Discolor Online

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



I've been out of the loop for a while so I completely missed the release of this game from Wizards of the Coast. It's billed on the WotC site as "A D&D Supplement" which is completely bizarre as it has nothing to do with "supplementing" D&D. It's a GAME and a perfectly fun one at that.

Designed by Rob Heinsoo (who apparently wrote up some designer's notes that only D&D Insider subscribers are allowed to read, so I can't comment on those) the game just a tad fiddly to get started but after a couple of times around the table I "got it" just fine and even Kate was able to sit down at the table and play with us (and win!).

I'd write more about it but I'd be going from memory since our friend took his copy home with him last night and I wouldn't want to get anything horribly wrong in the remembering. Mat Smith's August edition of Previews has a bit on the game (scroll down to "October" to find it) and MerrickB does a little write-up over at Board Game Geek, so I'll just say that it was fun and I'd play it again.



Zipcodes I have known

About a month ago I saw a reference to a new website called Zipskinny that lets you pull up statistical data about the zip code in which you live, a zip code you're thinking about living in, or any other zip code you're curious about.

The first thing I did with this information it punch in the four zip codes in which I lived for enough time that I could still remember them without looking them up. I looked at what the statistics have to say about where I'm living now and compared it to where I lived before: Northfield, MN; Canby, OR; and Decatur, GA

Things have changed, of course, since I lived anywhere but Seattle. In fact, I'm pretty sure Decatur has gentrified a LOT compared to when I lived there. But it's interesting to me nonetheless. Check out the population breakdown.

ZIP 30030 98108 55057 97013
Population: 25,137 21,223 22,011 19,569
Density*: 3,641.2 2,890.8 160.2 356.6
Housing Units: 12,086 7,583 6,752 7,311
Land Area (sq. mi.): 6.9 7.3 137.4 54.9
Water Area (sq. mi.): 0.3 0.9 0.1

Turns out the population of these places is all about 20,000-25-000 people, but check out the areas those zip codes take up. I currently live with what amounts to the entire population of Northfield, Minnesota (which there is spread out over 137 square miles) but here in 98108 we take up only a little over SEVEN SQUARE MILES. There are as many houses in my Canby zip code as there are in 98108 but in Canby they have 7.5 times the space. Neat!

There are other interesting statistics, too. I won't cut and paste them all here, but a couple others really caught my attention. For example, the differences in unemployment and poverty statistics:
ZIP 30030 98108 55057 97013
Unemployed: 3.8% 4.7% 6.7% 3.1%
Below Pov. Line: 11.6% 14.9% 6.1% 7.0%

Northfield's unemployment numbers are surprisingly high unless you take into account that the city is home to two four-year colleges. I was not surprised to see that the percentage of people living below the poverty line is highest here in 98108 but was surprised at how low the unemployment numbers were in comparison. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is more than three times the percentage of unemployed (slightly worse than Decatur), whereas Canby's ratio of poor is more like 2x and Northfield is practically equal.

Racial make-up is another interesting thing about the places I've lived.

ZIP 30030 98108 55057 97013
Hispanic/Latino: 1.8% 12.2% 4.7% 12.0%
White*: 63.4% 23.0% 91.2% 84.7%
Black*: 30.7% 14.5% 0.7% 0.3%
Native American*: 1.0% 1.0%
Asian*: 2.2% 42.8% 1.9% 1.0%
HI/Pac. Isl.*: 1.4%
Other*: 0.3% 0.3% 0.1% 0.1%
Multi*: 1.4% 4.8% 1.1% 1.3%
* Does not include individuals in this racial group who identify as Hispanic/Latino.

Minnesota is BY FAR the whitest place I've ever lived, and I'm pretty sure that 4.7% Hispanic population was a lot smaller when I lived there. Before moving to Beacon Hill I'd also never lived in any area that had any measurable number of Pacific Islanders. Unsurprisingly, the Asian population here is huge and I had quite expected the black stats for the black population to be larger. I'm positive that the racial make-up of Decatur has changed since I lived there and it gentrified. Looking at the numbers for my neighborhood now I'm really comfortable with that diversity. Kate has never known anything different but going from the land of 90% white folks to where I'm living now was quite a significant change.

I've been doing some thinking about where I've been in the world and how that has affected the foundation of my beliefs. I don't have any grand conclusions to draw or anything but I thought I'd share the tool and maybe ramp up to some further discussion.



Spray-on Condoms?

Or, as Patton Oswalt would say, "Sometimes science is wrong and gives us shit we don't need."

While wolfing down the last of the leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving for my lunch today, I was browsing the SLOG and good ol' Dan Savage had this scientific "breakthrough" to share:

German Invents 'Spray-On' Condom
The system works a bit like a car wash. The man put his penis in a chamber and presses a button to start the jets of liquid latex, sucked from a detachable cartridge. The rubber dries in seconds and is later rolled off and discarded like a conventional condom.

