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Friday, December 30, 2005

Brokeback Top Ten

I found this article about a Top Ten reader contest for Late Show with David Letterman to be pretty funny, with its list of top ten rejected titles for Brokeback Mountain. I actually think #10, "Not-That-There's-Anything-Wrong-With-That Mountain," was my favorite.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Still Surviving

Well, I've been away for awhile. Busy at work, busy at home, just plain tired, etc. I'm going to try to do a better job of posting again.

And what better way to get back on board, talking about the survival of my blog, than to comment about Survivor? If you haven't watched the finale yet, and intend to, then read no more.

Okay. Dina and I were glad to see, for a change, that the final three candidates on the show actually deserved to be there. We had turned to each other several times in the last week and asked what Lydia was still doing on the show and threatening to quit watching if she won. She is a perfectly nice lady, I'm sure, but she didn't do much to earn a place on the show--she went with the flow, she failed miserably at most challenges, and she didn't bring a lot of fun to the camera. So we were very pleased when she was ousted last night, not making it to the final three.

Once our favorite, Gary Hogeboom, had been voted off a few weeks back (damn it!), we both centered on Rafe as our personal favorite. And he did pretty well for himself, overall, winning lots of challenges, playing a tough, but mostly fair game, and not doing anything grossly annoying or frustrating.

Last night, we rooted for him in particular when he refused to eat the chicken offered up as a Mayan sacrifice. At the same time, we razzed Stephenie for her insistence on eating the damn chicken, for the lack of class that she showed in doing so. (Respect traditions!)

But what was Rafe thinking when he let Danni off the hook on her agreement? It was a noble thing to do, I suppose, but it also showed that maybe he didn't think that he deserved to win. It's kind of like telling a loved one "you can break up with me if you really want to." What are you really saying there? Are you being noble? Or are you saying that you don't have faith in yourself and the commitment that was made between you?

Oh, well. I was glad enough to see Danni win the whole thing; she's been a trooper and a fun player to watch overall, and I really didn't want Steph to win. Especially after the chicken thing.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh, Pat...

Pat Robertson has mouthed off again.

I'd like to be a fly on the wall, so to speak, when Robertson eventually makes his way to the hereafter. I'm not wishing evil on the man ("don't hate the hater"), and hope he lives to a ripe old age. I just think that he's going to be in for a world of surprises in the afterlife. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see his jaw drop as he discovers that his narrow, hateful, exclusionary view of the world just doesn't match up with whatever he finds in the hereafter?

That would be a little glimpse of heaven all in itself.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

How to be annoying at Monopoly

I got this link from another blog. A few of the items gave me a chuckle and I thought I'd pass it on. My personal route to being annoying at Monopoly is in arguing with others about what, if anything, should happen if you land in Free Parking. (I don't think you should get anything or, if you do, it should be $50. Others think that you should get all the money paid out through Chance or Community Chest, turning the Free Parking spot into a sort of lottery.)

While I'm talking about Monopoly, has anyone out there ever played the Monopoly Stock Exchange variant? I saw a card set around the time it came out in 1992 and was interested, but never tried it.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The sign on the lawn, part II

Well, hell. I'm not proud to be a Texan tonight. At least no one egged our house or tore our sign down. But this wasn't a vote for freedom, civil rights, or respect.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

The sign on the lawn

Caution: Politics and morals ahead. I stated when I began this blog that I wouldn't be political, but I've changed my mind on that a bit. This blog isn't about politics, but it is about things that are on my mind, and this topic is one of them.

We took our first steps toward political activism this week. We picked up a "No Nonsense in November" sign and stuck it in our front yard.

For the uninitiated, constitutional amendment #2 basically is about, and I'm quoting the ballot language here, "providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Some people oppose the amendment because it can affect common law marriages, but that's not my concern here. My concern is that the amendment discriminates against gays and lesbians. I believe that gay marriage is something that our civilization is and should be evolving toward. Two consenting adults who love each other and are committed to creating a family together should have the right to marry, with all the legal and social benefits that arise from that. Period.

Dina and I agree on this issue, and so, with a little trepidation (our neighbors could conceivably egg our house, steal the sign, etc.), we put up the sign Tuesday evening. I'm happy to say it's still there, with no egg shells on the house to speak of.

I've been avoiding reading polls about this vote (which will take place on Tuesday). I'm afraid that the amendment is likely to pass. This is Texas, after all, a state so "red" it's scarlet, and tolerance of homosexuality isn't exactly at its high point here. On the positive side, though, the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and several other major papers have come out against the amendment, while the pro-amendment contingent includes the KKK. Maybe the sight of those white hoods on the "pro" side will make people think twice about what they're voting for.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

So should you trash that expired medicine right away? Maybe not...

I've always wondered with medicine, pills in particular, whether I was putting my life on the line if I took something that expired a month or two ago. I mean, pills in particular seem pretty inert. Is something really going on inside them that will render them useless or even dangerous if I take, say, an ibuprofin that expired in June today?

