Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Old Versions

Here's a useful tool: a website that archives old versions of software.

The Anti-Catholic Right

I post this mainly out of interest to two of my Catholic friends, one of whom is probably more liberal than I, the other is fairly conservative and/or libertarian, depending.

When I lived in Oklahoma, I was often astounded at some of the anti-Catholic vitrol that came from the "born-again" Christians there; I mean, there are plenty of things wrong with the Catholic Church, but I recall one incident from high school where someone called me a "papist" (a word I thought had slipped from the English language around, say, the third month of the Kennedy administration) and informed me that I was going to hell for worshipping Mary.

Then I read articles like this that explain why W., as a born-again Christian, is a far better person than Kerry, who isn't.

One thing I should mention: evangelical, fundamentalist Protestants have developed a "language" all their own. Through endless Sundays of listening to preachers, well, preach, they have created catch-phrases that, to the average reader, mean nothing, but cause reactions among evangelical readers - much like a dog's mouth watering when you ring a bell (to be fair, all religions do this to some degree or another, but unless you know what to look for, you might miss the evangelical Protestant language in the article). So if you stumble across things you don't quite understand, that's because the author is attempting to key off beliefs his target audience already shares.

I Need a Hero

I bought a DVD copy of Hero at Comic-Con International, and finally watched it this weekend (I figured the point of buying a Hong Kong DVD is to watch a movie before I can watch it in the theater, so I might as well take advantage of it on opening weekend). That's a convoluted way of saying "I watched Hero, so now you're going to read my opinion on it."

My initial reaction is to compare it to Crouching Tiger, but they are two different films, so the comparison is unfair. Hero is beautifully shot and centers around a basic Confucian premise: the notion of filial piety to build a strong country. An interesting note, in the version I watched, the "country" was translated as "All Under Heaven;" in the version in theaters, it is translated as "Our Land."

Confucian philosophy is based on the premise of strong people building strong families, strong families building strong communities, and strong communities building strong nations. But the leader of the nation is to be respected and revered (heirarchy is very important in Confucian philosophy), and not to be questioned something I find slightly unsettling. Hero deals with the concept of leadership and the importance of the structure of the nation, and does so rather well - Liz didn't care for the ending, although upon further reflection, I think it fits. I had the same reaction I do to most Confucian philosophy - that is to say, I find its faith in its leadership runs contrary to my core beliefs that no one should ever be above being questioned - but is still worth watching, especially if you're interested in Eastern philosophy.

Help Me, Will

Memory works in strange ways. You can go a year and not think about something, and then wake up one morning thinking about one of your favorite books - in this case, Nabokov's Pale Fire. For some reason, I woke up with the first / last lines of the poem on my mind - "I am the shadow of the waxwing slain / by the false azure of the windowpane" - and it's been turning over and over in my head all day.

Then Jeff mentions Nabokov in his blog, and I email him about it, and then realize the strange coincidence. And then, being halfway to my own blog, I hop on here to write about it. How does that work exactly? I haven't thought of Pale Fire in a long time, probably since I moved here. I don't even think I thought about it when I was shelving my books (my Nabokov runs in a pack in my library, I've got all his books in one large clump).

Maybe I should get it out and read it again, but I'm still busy with the Stephen Brust Taltos books toward which Jon directed me.

It's Been Awhile

It's been a while since I made a "post of substance" rather than a link to some political or other story of interest. That's partially due to the fact that my computer at home can now be declared legally deceased (the sparks of life I get from it are more like spasms induced by electrical shocks rather than sustained living), so my blog time is also usually my work time. The reason I can blog tonight is that Liz hasn't come to get me yet.

So anyway, my life isn't a whole lot these days aside from the usual get-up, go-to-work crap. I've had some issues at the office, but I can't really talk about that here because people from work read my blog (although the important ones know about my stuggles anyway, heh). It's mostly just supid personality stuff that really grates on my nerves - the kinds of things we should have resolved on the playground back in first grade, not carried with us all the way to a professional workplace. And it's one person in particular, which makes it even worse, because I have to work with that person on a daily basis, and the problem has, at times, made coming to work something I dread rather than love, and that should not happen at a game company.

