Friday, December 31, 2004

True Conversation

So I'm buying my wife a machete for her birthday (Yes, she asked for one. Yes, it will be a surprise - she doesn't read this journal). And I go down to the local Sears:

ME: Do you carry machetes?
Salesbeing: No we don't. They're too dangerous.
ME: Excuse me?
Salesbeing: A maniac could hurt people with one.
ME: But you sell chainsaws.
Salesbeing: Well, yes, but they don't have any GAS in them.

So if you're a maniac planning to rampage through a Sears, remember to bring your own gas.

More later,

Counting the Count

The election has been certified for Christine Gregoire. The Rossi team, having pushed hard for the past two months to stop counting votes, now wants to find more votes and count them. Most of the counties are saying "no" to yet another recount, including many counties that went towards Rossi in the first place. Rossi is also pushing a "new vote", which was a possiblity he ignored when he was up by a smaller margin. And Rossi also wants to check out and make sure all our servicemen's and -women's votes were counted, somthing he was silent on when he was ahead. This last one may have legs, but some Republicans are steamed that the Rossi team only embraced counting every vote when it became clear it could not suppress enough votes to win.

I don't think that Rossi can afford to stop fighting, though not because he wants to be Governor. At the end of next month the state GOP is meeting down in Tukwilla. Party chairman Chris Vance, a man who is always there for the Seattle Times with a quick quote about how Democrats are evil, serves at the pleasure of the state's leading Republican. Currently that is still Rossi. Vance pushed the slightly-right Rossi, supressing the hard right in the primaries (to the point of refusing to allow other candidates to speak out against Rossi), and Rossi in turn supports Vance. The hard-core is not pleased at all with Vance and Rossi and feel that they had betrayed a lot of their core values in the run, and, more importantly, then lost anyway (Vance also pushed George Nethercutt in front of the speeding truck that was Patty Murray). But so as long as Rossi is a viable candidate, Vance keeps his job.

Coming from the left, I sympathize with the "Reagan Republicans" in the state. Their adventures within their party match my own on the local level where I walked into the caucus and confronted a gaggle of hard-core Kerry supporters. Dean was dangerous, was their mantra. Kerry was electable. Sure, he's not as lib as you would want, but he's electable. They kept coming back to that. Electable.

Of course he wasn't elected. Neither was Rossi. And I am sure the core state GOP is thinking that if they had only stuck to their guns, they would have walked away with this in better shape. And they might have - Gregoire performed much weaker than expected in the state.

As for Gregoire, I can't see the election having a greater effect on her policies - her democratic predecessor was heavily pro-big business, and she shows little intention to overturn his work. I think she will be more responsive to consumer and environmental issues, but I don't think its a leadpipe cinch for these advocates, only an opening of the door. And looking at the budget (Washington State is not allowed to go into massive debt like the national gvt.), she has some hard choices ahead of her.

Meanwhile, Rossi, Vance and company are going to continue the dance, despite what members of their own party say. And they are dancing because once they stop, the show's over.

More later,

Thursday, December 30, 2004


December 25, 2004
To: Fox News Employees
Fr: Management

I would like to congratulate everyone on the success of our Happy Holiday Holy War. With the efficiency that this news organization has made legendary, we have turned the holiday greeting "Merry Christmas" into a litmus test for faith and patriotism, casting anyone who extolls a "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" to the outer darkness (as well as excluding anyone who happens to worship differently from our core demographic). We are delighted by the response that makes the dominant faith in this nation worried, because worried people watch the news.

Many of you think that our job is done, at least until Easter when we begin an assault on bunnies, chickies, and hard-boiled eggs. But rather rest on our laurels, we should steal a march while our heathen opponents are still rocked back on their heels. I am, of course, talking about the next great secular oppression found in the Calendar, New Years Day (NYD). Or as it should be traditionally known, The Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Christ. In this Bible, this happened 8 days after the virgin birth (Luke 2:21), and feast day was traditionally set as January 1st. Obviously, our heathen/secular/godless opponents have highjacked this holy day, reducing it to late nights, hard drinking, and nursing hangovers. By restoring the Feast to its rightful place (We can concede to modern times by calling it simply Circumcision Day) we are doing a favor to the faithful everywhere, or at least the faithful who watch the network.

You know the drill - we'll need some fire-tempered religious authorities from Bible Colleges to square off with soft moderates. We'll need public polls taken in conservative chat rooms showing that most people are offended by the comercialization of Circumcision Day. We'll need bits on the safety of circumcision for the medical sections, and the celebration of traditional Circumcision Day events (more to follow as we figure out what these are). Have our sports reporters wonder aloud why there is no "Circumcision Bowl". It is too late for a history-based program, but we are putting together one about Hitler's desire to capture the Christ-child's foreskin, since we have a lot of WWII footage. And we will need our newsreaders to remain steely-eyed and challenge anyone who uses the secular phrasing.

By this time next week, I want everyone thinking about the Unit of the Baby Jesus. If we mobilize now, we can once again brand people using the wrong words - Happy New Years - as outsiders and as dangerous, while making our core audience worried about what their enemies are up to. And remember, worried people watch the news.

In the mean time, Merry Christmas to you, to your families, and to the horse you rode in on.

The Mgt.

(more later)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


This is about writing and what you think about when you write but its more about what's going on on the far side of the world.

At the end of The Brother's War I had to blow up a large island, a land mass about the size of Iceland, in the climactic battle between the two brothers. It was in the world's "bible" as an established fact that the island was destroyed in the blast, and my job to report it. A fellow author, more logical than I, pointed out that if you vaporized a landmass of that size, you're not just going to have earthquakes and tidal waves, you're going to have an epoch-ending, dinosaur-killing, comet-comes-from-the-sky type of event. I concurred, but using the forces of "magic" as an excuse, backed off the level of destruction to the point that everyone nearby would perish at ground zero and then worked my way outward - incineration, seaquakes, earthquakes, tidal waves, and finally bone-shredding sandstorms at the furthest point from the destruction. As inspiration, I did research on Krakatoa and other major events and tried to translate it into human terms.

And to be frank, I rounded down on the devastation, since I needed to have some characters left after I was done. One escaped in an apocalypse-proof box (the advantage of a magical universe). Another became a god. Another teleported out (again the advantage of magic) but lost an arm in the process. The rest were lost, their last moments recorded just before the flash, just before the quake, just before the wave hit. Survival is an open question. It was an attempt to make this apocalypse personal and in some way understandable. As fantasy, it worked, though as reality it was less than accurate.

I've been thinking about the end of the book for the past few days, as first the reports and then the pictures have come in from the Indian Ocean. An event that is a minor shrug of the planet compared to my fantastic immolation has sunken islands, slain villages, destroyed communities and killed over 80k outright. It has recarved the coastlines and literally made the world skip a beat. I watched the footage and kept thinking "All those people they're showing. They're dead now." And for those who survived, the prospects are equally chilling - disease and hunger come ashore right after the first big swells.

So yesterday Kate and I got paid for some short stories we wrote. Its not a lot, but good money. I looked at Kate (I confess to being the tight-fisted one in our relationship when it comes to charities) and suggested a number. Kate matched it from her check. We made a contribution through Oxfam, to whom we have contributed before and who is concentrating on Sri Lanka and Indonesia. There are many, many others pitching in, including working with the Red Cross and trying to make supporting as easy as possible.

Go do. Time is of the essence.

More later,

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Comic Books: Heroes Go Boom

Avengers #500-503; Brian Michael Bendis - writer, David Finch -artist, Marvel Comics Group
Identity Crisis #1-7; Brad Meltzer - writer, Rags Morales - artist, DC Comics

Strap in, folks, there is deep geekdom ahead, along with spoilers. If you're a comic fan, you probably know about this, but here's a fair warning if you still want to be surprised.

I'm a comic book fan - have been since college - so I've been following the continuity of the major comic universes for some time. And like most fans I have a comfort zone with the four-colored heroes, and follow the soap-opera-in-tights that is comic book continuity. This is, by the way, one reason I don't pick on people who are fans of this TV show or that movie series - they've got their guilty pleasures, I've gotten mine.

Now, comic book characters reside in a level of Tarterus all their own. They don't get happy endings because happy endings are boring and don't sell comics. Rather, they are continually on a treadmill of conflict. Friends die, secret HQs blow up, sidekicks perish, universes change. Anyone who thinks of God as a thug and a bully only has to look at comic book writers for proof, as they are charged with making their characters' lives miserable for our entertainment. And against this regular background of continual turmoil, along comes a Crisis that shakes everything up, making major changes across a broad area. "Everything will be different now" is the general mantra.

Cases in point from the previous summer and fall - The "Avengers: Disassembled" story line from Marvel, and the "Identity Crisis" mini-series from DC. Both exist to shake things up in their various universes. One fails and one succeeds, though not as well as it might. And there are similarities in both. Here's the skinny on them:

Over in the Marvel Universe, the Avengers are having a very bad day. An old comrade (Jack of Hearts) returns from the dead and blows up the mansion, along with frying Ant-Man. The android Vision then plows a jet into the mansion and self-destructs as well, spawning a bunch of villainous Ultrons. Then the alien Kree invade, and in the process kill Hawkeye. The She-Hulk loses control and goes primal. In the end, it is revealed that all these attacks and misfortunes are the results of the heroic Scarlet Witch going mad from her own power. Her brain has to be blanked in order to stop her. Body count - Jack of Hearts, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, the Vision, Scarlet Witch, Agatha Harkness (kept preserved like Anthony Perkin's mom in Psycho), and Thor (whose own book is wrapped up for a relaunch and is not as connected to all this - call him collateral damage). Oh, and Avenger's Mansion gets blown up again.

