Discolor Online

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


One Month to Alaska

We've passed the one month mark! On May 9th my mother, Kate, and I will be heading off on a class trip with her school. We're taking about 80 people (kids and chaperons) on an Alaskan cruise, organized through an outfit called Educator Cruises. As I understand it, this is the first time Holland America has had one of these educational cruises and we're kind of a pilot program that could really blossom into something with them.

Last week I met with Kate's teacher and went over the basic schedule and what kind of curriculum we're going to have for the kids. Since it's an educational cruise there will be lectures, reading, writing in journals. The field trips and outings are meant to be educational. In one stop our school will be hosted by the local 8th grade class who are intimately involved in the salmon hatchery and wildlife center, echoing some of the environmental curriculum (like hatching salmon eggs) that the ORCA students have done over the years. There's a lot we can cover in lessons and I feel really good about that aspect of the trip.

Of course, we can't spend all seven days doing nothing but school work and field trips. There will be chances for the kids to go shopping and buy souvenirs when we're off the ship but there's a lot for the kids to do on the ship, too. Apparently teens on cruise ships are well taken care of. There will be a couple of receptions/parties for the group on the ship plus the teachers plan to have a fitness "club", a walking "club", swimming groups. The ship itself has a Teen Center with a teen's only arcade and a dance club. There's also a basketball court that I know some of our boys will be eager to visit. There will be two formal dinners where the kids will get to dress up and try foods they have probably never seen before. Can't wait to see that, heh.

Anyway, the cruise isn't for another few weeks so in the meantime I've been puttering away at my to do list, knocking off minor things here and there as I have the opportunity. I put some spring flowers in the planters on the front porch, ordered some garden supplies and seedlings, replaced the cheap plastic handle on the powder room toilet with something in brushed nickel (which matches the toilet seat I replaced last year), put a medicine chest in the guest bathroom, bought a proper display shelf for some figurines I received as birthday gifts when I was a girl. Nothing important (except maybe the gardening order) but small things that let me feel like I'm accomplishing something. I have a few wish list items that I'm hoping to find, like a fire pit or a chiminea to add to the patio, and a new fixture for the kitchen that has a pull out faucet.

My parents are coming out for a visit at the end of May, when my brother graduates from medical school at OHSU. Kate and I will be back from the cruise for about two weeks before they come but I'm trying to get some cleaning, organizing, and rearranging done before the cruise so I don't feel too much pressure about the state of our affairs before they arrive.

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CHiPs 1, Nikchick 0

Though I've been active on Twitter and doing a little linking at Facebook, I realized I haven't yet blogged about what's been going on in the last few weeks. Time to rectify this.

At the beginning of February my grandmother was scheduled for a biopsy for a suspicious breast lump. This surgery had been put off last fall because of an infection in her leg and considering all of her other health problems we were a little anxious for her. It turns out that they've postponed the surgery yet again for reasons I'm not exactly clear on because by the time word came in I was already off and focused on my mom, who was scheduled for surgery herself.

Mom's surgery had the potential to be fairly serious and was anticipated to need six weeks or more of recovery, which itself made me nervous just because of her home environment and support network (or lack thereof). Thankfully, everything went even better than we could have hoped and they had to do far less surgery than they'd thought. Mom was out of the hospital several days early and a week later was doing great. Very happy and greatly relieved by that!

Because of the timing of DunDraCon and Kate's mid-winter break I was able to schedule the drive so I could be in Portland on my way down (in time for mom's surgery) and on the way back was able to stop in and check on her again. I'm so grateful that everything worked out so well in that regard.

In fact, the entire trip was unbelievably excellent. I got to see my brother and spend time with my family, the convention was a great time to reconnect with fans, associates, and friends, and I got to spend time with my daughter in my off hours to boot. A couple of mom friends of mine met up with me and we toured the Berkeley campus with Kate and enjoyed decadent desserts and a gorgeous view from my friend Susanne's house that just stunned me. I wish we lived closer so these meet-ups didn't have to be every couple of years. Even the weather cooperated and gave us several beautiful, sunny days.

The one downer of the whole trip is there in the subject of this post: I was stopped by the California Highway Patrol and earned a speeding ticket of unknown cost. I'll admit right off the bat that I was speeding along I-5, because EVERYONE was speeding. I'm not kidding, every single car on the freeway was clipping along 10 to 15 miles over the posted speed limit and I was driving along doing the same. We were 10 hours into our trip and we were laughing together and generally feeling pretty good, anticipating being close to our destination. Next thing I know the red lights are blinking behind me. I'll admit, I was confused at first because the lights were not the kind I'm used to seeing on police vehicles. I thought it might be an ambulance behind me. Despite my bad girl reputation I'm really kind of a goody two-shoes and I haven't had a traffic ticket since Kate was an infant. My first thought was "get out of the way! but since I was in the far left lane, it was dark, and there was traffic for three lanes to my right, I pulled off into the left median. It was quite wide and there was plenty of space. The red lights followed, so clearly it was no ambulance and yes, they were after me. I put the car in park, turned off the engine, and started to pull out my license like a good girl.

Next thing I know a woman's voice is barking over a loud speaker: "MOVE TO THE RIGHT, NOW! NOW, GO, GO, MOVE!" Flustered, I fumbled to restart our rental car and get it back in gear. The officer is getting more agitated, "I SAID MOVE TO THE RIGHT. DO IT. MOVE!" I coax the car back into the freeway trying to get to the right, while the voice yells, "DON'T CUT ANYONE OFF! GET TO THE RIGHT!" Finally on the right hand side of the freeway, I'm beside myself, thinking what the hell did I do? The officer comes to the passenger window (substantially more dour and aggressive than those portrayals of Ponch and Jon from my youth) and orders me to get out of the car. By this point I'm seriously thinking I'm going to be told to get down on the ground. It was like an episode of COPS or something. "What did I do?" I asked. "You were speeding..."

Holy crap, I've never been treated that way by the police in my life. The closest thing to this experience I can think of is the infamous incident I had with that out of control airline attendant on our way to GenCon SoCal many years ago. For a speeding ticket? On a freeway where literally every single car was speeding? After the cop let me go I did a little experiment and set my cruise control to exactly the speed limit for the remainder of the drive (40 minutes or so, I guess). Every single car on the freeway blew past us. Kate and I counted them: 112 cars, some overtaking me from very far behind.

In my conspicuous red rental van, with its conspicuous out of state plates, I guess I was an easy target. My local friends believe that the budget in CA is so bad at the moment that hitting out of state speeders has been an easy way to get some cash in the coffers. The worst part is I don't even know how much the ticket will be but one friend sadly informed me that it could be up over $500 because they've jacked up the fines lately (see aforementioned budget crisis). This is very, very bad news. I even looked up to see if I could plead not guilty or extenuating circumstances or hardship or anything because a $500 would be dire and all I saw at the county traffic fine website was something about having to post BAIL if you plead not guilty or appeal your ticket, even by mail. I've never seen anything like this. Definitely the downer on an otherwise successful and pleasant trip.

Back in Seattle, it seems we've brought the nice weather we had in Cali home with us. It's been 60s and sunshine. The mountain has been out every day and flowers are blooming. I know this is Seattle's tricky "fake spring" that happens every February but on the heels of an historically mild January any further wintery weather seems distant and my mood (but for the worry about the ticket) is remarkably cheery.

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Prortland, the GR Summit, and yet more travel

I started to write about my visit to Portland but it turned out to be a little more emotionally taxing than I thought it was going to be. Took me a while to get back to it.

Being back in my mom's house is always hard for me. I love my mom but I can't understand her life. I don't understand her relationship with her husband and it is only with the most strenuous effort that I can tolerate him. While my mom was in surgery, he was in the bar. While my mom was propped up with ice packs and pain pills and trying to recover, he was chain smoking 3 feet away. I drove her to and from the hospital, I filled her prescriptions, I brought her soup and ice packs and pain pills. He went out for a morning bender, staggered in so drunk he could hardly stand at noon and started bellowing. My mother actually believed she was going to get up and fix him lunch! Over my dead body, I said. He passed out for a while until his grandson called him up a couple hours later to invite him out for more drinks... so he staggered out for another "toddy". I'm stretched taut by the stress of being around this stuff for an hour, let alone several days.

Thankfully I had a couple of breaks in the action and I they really did save my sanity. On third day of the stay, my friend Greg (who used to live just down the street while we were growing up) came by and the two of us went to and end of summer celebration hosted by another childhood friend. There were a dozen or so Canby High alums in attendance, few I'd been close to in school but all of whom were great fun now that we're adults. I had a lovely time, shared good food and drink, and both bitched about (and then forgot about) the situation at my mom's house.

My brother returned from a month of doing some doctor-stuff out in New York in the midst of my mom's recovery so he came down to check in on her and the two of us went out for dinner together, meeting up with his awesome girlfriend and her brother for some sushi in Portland proper. Afterward, Chad and Megan and I hung out for a while at her place, talked about their residency applications and their time in Haiti. It was SO nice and how I'd REALLY rather spend my "family time".

Not long after recovering from my Portland excursion, we hosted Green Ronin's annual summit out here in Seattle again. This year I felt somewhat subdued, no doubt from the emotional hangover I feel whenever I spend time at my mom's house and around her husband and his spawn. We stuck pretty close to home for our dining breaks: breads and pastries from Columbia City Bakery, pizza and ice cream at Flying Squirrel Pizza, brunch at Verve Wine Bar, lunch at Calamity Jane's and Georgetown Liquor Company. Our meetings were efficient, productive, and on task. Before I knew it, the summit was over, the boys had returned home and I was prepping for the Diamond Retailer Summit in Baltimore five days later.

Normally we let Hal handle the Baltimore summit himself since he's virtually local, being in Alexandria and all. This year I thought we'd have made a long-anticipated announcement and we'd need the extra staff but through a comedy of errors and miscommunication announcements have not been made, demos we thought were not scheduled were scheduled (and then weren't done after all) and the "easy" trip that was supposed to involve me staying on the cheap with my business partner ended up being additionally complicated by Hal's house being without running water (hello hotel!).