Heh, there I went talking about it anyway. On the work front, today was Liz's first day at her new job - they didn't have time to train her to use the phones, but she was in three strategy meetings. I'm looking at that as a good sign and a step up from where she was. I spoke with her a little earlier, and she seemed really excited - and I know she kicks enough ass that she'll have no problem handing this work.

On the personal level, I walked into the office this morning, a feat made even easier with the addition of my new 40 GB iPod. The ultimate yuppie toy it be, but Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ is it cool. I've been keeping an iTunes library on my work computer for over a year, and it took the iPod about 20 minutes to download it all and arrange it. My only complaint - and this is minor - is that the stupid thing scratches too easily. The metallic back was scratched the first day just from sitting on my desk, and the front has a couple of hairline scratches on it now as well just from being in my jeans pocket.

Excercise has always been a matter of boredom for me - my mind usually operates on the "we could be doing so many other worthwhile things right now!" level - and the iPod helped immensely with that. I'm going to see if I can download some eBooks for it, so I can actually spend that time wisely rather than waste it listening to that devil-rock music (AKA Bon Jovi).

In other tech news, I got a new DVD player, the Momitsu v880, one of two DVD players on the market that upconverts to HD (a 1080i signal). Although DVDs aren't mastered in HD, the Momitsu has built-in upconverting software (or, as I like to think of it, 140 million gnomes all using Photoshop at the same time to improve my picture), so it's about as close as you will get to HD-DVD before the format comes out. It improved the picture quality on my TV by, say, 100%. High-quality-mastered DVDs like the Superbit stuff, the Lord of the Rings, and others look fantastic - nearly indistinguishable from the HD TV channels I'm getting (there is a little loss, but you don't notice it unless you're right on top of the TV). Even TV shows like Futurama look eye-poppingly crisp. I now have over 400 DVDs, thanks in no small part to some trades I've done recently, so there's a lot of stuff to watch over again.

One-Sentence Story

I looked over the stern of the boat, watching Jim's body mix wit the foaming wake and icy ocean water, and thought, "Well, I'm glad that's over."

Just In Time for the GOP Convention!

Here's one Representative who will be off the GOP Guest List (thanks to Metafilter for the link):

Representative Ed Shrock of Virginia, who voted for the Marriage Protection Act and was co-sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, outed as a closet homosexual due to his recorded phone conversations with a gay men's phone sex company.

I love to watch hypocrites go down in flames, especially when they use their bigotry to appeal to ignorance for votes.

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Way Things Used to Be

Seth linked me to an outstanding article that basically sums up my feelings on the Republican party of today, and how it has pandered to the extreme elements in its group rather than take a strong stand against them.

A Waffling Flip-Flopper

In less than a month, it appears that the "steadfast values" candidate has turned into that most horrendous of human beings: one who changes his mind about something.

Go to Talking Points Memo and read for yourself (no time to properly quote at work).

When Movies Bomb...

When the Bennifer-machine Jersey Girl crashes and burns, what is a serious filmmaker to do? That's right, go back and make another Clerks. No, I'm not kidding.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Couch Blogging

Since my computer continues to stumble towards death's door, I'm blogging from the couch tonight on Liz's ancient laptop. I'm watching Duel, Steven Spielburg's directoral debut from 1971. I'm only 16 minutes in, and I can already identify some trademark Spielburg moments, and some decent tension, especially considering this was a made-for-TV movie shot with no budget. The premise of road rage is (sadly) less scary - or should I say, more common - today, but it's very well done; too bad more movies today can't be like this.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Swift Follow Up

Because the original article requires Washington Post registration, I've instead linked to the Talking Points Memo post quoting the good stuff.

They Aren't So Swift

An excellent article in the Palm Beach Post about the Swift Boat Veteran bruhaha - and, more importantly, what we can deduce from it and the reactions to it.


Overall, I've been very unsatisfied with the coverage of the Olympics this year. I generally don't like my patriotiasm in suppository form, and that's what the coverage has felt like: I have to cheer for the Americans, or else I'm - perhaps traitor is too strong a word, but certainly, that something is wrong with me.

I've never felt this way in the past. Of course, after the fall of the USSR, the networks needed a new angle for their coverage, and switched over to the whole "human interest" thing, featuring the trials each athlete had to go through (recovering from cancer, growing a new limb, etc.) But this year is different - if I could take screenshots from some of the races, it's almost pathetic how they keep the camera focused entirely on the American runner and ignore the others.