Turns, out, maybe not.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Someone should definitely be fired

I'm not the world's biggest Martha Stewart fan, but I'm a fan of The Apprentice, and the fact is that her version of the show isn't bad at all. I enjoy it just about as much as I enjoy the Donald Trump version. There's a little awkwardness at the end of each episode, when you're itching for her to say "You're fired!" and instead, you get some variation of "You'll have to leave" or "This just isn't going to work out," more of a breakup than an actual firing, really. But that's not a big deal, and the letters she writes to the jettisoned contestants are a neat little gimmick, very in keeping with her persona.

So why is it that her show isn't doing very well in the ratings?

The bottom line is that it was a boneheaded idea to put it on during the same time as Donald's version of the show. I'm an Apprentice fan, but two episodes a week, with twice as many people to keep track of in a very similar group of circumstances (Hey, honey? That woman with the glasses who complains a lot and who we think probably went to Emerson College because she mentioned coming out of a Writing, Literature & Publishing Department--was she on the Martha show or the other one? I sure can't remember.) is a bit more than I'd like to keep track of. It's oversaturation.

Had it been up to me, I would have let Donald's current season run its course. Assuming that he intends to come back for another season, I would have dropped Martha in as a corporate client sometime in the run of Donald's show, letting her get some screen time there and letting the two of them interact and build each other up. Toward the last episode or two, I would have started teasing Martha's mid-season run of The Apprentice (no name change), to begin in December or January or February or whatever, in the same time slot. And then I would have run her season much the way it's been run--with her own take on things, her own theme song, her own theming, but in the Thursday time slot without the competition from the same show. It would have worked better for both shows. Then they could alternate seasons, maybe each doing one or two a year or something like that, without invading each other's space.

If I were to pull the project managers behind The Apprentice into the board room, I'd zero in on whose decision it was, ultimately, to have the shows run simultaneously, becoming competitors instead of partners. That, ultimately, would be the person who would hear the words "You're fired," that week.

And receive a nice, tasteful note afterward.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Jack o' Lantern time

Carve yourself a cool, virtual jack o' lantern in time for Halloween!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Satellite photo of Hurricane Wilma

A colleague sent this and it gave me a bit of a chuckle.

Aside from the humor, though, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families in the hurricane's path, and those still reeling from the other storms that we've been faced with this year.

I haven't disappeared for good. I'll try to post again soon and get back in the habit of it.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

A quick hello

I haven't disappeared for good. I should be back to blogging in a few days, as soon as my current project is done. But in the meantime, wouldn't one of these look really cool in the game room?

(This is one of a series of retro-looking TVs sold by a Wisconsin-based company called Predicta TV.)

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Don't mess with my wife

She looks like a softie. And, of course, she usually is. She's generous, sweet, smart, funny. The whole package. But don't get on Dina's bad side. She knows how to stand up for herself.

Case in point: Late last week, a contractor doing some work for Dina's company e-mailed an executive there, pointing a finger at Dina and blaming her for a delay, saying that she hadn't received some information she needed. She copied Dina on the e-mail.

Here's Dina's response, with the name removed to protect the not-so-innocent. You go, girl!

[Name Removed],

In the future, address me, as well as other members of the committee or support team, directly and individually if you have a need from one of us. DO NOT copy others at this company.

I am especially surprised that you would attempt to cast any blame at me in this particular situation. The fact is that you were 20 minutes late to our meeting on Tuesday. If you had arrived on time, you would already have the information that you are seeking.

I trust that you took care of any other script changes that were discussed after the time you arrived to our meeting -- I am not sending you information on those changes unless you have specific questions that your own notes did not address. I will check my notes that were taken prior to your late arrival and see if there is anything additional to share with you.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Take care, Galveston (and Houston, and...)

We fell a little bit in love with Galveston on our recent vacation there. It's a fun, wonderful, engaging city, and I hope that it makes it through Hurricane Rita unscathed.

While we were there, I spent a lot of time reading Isaac's Storm, the story of the hurricane that Galveston faced--with much less warning or preparation--on September 8, 1900. It was harrowing and disturbing, and I shudder at the thought of Galveston facing similar travails over the next few days. I'm grateful that the lessons of Katrina have worked toward early evacuation, and that the lessons of the hurricane of 1900 have led to much greater safety measures in the city. We wondered why, for example, the attractions at Moody Gardens were enclosed in pyramids, then learned that those structures were built to be highly resistant to winds.

My thoughts are with the residents of the Gulf area, wishing them safety and shelter, as well as homes to return to.

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Batman shows for 4-year-olds?

A friend of mine and visitor to this blog was asking about Batman cartoons that might be appropriate for a 4-year-old. My take on it is that Batman: The Animated Series, wonderful as it is, is still a little too old for that age (the same age as my son Alex). Anyone else have experience with this?

Here are a few of the things I suggested to him, although I'm not sure how age-appropriate they are, as it's been a while since I've seen any of them. Feel free to pitch in with comments!

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Pirate Pete the Hideous

And, har, mates, don't ye be forgetting to stake out your very own pirate name! Me own name, Pirate Pete the Hideous, sounded a wee bit too much like a bilge rat to me, but maybe you'll fare better than I. One of me shipmates landed a fine treasure indeed with "Mad Tom Storm," which has me wantin' to keel haul him out of envy, damn the man. Me boys pulled up "Captain Bess Flint" and "Mad Dog Bonney," so I be proud of them, too. Har! Although methinks poor Dina, me buxom beauty, would be far from pleased with her pirate name of "Butch the Wicked." What scurvy dog made this blasted thing?