Those folks who follow me on Twitter were able to follow the travails of my return trip in real time as I shared my frustrations 140 characters at a time. 4:20am pick-up from Shuttle Express, aboard my plane at 6-something, sitting on the tarmac for some hazy time period where I was falling in and out of a doze and wishing the plane would take off already so I could recline my oh-so-"comfy" middle seat. Returning to the gate area around 8am to remove a passenger who claimed to be too ill to travel (though I saw her gathering her things and walking off the plane and she didn't seem to be sick at all) and finally taking off. Arriving for my connection in San Francisco 40 minutes too late to make my connection and finding out that the next (and only) flight to Seattle was 9 hours later. Deciding to take the BART to the city to kill time and have lunch, sitting on the BART while a "police incident" closed the station we were trying to reach. Finally boarding the plane and getting my first class upgrade (yay!) but having to sit next to a douche bag. Luckily, a couple of free beers and a complimentary fruit and cheese plate made up for it. Finally arriving in Seattle, standing at baggage claim for an hour and confirming that my bag was not on the plane with me but had been sent to Las Vegas earlier in the day. Deciding that with the day's luck in mind, I just wasn't up to risking taking the last light rail/bus connection to my house and paying out for the $35 cab ride home. Woo, it's been quite a while since I've had a travel day quite like that.

Now I'm home and plan to be here for a while. I can't quite shake this feeling of utter exhaustion. I'm sleeping too much, tired within an hour or two of waking up, nodding off at my computer, falling asleep on the couch at night while trying to watch tv with Chris or Kate. No rest for the weary, however! In addition to catching up on Green Ronin work, I also have to coordinate the repairs to our heating system in the house, hopefully before the actual cold weather comes. The New Holly homeowners finally received a settlement in the lawsuit over the defective pipes used in the heating systems in our homes. We were thrilled at this news because we've been living with the inevitable complete system failure hanging over our heads for years while this lawsuit played out. Unfortunately, it didn't take us long to figure out that the settlement wasn't actually going to be enough to cover the system replacement. Or, rather, that the settlement *could* cover the system replacement, just not all the "incidental" repairs that we'd need to make. See, the pipes and the water heater and so on are covered in the repair estimates but taking out and replacing the walls to get to the pipes (which, with the hydronic heating system, run through all the walls in the house), repainting, re-flooring (if they have to tear up the floors, too) and so on. We're going to have to come up with several thousand dollars in additional funds in order to put our house back together once they're done and the clock is ticking. Nothing like a little extra stress to keep the heart pumping.

Three weeks out from my 40th birthday and I'm feeling about 100 years old.

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Home, Exhausted, Unsettled

Got home this afternoon and promptly fell into bed for a few hours. I just had to shut down and get some solid sleep. I'm sure my physical exhaustion is partly from the stress, the unpredictability, in addition to the driving, sleeping in the Yuma heat on an old pull-out sofa with my mom... just all of it packed together.

My mom changed her ticket so she's not leaving Arizona until Sunday but then she also has to get back to her home and her job. She let me know today that they've moved my grandma out of ICU but that she's still completely out of it, very weak, barely able to eat or drink. Her blood sugars are unstable (as low as 50 yesterday before I had to leave) and her kidneys (which were barely hanging on) have shut down so she's scheduled for dialysis now too. I'll be anxious for updates as long as I can get them.

It is really good to be home with my family even if the rest of the drama isn't settled. I have a lot of catching up to do.

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Procrastination by way of rant

I'm getting ready for the annual Green Ronin Summit in just under a month and have a to-do list that started at three legal pages long (both personal and business-related). Needless to say, it's going to be a challenge to blog very much. I broke off from GR business today when Kate got home from school and worked on a couple of items from the list but it's slow going. I should be upstairs folding massive amounts of laundry so I can uncover my bed in time to sleep... but I worked hard all day and I am procrastinating. Folding laundry is so dull.

So, a rant to get my blood pumping.

On our most recently flight (that would be returning from the Alliance Open House in Las Vegas) I ended up on an airline I rarely fly with anymore: US Airways. We hadn't packed too heavily for the trip but did have enough things with us (odds and ends from the show, a few extra books and whatnot) that each of us had one checked bag. At US Airways, you have to pay $15 to check a bag. ANY bag. Then, when we were aboard the plane, we were informed that in order to have any beverage, you're expected to pay. Water? $2. Soda/juice? $2. Coffee, $1. A Bud Light could be had for a mere $7. No free "snack" either, only a $5-$10 "snack pack" option. Then, adding insult to injury, once the plane was in the air video screens dropped down to broadcast commercials for Coke (and other "sponsor's" goods). Wow. What a load of crap.

Airlines are in dire straights and have been for some time but so are everyday people who are being squeezed more and more as well. People can't afford heating oil for the winter, aren't able to pay their mortgages, have seen their retirement accounts shrinking amidst the Wall Street mess. Thanks to the TSA or Homeland Security or whoever decided that liquids and gels are some sort of legitimate threat (Salon had an excellent series of articles on this, calling it a "trumped up ruse.") but now passengers are faced with being both unable to bring their own FREE water from home and being forced to pay for it either inside the airport or on the plane itself? What if the flight is delayed while you are trapped in your seat in the sweltering plane for an extra hour (as happened to me this summer)? What if you were just taking a short hop that turns into something bigger? What if you intended to stop on your layover to buy yourself some food and water but instead had to run the entire length of the Dallas airport like a marathon sprinter with a computer bag slung across your back? No water for you unless you have $2 in your pocket? Outrageous.

And while we're at it, a pox on this whole damn "snack pack" thing as well. Just let me bring my own peanut butter sandwich, don't give me that peanut butter is a gel BS, and let me avoid your weird and creepy concoctions of pretzels and bread crisps with cinnamon sugar, or the combo of chips, some greasy salami, almond-honey butter on sesame crackers or whatever else the lowest bidder agreed to stuff into a "snack pack" to substitute for a meal. I'll pack a lunch if that's what I need to do, but let me meet my own needs! That means if my TMJ is acting up (a condition which is not made any easier when I have to grit my teeth through the entire airport security experience, by the way) I might want to bring a nice, delicate pudding cup, a soft PB&J, a banana or (if it's particularly bad) some sort of enriched beverage that doesn't need to be bitten or chewed at all. Nuts, pretzels, beef jerky... that's not going to be any help to me, thanks. But no, my pudding cup isn't allowed through security. It's absurd.

Finally, on this particular US Airways flight, in addition to all the irritations about food and drink, we were also on a plane with a group of chuckleheads who had been in Vegas for some sort of frat boy bachelor party or something and were loudly continuing to hoot and yuk it up a few rows ahead. While I was fishing around in my bag for my earplugs, I dropped one and was looking for it under the seats when a flight attendant stopped to "help". I'd already done a pretty thorough search (even pulling the cushion up) and wasn't able to find it, told her multiple times that I didn't need help, but she kept insisting she could help. Finally I broke down and showed her my remaining earplug. "You expect me to find that on THIS carpet?" she exclaimed. Through gritted teeth I said, as neutrally as I could, "NO, I don't expect you to do anything! As I said, it's FINE, I'm FINE, I don't need ANYTHING. Thanks."

US Airways really hit all my buttons and I left swearing that I was not going to fly with them again. Unfortunately, they're not alone in this behavior... all the airlines are doing it to one extent or another. Still makes me mad, though, and I have to think it's not going to help air travel (or the economy) in the long run.

Ok, I have too much laundry to sort. Must get back to it.r

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Another trip

Grand Canyon
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We were in Las Vegas the last four days to prepare for and attend the Diamond/Alliance Open House, which was being held at Bally's this year. Because we were traveling light and didn't send out our usual full convention display our set-up took an amazingly short amount of time and we found we had a lot time to kill. We tried to entertain ourselves in the usual ways (finding entertaining lounge acts or hitting any of the numerous wonderful places to eat) but I'm finding that I may, perhaps, be done with Vegas for those things.

Instead we decided to be spontaneous, rent a car, and toodle out to see the Hoover Dam. In the taxi on the way to get our car the cab driver told us that the South edge of the Grand Canyon was (as we'd said) too far to go in an afternoon, it would be a lot shorter to hit Grand Canyon West, home of the Hualapai Skywalk. Pramas already blogged about how that turned out.

We did get some night photos out at Guano Point, though, and I managed to get them uploaded before I had to leave the hotel this morning. I still have a bunch of Finland photos waiting to be put up and now I have Hoover Dam and Vegas restaurant photos to add to the queue but I thought the Grand Canyon photos should get a quick viewing while I try to catch up.

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Feels like midnight

We're reaching that time of the year when the days are growing ever shorter and my energy level crashes to match. A couple of nights this week I stayed up late (or got poor sleep) but surprised myself by staying up ridiculously late last night. An after-work dinner with visiting GAMA dignitaries turned into an evening of drinks and gab-festing, which lasted well into the night. Long enough into the night that on the way home I was hungry enough to drive out of my way to the only late-night drive thru I know of for greasy, cheesy burger. I can't remember the last time I did that but it's been years for sure.

When I did finally get to bed I did not sleep well and awoke tired and groggy for my 8:30am conference call. It was not a good day to have to be getting ready to go to Las Vegas for the Alliance show, either. I had too little coffee or food because I was trying to get a handle on a lot of silly little things and had an abbreviated work day since I had to drive Kate to her dad's. As of two days ago, I wasn't sure that he was going to keep her for the whole time I'm scheduled to be in Las Vegas, which had been weighing on me a little as well. Normally Kate and I have a continual game of Punch Buggy going on drive but today I was so dazed I didn't have the energy to count the few VWs I managed to spot.