The aim is for the process to take just 10 seconds but at present the latex drying time is around 20 to 25 seconds. "We're working to shorten that time," said Krause.

C'mon guys, who's up for a little shower of cold liquid latex right in the middle of gettin' busy? After all, the inventor brags "With our technology we could spray a condom on an erect elephant." Who couldn't want some of that?



Kate looks like ?

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Argh. I had a nice day of hanging out, playing old-school D&D, eating "pan Asian" and generally goofing off. Unfortunately, I've given myself a red wine headache. I was going to blog but I only want to crawl into bed and try to fall asleep so my head stops hurting.

I love red wine but sometimes it just doesn't love me back.



Long Weekend

Kate had a friend over yesterday for a play date that turned into a sleepover. Some Guitar Hero was played. Her new room set-up provided play and hang-out space so the girls didn't have to commandeer the living room. We made an abortive attempt to have dinner at Stellar Pizza because Kate wanted to introduce her friend to "the best mac and cheese in the world" but Stellar was closed so we routed up to Columbia City and improvised dinner at Geraldine's Counter instead. Then we made a run to the video store where the girls rented Lego Star Wars for the 360 (we only have the regular Xbox version) and Meet the Robinsons.

Today Pramas was scheduled to play SotC down at Tim's so Kate and I had a sort of Bed Day. Except I couldn't decide if it was better to have Bed Day in bedly comfort or have "bed" day on the new couch watching movies on the nice tv. In the end we opted for the nice TV.

It was all 80s all the time today. First: Adventures in Babysitting. Holy crap, I never clicked that Vincent D'Onofrio was "Thor" in that movie (and that was after Full Metal Jacket according to IMDB). I thought Kate might like it as a girly caper movie but her final verdict was "Meh." Then we watched Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome which I picked because it was rated PG-13. Kate hated it. "They gave you a character but no plot. It didn't make any sense." We also watched The Last Starfighter which TiVo had pulled down from SciFi for me. I had vague memories of that movie being decent but watching it again I found it pretty cringe-worthy. Kate was most interested in that one, though even she recognized it as a pale knock-off of Star Wars. That was enough 80s for me for one day, let me tell you.

For dinner I had failed to plan ahead and was looking to throw something together in a hurry for my hungry family. I remembered that I had all the ingredients on hand for Heidi Swanson's Toasted Wheat Germ Soup, from her excellent book Super Natural Cooking(and the blog 101 Cookbooks) so I whipped that up. It was so unearthly simple I could have kicked myself for not having tried it before. Seriously: a cup of toasted wheat germ, six cups of veggie broth, an onion sauteed and then simmered with a few red pepper flakes, some sea salt, a can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes and four cups of white beans. To my utter amazement, after a few ultra-tentative sips Kate had multiple bowls of soup and declared it "pretty good" which made my night.

One more precious day of holiday.

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Kate's Perfect Pie

Kate made pumpkin pie yesterday. We used some fancy prepared pie crusts from Whole Foods that came out good. If you're the type that makes pie crust by hand, more power to you. Meanwhile, the filling is so simple a child can do it and the results were perfect!

Maple Pumpkin Pie

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare filling, beat 1/2 cup sugar and next 5 ingredients (1/2 cup sugar through eggs) at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add milk and pumpkin; beat well. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.



Thanksgiving Eve Show notes

Saving Arcadia: Still a mystery to me as we missed them completely.

Diablotones: Local Seattle ska, promised to "pick it up" but left it down. By the numbers. What's with the singing about Jamaica?

Brain Failure: Oh my god, yes! Now we're talking! Chinese punk rock. Chris has seen them before but this was my first time. Xiao Rong's leopard spot hair put Mark Rein*Hagen's infamous 'do to shame and Dee Dee Wang Jian was all rock star.

Whole Wheat Bread: Poor Florida boys, it was a cold night (37 degrees) and Studio Seven had doors open and no heat that I could tell. It was freezing for the whole show. But Whole Wheat Bread, as they will tell you, ain't nothin' to fuck with. New bassist since the last time we saw them but he fit in. Made me happy, though I think the ska kids weren't entirely sure what to make of them.

Big D and the Kids Table: If David Spade fronted a ska band. We saw them as part of an opening line-up for some show we saw with Rick. Suicide Machines maybe? Headliner favorites but we left after two songs. I can listen to them on CD in the warmth of my house and enjoy it more, thanks.

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The Burden of Our Wars

I've seen this story posted in a few places now:

Wounded Soldier: Military Wants Part Of Bonus Back

That's right: if you get a bonus for extending your tour in a war zone and become permanently disabled before you fulfill the tour, you Pentagon wants their money back!

