Discolor Online

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


Thoughtful discourse is futile

A consumer group called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has contacted the FTC to try and get stricter rules put in place for advertising to children. Specifically, they're concerned about toys, books, and television spots placed in front of kids as young as pre-schoolers as part of a marketing push for the new Transformers movie, which is rated PG-13. A link to this was posted to an e-mail list I'm on and the resulting discussion has generated hundreds of messages.

A lot of the discussion around the group seems to be a largely bickering and judgment about who is right and who is wrong in the debate, which commenter is pro-censorship, anti-government, pro-nanny state, anti-free speech, anti-corporation, anti-child, or pro-regulation. I think it would be a lot more productive and instructive to start by acknowledging that people like those in the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood group exist. From there I'd hope we could have a discussion about ways to handle changing community standards and those motivated groups willing to push for legislation that could adversely impact what folks like myself want to do with our products.

Trying to apply some of what's been discussed more directly to the game industry, I would use my own company as an example. Green Ronin will be putting out a new roleplaying game line based on George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novel series next year. This novel series is definitely something I'd consider mature in nature. There are a lot of things going on in those books that even I, lax and permissive parent that I am, would object to my 11 year old being exposed to (the incest storyline in particular crosses my "inappropriate" line for her).

So. How does Green Ronin handle the license?

Certainly we're not planning any books for grade schoolers or Happy Meal toy promotions for our products but how about running demo games at the big cons? Even if our demo games stay far, far away from any incest storylines and focus on a much more narrow sliver of the world (the King is holding a festival, or has died without an heir or some other "safe" and relatively PG-rated theme), I think it's still a legitimate question to consider whether we should be "advertising" the IP to kids who we KNOW the full material would be inappropriate for. Do we limit the "clean" product of the demo game by saying it's for teens and up? Do we let anyone play the demo version, knowing that what you're presenting at the con was "safe" (just as the actual Transformers robot toy itself may be physically safe for toddlers) even if the larger product most definitely wouldn't be? Some would not give it a second thought but I've certainly thought about it.

There was a time when it was A-OK to have candy cigarettes or cartoon characters advertising cigarettes during prime time television. Cigarettes are still legal but exposure to them has been restricted because of evidence that they really were harmful and public opinion demanded that change. We're seeing the same thing with advertising sugary cereals and high-fat fast foods. As the public becomes concerned about childhood obesity, they're also changing what is considered acceptable in advertising those products to children. There's enough concern that McDonald's now goes out of its way to have its colorful clown mascot skateboarding, bicycling, and eating yogurt and fruit in the ads aimed at kids, instead of advertising those cheesy burgers and America's Favorite French fries as he did in my youth. Ronald McDonald now has his own website (Ronald.com) which actually says in the upper left corner of the screen, "Hey kids. This is advertising." Other industries are trying to get ahead of this stuff. In contrast, far too much of the so-called discussion that has spawned about it amongst game industry pundits seems to be focused on calling names and declaring their moral superiority and outrage at this would-be attack on their free speech.

There's certainly a lot of concern among the public about exposure to sex and violence, even lacking the dramatic proof of harm cigarettes and high-fat, processed foods are burdened with. I would rather be prudent and consider these issues in advance than defensively respond after the fact to the group or legislation they could spawn.

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Thought for the Day

"We just have to turn this corner," is all well and good unless you live in an Escher drawing.



The Money shot

The Money shot
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
These young men were in the group that was here in front of my house the other day. I got the money shot this time. Called the security company but was told they're not "on site" until 3:00pm. Lovely. The cops did roll up and roust them out of the park, eventually. Though the lady cop who did all the talking wasn't exactly putting the fear into them... just sternly told them to take this shit elsewhere, not next to people's houses. She also looked right at my place while she was reading them the riot act about the neighbors complaining, so if they're at all perceptive they know exactly who complained. Not that it was hard to guess, but man, thanks for giving them a pointer.

Seriously, these guys aren't hurting anyone and I'm not a big ol' meanie who wants to ruin everyone's summer fun. In fact, in general Seattle wants pot "crime" to be a pretty low priority and in general I'm perfectly happy with that attitude. But I don't want it on my front steps and I resent that little kids can't use the park because these big kids are in there smoking and drinking and being rowdy. Oh, and the peeing in my yard/throwing the empties in my bushes thing? Yeah, I don't much like that either.

I hope they do indeed take the cop's advice and "don't come back to this park, don't come back to this street" in the future... I posted a bunch of other shots of their activities just because I had them on the camera when I was uploading the other stuff. Nothing exciting but it's a set on Flickr anyway.

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Knock me over with a feather, Kate's passport has showed up!

Last week I called the agency because her status was still not showing up online. After waiting for over 30 minutes on hold, I got a confirmation that it had been received "June 19th" which was a full week after I turned over the documents. The woman on the phone told me flat out that I shouldn't expect to have it by Friday (when I thought she was going to her dad's... he's begged off of that and she's not going until the 3rd now but I didn't know that then) and gave me a locater number so I could go to the website to print out an official receipt on the assumption that Kate would have to travel before we got her documents back. Of course, when I went to the website armed with the locater number I found the option to look things up by locater number has been "temporarily disabled". As of yesterday her application was still not showing up on the website as even being received.

Needless to say, I was feeling very confident in the process.

Yesterday was exactly two weeks since we went to apply. Could it possibly be that because our case was weird (establishing her citizenship and all those additional documents) it got special attention off the bat? As I was told not to expect anything until the middle of July, I'm
quite thrilled.