Pramas and I need to leave for the airport tomorrow by 6:45am and I haven't packed, haven't planned, haven't researched, haven't prepped. It may turn out that I'll get home late Tuesday and have to turn around for another unexpected trip by Friday (and will have to figure out what to do with Kate if that's the case... which I won't know until the last minute of course). It's been a very long summer and more than anything I'm realizing that I'm tired. Very, very tired.

No rest for the weary, though. There are things that have to be in place before October's Green Ronin Summit! I hate looking around at 8:30pm and feeling like it's after midnight. Bleh. Hopefully no one will mind if I sleep through Vegas.

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Finland Sunrise

Finland Sunrise
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Finland sure was beautiful.

I'm slowly but surely getting some of my Finland photos up online.

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My Welcome Home

I guess I didn't do a very good job of reporting in regularly from GenCon. I recovered from staying out too late after the Diana Jones Awards and was a good girl every other night, going back to my room to run credit card receipts instead of hitting the industry parties and getting enough sleep so that I could work my shifts at the booth every day without feeling like misery. The result was that I had one lunch with a friend, one dinner with another, and the rest of the con I was bouncing from person to person like a pinball... never having satisfactory time with anyone. Before I knew it, GenCon was over and I hadn't even seen the whole exhibit hall.

I found out after the fact that the hall opened to Very Important Gamers on Thursday, though that is a minor detail that the entire Green Ronin staff was not aware of at the time. Not that we could have gotten set up any earlier, with four of our seven staffers unable to arrive before Wednesday evening. Still, it explains why people like this commenter at Nikchick.com felt pissed off at my inability to provide service with a smile before the booth was set up and while the cash register wasn't functional. GenCon could have made it more clear that they were going to let gamers pay for early access to the exhibit hall... had I paid $500 for early access and not been able to buy things, I would have been more than miffed. As an exhibitor, I was not thrilled to learn that we would not have late night access to the exhibit hall to set up on Wednesday and was really struggling to get set up Thursday morning. I am even more unhappy now to hear from previously happy and loyal customers that I've lost their business because of the fiasco that was "VIP HOUR" at GenCon. Super terrific.

Thankfully, that episode and the blessedly brief bout of food poisoning from Champions' really gross salad (which I was really glad I didn't eat all of or I'm sure things would have been a lot worse) were the only low-lights of the con. Overall GenCon was a smashing success, the mood upbeat, the energy level high and positive. The ENnies were fun as always and I was personally very pleased with how the awards were spread out among big and small. I really wanted to see Hobby Games: the 100 Best take the Gold this year but I'm still mighty pleased about getting the silver. Everything went by distressingly fast and before I knew it, the convention was over and far to many of my industry friends had passed through and gone without my ever seeing more than a glimpse of them.

I returned home to live and happy bunnies (THANKS to Marc and Michelle for taking care of them!) and had some bunny cuddle therapy to help me come down from the unpleasantness of screaming children and the unbelievably foul gas attack of Stinky Fart Man (who had people groaning for aisles). This summer has been unusually intense as far as unpleasant plane trips but at least once we've arrived at our destinations it's been worth it.

Of course, all is not always sunshine and roses, even when we're not traveling. I arrived home to find that not only did the state incorrectly take Green Ronin's quarterly tax payment out of my personal checking account (something no doubt my own fault, as I was trying desperately to get everything sorted out before leaving the country and being on the road for two weeks but an unpleasant problem for me no matter the fault) but then yesterday I got to talk with some neighborhood police officers about the youths with guns running around in our neighborhood. There was a home invasion and at least two other incidents involving these thugs before they were caught, but they dumped their guns somewhere around the neighborhood and the police did not find those. I hope someone responsible finds the guns and not any of the youths or small children in the neighborhood! After the excitement with the police and the K9 unit, a couple different groups of kids showed up in the park for their favorite activity of pot smoking and bragging about the violent activities they were involved in. Could be just kids bragging about things they had nothing to do with to make themselves seem big and cool, or it could be that these kids really ar no longer satisfied with stashing pot and booze in our park and leaving behind broken bottles and graffiti but are moving up into bigger crimes. Not sure, but either way, it has put a bit of a damper on our homecoming.

Kate is home on Thursday, which means summer "vacation" is just about over. We're taking her to PAX over Labor Day weekend and then she'll start school while we head to Vegas for the Alliance Open House. Then, I think, convention season will officially be over.

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GenCon First Day

Green Ronin had a pretty good day today as the hall opened but the day had to start very early as we had to get into the hall at the crack of dawn to finish the massive set-up that still needed to be done. With so many of us unable to arrive before last night, there just wasn't a way to get everything set up in time. The hall opened at 9am for some sort of VIP tour or something but as far as I could tell they were letting all sorts of people in, many of whom were pestering me before I had the cash register properly programmed or who wanted to buy things while we were clearly still setting things up in the booth area. I know for a fact I pissed off a couple of people by telling them that I could not help them until after 10am but it couldn't be helped.

I was feeling pretty good until I had a bad encounter with some really gross salad at the Champions at the Marriott. Within the hour I was ill from it (and thankfully managed to get back to feeling better pretty promptly once purged) but that little episode certainly did put a damper on the afternoon.

Had a dinner engagement tonight so I wasn't able to head to Fantasy Flight's premier of the Midnight movie over at the Imax and after dinner was just feeling extremely fatigued and out of sorts so I skipped straight back to the hotel and plan to hit the sack as soon as I finish up my blogging. I hate to miss one of my precious nights for GenCon socializing but I'll regret it tomorrow if I don't get some decent rest (and some non-boozy fluids). As we're rolling into the ENnies, I don't want to risk not being able to enjoy the event... so early to bed it is.

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Ropecon ended

Hanged zombie
Originally uploaded by mrksaari.
I did not take this photo. I did not even see Hanged Zombie in person. But this excellent photo, of this excellent costume, taken at the honest to god live action Rock Paper Scissors tournament at Ropecon (and subtitled "Hanged zombie is quite unhappy after losing rock-paper-scissors battle.") well... it'll just have to suffice for those 1000 words I don't have time or mental energy to formulate between now and leaving for GenCon about 18 hours.

Ropecon is made entirely out of 100% awesome. I miss my Finnish brothers and sisters already.

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Finland: Days 2-4

Finland has been a whirlwind of activity so far. I've been taking a lot of photos and video but I can't upload them from here so I'll have to do a more thorough reporting when I get back. So fat we have experienced Suomenlinna, Finnish karaoke, miliatary museums, the National Museum of Finland, The Finnish national air guitar championships, The Ateneum, a crazy hotdog stand concoction (comprised of a hot dog, a hamburger, and fried baloney on a bun) and, now, the opening day of Ropecon proper.

At the Ateneum I discovered and fell in love with the paintings of Pekka Halonen, one of Finland's defining artists. I feel particularly lucky to have gone to the Halonen exhibit because there were several pieces there that have never been on display before. I got to see a huge number of his paintings and many of them could have just as easily been of the area around Ely, my grandfather's property around Birch Lake, all of it.

Hosts and con attendees alike have been absolutely wonderful. Would love to blog more but I'm hoping to squeeze in a beer or two before the bar closes! Tomorrow is a packed day and I'm looking forward to the festivities.

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Finland: Day...what day is it?

After 20 hours of travel and three flights, Pramas and I arrived in Helsinki yesterday. It's currently about 5am Helsinki time as I write from the enclave of our cozy European hotel bathroom (where I've holed up because I do not want to disturb Pramas with my puttering) and we packed in a pretty full day before turning in what was, for me, a mere five hours ago.

I nearly screwed up our departure twice on Monday, so I am especially glad to be here! It was a typical case of "Nicole would forget her head if it wasn't attached" that would normally be an inconvenience instead of a crisis except that we were on a schedule and had a deadline to leave the country. My errors were compounded by heavy traffic at the airport, a very slow taxi, and one of the biggest back-ups for Northwest baggage check I'd ever seen. Things were so worrisome that I sent Pramas on ahead to the gate without me while I waited in the baggage line so we could be sure that he, as guest of honor, would at least make it on the flight. Happily we were reunited 30 minutes or so later and in time for me to make the plane. Huge sigh of relief, though I did get stuck in front of a spawn of Satan who did not shut up or stop constantly, relentlessly kicking my seat for the entire flight. I took this as karmic payback for having made the flight despite everything.

We connected in Amsterdam for the last hop up to Helsinki. I've never had such a picturesque arrival to an airport! We flew in low over the countryside for quite a long time and I was immediately taken with the interesting architecture, the lush greenness, the layout of roads and villages and neighborhoods. The airport was immense and modern and just generally lovely and comfortable and I felt a definite pull to visit properly someday. I also had the "interesting" experience of having to clear customs in the middle of my journey, where I learned that the small scissors in my medicine bag which was legal when I got on the plane in Seattle and still legal when I connected in had become illegal when I arrived in Amsterdam. I was scolded and my scissors were confiscated and thrown away as "dangerous" items, mid-trip. In fact, I'd only packed the medicine bag in my hand luggage because I was going to need my medications over the course of the 20-some hours of travel and I'd brought only items in it that I knew to be acceptable by the TSA's terms. I had no idea I was going to be sent through customs and security mid-trip or I could have adjusted. Irritating at the best of times, more so when compounded by the having already been traveling for fifteen hours straight.

Happily frustrations faded away when we boarded the last leg of the flight. The crew were funny and attentive, impressively multi-lingual and just generally pleasant. We were served an interesting "summer salad" (diced apples, green onion, mandarin orange bits, in a mustard-vinegar kind of dressing), cheese and crackers, a hot roll, multiple beverages, and chocolate bars even though the flight was only a couple of hours long. We exited onto Finnish soil quite soothed.

We were met and cared for the rest of the evening by Jukka Seppänen, with whom we've been corresponding these many months and had no sooner set feet across the hotel threshold than met up with fellow guest, Greg Stolze so we four went out to dinner and caused impressive damage to the dining budget right off the bat. Had Greg and Chris not both looked like they were ready to fall to their knees after dinner I probably would have joined Jukka for some additional vodka drinking to ensure that I collapsed properly into a sleep of the dead but I took pity on the boys and we headed home at a mere 11pm. Between the restaurant and the hotel we saw a little of the surrounding area in the last light from Helsinki's 17-hour summer day.