This is just one example of this kind of thing. Luckily it's a really enraging example which got people up in arms so changes might be made. Our Glorious Leader has reminded us on many, many occasions that HE is the commander-in-chief. He bears the ultimate responsibility, he who struts the "unitary executive" must also bear responsibility for this, for the treatment of our veterans under his care, for the demands of irresponsible administration policies that at best allow and at worst demand these actions. Make no mistake, there's been plenty of this kind of shit happening in other ways before this: National Guard Troops Denied Benefits (orders written for 729 days... 730 days would have meant paying educational benefits) or Soldiers Denied PTSD Benefits ("...Yet after they returned from Iraq wounded and sought treatment, each was diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, then denied benefits...").

I'm GLAD the crooks who are corrupting the system and laying even more of the burden for this war on the backs for our citizens and soldiers are getting caught but I also have no doubt that we're barely scratching the surface of the true scandal.




Long day.

Kate had a dental appointment this morning. I was out of the house with no coffee and definitely not looking forward to the dentist. Even thought Kate's great pediatric dentist is the sweetest dentist I've ever met, my dental phobia runs deep and into direct conflict with my love of Kate and my parental responsibilities. The good news was that Kate had no new cavities, which (after the four silver crowns from a few years ago was a real relief. The bad news was that she needed a tooth extracted to prevent one of her permanent teeth from continuing to come in through the side of her jaw. Way better in the long run but a bit sad and scary for Kate at the time. And me, in the middle, trying to balance the mom with the screaming fear in the back of my head.

We both made it through and Kate was happily munching away on mini rice cakes while we played Clue tonight, so I think she's recovered.

After the dental trauma and a nice lunch, we also squeezed in a parent-teacher conference (Kate's currently top of the class in math, doing really well in her classes but struggling with organization and we need to put in extra work on spelling and "writing conventions" with her because she's not going to get any additional help with that stuff at school) got the PIF in for an emissions test and title transfer.

We ordered in for dinner, played Clue, marveled at the hailstorm (got up to covering the street in pea-sized hail, which is pretty good for around here), watched Sammy charge around the living room and up and down the stairs... ah, even Pramas can't resist the appeal of a joyful bunny.

Tomorrow: more progress.



Win an MRI

About a month ago, I posted about the efforts of my birthplace of Ely, Minnesota to win an MRI. Siemans, makers of the machines, are giving away one MRI to one deserving community. At the time I posted, tiny little Ely had all of 197 votes.

A friend of mine just wrote to say she's been voting every day that she remembers to and noticed that Ely has really risen in the standings! I wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks to everyone who has been going by and helping Ely out in the voting. They're in the top FIVE as of this writing, with over 33,000 votes.

The contest runs until December 31st so we've got another 43 days to go. If you have a minute during the day, please pop over and give them your vote. While it's a pretty sad state when communities need to essentially win a lottery to get lifesaving medical technology, I have to admit that I'm glad they at least have this chance. Thanks to everyone who is helping out the Ely-area residents in their quest for an MRI for their hospital!




Like I need another thing to worry about.

The first year we were in our new house I was planning a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. My mom was coming up from Portland. The night before I had Homegrocer.com (oh Homegrocer, how I miss you!) scheduled to deliver everything from food to flowers for the big event. I was on my way from my job in the U District down to Renton to pick up Chris and Kate and head back home. Traffic was terrible, stop and go and backed up in every lane as people fled town for the holiday. I was completely stopped in traffic when I was rear-ended. A motorcycle cop in our lane a couple of cars back sped to the scene. The non-English speaker whose child was not in a car seat was frantic that we call an ambulance to check out his child, who had a bump on the head. The guy in the middle of the accident sandwich had no insurance. I had a crack in my bumper but would have been perfectly happy to just suck it up and go on my way had the police not already been on the scene and insisting on sorting the mess out. Bleh.

Tonight, I hadn't even made it to the downtown exits when I once again hit heavy traffic. I was in the far left lane, inching my way toward the exit for the express lanes when BAM I was rear-ended again. It wasn't nearly as bad as last time. In fact, there's barely a scratch on the car! If it had been my own car, I would have happily gone on my merry way, no harm done. But no... I was driving the Flexcar so I had to call in and see what they needed me to do. I explained that I had been "bumped" and that there was a scratch on the bumper... it's not totally undamaged but it's definitely about as minor as you can get. They insisted that I had to call 911 and report the accident, fill out double accident reports, all while I'm stopped half in the express lanes with people driving by and yelling out their windows cursing me (and the other driver). Lovely.

