Thursday, September 29, 2005

Graphic Novel: The Armor Wars

I've been getting a bunch of graphic novels lately to get caught up on comic stories - and I grabbed a copy of the out-of-print The Armor Wars Iron Man story on the cheap. Iron Man isn't really one of my favorites - lately the book has kind of sucked - but this story was damned good, along the lines of The Power of Iton Man (where Shell Head overcomes his alcoholism). It's a tale of trying to put the genie back in the bottle once it has spread. In this instance, he tracks down everyone who uses technology he developed (and someone stole from him) so that the technology isn't used for evil. But in so doing, Iron Man kills some of his targets, alienates his friends, and becomes an enemy of the government.

So there's the genie theme, but there's another interesting undercurrent that has become more relevant in the past few years - that of ownership rights for technologies. As digital tech, MP3s, DVDs, and the piracy thereof, spreads worldwide, who really owns an idea anymore?

Not a bad read for a comic fan.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Freed Market

The test I posted earlier was interesting in a general sense, but upon further reflection I don't think it was a very accurate representation of my position. I trace this to the kinds of questions it asked regarding current issues of market regulation - environmental standards as applying to businesses, or is it wrong that customer service jobs are being outsourced to India - for example. I joked earlier about myself not coming off as Maoist as I thought I was. In reality, I was more surprised the test rated me so close to socialism, rather than on the capitalist scale.

I'll be the first to admit that I've mellowed a little since my heady college days, writing screeds for the Drury Mirror and working for Michael Moore. Not that I regret any of that, but I don't know that I'd so blindly follow the kinds of ideologies I once did. Working for a small business has taught me a lot about the business world, but it has also taught me a lot about how a company can be responsible and make a nice profit as well.

It seems that the test really tried to pidgeonhole me into an extreme that I don't necessarily represent. Yes, I support environmental regulations on business - for the same reason I support child labor laws. They are both forms of business regulation, but I doubt Tom Coburn would call me a commie pinko for saying that businesses should be prevented from employing small children - or prevented from forming monopolies, or hiring strikebreakers to intimidate unions, or descriminating based on sex, race, creed, or sexual orientation. Well, OK, maybe that last one.

But still - had the survey asked me whether I supported regulating child labor, would it have scored me the same as if I supported putting pollution restrictions on factories? I have to wonder.

At any rate, I'm not as pink as some think. I'm just a progressive Liberal Democrat.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Who Will Fight KAOS and Dr. Klaw?

Now that Don Adams has passed away, it seems the job is open.

Goodspeed, Agent 86.

Political Spectrum Me!

Thanks to Roger for this lil' test.

You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(33% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

If I had taken this test before my bout of social work and before my experiences with the business world, I have a feeling I would have been much, much farther in that liberal/socialist zone.

I'm a little disappointed I'm not as Maoist as I'd like to think I am.

Movie: Corpse Bride

I really like Tim Burton. With a few exceptions - Sleepy Hollow, for example - his films always have a great mix of classic story, creepy otherworldlyness, and good fun. I mention Sleepy Hollow because I'm an enormous fan of the source material, and although the movie was good for what it was, they should have changed the name.

A Nightmare Before Christmas I can usually take or leave. But Corpse Bride is going to become my new Halloween tradition methinks.

The movie is a musical (of sorts), and the same stop-motion animation as Nightmare - well, fused with some damn amazing CGI. The plot is pretty thin, and the real star of the show is the animation and imagination that brings everything together. There's a nice moment where the dead people, who are full of life and seem to appreciate everything, are contrasted with the living, who are dull as doornails and concerned with things that don't really matter.

There's enough awesome inside jokes (check out the name on the grand piano towards the beginning of the movie) and awesome monster bits to earn this film the awesomely awesome award. And, you can take the kids to see it!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

From a Sick Mind

I wish I could write 6700 words in 12 hours every day.

This is the first horror story I've written in quite a while. I love this genre. I like the idea of scaring other people with the strange shit in my head. It's like poking a blister - something that hurts a little, but you certainly enjoy the feeling as the pressure drains on your wound.