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Avast, ye mateys, thar be storms ahead! Yo ho, yo ho! A pirate's life for me!

I didn't want to overlook international Talk Like a Pirate Day, so please enjoy the day and maybe a sip or two of rum. Yo ho ho!

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Not sure yet if I'm digging those Bones

Just a quick post. I caught a few minutes of Bones this afternoon (I recorded the series premiere on TiVo) and will probably at least give it to the end of the episode, though I have my doubts about returning. It seems pretty formulaic--pat characters, dialogue that tries to be clever, but doesn't quite make it (although one line referencing Mulder and Scully was pretty funny, mostly due to David Boreanaz's delivery), and improbable relationships between police and other institutions. (So the main character is supposed to be the only forensic anthropologist between D.C. and Montreal? And the FBI doesn't have its own forensic experts? And the equipment at the institute where she works is not only incredibly top-notch, but also spread out into a dramatically large area?)

I might report a bit more after finishing the episode, but my favorite part so far was the novelty of watching Boreanaz walk down a sunlit street without bursting into flame.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Character of the Week: La Cucaracha

Here's another PC of mine from the Global Guardians campaign world, La Cucaracha.

Here's an excerpt from her background: "
She was working on the fourth story of the hotel when the earthquake hit Acapulco. Many buildings withstood the damage, but the poorly constructed hotel collapsed. Inez fell nearly twenty feet as the floor beneath her crumbled, then found herself pinned against a reinforced support beam while rubble and debris fell around her. With several ribs crushed and a lung punctured, she stared around at the ruin. She saw a bed on its side; a fat man with a bathroom mirror protruding from his pale, white back; and a large suitcase burst open, colorful vacation clothing pluming out like a bouquet. She noticed the wall beside her trembling and dozens of cockroaches scuttling out through the wallpaper. Inez had never read about irony, but she understood it, and, certain that she was going to die, she found a certain wry amusement in the fact that the cockroaches she so often squashed as part of her cleaning were going to escape the building while she did not."

You can read her whole background here.

By the way, the cool art was by a fellow player in the campaign named Zen Fairborn.

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Going Mercenary, Part 2

As I mentioned earlier, I'm playing around with Google ads and Amazon ads on this site. I'm not sure of either yet. The Amazon ones seem more potentially useful to me, and I've started listing one or two items on the right bar that I think are cool and that I recommend to visitors to the site. If nothing else, if my a couple of friends remember to use the Amazon links when ordering stuff they were going to order anyway, I'll get a buck or two now and then to put toward the occasional book or DVD.

The Google ads have netted me a whopping $2.28 so far, and that's money I can't touch until it gets to some higher level, so they're not actually cash cows for me. What's bugging me about them right now is that I can't figure out how to make them more relevant. Almost all the ads have to do with blogs. That's all well and good, but it would at least be more interesting if they'd occasionally reflect the topics I'm writing about. I've got Gmail, and get similar, unobtrusive ads next to my e-mail, and when I notice them at all, they're often pretty on-target.

For example, here are the ads that popped up in a recent e-mail exchange between one of my PBeM players and me, where we mentioned the game and PBeMs in general:

Sponsored Links

PS3 Testers Wanted

Test & Keep a PlayStation 3 Free! Currently Recruiting: US Residents

Dungeons & Dragons RPG

All D&D 3.5 RPG Products 15% Off + Free Shipping!

Missed an Episode?

Download Dungeons & Dragons episodes to watch at any time!

Google picked up on the mention of role-playing games and appropriately linked to Dungeons & Dragons–related sites and even had me clicking the TVShows.org link to see how I could download Dungeons & Dragons episodes, since that show was an old favorite. (As a side note, I ended up being confused by TVShows.org and unwilling to create login information for the site until I could find out some basic information about it--what it costs, how it works, etc.) Gmail's link to PS3 testers showed that it "knew" that people interested in role-playing games were quite likely interested in video games, too.

So why can't I get similar, relevant ads on my site?


If you have any suggestions, please tell me.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Galveston: What we saw on the drive

One quick thing I can post. Both on the drive to Galveston and the drive back, we saw perhaps a dozen large trucks carrying some long, odd-shaped pieces that I couldn't identify. My best guesses were airplane parts, some type of piping, or parts of a water slide. On the way back north, we snapped a few pics, although the angle makes it difficult to see exactly what we were photographing. Anyone care to venture a guess as to what these trucks were carrying?

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Slow posting

I've had a project come up that's going to be taking a lot of my time over the next few weeks. I'll probably be posting more slowly than usual, but will try to post one or two quick things later in the week as time permits. Just a temporary slow-down.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wishing Gilligan the best

I'm saddened to read of the death of Bob Denver, Gilligan of Gilligan's Island.

I've been having trouble posting anything that didn't seem insignificant in the light of recent headlines. In the midst of everything else going on in the world, this blog and my musings seem pretty small on the scale. Even this post, in the wake of thousands of deaths, can be seen in that light.