I've never had any kind of accident with the Flexcar before. I was seriously doing NOTHING wrong: I couldn't have avoided this accident in any way other than by not being on the road at all. I didn't make a sudden stop or anything like that... the woman who hit me was looking behind her and rolled into me. Unfortunately, I don't know what Flexcar will decide to do about it... it's possible that we could get hit with a $500 deductible on getting the bumper scratches repaired, which seems like a lot but the particular Flexcar I was driving is a brand new Honda hybrid with barely 9000 miles on it and I can easily imagine parts on that baby not coming cheap.

Very very glad it wasn't worse, that no one was hurt and that we weren't driving the PIF. (Aside: I'm toying with dubbing the car PIFfany. I've never been the sort to name my cars but I haven't been able to dislodge the idea from my head since it planted itself there...) Fingers crossed that Flexcar will decide the minor scratch is no biggie and I don't have to worry about it.

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It's been an exhausting and action packed week around here!

Last Friday was the birthday extravaganza and all that I've already shared about that.

Saturday Kate and I shopped IKEA and started on the revamp of her room. Since then I've put together a new dresser, a new computer desk and one of two sets of shelves. We've gone through all of her clothes, sorting into piles for donations and keeps. I relocated her computer set-up, removed the closet doors from one side of her double-wide closet, mounted a light fixture on the wall and helped her organize several large boxes of random crap into the categories of junk, donations, and keeps.

Sunday Chris surprised me with brunch at Serafina. The owner recognized me (from having brought the Green Ronin staff in during the summit), welcomed me back and sent out my dessert item with a birthday candle in it. Awww.

This work week has been intense, as I was able to get Miva Synchro working (thanks to the dedicated brainstorming of Steve P.) just in time for our new merchant service account to demand attention. Argh. If it's not one thing, it's another... but I've seriously spent weeks chasing down these problems and at this rate I'll be lucky to have it sorted before Thanksgiving.

I've also taken possession of my new couch, found a home for the old couch (by the skin of my teeth), successfully Freecycled Kate's old dresser, and spent several days dealing with Whirlpool, which culminated today in FINALLY receiving my new washer! It's installed and functional and everything. (I was beginning to think I'd never see the day.)

In the midst of all this, the family managed to sneak out for a night and have dinner with John and Jenny, see their palatial new retro-pad, witness for ourselves the progress of their latest project. They surprised me with an abundance of birthday cupcakes, a book I've been wanting to read, and, joy of joys, the key to the car we've been referring to as the Pay It Forward car.

Tomorrow I have to squeeze in a call to Payquake about our converted Miva account before meeting Michelle for lunch (postponed from my birthday) and then take Kate up to her dad's for the weekend. Saturday my old couch is scheduled to be picked up (and thankfully removed from my kitchen!). Sunday it's retrieve Kate. Monday it's a dentist appointment for Kate that I'm trying not to freak out about and parent/teacher conferences in the afternoon.

Tonight I'm treating myself to some red wine and pork ragu over pasta. This week has produced the solution to two big problems, a couch, a car, and (FINALLY!) a washing machine. Whew!

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Deliveries: the continuing saga

Kudos to Macy's! They gave me the date for my delivery up front. They called with the time the day before, just like they said they would.The delivery guys arrived on time and had my couch unloaded, in the house, and set up in 10 minutes. No fuss, no trouble. It's exactly
what I wanted, where I wanted, and when I wanted. Even made in theUSA. Yay Macy's!

I flip the double bird to Whirlpool, though! After giving me the wrong date originally and then standing me up and making me wait anotherweek, scheduling me for delivery yesterday in a time slot that I couldn't accept, after offering me the 3-7pm time slot tonight... they showed up! On time! I met the two guys at the door and suggested that they might have an easier time of it if they pulled around back and happily said that yes, this was going to work great... they took my
washer off the truck, unwrapped it and IT WAS DAMAGED. They couldn'tdeliver it after all because it was dented in in the back! OMG, can you believe this?!

The guy was very cautious with me when breaking the news. I don't know if he expected me to go ballistic or what. I'm pretty sure all the people at the local delivery center know my name by now. I shocked him because I just started laughing. I couldn't help it... it's gotten SO ridiculous at this point. He promised me that he would get back to the person at the office and they'd get something worked out for me, yadda yadda. And, to his credit, he seems to have called her right away because I just got a call from a very dour woman who also clearly expected to be read the riot act or something, too. She is going to "get the order to drop first thing" with the ordering people in Memphis so that they can have a washer for me tomorrow, somehow, and "if we have to have someone bring it by in a pick up truck, that's what we'll do." So they say.

Meanwhile, Steve at Miva Merchant continues to get high, high marks for customer service. After three weeks of chipping away at my Miva Synchro problem tonight marked what appears to be the end of the ordeal. I've successfully synched the 8000 orders that couldn't synch before, I've also updated all outstanding customer and product information. They've also gotten our conversion to the new payment processor set up. I just have to familiarize myself with all the bells and whistles. Tomorrow I can begin the long-delayed "step two" of my "fix the Internet" plan...bwah ha ha ha ha.