I'm lucky I'm not still in school. I have a feeling this one would be the subject of yet another parent-teacher conference - and yes, I had more than a couple of those based on the various things I wrote.

I would like to point out though, for the record, that I turned out relatively normal - even if I do have to occasionally poke this blister and drain some things.

From the Mailbag

Context: a long time ago, I ran, basically a pre-blog-blog full of my pictures, occasional humorous stories/articles, and a showcase for the PnP adaptation of Interplay's Fallout game I did back in college (my first real RPG writing, incidentally).

Today, I got an email from a guy who not only still plays that Fallout game (and has all the other stuff myself, and others, wrote for it), but his entire gaming group still plays with the system as well.

How cool is that?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

(Brief) Hawai'i Recap

So Liz and I spent last week on the Big Island of Hawai'i. I'll spare you guys the details, but it was a great trip. We saw four of the state's seven national parks, including the volcano. Each day was up at whenever, go down to breakfast, snorkel (which Liz loved), goof off, snorkel, lay out, maybe drive somewhere to see something. I've got some good pictures I'll post in the near-future. Right now, I'm trying to get back into the swing of life here at home, and get used to the idea that shorts and a t-shirt aren't going to cut it in our current Seattle weather.

I mowed the lawn and started doing work around the house.

I still will continue to exercise my right not to look at my work email until Monday.

Props to the Zombie Props

For all your zombie costume needs at amazing prices, check out The Nightmare Factory.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Busy, No Busy

I admit that the last post I made was a little deceptive, although entirely true: I really was that busy last week, because I was getting ready to go out of town for a week: to Hawai'i, and the first real vacation my wife and I have ever taken together.

I'm back, tanner, relaxed, recharged, and content. I could check my work email today, but I won't. I refuse to even look at it until Monday morning. I do, however, have an outline for a short story I plan to pound out today.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hardest Workin' Man In, Uh, Something

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. I've been working exceptionally long hours and most of my free time has been divided into a fiction-writing project for an upcoming WizKids game and my work for the Beyond the Storm project. I volunteered my PR skills as well as a quickstart for Crescent City, so I crafted their press release and have been working with my media contacts to ensure coverage - something I can't do during business hours, so it gobbles up an inordinate amount of my free time.

I also started dabbling with Rome Total War again, with an interesting mod called Rome Total Realism. The mod removes all the fantasy units from the game, restructures the map a little (and adds a bunch of stuff - you can conquer Hibernia, for example), and makes for a much more historically accurate game. I tried it once and thought "meh," but the Rome TV show on HBO has rekindled my interest in the time period and so I'm back to it.

The funny thing is, with so little free time, I've had to become seriously selective about my hobbies. I can't watch movies, write, play video games, and do a half-dozen other things that sound fun all at once. I think I've been making some good choices - for example, after last weeks Alliterates meeting I pounded out a few thousand words on my novel - but juggling everything I want to do seems to be getting more and more difficult. Like, for example, making my long blog entry at 9 AM on a Saturday - after having been up completing my writing project for the past two hours.

On the work side, I got to extend offers of employment to two interns this week (at least one of whom read this blog!) One of the things that came out of my review was the extension of my managerial responsibilies, so the intern program is now 100% my baby. I'm confident and excited at the same time - and I learned a lot from the first round (sorry if I screwed up too much, Brandon!) - so I think it's going to be an extremely positive experience. It's also quite different being on the other side of a job interview, and I picked up a lot of things I don't think I would have normally picked up upon otherwise.

Liz wants me to run and get her breakfast. Who am I to refuse? 'Till next time.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cats Down, Toads Up

Clearly cars do not run on cats, but can they run on toads?

Funny Ha Ha, Or?

Q: What is George W. Bush's position on Roe v Wade?

A: He doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans!

Thanks for the chuckle, Seth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Happy Day!

I just read that the original Aeon Flux animated series will be released in its entirety on DVD this November! Woohoo! Via The Digital Bits.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Great Statue Challenge

For Roger: IDENTIFY!

