Sunday, September 30, 2007

Six Years

As of today, I've been here for six years. Enjoy the last part of the trip recap. Keep in mind that this was written by Seth, so when "I" do something, it's actually him talking.


SEPTEMBER 30 - rest stop, Idaho (mileage unknown)

I drove all morning, determined to make it all the way across the panhandle of Idaho before I turn the wheel over to Jon. But nature calls, and high in the mountains I pull over into a rest stop to make use of the facilities.

I say without reservation that western Montana and northern Idaho are some of the most beautiful territory it's ever been my privilege to pass through. But it's also completely isolated. Those snow gates that can be dropped across the interstate ("Road blocked ahead. Go back to Missoula.") are there for a reason, and you'd have to be pretty hardy to live out here. The price of beauty, I suppose. We'll see if I can't afford it.

Coming out of the bathroom I see that a man walking his dog is wearing a baseball cap with Bucky Badger embroidered on it. We talk for a minute and it turns out he's from Madison, out here visiting relatives. Strange to find a piece of home about as far away from it as you can get.

SEPTEMBER 30 -- Couer D'Lane, Idaho (1,705 miles)

A quick stop for lunch in the late afternoon. Jon's cel phone is finally back in range of the system, and he checks his messages while I try to call home and wish my mom a happy birthday on a nearby payphone. Couer D'Lane is the Wisconsin Dells of Idaho, with a population that seems fifty percent tourist and a waterslide on every block. It also increases the number of people we've seen in Idaho by about a bazillion percent, unless you count the other moving trucks. Maybe its just because we're traveling in a U-Haul, but everyone and their brother seems to be moving-usually in the opposite direction, but that's probably because anyone behind us can't catch up to us and we can't catch anyone ahead. As the days have passed I've found a strange feeling of brotherhood with these other travelers; if our horn worked I would beep it when I saw them, but have to settle for a jaunty wave they probably never see. Oh well.

For all the 'friends', we've also found our nemesis. First spotted in South Dakota, a couple times each day we've been passed by what I've named the Luxury RV, a glossy black bus-like RV pulling a high-priced black SUV, like Puff Daddy going on walkabout. Ostentatious, faster than us-the reasons to be annoyed go on and on. But though I've been watching, the LRV's shiny prow has yet to glide past our port windows. I decide to remain vigilant as Jon takes the wheel.

SEPTEMBER 30 - MOFN, Washington (1,786 miles)

I gave this town its name, as it is in the middle of nowhere and didn't even have the dignity to give itself a name for its highway exit. Though we didn't have time to stop in Spokane and see my grandparents (although we did see a giant inflatable gorilla, prompting Jon to properly bemoan the trip's lack of monkeys), we had to stop here for gas-and that's nearly all this place has to offer. That, an RV park (despite the "Don't park RV signs here" signs that seem to be tacked to every post), a collection of construction equipment working and otherwise, and a concrete pipe capped with a metal plate jutting out of the ground. My theory is that it's the entrance to a secret underground government base, but that woman back in Montana probably didn't shoot anyone, either.

SEPTEMBER 30 - Roslyn, Washington (1,932 miles)

We're almost there, but fannish interest (you can take the geeks out of Wisconsin, know the rest) made us get off the interstate and make our way up a county highway to Roslyn, where they filmed the exteriors for the TV series Northern Exposure. All the shops are closed this late on a Sunday evening, so no T-shirts for us. But the KBHR radio station is still there and we get to peek into the now-dusty interior. We also see Roslyn's Café, the building that was supposed to be Dr. Fleischman's office, and the Brick, where we stop to grab dinner.While waiting for dinner, I wander back across the street and finally get ahold of my mom. While eating dinner, I watch a gorgeous nearby woman, who eventually notices me and subtly flashes her wedding ring. As of this writing, the jury is still out on whether I'm happy or sad to have been caught being potentially prurient.

Then it's back to the road, with only Snoqualimie Pass between us and Seattle.