Now I'm going to open a bottle of wine, zap my new Nature Creation shoulder wrap in the microwave for a minute, and snuggle down on my new couch to watch some TiVo.

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Sunshine, blue skies, and the stars are right

After yesterday's fiasco of nothing going right, today is quite the opposite!

Three weeks into a labyrinthine tech support puzzle, I am finally seeing Miva orders syncing with Quickbooks. It's ticking away, 2325 of 8000+ and counting. This is the first step in a multi-step process to fix some recurring errors that have cropped up in our online store but I'm not even going to think about that now! For the moment, I'm basking in the success.

Whirlpool called promptly this morning and scheduled the delivery of our washing machine, for a day and time when I'm actually able to be here! Soon, soon I can banish this mountain of laundry.

I received a payment for an overdue invoice: the customer sent an additional "late fee" of his own accord because he felt bad for letting it go overdue. Wow, how often does that happen?

Pramas paid for the repair on the Pay It Forward car and we can pick it up tonight.

All before noon. Off to a good start!



Wind, Rain, and Bitter Disappointment

Gusting wind and lashing rain up on Beacon Hill today. Yuck.

Received a call from Whirlpool about scheduling the delivery of my washing machine, finally! I've been hanging on by fingernails trying not to have to resort to another trip to a laundry service or a day of Flexcar rental and yet another invasion of Ray and Christine's house to abuse their appliances.

I waited around all day last Wednesday for nothing and tomorrow was the next earliest time I could get them here. They called this morning: they'll be by to deliver the machine between 4pm and 8pm. Except no one will be here because I was not warned that they would do deliveries as late as 8:00pm (not to mention the uninstall, haul-away, install portion on top of the delivery itself... they seriously expect me to agree to let them START that at 8:00 at night?) and not only do I have to pick Kate up from soccer practice at 4:45, but I also have to bus up to Queen Anne by 6:00 and I have dinner plans that involve picking up the new family car we are acquiring!

Yes, it looks like we're getting a car of our own, a flat out "leisure vehicle" that is for things like picking Kate up from soccer practice or going to the post office. We'll still Flexcar for some things, Chris will still commute by bus... but with the Flexcar/Zipcar merger and the state of Washington's punitive and wrong-headed "rental car tax" on Flexcar use, it behooves us to have a back-up option of a privately owned and operated vehicle. The timing was right, as friends were getting rid of their old car anyway. For the price of a new alternator, it was ours... and I have an appointment to go get it Tuesday night.

So, no washer for me. Again.

The woman said she'd call back "in a few minutes" to find me another delivery date almost an hour ago. I'm not holding out hope of seeing my washing machine before Thanksgiving at this rate. Sob.



Weekend recap

So Blue Ribbon Cooking School was fun. Robin was so thrilled she suggested we should do it every year! We had two instructors for the cooking portions, who I promptly dubbed "Chef Boot Camp" and Chef Laid Back." I ended up in Chef Boot Camp's group at the beginning of the evening but thankfully we started mixing and mingling as the evening wore on. Largely I photo documented the other guests, though I did participate in some of the hands on cooking as well. Unfortunately when I cook I feel most at ease in my own kitchen with my own equipment and without other people underfoot. If I'd started out in Chef Laid Back's camp, I probably would have been fine and participated more but Chef Boot Camp was more "my style" of chef, in that she wanted to have control and wanted to do things just so and consequently we clashed a bit. When the two "teams" were making gnocchi, Ray was kneading his dough and said, "I think I need more flour," but wasn't allowed to actually have more flour until Chef Boot Camp personally inspected a few minutes later, when she herself said "You need more flour," (as if Ray hadn't said that two minutes ago) and personally got the flour for him. Conversely, people on the other team were allowed to handle their own measuring cups and were getting their own flour, virtually unsupervised! OMG, anarchy!

We didn't actually get to cook everything on the menu, which I'd been wondering about when I saw the huge list of courses. The corn muffins and the salmon crepes were already prepared when we arrived. This was a little disappointing because we birthday ladies chose the crepes in specific because we wanted to get the professional guidance on preparing them, but also totally understandable. It was a huge menu and obviously we couldn't start from scratch on everything. Still, it wasn't clear that we wouldn't be preparing some of the courses when we picked and if I'd had my way I would have made the crepes and let the frickin' salads be pre-made! I've made a bazillion salads in my day.