On Writing

Last nights Alliterates was me and Jeff Grubb, which was actually a pretty cool deal. We talked about this and that, and he gave me some really good help with the novel. I was at a point where I knew where the beginning was, I knew where the end was, but everything in between seemed pretty unclear. After last night, the details started to sprout everywhere - it was like walking through a garden and watching plants grow around you. The entire ride home I made mental notes, and when I got home my ever-understanding wife let me have some computer time so I could get them down.

The best part is, I'm excited about the project again, and I'm back at the stage where writing seems fun.

Jerry Bruckheimer Will Not Stop Us!

Via Seth, an excellent article about the shortcomings of our methods of fighting terrorism. Opening sentence:

    "Sometimes it seems like the people in charge of homeland security spend too much time watching action movies. They defend against specific movie plots instead of against the broad threats of terrorism."
Indeed. Enjoy.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cup 'O Brains

By creating Zombie Dirt Coffee, this store has successfully marketed to me!

Happiness is a Warm Gun

I have thought in the past about owning a firearm.

Unlike most lefties, I'm quite comfortable with guns. I was a Boy Scout and my dad was a cop; he used his service revolver to take potshots at groundhogs, and although I don't think my mother liked the guns all that much, at least I knew enough to respect what they were designed to do. In Scouts, I could shoot reasonablly well, but never really had the desire to make a hobby of it.

In college, I had a buddy whose brother was a Marine, and we went shooting a few times. I know how to operate a handgun, I know the difference between a 9mm, a .45, and through that Marine brother, a .50 AE Desert Eagle (AKA the Brown Pants Gun).

For a while, I considered purchasing a weapon because I thought we lefties might have to take our government and our country back from the nutcases who are currently in the process of playing guitars while New Orleans burns (you're doing a great job, Brownie!)

After our car was stolen, I considered buying a gun because home security became a worry.

Now, after watching what's happened in Louisiana - I blogged about it previously - and reading things like this in today's paper, I'm reconsidering it again for completely different reasons.

Mt. Rainier could erupt and wipe out the southern part of the city. There could be a magnitude 7.5 quake (or higher) here. And, for the first time in my life, I'm no longer convinced that the American government - the one I paid so much extra in taxes to this year - can save my bacon when it comes down to it.

As I said in that other blog post, it's very nice that Americans came together to help each other in this time of need. In a way, it's very much we the people saying "fuck the government, if they aren't going to help us, we can help ourselves." But helping ourselves might very well mean being prepared for exactly something like that.

Something small, easy to clean and carry, and a caliber of bullets I can find anywhere.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Free RPG For Charity!

Fellow Alliterate and all-around great human being Jeff Grubb is donating part of an RPG project for Hurricane relief. Here's the deal: you email Steve Miller and put Dyvil Roleplaying Game in the title. In return, you receive a PDF of Jeff's work - for free - and Jeff donates a dollar to Hurricane Katrina relief.

There's details on the game's setting on Jeff's blog; it sounds like it's a lot of fun, and the cause is worthy! Give it a whirl!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Definition of Tasteless

Troops who died in Iraq get what no other troops have gotten before - the cutesy names the Pentagon has invented to make killing seem palpable inscribed on their gravestones, whether their families want it or not. Via Kos.

Starting the Weekend

My goal this weekend is to get a lot of stuff done. That's going to be very hard considering my calendar of social engagements, so I stayed up pretty late last night getting a good start on it.

Thursday's game was good, but the characters aren't quite clicking yet. One of the most difficult parts of running a game - and one that I think a lot of GMs overlook - is the necessity that, in some way, the characters have to work together as a team - and work well. Granted, that's a pretty tall order for the second session of a game, but I think my yearlong pirates campaign ruined me on this aspect of gaming because I've been hyperaware of it in all my other games, running or playing.