Now to squeeze in another hour or two of sleep if I can before breakfast and our day with our volunteer guide begins. I hope to do some live blogging from Ropecon proper in a couple of days if I can keep the laptop charged and ready.

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Busy Weekend

Kate and Pramas and I were in Portland over the weekend. I crashed the Canby High School Class of '88 reunion, even though I moved to Minnesota in my Freshman year, and reconnected with several of my junior high school friends, visited with my brother for the first time in a year and a half, squeezed in breakfast with my friend JD Roth and his wife at their place, and attended a barbecue with my mom, grandma, brother, and a bunch of people from mom's husband's side. Grandma is going to have to start dialysis soon and this is probably the last visit to Oregon she'll make so it was a bittersweet visit. Drove home last night and promptly collapsed into bed.

Woke up this morning to find that JD had posted something of an interview with us, from our talk about entrepreneurship over breakfast, over on his highly successful personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly. Kinda cool, that.

Chris and I leave for Finland in one week and I'm freaking out just a tad about getting everything done that needs to be done. Speaking of, I shouldn't waste any more time noodling around on my blog right now. Eek.

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Crazy Travel is done

My month of crazy travel is finished, for real. Upon my triumphant return from GTS in Vegas I collapsed for half a day in bed and slept like I hadn't slept for a week (even though I was really good in Vegas and didn't stay out late or drink overly much). Yesterday was still too busy, though, as we were trying to squeeze in a few visits with industry people and (for me) a Jonathan Coulton show for which I've had tickets for ages. Lunch dates turned into dinner dates and dinner dates turned into post-concert get-togethers. Today was more eating out as I attempted to introduce Adam to the vegetarian glories of Cafe Flora before driving him back to the Everett suburbs from whence he came. By the time dinner rolled around tonight all I had energy for was some tofu sloppy joes and baked beans from a can.

I'm very much looking forward to getting some cooking in. I bought a few fresh vegetables today and making some homemade soup is on my list of things to do tomorrow. There is a frightening pile of work to catch up on: mail orders, distributor invoices, bill paying, household chores, and doctor appointments are on the schedule all week long. Still, it's great to be home, in my own kitchen, in my own bed, with my own things. No more travel until the American Library Show at the end of June if I can help it!



Annual GenCon Technology Meltdown

Sorry for the abrupt departure, my laptop decided to die several little tiny deaths while at GenCon. Randomly freezing up, randomly restarting itself, randomly giving me a blue screen and spewing messages about memory dumps and "contact your administrator" ans so on. Stupid anti-technology aura...

Summary: GenCon was great, the ENnies voters were incredibly generous to us again this year and we're buoyed for another year. The response to our Hobby Games: the 100 Best book was incredible and people seemed very happy with Paragons, Pirate's Guide to Freeport, and the other items we had at the show. Oh, and Indianapolis still smells like piss.

My red-eye flight TO Indy went exceptionally well but I paid for it in my trip home this morning. Chris seems to be suffering as well, though we were on separate flights and he's not made it home yet so I don't have full details.

In my case I'm pretty sure when I booked my ticket I did NOT pick the middle seat in the very last row of the plane, next to the toilets. Somehow, that's where I ended up, though. And since everyone on the plane was coming from GenCon with giant bags of stuff, I couldn't put my carry-on anywhere but at my feet which meant I couldn't recline and I couldn't stretch my legs for the entire flight. Chris was jealous that I had a non-stop flight, but it was non-stop suffering. Especially since one of the guys sitting next to me was on the large side so that he overflowed into my seat, used both armrests, and generally crowded me the entire time. I know he wasn't trying to crowd me but it still wasn't a pleasant experience. It got worse when he turned on his headphones and even over the noise of the engines, the noise of the flight attendants crushing ice and whatnot, the noise of the three new BFFs in the seats across the aisle who talked and played card games together for the entire 4 hour and 40 minute flight... even over all of that other background noise I could hear this guy's music. Clearly.

So, I decided it was time to listen to my own stuff and loaded up an audiobook on the ol' iPod Nano (Ol' being figurative as I've not even had it a year...) and turned on the noise-canceling earbuds I bought this year. Except my iPod never even got to play the first word of my new audiobook! Nope, it froze between screens and wouldn't do anything else, not even shut down. My hefty neighbor offered to "help" but after prodding it uselessly a couple of times he handed it back to me with a "sorry". I tried to fire up the handful of songs I keep on my Palm for emergencies like this, but no go. Something's wrong with that program and the songs couldn't be found, blah blah. I'm growing more desperate so I struggle my laptop out and see if I can fire it up, plug in the iPod and maybe get it to reset. As I'm struggling to use the computer in the small space I'm provided, my neighbor pipes up again to suggest that if I have the cable for the iPod I could do what it is that I'm dong. I tried not to be rude but I was really NOT in the mood. Sitting crosswise in my seat with one arm wrapped around myself as if I was trying to put myself into a headlock or something, I was finally able to get the laptop fired up and connect the iPod but it made no difference. I had iTunes on the laptop but no music loaded, so I couldn't even listen to something that way... which was for the best I suppose since after 10 minutes of running on battery power (and despite having been constantly plugged in at the hotel for almost a week) it warned me that I had no battery power left and demanded to be shut down.o

At that point I gave up. My anti-technology aura was in full effect and I did not want to bring the whole plane down, as it was packed with WotC, WizKids, Privateer, Green Ronin and other unknown game industry professionals. Could have decimated the game industry in one blow!

I also discovered that Northwest now only offers food if you pay them $5 for a "snack pack". The flight was almost five hours long and they didn't offer so much as a complimentary pretzel. Lame and lamer.

The airport was a madhouse today, with luggage for four or five Northwest arrivals all coming through on one baggage carousel. After a very long wait for my suitcase I got out to the cab line and it was a mile long. I didn't even try, just went over to Shuttle Express and miraculously, that only took 20 minutes or so (people I knew from my flight were still standing in the cab line). Another 20 minutes and I made it home. Now just waiting on Pramas. I left him a message on his cell phone to warn him about the cab line and whatnot. He was scheduled to be on the ground by now but with our luck today, who knows?

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Jam packed

Weekend away with Pramas. Too tired for complete sentences.

Orcas Island (look ma, nature!)
Mount Constitution (hiking, paddle boats)
Deer Harbor Inn (with actual deer, and a hot tub!)
Best Montechristo Sandwich EVAH (Srsly!)

Back in Seattle, not quite dinner:
Verve Wine Bar

Chez Pominger for a nosh, then off to:
Voila (review = AWESOME! Go there ASAP!)

Photos and some sort of recap later. Sleep now.

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Pramas and I are in Vancouver this weekend. Will post about it when we get back. There WILL be food photos.



Zombified by New York

Got to NYC at 4:30am by my body clock and after two hours of screwing around (and a long-ass ride on the A Train) we arrived at the "old school charm" of The New Yorker hotel, where one could feel the cold wind whistling into the room around the window air conditioning unit, where the only window coverings were roller blinds, and where two people trying to stand up at the same time had to negotiate about where to do it. If that sounds like a complaint, I had a reasonable expectation about what I was getting into and being within staggering distance of the Javits Center was a boon worth paying for. I was less enamored of the location when I was jet-lagged and trying to take a nap in the room before setting up the booth only to find that every siren-wielding vehicle in the city was apparently required to do laps around our building... or at least that's what it sounded like when for two straight hours there were constantly sirens blaring. And not just regular sirens, either, but the NYPD and NYFD seem to have their sirens hooked up to a wah wah pedal and take joy in having scratching contests ("w'-w'-woo'-w'-w'-weeoo weeoo-wee-w'-w'...") interspersed with cabbies, truck drivers and other motorists laying on their horns. Ah, New York.

The Comic Con show hours were brutal. A red-eye flight and set-up the first day, eleven hours on the show floor the second, ten hours open to the public on the third. By the time we got to the last day, the mere seven hours plus booth break-down seemed almost luxurious. Having our booth just kitty corner to Miss Horrorfest where they were playing this video on a constant loop was bad enough (she screams twice in a three minute video, so I figure we got to hear her scream about once every 90 seconds on average) but she was there live on Friday and would occasionally make with a live scream while posing with fans on top of it. We were well and truly zombified by the end.

We had time for about one decent meal a day. I would have a quick breakfast, a latte at the convention center, a Cliff bar for lunch and then, finally, a decent dinner sometime after 10:00pm. I'll follow up with some restaurant reviews and post some pictures of our decadent meals as I have the energy to do so. Got home last night at 3am body-clock time (having adjusted to Eastern Time right away) and finally fell asleep around 1:30am. Had to be up at 5:45am to pick up a Flexcar downtown and pick up Kate in Lake Forest Park so she could get to school on time. Right now I'm fighting the need for sleep and wondering if I dare bust into the Brazilian espresso we brought home from Porto Rico without Chris. I just may have to...

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That's dread you're feeling, chick

Yep, nothing like a trip to New York to inspire feelings of, well, dread in me.

Chris lived there for nine years and loves it. We joke that New York is his mistress. Ray loves it there. Jess loves it there. All of Chris's college buddies who still live there seem to love it. Me? Not so much with the love.

I've made an uneasy peace with New York. I don't want to stab it in its filthy heart when I land or anything. I can appreciate its allure; the culture, the campiness, the subway. There's no Katz's Deli in Seattle. I know New York has its features, it's just that I don't really want a pedicure at 2am so the fact that I could get one if I wanted to doesn't give me that thrill it gives some people.