Her passport is far fancier than mine (issued in 2000) and includes all sorts of electronic bits inside a thicker, sturdier cover. Even the individual pages are all full of patriotic slogans and illustrations of flags, eagles, Mount Rushmore, the statue of liberty and so on. The inside back cover includes an image, as if from space, of the moon, the earth and a satellite. Is this some sort of imperialist claim to the planet and space? All this hyper-nationalism is a normally the kind of stuff I find weird and not a little creepy but hey for now I'm just incredibly, blessedly relieved that Kate can come and go to Canada as she pleases now AND I don't have to worry about anyone questioning her citizenship or her right to be in the country/living with me/going to school anymore.

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Outside my damn house

Outside my damn house
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Yesterday, three cars full of young men rolled up in front of my house for an impromptu party, alternately swigging from bottles of liquor and divvying up a stash of marijuana right out in the open. Eight or ten of these guys put together four or five blunts and spent at least an hour and a half practically sitting on my doorstep whooping it up. (A week or so ago one of them actually came up and sat on my porch and had a long, loud phone call until I poked my head out and asked if he needed something.) I was really pretty surprised at the brazenness of it.

Neither the police nor New Holly's security people came by this time. Eventually, one by one, the cars departed. The last, loud group were yelling about $1.95 Happy Hour and when they came back several hours later to pick up the last car left behind, at least one of the guys was swaying on his feet.

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Rat City Rollergirls

Kate at the bout
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We took Kate to the Rat City Rollergirls' Big Gay Bout last night. Met up with the usual suspects, who all sprung for the VIP section whereas we wanted the child rate and so were seated up in the GA section. Towards the end of the event, Christine let us know that there were plenty of seats all around the rest of the gang in the VIP area and we joined them for the last bit.

During half-time and the course of the second half, Kate roamed around taking pictures (both with my digital camera and with a hand disposable that I just happened to have in my purse). She got some really good shots, like the one above and the one below. There are also some action shots of the Throttle Rockets vs. Denver's Mile High Club and Grave Danger vs. the Derby Liberation Front. I think DLF is hilarious and they're the undefeated champs again this year but Kate and I decided we HAD to cheer Grave Danger because we'd been so completely won over by Basket Casey when watching Blood on the Flat Track at SIFF. Grave Danger got their undead booties kicked by DLF but we had a fun time anyway.

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Yesterday was Free RPG Day.

We had originally wanted to participate in Free RPG Day by having our Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide included (an introductory product for our flagship game that we specifically had printed up to take advantage of opportunities like this -- we promoted it at the ALA Midwinter show, we had it on hand at New York Comic Con, we've been sending it out as a prize to stores and conventions, etc) but the rules for Free RPG Day were 1) no products that had been released previously and 2) no products that had a price associated with them.

Instead we looked at what we could do in the time allowed and decided that we'd offer a Bleeding Edge adventure instead. "You can have it in our warehouse by this date?" we asked the printer. Yes, they assured us they could do it.

Except they didn't. (In fact, as of this writing we STILL don't have the adventure and I'm not sure when it will arrive, not that it matters at this point.) We tried to see if the printer could do the mailing separately but they couldn't handle it. So, we had to adapt. Again. We decided to price the adventure at $2.95 (print OR PDF, either one) and offer it as a promotion that way. It's not quite as nice as being able to give them away for free as part of the event but I like to think it's still something pretty cool.

We also decided to celebrate Free RPG Day by offering the products we originally wanted to include as print offerings (the M&M Beginner's Guide and the Bleeding Edge adventure) plus our True20 rules (since True20 deserves a little Free RPG Day love, too) as free PDFs for the 24 hours of the event. Our online store has some functions that would allow this to go smoothly and we'd upgraded to a shiny big new dedicated server earlier this spring. After promoting Free RPG Day on our site for months we didn't want our fans to feel they'd been left empty handed.

We had no idea the crush of people willing to come out for FREE STUFF. Holy crap. In fact, we'd been worried because we only really publicized the changes to our Free RPG Day plans a day before it was all set to go live! When the product when live at midnight Pacific time, European fans, insomniacs, and dedicated night owls wasted no time in logging on and getting their downloads. By the time the bulk of working-stiff US fans were up and logging in, our spiffy new dedicated server was crashing under the load, taking out our websites and message boards as well. Our heroic webmaster worked all through what should have been a beautiful, sunny summer Saturday with his wife and babies just to keep the site limping along.

Today, in the aftermath of the whole thing, we seem to be at about 50/50 happy people and disappointed people. The happy people got in, got the freebies (sometimes after long waits but sometimes it all worked as it was supposed to) and liked what they saw once the product hit their hands. The disappointed people were frustrated that the site couldn't accommodate the demand, were angry that they had to register to use the webstore interface (an anti-credit-card-theft precaution that we instituted after a rash of stolen credit card numbers passed through our store last year and something we didn't dare disable for the freebie event), were critical of us for not "predicting" there would be problems (and our "inexcusable" lag time) and so on. Of course it's always a bummer when something that's supposed to be fun and cool and good turns into something that makes people angry instead but at this point I'm satisfied that we did all we could do.