Yesterday, Liz scored two first-base-line tickets to the Mariners (hey, they won!) and we met up with Seth, Scott, and Chris by happy accident at the game. We hung out for drinks afterwards (and I made my funnybook run beforehand - with as being what it is, trips into town are more minimal than ever now). Then I came home and worked on a new/old project. I don't want to talk about it yet, because I haven't signed on any lines and I might jinx it otherwise, but it's a very promising lead for some major RPG work and more importantly a good reason for me to finish the Crescent City game, lay it out, and work on this whole publishing thing.

I was hoping to work on my novel some this weekend, which is probably what I'll do now before the day really gets underway.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rape My Bandwidth

For anyone interested in amateur astronomy, from identifying constellations to tracking planets to photographing nebulae, I highly recommend this now-freeware program called SkyGlobe. I used it in my astronomy class in college, and re-discovered it thanks to Roman on our recent camping trip.

I'll keep it up for a while on my own webspace.

Conspicuous Consumption

In the comments about one of my previous rants regarding SUVs, one of my old buddies chastised me for my own version of conspicuous consumption. Fine. I offer my current fetish: collecting comic book statues. Of the statues that appear here, I actually purchased maybe two of them: the rest I traded using my employee samples from working at my company.

Bonus points to anyone who can name all these characters!

The Worst Disaster

Unintentional comedy. I love it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Nothing New

I'm back at work, staying late to get my stuff done. When I have real content, I'll update. Tonight is an RPG night, my Wild West campaign, so I should have some good stories by tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Home Star Con-ner

The boys at HomeStarRunner went to Dragon*Con, and made an animation of their experience.

Oh Canada!

I spent my Labor Day weekend in - guess where? - our neighbor to the north, Canada. Roman, my old college roommate, is applying for Canadian citizenship and can't quite leave the country yet, so we flew up to Vancouver to meet him for four days of camping and fun. Remembering the advice of other Canadians, I grabbed a Loonie coin (the Canada $1 coin) from my desk at work and dubbed it the "Lucky Loonie," stuck it on the dashboard, and hoped for the best.

It worked!

Our line at customs was byfar the fastest. We got one of two campsites at the campground we wanted. I got pulled over by the cops for not having my headlights on, but that's because the Loonie slid off the dashboard at one point (I ended up keeping it in my pocket). Yup, a run-in with Canadian law could have easily been avoided with the power of the Loonie!

But I digress.

We picked up Roman very late on Friday night and crashed in a Vancouver hotel until Saturday morning, when we drove Highway 99 north into the BC wilds. We ended up a little bit north of the town of Sqamish, at a campground called Alice Lake, so we could be centrally located by the much larger (but vehicle-inaccessible) Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Our plans of hiking were killed by the awful rain - a hard, cold rain much unlike the typical Pacific Northwest weather - so we waited for Crabby to join us, set up our tents, discovered the amazing selection of Canadian Tire (imagine Wal-Mart mashed together with Home Depot) and bought a rain tarp, under which we sat cold and sullen.

We wandered around the park for a while, scoping out the trail and tryng to stay out of the rain.

The next day was even wetter and colder - in the morning. We drove north to explore the resort town of Whistler, scouted the site of the 2010 Olympics, and tried not to buy anything in the overpriced shops. By late afternoon, the rain stopped and everything started to dry out (and not a moment too soon, either: our tent's waterproofing was starting to fail).

The next day, we did the long hike. Playing around in a riverbed:

A view of Mt. Garibaldi, the main feature of the park:

That night, we wandered out to one of the lakes and sat to look at the stars. It was amazingly clear; we saw all kinds of shooting stars and what I swear was the ISS at one point. It was the perfect cap to the long weekend.

Yesterday we packed up and headed home, dropped Roman off at the airport on the way and made it back by mid-afternoon - enough time to shower and do some laundry.

Today: back to the grindstone.

Good One, Eh?

I'm back from four days in British Columbia with my old college buddy Roman. Pictures and story forthcoming.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Hurricanes Vs. Humanity

I haven't really blogged much about the hurricane, since the only way it has directly affected me is my two friends, one of which is safe and the other I still haven't heard from - and I admit, I'm getting a little worried.

