.7 billion dollars. 100 billion. 400 billion. Half a trillion. Last night's speech alone cost another six billion.

And after all of that, now it is his credibility versus that of generals, diplomats, allies, Democrats, Republicans, the Iraq Study Group, past presidents, voters last November, and the majority of the American people.

Oh, and one more to add, tonight: Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.


Rant Twofer

I was in the car last night listening to the radio and so I heard President Bush's speech about his current plan for Iraq, including the troop "surge". I noted a couple of quotes in particular. First, Bush said:

"In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."

I read this as an attempt to address the problem of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army whose wishes even Prime Minister Maliki has deferred to. Muqtada al-Sadr is king of "sectarian interference". His group also controls 30 seats in the Iraqi parliament. I'm really baffled about how American forces can deal with that...

Bush also said:

"Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

At first I thought I was over-reacting in thinking that this sounded like the same sort of fighting words that preceded our war on Afghanistan but then I read this:

American forces just stormed the Iranian Consulate in Irbil, Iraq, confiscated papers and equipment, and arrested five people. I'm deeply concerned about the ramifications of these actions.

Closer to home, the Federal Way school board has decided to restrict showings of An Inconvenient Truth because a family has complained.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

What is wrong with people?! You want to debate the accuracy or validity of the scientific evidence put forward in the film, go ahead! Let's have it out in open, honest debate. Perfect! Enforcing public ignorance based on your personal religious views? Hell no.

Check what The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (referenced in the news article) has to say. How about the American Meteorological Society, or the American Geophysical Union, or the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or Th National Academy of Science? Any of them have "opposing views"? If not, if the scientific consensus is that global warming (or "climate change" as it's being couched these days) is here and is a problem, why does education on this subject have to screech to a halt based on this:
"From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of 'bad America, bad America,' I don't think it should be shown at all," Gayle Hardison said.

I ask again, what is wrong with people?!

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Sleet, slush, rain, snow, and hail

Snow on fence tips
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
I think that covers the weather tonight. Weather.com officially gave up and decided to call our weather conditions "wintery mix".

Went downtown for dinner just as the snow that was threatened all day started to fall. I'd given up on it, thought that in the post-November snow storm and post-wind storm atmosphere the weather forecasters were being overly cautious, but no, sure enough when we decided it was safe to venture out down came the "wintery mix" all over everything.

Downtown things were cold and slushy but not snowy. Returning home to the hill, thick snowy puffs covered everything that could hold snow. Beyond that, though, was the brightness! The cloud cover seemed lit up with reflected light, the whiteness of the ground, the trees, the rooftops and every other remotely horizontal surface brightened the night until I felt as if I was walking home in the early evening instead of many hours after sunset.

Tonight's snow is a wonderful, magical snow. Teenagers and children of permissive parents like me were out playing in it as I made my way home. Snowballs were thrown, kids wrestled and tumbled around in it, late night snow forts and snow people are being created.

The bus that picked me up tonight had chains on its tires and warned riders repeatedly that Beacon Avenue was "blocked" so they were only going as far as Othello. Luckily, that was good enough for me. Kate is outdoors at this very moment, the only kid on the block up this late I suppose, outside claiming every inch of untrodden snow as her own.

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Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Before a recent excursion to the grocery store, I asked Chris what he might like. Perhaps because he didn't get any of his mom's home cooking over Christmas this year, he asked if I'd be up for making some pasticcio. I haven't made pasticcio since our Easter at Chez Pominger, where we had to fashion a collar out of foil and cardboard just to hold the bechamel on... but sure, I said, I'd give it a shot but for game night, when we'd have six adults to tackle the thing. I brought home the ingredients.

Tonight is usually game night but it's also the CES in Vegas (which means Ray was out) and, as it turns out, both Jess and Tim were in work-hell with trips and deadlines and needing to work late and whatnot. No gamers coming to the house tonight, but pasticcio was made for my baby anyway.