The action is presented in action movie style - bang, bang, bang. Bad things keep happening, until you the reader are just bludgeoned into riding it out. The art falls down here with a muddy, bloody style, and the plot screws up on two vital points. First, all the Avengers are called after the attack, and it becomes clear that the Scarlet Witch is responsible because she's not there. The problem with this is that the art is so dark that you can't tell who is there or not. Second, the insanity plot is revealed by Doctor Strange (not an Avenger), who flies in to tell everyone that the Scarlet Witch, who has been claiming she uses Chaos Magic, is lying because there is no such thing as Chaos Magic. OK, but going Comic Book Guy on the good Doctor, Strange himself was a Chaos Mage for a short time, back when Jurassic Park was hot and Chaos Butterflies were cool. So accepting this means erasing a bit of continuity.

The end result is a four-issue crash that threatens to take down the rest of the universe with it (and there have been tie-ins all over the place). And the worst thing is that, for all the pain, nothing has been done that cannot be undone - the Vision was ripped to shreds but can be rebuilt, no body was found for Hawkeye, and even the mentally fried Scarlet Witch is picked up by her dad (the supervillain Magneto (told yah it was a soap opera) and carried off. And the Avengers get another start with another buncha heroes two months later. Pretty unsatisfying.

Over in the DC Universe (DCU), however, they have a rep for doing Crisis right, and Identity Crisis represents a cooler, more personal approach to torturing the good guys. Here we focus on the heroes, their secret identities and loved ones, and it succeeds in scaring the reader more than continual battle sequences. Indeed, this was a book that creeped me out as I was reading it, because I liked the heroes involved, and followed a lot of their soap-opera lives back in the Silver Age (Like when Barry (Flash) Allen lost his wife and Ray (Atom) Palmer got divorced). The art is well-done by an old friend, Rags Morales (who I worked with on the Forgotten Realms comic years ago - Hey Rags, write in!), and is perfect for catching the subtlety necessary in this story.

Here's the story of the DC crisis: Second-banana hero Elongated Man (Ralph Digby) has his secret identity publicly known. Someone breaks into his house and kills his wife, Sue. The slaying galvanizes the heroes of the DCU to find who is responsible, and brings up concerns about the risks they expose their loved ones to. An attempt is made on the Atom's ex-wife, a threatening note is sent to Lois Lane, someone sends a gun and a warning to Robin's dad, with the result that the dad and the villainous Boomerang kill each other. In the process of the investigation, it is revealed that a number of the low-level members of the Justice League (Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Zatana, more old friends from the Silver Age) have been mucking with the minds of the bad guys in order to keep their secret IDs secret. The villain is revealed as the Atom's ex-wife, who has gone crackers and used one of her husband's size-changing suits to give Sue Digby a brain hemorage, making it seem like there is a threat so the Atom and she would get back together (next time, sweetheart, send flowers). The Atom shuts her up in Arkham Asylum and things get back to (mostly) normal. Body count - Elongated Man's wife, Robin's father, Boomerang, and Firestorm (more collateral damage - he's already being played by another character in another comic book).

However, unlike over in the Avengers, this crisis opens a lot of cans of worms that will need to be resolved. First there is the matter of the lesser JLA mucking with people's minds, even with the best of reasons. The question of whether the major leaguers would stand for this is left up in the air. More importantly, it is revealed that they also mucked with Batman's mind as well to keep their secret, with the result that Bats may be more bats than we thought. Of the major leaguers, the Flash (Wally West now), knows this and is uncomfortable keeping the secret. Not to mention a couple upgrades of bad guys (a new Boomerang, Doctor Light, and Deathstroke) and the fact that the latest Robin has now lost a parent.

There are some plotting flaws in this story as well - the biggie being that Atom doesn't know the new Robin that well, and his ex-wife shouldn't know who the kid is unless she had additional information (Robin kept it from his teammates in the Teen Titans to keep Bat's identity secret). And the resolution feels like there was an executive decision at the end - the entire brain-wipe subplot should have ended up in posing the question of whether it was OK to purge the Atom's exwife's mind to protect the secrets (instead they lock her up in Arkham, where the inmates are all psychotic Batman villains - what are they thinking?). And there are more red herrings being flung around here than in the Pike Place fish market.

Both series have a frustrating "Gals Gone Crazy" resolution, in which long-standing female characters suddenly flip out for no apparent reason. But Identity Crisis hides that with layer upon layer of subplot and character interaction (Supervillains playing Risk? Wonderful and completely unconnected to the main plot. Ditto the theft of a Lex Luthor battle suit). Avengers just hides the facts from us, and expects the fans to be appreciative with what's been done. Avengers: Disassembled was blunt force trauma. Identity Crisis is more insideous, and should have a deeper effect on the DCU going forward. The Avengers book disappoints, and while the Identity Crisis frustrates, it does so by a lack of clear resolution. Identity Crisis writes a check which has yet to be cashed, and I do expect to see a payoff.

OK, Geekdom out of the system for a while. More later,

Monday, December 27, 2004

Counting the Count

Gregoire up by 130 after all the ballots are counted. Still a gnat's eyelash, though larger than Rossi's +42 mandate earlier in the process.

We have also reached the end of the legal pavement on this one. We reviewed and reviewed the review. We don't have anything on the books for the next step, with the exception of going into court - the electoral equivalent of going off-road. All the state GOP needs to do this is a basis for legal action, an activist judge and the strength of legalistic will.

It will be not be easy to find that basis. Despite the howls, the recount has been heavily monitored with an eye towards fairness, and towards the fact that others could come back and look at it yet again. Both Dems and GOP in the process itself, in King County and elsewhere have been surprisingly grownup and rational. The firebrands in the GOP will have to find fraud or error in large enough doses to overturn the results. And I think they've been looking since the first recount, for no other reason than to spike the Democratic cannons. If blatant shennanigans had shown up here, they would have clasped it to their bosum in order to cast aspersions on other legimate mistakes. If a ballot box was to be found in a field outside Yakima, it would have popped up by now. There may be something nasty out there from either side, but so far there has been more heat than light.

The State GOP also has a "hypocracy hurdle" to vault across. They benefitted from the initial recounts as well, their total going up in a number of counties. Yet Another Recount may have not only threaten those increases, it frames the GOP as using the same tactics that it publicly deplored during the recount itself. Further, anything it does on a state level can be spun around to look at the national level (so, how ARE things in Ohio?). And demonizing King County may play well across the Cascades, but has a negative effect on the county where 30% of the state population resides.

I don't know if Rossi should concede, which some are calling for. The process does not require it, as far as I know. If he were simply to call on the State GOP not to make further appeals, the election would be certified and resolved. Calling off the appeals would keep his rep as being the mature and "not insane" candidate (a major plus in the GOP), while giving the more conservative base something to fire themselves up with in the next election. That could be Senator in two years, or Governor in another four. He ran a solid race, and while I disagree with many of his positions, has shown that moderate Reps have an excellent shot in this state.

In the meantime, he'll have to live with the disapppointment. Maybe he should hang out with some National-Level Democrats and they can cry in their beer together. Out of courtesy, he should buy the first round

More later,

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Party, Party, Party

The Lovely Bride and I have exhaustedly emerged from the Christmas Season unscathed. This year I think we did everything we could to make sure the T-Giving to X-Mas time was as hectic as possible - taking on additional work, hosting visiting relatives for 10 days, adopting two cats. The summation of this hustle and bustle was three parties on three consequecutive nights. Now that it is all past, and we are trying to regain some level of and recovery.

The party circuit consisted of shindigs with Sue and Monte, then Wolf and Shelly, and finally culminating with our own Christmas day feast. Ours was eleven friends at the table, a brined turkey (I really am pleased with this process, pulled from an Alton Brown article in Bon Appetite), a large ham dubbed "hamzilla", rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, string beans and two deserts. Oh, and the experimental cranberry daiquiris that were stronger than mere amatuers should have attempted. It was the best way to spend a Christmas afternoon that I know of.

So we've cleared the last of the dishes, cleaned the last of the pots, and run the last load of in the diswasher. Now we have a week of leftovers and no firm obligations. The new cats are less shy after being here a week and the old cat is now aware that they are in the house (amd there was much hissing). The only things on my agenda are figuring out how our new digital camera works, and this "world of warcraft" thing I've heard so much about.

More later.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy Holidays from Grubb Street

'Twas the day before the night before Christmas, and Grubb Street wishes you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Cue the Carollers!

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Thank you, Walt Kelly. More later,

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Counting the Count

So yesterday word leaked out that Gregoire went ahead in the final count as a result of the King County votes. And by "leaked out" I mean the Dems made a public announcement. Subtle, guys.

Now, the supposed margin is beyond razor-thin - eight votes. I think you can find eight votes in your sofa. But the announcement does have an effect in that the courts will be hearing arguments today on admitting the 700+ uncounted, unrejected King County votes discovered during the hand recount. Now the court would not be "overturning" the election by allowing them to be counted.

Supporting the idea of admitting these votes is our GOP Secretary of State, Sam Reed, who notes that if we toss out the 700, we'll have to go back to five other counties and toss out later-discovered, uncounted votes. In a land of people desperately trying to avoid letting Washington State look like Florida or Ohio, Sam Reed has stood head and shoulders among the grownups.

For the State GOP, the vote, if it stands, is a bitter pill - they had their cabinet chosen and were walking around the Capitol building with color swatches. And while Rossi called upon Gregoire to concede when he was +42, he never responded to what he would do if the footwear was on the other appendage. So it will not be out of line to see the GOP try something to reverse this. Challenging the uncounted votes was one attempt. Another that's being talked up is to declare it a "do-over" and try again.