There was one part of the evening where I feared that we were going to devolve into a bad place, as Chef Boot Camp was talking very critically about the choice of dessert. That creme brule-stuffed pears were "too much" and the Creme Anglaise "overrated." As the dessert was the only area of the menu that I really exerted myself (Christine pre-screened the rest of the menu, keeping every known special need in mind, and Robin and I signed off on it... willingly because Christine made excellent suggestions but still...) I was not thrilled to hear the chef thought so poorly of my choice. At that point I decided to go photograph the glassware for a while and felt better with a little distance. Heh.

Another contrast between our chefs was when we had mostly finished dinner (some of us were finishing coffee or wine, everyone talking and relaxing after a couple of hours in the kitchen) Chef Boot Camp came out to dismiss us! "You can wrap it up now," or some similarly expressed sentiment! I got up to use the bathroom and ran into Chef Laid Back on the way, so I apologized that we were lingering so long. He waved me off... no problem, he said. He really didn't care, where Chef Boot Camp was seriously stressed about time (at another point in the meal she came out and flat out told us to start eating... I was photographing my plate as I am wont to do and didn't appreciate being hit with the Achtung Baby.)

Anyway, don't read my whining as disappointment with the evening! Overwhelmingly I had a great time. It wasn't completely perfect and unmarred but none of my petty grievances even came close to being significant complaints. It was fabulous to get together with friends. I hadn't seen some of the attendees in many months and it was great to get together and share the experience. I loved having the chance to cook with so many of my friends all at once (and not have to clean up afterward!) and the meal came out spectacularly. They gave us a menu, complete with recipes, for us to take home. I will try to get it transcribed and posted on my recipe pages because everything we had (even the "too much" Creme Brule Stuffed Pears with Creme Anglaise and Port Wine Sauce our chef so disparaged) turned out phenomenally and ALL of us are excited to try making homemade gnocchi again soon.

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Birthday bash photos

Robin and Nicole
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Man, I'm STILL exhausted. We had a great time, cooked up a storm then many of us closed out Seattle's Best Karaoke at 4:00am. I'm sure it must have been after 4:30 by the time we got home and maybe closer to 5:00am by the time we wound down and actually got to sleep. Then, after too little sleep, Chris and I both had busy days of running all over town. Kate and I spent ventured downtown to pick up one of Flexcar's SUVs, stopped at a coffee house for a snack, spent several hours braving the madness that is IKEA on the weekends, plus did a trip to Target and now have several of the things we need to begin her promised room makeover. No rest for the wicked tomorrow, either, as I have to spend the day moving furniture around and preparing for some deliveries.

I'll write up more details about the cooking event tomorrow or Monday when I'm not quite as sleep deprived and generally muddled but for now there are photos to get the idea across.

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Birthday Me!

Thanks in part to my budding obsession with social networking sites (which kindly reminded my friends, sometimes multiple times, that it's my birthday today) I've received a delightful assortment of e-greetings, animated birthday cards, virtual birthday cakes and general good wishes from around the globe. It's been fun so far and there's still much of the day to go. Thanks guys!

I feel a little like I'm celebrating illicitly because as all good and right-thinking people know You Are Allowed 20 Birthday Parties in your life as Patton Oswalt has cleverly determined. If you don't know Patton Oswalt who are you and why are you reading my blog? If you've never heard this bit, do yourself a favor, click on the link and listen to it now and then go out and buy the CD it comes from. Seriously, Werewolves and Lollipops. Buy it!

I'll be posting photos of our upcoming decadence tomorrow, assuming I'm able to be upright and conscious.

Birthday kisses all around and virtual drinks for all my friends!



Girly Night

Kate and I had a Girls' Night last night while Chris was wargaming. I picked her up from school after her "Dance and Cheer" activity and we went down to Starbucks for drinks and snacks and to decide what we wanted to do. Kate was in the mood to see a movie but the only thing even remotely appropriate in the major theaters was Bee Movie. I'm sure this will lose me cool points with someone but I just don't find Jerry Seinfeld that funny and I'm vaguely familiar with his show but only because Chris watched it so I'd sometimes catch an episode here and there. I got a few chuckles sometimes, it's not like it was bad, but it also grated on me similarly to Curb Your Enthusiasm. So much bickering on Curb, I just can't stand to watch it. Seinfeld's voice, that whiny, nasal voice... the thought of his voice trying to emote through a cartoon bee? Ug.

[Ranty aside: I saw Not-Ebert and Roeper reviewing Bee Movie and crowing about the brilliance of having some homage to The Graduate in this movie "for the parents"... I hate to break it to you OLD GUYS but The Graduate is forty years old and it might have been the hot shit when you and Jerry Seinfeld were teenagers but these days parents with kids young enough to be attracted by Bee Movie are generally younger than that.]