I just can't share the enthusiasm when I have to listen to all the starry-eyed New York lovers swoon about how gorgeous and wonderful and open all night and perfect the city is... like boys who have been won over by the pretty party girl and just don't understand why I don't find her as cute as they do when she toddles home hiccuping and covered in her own oh-so-adorable puke. There are no piles of garbage as high as my head on the streets of Seattle. No attitude of "Rudeness? Welcome to New York, that's just the way things are, rube!" either. My bus might not be as reliable as the subway but it also doesn't smell like pee. You can ask someone if they know what time it is in Seattle without being immediately greeted with The Scowl that trained New Yorkers have perfected, not just wary of the scam but fully expecting it. I'm just not smitten with this good-time girl and I know admitting that puts me squarely into the cretin category for the millions of people who worship New York and its Greatest City in the World mystique. Ah well, no hipster points for me then.

Of course, it's not just my generalized New York ennui that has me dreading this trip. Because I wanted to take a non-stop red-eye (no sense paying for more nights in Manhattan than you absolutely have to) we're flying on... JETBLUE. (This is the only flight they make from Seattle to New York!) Yep, the airline that's been completely screwed all week because they couldn't figure out how to handle a snow storm that didn't involve holding their passengers hostage on the tarmac for 6-12 hours. They're still canceling flights and trying to clear their backlog a week later!

Then there's the job I'm going to New York to do: work New York Comic Con at the Javits Center, floor hours for ten and eleven hour days. Nothing thrills me with dread like the prospect of working until 8 or 9 at night and then getting up to do it again the next day. A show like GenCon is busy enough that time passes swiftly but Comic Con is a tangential show for us, like the ALA show was. Time is not going to pass swiftly.

I'm consoling myself with the slim chance that I might get to see Steve Colbert. More likely, I'll just see Gary Coleman.

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Way to go, Ohio

Off to Ohio. After several false starts and near misses, I'm still getting a "bad disk, I/O error" with the laptop, so it will not be coming with me. Not sure how many updates to the blog I'll be able to squeeze in without it. We'll see how it goes.

The Origins Awards are on Friday night. Everyone please keep your fingers crossed for us, we were nominated in five categories but the competition this year is going to be vicious.

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Off to Oregon

My mom called last night to remind me that she wanted to take Kate camping this weekend. Doh! I'd totally forgotten!

So, I'm packing Kate up and hauling her off to Grandma's house. Another missed day of school, but I figure if Kate can't have fun experiences with her family now, when will she be able to? I suppose the fact that I'm not at all thrilled with her current school makes me a little passive-aggressive, too. Not sending my kid there to be bullied and told she's a crybaby when I could be sending her off for some TLC with grandma.

Nothing like 8 hours of driving to start the weekend off right.

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Whew, that was quite the whirlwind tour. I'm SO glad to be back home.

JD asked in the comments recently about the travel and networking required for running our business. I have to say that I usually enjoy the travel and attending the conventions. Having been in the same line of work since I left high school has meant that I've met many dozens of other game industry regulars who have, over the years, become some of my best friends. The internet allows us to keep in touch, even though we usually don't get to see each other in person for more than a few hours at a time, two or three times a year.

On the other hand, the turn-over in the game industry is tremendous. People leave the business on a regular basis, going off to more stable or lucrative jobs as game systems and companies rise and fall in and out of popularity. Sometimes the companies come in with a spectacular splash: sponsoring banquets, offering golden contracts, throwing parties with ice sculptures and live bands, renting riverboats or hotel ballrooms. Sometimes they go out in a similarly spectacular manner: they blow the money for their new fax machine on a dinner for their staff and volunteers at a highbrow German eatery, they spent the money for the print run of the new book on ice sculptures and hired models to hang out in their booth, they have stiffed so many printers/artists/writers they can't hire anyone to print/draw/write their products anymore. Countless people have come on the scene with their "better" versions of D&D or their take on Magic: the Gathering, dozens of perfectly nice men and women have mortgaged their houses thinking that the world really needed another game magazine. I miss many of those people and wonder what they're up to these days. If one is not actively "in" the game business, one is very much out.

Having now been to E3 in person, I have to say I hope never to have a job that would require me to attend on anything like a regular basis. Just being there for one day was far more than I could stand! The lights in all the halls are dimmed so that no glare on the computer screens will distract people from whatever cool, new graphic effect your company is introducing to the world. Giant, flashing, booming displays thirty feet tall loom in each of the three gigantic exhibit halls, where people line up to have a chance to play a few minutes of your as-yet-unreleased game (or crowd around to watch some other lucky fellow have his turn). The noise is tremendous and assaults convention attendees from all sides. Each exhibitor wants to attract your attention and draw you to his booth, but not only that! They do not want you to be distracted by other exhibitors' game noises or promotional hooha, so when you enter the circle of their exhibit space you're assaulted by a wall of sound that miraculously blocks out all others around you until you somehow wander out of the range of the noise and into the range of the next booth's soundblast. Having a conversation with someone on the floor of E3 is like trying to shout out anything meaningful to someone standing right in front of the amps at a rock concert. I have no doubt that serious hearing damage took place at that show, and I feel no compulsion to put myself through that even once more.

I'm pretty wiped out, so I guess I'll wrap this up and get some shut eye for now.

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Small victory

The competitor I mentioned recently has agreed to remove half of our company name from his site, but maintains he has the right to use the other half because of its "historical significance". Whatever. As annoyed as I am, he's reaping what he deserves, and if he wants to corner the market selling to pedophile gamers, he can go right along doing that and hopefully he'll be leaving me out of it from this point on. Ug.

Taking our flight down to LA tomorrow, conducting business meetings and so forth at E3. Am leaving Kate in the capable hands of Uncle Jess for the weekend. Jess has been an excellent friend, stepping up at the last minute to shuttle Kate back and forth to school and hanging with her while we're gone. Kate adores Jess and Kathryn, they're like the extended family, the aunt and uncle she doesn't have (at least not near by). Still, it's no small undertaking to agree to keep Kate for two and a half days straight. On a scale of one to Awesome, they're super-great.

In order to try and keep this unexpected trip from costing too much, we booked the whole thing through Priceline, which has up arriving something like 24 hours in advance of our meeting, and leaving late the day after! If all goes well, we'll be able to hook up with some other people at E3 who might be in the mood to make deals with little ol' us. If not, the meetings we have scheduled are plenty fine all on their own.

In addition to the scheduled meetings, I have hopes of seeing other industry folks that we know. It's possible The Bish will be there, and we just could run into him if he is (that would be swell, we haven't seen Bishop since he took a job in Edmonton and moved away with barely a fond, drunken farewell). Friend, and fellow Atlas Games alum, Jeff Tidball is currently living in LA, having finished his stint at film school. He's now working on the Lord of the Rings property at Decipher, and if we don't manage to hook up with him on this jaunt, we expect we will be seeing him at either Origins or GenCon later this summer.

Most pleasantly exciting of all, for me, is that LA is relatively near Palm Springs. One of my oldest, very dearest friends, with whom I've only been in sporadic contact with in the last eight or nine years, is a reporter for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. It's been, oh, nearly 10 years since we've seen each other in person, and since we're getting in so god-awful early I should have no trouble at all making the drive out to Palm Springs for some face-to-face reconnecting. I'm absolutely thrilled, especially because I have so few close friends from childhood that I still have any connection to.

Must pack, so I can get Kate bundled off and packed up to Jess's by 5:30am. Cursed early-morning flights!

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First I spent 11 days in Arizona, then two weeks later, Chris spent a week in New York City. Now he's barely returned from that junket and we're jaunting off to Los Angeles for the famed E3-Electronic Entertainment Expo, to meet with a couple of folks who happen to be going. Down on Thursday morning, back on Saturday night, and I arranged the whole thing for about $450 (including flights, car rental, and hotel) thanks to Priceline.com. Booya.

Kate has only 6 weeks left of school, and as soon as school lets out we're going to be drowning in convention season. I can feel the panic setting in.



Forced Vacation

Chris left today for a week in New York City. It took some applied pressure, but we finally managed to convince him not to bring his laptop with him. The poor man needs the mental break, and the chances were slim of him actually getting any work done in between visiting friends, bachelor parties, weddings, receptions, and whatever else he decides to do while he's there. Better to not even take it along, than to take it along and then be concerned with checking his e-mail, trying to handle things he's not supposed to be worrying about, and generally feeling bad because he feels he "should be" working.

This leaves me with a few things on my plate that I didn't really expect to be handling, but it's nothing I can't take care of. I feel really empowered to tackle things regarding the business. Weird that simply being *alone* during the day has such a dramatic effect.

Today I must get to Renton to check the PO Box and several orders need to go out, as well as support materials for some upcoming conventions. I'm also trying to fit in a visit with a friend from junior high school (who is passing through town), a meeting with Osseum (picking up our check in time to get it to the bank), and praying that Kate's school isn't having an early-dismissal day today (so I can squeeze a couple extra hours out of the day). Tired just thinking about it (or is that because I was up at 5:30 to take Chris to the airport?).

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Green Valley

So when we last left off, Kate and I were headed for Tucson. More specifically, we were headed to Green Valley, a little retirement community a bit south of Tucson, and a bit north of Nogales on the Mexican border.

My grandparents have had a summer home in Green Valley for many years now. I first visited them there when I was about 16. After my grandmother became ill, they moved to Green Valley year round and sold their Minnesota lake home to my uncle, Jack.

It was wonderful to see my grandpa again. It had been six years since I last saw him, despite my best attempts to visit with him the last few years. He's looking good, still healthy and active and very mentally aware. He's a little skinnier, has a slight tremor and a little more trouble getting out of a chair than he used to, but for an 86-year-old guy he's extremely mobile. He's a shark at competitive shuffleboard within the retirement community. He seemed delighted by Kate's antics and spent a lot of time just watching her or listening to her gab with a big grin on his face.