I would suggest that if they want another election, they put up Sam Reed as their candidate. He'd take it in a landslide.

More later,

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Cats That Came for Christmas

So the Lovely Bride and I do what is to my mind a small Christmas - tree up and decorated, candles in the window, Kate makes a wreath with the blow-downs from the inevitable windstorm from early December, baking cookies, last-minute shopping, and preparation for the big feast on the day itself. To this hectic holiday maelstrom, we add yet another element.

Two new cats. Victoria and Harlequin, formerly in the company of brainstormfront, have joined the Grubb Street staff. So far their duties have consisted of hiding behind the bookshelves, where no one has cleaned for seven years.

We have been at a two-cat deficit for several years now. Here's our cat history: first we had the grey-furred, green-eyed Rogue, who was the kitten we purposefully brought into our home. Then the black and white male, Longshot, the stray that followed us home (a scrawny, flea-bitten cat whom, we quickly discovered, had been surviving by eating corn left out for the squirrels). And then Emily, the psycho-kitty calico, who belonged to a TSR editor who was allergic to cats and kept her in the basement. The three did not get along, but settled into an uneasy truce over food, space, and laps.

Longshot passed on quietly a few years back, and Rogue, at age 19, grew so infirm that we made the hard decision and put her to sleep two years ago (That was a very hard sentence to write). So for the past two years, we have been a one-cat household where all the world knows we were a three-cat household. Emily, the survivor, was pleased to rule the roost finally, but we almost lost her earlier in the year. Kate and I made the decision to pamper the grand old dame and, after she passed on, get two kittens to begin anew.

The rest of the world had other ideas. Brainstormfront chose to relocate to Wisconsin, and needed a new home for Vic and Harley, a pair of four-year-old tabbies. So far they have only been mildly traumatized by the new digs, and while they know Emily is about, have not found her (we are keeping the two kids and Emily apart for the first few days so they get used to their scents before letting them both have run of the house at the same time). Kate and I have forgotten about what it was like to raise kids (they are finding new places to vanish into), so its a new experience for us.

And all just in time for Christmas. More later.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Play: Backstage Pass

Noises Off by Michael Frayn, directed by Richard Seyd, Seattle Rep Theatre, Dec 11, 2004-Jan 15, 2005.

A split decision on this one. I found it a whacky bit of fluff, while my Lovely Bride sniffed "Actors think theater is funnier than it really is". I think her comment is more a flashback to that one summer she, I, and a group of our friends all were dragooned into her Mother's summer stock production of Ten Little Indians (the less of which is said the better), but she's right is that we have had a bracing of comedies over the past few years about the theatre - Inspecting Carol, Beard of Avon, Light up the Sky. Of course if you banish all plays about the theater from the boards, all you have left are multi-generational family sagas, one-women shows and August Wilson.

So, Noises Off - the title an acting in-joke in itself, being a stage direction for stuff that is happening offstage, which is what the play is about. A small touring company in England is putting on the road a production of Nothing On, thunking little bedroom farce with slamming doors, props brought on and off, and sardines. The cast is thrown together and has not gelled as a working group. There is a backstage romance between the older actress and the younger actor, a double-dating director bedding both the ingenue and the assistant stage manager, and an elderly veteran actor who keeps sneaking off for a nip.

Act One is the dress rehearsal, a start-and-stop affair as lines are blown, motivation is addressed, and plates of sardines are moved about. In it the inherent harmlessness of the play-within-the-play is established. Then in Act Two, we pick up the play in the middle of the run - relationships have crashed, rivalries have developed, jealousies bloom, and the actors are caught in the conflict between acting professionalism and personal revenge. This act takes place completely backstage as the play unfolds on the other side of the set, and the characters weave their own personal lives and jealousies through the door-slamming of the farce. Finally, in the last scene we're back on the house side again as the backstage rivalries and relationships spill out onto the stage and completely sink the production.

Noises off itself is a cute gumdrop of theater, its stage business upstaging anything representing a deeper plot. The players are incredibly good, and watching them in action, particularly at the start of act 2, is watching a juggling troupe at work. And this is what is probably attractive about plays about plays - actors get to play two roles at the same time. They get to play the actor in the play, and the role in the play-within-a-play. In particular, playing a bad actor is a luscious little nugget - its a chance to embrace all the backstage stereotypes. Lori Larsen leads the squad as wacky housekeeper onstage/Grand dame ruler off, but they are all good - Clayton Corzatte as the impish alcoholic veteran, Mark Chamberlain as the imperial, two-timing director, and Bhama Roget, who plays the cringingly worst actor of the lot (not a reflection on her ability - you have to work hard to be that bad).

So, don't worry much about the plot, but go to see the ensemble function as a well-oiled machine, even though the purpose of that well-oiled machine is to simulate the theatrical equivalent as a complete nervous breakdown. Go have fun.

More later,

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Counting the Count

Of course, I speak too soon.

After using the illegally disqualified ballots as an argument for the judges to not get involved in the Governor's election ("See, we found the mistake on our own! No need to look over our shoulders!"), our GOP spins around and gets the illegally disqualified ballots re-disqualified ("Sorry! Too late! It might be a mistake but its our mistake! Pity about that!"). I swear they're taking their cues from Jim Carey's performance in Lemony Snicket.

More later,

Friday, December 17, 2004

Kate Grubb, Enrolled Agent

My lovely bride has passed the enrolled agent exam. Here's what that means.

Kate works as a tax preparer, and for the past few years have been the manager of a local H&R Block on the East Hill. For the past year (it seems like) she has been preparing for her enrolled agent exam, which is to tax preparers what the professional engineering exam is to engineers, or the bar is to lawyers.

Here's what it does - only three groups are officially allowed to argue cases directly with the IRS - CPAs, tax lawyers, and Enrolled Agents. Accountants know the numbers but are not as strong in the law. Lawyers know the law but are not as strong on the numbers. Enrolled agents are supposed to be good at both. Enrolled agents are a plus in the local offices, and are compensated a smidge more.

So for the past year (it seems like), Kate has been boning up for this big test - study groups, homework, the whole magilla. Lots of free time evapped over the summer as she lugged around this huge white-covered ring binders filled with tax law (including on our trip to Canada). The test itself was help over a two-day period. That was a couple months ago. The tests were graded, and then an appeals process set up (this is taxes, after all), for questions that might have been incorrect, then graded again.

Kate passed. She does not have the EA status yet, but this is the big hurdle. And I am very, very pleased on her behalf.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Nutshell: Social Security

In a nutshell, here's the argument for SS Reform:

"See that tree? In about 40 years, it may get sick. So you better cut it down now. Fortunately, I happen to know of a good lumberja . . tree surgeon."

More later,

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Counting the Count

I’ve been quiet about the gubernatorial recount because, like the rest of the state, I’m waiting for the outcome. And by commenting on it, I might be jinxing a process that has so far been (relatively) free of bone-headedness.

Story so far: In the election for governor, Republican Dino Rossi beat Christine Gregoire by an initial count of 260-some votes. With a mandated recount, that lead shrunk to 42 votes. The Dems ponied up the cash for a statewide recount, which is underway. So far, the recount has doubled Rossi’s margin, but the big dog county, King, has yet to report in.

Now for the curves – the Dems went to court to admit previously disallowed and therefore uncounted votes, and were turned down (good for the Dems to try, good for the court to say no). At the same time, about 500 votes turned up that were improperly disallowed and have been readmitted to the process – in a typically Washington State twist, one of the votes belongs to a Seattle City Councilman. Now this “new” 500 is exactly what the recount is about – making sure all the votes that are supposed to be counted are counted. The GOP actually used it in their argument before the court as a basis for why the court should not muck with the processs – “See? The system works.” Of course, after the ruling, they are whining about these recovered votes (which, being in King County, should break strongly but not overwhelmingly for the Dems). I’m waiting for the voting box to be recovered in the Yakima valley with more Rossi votes, but as I’ve said, the grown-ups seem to be running things.

Through this process, though, my opinion of Gregoire has notched upwards. She had kept her powder dry, and gone to lengths to argue with her own party about the right thing to do. She fought for a statewide count when the State Dems wanted to cherry-pick, and distanced herself from the court case. Rossi has come back from vacation to simultaneously support the process and cast aspersions on it.

Even the protesters (yes, we have them), have been pretty cool, though the heavy winter rains of the past week may have kept them at bay. They are out with their signs (Dems: "Count Every Vote!" GOP: "Don’t Change the Rules!" Libertarian: “Give Me a Cookie!”). The local media has been following the story without obsessing on it. And the national media is suffering from election fatigue, and is trying desperately avoif poking too hard at the process, lest they be called upon to look at other electoral weirdness. And the national media has also had juicier stories closer to home. (So let’s see if I got this right – We wanted to nominate this guy for Homeland Security who not only has mob ties, and was cheating on his wife with a NY publisher (among others), but he was using as a trysting ground an apartment originally donated to help 9/11 first responders with a view of the blast area? Let me join the rest of the country by saying “ Ewwwww!”).

More later, about the election, not the nomination weirdness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Up for an Award

So something I worked on is up for an award. Its the 2004 InQuest Fan Awards, which are an online award in conjunction with InQuest magazine, a glossy publication that lusts to be a lads mag for gamers (Yeah, that's an image that will sear your retinas). The link is here, so go vote.

Anyway, their nomination process looks a little wonky, and their selection of nominees is ecletic if nothing else. I'm in the collectible miniatures catagory with the Rebel Storm set for Star Wars. I did some Heroclix as well that were well-received by the fans, but they didn't get a nomination. Like I said, eclectic.