But Bob Denver made me laugh, and that's no small thing. Here's wishing you well, Bob.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Character of the Week: Stuntman

Stuntman was the first character I created for the Global Guardians Universe. He has survived a campaign reboot and is a lot of fun to play. Let me know what you think.

Here's an excerpt:

Just as his gag (falling, in flames, from a tall building, yet managing to twist and bounce off a plum tree in order to land on a fireworks display, setting them off and pointing them toward the movie's villain with his dying breath) was beginning, he saw Deng wandering into the pyrotechnics display. Already on fire, already falling, Peter had to change the pattern of his fall from the safe, planned route that would launch the pyrotechnics and burn or kill his brother to a dangerous, unguarded fall that would likely kill him. As usual, he did it with panache, thinking to himself, "I hope they can still use this footage." Still, adrenaline coursed through his veins as never before. As he fell, the world seemed to slow around him. Every movement became ultra precise. Every twist of his muscles was calculated with three priorities in mind: Protect Deng. Try to stay alive. Make it look good for the cameras.

You can read the whole character here.

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New Orleans

I'm having trouble posting much of anything right now. Compared to the stories coming out of New Orleans, stories about pop culture or how my day is going seem inadequate. The anarchy and crime, on top of the destruction of the storm and the missing and dead victims, just seem overwhelming. I'm glad to hear that the National Guard has started moving in supplies. I hope things start getting better down there quickly.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I'm saddened and awed by the stories coming out of New Orleans and the surrounding area. More or less by coincidence, a few weeks ago, I started reading Erik Larson's haunting, riveting Isaac's Storm, the story of the hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas, on September 8, 1900, one of the deadliest storms in history.

The details of the book have, of course, many parallels with the stories I've seen in the headlines over the past few days. I'm very grateful for the many advances of the past century in understanding storms. The hurricane that struck Galveston in 1900 caught most of its victims unprepared. Even the meteorologists on Galveston Island, watching the barometric pressure drop, studying the changes in the wind and the waves, didn't recognize the sheer power of what was coming. With Hurricane Katrina, most people at least had warning. Areas were evacuated and preparations were made. But of course it still wasn't enough. Far too many people have died and thousands have lost their homes. It's tragic.

And on a minor note, it's making it hard for me to finish reading Isaac's Storm. That 105-year distance that helped to make its stories of lost lives and lost hopes a little more bearable has been swept away by the storm in the headlines.

My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones in this latest hurricane, with the people waiting for news from their families and friends, and, too, with those thousands lost in Galveston all those years ago.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

April showers... a load of bile on her viewers

Every episode of Big Brother frustrates the heck out of me these days. The show is a paean to mediocrity. The skilled, intelligent players are consistestenly voted out by the lesser lights. First Kaysar was booted because of the machinations of the pathetic, spineless Jen, and now April, a boring, sanctimonious, self-righteous, annoying player if ever I saw one, has managed to set things up to "back door" James, one of the better players the game has seen. Pfui.

I could rant about Jen at some length, but I'll sum it up pretty quickly. When America voted by a whopping 82 percent to put Kaysar back in the house, he ended up in a head of household ("HOH") competition within minutes. Fourteen hours later, it was down to him and Jen, and he could have easily gone longer. But (probably trying to position himself as a nice guy and not a huge threat) he offered her an alliance instead of waiting her out. She agreed to it, and then, days later, went back on what she'd said. If she'd been lying to him at the time, out of strategy, I would have probably respected her for playing the game that way. But she wasn't lying. She meant it, then proceeded down a path of rationalizations for going back on what she'd said and screwing him over. What a weasel.

What was particularly interesting about tonight's episode, though, was the America's Choice feature and the emotions it brought up in the players. To put it simply, viewers voting on their cell phones (and maybe on the web site--I didn't vote on this one) could decide which player they wanted to receive a phone call from a loved one. The voters picked California girl Janelle, probably because they thought it would be entertaining to see her receive a call from Michael, the player she'd "hooked up" with earlier in the game. The players in alliance annoyingly christened "the Friendship" were incensed. They have somehow painted themselves as the "good guys" of the game, blissfully unaware at how disliked they generally are by the viewers. They couldn't imagine that voters would pick slightly trashy Janelle over one of them. Yvette, known around our house as "the Mouth" was reduced to tears.

But April's reaction was the most entertaining. She was convinced that the contest was rigged and went so far as to say that anyone who voted for Janelle was a "piece of sh!t" and that the American public must be stupid. Way to respect your audience there, April!

Eh. Enough time spent on Big Brother tonight.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Door Number 6: Trying out a new name

Well, I haven't decided to the point where I'm ready to change the URL or anything, but for now, I'm going to go with the Door Number 6 name. The name ties back into a short story I wrote about half a lifetime ago. I don't have it handy, and it's been years since I've even read it, but it always meant a lot to me. The essential meaning of the "Door Number 6" phrase went back to the concept of the story:

A very down-on-his-luck man stumbled, drunk, into a bus station, ready to give up on his life. There he met another man, somewhat angelic, who seemed to offer him the opportunity to restart his life in a series of magical worlds. Passing one at a time through five different doors, the protagonist found himself briefly in El Dorado, Camelot, Oz, Shangri-La, and one other world I can't remember at the moment. In each, he found a measure of peace, serenity, and hope. And yet, he ended up deciding that none of them was right for him. Turning his back on the magical worlds, he headed back to reality--door number 6, the door he'd come in. The story was a little naïve, but earnestly felt, and it's got a soft spot in my heart.

