Monday, February 28, 2005

Go! Go! Go!

This weekend was good and busy. Actually much busier than I would have thought, now that I look back on it.

Friday there was a going away get-together for my Brand Manager at work, so many of us from the company went down to the Rock Bottom Brewery to chat and wish him well.

I left there a bit early with Shana and we drove down to Chopstix (I refuse to post a link) for Heather's birthday party. What can I say about Chopstix... how about, I hated it. Here's the thing, I used to go see Pat McCurdy all the time in Madison. Pat is an excellent entertainer; he knows how to work the crowd, he plays fun songs, he enjoys performing, and his honestly shows through. Chopstix is a "dueling piano bar." You see that and you think, "Hmm, that sounds pretty cool," right? But it's not, and it's not because the performers are fake, through and through. They grind out their songs for tips, they make jokes that have been rehearsed and repeated to death, and they're painfully fake, fake, fake. Soul sucking is how I prefer to describe it. I stayed for a little over an hour (despite finding a parking spot to kill for) and then left for Javier's.

Javier is the husband of a co-worker and he's a big poker fan. He's arranged poker games every Friday at his place and it sounded like fun. There were seven of us and we had a great time playing Texas Hold'em. (Only a $5 buy in, so it was a cheap night.) We played until about one o'clock when people started fading fast. I had one excellent had that probalby won me more than ten dollars, then proceeded to get wittled down so that I left with about $12 less than I came with. Mostly this is a really good education in poker, so I don't mind. And it's a lot of fun.

Saturday Seth and I left early for comics, then met with Jason, Matt, and Chris to go on a hike on Cougar Mountain in Issaquah. We'd planned to do a 3.8 mile hike (with a difficulty of 1 on a five point scale) but we took a wrong turn and ended up doing a total of 4.8 miles (with a difficulty of 3), descending 1200 feet and then reascending them on the way back. Mostly I was okay, but, wow, I get winded fast walking uphill. It was a bummer. I'll have to keep working on getting in shape, but this was a good start and a good test. I think I did pretty well and I felt good that night and today.

After some downtime, Seth, Chris, and I went to eat at a steak place, then watched the 1950 version of King Solomon's Mines. It was good, but I have to admit that I was a little shocked to see actually them kill and elephant for a scene that called for killing an elephant. Rather disturbing, really. It was a decent movie overall with some entertaining "old style" movie tropes.

Sunday I started laundry right away in the morning -- due or die time, you understand -- played some City of Heroes with Kerry, then got ready for my night out.

Ethan, from work, invited me and a number of others to a semi-formal party at a house he and his girlfriend were renting this week for vacation. On the way down we'd all wondered if it was an Oscars' party, an engagement party, a wedding, or just a plain old party. Well, it turns out that it was a wedding party. We arrived, talked a bit. Noticed that the girlfriend wasn't around, then a couple more people disappeared, then they all came back and announced that the two of them had just been married in the back room and we were all there to celebrate. It was a very nice night, low key, intimate, and fun. It may have been another perfect way to get married.

Now I'm going to bed. Maybe I'll dream of more sunflower-carrying dolphins who turn into women like I did last night. Yes, seriously.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Same But Different

We had another movie outing graciously paid for by work today. I think I've missed the last two movies because work hadn't allowed it, but this time (even though I had plenty to do) I was able to go. Then I ended up staying until almost eight o'clock, so it was pretty much the same as not going, right?

The movie was Constantine and I'm surprised to say it was actually pretty good. It wasn't the character from the comics, but it was fairly easy to divorce from that character -- probably because he had a shotgun made out of a golden cross and was played by Keaneau Reeves . . . and it was set in L.A. instead of England and . . .

Well, you get the idea. I'm not a die-hard John Constantine fan (though I definitely like him), so I wasn't offended by what was on the screen in front of me. I thought they did a good job of getting the character right enough times throughout the movie to balance out the parts that were oh-so-wrong. I really wish he'd smoked one last cigarette, though. That would have been quintessential Constantine.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that DC Comics was on-the-ball enough to put the Vertigo imprint logo at the beginning credits of the movie instead of the regular DC Comics logo. Those are two very different "universes." By the way, they released a special Constantine collection of stories in case you're interested in reading more about the character that inspired the movie.

What about life? Well, I'm busy at work and trying to get yearly reviews done for everyone as well as work on Marvel, DC, a new boardgame, as well as another new game that's really the one I'm supposed to be concentrating on. Tomorrow I have to kidnap one of the other designers and get him to give me a hand, otherwise I'm in trouble come Monday.