Most of the rest of the catagories are really inside-the-beltway deep geek (do YOU have a fan-favorite artist? How about "best collectable card game that's not Magic: The Gathering? ), but its worth checking out (and of course I'm curious about where the Book of Erotic Fantasy shows up in the final count - like I said, A lads mag for geeks).

More later,

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Blog Goes Ever On And On

Still busy, but life goes on even if I cannot write it all down.

Our company had a lovely Christmas party at the Rendezvous in Belltown, at which I discovered chamborg and vodka martinis. I don't think I've had a hangover that bad in nearly a decade, and I was moving around carefully the next morning. That did not stop me from attending briefly the drinking afternoon of Frabjous Dave, though it did limit my intake to a single beer, recommended by the Dave.

In order to make Dave's, I ditched a performance of Bad Dates at the Rep, which was attended by my mom-in-law and wife (my sister-in-law had to get back to Cali, so by dodging the play I could drive her to the airport at a civilized hour as opposed to making her wait three hours at the airport). So no review of Bad Dates, though Kate said that she was worried that it would be a one-woman show about shoes, but things picked up when the Romanian Mafia showed up.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but Nardi, my mother-in-law, is a professional actress. Her movie credits are here. Not listed is her most recent part, in The Bread, My Sweet where she played a meter maid giving Scott Baio a ticket.(take THAT, Chachi!)

Other than that, most of my weekend has been swallowed by the freelance project, which has hit a milestone. Now I have to worry about a short story, then back to the rest of the freelance project. Yes, there are still things I want to rant about, including our sputtering stock market, Tommy Thomson, and the fact that, despite the successes of LOTR and Harry Potter, Hollywood still doesn't quite understand the nature of cinematic adaptations of the written word. But that will have to wait for later.

And I just got word from a fellow editor that his daughter is on the ground in Kuwait, and heading for Baghdad. And her unit (Kansas National Guard) is handling transportation. So I'm suddenly very interested in the continuing lack of protective armor for our troops.

More later,

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Day of the Living Jeffs

Brainstormfront has posted the story of Jeff Grubb day over on his site. I have nothing to add except that I got off easier than DRAGON editor Roger Moore. In my case, a couple in Texas tried to get admission to a convention for free because "they were Jeff Grubb". A quick phone call straighened matters out (and set the ball rolling for Jeff Grubb Day). Roger was less fortunate - he was scheduled to attend a convention on the West Coast, but had to bow out. A fan stepped in to imitate Roger for the weekend, sitting on panels and answering questions as if he was Roger Moore, and THEN wrote us, volunteering to serve in the future as "The West Coast Roger Moore."

Yes, its a whacky world where people impersonate Game Designers.

More later

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Five People You Meet in Heaven . . .

. . . are all folks you flipped off in traffic.

Just thought you'd want to know.

More later,

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Blog Goes Ever On And On

No, I'm not out of town, I'm under the gun.

Remember a couple of months ago, when work was getting a little light? I went out and rattled a few doors. Well, the doors opened and work came spilling out. And simultaneously the work load picked back up for the day job. So as a result, I'm working on three freelance things simultaneously - I'm reviewing one short story, writing another one, working on collecting spells for a game product, and working on something for publication Christmas next year (OK, that's four things). And then there's the day job, involving a project I'll talk about when they make some sort of official release. And there's Christmas. And my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are out for a visit.

Sigh. I wish my excuse was that I had bought World of Warcraft, but that's not going to happen until Christmas.

More later.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

TSR Story: Salary

Along with many of the fellow bloggers, I am fighting a nasty cold, made worse by the fact that the Lovely Bride is fighting an even nastier one. We were fortunate for the break in the weather this morning that let us go out and get a tree (live-cut, down at Pfaff's), but both of us are paying for our holiday effort.

In any event, the Monkey King posted a bit on the D&D 30 Year Anniversary book, which got a horrendous review on Slashdot, and invited others to contribute TSR stories. While I can think of a number of TSR stories- Jeff Grubb Day, the Editor's Liberation Front, the old Hotel Claire, I instead noticed the bit on the same site about EA requiring its salaried designers to work 80-hour weeks (the latest bit of news is here, where EA is shocked, simply shocked, that they have been taking advantage of their salaried employees in that fashion).

Which reminds me of how TSR's in-house game designers got to be salaried employees.

This was early in my career - early 80's - I had joined TSR as a game designer (a story in its own right), and at that time we were hourly employees. Not only hourly, but punching in on a time clock. You worked your 40 hours. You worked less, you got a lecture. You worked more, well, you got a lecture as well, since TSR was not paying any overtime. For young designers on a deadline, the answer was easy - we would clock out when we hit our eight hours for the day, then went back up to work. Yes, the management was aware, and it was morally and legally hinky, but it wasn't the only morally/legally hinky thing TSR did back then.

You can probably guess what happened next - someone dropped a dime on TSR's free labor pool, and the company got a visit from the state's Labor Relation Board. I and others were asked to explain why we were working hours without pay - the answer I and others gave was that we had deadlines that would not move, so extra effort was required. The idea that the company might be balancing its own scheduling on the backs of its salaried employees never occurred to us. Yeah, we were young, but I can understand why the EA designers may be reticent to complain about real nastiness of seven-day work weeks.

The end result was that the salaried designers got a small settlement and the Monday afterwards we suddenly became salaried, non-exempt employees. And our deadlines? They got a little tighter, since management didn't have to worry about overtime pay anymore.

More later,

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Diminishing Returns

So I got home last night to find my invisible friend Schmedley packing furiously.

"Its time to go," said the imaginary elephant of my childhood, "Washington State has pitched into the abyss."

"I take it you saw that they certified Dino Rossi as Governor."

"It's horrible! Red state mania! We're all going Right-wing!" he gave me a hard look and added, "Conservatives are not friendly to Imaginary Americans."

"Its not that horrible," said I. "We had the initial returns. It showed a slim Rossi lead. Each time we counted, the lead got thinner. From a few thousand to a few hundred to a slender 42 votes. The Seattle Times had an article showing that if the people who wrote in Ron Simms had voted Gregoire, she would have won."

"And Mike the Mover!" opined Schmedley, "How could we not reach out to such an important voting block of nine people! The electorate hates us!"

"I'd say the electorate was more disinterested than disgruntled in the governor's race. It's easy to blame the candidate, but Gregoire ran a relatively "cool" and dispassionate campaign, on the assumption that people were generally content with Locke, and she would continue his policies. They attempted to show that Rossi was a right-wing nut, like previous GOP candidates, and when he failed to reinforce that image, got enough to pull out the barest of majorities. This state went large for Kerry, even larger for Murray. We're a bluish purple."

Schmedley looked at me hard, "It must be a conspiracy! I call shenannigans!"

"Possible. With such a razor-thin lead, it's even likely, from both sides. During the recount, the Dems were doing everything in their power to find uncounted votes, while the GOP was trying to keep those votes from being counted. Some valid problems were identified and addressed. But the way we elect here is pretty darned stable, in comparison to, say Ohio or Florida."

Schmedley sniffed, "We could demand a recount."

"That's part of the process," said I, "and even our Republican Secretary of State supports Gregoire's right to do so. But the Dems need to foot the bill and it needs to be state-wide. A recount of a few counties that just turns the election by an equally thin majority would be just as frustrating and suspicious as the squeaker we have, if not moreso."

"You're going to tell me its going to be all right," said the elephant.

"No, I'm not. It's going to be a challenge. Rossi is Big-D, as in Development. He's going to be tough on the environment. Locke was very pro-business in the first place, and Rossi is going to suck up even harder. He's also walking into the teeth of a healthy budget deficit. The good news is that the Dems hold the legislature, and Rossi has had a history of seeking consensus and putting together a deal. That's the Rossi that has been showing up the past couple days, as opposed to the Olympia outsider image that he was running on."

Schmedley thought for a moment, then said, "Maybe I'll move to a more friendly state, anyway. Maybe California."

I put my hand on the elephant's shoulder. "We have to talk."

More later,

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


We ended up at Work Song (see below for the review) as a result of Frank and his wife A, who invited us out. Frank is an old, old friend (and inspiration for Dragonbait from Azure Bonds), and we accepted, totally unaware that we were attending opening night. It was a different feeling in a theatre knowing that the production manager was four seats down, a well-respected Pittsburgh actor was your seatmate, and the reviewer from the Post-Gazette was four rows ahead of you (his review was a two-column extravaganza that left one wondering if he liked the play or not).

The New City is located on the South Side, across the Mon River from Pittsburgh itself. In my youth, it was a rough ethnic neighborhood, near the Homestead mills. Now the mills are gone, replaced by big-box theme restaurants, and East Carson Street holds what passes for Pittsburgh’s nightlife. We took an inadvertently long walk after the play looking for a place to eat and chat (one place was closed, a second too noisy, a third occupied by what were either mobsters or gay men or gay mobsters). The street itself was lined with clubs and saloons, and it did feel like most of Pittsburgh in the 21-25 age bracket was on the street.

Pittsburgh has a rep as a geriatric city, an old town, but East Carson Street on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving rivaled State Street in Madison for lights and raw body-age. After a few days in the suburbs, it was nice to change pace, even though the phrase “old enough to be their parents” was high in my mind.

More later,

Monday, November 29, 2004

Play: Concrete in Compression

Work Song: Three Views of Frank Lloyd Wright by Jeffrey Hatcher and Eric Simonson, Directed by Eric Simonson, City Theatre, Pittsburgh, through December 19th.

True story – I owe my very-comfortable bed to Frank Lloyd Wright. When I first moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I bought a waterbed from a family that had moved into a house designed by one of Wright’s students. As a result of the Frank Lloyd Wright-style design, there was no place in the house for such a large bed, and no wall space sufficiently uninterrupted for the headboard. That’s sort of the way I have always felt about Wright’s designs – they always required some form of compromise from the user.