I can contrast that with the coverage on the Canadian Broadcasting Channel, which we get down here thanks to our proximity to our neighbors in the Great White North. Their coverage is what I remember the Olympics being when I was a kid; still nationalistic (after all, it is a time to be proud of your country), but at the same time, celebrating the spirit of unity that brings the athletes together. That, to me, has always symbolized what the Olympics should be - not the glory of one nation over all other nations, but the sense of community that develops from shared experience and competition.

Allow me to digress slightly for one moment. While I was at GenCon, I read about an ad the Bush administration was running about Afghanistan and Iraq being able to compete in the Olympics as democracies. The ad featured the Iraqi soccer team (that's footie to non-American readers), who are in a position to earn a bronze medal this year. Of course, the ad was intended to support the Bush administration's re-election campaign.

The article also mentioned that the Iraqi soccer team was non too happy with this development. In fact, in an interview that appeared in Sports Illustrated, the Iraqi soccer coach told Bush to, essentially, go to hell. That Uday Hussein used to use the Iraqi soccer team (in between torturing them) as a politcal tool, and the right to be allowed to compete without being a political tool was supposedly the reason the Bush administration liberated Iraq in the first place - not to serve its own self-interest, as it has repeatedly done since the invasion.

Which brings me back to the Olympic coverage. The kind of blind flag-waving, the cameras not focusing on the other athletes, seems like something the Soviet Union would broadcast on its networks - forcing its citizens to see only one aspect of the games, using the athletes as political pawns rather than in the spirit of the games.

And honestly, I don't know what's scarier - the Bush administration using athletes as political pawns like Hitler or Stalin (harsh comparisons, but apt in this case), or the American television networks' complacency - even eagerness - to indulge this nonsense.

Vietnam? Nah.

For some reason, when I read this story about a distraught father setting himself on fire after learning that his son was killed serving the Bush administration in Iraq, I immediately thought of the Buddhists who immolated themselves to protest the Vietnam conflict.

Con Pics

There's some good pictures of me and others at GenCon here.

Fold This

One of the things I enjoyed about the creative student program in elementary school was origami - folding things like cranes and such. The most complicated thing I folded was a dodecahedron, which pales in comparison to this gallery of fantasy monsters made from paper.

Don't Know Much

It's been a busy couple of days at work attempting to get caught up post-GenCon. We've been cleaning up at home, too, cleaning and things.

Liz got a job today - Marketing Manager at a competitor to Comcast called Wave Broadband. It's for-profit and management track, and she's really excited about it. All in all, a great step for her. Plus, it's a hell of a lot closer than her old job (it's on the East Side).

Sorry there hasn't been a lot of content lately, hopefully that will change in a couple of days, once I get my computer up and running and have a little more time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Quote of the Day

"The big difference, though, is that Uranus is an uninhabitable hell."

I promise I'll be updating with more content soon. Hopefully even tonight!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Quote of the Day

Perhaps we should spend our money to create smarter kids, not smarter bombs.

GenCon 2004

My absence lately has been due to two different factors: the near-death of my home computer, and a journey to GenCon Indy 2004. My computer is currently attempting to fix itself (my three-year-old hard drive is apparently falling apart like the House of Usher), and I returned this morning from GenCon.

GenCon's motto is "the best four days in gaming," and for once, I have to agree with the marketing hype. I had a great time; it was a hell of a lot of work, and I certainly didn't get to do all the things I wanted to do (like shop for friends), but it was four of the best days of my time both at WizKids and as a gamer.

I can't quite put a finger on why; I spent most of my days (and half of the nights) doing press and PR stuff for the 'Kids, but there was a feeling of general serindipity in the hall - the gamer funk didn't seem so harsh, the crowds seemed less rowdy, the floor seemed just a little softer, and the games were just a tad more fun. Although this may contradict the previous sentence, the experience is difficult to quantify, so perhaps I'll just summarize and leave my memories to reuinite with this page whenever I read it in the future.

I flew out on Wednesday, early but not too early, and arrived in Indy in enough time to help with the final stages of set-up. Seth and I arrived within ten minutes of each other, so we shared a cab ride from the airport. He convinced me to go to the Diana Jones Awards (awards given by a secret society for excellence in writing independent RPGS - although the definition of what an "independent RPG" is can be considered questionable). I had a little too much to drink - Bombay Sapphire and Tonic at triple strength - but wasn't any the worse for wear the next morning, thanks to liberal doses of Vitamin C and water.