See you soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

That's It

I'm not sure how two weeks have already past, but this is my last night of being a bum. Tomorrow I have to get back to work. I can't say I'm really looking forward to it, but it will be nice to see everyone and get some things done that I know have been languishing.

My editing project should have been a bigger priority sooner, but I finished everything I wanted to on it, so it's good to go for tomorrow's deadline. There are a few questions that need to be cleard up, but my work is done for the most part.

I just played a fun and somewhat frustrating couple of hours of City of Heroes with Seth, Chris, Matt, Kevin, Kim, Brian, and Kerry (the first four are here in Seattle, the other three are back in Wisconsin or Minnesota). It's nice to be able to do that. We don't do a lot of chatting, but it's still nice to have some contact with them.

I had a nice dinner with Shana, Shane, and Cathy last night at the Chutney's on 15th. Afterwards we watched some of the Homestarrunner DVDs they'd picked up earlier in the day. Fun stuff. Take a look through some of the Strong Bad emails and the other cartoons, if you aren't familiar with them, they're very fun.

I'm very relaxed right now. I don't know why, I worked all day, but I'm very calm and sleepy now. I think I'll go read the book I started on the plan last week.

I can't believe it's been a week as of tomorrow morning since I returned from visiting Jen. That's crazy.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I Need A Vacation

The headline is sort of a joke. I've been away from work for two weeks now, but I foolishly let my editing project sit (because I was too busy at work to work on it after hours) until now. Now I'm trying to get through the whole thing and it's going more slowly than I thought it would -- mostly because I'm having a hard time sitting down and doing it in large chunks. I work on it for an hour then do something else for an hour or two. I'm certain I'll get it done, but it's not really relaxing, which is what my previous editing jobs have been; something to do without really needing to think all that hard.

One of my distractions has been (finally) watching the seventh season of Buffy. I'm about midway through the season and it's already better than the past couple of seasons. It got me thinking, though. Here, try this on:

Someone's trying to destroy the world. You are trying to stop them. Do you do anything and everything in your power to stop them? Even if it meant, I dunno, sacrificing babies to rabid dogs or some such? If you fail then it doesn't matter what you did because everything is gone. If you succeed you'll have saved the world, but you'll have proven that you aren't really the person you thought you were -- maybe no one is.

Mostly I thought it was an interesting question. The practical part of me says, yes, of course you do whatever it takes to save the world, but the Captain America part of me says that you fight, but that's the time it's most important to maintain your beleifs and your morals, because without those we're really no different than what we're trying to stop. Never compromise. (Wait, maybe that's the Rorschach part of me.)

In the "who ever said Blogs didn't make good advertising" file; Glenn recommended The Deed of Paksenarrion on his blog the other day. He had good things to say about it and the subject matter intrigued me, so I picked it up Wednesday when I was out running errands. I'm not sure when I'll get to it, but it'll be sometime soon, I'm sure.

I've been fighting off one of my recurring throat colds. For the past couple of days it's been nestled quite snuggly in my left-hand tonsil and it's very annoying. Happily it hasn't spread and it feels like it's getting better, but it leaves my very tired. And did I mention it hurts, 'cuz it does.

Okay, time for bed. I'll write more later.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

L.A. Story

My trip to L.A. got off on the wrong foot because my plane was delayed about two hours. So I didn't end up leaving Seattle until almost when I was supposed to arrive at Burbank (I flew into the Bob Hope Airport instead of LAX because it's right next to Jen's work). The flight finally left, though, and I arrived in L.A. around 6:30 on Thursday.

That night we had a quick dinner with her brother at a (lame) little "French Market" near their home that they'd never been to. I doubt they'll go back; the service wasn't so good, the food was only okay, and it was really not a comfortable or attractive place to eat. At least, I didn't like it. Afterwards it was pretty late, so we went home, unpacked and relaxed a bit.

Friday we slept in, went to a cool farmer's market at a mall called The Grove. We looked around a bit, had some very good crepes, and picked up some things at a couple of the more traditional stores in the mall (as opposed to at the farmers market). Oh, I picked up a goofy little gift for Scott that I have to send him sometime soon. I also bought some new shoes at Nordstrom's. These are they. When we were done there we drove to the "local" Ikea. I put local in quotes because one of the things you learn very quickly about L.A. is that nothing it local in the usual sense of the word. The city is too spread out for anything to be truly local.

We picked up a new bed frame and exchanged a dresser -- and we actually managed to load them both into her Volvo with very little effort. Woohoo! The rest of the afternoon and much of the evening was taken up with putting them together. I think I wrapped up around nine that evening. We had a very good dinner that night (ordered in) from a Brazilian place called Bossa Nova.