Work Song requires compromise as well – it is three different plays with a common group of actors, and like Wright’s work requires some accommodation. Set at different periods of Wright’s life, it feels disjointed, and lacks a common central support to hold it all together.

Act 1 (Form and Function Are One) is pure bio – the rising young lion branching off, designing homes as opposed to skyscrapers, leaving his conventional first wife for his radical, Emerson-quoting second, building Taliesen, and the fire and murders there. It moves with great, Citizen Kane-like leaps, years peeling away as the sets dance across the stage. Sam Tsoutsouvas as Wright stormclouds his way across the stage, irascible, hardly lovable, both cerebral master and slave to his own emotions. A second character, a servant from Barbados, picks up as well, but the two streams do not really combine until the climax of the act.

Act 2 (What a Man Does, That he Has) is smaller in location (the rebuilt Taliesen) and in time (a compressed evening and a day). Now Wright has become old guard, yet to see his phoenix-rebirth with Falling Water, holding court with his third wife and his architectural minions. Though some of the same characters from Act 1 spill over, it has the feeling of a backstage comedy, touching on farce. In particular, Morgan Hallett delivers a comic version of Ayn Rand that reduces her to Nora Desmond-like absurdity. Wright in the play, like in life, feels derailed at this point.

Act 3 (Truth is Life) is even smaller in set, a FLW-designed house occupied by a young couple and smaller in time (a single afternoon). A one-act play in itself, it evokes the ghosts of the previous acts but does not come to resolution. Wright by now is at the end of his life, working on the Guggenhiem, curmudgeonly, elfin, forgiven his ego for his recognized talents and achievement. The great man comes to the common people, insults their furnishings, seeks to recapture a bit of his past, and leaves.

The tripartite and disjointed nature of the play(s) are reinforced by the set design. In act 1, everything is fluid, the sets little more than Wright-designed screens rearranging to form the various scenes. Act 2 the sets move still, but it more pivoting, larger pieces to evoke the Taliesen style. And Act 3 is resplendent in the prairie-style of wood- and brick-work, solid and grounded.

The acting was excellent as well. Tsoutsouvas manages to humanize Wright without sacrificing the architect’s ability, ego, or style. The remaining actors play multiple roles, and pull them off admirably, coining new personalities with the costume and makeup changes. Morgan Hallett as first wife Catherine, Ayn Rand, and then Chicago homemaker Carolyn was excellent, as was Robin Walsh as both second and third wives.

Yet in the end, the play itself seems to lack a central core and theme. The moral seems to be that Wright could make houses but not homes, and that his own demands of accommodation by others was not matched by compromise in himself. Form and function are one, but he never seemed to tweak to the function of his ultimate users, the family that occupies his structures. The play feels overlong and muddy in places, and abounds with loose ends that are abandoned and discarded, much as in life itself. It was well directed and acted, but in the end leaves a enigmatic puzzle about its subject.

More later,

Someplace Special

I spent the past week in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, with a flurry of familial activity. Family meals, seeing both sides of the family, taking the nieces and nephew out for book shopping. Pittsburgh is not the stone age – my computer-savvy nephew has DSL, though my parents (who have kept the same computer for ten years) get by with dial-up. So I have been effectively incommunicado for the week, and I thank the Monkey King for feeding in updates written previous to my departure.

The whole Santorum thing has been interesting on the local scene, primarily from the speed of which the local media is responding. And by responding, I mean trying to forget it as quickly as possible. The real-news front had already passed through by the time I hit the ground on Sunday, and there was little in the press on the subject. Indeed, the media seems to be bending over backwards in Santorum’s favor – the archconservative Tribune Review has run articles on how important cyber charter schools are to Western PA’s future, while all-talk KDKA spent an entire morning kissing the senator’s butt as he co-hosted the morning shift (“He’s a local guy! And just another Pittburgher! Not scary! Or elitist!”). And he finally showed up for Jury Duty, which he's misseda few times, but made sure the press was there to cover the event.

My mom is a talk-radio fan so I caught a nice helping of the Senator while working on a project at the dining room table. I missed any comment on the Penn Hills matter, which may have been early in the program, so instead heard him fielding oozy compliments from the co-anchors, softballs with the turnpike workers going on strike, and a not-scary but misleading bit on stem cells. Of the Senator’s comments, he seemed to justify his positions by popular vote – no candidate who supports Social Security privatization has failed to win re-election, so that must be good. A southern candidate who proposed an income tax was shot down, so income tax must be bad. Its an interesting line of argument, particularly since in Washington State, pols who deceive their constituents tend to get the boot.

More later,

Sunday, November 28, 2004

You are Number 6

Take a number, any number.

You Are the Peacemaker
You are emotionally stable and willing to find common ground with others. Your friends and family often look to you to be the mediator when there is conflict. You are easy going and accepting. You take things as they come. Avoding conflict at all costs, you're content when things are calm.

More later,

Friday, November 26, 2004

Blast from the Past

Found this on the net a few days ago.

Just remember to laugh back.

More later,

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Thanksgiving, and a good time to reflect on how things have been.

I remain employed, and after a dicey few weeks it looks like my company will return to its normal over-loaded schedule, as work that the Big Client was unsure it wanted suddenly becomes wanted again, and wanted at the original deadlines. In addition, my casting about for other work has resulted in a small bit of game development for WotC and a literary project for Christmas next year. So it's going to be a very busy December for me after all (I’m noting this in advance for everyone I may stiff on Christmas Cards).

Other than that, things are pretty solid. Friends are busy with life. Kate is busy with tax preparation preparation. The sole person I know still in the Gulf is short and will be hopefully rotated back in a couple months. An old friend who has been struggling has picked up a management position with H&R Block for the spring. My own writing is getting off the ground again. My knees and back are better, thanks to Tai Chi and exercise, though I still could stand to lose a couple handfuls of poundage.

So, Healthy? Yeah.

Wealthy? Enough.

Wise? No more or less than is usual.

So it’s a good Thanksgiving. More later,

Monday, November 22, 2004

School for Scandal

This one is political but not local, at least not local for most of the readers of this blog.

When I was a younger adult, Rick Santorum moved onto my parent’s street in Mount Lebanon, PA. Sometime later he ran against the incumbent U.S. Representative, pointing out that then-Rep Walgren did not even live in a house in the district he represented (he had one, but he parents lived in it). Much was made of this during the campaign, and Santorum won the seat.

Those of you who have read my comments about local carpet-baggers know what happens next – Santorum moved OFF my parent’s street, moved to Washington, and pretty much ignored the hypocrisy as he moved his career forward.

Now time wounds all heels, and this popped up a few days ago on the several media radars. The Virginia-based, now-Senator Santorum DOES own a house in Penn Hills, though he doesn’t live there. But he does claim it as his primary residence for the purposes of educating his kids. His kids attend an on-line charter cyber-school, but since he has a primary residence in Penn Hills, the Penn Hills school district is responsible for covering the bills, to the tune about 40 grand a year, or about 100 grand to date – both numbers are accurate. Either way, the house has proved to be a nice investment, even if the Senator does not live there (It is currently occupied by a niece and nephew, according to one report).

So this ties up a couple themes here in one nice little package – carpet bagging, leaving the constituents in the lurch, and the messy nature of charter schools. The cyber-school has offered to cover the Senator’s kids, but that would probably then create another ethics problem, and Santorum has pulled his kids out of cyber school and returned them to home schooling.

It is as yet unknown if ethics is on the curriculum.

More later,

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Play: American Game

Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg, directed by Joe Mantello, Seattle REP theatre, though December 4.

I really enjoyed this play, though I thought it a playwriting challenge. It's an all-male cast, so the script has to accurately handle how men communicate (which is to say, badly). It's a sports play, so it has to take a baseball diamond shrink it down to the stage while capturing the magic of the park. And it deals with gay and racial themes, which creates a whole new set of challenges of making the characters human and not going all preachy.

And it pulls it all off, by creating spot-on characters who are not stereotypes. Darren Lemming (M. D. Walton) is a young, multiracial, priviledged, incredibly talented superstar player for the fictionous Empires team. He's also a bit of a jerk, but more from the standpoint of cluelessness than anything else. He also reveals after the All-Star Break that he's gay. Not that he's seeing anyone. Not that he's about to be outed. Not that he's embracing the gay subculture. Not that he's doing it for any real reason that anyone can initially figure out. But he's gay.

This revelation creates ripples in the clubhouse, the events narrated by shortstop and team philosopher Kippy Sunderstrom (Doug Wert). It's a good peeling back of the social interactions that go into the team, or any organization. The team seems to weather the news well enough, but the pitching staff goes into a slump, necessitating the Empires to call up the brilliant reliever, redneck Shane Mungitt (Harlan George) from Triple-A ball. The nearly-monosylabic Shane speaks his mind about his fellow team-mates to the press, sparing no euphemisms, and things go downhill from there, with attempts to repair the breach making things worse.

Its a comedy with a tragedy at its center, but it works well, and it does so by bringing out all the characters in the cast. No one character is portrayed as ultimately noble or completely unredeemable, and victor and victim tends to turn upon who is talking. In addition to great job done by the three main actors of the ensemble with their parts, Robert Wu as Japanese pitcher Takeshi Kawabata and T. Scott Cunningham as Lemming's newborn-fan accountant Mason Marzac soar with their roles, but every actor digs into meaty parts on a great play.