July 21st is UK RPG Day, sponsored by the fine fellows at Esdevium Game Distributors. I'm giddy with delight that Esdevium were willing to be more flexible in their requirements and were happy to take our offering of Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guides and Bleeding Edge Adventures. I'm so pleased that Esdevium made it easy for us to participate and that once we shipped the product to them the whole thing was out of our hands. I'm glad that someone is trying to organize something like Free RPG Day and I don't mean to disparage the effort, because it is indeed quite an undertaking but it was also a huge lot of trouble and stress for us from beginning to end and I'm glad to be done with it for now.



Goodbye Orca at Columbia

Orca Mural 26
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Today was the last day students will be at Orca at Columbia. Our award-winning student gardens will make way for portable classrooms as our students are relocated to a new school and a different school program moves into Orca's building. I tried to capture the gardens, the murals, and the students celebrating the end of their year (and all the years Orca has been here).

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Perjury: Then and Now

In Republican Lamar Smith's opening statements during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he mouthed the following:

Both historical precedent and current practice support the conclusion that perjury is a high crime and misdemeanor. The Constitution applies that same phrase both to the president and to all civil officers of the United States. Several federal judges have been impeached and removed from office for perjury; that is why the president can be too. Also, bribery and perjury are equivalent means of interfering with the justice system. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines include bribery and perjury in the same guideline.

Some of the president's defenders would like to change the subject and talk about anybody else but the president, and about anything else except the allegations of lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office. Such efforts are an affront to all who value truth over tactics, substance over spin, principles over politics.

It's the letter of the law, folks. Lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office! Those are serious crimes that interfere with our whole system of justice. Clinton lied about a sexual affair, he lied about embarrassing and intensely personal issues but there's no excuse for lying under oath.

Of course, now that the Democratic majority is trying to get to the bottom of a bunch of scandals and cover-ups, trying to reconcile testimony from people whose so-called "misstatements" and convenient bouts of forgetfulness are seemingly at odds with other sworn testimony... well, now we're not talking about any "real wrongdoing" says Lamar. It's all just an unfair three-month-long witch hunt (as opposed to the years-long Whitewater waste of money and the oh-so-juicy Lewinski investigation?). Wouldn't want to look into any innocent "misstatements" that might uncover a pattern of outright lies that lead right back to the White House, that would make things awkward.

Not only am I appalled that anyone who participated in the Clinton impeachment can say with a straight face that investigating inconsistencies in testimony before congress is unnecessary, I'm offended that it's even possible to have such statements taken remotely seriously! I want MORE investigations! I want to root out all the corrupt, partisan, democracy-eroding sons of bitches. All of them. ALL of them! Dems, Repubs, Liebermans, I don't care. NO pardon for Scooter Libby! NO pass for Alberto Gonzales just because he claims he "can't recall"! Haul that asshole Rumsfeld back before Congress and investigate the charges that he knowingly LIED in his testimony about Abu Ghraib, as Major General Antonio M. Taguba and Seymour M. Hersh claim. Don't try crying to me about "abuse of office" or undermining the justice system if you're going to give this stuff a pass!

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NPR cracks me up

Listening to a show on NPR tonight I heard an interview with Roger Tullgren, the Swedish metal head who has received an official diagnosis of Heavy Metal Addiction and receives government benefits. Because of his disability, he now has a job where his boss allows him to play music at work and take time off to go to rock shows.

Before signing off, the interviewer asked Roger what his favorite heavy metal song was. "My favorite song?" he asked. "Yes, well, if you tell us what it is, we might be able to play it," said the interviewer. "Oh, it would have to be Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne. That's my life," he offers.

The interview ends, music begins to play...

Strains of...

JUMP by VAN HALEN, synthesizers blasting away.

Oh yeah. Those two songs are totally interchangeable.

I promptly laughed myself silly and began a coughing fit that didn't settle down for several minutes.




By request, my recipe pages have been updated with my mother-in-law's recipe for MOUSSAKA.

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Haven't done one of these in a while, so...

Your Score: Proteus

33% Extroversion, 13% Intuition, 100% Emotiveness, 33% Perceptiveness

Changing your shape to suit your situation, you are most like Proteus. More than anything else, you need to be wanted. You have a very strong work ethic, and are very adaptable, but are often unappreciated. You develop very strong personal loyalties, and will often maintain these personal relationships at a great expense to yourself. Convention and conformity are very important to you, and you find deviations from either to be very inappropriate. You tend not to burden those around you with your own problems.

Famous people like you: Mother Theresa, Jimmy Carter

Link: The Greek Mythology Personality Test written by Aleph_Nine on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test



My SIFF 2007 experience

We got a late start on the SIFF this year but I made an effort to get out there and catch a few movies in the last couple of weeks of the festival. Apparently, I also managed to miss all the GOOD movies. Of the award winners I only saw the Jury pick for Best Documentary (Out of Time, directed by Harald Friedl (Austria)).

My thoughts on my picks for this festival:

WHITE PALMS: Ultimately, while I was entertained by this film (and certainly didn't mind watching actual gymnasts strut their stuff for a while) it didn't have enough to stick with me for even two weeks afterward. I had to remind myself that I saw this film when I went to start this write-up. Not a good sign, really.

ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES: In retrospect, it was suitable as a g-rated film I could watch with Kate but that's about it. It wasn't quite a thrilling action-adventure, wasn't quite campy (despite some of the anachronisms and dated attitudes). I wouldn't recommend anyone go out of their way to catch it.

RETRIBUTION: Billed as "a supreme psycho-thriller" I think "thriller" is overstating by quite a lot. I found the plot muddled, the pacing terrible and the resolution worse, especially one of the final scenes that seemed to be tacked on as if they found some additional money in their effects budget. A disappointment even though it stars the excellent Kôji Yakusho.