On the other hand, I wouldn't have recognized my grandmother. She's been confined to full-time care for the last six years. Her face is drawn, she's lost her ability to move and speak. She recognizes my Grandpa, who devotedly visits her every day, twice a day, and greets him with a laugh. The last thing Grandpa heard her say was a some weeks ago while a chipper young nursing aide was fussing with Grandma's hair trying to style it and chatting away to her about how she couldn't get it quite right, Grandma suddenly responded, "Who cares?" I had to laugh, that's my grandma. Grandpa speaks fondly of her being a "tough ol' gal" and it's touching and heartbreaking to see them together, him holding her hand or giving her a kiss and saying "See you later, honey." He brings her a Hershey bar as a treat every afternoon, and has a boxful of Hershey bars in his refrigerator just waiting to be doled out.

My grandpa knows everyone at the nursing facility. We couldn't walk 10 feet without someone greeting him or him greeting someone: other residents, other family members or friends of residents, staff, volunteers, you name it. He volunteers with the assisted living residents once a week, and he talks with some of the other lonely residents who have no one else to visit them. My esteem for him, which was high before, is now nearly indescribable. If you click this link you will even see an image of him from a few years ago on the official website in the photo montage (that's him in the right-most photo). I am embarrassed to say that I can't recognize whether the woman in the picture is my grandmother, she has changed so much from how I remember her and has gone through so many stages of change between the woman I grew up with and the woman she is now. The woman with the balloons, however, is either a relatively recent picture of my grandma, or someone who looks exactly like her.

La Posada is a large facility, with assisted living suites, a secure unit for dementia cases, and then a full-service nursing care facility for people like my grandma who are in the last stages of their diseases. Grandma has been in hospice care for 6 months now, hanging on much longer than anyone thought she would. When Grandpa first gave in and arranged for her to live at La Posada instead of at home, he thought she'd be able to move to an assisted living apartment. He left her that evening, unpacking and putting things away, but within a few hours of his leaving, Grandma took off and they found her wandering on the road a couple miles from home. It was a staff person who had met her that day who noticed her walking on the road and offered her a ride. When Grandma wouldn't get in the car, this woman stayed with her while her daughter called the sheriff. Poor Grandpa got a call to come get her that very night. It was the first time she'd ever wandered (at their home she would stay home while Grandpa went to shuffleboard and so on, no problem) but it meant she had to go into the secure unit instead of assisted living. They moved her out of the assisted living apartment the next day. Before she lost her ability to walk, she would wander in and out of the rooms in the secure unit, cleaning and reorganizing everyone's things. Luckily, the staff attitude was "It's her house, let her clean and we'll put things back in order later."

Grandma was keenly interested in Kate. She perked up and spent a lot of time watching Kate playing or walking around (as we took Grandma on a stroll around the grounds in her wheelchair). She was always a very active woman, always cleaning and straightening her house, working in her garden, crocheting, tatting, painting, you name it. It was so hard to see her hands, crippled and clenched.

My aunt Joanne says she thinks Grandma's time is about up. Even though she's healthy, she's starting to lose weight. Her body seems to be just slowly giving out. My family isn't terribly communicative, so until last month I had no idea that my aunt Dolly and Uncle Jack had come down for a month-long visit in March, or that my dad and step-mom had taken a golf trip to Phoenix and come down to visit Grandma a few weeks ago. My cousin Connie visited with her new baby in October, and I, independently of all of this, scheduled a trip as well. Joanne sees this as an omen, as if the family has been called back one by one to say our goodbyes. I'm so glad I made this trip, as heartbreaking as it was at times. I'm grateful that Kate was able to meet her great-grandma, and see a little of grandpa's devotion to her in her final days.

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Home Again

Arrived home after midnight. Poor Kate was so sleepy this morning, it was hard to get her up for school. Will post a recap of Tucson later, but for now, duty calls. Lots of work to catch up on, especially some very whiny customers who missed the announcement that I was on vacation and are unsympathetically demanding to know why I have been "ignoring" their e-mails.

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Last Days

Yesterday was Kate's last day to have fun with the kids before we head to Tucson this afternoon. We tried to make a day of it. We went shopping (because we found we needed a few more hot weather clothes as the temps reached 90 degrees yesterday), went back to the zoo and made a stop at Zoe's school. We were planning to take the girls bowling, but they started fighting in the car, so we went home for time outs instead.

After her time out, Kate was on her best behavior, hoping we'd reconsider bowling. Eventually we decided to go bowling after all, the girls had enough of an attitude adjustment. We bowled two games and then hauled our tired girls to the grocery store to pick up some things for my favorite black bean and goat cheese quesadillas. I cooked those up, and made some nachos (Kate complained that I forgot the olives) and plain cheese quesadillas for the girls. Bought some chocolate truffles to enjoy after dinner, but we went on a golf ball hunt on the darkened golf course instead.

Jim came out and started hitting golf balls around with his baseball bat, while the girls were hoarding all the balls they could find. Three girls running around with flashlights and screaming eventually attracted the attention of the country club security guard, who tooled out on his little golf cart with high-beam lights to bust us! Apparently some tightass neighbor complained about us being on the course after dark. Phooey. The guard was nice enough. Said "Ah, a little pre-Easter egg hunting?" Chided us gently, since Ashley is a resident, and sent us on our way. The girls collected (and divided evenly between them) 42 golf balls! I'm secretly leaving our stash of balls in the guest house for Sarah and her family to find when they come to stay next week.

The golf ball hunt was great fun, but we spent so long out on the golf course we ended up putting the girls to bed way after 10:00. Zoe had to go to school today! Mad was supposed to go to school too, but she was too out of it, so for the third time during our visit she got to play "Hoo-tey". (Mad's got the cutest way of speaking. All of her K sounds come out as Ts, so Kate is Tate, and School is Stool. Hookey is Hoo-tey. It's made for some interesting translations, but Kate seems to understand her perfectly well.)

Sadly, Kate woke up in the middle of the night. We've been sleeping in the same bed out in the guesthouse, so I was awakened right away when she woke up and started making gagging sounds. I said "Honey, do you have to throw up?" and she suddenly sat bolt upright! Yikes! I hustled her off the bed and got her as far as the dressing room sink before she puked into it. I managed to eventually move her over the toilet, but I had quite the mess to clean up. YUCK. So gross. Puking kids has to be one of the worst things about parenthood. She was crying "Why, why? I don't want this to happen!" and saying she wanted her Daddy, but when I got her back to bed she fell back asleep right away. She slept restlessly the rest of the night, and of course every time she moved I bolted awake out of fear of being puked on, but we had no further incidents and she feels fine today. No idea what that was all about, but I'm hoping it's nothing serious that's going to come back while were on the road or visiting any of my physically frail relatives!

Now it's time for me to hit the road. Tucson here we come.

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Took Kate on a daytrip to Sedona, Arizona yesterday. The weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky. The red cliffs and scrubby green trees had the effect of making the sky look like the richest color of blue I'd ever seen. Absolutely beautiful! We hiked a short trail, but Kate is so unused to any heat over 79 degrees that she wilted before we even got to the base of the big rock formation I was heading toward. I ended up taking a scenic drive while she snoozed in the car.

Quote of the hike: "Mommy, I'm *sweating*! Eww. It's *wet*." I swear the kid's never seen sweat, coming from temperate Seattle.

I tricked her into making another stop "on the way home" that wasn't exactly on the way. There was a scenic loop between Phoenix and Sedona that ended at Red Rock State Park and included a little visitor center and a very nice little viewing area. I would have liked to spend more time out on the trails, but my delicate little flower couldn't take it.

Today we're going to the Phoenix Zoo for a couple of hours and then going bowling with Ashley's girls when they get out of school. It's our last night at The Compound. Tomorrow we'll be heading to Tucson to visit my family. Kate will be so sad! She's loved living here for the last week with two instant "siblings" to play with. She is getting along with Zoe and Madeleine so well. While we were on our day trip she kept saying "I just keep thinking about the kids back home." She did NOT mean the kids in Seattle, by "home" she meant Ashley's guest house!

Happily, the Phoenix moms and their girls will be coming to the San Diego get together we have planned for July. It will be like a giant family reunion.

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Survived having 10 kids over to The Compound yesterday. 8 girls and 2 boys managed to play nicely together for the most part. Some of our more introverted kids needed a little more quiet time and space, but there were thankfully few meltdowns or melodramatics. My worldly daughter was eager to show off Homestarrunner.com to her new friends, who ranged from the girls who watch The Simpsons and Survivor with their parents to those who live a much more sheltered existence, for whom Strong Bad shouting "Holy Crap!" was going to be a big deal. I figured it was clean enough for the big kids, but unfortunately for me the mom of the more sheltered kids walked in just as Homestar was growling "Hey Crapface," in Kate's favorite episode of Strong Bad E-mail. ::sigh:: I'll be responsible for therapy bills in the future, I'm sure.

Kate, being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, keeps begging to go swimming in the outdoor, unheated pool. To her, we're in the midst of summer here in Phoenix, while the natives are sure to bring sweaters on outings and feel the weather is MUCH too cold to consider swimming. She's become a much better swimmer in the last year, thanks to swimming with her dad on their visits. If it were up to me, she probably still wouldn't know how to swim. I'm not much of a swimmer myself, after a near drowning experience when I was 6 or 7.

Today is another beautiful day, though. Looking out from my host's computer room I see blue sky and sunshine, palm trees, and green grass over the fence on the nearby golf course. They have tons of trees around a large, sunny patio directly in back of the house. Along one side is a grassy play area with a large play structure for the kids. Along the other side of the house there is a long, narrow stretch of lawn bordered by orange, lemon, and fig trees, all currently with fruit. Strange desert birds of all sorts flit around the house all day, singing in the trees. The first night we spent out in the guest house there were birds singing at 2:30 in the morning, but either I'm getting used to it now or they're keeping the racket down, because I haven't heard them in the middle of the night since.

We have been keeping all of our bags and belongings up off the floor out in the guest house, though, since it's the beginning of scorpion season. Jim found one outside the other day, but I haven't seen any. Kate was very afraid of seeing any scorps because Animal Planet had her convinced they were deadly poisonous, but the local scorpions are merely unpleasant (like a bee sting) according to our hosts. That calmed her fears considerably. Apparently scorpions are not entirely common throughout Phoenix, but Ashley and Jim have them because they migrate through the near-by golf course. Just on the chance they're keen to make a home in our suitcases or sneakers, we've been keeping everything up high anyway.