So, at any rate, welcome to Door Number 6. Reality, but with a bunch of glimpses into other worlds...

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Character of the Week: Small Wonder

Here's a fun character I created for the Hero City campaign I run in the Global Guardians PBeM game. He's already given the PCs some headaches and likely will return at some point to bedevil them. I enjoy him because he's cute and innocent-looking, cherubic, even. And he's always got a painted smile on his face. But he's as foul-mouthed, vicious, spiteful, and just plain evil-hearted as all get-out.

Here's an excerpt from his background:

On the beautiful July morning when the Hero City theme park was opening its gates to visitors for the first time, the technomancer Daemon of the squad of hackers and thieves called the Comets had one important job: to create distractions in all of the entertainment company's theme parks in the area. The distractions would help his team fulfill its real mission.

Daemon found himself on an air-conditioned boat ride through a world of small dolls, all moving to the sound of singing children. He rather liked the music, though he hated to admit it, and used his magically enhanced PDA to cast spells on literally dozens of the dolls via IR beams. He was confident that when the time came, they would do what he needed them to do.

Most of them would. One, however, reacted somewhat differently than expected. Not even it knows why. Perhaps the magical effect was enhanced somehow. Or perhaps a temperamental demon or poltergeist got caught up in the spell.

Whatever the reason, although dozens of the dolls became animated, one in particular was stronger, more intelligent, more aggressive, and more perverse than the rest. One of them became a free-willed powerhouse with a knack for destruction. One of them became Small Wonder.

You can read the rest here.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Back from vacation

Dina, the boys, and I spent the better part of the past week on vacation in Galveston, Texas. This was our first real family vacation, where we were weren’t also attending a wedding or visiting family, or somesuch. Not that those aren’t wonderful trips, but it was nice—and neat—to be on the road, just the four of us. And it was wonderful to introduce our four-year-old and nine-month-old sons to the beach. By my grandmother’s good graces, we were able to stay in a timeshare condominium on Seawall Boulevard, Galveston’s main strip. So I’ve been slow to post, but plan to post some anecdotes about the trip and about Galveston itself over the next few days.

The only picture of all four of us was one on the beach, and I'm a little hesitant to post a swimsuit photo of myself just out of the gate, so I'll hold off on that and treat you to an image of my lovely wife Dina and our sons (that's Alex on the left and Zack in Dina's arms) at the Rainforest Café. More later, and I'll try to post the character of the week today, too.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Character of the Week: Nordkapp Man

I've only got a few minutes to post, so I'll direct you to one of my favorite PCs, already housed on the Global Guardians site. I'll post his image here, though, too. A great amateur artist going by the handle Mangog on the Hero Games web site created his image for me. He drew both images and colored the one in the blue shirt; I colored the one in the orange shirt.

Here's an excerpt:

On March 15, 1964, a team of Norwegian geologists investigating a glacial fragment that had recently settled against a fjord on the North Cape of Norway, near the town of Nordkapp. They made a startling discovery, one of the most amazing archaeological finds of the twentieth century. Frozen in the fragment, perfectly preserved, they discovered a Neanderthal hunter. His pale skin was intact, his arms outstretched as if trying to catch himself. Wanting to preserve the specimen, they proceeded carefully, leaving the ice around his body. They’d all heard stories about wooly mammoths broken free from the ice, their bodies beginning to rot almost as soon as the air and the heat touched them. They wished to risk no such destruction of their Neanderthal, who they dubbed "the Nordkapp Man." Quickly, they contacted a team of archaeologists to help them preserve the body and study it properly. Late that evening, though, something rather amazing shook them up even more than their initial discover. Beneath the ice, the Nordkapp Man’s eyes opened.

To read the rest, click here.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Limas, limas burning bright--the follow-up

As I reported last week, we had some fireworks inside our microwave when we tried to heat up some lima beans for Alex (hey, he likes lima beans!). We've avoided using it since, and were concerned that we might need to replace the entire unit.

Dina called GE and the customer service rep told her that it was likely a faulty magnatron tube, which was covered under a 10-year warranty. So she arranged for a repairman to come by today to take a look at it. If it were the magnatron, we were told, the part would be free. If it were another part, we'd get a discount on it. We were responsible for a $50 visit fee, plus labor.

Here's the weird science part of the story: The friendly repairman checked out the microwave for a few minutes and pronounced it fit as a fiddle. We were out of lima beans, but he tried to reproduce the problem with the same plate and mixed veggies. No go. He was convinced there was metal in the microwave somewhere, and when we discussed it some more, he finally concluded that the flames we saw were caused by the high iron content of the limas. Who knew?