One of the great things that the playwrite did well was handling clubhouse philosopher Kippy Sunderstrom, the smartest guy in the room. I had him pegged as the author stand-in, the guy so smart that he will come up with the answers to resolve the play. I hate that guy, and I've seen him in a lot of plays. Kippy is the smartest guy in the room, and the supposed answer man, but his own answers are what drive the plot to its ultimate tragedy and reveals that the smartest guy in the room has his own problems and shortcomings. Nicely, nicely done.

One big word of warning - if bare female shoulderblades on Monday Night Football give you moral reservations, stay away from this play. All-male cast. Baseball players. Shower scenes. You do the math.

More later,

Friday, November 19, 2004

Dinosaur Birds Update

Back in the March 13 entry to this journal, I mentioned the fact that Renton (Motto: "We're that cluster of old buildings you pass to get to the IKEA") had the largest heronry (nesting site for great blue herons), in King County. And I mentioned that developers wanted to put up a housing development real close to it, which might have a detrimental effect on said herons.

So the city of Renton (Motto: "You know Fry's Electronics? We're near that") scheduled a hearing on the matter, and, after shifting the date three or seven times, finally met, and the hearing examiner, after hearing both sides, recommended to the city that they at least procure an Environmental Impact Statement before proceeding and breaking ground.

City Council of Renton (Motto: "You pass through us on the way to the real shopping center in Tukwilla") then held a meeting on 8 November (Here's the link for the minutes in pdf format). At this meeting they chose to overrule their own hearing examiner's ruling and press on. Further, they ammended the examiner's findings to cast doubt on the conservationists' case. The logic they put forward is that the burden of proof lay with the heron-supporters, and after the council modified the findings and ignored the recommendations, insufficient proof existed to stand in the way of development.

Yeah, it makes my head hurt, too. It was a 4-3 vote, and the minority entered their own dissenting opinion into the record, (Why have a hearing if you're going to ignore your own examiner? Why is the burden of proof on the conservationists instead of the developers?) During the comments section, the overwhelming number of audience members, politely as possible, told the city council they were crazy.

Of course, nothing is ever in stone, so now this will likely move to the courts, but I think the City Council has really dropped the ball on this. I mean, here's a reason for people to come to Renton in the first place, and they want to mess with it? Instead of pretending they're not going to chase the birds off, they should inaugerate "Heron Days" in March to draw people into the downtown area and run shuttles out to the nesting site. Heron Parade! Heron Pagent! Special Heron Discounts! This sounds pretty wild, but I've been up in Skaggit Valley, in little towns like Concrete, where the highways are clogged with people pulled over just to watch an lone eagle sitting in a tree across the river. And we just caught a similar break.

And the biggest predator of great blue herons? Bald eagles. More herons = more eagles. Take THAT, Skaggit Valley!

And if the herons move on, you know, then you can still build. Its not like the land is going anywhere. Though looking at that bluff they want to build on, I can't be 100% sure on that, either

More later,

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

States of Mind: Superior
and the Toledo War

Once you start prying under the history’s floorboards, all sorts of things start popping out. In researching the State of Jefferson, I found a bundle of other proto-states and sharded states, independence movements and stillborn political entities. These are not secessions in the traditional sense of forming new countries, but rather regional entities that want to pull away from its current government and then rejoin the union, usually pulling an end run on distant and unresponsive state governments.

These proto-states are tricky, glimmering creatures, existing as footnotes to American History, alternate lines of descent along the evolutionary tree of politics. I found a reference to a state of Shasta movement in the fifties in the same general region as the state of Jefferson (the motivating issue for the fifties rebellion was water rights, not transportation, but the online record is unclear), as well as a proposed state of Jefferson in East Texas, free of interference from Austin. Not to mention Kanawha, Sequoia, Greater Kansas, and Franklin.

And then there was the State of Superior, currently known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Its statehood movement peaked in the mid ‘70s, with a couple bills that failed to pass, a book (Superior: A State for the North Country), a passel of bumper-stickers, and a proposed state slogan (“Ta heck with ya”). But in digging around on Superior, I found out that it was a part of Michigan in the first place because of a war between the states.

No, I mean the war between the states of Michigan and Ohio, in 1835.

An entire timeline is here, but here’s the short version. When the state of Ohio was founded, there was a question about its northwest boundary, near the current site of Toledo. The original Northwest Ordinance (which created the Northwest Territories in 1787) put Toledo and a wedge of land about eight miles wide outside and north of Ohio, but the Enabling Act of 1802 that created Ohio changed that language to allow Ohio’s claim to the land. The Michigan Territory, seeking its own statehood 30 years later, went back to the original claim and said that chunk of land (which had gone from swampy area to a growth area thanks to the proposed Wabash and Erie Canal) was rightfully theirs. Numerous surveys were run over the years, each supporting opposite sides of the dispute.

Michigan Territory wanted statehood and also wanted the original border (which would give them Toledo). Ohio passed legislation declaring the Toledo Strip theirs. Michigan passed legislation making the enforcement of Ohio’s control illegal in the strip. Both sides held elections in the disputed territories. A sheriff’s posse from Michigan moved on Toledo and arrested people guilty of supporting Ohio. A force of Michigan militia encountered an armed Ohio surveying party and arrested them, but not before shots rang out (The Battle of Phillips Corner). Both sides piled on the political invective – Ohio was supporting “tyranny”, while Michigan encouraged “savage barbarity”.

There was a modicum of pushing, shoving, and maneuvering between both sides for the rest of the year (though no more clear-cut “battles”). Michigan declared itself a state and elected a governor, senators, and representatives. The US government declined to admit Michigan unless it resolved the border matter. And by “resolved” it meant give up its claim on the Toledo Strip.

In exchange for renouncing its claim, Michigan got the Upper Peninsula, which was pulled back from the newly-formed Wisconsin Territory. No wonder there was a feeling of alienation among the natives of the UP. Not only were they a consolation prize, they were the consolation prize for Toledo. The remoteness of their location (frozen-in during the winter months until the Mackinac Bridge was built in 1957), contributed to both a sense of isolation and independence. But by the time enough power coalesced for a true independence movement, technology had linked up the UP with the rest of the country to the point of reducing the need for it. But much like Jefferson, Superior continues to have its own independent mindset.

And the Toledo War becomes another ghostly footnote in US History – spun today as more of an intramural disagreement than a real conflagration, or as nothing more than a disagreement between strong-willed Governors. In fact the write-ups go out of their way to stress ultimate harmlessness of the conflict (shots were fired, not one was hurt, well, one deputy was stabbed, but he recovered). But troops were rallied, shots were fired, people threatened and imprisoned, and emotions ran high. Wars have been fought for less.

And once someone gets away with something, they’re just encouraged to do it again. I understand that Ohio has been eying the West Virginia panhandle, just waiting for the chance.

More later,

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Play: Cthulhu Puppet Show

Theater of Horrors based on the Fantastic Works of H. P. Lovecraft, Directed by Ron Sandahl, Oct 8-Nov 13, Open Circle Theater

This was Stan!'s idea - he mentioned that a small local theater group always performed a tryptic of horror plays based on the writings of pulp writer H. P. Lovecraft each Halloween. Schedules being what they were, we attained critical mass for about ten of us to attend on closing night of the performance. The Open Circle is a hole-in-wall theater located in the soon-to-be-developed South Union area, with a small performance space for about a hundred patrons. We were not the only ones to hear of this, since the joint was packed for the final performance, such that they had to pull out folding chairs to handle the house.

Lovecraft, with his eldritch horrors, strange geometries, and terrors of the mind and soul, creates a challenge to more visual media. The creeping horror brought to life in the imagination from the printed page does not compete well with the rubber-suited monster. The Open Circle embraces the limitation with the use of puppets (with black-hooded puppeteers), coaxing humor and horror out in the process. As my wife said on the way up, "How bad can it be? It's puppets."

Actually, it was pretty good. The first play, "Nyarlathotep", was little more than a vignette - two individuals confronting a conjurer who is truly the messenger of the Elder Gods - and was stitched together from a number of Lovecraftian sources (the original source material was a three-page fragment). The puppets show up in force in "The Doom that Came to Sarnath", a narrated performance with a hooded storyteller spinning the tale of an ancient genocide and the revenge that was worked a millenium later - a solid tale in the original, Lovecraft evoking Dunsany, with a nice stinger put into place in the adaption.

But it was the third play that held together the best, because it allowed the horror to build over time. "Dreams in the Witch House" was written in "doomed-protagonist" manner that Lovecraft did so well, but comes alive on the stage through the adaptions humor and humanity - things that Lovecraft did not do well. Nerdy mathematics student Walter Gilman (Ray Tagavilla) finds a hole in the walls of the universe, and discovers the dark minions beyond. Here the mixture of humans and puppet-monstrocities come together nicely, but more importantly, the adaptation creates viable characters and allows them to develop over time, allowing the horror to rach out to audience.

All in all, it was a lot of fun - one of the better Lovecraft adaptions. In addition to Tagavilla, the other performers/puppeteers (Aaron Allshouse, Andy Justus, and John McKenna) pulled off Lovecraft without overindulging in excessively in melodrama. Yes, its been a yearly thing in the past, and I'll keep my ears open come October next year to see if they're at it again. I hope so.

More later,

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Mr. Grubb Goes to Oly

The recent election cycle brought me to Olympia, in the shadow of the renovated capitol building, for a job interview.

No, really.

Here's what happened - After the election, I sent congratulatory messages to Pat Sullivan and Geoff Simpson, who took the two positions for state representative from the fighting 47th Distict. Geoff wrote back to say a) thanks for the congrats, b) that he was a reader of this journal, c) that he had read my entry about the work slowdown and my reduced hours, and d) that the House Democratic Caucus was hiring for the upcoming legislative session. He gave me a name to contact, a Melinda McCrady, the Communications Director. I made a call and we set a date for Friday (yesterday) for an interview.