TEKKONKINKREET: Anime. Aimed at adults this is no Miyazaki film. We took Kate with us to see this one (as we have fairly permissive standards and it was flagged as suitable for teens) and while not inappropriate it wasn't all that enjoyable for her. Like Princess Mononoke, the end gets all weird and dark and psychedelic. Enjoyable enough but I felt it was pretty inferior to the qulity of anime films offered at SIFF in years past (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle certainly).

IT DOESN'T HURT: I liked this film for the most part, even when the characters were acting in ways that the movie provided no context for. The actors were really good and engaging even when the screenplay let them down a bit. Being a Russian film it is infused with sadness and loss but it's about the most light-hearted sadness and loss infused Russian film I can recall seeing. Not exceptional but okay.

OUT OF TIME: The best of the matinees I caught this year, hands down. After last year's spate of downer (though excellent) documentaries I tried to confine myself to less dreary films. The story of four shops catering to "old school" clientèle and getting crushed. An old school butcher shop, a leather working shop, a high-end button shop, and a turn of the century drug store are all followed and eventually close (or continue to teeter on the very brink). The owner of the drug store in particular was quite engaging, roaming his empty store and exhorting non-existent customers to come buy the last of his ancient soap stock ("Can't get this anymore, this is the last bar!") in between stories of how he was a Russian prisoner of war. I was glad to see this won the Jury prize in its category.

STEALTH: Another film packed with excellent actors but a screenplay that holds them back. Written, directed by and starring Lionel Baier, this is a semi-autobiographical comedy about a young, gay Swiss man who becomes obsessed with his newly-discovered Polish ancestry. I chuckled at several points and found the main characters (the brother and sister) compelling but other times I was left wondering what kind of idiots made incomprehensible decisions and why. Close to being "pretty good" it ends up in retrospect as merely adequate.

YELLA: It turns out I would have much rather seen a story that was about Yella and Philipp roaming the countryside and working their business dealings than what the movie actually ended up being about. Interestingly, IMDB's description of the movie is "A woman's near-death experience causes her to relive another person's final moments in life," which is very different than how SIFF promoted it. Had I been thinking of the IMDB tag when I went to see it, I might have enjoyed it more. As it happened, I found the story veered to either confused or predictable with far too little time at any enjoyable in between places. Excellent cast, though.

BLOOD ON THE FLAT TRACK: THE RISE OF THE RAT CITY ROLLERGIRLS: We were on hand for the world premier of this one. Saw a few people we knew in the crowd as well (including the back of one Mr. Mona's head). This was probably my favorite film of the festival. It helped that we were there with the Rollergirls themselves in attendance (dressed to the nines, befitting their VIP status) and the theater occasionally erupted with cheers and applause from various fans and friends of the teams and factions. I laughed my ass off in several parts. Holy crap, Basket Casey stole the show! Loved it, just loved it. We were at the Bumberbout last year, which was included in the film, so that also heightened our enjoyment. Took Kate to this one (and she saw the mom of one of her school friends while we waited in line) and will be taking her to next weekend's Big Gay Bout as well. Unlike Miss Fortune and Hot Flash, Kate and I will not be the next mother-daughter derby pair as we both agree we're pussies who don't want to get hurt.

SCARAMOUCHE: Unlike Ali Baba, Scaramouche was unqualified awesome! Twists, turns, smartass scoundrels and sassy sirens, swashbuckling excitement and laughs, lots of laughs. Loved this archival presentation and was very happy that we got to see it. After two satisfying films in a row I was feeling a little better about the SIFF overall at this point, too.

LITTLE BOOK OF REVENGE: Our last film of SIFF 2007. With a title like this, I had to see it. A black comedy from Quebec, this one actually lived up to its press (There was actual comedy! Yay!) and we laughed a bunch. The character actors were all excellent and the pacing and screenplay seemed particularly good after slogging through some of our earlier choices. The director was on hand for a Q&A but we couldn't stay for it. A satisfying end to our festival experience, we gave this one a thumbs up.

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Herbfarm Write-Up

I'd planned to give Pramas the chance to write in more detail, but he has work to do and I'm not quite recovered from my latest bout with the plague and am still lazing about so I got to it first.

Friday I laid around in bed all day, sipping soup and tea and conserving my strength for the Herbfarm. I then dosed myself up with Dayquil and a couple of Aleve and we set out for the restaurant at about 4:45pm, anticipating traffic.

We arrived pretty promptly at just moments after 6:00pm and meandered around near the Willows Lodge for a few minutes until we were sure the wine cellar was open. When we stepped into the Herbfarm we were offered and enjoyed an iced herbal beverage made with fresh tea leaves, lemon balm and lemon verbena. We walked the grounds, got a history of the restaurant, toured the herb garden and sampled various herbs, flowers and leaves. (Daylilies and nasturtium leaves are really yummy!) We also toured their wine cellar ("most extensive collection of Oregon and Washington wines in the world") and the Chef's library.