Here's the "they're always out to gouge you" part of the story: In addition to the $50 visit fee, he attempted to charge me an additional $50 "customer education" fee. When I protested, it turned out that he was actually trying to save me money. If he charged us for 20 minutes of labor for his time checking out the microwave, he'd have to charge us an additional $100 instead.

At that point, trying not to take out my frustrations on the affable repairman, I called Dina on the cell phone to make sure I had all the details of her conversation with GE straight. She'd gone over everything very carefully with the GE customer service rep. If they needed to replace a faulty piece, then we were responsible for the labor. But all the man had done was test the microwave. He ended up calling GE customer service. The rep eventually asked to talk to me, and was quite rude. The best offer he would give me would be a $25 rebate. I asked for his supervisor and was put on hold indefinitely. All the while, the repairman was standing there waiting to go on to his next call.

Ultimately, his concern about getting to the next customer paid off. He called his boss, telling him I was willing to pay the $50 fee, but not a penny more. The boss took about half a second to say "okay," and that was it. Once we cut out the corporate machine and its set procedures, we arrived at a fair price.

Education fee. I ask you. Phooey.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Keep them close

I went to the mall today during my lunch hour to pick up some California rolls (mmm! mall sushi!). Before I made it to the food court, I noticed an elderly couple bent over, talking to a young boy, about two and a half, who was standing there with a perplexed expression, clutching a bag of M&M's. I walked on past into a store, then thought better of it; something in the couple's manner indicated that they weren't grandparents or great-grandparents watching a beloved descendent. The child was lost.

I chatted with the couple for a few moments to confirm my suspicions, offering to ask a clerk to call security. This agreed upon, I darted into a CD store, where the clerk indicated that he was brand new and had no idea how to make the call. Someone at Lenscrafters did, but before the security arrived, a frantic woman came trotting up--the kid's mom, adrenaline clearly pumping, relieved when she was able to spot the boy. She'd come from the food court, about a dozen store lengths away.

The boy seemed a bit out of sorts through the whole thing, but he never cried or seemed particularly upset. He was trusting that everything was sorted out. The mother tried to give the M&M's "back" to the couple, then was surprised to learn that the boy had had them when the couple had discovered them.

As the father of a four-year-old and an eight-month-old, I was very relieved for the mother, but taken aback, too. Just how did he manage to get so far away without her noticing? And where in the heck did he get those M&M's?

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Character of the Week: Mung

One of my favorite hobbies is playing role-playing games, especially when using the Hero System. I don't get much opportunity to play face-to-face games anymore, but I do get to play games by e-mail now and then. It's usually not too hard to find a few minutes here and there to post a turn or describe your character's actions. The games move at a much slower pace than face-to-face games (an adventure that might take four hours to resolve sitting around a table with a few other players, some dice, and a pizza might take months to resolve via e-mail), but players also can take the time to use more characterization, to play off each other a bit more, and to think through puzzles or tactical situations. It helps to indulge my writing bug.

At any rate, I end up creating a number of characters--both player characters, or PCs (characters that I plan to run as a player) and non-player characters (background, supporting, or antagonistic characters run by the gamemaster, a role I also fill fairly often). Some of them get shared with others, but a number of them end up languishing on my disk drive for one reason or another.

I thought that it might be fun to share some of these characters on this site from time to time, to see what people think of them, or to give people the opportunity to use them in their own campaigns. Let me know what you think.

I'll start with an old favorite of mine, Mung. You can read about him here.

Here's an excerpt from his background to whet your appetites...

"Gray-skinned Tarmyk Firebristle was reputed to be the most taciturn and stoic of Khazak minstrels, if not the most skilled, yet even he was known to lift a calloused hand to his leathery cheek and brush away an unashamed tear when he related the tale of the fall of the Harralind Mines. The story sat heavy on Dwarven hearts, and was generally reserved for the gravest of occasions—funerals, visits of states, times of war, and nights when the listeners were all already very, very drunk."

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

What's in a name?

I'm still struggling with a "cool" name for this site. Let me toss a few out there and see if any of them stick. There are various reasons behind them, but most people wouldn't pick up on them, so I'll just run the names without the explanations.

Door Number 6
Folding Paper
Dread Pirate Rob's Blog

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What's in this blog?

I was telling a coworker that I'd started a blog and he asked, quite legitimately, what kind of content I planned to have on it. My answer to him was fuzzy and I'm going to try to clarify things in my own mind with this post, as a kind of statement of purpose.

I'm sure that this site will evolve over time, but for now, I see it as a repository for a variety of comments on things that interest me. I might write about what I'm watching on TV, about books or comic books I'm reading, about role-playing games, about customer service, or about writing and editing.

For now at least, I will probably stay away from more inflammatory topics. I'm not likely to talk about my work much. Nor am I likely to talk about religion or politics. One of these days, I might venture onto that ground, but for now, I think I'd rather try to stick to debates about the virtues of Star Trek: Enterprise vs. Battlestar Galactica and when to use "which" and "that" rather getting caught up in the elephant/donkey theater.