So I ended up going down to Olympia in the afternoon, a town which reminds me a lot of Madison, Wisconsin (seat of government, lot of young people, used bookstores, really cruddy parking situation). Ms. McCrady's office is a stone's throw away from the domed legislative building, still under repair from the Nisqually Quake a few years back. After the quake, the legislators moved into the nearby offices, and the communications staffs moved into the basement. When I entered the building and asked for the Democratic Caucus, I was told "You're standing on their roof" by the security guys (the GOP Caucus was at the other end of the basement hall).

The digs definitely had a boiler-room decor to them - low ceilings, lots of "reformatted space", but had a friendly feel to them as well (plastic swords stashed by the door, political cartoons on the wall, old democratic memorabilia in the office). People lived, worked, and played here. It also had that "university between terms" vibe - a little empty, and those there present were dressed for comfort, not panel hearings (As usual, I overdressed for the interview - at least I passed on the tie this time). Ms. McCrady herself was preparing for an upcoming legislative retreat, but we spoke for about a half-hour, and I was impressed with her openness, knowledge, and dedication. I found out a lot about the process of what they did and what they were looking for, and showed off some of my own work (a couple books, and a CD-Rom my team has been working on).

Upshot of it all - the job was not a good fit. I was looking for freelance to supplement my current situation, they were looking for someone to work on-site for the legislative session (Dec-April). But I was glad to have gone, both for the experience and as a reminder of how accessible our government truly is. As a writer, I am always telling people how thin the membrane is between fan and writer - we don't live in great towers on the hill. You want to write, you write - boom, you're in the Brotherhood. The same applies to our government. You want to be a part, you be a part. And that thought made me smile all the way back home.

More later,

Friday, November 12, 2004

City Of Lawyers

What the heck?

Here's the short form: Marvel Comics Group is suing NCSoft and Cryptic Studios over their massively multiplayer online RPG, City of Heroes. The reason for the suit is that their hero-building part of the game, where you make your characters, allow you to make Hulks. And by Hulks they mean Hulk-like avatars - big muscular green guys in purple shorts. You can even name your hero Hulk, and while they discourage that (as in - would violate the terms of service and justify your removal from the game), they can't keep you from naming your character Hunk, Bulk, Sulk, or Holk.

But because you can make a big green bruiser with purple shorts named Holk, Marvel is unleashing the lawyers, because NCSoft/Cryptic is enabling the players to engage in a trademarkably risky venture. They may go after Crayola next, because it sells both green and purple crayons in the same box. I don't think they're afraid of The Inedible Bulk bouncing through Paragon City as they are about what, if this is allowed to pass, could happen next. You know the idea of the Matrix, where we're all really plugged into a massive machine with a virtual reality? Lawyers sold that idea in, since it would reduce liability for their robotic masters.

Now the interesting things is that while you can build Holks, or Magnuttos or Wolvereens, in-game, those who do so are looked-down-up as being unimaginative (or to use the lingo of these kids today, being a Lam3er). Pretty much the same way that a comic character from one universe is viewed as being a weak ripoff of another (say, Marvel's Moon Knight as a cut-rate Batman). So there is a social balancing in the world that keeps the play environment from being overrun by Hulk clones.

Me, I think they're just irritated that the Paragon City Sulks are better-animated than the Hulk movie was.

More later,

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

News and Information

Moving from the national to the local:

National - Ashcroft resigns as AG. The Department of People Who Are Never Happy suddenly becomes concerned that he will be replaced with someone that is both Evil and Competent. Alberto Gonzales, a former counsel for Enron, is nominated as his replacement. The Department of People Who Are Never Happy are still not happy. There is no pleasing some people.

Actually, I like Ashcroft's declaration in his letter "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved." This is Nixon-in-Viet-Nam strategy - declare victory, then leave. And I for one am all in favor of this approach, provided that they then remember to leave. "Mission Accomplished! Beer me!"

State - While the gubernatorial election is still too close to call ("It's Gregoire! It's Rossi, It's Gregroire again!), candidate Rossi has publicly announced his transition team. You know, forming a transition team even though the election is still up in the air is not a bad idea at all. Making a public press release for it is more than just a little presumptive.

Local - We're going to get a new neighbor down in Renton - the Federal Reserve. According to the Seattle Times and the P-I, the Seattle branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is moving its offices from downtown to the Renton, at the site of the old Longacres racetrack. They chose the location for a better security perimeter, and will construct a new building. The location is a long block away from my current building.

Now, on one hand, I can point out a lot of empty buildings that near ours that might be suitable, saving construction costs. On the other hand, as a result of the new building, the city is talking about making another connecting road over railroad tracks that divide the Renton/Kent valley lengthwise. That rail line currently channels east-west traffic into a handful of conjested roads, so another road is a good idea. But if you make a connecting road, you're going to increase traffic in that area, which may not be best for security.

On the flipside of the proposed move, the departure of the Fed from downtown makes its old building a possible location for a monorail station. But the guy who was pouring money into the astroturf campaign to cripple the monorail (which got pounded as an initiative) wants to buy the building himself. Even though the lack of a potential station was one of the reasons that he opposed the monorail. Which just makes my head hurt.

So Local You Could Plotz - They put in a new telephone pole in on our property. Two days ago. And I just noticed it this evening. I mean, it doesn't leap out at you, but I've been blowing leaves in that lawn around it, and it didn't register until tonight. The Department of People Who Are Never Happy are . . . verklempt about this. Went in with a minimum amount of fuss and disruption, and raises up a low-hanging line. Nice.

More later,

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Comics: Good Grief

The Complete Peanuts Volumes 1 (1950-1952) and 2 (1953-1954), Charles Shulz. Fantagraphics Books.

Charles Shulz provided me with a lot of words in my childhood: Good Grief. Kite-Eating Tree. Security Blanket. Supper Dish. Beethoven. World War One Flying Ace. Psychiatry 5 Cents. Naturally Curly Hair. Great Pumpkin. Fussbudget. Joe Cool. Woodstock. Stupid Cat Next Door. Sidney or the Bush. Can't Stand Coconut. Goat. Blockhead. Crabby. Slugs. Little Red-Haired Girl. Sweet Baboo. Gully Cats. Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. Happy Dance. Blech.

Happiness is a Warm Puppy. Good Ol' Charlie Brown.

Peanuts started seven years before I was born, but when I was growing up, we had the square-bound books of the collected strips in the house (Peanuts, More Peanuts, Good Grief More Peanuts) and read them and re-read them to tatters. And the first Christmas and Halloween specials were just rolling out, establishing the strip as the hot replacement for L'il Abner in the American comic lexicon. We took a lot of our cues from the gang - frustrated loser Charlie Brown, bossy Lucy, intellectual Linus, creative Schroeder, and in particular Snoopy as the dog with an extensive fantasy life. So when the first volume of the complete collected strips came out, I picked it up, and then waited so long to write about it that the second volume came out.

The collected sets overwhelm me with both a sense of nostalgia and a sense of admiration. In these early volumes, we see the stuff that is to come, the pieces falling into place, both in pictures and in words. The early graphic world of Peanuts is much more three-dimensional than the later years - things live in the foreground and background, and characters do bits of business that have little to do with the task of propelling the last-panel gag. The gags themselves are more "smilers" than "laughers" - bits of observational humor and personal interaction that underscore the idea of kids as their own proto-adult world.

But the pieces are falling into place. Early Charlie Brown is more mischevious. Lucy is more childlike and needy than bossy, she and Schroeder being the youngest of the group at the start. Piano prodigy Schroeder is more of the group's intellectual, since Linus, arriving on the scene later, is still pre-verbal in his early appearances. Snoopy is more like a dog than a raw expression of fantasy. Shultz is trying things here, and blessed with hindsight, we can see the bits of the universe coming together.

Not everything works, and the strip's history records that as well. Snoopy has a voice balloon in a couple strips, but has yet to embrace his thoughts on-page. Unseen adults have lines from off-panel, which changes the dynamic from kid-kid relationships to child-adult ones, and that goes away over time as well. A multi-Sunday strip epic shows up, continuing from week to week (young Lucy goes golfing) an experiment that is not repeated, as similarly unrepeated was an attempt to name the Sunday strips.

The core at the start is Charlie Brown, Sherman, Violet, Patty, and Schroeder, with Lucy showing up soon afterwards as a near-toddler. Linus arrives as a target for Lucy's growing selfishness, and Pig-Pen shows up early as well to great success. But in the closing pages of Volume 2, we meet Charlene Braun, the forgotten member of the Peanuts gang, one I never knew existed, because her strips never showed up in earlier collections. A loud young girl with curly hair and a similar name to Charlie Brown, Charlene never got the traction she needed - her loud voice was sucked up by Lucy, and her curls regenerating in with the similarly ineffective later character Freida.

These volumes are great presentations, lovingly assembled, the first with an intro by Garrison Keillor, the second volume by Walkter Cronkite. The first volume reprints a Fantagraphic interview with Charles Shulz that shows the man as an honest, open, caring man - Charlie Brown grown up. I found myself awash in memories and smiles as I reconnected with the gang.

More later,

Monday, November 08, 2004

Wisdom Gained from Married Life

Any conversation with your spouse that begins "You missed your turn, there" is probably not going to end well.

No, really.

States of Mind: Jefferson

So on the way down to Corning a few weeks back, Kate and I passed an open-sided hay barn on the east side of I-5. The roof was covered with a banner with the words “State of Jefferson” on it (and it being the 21st century, a web site address. Being the curious person I am, I searched it and came into contact with the colorful, if brief, history of the State of Jefferson.