I spent the four days talking to press contacts. Before the show, I sent out a "news blast" to all attending press, outlining the special events we had going on at the show. Of most interest was our new Pirates of the Spanish Main game, which was really the first game I handled PR on from its initial announcement. I'd like to think I deserve some of the credit for the games' success, but not having worked in the PR field before, it's hard for me to know how much of that success is because of my hard work, and how much of it happens to be plain, dumb luck. My ego and my brain are still duking it out over that question.

But all was not work! I managed to play in a few Battle Royales (a fast-playing version of HeroClix), and by the middle of the first one, I didn't have to look at the reference sheet to remember the rules any more - I was kicking ass with the best of 'em. I almost won the last one, too, against some friends I've made in the HeroClix community, Dan, Duane, and Karl.

I met up with Michael and Karen, so there were old friends, too. Michael was after Pirates (who wasn't?) and Karen looked great. She's going to become an actuary and make a lot of money to figure out that fat people like me die sooner than thin, athletic people. I was like, heh, I can tell you that and it will only cost you a quarter, but so far, no job offers.

I made it home with a fair bit of stuff: from Green Ronin, the Red Star sourcebook, based on the comic of the same name; their Trojan sourcebook, about the Trojan War, and a new Mutants and Masterminds t-shirt. I picked up AEG's World's Largest Dungeon. Actually, I continued a tradition and was the first person at the con to buy it, like I was the first person to buy DnD 3.5 last year (bragging rights are MINE!) I grabbed the Diana Jones-winning My Life With Master, a card game called Cthulhu 500 that combines the Cthulhu Mythos and Indy 500 racing (it's awesome - I was the Sport Cthutility Vehicle), and some Game of Thrones stuff too. The World's Largest Dungeon really seems to be worth the money; if one module can provide over two years worth of gaming, that averages out to be less than a dollar a session, if you game every week for two years.

Seth and Jon introduced me around to some folk at White Wolf, I found an Al-Qadim module by Wolf, and all in all, had a great time. I was up at 0'Dark-Thirty, but I got home at noon and I actually slept most of the way back.

Now, dinner calls, and I have more stuff to post about later.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Biblical Caves

CNN.com has a great story on an archaeological find that could be the cave of John the Baptist.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Walk in the Park

This weekend, Liz and I packed our camping gear and joined Brook and Wendi in the hills for some R and R. Specifically, we went back to Olympic National Park for some camping near the Elwha River, one of many bases for adventures into the backcountry at Olympic. It was a lot dryer than normal (it's been a very dry year here), but still very pleasant - I don't think the temperature broke 80. The first night, we ended up at a tiny, privately-run campground on the ocean, because by the time we got there, the park was full. So, Friday, I slept to the sound of the ocean waves. Liz and I got up early and walked across the mud flats at extreme low tide; no tide pools, but there were more clams than I've ever seen.

Saturday, we broke camp early and drove into the National Park at the Elwha River and found a campsite there for Saturday night (sound of the ocean one night, sound of a mountain stream the other - I love the Northwest!) We hit the Whiskey Bend trail, which leads back to Humes Ranch, an old homestead from the late 1800s. It was about a six-mile loop; we ended up cutting it short because we did something very stupid and non-Scout-like: we brought only one bottle of water for the four of us. We did about four and a half of the six miles, and by the end, we were in pretty rough shape. Next time, we're bringing more daypacks, more water, and we're going to do it right. Or, we'll hit one of the other trails in the park. This is kind of the first step to see if we can do some backpacking. I think we all agreed that it would be possible, if we could be smart about bringing enough water to drink.

Today, we broke camp late in the morning and came back. I spent the afternoon showering and being lazy. I've got some ideas for a short story that I've been kicking around in my head; today, the usual background din of ideas started coalescing into something firm, and I think I'll have enough to scribble out a tale sometime in the next week or so. I'm gearing up for GenCon at work, but after a series of very good meetings in the last week, I'm a hell of a lot more optimistic about the overall status of my work environment than I've been in a long, long time.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

More Writing

I'm putting the finishing touches on a short story that's been sticking in my toe for almost three years, and I'm taking some serious notes for the next novel. Communist invaders from Mars - it's a sound premise.