Saturday Jen, her brother, and I went to breakfast at Norm's (basically Denny's), toured Mulholland Drive and its scenic overlook (very cool), then drove to La Brea to see the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum. Like all children, I was a big fan of dinosaurs and I remember hearing of the tar pits and thinking they were awfully cool -- and that I'd love to see them if I ever had the chance. And, luckily, Jen was also pretty keen on it, so we strolled through the park that contains the pits and the museum dedicated to the finds from the site. It was a quick visit, but like I said, it was cool. Things like it awe me because they allow me to see evidence of life from tens of thousands of years ago, in addition to marvelling at the fact that the pits themselves have existed in basically the same form for a like period of time. Pretty damn cool.

Afterward to drove through Beverly Hills, checked out Rodeo Drive, and stopped by the hardware store. I love that sentence.

Saturday evening Jen and I went to dinner at Flavor of India. The food was great and we had a really good time just chatting, but the service was a little comical because it seemed like we were in a no man's land of waiters because none of them seemed to want to actuallly claim the table as theirs, so we had four different people wait on us and we had to ask for help whenever a waiter happened by. Weird considering how good the place was otherwise -- and how good the service was for the table next to ours.

After dinner we went out for a night on the town with her brother and another couple. We walked down to an area in West Hollywood with a number of bars, picked one and off we went! Actually, we had a good time drinking and chatting until closing time. Then we got to play doctor to a very, very drunk young woman. Along with her roommates we kept her on her feet, got her some water, made her throw up, and eventually got her in a sober roommate's car so she could get home where she could sleep it off and suffer through the next day's hangover. We were all a little drunk, too, so then we walked home and slept.

Sunday none of us felt so good, but Jen and I still went with a friend of her's for a walk along Hermosa Beach. By the time we were done I felt much better, but Jen was still a little rough around the edges, so when we got home she took a nap while I finished reading The Hot Rock. That evening we were all very lazy and had dinner in front of the t.v. while we watched the Grammys. Fun and relaxing.

So, my impressions of L.A. after my first real visit? I like it. Actually, I like it more than I thought I would. It's much too spread out for my liking, but as a result of its sprawl all, or at least most, of it is filled with interesting, creative businesses that have to stand out or perish. Sure, there's an Ikea, but all the boutique furniture stores are very specialized -- this one covers the 50's, that one the 70's. That sort of thing. Plus, like New York, there are a lot of important businesses, people, and organizations in the city which leads to a lot of interesting events (like, say, the Grammys). So, yeah, L.A. is fun. I liked it. I'd go again, and maybe this time I'd make it the half-mile down the street to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mann's Chinese Theatre. I can't beleive we forgot to do that.

It was a great weekend overall.

Monday, February 14, 2005

More Soon

I'm back from a few days in Los Angeles. I'll post more about it later, but I'm happy to see that I actually liked the city. Every store I saw seemed like a desitination store, all very specialized and cool. I'm sure there are also lame stores and Target's, but I think you get my meaning.

On the trip I finished Donald Westlake's The Hot Rock and started (finally!) on Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guard, a book I've been meaning to read for about a decade now. Seth recommended the Westlake novel and it was definitely a fun piece of throwaway crime caper -- but I couldn't help casting the move in my head as I was reading*. It would adapt well to a screenplay, so that make it more interesting for me. Good stuff in general, though. As for The Phoenix Guard, it's a lot of fun and a really quick read. I only spent about two hours and change reading it and made it to page 120 (plus the introduction). For me, that's a pretty good page rate. I'm definitely enjoying it, but I'm a fan of Brust's work, so I'm biased. I hope to devour more of it before returning to work next week.

Oh, I also finished watching The Conversation. A movie from Franis Ford Coppola starring Gene Hackman as a "professional eavesdropper" (as Coppola calls him in an interview about the film).

I'll fill you in on more of the trip tomorrow. Now I'm going to watch something and go to bed.

* I find out later, with a bit of research, that it was already made into a movie.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

And so . . .

It's been a pretty lazy week for me so far. I've done some editing, but only a few hours. I'm sure I'll be done on-time.

Other than that, I prepared for and ran the second session of my D&D game. It's clicking pretty well, but I'm a little amazed at how successful the players have been at cutting their way through a sizable number of bandits. There's been some . . . difficulties with one of the characters charging ahead and ignoring the plight of the other characters, but hopefully that will shake out. But, wow, do they need a healer. (Right now the party composition is: halfling rogue, dwarven fighter, goblin ranger, and gnomish sorcerer.)