I haven't made any real political outbursts about it in the way that others around the Liberal Blogosphere has. I'm unsure that raising the levees would have prevented this, but it's always possible. I, like many other Americans regardless of political affiliation, am sickened at the way the Federal Government has (not) handled this.

It took them four hours to convene a special session of Congress - on a Sunday - over Terry Schiavo. It took them four days during a normal work week to convene one for hurricane aid. Republicans and Democrats alike, it took them four days.

But one thing I have noticed is the way people are coming together to help. New Orleans has become like a third-world country. There's corpses everywhere, armed gangs looting and raping, and tens of thousands without food. But all over the Internet and everywhere I've been in the Seattle area, there are relief stations set up for donations. We know it's bad and its getting badder, but as I sit here organizing my company's relief auctions, I can't help but think that Americans - despite the fact that the tax money we paid is being pissed away on bullshit rather than something like this - are still helping each other out. We're donating what we can.

In a way, it's a giant middle finger pointed squarely at Washington, DC. And the message is this:

"Dear Politicos. You may be squandering our money on your pork. That's OK. We'll remember that. But for now, we're showing you that we're better than you are. If you're not going to help us, we're going to help ourselves."

And in a way, that sense of united-ness gives me a warm fuzzy in a way that not many things do.

Good News From New Orleans

Karissa is OK and in Missouri. Meghan is still AWOL.


From National Geographic, October 2004:

    It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

    But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

    The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

    Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

    When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.
Admittedly ripped off from Daily Kos, but no less relevant.

And no less creepy.

No More Secrets

Apparently you can now spam people in blog comments. Who knew?

So, I'm going to have to disable anonymous commenting. My apologies.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Am A Graverobber

Thinking about the dead fish this morning (and, by a strange extension, my sushi lunch today) made me think about other dead fish. When I was a youngin', I had goldfish. As goldfish do, they died. I remember distinctly burying the goldfish in the backyard. And I remember, just as distinctly, digging up the grave a year or so later to see what the goldfish looked like.

There was no goldfish when I dug up the grave.

To this day, I've always wondered what happened to it.

Decomposition? Carried off by a wild animal? I'll never know.

But I do feel just a teensy bit guilty for opening that grave.

Welcome to Crazytown

I think the world is slowly going crazy.

I have no real scientific evidence to support this, just a general gut-feeling.

I deal with a lot of people and personalities in my job, both in the wilds of cyberspace and in real life. In the last few weeks - since, say, the beginning of August - I've noticed people getting just a little bit touchier. It's almost as if they don't have patience anymore. There's a sense of desperation in the things they say and do.

Twice since the beginning of the week have other drivers been malicious towards me. The most vicious, senseless, and alarming: when I pulled into the loading zone in front of Liz's office to wait for her, some cuntrag in an SUV pulls up behind me and starts honking at me - even though my blinkers are on. I wave her around and she keeps on honking. As she drives around, she tells me "nice parking place!" and circles the lot, and then comes back to flip me off.

That, by the way, was the incident that precipitated me wanting to beat her with the umbrella (see yesterday's post).

I am more than willing to grant that this could all be a coincodence. I'm not convinced, though. Fewer Americans support the War in Iraq now more than ever. Driving has become downright inconvenient and expensive - and I'm only filling up a little Mitsubishi that gets a good 27 miles to the gallon most days, not a big old gasguzzler. Hurricane Katrina just wiped one of my favorite cities off the map, and I haven't heard from my two Louisiana friends since this all started.

Maybe it's just a perfect storm of events in my life, but it sure as hell seems like we're getting a little bit loonier these days.


I woke up this morning to the sight of four dead fish and one fish that seems to have gone completely missing. Not a good thing for an aquarium owner. I can only hope that the missing fish was raptured out of the aquarium before fishmageddon.

Apparently I've been overfeeding them, since there's a lot of extra food everywhere.

It sucks that something died by my hand. Even more so because I was being irresponsible - I thought I had the feeding and temperature thing down to where I didn't have to pay quite as close attention to it each morning. Apparently, I was wrong.

Sad panda.