At 7:00 everyone was seated for dinner. They gave us the best seat in the house, with a clear view into the open kitchen where we were able to watch them preparing our food all night. There was a little framed certificate on the table congratulating Chris on his 38th birthday. Diners simply show up and sit down and the Herbfarm staff serves you what's on the menu, no need to make choices about anything. I knew I'd done well by the expression on Chris's face when he took the first bite (and several other times throughout the evening). It's easily among the three best meals we've ever had together. After the first appetizer course they pulled a curtain across the kitchen and paused to introduce head chef Jerry Traunfeld (rumored to be leaving to start his own restaurant in the city sometime next year), owner Ron Zimmerman and sommelier Tysan Pierce who each spoke about the day's offerings and the Herbfarm philosophy. Then everyone on the staff was introduced and a bit of their resume or history was disclosed ("Xuan Che, who has a scholarship to go to China to study Szechuan cuisine..." or "Tysan Pierce who graduated Vassar at 19..."). Live guitar music was provided throughout the night by a man who studied at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid. That kind of thing. Quite the pedigrees on the Herbfarm staff.

The menu was called "June's Silver Spoon" and was nine courses. We sat down for dinner at 7:00pm and were the first to leave (because my drugs had worn off and I needed to get home) at 11:30pm. Here's the menu:

Appetizer ("From the Edge of the Sea"): Pacific spot prawn with remoulade (they fried the heads too, we were so happy, we love fried shrimp heads!), Puget Sound geoduck with sea bean and fennel pollen, Westcott Bay mussel with pickled lovage, paired with a 2001 Argyle Oregon Brut

Soufflé: Morel & Crab Soufflé with green garlic-lemon thyme sauce and a tempura fried morel mushroom, paired with a 2006 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Gris

Pasta: Carrot Ravioli with English peas, King Bolete mushrooms (aka porcini) and sage blossoms paired with a 2005 Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, Indian Wells. Chris loved this Riesling and it turns out it's very affordable to boot.

Fish: Gently Roasted Copper River Sockeye Salmon with sprouts, leaves and petals paired with a 2005 Soter Vineyards North Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

Meat: Anderson Ranch Oregon Lamb (free range, pasture-fed, prepared three ways): braised shank with emmer (aka farro) and baby turnips, herb-crusted loin with fava beans and golden beets, and olive-oil-poached tenderloin on spring onion relish (which is the tenderest, most succulent piece of lamb I've ever eaten!). Paired with a 2001 Andrew Will Sangiovese, Ciel du Cheval.

Cheese course: Quillisascut Goat Cheese cake with lavender cherries

Palate cleanser: Fragrant Rose Ice (served in a martini glass with a rose gelee on the bottom, a ball of the rose ice and a candied rose petal)

Dessert: (A Salute to Strawberries): Strawberry-Rose Geranium ice cream cone, strawberry-chamomile parfait, strawberry-anise hyssop shortcake.

Coffee and Tea course (I chose their "Herbfarm Sniffle Tea" which claimed to relieve cold symptoms, as I was starting to feel a bit sick again by this time: a combination of peppermint, sage, rosemary, chamomile, catnip, hops, comfrey, and goldenseal. Our waiter said that was his favorite of all their teas when I ordered.)

Second Dessert: (A Selection of Small Treats) This nearly did me in. I almost couldn't finish this course. They were tiny little desserts but we were just SO full. We had a lavender almond cake, raspberry gel, lemon balm caramel, angelica white chocolate truffle, and a spiced dark chocolate truffle, paired with a vintage 1912 Barbeito Bual Madeira.

We were so FULL! I wasn't even hungry when I got up in the morning and went out to meet John and Jenny and retrieve Kate. We met them for brunch at Peso but we were still in a food coma from the night before! Chris was extremely happy with his present and I'd do it again in an instant, given the chance. Chris has already warned his dad that his mom will want to go on their next visit to the region.

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Herbfarm photos up

Ravioli plate, close up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Chris made a short post about our dinner at The Herbfarm for his birthday last night. I've uploaded all the photos but that's all I can get around to before running off to brunch with John & Jenny, retrieving Kate and hitting the showing of Scaramouche. Drugging myself to the gills last night allowed me to get through the dinner fairly intact but the amount of food just about did me in anyway. I nearly couldn't finish the "selection of small treats" at the end of the meal which would have been criminal. Possibly the best caramel I've ever had, among other things.

Enjoy the photos and we'll try to get a more detailed blow-by-blow written up soon!

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Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
This enterprising little squirrel figured a way into the bird feeder that hangs just outside my window. He somehow scaled the vinyl siding until he could grab onto the screen window, which he treated like a ladder and climbed up easily. Still, I didn't think he was going to make the final leap from the screen to the feeder but landed it, no problem.

I scared him out of the feeder a little while later but he perched himself on the fence with whatever he was able to carry away in his cheeks.

A couple of days before this Kate snapped a picture of a Northern Flicker hanging out in the bird feeder, too. Usually it's all just sparrows and the occasional chickadee out there, so this is what passes for excitement in the ol' back yard.



The Fatigue

I've had a couple of brushes with illness in recent weeks. The most striking thing about my illnesses hasn't been the symptoms of sickness (sore throat, headaches, cough or sniffles, what have you) but the crushing fatigue I've experienced. It's the fatigue that's knocking me on my ass. I don't remember fatigue being so present in my bouts with illness when I was younger. I'm not sure whether I'm just more run down in general (making it easier for me to dip beneath the fatigue line at the slightest thing), if this is something that goes with getting older, or if the fatigue is a symptom of whatever illness I'm fighting. What I do know is I'm sick of it!