SEPTEMBER 30 - Bellevue, Washington (2,015 miles)

It's not Seattle, but it's close enough. We make our way through the dark streets and eventually find the house Jon will be staying at. We have some problems finding the key that supposed to be hidden outside, but luckily one of the other roomers is home-and turns out to also be a WizKids employee named Dave. Dave shows us Jon's (surprisingly tiny!) room, and we unload what we can from the truck. It's almost ten, and too late to find a storage space; Jon will have to do that tomorrow after I leave. Dave does help us move the U-Haul and trailer to the WizKids parking lot (including taking the wheel for the particularly tricky job of turning the truck around in the narrow parking lot), and takes us over to the nearby mall and an all-night grocery store so I can get some cash for the trip back.

Then bedtime and up in time to run to the airport in the morning.


There's the whole tale once again. I hope you've had as much fun reading it as Seth and I did driving it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sixth Anniversary Part III

SEPTEMBER 29 - Sundance, Wyoming (911 miles)

Another gas stop, this time in the town where the Sundance Kid got his name. A pretty small place, and my stay is marked mainly by the three guys in the gas station buying hunting licenses-and swearing that the rifle on the wall being raffled off is the same one that was there last year. They're putting together the pieces of the conspiracy as I wander back out to the truck.

SEPTEMBER 29 - Sheridan, Wyoming (1058 miles)

We've made it over the thousand-mile mark, so we celebrate by stopping for food and gas. Again. Jon also needs to pick up a new address book, so we make our way downtown and find a Wal-Mart Plus-a Wal-Mart with a grocery store. Jon quickly finds the address book and we make our way across the parking lot for a quick lunch at Taco Bell. (For those keeping score at home--number of days on the road: 3; stops at a Taco Bell: 3. Make your investments appropriately.)

Our quick lunch turns out to be anything but. It takes ten minutes to even order, and when we sit down to wait we realize that the dining room is full not of people eating but of people waiting. Oh yeah, and they're out of chicken. The situation is so absurd that Jon and I begin making fun of the restaurant and its employees-apparently in an increasingly vocal manner, as Jon later reports that a cute girl ten feet away was laughing. (Sadly, she was probably of high-school age, so no missed opportunity there, faithful reader. But thank you for thinking of Jon and I.)

SEPTEMBER 29 - Big Timber, Montana (1,273 miles)

After a morning of climbing the foothills of the Rockies and blasting through Billings (a competitor with Toledo for Ugliest City in America), the Little U-Haul That Could has to pull off in western Montana for gas. As we come out from paying, there's a woman hanging around near the corner of the building smoking and leaving one hand suspiciously inside her purse. Our schedule demands that we get back on the road, but let's pretend that she was waiting to shoot someone, okay?

SEPTEMBER 29 - Missoula, Montana (1,541 miles)

Jon handles late night driving up into the mountains and across the Continental Divide, and around 11:30 we pull into Missoula. Less prepared than previous days, we haven't picked out a specific hotel from the AAA guidebook. But I see a billboard for one I remember. Unfortunately, I direct Jon off the highway an exit too early and we wander through town a bit before getting to the right area.

Of further surprise is that the hotel we stop at is full. Not just that, but so are the next two. Luckily, we find a Best Western with a room and crash. Our wake-up call comes right on time, and we make our way downstairs just in time to enjoy the continental breakfast-which actually _is_ pretty continental, reminding me of the breakfast buffet at the hotel I stayed at in London (which itself is _not_ Continental, but you get my Ugly American point, right?)

Then it's time to gas up, and get back on the road.


The conclusion tomorrow!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Six Years: Part II

Here's Part II of the cross-country trip from five years ago.

Again, I should remind you that this is written from Seth's perspective, not mine, which is why I'm referred to in 3rd person. One of these years I'll update it to be from my perspective, but I figure why ruin a good thing? Enjoy.


SEPTEMBER 28 - Blue Earth, Minnesota (333 miles)

I'd like to say that it was the fifty-foot tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant that made us get off the highway, but we just decided to stop for gas and snacks.

The gas station used to have a Taco Bell Express, but it has gone out of business -- recently, apparently. As I stand waiting to get into the restroom, two couples who are part of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation enter. The woman in the lead walks up to the darkened corner and says, "What? No tacos?" For some reason it strikes me as odd; I guess I'm just accustomed to the preteens overrunning the Taco Bells in Madison.