One of my favorite blogs is Mark Evanier's News from ME site and I plan to take it as a model (with the exception that I'll veer away from politics for now). He writes about dozens of varying topics that interest him--the pioneers of the comic book industry, old game shows, Broadway, restaurants, the media, and even animals that visit his backyard. There's probably no one out there who's interested in all of the same topics he is (although, of course, he writes about most of them engagingly), but he's essentially writing for himself. He writes about what interests him and all of those things resonate with some of his readers. So I might be the only person in the world interested in play by e-mail role-playing games, Big Brother 6, snowmobiling, and copyediting, but when I write about those topics, I hope that at least some will resonate with people visiting the site.

Time will tell.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Going mercenary

I'm experimenting with a couple of new things on this site. Specifically, I've added an Amazon.com search bar and a Google ad to the right navigation menu. For the most part, this is just me tinkering around, but both could, eventually, have some benefit for me. If visitors to the site click the Google ads often enough, I get a few cents. By the same note, if someone uses my web site to search for something on Amazon and buys it, I get a small percentage as a gift certificate.

Neither of these prospects has me rolling up my sleeves and reevaluating my economic future, but I'll be interested to see if anything comes of them. In particular, I'm planning to write occasional reviews of books I've read and to reference things I recommend. I can also provide appropriate links to those items, so if they interest you, and you care to buy them from Amazon, please do so from my site. I assure you that I won't oversell anything in the hopes of someone buying it. In fact, when I get a chance to write it, my first such review will probably be a pan.

I'll keep you posted on how these things work out. They're more an experiment for me than anything else.


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Things that drive me nuts about Big Brother, part 2

In my earlier post about Big Brother, I forgot to mention a doozie: the fact that people in the house talk as though people who are voted out of the house are actually dead. This fluctuates for me between being melodramatic and being just plain creepy. Notice the lovely image of James at the left, munching down on the show's ubiquitous PB&J (I'd be screwed if I were on the show, by the way, as I can't stand peanut butter). His quote practically vibrates with melodrama. "You can't kill me!" Hello! Eviction from Big Brother does not equal death.

Still, I'm hoping that they resurrect Kaysar this week. :)

By the way, the "annekat is not here" blog (which I discovered after she posted a comment here--thanks for visiting!) has an interesting, if merciless, post about Julie Chen. I don't mind Julie as much as Anne apparently does, but she's not exactly the most scintillating host in reality TV history and it drives me nuts that her scripts are so repetitive, unoriginal, and wooden.

EDIT: Fixed spelling of Kaysar's name.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Limas, limas burning bright in the microwave tonight

We were heating up some lima beans for Alex's dinner tonight, when the limas suddenly caught fire. They were in the microwave for less than 10 seconds.

An interesting sight, but I'm afraid that it means that we're going to need a new microwave, unless someone knows some mysterious rule of lima combustion that I'm unfamiliar with.

The question is whether it will be better to try to repair the microwave or buy a new one. I suspect the latter, but sure would prefer not to have to mess with it. Besides, we like the microwave we have now.


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Sunday, August 07, 2005


With a little trepidation, I'm going to try out the comments feature for a while, just to see if I get feedback and, if so, what kind of feedback I get. Feel free to post as long as you're not flaming or here to be a troll. I haven't really told many people about this site yet, but have started including it in the footer of my e-mails from my gmail account, so I'm wondering if anyone will get curious and check it out. Time will tell.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Obligatory Martha Stewart joke

I'm sure I'm not the only one who saw this commercial and wondered to myself, "Hey, where's her ankle bracelet?"

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Things that drive me nuts about Big Brother

Okay. True confession time.

Dina and I watch Big Brother 6. I'm not particularly proud of it, but there you go. Like the other Big Brother shows (we've watched all except Big Brother 2), it's somewhat addictive--the shenanigans, the shifting alliances, the silly games, the attempts at surprises (this year, the "Summer of Surprises," has so far failed to surprise much). And it's something we watch and chat about together during the summer.

But there are things that drive me nuts about the damn show, too. For example:

  • Every time Julie Chen says the words "send shockwaves through the house."
  • Stupid nicknames (in this case, Eric being called "Cappy" all the time).
  • The way that players mangle the English language: "me and Kaysar have gotten to be good friends in the house" or "James and myself have formed an alliance." Argh!
  • The way that Julie Chen mangles the English language (although I guess I should blame her script writers). Folks, "they" is not a singular pronoun.
  • The way the show keeps trying to pretend that its secrets are still secrets. The players figured out the first week that they all had secret partners, but the game tried to milk it for weeks, acting as if the players should be surprised at this great secret they figured out early on. Or this week, when the "big reveal" is that one evicted player will return to the household. My dog Callie saw that one coming. Sigh.
Eh. I'll undoubtedly have more soon.

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Rob's Blog

So I did a Google search for "Rob's Blog" and came up with 247,000+ hits, none of them mine. Clearly, I am not the first to come up with this illustrious name. I'm trying to come up with something cooler, but for some reason, I'm coming up dry. A name like Lunar Adventures would be cool if my friend Andy hadn't come up with it instead of me.

I'll keep trying to think of something cool...

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Wedding Crashers and the copyediting geeks

Okay. I hinted at a Wedding Crashers anecdote, so here it is. Dina and I went to see the movie a couple of Saturdays ago. I recommend it, by the way. It's crude, but very funny, especially during the first half.