The Greek Meat/Tomato Sauce came together just great, in a little under an hour from prep to finish. I really should just make up a bunch of this to have in the freezer but we so rarely eat pasta (Chris has retained a bit of an aversion after too many pasta dinners as a poor, college vegetarian) I don't think of it.

The rest of the pasticcio came together just fine, though I didn't have a regular baking pan big enough and had to pull out the giant cake pan I bought for making Ray's Roulette Cake and still had to make a foil collar for the pan just to be sure I didn't lose the bechamel layer. Chris got his happy look after one bite so I know it came out right, even though I couldn't find exactly the right pasta (had to substitute perciatelli... you can see from the close-up photo, they're tubular pasta, long like spaghetti with a small hole... the recipe calls for slightly thicker pasta with a bigger hole but very similar).

I've decided this dish can only be made once in any calendar year, though, unless I send it in to Cooking Light and they decide to tackle the challenge of lightening up this recipe. It uses a dozen eggs, three cups of whole milk, a stick of butter, a pound and a half of beef, and a pound of cheese. Holy Greek Heart Attack in a Pan, Batman!

Now I've opened the bottle of Washington state Sangiovese I was going to share with the fellas tonight and I'm going to make myself comfortable reading Ars Magica 5th Edition, because to everyone's complete shock, I think I want to run a game and ArM 5 is shaping up to be my first choice.



Lecture Night

Tonight was Seattle Arts and Lecture night. Met up with the Three Js for an evening with Edwidge Danticat. Jim and John had read The Dew Breaker but Jenny and I hadn't. In fact, I'd gotten around to reading exactly nothing from Danticat before the lecture. I attended the pre-lecture which I thought had potential but the lecturer went on and on about Haitian diaspora and those drowned in the middle passage and fragmentation and said "in a sense" entirely too often. Like, two or three times in a sentence there at the end. She also went on fifteen minutes longer than scheduled. I was paying attention to the ushers and other technical people who kept lingering around the sides of the auditorium and gesturing that she needed to wrap it up. Finally, as she stood waiting for anyone else to step up to fill the uncomfortable silence with a question, any question, I just got sick of it and started clapping. Immediately the ushers joined in and it didn't take long for the sparse crowd to do likewise as we all jumped up and exited.

Danticat was not a confident speaker and so, I suspect at her request, the evening was structured as a conversation with the moderator. The moderator did a fair job but some of the questions she chose to ask (and some of Danticat's rather rambling answers) were nearly as interesting as they should have been. I told the Js that Danticat is probably someone I would much rather read than listen to, as I have no doubt her polished prose would be much more to my liking than her speaking style. She did perk up most at the end of the Q&A when people were asking her about her favorite Haitian proverbs (something she'd alluded to earlier) and otherwise engaging with the audience. When asked what she thought of Paul Farmer's work, she highly recommended Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Dr. Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti, which reminded me that I'd started Mountains Beyond Mountains in audiobook but hadn't finished it (due to technical issues, not from lack of interest). Danticat also read an excerpt from her most recent manuscript, a non-fiction book about her uncle's flight for his life, subsequent detention, and eventual death while in American custody after requesting "temporary asylum" so he wouldn't get in trouble if he overstayed his 30 day visa. It sounds like a truly harrowing story.

After the lecture we adjourned to Ohana for spam musubi and one of everything else on the happy hour menu. I was delighted to have my opinions of both Boomtown (good!) and The Big Hit (love that movie!) and Medical Investigation (I don't care if it did star Neal McDonough, this show blew) backed up by Jim, and pleased to hear yet another glowing recommendation for Children of Men, which has rocketed to the top of my "must see the next time we have a Kate-free movie night" list.


Pancake Breakfast

Pancake Breakfast
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Jess, Chris and I have had a date to attend the Swedish Cultural Center's pancake breakfast for over a month. They do this on first Sunday of every month. Having grown up in Minnesota, I'm the default resident expert on things Scandinavian, though my default answer when asked something too specific is usually, "I don't know, man, I'm Finnish. That's a Swede thing."