Today was a complete waste. I pushed myself to walk as usual this morning but went back to bed almost immediately and tried to nap through the phone ringing several times. Today was grand central station on the phones for some reason. Then I slunk off to the back row of the SIFF theater at Pacific Place and watched three movies, tickets for which I'd bought a while ago and wasn't going to give up. Unfortunately, I'm too fatigued to write up my thoughts. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight I'm sticking to my plan of downing a couple of Tylenol PM and getting another night of good, hard, uninterrupted sleep in. Kate is at a special 5th grade class sleep over tonight so in theory I don't even have to wake up early tomorrow morning. Here's hoping I feel better and more like myself by Friday. Chris and I are booked to celebrate his birthday dinner at The Herbfarm (my first visit after ten years of being in Seattle) and I'm not going to let any lingering plague or irritating fatigue spoil that plan.

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Passport Away


I was told flat out that I should expect "expedited" service to take at least five weeks, not the two weeks listed on the government websites. I'm not surprised. I had to insist that the guy at the office actually send the various notarized lists, forms, and statements that I painstakingly collected over the last couple of months. He started dismantling the packets of information I'd so carefully assembled: my citizenship documentation, my sworn list of addresses, corroborating documents for the sworn statements, certified copies of our parenting plan (which specifies that Kate is to travel to Canada to spend the summers with her dad), etc. I said, "I'm pretty sure they want that documentation; they asked for it on the website." Sheesh.

Now the waiting begins. I don't actually expect to see her passport in five weeks. As long as I get it in the next ten weeks sometime we should be okay. She can get INTO Canada, it's just getting her back that could, in theory, be a problem. Though with the easing of the passport requirements I'm hoping that having the receipt showing that we've applied and it's in process will be sufficient.

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Coolest Website of the Weekend

A cat's eye view of the world. Some wacky guy in Germany rigged up his pet cat with a digital camera and captured photos of his cat's daily travels. The photo above is just one example of the cat's photography.

Mr. Lee CatCam

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Operation Half-Birthday: Success

Cake close up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Because Kate's actual birthday fell during the Great Windpocalypse of '06, causing days of power outages across the city and so on, it's fair to say her birthday was kind of a bust. I promised her that we'd do a "make up" party and yesterday was the day.

We started by getting up early to try to go get passport stuff sorted, only to find me tearing the house apart looking for her passport and my certified copies of the divorce decree and parenting plan. To my immense frustration, I did something "smart" with my paperwork (putting it in some "safe" place I've still not uncovered) and while I eventually turned up the birth certificate, I'm just going to go buy a second certified set of copies at the courthouse tomorrow because I have NO idea where I "safely" put my others. I'm a dumbass.

Chris went off to play in his bi-weekly-ish Spirit of the Century game and Kate and I took the bus up to the SIFF Cinema where we watched Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. A little surreal to hear them talk about Baghdad and Basra (and how the people of Baghdad suffer under cruel invaders who need to be forced out) under the current conditions. Kate declared it was "better than that other one" (referring to our excursion to see Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast at the SIFF theater back in March).

On the way to and from the theater we listened to the last bit of the audio book of The Amulet of Samarkand (which we'd been listening to in the car on the way to Vancouver until Kate was no longer allowed to travel). We finished it up and I must say it was a very enjoyable book. Reader Simon Jones absolutely MAKES the audio book. He's great. I've become a big fan of certain readers in the audio book circles and I'm adding Simon Jones to my list of favorites immediately. He reads the next two books in the series as well, so I'm definitely going to be listening to the whole trilogy.

We got home just in time to pick up the Flexcar and the cake and dash off to the Family Fun Center. Kate picked out a Pirates of the Caribbean cake. Funny that the character of Will Turner was such a non-entity to her that she kept referring to the figures on the cake as "Jack Sparrow and Orlando Bloom." I have an unbelievably large amount of cake left. I may ask Chris to bring it to Flying Lab to get it out of the house!

The kids had a great time at the Fun Center, playing laser tag, dousing each other on the bumper boats (once it stopped raining), riding virtual roller coasters and eventually conning some of the parents who attended into paying for tokens so they could win tickets for a large amount of cheap plastic crap at the prize counter. Multiple kids told me the party was "awesome" and thanked us repeatedly for inviting them on their way out the door. Kate thanked me profusely as well. I warned her that I don't intend to do another big party like this before she turns 16 and for now, she's satisfied.

Today we're SIFFing it again. This afternoon Chris and I catch "Japanese psycho-thriller" Retribution and tonight the whole family is going to go TEKKONKINKREET.

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Kung Fu Jackson

Tonight was the performance of Kung Fu Jackson by Orca school's resident playwright and Star Wars-loving teacher Donte Felder. Donte is currently teaching 5th graders (as is my daughter's main classroom teacher, the outstanding Katherine Law) and both he and Katherine will be moving up along with the fifth grade students when Orca adds its sixth grade curriculum next year.

Kung Fu Jackson was an ambitious undertaking for a grade school play. The kids learned mock fighting and real martial arts moves. There were several dance numbers that involved large groups of students. There were ten acts and an intermission. I was not sure what to expect from the kids but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were plenty of jokes for the parents (though at times I swear I was the only one laughing, I was laughing genuinely and out loud) and unabashed episodes of bathroom humor for the kids. The performers were hilarious, both during scripted humor and unscripted moments.

This year's Orca performances have thoroughly erased the psychological trauma of the infamous "Cranes over Hiroshima" holiday performance from Kate's Kindergarten year. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the us next year and am very glad Donte will be joining Ms. Katherine to team-teach the new sixth grade program.