Wednesday I started watching Seth's copy of The Conversation (which I'll turn on again as soon as I sign off here), went shopping at the mall and at the Bellevue Uwajimaya with Chris. Becca had asked for some pearl tea, but they didn't have any at that Uwajimaya, so I'll make the trek downtown next week. Chris and I got to talking about City of Heroes so we both logged on when we returned home and I ended up "wasting" a good three hours playing a character that needed some updating. Then I did a bit of editing, had dinner with Seth and Chris, then did some more shopping at the mall for things I'd forgotten earlier in the day.

I haven't been very good about not doing any work, I must say. I was in the office Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, plus I'd taken some editing home over the weekend. I've also been checking my email pretty regularly. I know, I'm a big dummy. But here's the thing; I've been working since I was ten years old (paper route) and it feels wrong to not be working on something. I have to keep busy, be doing something constructive, otherwise I feel like I'm wasting time. Maybe eventually I'll get over that, but not soon. The next few days should be good, though, I'm going to try and forget about work and everything -- just relax and have a good time. I'll let you know how it goes.

(Heh, see, I say all that and then I realize that even my "relaxation" involves doing work, since I'm taking time during my vacation to edit another product. I'm a weird one, eh?)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Made It

I was up and at the dentist's on time this morning. Why can I get up and make it to the dentist's by 7:30 when I can't do it for work? I dunno, but I did.

I hadn't been to a dentist since I was back in Madison, so it was definitely time to go again. The dentist and his assitant seemed to think my teeth looked pretty good. I got the standard cleaning and polishing, so my mouth has had that weird grittiness today. I can definitely tell my teeth are cleaner, though. I'll have to go back in a few weeks to go over the x-rays they took.

I finished watching Firefly this morning. I only had one commentary track left to watch -- the one for Objects in Space -- it was excellent and is a good example of why some commentary tracks are better than others. Or really, what they all ought to be like. That episode and Out of Gas are my favorites from the series. I will definitely be picking up the series on DVD, especially considering I have to return the copy I have to a co-worker.

Now I go to continue my editing.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A Good Few Days

The end of last week was great. Thursday and Friday we had a retreat with the rest of the department. We spent Thursday looking at mechanics and playing games -- as well as eating food that was far too rich. It made my head hurt actually. Friday we all sat down, discussed some things and proceeded to design a game in a few hours. I hope we end up doing something with it, but even if we don't, it was an intersting exercise.

Friday night I met Shana and a couple of the guys from Palisades (who were in town for the Emerald City Comic Con) for dinner at Ruby's on University. It was okay, but I'd had really rich food again that day, so I wasn't particularly hungry. Afterwards we went around the corner to the Trabant Chai Lounge to watch Katie perform at a new venue. She was excellent and it was nice to see some new people there -- including her mom and dad. After Katie played her sister's band, the Consequences, performed. They're usually fully electronic, but this time they played mostly acoustic, which sounded pretty damn good. And finally, after that, I went down to Linda's (a bar) with a bunch of people from Katie's show and ended up staying there until about 2 a.m. It was a good time.

Saturday I met up with Seth, Kevin, Kim, Jim, Olivia (Jim's daughter), Jason, and a couple of others from work. We all carpooled into Seattle to check out the Emerald City Comic Con. We managed to get free tickets, so that was cool. The floor was good, bigger than two years ago when I was there, so that's a good thing. I managed to find a copy of a book I lost a while ago. Kind of annoying that I lost it, but I'm happy I found another copy of it.

After the show Seth and I met up with Chris for a late lunch. I was more than a little surprised to see Suzie with him when he showed up. I had and have a lot of thoughts about Suzie's presence here, but mostly it just weirds me out. What was especially weird for me was the fact that she was coming to town, but neither Chris nor Suzie felt like letting me know about her visit. Very strange. I'm trying to be as nice and normal as I can about it, but there's a lot of history there that's hard for me to divorce from the situation and from her. It's very soap opera.

After some really good sushi we decided to go to the local Rock Bottom and visit for a while. On the way over we bumped into Carter and Penny (from work) and they decided to join us too. We all had a good time talking for a couple of hours, then walked over to Border's to do the book thing.

Shana called later and asked if I wanted to do dinner. She had planned to have dinner with the guys from Palisades again, but they never called, so she was starving. I said good night to the others, then drove over to pick her up. On the way, I talked to Shane and Cathy and they decided to join us, so I picked the two of them up, Shana up, then drove to Cedar's -- which was closed, so we went back to Shana's to order pizza and watch volume two of the SNL Will Farrell DVDs. He's funny to me, so we had a good time.