We had Swedish pancakes with lingon berries and whipped cream, a ham slice, orange juice, and (eventually) coffee. In Minnesota we probably would have left a couple of thermal carafes of coffee on each table and called it good, coming by to replenish the carafes as needed. At this breakfast, they had coffee attendants roaming between tables with a pot in each hand. Elderly,sight-challenged, hard of hearing attendants... I raised my hand, waved my empty coffee cup, called out "Coffee here, please!" to a succession of pot-carrying Scandinavians wearing little aprons to no avail. They would get as close at the tables on either side of us, but seemed blind to our needs. Eventually an older guy in a great Norwegian wool sweater sat down at our table with us and even his waving and hooting couldn't attract their attention. It was wacky.

It was a pretty straight-forward affair. Jess picked us up at 9:00 and we were finished and back home before 10:30 (and that's with a short stop at Jess' condo).



Ok, this is ridiculous

While listening to The World in the car yesterday I heard a report about the FDA approving an obesity drug for dogs. Nothing like hearing this news that fat Americans are passing on the fatness to their innocent pets delivered over the radio in a tight, British accent. "This is a welcome addition to animal therapies, because dog obesity appears to be increasing," says some veterinarian.

Dog obesity is increasing? You mean people are feeding our pets too much, exercising them too little and generally treating them in the same irresponsible manner as we've been treating ourselves and our children? So glad we've got an agency of the federal government dedicating resources to making sure our doggies can have weight loss drugs. That totally sounds like a good expenditure of resources. I mean, without drugs Fido might have to resort to doggie liposuction!

Of course, this is why Pfizer is the largest and among the most profitable drug companies in the world. (Pfizer makes such common household names as Lipitor, Listerine, Ludens, Neosporin, Sudafed, Viagra, and Zoloft and many, many more. I guess they're running out of drugs to make for people.) I hope Slentrol is better for Fido than Vioxx worked for humans!


New Look

I was getting pretty sick of the old look of Discolor Online, so I spent the afternoon playing around with some new looks and options. You can now get Discolor Online through an RSS feed, there's a list of recent comments, the Recipe Pages have a more prominent link, and some new widgets from MyBlogLog show who's visited recently and what links are popular today.

I hope you all like the changes as much as I do. Please don't hesitate to let me know if you find something broken!


Anti-Technology Aura Continues


The Xbox 360 has decide it can't (or doesn't want to) read the CDs for most of our new games.

Insert game CD (say, Viva Pinata or Arcade). Spin, spin, spin. Options include "Open Tray" and "Close Tray". Sometimes we get a black screen. Kate's gotten a message that says "Unreadable" or something. Sometimes turning off the Xbox entirely and turning it back on with the CD inserted works to launch the game, sometimes it doesn't.

Why, technology?! Why can't you love me the way I love you?



I have friends with kids who run the gamut from mildly challenged to profoundly gifted. Providing for these children in their lives, often where school is concerned, is of utmost importance to these parents and usually that involves some sort of "accommodation" from teachers or others in life.

Of course, some people hear the word accommodation and get a little freaky. Accommodation? Is that like special favors? A head start, reduced expectations, a cheat somehow? You'd better have a really good reason to need me to accommodate your "special needs," seems to be the attitude.

On the other hand, I have also seen people expecting a LOT. That's the way people are. Just like there are people who are innately suspicious and resistant to any deviation from so-called normal, there are people who can take the smallest issue and turn it into a fight that reeks of entitlement and overkill.

Tonight while I was doing the dishes I got to thinking about what a horrendous struggle it was to get me to do the dishes when I was a kid. I have what I guess today would be called "sensory issues". I've toughened up over the years (I no longer gag and nearly vomit at the smell of a wet peanut butter, from a knife dropped in the dish water for example) and perhaps some of my senses have just dulled as I've aged. When I was a kid, though, I was extremely sensitive. The moms I know would have called me a "sock seam kid"--the kid who is driven to distraction because he can feel the seam at the end of his sock if it's not lined up precisely or who screams and cries over a small thing like a shirt tag (which he swears is sewn in with fishing line and feels like it's "stabbing" him). For me, the feel of the dirty dish water, with gathering grease and all the smells of wet food and little particles floating around... well it made the already kind of unpleasant chore of washing the dishes utterly unbearable. (Even now, describing it here in writing sends a shudder of revulsion up my spine.)