It's about time for us to all trek off to the Phoenix Science Center with the Kate and a couple of local Phoenix kids who are playing hooky for the day to spend some time with Kate. Another fun-filled day on the road.

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My pale, pale Seattle skin isn't adjusting to the bright rays of the Arizona sun. Even with sunscreen on, I've managed to burn the back of my neck, the tops of my ears (darn short haircut) and my shins. The back of my neck is the worst, the rest is just a little pink. But I've got several more days to get burned to a nice crisp if I'm not careful.

So far the kids have been playing together exceptionally well. Kate and Zoe have hit it off like best friends, although they're both kind of "dramatic" so they've also managed to have a couple of screaming rows (too much sugar, too little sleep). Have dragged the kids off the the botanical gardens, the Phoenix Zoo, a tie-dye event with Lauren's Campfire group, and a swim party. Today Ashley has her two, plus mine, plus a friend's three girls. Wendy is bringing Lauren and Carli, and Karyl is bringing Adam and Aaron over sometime this afternoon as well. We're going to be crawling with kids! A big ol' get-together. Kate will be thrilled.

So far she's found someone to play Polly Pockets with her, she's been swimming, she's had a "sleep over", and her friend will let her pretend to be a dog in just about every pretend game they play. Zoe also has a very sweet hamster, Teddy, who Kate is crazy about already. Ashley also agreed to let the girls make lemonade from scratch, using lemons from the trees in the yard. (Exactly the kind of thing I always say no to, because I don't want to deal with the mess.) I'm sure she's going to want to have a barbecue with the kids this afternoon. Hmm, that's a fun idea!

Now to unplug myself from my host's computer and participate in the communal hair washing going on in the other room (all three girls in the tub together; Ashley's two modest girls are wearing swim suits, while my little nudest in training said "Nah, that's ok, I don't mind," and plunged in naked).

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Kate and I are nearly ready to go on our Spring Break trip to Arizona. She is so excited about going she was barely able to sleep last night and woke up at 2:30am wondering if it was morning yet. This is a grand experiment on my part: Kate and I haven't had a solo holiday together since I grabbed her up and took her by train from Vancouver BC out to a get-together (the first!) with my e-mail mom group, then made a brief stop at GenCon on my way to my parents' place in Minnesota. She was, oh, just about 8 months old for that trip. She's a bit bigger now but every bit as fun.

We'll be staying with a friend of mine who has daughters 7 and 5 years old, and visiting other mom-list friends, including the only mom on our list to have lost a child since we've all been together. Her daughter, Melissa, would also have been 5; she has two living daughters as well, ages 5 and 3-ish. Her Kate-aged daughter is a child of a much different temperament than her mother, and I've been pleased to be able to give my impressions of what's likely going on in Lauren's head (since I was very much like Lauren when I was her age). I'll also have a couple of days to spend with my friend Karyl, who is just an amazing woman: working full time, mom to two boys, going to night school to get her degree, and she's lost 40 pounds since last October.

That's the fun part of the trip. Visiting with The Moms, exploring the wilds of Arizona with Kate and their kids, swimming and sunning ourselves. Not much not to like about that!

The second half of the trip is more sad for me. I'm taking this trip primarily because I fear it's going to be one of the last times I will get to see some of my relatives, who are ailing in various ways. I have not seen my grandmother since 1993. It was shortly before we found out that she had Alzheimer's, though we'd had our suspicions that something just wasn't right before that. My grandmother is one tough cookie, though, and fiercely private. She and grandpa had long since decided to winter in Arizona, and she groused about coming back to Minnesota in her later years. "It's just a work farm," she'd say, as she cleaned the beach or hung clothes out on the line. It was no surprise when they eventually decided to live in Arizona fulltime, though I have no doubt that being able to hide grandma's illness through distance had a little something to do with it. My grandma has long since forgotten that she ever remembered who I was. I don't exist in her world anymore. I'm not sure anyone does. She went through a serious bout of pneumonia last spring that they feared would be the death of her, but even in her diminished state she'd have none of that. She'll be going out when she's good and ready, thank you very much. I feared her for much of my childhood, afraid of crossing her and making her stern with me, but it's clear to me now that the same scrappy will to make things "just so" that intimidated he hell out of me as a kid is fundamental to her being. Even when everything else that made her her has eroded, that iron core of her determination remains.

My Grandpa Lindroos, meanwhile, was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple of years ago. My dad broke the news to me that Grandpa had decided not to bother with treatment. I guess he figured at over 80 years old, it was a slow disease that wasn't going to take him before Grandma passed on, so why go through treatment? I've seen my grandpa a few times since he made the decision to put Grandma into fulltime care. I know that had to have killed him, they'd been married for over 50 years at that point. I used to work in a nursing home that specialized in care for residents with dementia conditions (mostly Alzheimer's, but some other conditions as well), and we saw over and over again that families would try to keep their loved ones in the home as long as they could, often far longer than they should have. My fondest childhood memories revolve around the time I spend with my grandpa, at the lake house he built himself, where he indulged my requests to go fishing or drive the motor boat or "build stuff" with his power tools. He loved me unconditionally, was patient and understated, and proud of me. When I "helped" him post some No Hunting signs on his property, he proudly displayed an entire row of my childishly-scrawled "Don't Shoot the Baby Rabbits!!!" signs (complete with animal drawings made with black permanent marker on wood planks) all the way down their winding rural driveway.

I made special plans to bring Kate and Chris up to Ely last summer, to coincide with my grandpa's scheduled visit to his old house (which now belongs to Uncle Jack and Aunt Dolly), but then Grandma had her scary bout with pneumonia, and everyone thought she could go at any moment. Grandpa certainly didn't want to take two weeks to go to Minnesota if Grandma was at risk of dying while he was gone! Under the current circumstances, I don't know when he might make another trip "home" and goodness knows if I would be able to arrange to be there at the same time. So, I've scheduled a trip to see him in Arizona instead.

I'm quite a bit frightened by what I might see when I get there. I deeply love my grandparents and they were undeniably influential in shaping who I've grown up to be. The feeling I have about them now, in their current circumstances, is tenderness and timidity. I feel like I'm watching the beautiful bubble of their lives, full, shimmering, increasingly transparent and in danger of popping out of existence at any moment. I've never known anything like it before in my life.

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Vegas Recap

Las Vegas was awesome. The GAMA Trade Show was stellar this year, with three halls of exhibitors and record numbers of retail and distributor attendees.

Monday was largely a day for registrations, booth set-up, and seminars. Touched base with some good friends and started the convention off on the right foot by holding the official Green Ronin dinner at Picasso, a French restaurant in the Bellagio hotel that is simply out of this world. It was, without question, the best meal I have ever had. The service was like a dream, the food and wine were outstanding, the atmosphere was classy, soothing, calming and a welcome relief from the hustle of the long day of travel and convention prep. Simply amazing, I can't possibly convey how glorious that two-hour, five-course meal was.

Tuesday Green Ronin co-hosted a brunch for retail and distributor buyers. The room was standing room only: we had been told to anticipate ~500 retailers and in the end there were over 2100 badges sold, over 600 retail stores represented. The response to our announcements was enthusiastic, and there was much buzz around the room when we talked about some of our upcoming products, like Cartographica, our book of color fantasy maps, or Bastards & Bloodlines, a book of half-breed fantasy monsters. We were especially pleased by the response to our official announcement of our license to do a game book based on The Nocturnals.

Tuesday we were also pleased and grateful that the members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design chose to honor us with five Origins Awards nominations.
Game of the Year: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Role-playing Game: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Graphic Presentation of the Book Product: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Role-playing Supplement: Freeport: The City of Adventure
Best Game Accessory: Pocket Grimoires

Tuesday wasn't *all* fun and games, though, because it was also the first day that the exhibitors halls were open to all attendees, and the booth was packed. We talked until we were hoarse, we gave out hundreds of magazines, collected business cards, and stood until our feet ached. The overwhelmingly positive response was wonderfully soothing after hunkering down all winter for what seemed like endless work on difficult projects. It was all worth it to hear that those products were well-received.

Tuesday night we met with our sales and fulfillment partners Osseum Entertainment for yet more fine dining at Nobu's Hard Rock Casino branch. We had the chef's arrangement and it remains some of the best Asian cuisine I've ever enjoyed. Though we didn't get our favorites off the menu, like the Shrimp in Spicy Creamy Sauce, or the Miso Black Cod, or the Tuna tartar, we were treated to plenty of other wonderful, unusual, creative dishes. Yum, yum, I could eat my way through Las Vegas into bankruptcy, no problem.

Somewhere between Monday and Wednesday we discovered our website was hacked by a group claiming to be anti-war protesters. They erased our front page and replaced it with an anti-war message. I doubt they're really motivated by the war. We've had trouble with Russian hackers who have exploited weaknesses in the program we use for our message boards in the past, and our webmaster has been tearing his hair out trying to keep ahead of them this week as they've continued to break into our website, erasing back-up files and tinkering with things they had no right to touch. Very unpleasant, but essentially minor vandalism. And we've gotten a lot of love from the fans as they've found out about it.

Wednesday was another day on the convention floor, and lots of meetings. Lunch with one of our favorite retailers, Jim Crocker and as always he provided us with some invaluable insight into the industry from the retail perspective. Wednesday night we had a business dinner with two distributor reps (Marcelo and Nicole), our good friend Jeff (who does some freelance graphic design for us on occasion) and the Green Ronin staff. This time it was dinner at Red Square in the Mandalay Bay. Once again, wonderful wonderful. Sadly I had to call it an early night because of an early morning Board of Directors meeting. War breaking out made people a little more troubled and subdued than usual.