Sunday I went to Jason and Liz's to watch the Superbowl and enjoy some excellent food that the two of them laid out for us. It was a good time. I enjoyed playing with their cat and just hanging out with everyone -- even if I was doing some work for part of the time. Seth and I left fairly quickly afterward because we were going to meet up with Chris and Suzie for dinner at Bucca di Beppo's in downtown Seattle. Dinner was good. Then I came home. Now I have to get to bed because I have to be at the dentist's by 7:30. Ugh.

I feel like this blog has turned into a diary with very little substance. Okay, maybe I fear that this blog has become a diary with very little substance. I'm going to give that some thought and see about making some changes over the next few days. I guess I have a couple of weeks off, so I should have the time to do it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hello? How Have You Been?

Hey Stranger, been a while.

Yeah, I know. I haven't been very good about updating. Mostly it has to do with having too much to do. But stacked on top of that I was sick, which made me very tired at the end of the day, so I've been opting for sleep over blogging. Probably a good thing.

My cold is mostly gone. The only remnants of it is a slightly stuffy head (fading fast). an internittant cough, and a body that requires an unusual amount of sleep lately.

I mentioned in my previous post that I watched all of Firefly this last weekend and now I'm making my way through the commentary tracks. Slow going on that, too. I'm only on the second disk, but I'll probably finish it over the weekend. There's a lot of good in that series. I've really been enjoying it.

Ever since my cold last week I've been completely off my diet because my body really craved fast energy (read: bread), so I gave in and gave it what it wanted. I don't know why, but while I was sick I became full very fast and could only eat about half of what I normally eat at any given meal. That's continued after the cold has gone away and the result is that I haven't really gained any weight. Mostly, it's just an interesting thing I noticed and hopefully I can maintain it. Cutting back on the amount I'm eating should make a big difference. Really, I think it's interesting, but I have no idea as to the cause.

Tuesday night's World's Largest Dungeon game went the way of the dinosaurs. I wasn't happy with the product overall (due to editing gaffes) and many of the people involved were looking for more out of the Dungeon than it could deliver. We've talked about this a bit and it seems like the things that make a dungeon fun were, in a lot of ways, removed from the WLD so that it could be the world's largest dungeon. What are those things? Rewards in the form of magic items and experience and a point to the story.

The things the players often get as rewards were "taken out" at the recommendation of the editor in order to ensure that the characters didn't level too fast, because there are so many encounters that players would become too powerful too fast. So, it felt like players were just biding their time -- put in enough time and you'll get to the next level. It had nothing to do with how you as an individual performed and there was no way for you to track your progress nor any sense of excitement when you were given experience for that night's game (because there was none). Add to that the fact that the magic items were few and far between, and, well, it got staid quickly.

In addition, dungeons are fun because there's something you're trying to accomplish. With the WLD set up the way it was, the only story was that of survival. The characters stumbled into this strange site with no knowledge of what was going on there and, finally, a couple months in they found out why it existed. Too little, too late, my friend. So, the game was about the characters surviving. That doesn't provide much of a hook for players to sink their teeth into.

Anyway, after a flurry of emails over a few days we managed to split the gaming group in two; half continuing Mike's Shadowrun game and half (including me) starting a new D&D game that will hopefully offer more story, more chance for combat, more opportunity for roleplaying, and more of a chance for me to flesh out a previously unexplored section of my fantasy world. It's already off to a great start with the characters (a halfling thief, a gnome sorcerer, and a dwarf fighter) heading into the woods to take out some bandits that have been causing more problems than usual recently. For some reason all the players decided to play short characters, I dunno what's up, but it should be fun regardless.

Thursday and Friday I'll be out of the office along with the rest of the design department for a "retreat". It should be interesting, we've never done anything like this, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday evening I have to run the second session of my Unknown Armies game. The first week went well, so I hope things continue going well. I'll have to get some things organized before I go tomorrow, but I should have time after work.

Then, the interesting thing is, I have two weeks off. Not because I have plans, but because I have vacation time that will disappear if I don't take it, so . . .

It kinda sucks actually. I'd prefer to keep it banked and use up bits and pieces over the next few months. I'm sure I have things to fill the time, but it'd be nice to have something planned for all that time. I feel like I'm not getting any real utility out of it. Like it's a suspension instead of a vacation. I'm sure I'll have plenty to do once I get some things planned out in my head: read, clean my storage unit, clean some things out of my desk (and refill the storage unit), edit my newest project, write something, etc. Like I said, I'm sure I'll find things to do. Plus, the trip to see Jen in L.A. is in there someplace. Plenty to do. Now, if only someone would do the work that will sit undone while I'm not at work. That's the real challenge.