SEPTEMBER 28 - Mitchell, South Dakota (521 miles)

Stopping for gas again, we also stop for lunch, grabbing sandwiches at Subway and then making our way through a maze of surface-street construction to the world famous Mitchell Corn Palace. The last time I was here was a quarter-century ago, and while the Palace is pretty neat, my picture-augmented memory held it up as much neater. I don't remember it being in the middle of downtown, for one thing; I guess I always thought it was a building out in the middle of the fields. And the colors are much more subdued-the pictures I've seen were taken in 1976, and I guess they fancied it up for the Bicentennial. This year's themes are pretty straight-forward nature themes done in straight-forward corn colors. Jon and I do find a display across the street showing how the decoration is done, and I do have to respect the process. It seems like an awful lot of work, beginning with laying out the design on the building and cutting a whole hell of a lot of corn cobs in half in preparation for mounting them.

Though downtown Mitchell seems to get a lot of its income from tourists, most of the other tourist shops are closed down for the season and there's not much else to see. So after a quick picture of Jon in front of the Corn Palace, and a seemingly interminable wait at a train crossing, we're back on I-90 and headed west.

SEPTEMBER 28 - Kadoka, South Dakota (705 miles)

Only two things are amusing about our stop in Kadoka. One: Jon makes a series of funny jokes about people who were too dumb to spell the name of their own state right, and end up naming their town Kadoka. Two: At the gas station, I wait in line to buy my Diet Coke behind a group of guys loudly planning that evening's visit to a strip club. I'm not quite certain they ever caught on that I was laughing at them and not with them. (Okay, now that time has passed, I'm not certain that either of those items are amusing in retrospect. But then, we were back on the road within fifteen minutes -- it didn't leave much time to be amused, and I have to take my amusement where I can get it.)

SEPTEMBER 28 - Wall, South Dakota (758 miles)

Sadly, we arrive in Wall too late to partake of the joys of Wall Drug. But we settle for eating dinner across the street in the Cactus Café, the very restaurant where I had dinner with folks from work on the way back from E3 in May. If you had told me then that I would be eating in that restaurant again just four months later, I don't think I would have believed you. But there we are. The menu isn't quite as cosmopolitan as Burlington's famous White Fox Den, but it goes a little bit beyond bar food, so I enjoy a good French Dip sandwich and a bowl of clam chowder.

On the way out of town, we stop at a gas station-not for gas, but so that I can prove after much frustration at lunch that Sobe Wisdom is unavailable in the state of South Dakota. Like many things in life, I am quickly proven utterly incorrect and come out with a Sobe and a box of Whoppers. Jon is laughing when I come back and points out a truck-driving future redneck who has hung up his truck on the concrete and steel base of an enormous sign, hooking his bumper over the five-inch lug nuts that hold the whole thing upright. We're tempted to stay and watch, but we're behind schedule... so we press on.

SEPTEMBER 28 - Spearfish, South Dakota (856 miles)

With 700 miles under our belt for the day, we stop just short of the Wyoming border. Happily, the hotel we stay at has a pool, so while Jon deals with some unfinished paperwork I go for a swim and read in the hot tub for a while. I have some weird flashes back to a family trip 25 years ago (the same one that took me to Mitchell) and wonder if we stayed here.

Our 8:30 AM wakeup call never comes, and we wake up just past 9:00. Still, even with a trip to a nearby grocery store for water, fruit and road snacks we manage to get back on I-90 by ten, and I pop yet another CD into the Rio as we turn west.


End Part II.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Six Already

Six years ago today (Thursday) Seth and I loaded up my U-Haul and carted my many belongings across the country, or at least the section covered by I-90 that goes from Madison to Bellevue.

Here's the yearly recap thanks to Seth for writing this up six years ago!

SEPTEMBER 27 - Madison, Wisconsin (0 miles)

We haven't left town yet, and we're already running late. It's nobody's fault, really: packing up the truck took a bit longer than planned, but we still could have made it out of town with time for plenty of progress...until it came time to go back to U-Haul to hook up a trailer for Jon's car.