7Up - Huh?

Because of the diet I'm on, I've learned to tolerate diet pop (or soda, depending on where you're from). I never really liked diet pop that much, and once, after drinking a two-liter of it, I had a pretty nasty reaction to the artificial sweetener. At least, I think I did.

But those days are behind me now as I belt down cans of diet Coke and, my favorite (because it doesn't have caffiene), 7Up. Today, while sitting in my office at 6:00 and wondering how in the hell I wound up with so much work to do in one day, my mind started to wander. Specifically, it wandered into that delightful little meadow where you think about really strange things. Some would argue that my mind is there most, if not all, of the time already; I'm sure it is, at least in part, but that's what the old internal censor is for.

Anyway, I started thinking about my Diet 7Up. I thought, "I like this stuff because it has no caffiene in it. I can drink it because it has no sugar in it. And yet, it tastes like something other than carbonated water. I wonder what is in this stuff?" So I turn the can over in my hand until I can see the ingredients list.

It was a little like taking a furtive peek into the pits of hell.

I'm no chemist - I was more worried about hitting on girls than balancing chemistry equations back in the tenth grade - but I recognize that certain prefixes, words, and suffixes, when attached, can sometimes form an evil and nasty whole.

After looking over my Diet 7Up, I'm still no more enlightened as to what exactly I'm drinking, but I can tell you this: these are materials created in a laboratory somewhere. They are not natural. The amount of chemical bullshit floating around in my body as I type... I really don't want to think about it. Because I know just enough from reading that asinine can so that my imagination will take over and go, "hey, fucknut, you don't know what that stuff is, but here's a list of what it could be," and then I'll spend the rest of the night feeling chemical bubbles floating around in my arteries.

I'm sure the fine folks at 7Up mean me no harm so long as I continue to drink their pop, but goddamn, I really have to wonder what some of that stuff is. There's one ingredient that's so long, it doesn't even fit on a single line of text, they have to hyphenate it halfway through. I do remember this much from chemistry: the longer the name, the more complicated it is. Gold = simple. Lysergic Acid Dyathalyde = much more complex. I think I spelled that right; I think I did a report on it in chemistry. It's hard to remember.

Hopefully, the memory of those words on that pop can will fade in time as well.

One-Sentence Story

(Note: inspired by a conversation at lunch).

He watched the oncoming pole with dread as his cries to stop went unheeded.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

One-Sentence Story

"My love, this no longer matters, but I refuse to apologize for the need to feel the warmth of your ear on my lips one last time."

Groundbreaking Stuff

I now direct your attention to an article in this month's Atlantic titled "Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive" by Alan Cullison. Cullison was one of the first reporters in Kabul after the invasion, and he had the fortune of aquiring two computers that used to belong to al-Qaeda. He managed to copy the hard drive from one before the CIA siezed it, and spent the better part of the last two and a half years decrypting, analyzing, and translating the data contained inside.

As Bob said, it's amazing they managed to organize going to a phone booth, let alone a major terrorist attack, but some of the other important things there are:

Absolutely zero connection to Iraq, period.

An anticipation of liberal / leftist response to American retaliatory action against al-Qaeda, and how that response would drive America apart. They've played both sides of the political specrum like a harp from hell (they know how Bush would respond, and they knew how lefties like me would respond to Bush).

Extensive instructions on how to act if captured; I feel much less sympathy for detainees in Cuba, because they were apparently trained to eke as much sympathy as possible, to create a psychological resistance to their detainers.

I'm going to buy an issue tonight and go over it in much more detail than I can here at the office, but it looks like a unique piece of journalism.

Not a Wormhole

The headline alone on this article, "Explorers find world's deepest hole," makes clicking on the link worth your time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Good Old Days

I risk the ire of my conservative friends, but watching Bill Clinton tonight on The Daily Show reminded me of the days of balanced budgets, Barak and Sharon shaking hands after signing a peace accord, hunting and prosecuting terrorists without killing piles of civilians or invading nations on false pretenses, and our leaders using multisyllabic words without stumbling - or without a teleprompter, for that matter.