Anyway, Kate wasn't particularly interested in a movie about a whiny, entitled bee either so I looked for something else to do. I happened across an ad in the Seattle Weekly for Central Cinema and a plan was hatched. Dinner, drinks (for me), dessert, and a classy movie: Rear Window. Awesome.

We went and had a great time. Ate popcorn (with real butter!), each got an individual pizza, ended with a chocolate cake. There were old-timey cartoons, including this amazing specimen: The Butcher, The Baker and The Ice Cream Maker, which was apparently a sales device espousing the glories of "sanitary" pre-packaged ice cream ("...never touched by human hands...") and the space-saving wondrousness of square cartons. There were some appalling instances of racial stereotyping: the Indian chief in his rainbow rug" can't fill in for the missing maker because "his voice is one long grunt" and "the only word he knows is UG". There are also a couple of cute-as-buttons little Eskimos in fur parkas working in the freezer area, stacking the precious square cartons. Who knew how wonderful pre-packaged ice cream could be?

Had a nice Girls' Night and I would definitely head back to Central Cinema. According to the previews they're going to be showing The Professional, Gone with the Wind, and Being John Malkovich over the next several weeks.

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I was going to post about this but Gareth beat me to it.

What can I say? I'm glad our business plan didn't rely on being able to produce officially recognized STL support for 4E D&D. As for the question of when prospective publishers are going to see the 4E rules, it's been my sneaking suspicion for some time that the answer is "When the books are released, dummy."



Fun with Telemarketers

The phone rang tonight and, uncharacteristically, I answered. Usually if it's some Unknown Name, Unknown Number kind of thing, or an Unknown 800 number it's not worth my time... but recently I've needed to answer the phone anyway. If I don't answer, the New Washer Delivery Guys might decide not to come... or the Miva Repair Guru might not be able to get through. I answered the other night and it turned out to be Bank of America checking in to be sure I really did charge those "uncharacteristic" charges to my debit card; if I hadn't answered who knows what that might have done for my washer replacement (or, my couch! I haven't even blogged about the birthday couch yet!).

Anyway, I answered the phone and a recording came on to say that I should wait for the next available operator who would have a "very important message" about my "Kenmore appliance warranty".

WTF, you call me and then put ME on hold?! Lovely.

I waited for a minute. Nothing, not even hold music. Then I heard a couple of breath noises, like someone blowing into a microphone...but when I said "Hello?" I heard nothing in response.

Just for fun I started talking. "In case this call is being 'recorded for quality' I want to register my complaint at being called by a robot and then put on HOLD so I can wait to hear your 'courtesy call' about the non-existent warranty on my now defunct Kenmore washer... good thing I'm having a new Whirlpool washer delivered tomorrow!" Etc.

I never did talk to anyone. After the breathing noises and my diatribe, I heard the distinctive sound of being disconnected. They didn't even have the balls to actually give me the pitch!



Mecha Godzilla Roll

Mecha Godzilla Roll
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Photos of our spicy Mecha Godzilla Roll and other assorted delicacies are now up on my Flickr page.

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My birthday is nestled right in between the birthdays of my friends Christine and Robin. We three (and ~18 of our friends and loved ones) will be spending Friday evening here.

We'll be cooking and then eating. I just received word that our menu has been confirmed. Our Dîner anniversaire pour trois will be:

French crepes with smoked salmons and herb infused goat cheese
Rosemary corn cakes with lavender butter
Roasted beets salad with arugula, walnuts, and feta
Game hens with marsala, pomegranates, and orange
Hand-rolled gnocchi with saffron-tomato cream sauce
Green beans and red bell peppers with fresh marjoram and almonds
Crème brulee stuffed pears with port sauce

Gorged on food and drink, we will retire to a private room at Seattle's Best Karaoke for however long we can stand it. Chris and I joined Stan!'s birthday party at this same karaoke joint four years ago. It won't be the same without Keith Strohm dedicating Bon Jovi songs to Chris but I'm sure we'll make due.

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One Extra Hour...for Drama!

I was awoken in the middle of the night last night to male voices yelling. I stumbled in the dark to the window to see what was going on. It was about 3:30am (4:30am by my watch, which I'd failed to set back before falling asleep). Five youths (late teens, early twenties) were staggering around in the street and on the sidewalk in front of the house. The drunkest kids were fighting and falling over while the more sober kids were trying to hold them back/hold them up. At one point they charged up onto my porch, yelling, pushing and shoving, falling all over themselves. I couldn't see what was happening once they did that but they did kinda scare the crap out of me being literally up at my front door (the way they were going it was easy to imagine them accidentally crashing through the windows into my living room) so I called the police. They told me they'd send someone as soon as they could.