"Looks kinda heavy," says the guy at the shop, and suggests we go across the street to the recycling center and use the truck scale. Driving the 17-foot truck directly across four busy lanes of traffic is a bit daunting, but I brave the task while Jon starts to deal with the trailer.

Pulling up onto the truck scale just as the recycling center just as they prepare to close the gates, I jump out and read the label on the side of truck: 'LIMIT 11,000 LBS. GROSS'. Then I look over at the digital readout on the side of the building: 14568.

I take the truck back across the street and deliver the bad news. The garage is closing, so there's no time to come back for the trailer. Instead we hook up the car and trailer, then return to Jon's house and spend a couple hours unloading two tons of books and comics that will have to go down to Jon's parents in Burlington for storage.

SEPTEMBER 27 - La Crosse, Wisconsin (161 miles)

We made a quick stop at a gas station and a Taco Bell in Tomah, but it's here that we decide to stop for the night. It's 11:30, and there's no point in burning ourselves out on the first leg of the trip. The AAA guidebook lists a Hampton Inn that offers a discount, so that's where we crash. Uh, sleep.

We're up by 8:30, pack up, partake of the free breakfast, stop by a nearby Woodman's grocery store so I can mail off a birthday card to my mom, and then we hit the road.


More of the trip tomorrow.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quick Note

I just wanted to log in and type something here while I had a couple of minutes.

It's been an interesting week. I went to the Xeko, Mission: Indonesia launch party that I did game design work on back in January. Had a bit of a run-in with Shane there, but everything's fine and I mostly mention it just so I can relflect back on just how unhappy I was that night.

I also got a call Thursday during the day about a job, so I have an interview coming up this week. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday Julia and I trekked to the eastside of the state to her sister's new "cabin" for a party to celebrate their mom's birthday. It was fun, but a really long day.

Then Julia woke up sick this morning even though she'd felt it coming on yesterday and tried to head it off with drugs, rest, and NyQuil. So, she rested today while I wrote.

Yep, I wrote all day and have about 5,000 words done now. Which is pretty good if I do say so myself.

Now I'm going to rest my eyes. Or maybe read some comics.

Guess which one I'll actually do?

Monday, September 17, 2007


I started on my freelance project over the weekend. Sure, I only put a couple hundred words to paper, but I did a lot of research, reading, and prep work, so that counts for something. Tonight when I get home I hope to get a thousand words on "paper" before I finish. That might be a lofty goal for a first night -- after working all day -- but I usually start a little slowly so I can organize my thoughts a bit.

I have three hefty chapters to write and I really need to get some of this done. If I were writing fiction (from my head) this would represent about 30 hours of work, but since this writing requires a bunch of research, it's going to take a bit more time.

In other news; the weekend before last I played Runebound with SEth, Jason, Chris, and Rick. We get together every now and again to play games, but this time we had a particularly long break in between due to convention season and busy participants. We had a good time, but the game itself, while fun, left a lot to be desired. It's billed as "sort of like an improved version of Talisman," but if that's true, there's en even better game that's "like an improved version of Runebound." As it played, there wasn't a lot of interaction between players and the time in between turns was long-ish and uninvolving. I guess it left us plenty of time to talk, though, so that's good.

This last weekend we had a very nice evening out at a friend of Julia's. She's an excellent cook and she and her husband are huge wine fans, so they treated us to potatoes au gratin, broiled salmon in a white sauce, toasted bread, and creamed spinach, oh, and like three bottles of very good wine.

Saturday we ran some errands, then spent the afternoon with Julia's sister and her kids. Her older kid, Jason, has a Nintendo 64 that his dad just pulled out of storage, so he and I played a bunch of old games while the girls played with the baby, Madison, just over a year old.

Sunday I played in Jason's D&D game while Julia worked a jewelry show in Belltown. My game was short, but we all had a blast and we finished in time for me to pick up Julia and get her home for a relaxing evening.