One-Sentence Story

As the world ended around him, Jebediah stared at the burning sky and made a last-ditch, and ultimately fruitless, wish to become an astronaut.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

What every suburban survivalist needs: the Swiss Army Knife with USB memory.

Potent Portables

See if you can tell which hobby I've been working on lately.

I may have mentioned this guy before, but he's created a brand-new site showcasing his efforts to create portable video game systems from every conceivable console. PS1, 2600, SNES, you name it, he's made a portable of it.

From the Stage of History

In 1995, a precursor to online gaming existed called the X-Band. You plugged it into your SNES or Genesis and could challenge people locally (or long-distance) for a monthly fee. You could chat and even send email with it. Read an old article about it here.

Jock Jams

Normally I don't care one whit for physical sports, since I'm usually not that good at 'em, but I do have to brag just a little this morning.

Last night we went over to Sunset Bowl for a great time with Jon and Seth and too many other people to mention. It was a late party for Jon's birthday; I bowled four games or so and had a blast.

In the second game, I bowled a 186. The highest I've ever bowled, ever. I think my record before last night was something like 110, maybe 112. I printed out the score card, and I'm going to scan it at work tomorrow for evidence.

OK, bragging over.

Incidentally, I bowled a 59 in the last game, so my career as a professional bowler is on hold.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Atlantis Rising

Of interest to me, especially because my Skull & Bones campaign dealt with it, is this theory that Atlantis is really Ireland.

One-Sentence Stories Explained

So earlier today I posted the first in what I hope will become a trend: a one-sentence story. I re-discovered a file called "one sentence stories" on my desktop last night as I was cleaning out a bunch of old files. The story inside was pretty slick, I remember writing it a while ago and thinking, "hey, that's a really cool fiction exercise."

The one-sentence story is an exercise in improving prose. One thing I've discovered writing both for the Internet (at my job; on this bloggie, I do not follow the same rules) and for things like press releases is that I have to communicate some very specific things in an extraordinarily limited amount of space. This means that every word I use is valuable.

Now, I'm not some fancy big-city literary scholar, but when I use words, there are two things I have to consider: what I mean by a specific word, and what a reader will understand a specific word to mean. And, the fewer words the author is allowed to use, the less space there is to explain what a specific word means, and the more attention must be paid to the many perceptions and understandings of that word.

I know po-mo scholars have debated this over and over; there's that whole "death of the author" thing, where the author's intent is removed entirely in some sort of morbid celebtration for the many different perceptions each reader has of the language. The end product isn't celebrated as much as the various realities of the end product. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's unhelpful when a single press release could mean millions of dollars in sales either lost or gained for your company. In other words, talk like that might make fine intellectual masturbation in the Ivory Tower, but in the Real World, when I'm crafting a press release, my (the author's intent) is something I am forced to be aware of. Will people take what I say and twist it, take it out of context, and color it with their own interpretations? Sure, but I'd like to think the reason the folks pay me money to do what I do is that I'm decent at minimizing those kinds of tendency in my readers.

In so doing, I am forced to choose my words with great care. In so doing, I've noticed a marked improvement in my general prose, especially my fiction prose. Therefore, the one-sentence story is an exercise to tighten and improve my prose even more; each word has a specific purpose, is intended to evoke a certain image or response, or lead the reader in a certain direction.

On the flip side, the one-sentence story is a celebration of imagination. There is so much ambiguity in the story below that the reader is forced to fill in the details. Who or what kind of soldiers are these? Why are they going to Hell? How did they "make quick work" of the pre-Christian philosophers? Why did they make quick work of the philosophers? Which philosophers were they, exactly? Why were the philosophers blocking the way to redemption? What is the way to redemption the philosophers were blocking?

Hopefully, someone reading the story will begin to fill in those details himself. While I intentionally led the reader in several specific directions - they were soldiers, not mercenaries; the journey was simple; the philosophers were not difficult for the soldiers to make quick work of; and so forth - I also intentionally left much up to the reader.

Scott McCloud related this to comic books (here's a tie-in to a lunch discussion I had today!) when he discussed the story development that occured between the panels of a comic, and how it was often as important - or even more important - than what was contained in the panels of the book. And, it is entirely up to the reader to fill in those gaps - to use his imagination to create the story, even though the author has intentionally lead the reader in a certain direction.