I watched these boys as they tried to get control of their group. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. At some point one of the boys ended up laying in the middle of the street right at the corner. No one driving around the corner would have been able to see him there before they hit him. His friends got him up and they all congregated in the kiddie park for a while with one particularly aggressive boy yelling and cursing and threatening, hitting the boys who were worst off to try to keep them from passing out. One terribly bad off kid grabbed a stick and was acting like he might have been intending to hit someone with it but it was a tiny stick and he was so drunk he could barely stand. It was no real threat but the super-aggressive kid got very aggressive with him, pushed him down to the ground hard (where he may have hit his head on the concrete... if he didn't it was a miracle of inches) and lay there unconscious while the other kid beat and kicked him. Hard. I could hear the thud of the blows from my house.

I watched, seriously concerned that someone was going to wind up injured or dead instead of just drunk. I watched them behaving this way for more than half an hour, until they roused the drunkest of them to walk and staggered up the street and out of sight.

Five minutes later the phone rang. The police were calling, wanting to know if they boys were still here. I told them the direction they'd staggered off in.

I found it hard to fall back asleep for a few hours after that. It was not how I'd anticipated spending my extra hour this weekend.



Blade Runner

I fell for Harrison Ford as Han Solo when I was seven and never looked back. I had the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones films, and just when I was barely emotionally mature enough for it, Blade Runner to cement that. I love Blade Runner and I love Harrison Ford in it.

When I heard that the Seattle Cinerama was showing Blade Runner the Final Cut on its glorious screen, I wasted no time in suggesting to Pramas that we spend our free evening at the movies. I'm SO glad we did! Unlike the original Star Wars movies that were so visually stunning in their day but aged so poorly and look so cheap and shoddy today, Blade Runner cleans up beautifully and is absolutely gorgeous. It's still believable. The additional scenes and cityscapes in The Final Cut are fantastic. It was great to see it on the big screen and if you like the movie at all, I highly recommend seeing this cut this way if you have the chance.

We arrived downtown a little closer to start time than I'd originally intended and we needed to find something to eat. All the name restaurants in the general Cinerama vicinity were either packed to the gills or had no possible chance of feeding us in half an hour. We walked a few blocks looking for anything promising and stumbled upon Wann, a Japanese Izakaya place, kind of like a Japanese tapas place. They have sushi and sashimi but no "sushi bar" per se. They offer several smallish plates, meant to be shared, as well as beer, sake, and shochu. We had a some "kurobuta sausage" (which, I kid you not, tasted exactly like hot dogs), some crunchy garlic rock shrimp, soft tofu, the double tempura roll, and the absolute HIT of the evening, the Mecha Godzilla roll (Seared kobe beef tataki covered asparagus, cream cheese, cilantro with habanero teriyaki sauce, spicy aioli, wasabi mayo, marked "extremely spicy"). Wow, I could eat another Mecha Godzilla roll right now. Shared a bottle of sake to wash it down and were in and out in half an hour. Unfortunately, by the time we walked back to the theater, picked up the tickets, and found seats the movie had already started but we didn't miss too much and we definitely plan to go investigate Wann some more when we have more time!

It was such a lovely night (not as cold as it's been and no rain at all) it was a shame to come home... so we didn't! After the movie it was still relatively early so we stopped at Stellar Pizza to have a pint or two, a nibble and a relaxing remainder of the evening. Headed home once Stellar closed up for the night and that was just right.

All in all, a good way to spend a free Saturday!

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Miva Synchro still isn't working. The tech guy has been able to reproduce my error on his machine (and wrote to me last night because he was working on the problem at home) but they still haven't been able to fix it for me.

I learned last night that Guitar Hero III has the wireless guitar I've been holding out for but that they added a stupid "beat the guitar legend to advance" step. Goddamn it, I SUCK at that kind of thing and I have NO desire to do it. What were they thinking? I just want to sit around and play songs with my little girl which was precisely what was fun about the previous version. Bah.

I've researched the hell out of new washing machines and I want to just GET one already.

Last night I had to deal with a sulky, whiny Kate because a few weeks ago I finally put the cactus pinata that she'd received for her birthday A YEAR AGO out in the recycling and she finally realized that it was gone. There was no candy in it (she dumped all the candy out long ago) but it had never been broken, either. This resulted in at least half an hour of her clutching the remaining donkey pinata and whimpering whenever I came within earshot. This does not bode well for my plan to clean the CRAP out of this house... and it makes me angry. I do not intend to deal with that crap over every piece of junk we get rid of. Argh.

Because Kate is now playing soccer at school on Fridays, I have to pick her up and start the drive to her dad's later (5:00 instead of 3:15) and in the heart of rush hour. Tonight is the first time I'll be making the trip and I'm not sure what to expect but I'm really not looking forward to it. Making the drive in heavy traffic really sucks.

Today would be a good day for me to crawl into bed and ignore the world. Too bad I can't do that.