You'll notice an update in the right-hand column of this page. It's a "badge" containing my shared news items. These are all sorts of interesting news stories or pages that I liked and decided to link to. Not everything will appeal to everyone, but if you're interested in what's interested me lately, that's the place to look.

And, well, that's about it for now. Like I said, tonight, I write!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy . . . Disappointed

I found out today that my mom and my grandma are coming for a visit next month and they picked up their tickets today. The last time they were here was five years ago, so it'll be good to show them the house and have them meet Julia's family. I'm sure we'll have a good time.

After running around after work (because I forgot to give Julia her house keys) I got back out to the Eastside just in time for my first session playing in the Warhammer game, but we discovered that out characters had been misplaced, so we couldn't play.

Instead we played a game of Ricochet Robots. On any other day it might have been fun, but I wasn't really into it because I'd had my heart set on Warhammer. Ah, well. Hopefully next week we'll be able to play.

Starting tomorrow I'm diving into my next freelance project. I have 30,000 words to write by the end of October and I really need to get started.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Jeff started this meme a while ago and I thought it was pretty cool, so I'm continuing it. I actually did the day Jeff posted it (which was a while ago now), but I promptly forgot to do anything with it until he posted about it again. It turns out that was good because I'd originally mixed up the bolding and the italics, so I'm glad I had some time to edit. I'm playing board games with weekend with Seth, Rick, Chris, and Jason this weekend, so this is particularly timely.

So Green Ronin has released Hobby Games: The 100 Best, edited by James Lowder, to nifty initial responses at Gencon, and has in addition just posted on their site the table of contents of all 100 games and the authors covering them.

And Jeff thought it would be an opportunity to launch one of those "What X do you Y?" type memes. You know the drill - Copy the following list, and mark them up as follows:

Boldface if "I own this game".
Italics is "I have played this game".
Italic and Bold are "I both own and have played this game"(Sorry, no bonus points for "I WROTE this game" - now you're just bragging.:))

Hobby Games: The 100 Best
Bruce C. Shelley on Acquire
Nicole Lindroos on Amber Diceless
Ian Livingstone on Amun-Re
Stewart Wieck on Ars Magica
Thomas M. Reid on Axis & Allies
Tracy Hickman on Battle Cry
Philip Reed on BattleTech
Justin Achilli on Blood Bowl
Mike Selinker on Bohnanza
Tom Dalgliesh on Britannia
Greg Stolze on Button Men
Monte Cook on Call of Cthulhu
Steven E. Schend on Carcassonne
Jeff Tidball on Car Wars
Bill Bridges on Champions
Stan! on Circus Maximus
Tom Jolly on Citadels
Steven Savile on Civilization
Bruno Faidutti on Cosmic Encounter
Andrew Looney on Cosmic Wimpout
Skip Williams on Dawn Patrol
Alan R. Moon on Descent
Larry Harris on Diplomacy
Richard Garfield on Dungeons & Dragons
William W. Connors on Dynasty League Baseball
Christian T. Petersen on El Grande
Alessio Cavatore on Empires in Arms
Timothy Brown on Empires of the Middle Ages
Allen Varney on The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Phil Yates on Fire and Fury
William Jones on Flames of War
Rick Loomis on Fluxx
John Kovalic on Formula Dé
Anthony J. Gallela on The Fury of Dracula
Jesse Scoble on A Game of Thrones
Lou Zocchi on Gettysburg
James Wallis on Ghostbusters
James M. Ward on The Great Khan Game
Gav Thorpe on Hammer of the Scots
Uli Blennemann on Here I Stand
S. Craig Taylor, Jr. on A House Divided
Scott Haring on Illuminati
Dana Lombardy on Johnny Reb
Darren Watts on Junta
Greg Stafford on Kingmaker
Lester Smith on Kremlin
Wolfgang Baur on Legend of the Five Rings
Marc W. Miller on Lensman
Ted S. Raicer on London's Burning
Teeuwynn Woodruff on Lord of the Rings
Mike Breault on Machiavelli
Jordan Weisman on Magic: The Gathering
Steve Kenson on Marvel Super Heroes
Gary Gygax on Metamorphosis Alpha
Greg Costikyan on My Life with Master
John D. Rateliff on Mythos
Chris "Gerry" Klug on Napoleon's Last Battles
John Scott Tynes on Naval War
Erick Wujcik on Ogre
Marc Gascoigne on Once Upon a Time
Mike Bennighof on PanzerBlitz
Steve Jackson on Paranoia
Shannon Appelcline on Pendragon
JD Wiker on Pirate's Cove
Richard H. Berg on Plague!
Martin Wallace on Power Grid
Tom Wham on Puerto Rico
Joseph Miranda on Renaissance of Infantry
James Ernest on RoboRally
Paul Jaquays on RuneQuest
Richard Dansky on The Settlers of Catan
Ken St. Andre on Shadowfist
Steven S. Long on Shadowrun
Peter Corless on Shadows over Camelot
Dale Donovan on Silent Death: The Next Millennium
Matt Forbeck on Space Hulk
Ray Winninger on Squad Leader
Lewis Pulsipher on Stalingrad
Bruce Nesmith on Star Fleet Battles
Steve Winter on The Sword and the Flame
Jeff Grubb on Tales of the Arabian Nights
Shane Lacy Hensley on Talisman
Douglas Niles on Terrible Swift Sword
Ed Greenwood on Thurn and Taxis
Mike Fitzgerald on Ticket to Ride
Thomas Lehmann on Tigris & Euphrates
Warren Spector on Tikal
David "Zeb" Cook on Toon
Mike Pondsmith on Traveller
Zev Shlasinger on Twilight Struggle
Kenneth Hite on Unknown Armies
Sandy Petersen on Up Front
R. Hyrum Savage on Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
George Vasilakos on Vampire: The Masquerade
Kevin Wilson on Vinci
R.A. Salvatore on War and Peace
Jack Emmert on Warhammer 40,000
Chris Pramas on The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Steve Jackson on The Warlord
John Wick on Wiz-War