Anyway, it's an interesting experiment, and even though I think it will help my improve as a writer, it should also give you folks something entertaining and rewarding for reading what I write here.

Friday, August 06, 2004

One-Sentence Story

Following a simple journey to the outer banks of Hell, the soldiers made quick work of the pre-Christian philosophers condemned to spend eternity blocking the way to redemption.

More on this exercise later...

Quote of the Day

From the February 15-21, 1994, edition of The Onion:

"At first, your talk of redistributing wealth seemed like a reasonable plea for charity. Such things are to be expected from any concerned citizen. But when you elaborated upon your earlier philosophies, it seemed that you were asking each to contributing according to his ability, but to take only according to his need!"

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Recipe: Mint Julep


  • 4 cups bourbon
  • 2 bunches fresh spearmint
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar
To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it's right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to "marry" the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately.

Just the Facts

As any scholar knows, it's useless to present an argument without quotes - facts - to back it up.

An article by David Sirota and Christy Harvey on In These Times details, with quotes and sources, the various steps the Bush administration took to greatly exaggerate the case for war in Iraq based on Weapons of Mass Destruction and an al-Qaeda connection, the spin that has resulted, and the warnings various intelligence agencies gave the administration that were blatantly ignored.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This Land

I've seen this around the blogosphere but haven't found a working link yet. If you like laughing at both political parties, watch this.

Reviews Do Not a Hollywood Blockbuster Make

For your amusement: a review of The Fellowship of the Ring dating to 1956 that shows why reviewers never make a lot of money, but good books that are turned into great films do. Thanks to The Monkey King for the link.

A Short Tour of the Local Parks

With my parents in town, we took a little trip around the area's National Parks and other ecological tourist attractions. It was a great time, because I got to catch up with my parents, and I got to see a lot of cool stuff that's within a few hours' drive, but is still out-of-the-way unless you're willing to devote a weekend to it.

On Friday, we hit Mount Rainier National Park, the nation's fifth-oldest park. It basically circles Mount Rainier (a fixture on any clear day in the Seattle area), and we approached from the north, circling around the mountain to the west. There were two main stops: the lodges at Sunrise and Paradise. We took a little (one mile) hike at the second, coming close to a glacier, but not close enough to actually touch. Because of my mother's knee, any more hiking was out of the question - she was having a hard enough time just sitting in the car for so long.

Saturday we drove through the Gifford Pinochet National Forest, and its main attraction, Mount St. Helens. Again, we approached from the north, going up Forest Service Road 99 to Windy Ridge and the peaks that overlook Spirit Lake. We had the option of hiking to the lake, but decided against due to my mother's knee. Dad and Liz and I climbed four-hundred some steps to the top of a peak at Windy Ridge and got some great pictures of the crater, the lake, and the devastation. It's been almost twenty-five years, and stuff is still covered with ash and bits of rock, and plants are barely starting to grow again. It was like what I've imagined a nuclear wasteland to be. The trees all pointed away from the crater, and it was really chilling to turn around with your back to the mountain and see them fan out in front of you. St. Helens took most of Saturday, and we didn't get to see the inside of Ape Cave (a lava tube) or the other parts of the mountain. Next time.

On Sunday we met up with my Uncle Walter and Aunt Ruth in Astoria, Oregon (where the classic film The Goonies was shot), and had a great time catching up with them. The last time I saw either of them was at my grandfather's funeral in 1999. For a seventy-year-old guy, he's amazingly active and fit. I can only hope I'm that active if I reach that age.

Today, it was back to work. I'd complain, but it's become repetitive. We had a really great birthday party for Jon which I sadly did not find out about until about a half-hour beforehand (as I was out of the office on Thursday and Friday) before I ducked out for lunch with Liz and came back to the Chelsea Drugstore for my fair share of abuse. Then, my day took a nosedive and I'm sitting listening to loud, pouty music and wishing I was anywhere but here, money was no longer a concern, this stupid diet was over and I was healthy again, and I could somehow turn off my mind.

Good news: I should have some cool new graphics for this page in a day or two.

Fiction is Better Than Truth

Slate.com ran an excellent article about a recent run-in between Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart (of Nightline and The Daily Show fame, respectively) at the Democratic National Convention. Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.

Monday, August 02, 2004