I realized the other day that the SIFF has less than 10 days left and I hadn't seen a single movie so this afternoon I snuck out and caught my first, a sparsely attended matinee showing of While Palms, an introspective but enjoyable enough film about a Hungarian gymnast-turned-coach. The Seattle Weekly reviews it here and was absolutely correct about it. If nothing else (and truly, there's much more to the film, no worries) it was worth it just to see real-life athlete Zoltán Miklós Hadju strutting his stuff and flexing his impressive muscles time and again during the many scenes of competition and training. Tomorrow Kate and I are catching Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves at SIFF and then it's off to the Family Fun Center for her make-up birthday party (just in time for her half-birthday). She couldn't be more excited and a lot of very nice kids are joining us. This school year is shaping up to end very nicely. I'm so pleased.

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Pirate's Guide to Freeport

Wow! Just got the proofs in for this book and it's gorgeous! We've put out a lot of books over the years and I love each of our little book-children in their own special way but the Pirate's Guide to Freeport is the particular sweet, sexy, pirate-flavored goodness that makes me squee with delight.

Sexy! Awesomeness! I can't wait to get the actual book in my hands...

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June is too busy!

It's the last month of school for Katherine and the last month that Orca will be in their current location. They have to move out of the school by the end of the school year, which means there's a lot of activity surrounding the move taking place in addition to the usual end of the year activities. Additionally, the teachers and the PTA are really going out of their way to try and make the end of this school year a special one for all the students but for the departing 5th graders especially. In that vein we have the following social calendar:

June 8th School Play (fundraiser for next year's 6th grade trips)
June 13th 5th Grade Class Trip to Wild Waves and sleepover in the Columbia Tower
June 14th 5th Grade Breakfast after sleepover
June 18th 5th Grade Graduation
June 19th 5th Grade Luncheon
June 20th Orca Field Day
June 21st Orca End of Year Celebration

In among all the school activities, we have Kate's make-up birthday party on June 9th and Chris's birthday dinner (I'm taking him to the Herbfarm!) on the 15th, then a "thanks for watching Kate for us" brunch with our kindly Kate-sitters on June 16th. Holy crap, June's half over! I haven't even been to a single SIFF movie this year and it's not looking like there's going to be much chance for me to change that.

I've gotten the papers I needed from Kate's dad to finally make the passport application we've been needing to file since April, so we'll be doing that tomorrow. Yay!

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Fun at Game Night

No roleplaying this week but we did play Ticket to Ride and a couple of games of Walk the Plank. Kate even joined in. It's nice that she's old enough to play with the adults now. In fact, she's pretty capable and uses good strategy. She plays to win.

I heard her on the phone earlier in the evening. She was using my old headset to talk hands-free on the cordless phone with her friend Alex while they played games and roamed around Club Penguin together. She was pretty funny, trying to explain to her friend that she wasn't cheating, she was "using strategy to win."

Anyway, it was good food, good company and fun games. That's what game night should be like!

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Changing like the Weather

Man, last night it was hot in the house but I could smell rain moving in. I rarely get that feeling out here, so common in the midwest, where you can smell the rain, feel the pressure change as the storms move in. Had it last night, though, and sure enough around 8:00 rain came dumping down in big fat drops. Didn't last long but it seems like the clouds and cooler weather are going to hang around for a couple of days which makes me even more glad that I spent the sunny part of the weekend the way I did.

I made time to do a smidge of gardening while the weather was nice. I had been nursing along the tomatoes and basil that I bought at the Orca plant sale and finally transplanted those to proper containers. I'm not digging up the yard this year. Instead I'm confining myself to container gardening (herbs, tomatoes, a couple of peppers that I don't think will grow, a couple of wee little sunflower starts from the Orca kids...) and a whack of random wildflowers in the side yard and the sunny side of the garage. Nice and easy.

I've mostly kicked the plague I caught while the guys were in town for our designer summit but did have a strange and irritating headache develop two nights in a row. Pramas, too, complained of headache and he never gets them so that's a sure sign that something's up. He woke with a sore throat this morning but it seems unlikely that he's just now picking up the thing Rob, Steve, and I had a week ago. I hope it's not a new infiltration of sickness. We've had a pretty good run of being healthy around here and I'd like to go back to it.

Next weekend is Kate's make-up birthday party (her Cinerama and sleep-over party had to be canceled because of the Windpocalypse) which I just managed to schedule in time for her half-birthday. Can't believe she's halfway to 12! My mom threw a party at the local rollerskating rink for me when I turned 12. Kate gets to bring some yet-undetermined number of friends to the Family Fun Center for bumper boats, go carts, mini golf and assorted goofiness. She's invited a bunch of nice kids and if they all come I'll be in the poorhouse by the end of the month (as Pramas' birthday is the weekend following) but Kate doesn't ask for much and I'm all too aware that I only have a couple of these celebrations left to enjoy with her. All too soon she'll be through high school and off doing her own thing, so next weekend it's mini golf and bumper boats. Not sure how the other kids/parents will respond if she chooses Guinness cake as her birthday cake but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

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Busy Sunny Saturday

The weather in Seattle today was just gorgeous. In the low 80s, sunny and breezy.