Thursday was the last day of the show and also the day I had to do the most politics. I hate politics. However, I have to say that the meeting was one of the best I've attended in the three years I've been serving, and I am quite excited about the direction the organization is taking. It's especially a relief to remove some of the obstructionist board members that have been serving in recent memory. People come to the board with their own agendas, obviously, but it's refreshing to no longer be under the thumb of people who are determined to be obstructionist bullies. We get so much more done!

Thursday night I missed going out for dinner with my friend John Kovalic and his lovely wife Judith because I had a Board of Directors dinner. That is probably the most disappointing thing that happened to me in Las Vegas! Dinner was unforgivably slow in coming, an hour to get appetizers, over two hours to get our entrees. So slow that people had to leave to catch their planes without being able to eat the food they'd ordered! I was furious, starving, and had a miserable time because of it. Sometime after 10:30 I managed to hook up with Hal and Chris again, and we'd talked about going to a popular bar called Ghost Bar to have a little fun but I was not up to taking yet another cab ride out somewhere to *start* an evening of fun at 11:00 pm. Must be getting old, but I decided to go up and go to bed instead. Besides, the war footage was playing on the bar televisions at the hotel, and I just wasn't feeling very jolly or celebratory.

Friday we checked out of the hotel, shipped our convention display home, and had a few hours to enjoy ourselves before catching the plane home. We decided to do something we would never do at home: we went to a shooting range where you can fire automatic weapons! The place is called The Gun Store. I believe the Thompson was the hands down favorite of the three weapons we tried. Chris kept a spent casing as a souvenir, which turned out to be a slight problem once we got to the airport (but only after they made me pour my iced-coffee drink out of its clear plastic to-go cup into a less threatening paper cup). Apparently a completely spent and harmless shell casing needed to be examined by three different people before we were allowed to fully pass through security "just in case" (though just in case *what* was never clear).

This update is long enough for now, I suppose. I will be leaving shortly to go pick Kate up from my mother's house and heading back right away. Then we're done traveling for a while, until April.

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Those who know me have heard me ranting and raging in the past about airline security over the last few years. Ironically, I've been much less irate about airline security since the feds took over the screenings (and since airports installed enough employees and equipment to handle the job). In my most recent travels, I've been screened politely and efficiently by people who speak and understand clear English. These are appreciated and much needed improvements, necessary for passenger compliance and security.

This episode (originating in sweet home Seattle), on the other hand, is really over the line. People crushing their Dixie Chicks CDs is evidence enough of human hypocrisy and pettiness. This Seattle baggage incident, though, is EXACTLY why the TSA's next step in security screening is a terrible idea. Your personal information, credit reports, traffic tickets, goodness knows what else, passing through the hands of anonymous self-righteous "security screeners" in order to make a "security assessment" before you're allowed to board a plane? Yikes. (Yes, I've linked to a lefty news source about CAPPS II. It's my blog, and I've had enough conservative, war-mongering media for today, so screw it!)

Leaving for Las Vegas in a mere 6 hours. Suppose I should get to packing... wouldn't want to be late to the airport.

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Didn’t make it out to see the Intrepid after all. It was pouring freezing rain on us the whole last day we spent in NYC, and in walking the short 6 blocks from our hosts’ home to the PATH train we were all soaked through. I had to wring out my hat in the station, my gloves were soaked, and by the time we made it to Katz’s my coat was soaked through. Kate was such a trooper, it was all a big adventure to her (a cold, wet adventure, but worth it to her anyway. I was so proud.) and a nice matzo ball soup was just what the doctor ordered, until we left the deli and found it was pouring rain even harder than when we’d arrived. Yuck.

Wet and exhausted, we decided the Intrepid would just have to wait. Kate did insist on buying herself an I [HEART] NY t-shirt and a mini Statue of Liberty. She loved New York, even at the tender age of 7 and Chris is just so pleased (after I did not fall in love with the city myself: it’s crowded, noisy, filthy; everything I hate and more of it. I’ve softened on the city a little, but I’m not gaga for it like some people I know).

The trip back to Seattle was amazingly painless. Quick baggage and security check-in, a not-unpleasant-wait to board, seats all together (you’d be amazed at how often we have trouble with that simple request), arrived perfectly timed to make our connection in Pittsburgh. Home sweet home.

Too tired to write any more, but tomorrow I expect I will be refreshed enough to write up some of my thoughts on the current political climate, massive anti-war protests, and atrocities like this:


Rants tomorrow.




Tried to update the ol' blog when I had a few spare minutes and some web access several days ago, but Blogger's site was funky and I couldn't access Discolor Online. Kinda ruined my plan of posting updates about the trip. Oh well.

We're in the last stages of this whirlwind tour and we're all exhausted. We arrived on the east coast by plane, landing in Providence, RI about midnight on Valentines Day. Oh, the romance.

Saturday the 15th we drove to the Boston area and spent the day with Chris's folks. Sunday we drove to Maine to see the waterfront property they'd acquired since our last visit. Beautiful little place on a scenic Maine bay, windows all around. I could imagine spending a week there in the summer, supping on lobsters pulled fresh from the water and working on laptops. Oh, to make it happen!

Monday I was supposed to meet up with the New England members of my mom's group, but an incoming blizzard put a stop to that plan. I was heartbroken, especially when I learned that the people from New Hampshire drove down to Boston in spite of the storm, with their children! I had nightmares Monday night about what a horrible person I was to arrange a get together and then not make it. I spent most of the day feeling depressed and sick, full of anxiety. One of the women who made the trip with her kids had also traveled to Washington DC specifically for a get together with me on the eve of my wedding... when I was supposed to be in the area and having a "bachelorette party," except that I came down with pneumonia and couldn't make it. Not only did I not have any sort of pending-wedding celebration of any kind (something that I was really, really disappointed about) but those wonderful ladies spent their precious time (busy moms, all) and money to come to a get-together with me and I left them hanging. I understand that blizzards and pneumonia are circumstances beyond my control and reasonably legit excuses, but I still feel bad. Out of proportion bad.

When we dug out from the snow on Tuesday, Kate and I went to a quaint little museum of dolls and trains. Thank goodness it was hands-on and interesting for Kate. My child was thrilled with the massive snowfall, but needed something else to occupy her that didn't involve getting soaking wet or freezing cold. Dolls and trains were just the ticket.

Wednesday we finally made it to the Boston Museum of Science. I'd bought tickets in advance and was worried that they wouldn't honor them since we'd missed our time slot for Monday, but there were no problems. Unfortunately we'd gotten a late start and so had far too little time at the museum for me. Again, I was sorely disappointed. Traffic had been awful getting into the city (I'd thought we were taking the subway, but Chris's father insisted on driving us to the spot) and by the time we arranged the tickets, quickly ran off to the Egyptian exhibit (not even stopping to check our coats because the tickets they gave us for entry were for exactly that moment) then came back to the coat check, then stopped to feed the starving child, etc, we had about an hour and a half to visit the general exhibits. Just not enough time and once again I was bitterly depressed that the few things I'd planned for my own fun and Kate's entertainment were just not going well at all.

Had sushi with a friend of Chris's from high school, and that perked me up a bit. Fun was had by all, and hot sake never hurts my disposition.

Thursday very early we were dropped at the subway and had to make our way with our bags to the bus station for our New York City leg of the tour. Arrived in plenty of time, but the bastards at Greyhound announced the bus was full as we got to the front of the boarding line! Despite having purchased tickets for the 9am bus, we were forced to wait for the 10am bus. Joyous. Once we reached the outskirts of New York City our bus driver was driving like a maniac, plowing through intersections, laying on his horn, stopping inches from other vehicles. Right along Central Park we became stuck in traffic for a good long time. A couple different passengers got the idea to ask if they could just be let off where we were, but no, the driver insisted that wasn't possible. When traffic began to finally move again, however, the bus driver misjudged how close he was to a truck and ran right into the guy, tearing the side mirror off the bus. To a chorus of groans, he pulled off to the side to exchange info with the truck driver. In the process, he left the door to the bus wide open, and it took all of 90 seconds before restless passengers decided to make a run for it. We grabbed our bags and rushed from the bus like refugees.

Since we were in the vicinity of the Museum of Natural History we treked the 18 blocks or so, checked our coats and bags, and spent the rest of the afternoon roaming the exhibits. Kate and I paid extra to tour the exhibit of live butterflies. After dinner at a Spanish place with tasty sangria, we hoofed it to the Path train and out to stay with our friends in Jersey City.

Yesterday Kate's only request was "no more museums!" so we took advantage of the freakishly mild weather and toured the Empire State Building. Kate was quite delighted and has been holding up on tour amazingly well for a 7 year old, but had about reached her limit for walking and standing in lines. We made a quick stop at the infamous Compleat Strategist where Chris shopped for games for the 9 years he lived in NYC and then shot up to visit with friends at a hip little cafe, where Kate managed to eat about $15 of chocolate mousse and hand-squeezed orange juice and then took a long nap in the booth while the adults chatted and drank espresso and chocolate martinis. Off to Charlie Mom's for dinner and meeting up with Green Ronin cohorts Brian E. Kirby, Robert J. Toth, "Crazy" Todd Miller, Rob Lawson, and assorted delightful spouses and friends. Fourteen of us made for a robust party, the food was delightful, and much game industry business was discussed. Unfortunately Bill Simoni wasn't able to join us, but all the other NYC Freeport pirates were able to come and a great time was had by all.

I'm officially exhausted now, which explains why I've monopolized the Kirby's internet connection for this update. I can't seem to motivate myself to move from the chair, even though our plan is to pack up and head out before lunch. We intend to make our traditional stop at Katz's Deli for giant pastrami sandwiches and matzo balls as big as Kate's head, then I hope we can stash our bags in a locker at Port Authority and maybe make it over to the Intrepid to kill time before our bus is scheduled to leave tonight. Back to Boston after dark, and then tomorrow to Providence to catch our flight back to drizzly, predictable, Seattle.

Here we go!