Here’s the short form: during the Depression, the natives of the rural counties of Southern Oregon and Northern California were irritated about not getting their due of state support, in particular in regards to transportation. In November of 1941, they announced their own secession movement, planning to leave their original states and form their own 49th state. Originally the proposed name of this new state would be Mittelwestcoastia, but wiser heads (and a newspaper contest) selected Jefferson instead. Declaring that it would secede “This Thursday and every Thursday until recognized”, gun-toting proponents set up barricades on the main highway, (then I-99), stopped motorists, and handed out their proclamation of independence and windshield stickers advertising Jefferson. Their currency was going to be the wooden nickel, and the state flag a gold pan with two “x”s on it, showing the double-cross they were getting from the state governments in Salem and Sacramento.

Their grievances were solid, though you get the feeling that tongues were deeply lodged in cheeks. In taking the course they did, the locals brought a lot of attention to the area (newsreel crews from Hollywood, and a reporter from San Francisco, Stanton Delaplane, who would win a Pulitzer for his coverage). On December 4, local judge John L. Childs was elected governor and inaugurated after a torchlight parade in Yreka. Looking back after 60 years, you get the feeling that the rebellion was equal parts civic boosterism and civil disobedience.

Of course, three days later, Pearl Harbor. The would-be secessionists put away their banners, the governor stepped down and called for national unity and the counties joined the country at war.

The Jefferson “State of Mind” has persisted, in ways that the original founders would probably be amused by. A chain of NPR stations. A “chamber of commerce” doing road clean-ups. A jazz band. One of the founders of the current movement builds solar-powered homes. This is the legacy of the rebellion, just as quirky as the original secession.

But there is another legacy, one not covered in the website, but rather marked at the Klamath roadside oasis just south of the CA/OR border. The oasis is rather luxurious, and named after California State Senator Randolph E. Collier, the “Silver Fox”, who served in the state house 1938-76. A quoted supporter of the secession movement, Collier ended up on the State Transportation Committee, and used his influence not only to get Northern California its major roads, but oversaw the entire California Interstate system, model for the national system. The three-day independence movement in Northern California (as well as its mineral wealth) probably had something to do with freeing up southern dollars for northern transportation issues.

More later,

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A Legend In My Own Lunchtime

So, with everything else happening this week, I DID come across three things that were amusing.

First off, Dungeon Magazine published a list of the best D&D Adventure Modules of all time, and one I worked on, Queen of the Spiders, took the first place. This tickles my fancy both because I haven't done a LOT of D&D adventures over the years (like, less than 10), and because this one was a filling-out of really classic D&D stuff from the dawn of time by Gary Gygax and Dave Sutherland. It fell to me to update it and provide some connective tissue, for the first time really putting it in the World of Greyhawk. Its very much a "seeing further by standing on the shoulders of giants" kinda thing, but I was surprised it (and not the original modules themselves) took first place.


Oh, yeah, the mega-babe cover by Keith Parkinson did a lot for its popularity, I have no doubt.

Secondly, 30 years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons, finally made it out to the stores, and looks pretty nice. Of course I made an ego scan through it and found myself well-represented, in particular in the Forgotten Realm section. I enjoy the line describing me as "the twin father to this 800-pound baby" (which, I suppose, is much better than being the 800-pound father to twin babies).

And finally, I found out that one of my former co-workers, bride to Mystical Forest, went to the Halloween Party as . . . me. Its an easy costume - the loudest hawaiian shirt you can find and a name tag. I told her that for bonus points she should have gone around grousing about the perils of freelancing. If I find a photo I'll post it.

It's kinda nice being a medium-sized fish in a relatively medium-sized pond.

More later,

Friday, November 05, 2004

Electoral Storm: The Mourning After

To say it has been a weird week is an understatement. Over the course of twelve hours, late Tuesday to early Wednesday, I found myself transformed from the voice of needless concern to a voice of cautious hope. I went, without changing an atom of my being, from being Doubting Thomas to Peter the Rock, from worrier to stalwart. I don't think I changed, just the rest of the world.

I work in a pretty young, liberal office – not quite a wild and wooly as when I joined, but what we do (creative stuff) nurtures a tolerant, smart, open-minded, progressive mindset. So as the tracking polls started ticking upwards, as the moons came into alignment, as the tea leaves danced around the bottom of the cup, as even Fox news pushed the challenger ahead, spirits rose. We could see this insufficient president turned out.

I heard about the “Redskins lose their last home game before the election – the incumbent is toast!” about five times. I pointed out that no team in baseball has ever come back from a three game disadvantage to win a national championship. Until this year. My point (Causality does not equal corelation) was waved off.

And then the national results rolled in. A defeat, a near one, but a clear defeat nonetheless. And with it a scary sense of otherness in my friends – how could so many people disagree? How could so many people endorse the status quo? Wednesday was like a lid had been dropped on the place – a stunned silence. I think part of it was because hopes were high, the results were particularly crushing. A lot of people took electoral rejection as personal rejection.

And so I went to triage, talking to folks, sharing experiences. I benefit from the fact that I’ve been here before, only worse in both raw percentages and electoral votes – Mondale, Dukakis. I benefit from having conservative friends, in that I remember what they went through when we returned That Man (as one called him) to the White House in ’96. I benefit from a political life well-lived, and pointed out when I was 15, I was really, really smug that “my man” Dick Nixon had routed those anti-American McGovernites almost across the country (and look where that got me).

The net was as bad if not worse – one friend swearing off politics, another swearing that he would become more involved. Long silences from some, loud screeds from others. Threats, curses, primal screams, dark allegations. And I can only advise patience. Politics is a process, not an end result.

To those that supported the losing side, I can only say – “I wasn’t wrong, I was outvoted.”
To those that supported the winning side, I can only say – “May wisdom guide our leaders.”

One last piece – I really hate the Electoral map, which reinforces the idea of the two physical Americas – If blue got 51% of a state, it is blue, and all the red voters suddenly don’t count, and vice versa. This one popped up and I’d like to share it:

Purple America

I like to think of my glass as 48% full, thank you.

More later,

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Electoral Storm - The Morning After

Well, I was right about it being huge. Even though we're nationally yet again dealing with a situation where a single state with hinky election processes is making the final decision, it has been a tremendous turnout. All the cool kids voted. If you didn't vote, you still have the right to complain, but I will mock you.

President: Still hanging fire in Ohio, but there's a couple big differences between this year and four years back. Now the OTHER guy has the popular vote, and a third party candidate is not a factor. I'm willing to be patient and get this right, and then live with the results. And while I am disappointed about the prospect of another four years, I will note that most of the places I deal with and care about (California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, and of course Washington State) all went blue. Good or ill, we get the government we deserve. That's why its a democracy - putting our faith in the people that made Survivor a #1 show. Thanks to everyone that voted!

Governor: Moving more local, this is the incredibly tight race that I'm paying attention to. It definitely will bode a recount regardless of who comes up with the prize (why yes, we have paper ballots). Gregoire was surprisingly soft against Rossi in a state where so much went Democrat. More on this as it resolves.

Minor State Offices:A good year to be an incumbent. All the usual suspects are coming back, though Sam Reed saw a greater challenge than I expected for Secretary of State, and Cooper made an excellent run at taking over for Sutherland at Public Lands. The big dif is that we're looking at a Republican in Attorney General - McKenna over Senn. Now this one is a disappointment but not unforseen, as Senn took a lot of hits in both the Primary and the General, and the local media, still mooning over Mark Sidhran, were not horribly supportive.

Senator: The other big immediately-called race was incumbent Murray over dumbass Nethercutt. No surprise - she thrashed him (Note in terms - +10&% is a thrash, +20% is a trounce, +30% is a pummelling, and +40% is the regular victory margin for Jim McDermott). While I regret the loss of comedic material in Nethercutt's departure, I'm pretty pleased with seeing a competant person at the helm in these perilous times. Now let's talk port security.

US Rep, 8th District: I called this at the start - if Reichert was the GOP Nominee, he'd take the general, and while the election has not been called, he's still ahead. Good hair, strong law-and-order rep, recognized name, sleaziest local campaign I've seen in a long time. Gets two years to prove that he's not just a lock-step Republican.

State Legislature, 47th District: Geoff Simpson is cruising to re-election at position one, and at position two - challenger Pat Sullivan? By the same margins? Huh? Yep, this is the upset that I really didn't expect, and I don't have a clue about why, other than Pat ran a strong and clean campaign by the old-school rules of politics. I'm delighted by this turn of events.

Statewide Initiatives: Mixed bag. Here's the good news - No to Slot Machines, Yes to Hanford cleanup, No to Charter Schools. The less-good news - Yes to the Top-two primary (It was nice knowing you, Libertarians, give my regards to the Green party when you see them in political oblivion). No to Education Fund.

Local Initiatives: Yes to less representation on King County Council, near-even split on whether we should commit political suicide now or next year. Yes to the Transit plan and the prefered method of payment being a excise tax on new vehicles. Big news - the well-funded astroturf campaign to kill the Monorail went down in flames (that would be a "trounce"). Its not over - Pittsburgh's Skybus died of litigation, not legislation, but here's a case of definite voice of the people: Build that sucker.

Judges: Highly promoted and well-funded Jim Johnson and controversial and well-known Richard Saunders both go to the high bench - wackiness will undoubtedly ensue. Darvis and Washington in the races at the lower levels.

And that's about it. If you're looking for people whinging and moaning and tearing at their garments, there are a lot of them out there in the blogosphere today. And while I regret sucking SO much space out of this blog (when I could be, yaknow, griping about how sucky TV Guide has gotten) on politics, I'm glad I did it. And as things move forward (the political parties have already said they would challenge the top-two primary system in court), I'll keep yah posted. For now, we go on with life.

More later,