This morning was the awards ceremony for the Seattle Reading Award for Highest Improvement in Reading. Katherine was one of 234 fifth graders from 58 schools across the school district to get the award. Considering Kate's struggles with reading we're very proud that she received this distinction. She received an autographed book, a personalized certificate and a handshake from former mayor Norm Rice. It was quite interesting to see how different families approached the award. Some kids were dressed to the nines in suit coats or sparkling gowns and matching heels. Some kids came wearing track suits and t-shirts. Some families arrived in large, proud, rowdy groups, other kids came with just one parent or grandparent. Norm Rice's address to the kids had the well-worn cadence of an oft-told tale and was particularly funny as he was trying to explain to the kids about his experience as a kid being quarantined after exposure to polio and how books became so important to him because those were the days "before television, before computers, before Pac-Man..." and, as the parents in the audience began to chuckle and the kids looked confused someone helped him out and he added, "...before iPods." The days before Pac-Man! It was just so adorably quaint.

After the awards ceremony we were feeling good and the weather was so delightful, we decided to walk from the awards location up to the Beacon Hill Festival at the Jefferson Community Center. We bought some hamburgers, watched some folksy entertainment, and Kate won some cheap trinkets by playing games like bean bag toss. We exhausted our tolerance for community fairs in less than an hour but undaunted, I suggested that we continue to spend the day outdoors, doing stuff.

After a brief stop at home to pack up a picnic dinner (cold fried chicken, watermelon, assorted vegetables and dip) we made our way up to Discovery Park. On our way we were pulled over by a procession of motorcycle cops on an official escort of some sort. Finally it was revealed to be a small funeral procession of some sort. "Maybe it was Norm Maleng," I suggested. Rounding the corner, once we were allowed to go on our way, we saw a sign at a local gas station had been changed to read "In Honor of Norm Maleng".

We had a lovely picnic dinner at Discovery Park and walked the trails, looked out over the Puget Sound and generally wore ourselves out. Home now to cocoon for the rest of the evening, maybe read, maybe catch up on TiVo. I may even flirt with danger and treat myself to some coffee and a piece of the strawberry rhubarb tart I baked yesterday.

This is what summer weekends should be like!

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Home is where?

The other day someone made a comment over at Ex-Teenage Rebel that got under my skin. Considering that it's not even my blog and I don't know the commenter, I've given a little thought to why the commenter's jokey little comment bothered me.

In response to Pramas talking about our search for a decent falafel and Garlic King's failure to hold a candle to his favorite falafel joint in New York, "Scooter" busted out with a couple of stereotypical pot shots about not being native to Seattle, (where we're lectured that it's "pop" not "soda" and "I-5" not "the I-5" and how it's all the out-of-towners clogging up the roads for native Seattleites, blah blah). Just kidding, of course.

Shit like that bothers me, obviously. I react badly to that kind of native son snobbery and it only took a little thought for me to hit the deeper reason why. More than the us vs. them dynamic it sets up, which is the kind of thing that would predictably rub me the wrong way, if I buy into that logic I then become a person with NO HOME.

I was born in Minnesota, sure. I lived in tiny, remote little Ely, Minnesota until I was almost eight years old. However, I moved away as a child. I didn't put in my "time" enough to claim that I'm from Ely or that Ely is my home. It's certainly home-ish and important to me for those years and all the others when I returned for a week or two here and there for visits with friends and relatives. But those who were born and raised and continue to live in Ely, I'm an outsider. Little better than a tourist, unrecognizable to the population.

From the time I left Ely until the time I settled in Northfield mid-high school, I had no "home." I wasn't from anywhere. I lived in one place for a year, then on to another. Until junior high school I'd never gone to school in the same system with the same kids three years in a row. My mom eventually settled in Canby, Oregon and I lived there for three straight tumultuous years, but it's not my home either. No matter how many people I remember from high school or how many visits back I made to visit my mom and brother, Canby was a blip.

I recently had to put together and swear to my list of residences from the time I was born until the birth of my daughter. Because Kate was born in Canada, I'm having to jump through an impressive series of hoops to prove that she's really entitled to US citizenship. Though my citizenship is not (nor should it be) in question and I have a passport myself, getting Kate a passport has been a frustrating series of hurdles, including having to do things like prove that I actually lived in the United States before she was born. Laying out all of those different places of residence (and the implied challenge to my "legitimacy" that has underscored this whole process) has only served to inflame this sore spot that "Scooter" so unintentionally exacerbated. I lived in Minnesota for the first ten years of my life. I lived in Oregon for the next almost five years, in three different places. Back to Minnesota, where I spent seven years (with a brief sojourn to Georgia in the middle). A marriage and four years spent in Vancouver, BC. A divorce and a new life in Seattle ever since. Where is home?

I've lived in Seattle for a decade now. That's the longest I've lived in any one place, ever. Even the time spent in Minnesota was broken up by frequent moves. My dad had three different places while I was in high school and I lived in five different places once I moved out on my own in Northfield alone. By contrast, I've lived in Seattle proper for ten years and I've been in the region (if you count living in Vancouver, where I could watch the Seattle television stations and make frequent trips to the city) for even longer. I own a house in the city and have lived in it for seven years! If I don't make the cut, if I'm not a legitimate and accepted resident who can call Seattle home, then I don't have a home and never will. That's a pretty crappy prospect. Unlike my friends who chaffed and longed to get away from their families and their roots and their home towns, I've always wanted a home and a history to attach to it. I didn't start with the advantage that (as Bill Hicks might put it) my parents fucked in one spot and never left, so HOME is where I've built my own life, where I invest my energy, contribute to the community, where I've started my business, gotten married, bought my house, raise my child, create my happy memories. HOME is Seattle, no matter how many native sons want to throw down over who was here first, or longer, or more "legitimately."

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