Fairly early in the movie, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn were reading about the wedding of Secretary Cleary's daughter (with Secretary Cleary played by Christopher Walken). The newspaper story was flashed on the screen for maybe a second and a half. During that time, I spotted a sentence that said something along the lines of "The Cleary's are expected to have...." Seeing it, I clucked silently to myself. That apostrophe should never have been there. Then I shrugged it off. It was only on screen for a second or so. I was probably the only person in America to notice the damn thing. What kind of geek was I to catch a misplaced apostrophe in a newspaper flashed onto a movie screen for that short of a time?

Then Dina turned and whispered to me, "There was a really bad apostrophe error in that newspaper."

Clearly, we were made for each other.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

SaveDisney.com update

I'm not sure how long the site will still be up, but SaveDisney.com has put up a series of articles celebrating Walt Disney, his musings, his philosophies, and his family. I haven't had a chance to go through much of it yet, but it looks like there are some really neat articles there. Take a look if you get a chance.

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Slow posting

Sorry for the slow posting of late. I've been very busy and it's been difficult to find the time to send a cogent post. I've thought through posts on Big Brother 6, The Amazing Race season 1, a Fantastic Four graphic novel I found at the library, the new Harry Potter book, an amusing anecdote from when Dina and I saw The Wedding Crashers a little over a week ago, and more. But I'm always away from the computer or totally tied up when they come to mind. Maybe some of those, at least, will make their way up here soon. (I'm listing them here less out of a desire to tantalize--yeah, right, like anyone's dying to read my latest musings anyway--and more as a memory jogger for myself).

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mourning James Doohan

I'm saddened by the news of James Doohan's passing. As probably anyone reading this knows, Doohan played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott on Star Trek, various Star Trek sequels, and even on a memorable episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I've seen a number of cringe-worthy "Scotty beams up" headlines that make me want to smack the writers--they seem to cheapen Doohan's death. He was a vastly talented man who was more or less stereotyped as this single character, but he nevertheless made that character seem very real to generations of viewers.

I had known for some time that he was in failing health and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, but I'm still very sorry to see one of my icons pass away.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

So, did SaveDisney.com save Disney? We'll see...

SaveDisney.com logoI've been subscribed to the SaveDisney.com site for a number of months now (visit the link now--it's going away), ever since I read about it somewhere or another. As you might or might not know, I'm a huge Disney fan, so when stories started coming out about the spirit of Disney dying out and being boiled down to the corporate buck, I was interested in learning about what was being done to prevent it.

I've seen the company make what I thought were poor decisions that obviously came out of a committee instead of pixie dust (one day, maybe, I'll pontificate on the "reboot" of the Journey into Your Imagination ride at Epcot, or on just what I thought about the Phil Collins tunes in Tarzan and Brother Bear).

Roy DisneyAnd Roy Disney, spokesman of the site, has seemed to want to do something about it. He's pushed to make the board of directors boot Eisner and to institute real change. He's cited some of the things wrong with the company (a number of which I've agreed with) and suggested avenues of improvement. So I've been watching to see what happens, wondering if maybe someday he would get the stockholders to vote fully against Eisner and his cronies and bring in a new regime (as a disclosure, I have a few shares of Disney stock that I received as a graduation present).

Now Roy and the Walt Disney Company have announced that Roy and his fellow crusader, lawyer Stanley Gold, have put aside their differences with the company. In fact, Roy has been named a consultant and "director emeritus" of the company. He has stated in an open letter that he has been asked "to take part in whatever way I can help as a part of the Company, its art and its business."


The optimist in me is cheering. The cynic in me is wondering if Roy is giving up, taking a sweet deal from the company, and allowing his campaign to be marginalized. Time will tell, I guess. I've got my fingers crossed, at any rate, but right now, at least, that cynical voice is loud, especially since part of the agreement apparently means that the SaveDisney site is going down. Personally, I'd rather see it stay up, keeping a tally of Roy's wins and measuring the challenges he and the company still face.

Plus, I'll miss the cool Walt Disney quotes the site's sent me every week. I'll close with one that I hope Roy is keeping in mind: "Do a good job. You don't have to worry about the money; it will take care of itself. Just do your best work--then try to trump it."

EDITED July 18 (Tinkered with the graphics)

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Waking up with the king

Okay, I know that this is hopelessly out of date, but I promised myself that, should I ever start a blog, I would have to make it an early priority to ridicule this ad campaign. Much as I enjoy the nostalgia of seeing the actual king from the Burger King chain again (I'd love to see the return of Mayor McCheese, too), I've got to say that the recent Burger King ad is majorly creepy. Okay, so you have this guy waking up in bed. He senses something odd, looks over, and finds Burger King--oversized head and all--in bed with him with a frozen smile.

Wouldn't this be terrifying to your average human being? I mean, it's got shades of Jason and killer clowns. I'd either run screaming out of the room (probable) or smash Burger King with the nearest solid object, then run screaming out of the room. I would not be tempted to have breakfast in bed with this looming monstrosity.

I'm not sure whether to giggle or shiver.

Anyway, someone has written about the commercial on Slate and you can even view the commercial there, so check it out.

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Let's get this thing started...

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