As an adult in my own home, especially as someone who likes to cook, I had to get over this issue. As I contentedly washed the dishes tonight, I realized that I haven't so much gotten over my sensitivities (though I have learned to choke back a lot more things as an adult than I could as a kid). I've made accommodations for myself: I buy strongly scented dish detergent and use a lot of it (lavender is my current favorite) and I wear rubber gloves.

That's it. Two small, easily accomplished, relatively insignificant accommodations. I know my limits and triggers and I work around them. Dyslexics learn to use spell-checkers, ADHD kids use fidget toys, I buy seamless socks, tagless shirts, and wash the dishes with rubber gloves on. Sometimes little things can make a life-changing difference. Not everyone who asks for their quirks and differences to be accommodated expects those accommodations to be huge, expensive, inconvenient intrusions and I'm a little sad to know that so many people believe otherwise.



Too Goode to Pass Up

Just a little follow-up on my rant about Virgil Goode, via DailyKos.

But get this: Ellison's going to take the oath -- in his private ceremony, mind you -- on a Koran donated to the Library of Congress by someone from Goode's own district.

The gift comes from a deceased resident of Albemarle County, VA, represented in Congress today by Goode.

Who donated this Koran to the Library of Congress? You really should click through to the blog post for the punchline. Totally figures it'd be that guy, what does he know about American values?


History of Lion Rampant

Shannon Appelcline has posted the latest in his history of hobby game companies, this time with the focus on a company near and dear to my heart, Lion Rampant.

I contributed a couple of anecdotes and read through an early draft of the article and I have to say he's done a great job. The article matches my own recollections of the Lion Rampant years and strikes a fair tone. If you're curious what I was up to in the late 80s and early 90s, check out A Brief History of Game #10.

He's currently working on articles about White Wolf and Atlas Games which I look forward to as well. That's my early trajectory through the game industry in a nutshell.

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I was a total slug today. I put a load of laundry in and put away the silverware out of the dishwasher. That's it for productive behavior. I was loathe to fully engage with this last day of vacation. The day dawned dark, cold, and rainy. I did not stay up late last night, did not drink or eat to excess, so I wasn't suffering from any hangover sluggishness. I just didn't want to do anything, go anywhere, think about what awaits me when I return to work tomorrow (or in the coming months). I didn't want to make conversation, so even though I'd meant to call my dad and step-mom at some point during the break I didn't actually do it.

I got up before anyone else and played Viva Piñata for a while. I've reached the point I often hit in these resource-managing, world-building games: I just want to do my thing and I don't want to worry about fighting the evil characters or random events or budgets or space issues. I want a bigger space so I can have a whole piñata empire and keep two of every animal that I like, not be told that my ants are having trouble "romancing" or that I can't have frogs and newts in my pond without them blowing each other up. I named one of my squirrel-things Ingrate because the squirrels kept weeping and I couldn't figure out why. I went for long stretches without triggering any new advances, I think because I don't want to give up the animals I've already cultivated. Sigh.

Chris made us a nice breakfast (his specialty) and I pulled out the champagne we didn't use last night for mimosas. We both like mimosas better than straight champagne anyway. After breakfast, Kate and I finished playing the Nancy Drew game she got for Christmas from my brother. It's an older one and was much more satisfying than the most recent release (which we finished too quickly).

Not sluggish enough, I spent the rest of the day watching TiVo. Chris is killing Nazis now while Kate and I are eating biscuits from a can because I'm so sluggish I don't even want to cook. A game of Blokus may yet be played, books may yet be read but it's a school night and we all have to get up and go back to life in the morning, so it won't be a late night.