Like Jeff, I have some specific memories that go along with a number of these games. Especially games like Squad Leader and Star Fleet Battles which I played as a teenager with my good friend Dave when he was still alive. Man, I sucked at those games.

There are also a couple on here I'm not sure if I've played, so I left them blank. Specifically Wiz-War and PanzerBlitz. I know I've played Panzer, but I may be misremembering the name. Does anyone know if those are two different games?

Looking at the list I can see I've played a lot of games over the years, but I also see that there are a number of games on the list that I really want to play. I guess I have a big "to-do" list now.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Forgotten in the Hubbub

I forgot to mention that over the course of last weekend we bought a new mattress (something we needed badly) and it was delivered on Saturday. It's been a very nice change and has resulted in some very restful nights.

I also forgot to mention that Kian and Ariel were in town. They came back for a wedding, but had time Sunday morning for breakfast, so we met them in Bellevue for dim sum at the usual place. Kian and Ariel are living in Vegas now because he took a job at Petroglyph Studios. He loves the work and the people, but not so much the location. It was a nice, leisurely visit -- and we ate jellyfish! Seriously.

What the Internet is Good For

I spoke with Phil briefly today and he explained that his two-year-old daughter has made it clear to him what the Internet is good for: Kitties.

When he's in front of the computer she comes up to him, stands by his knee, looks and him and says, "Kitties!"

Then Phil goes to YouTube and searches for videos of kitties for her to watch.

She also likes puppies.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tripped Up

I had to make a quick trip to Austin last week for work; flew in Tuesday afternoon, had dinner, slept, had meetings from nine a.m. until 3:30 p.m., then flew home. Like I said, a quick trip.

It wasn't as much fun as it sounds.

The rest of the week had some exciting news for Julia, who interviewed for and got a new job (still at her same company, so there aren't any weird changes to benefits and such).

I didn't game at all over the weekend, but the upcoming weekend will be full of board games on Saturday and rolepalying on Sunday. I'm looking forward to that.

So, what did I do with all the extra time? I finished reading REIGN, which is excellent, and caught up on a bunch of comics, which have been sitting fallow for far too long. Saturday night we drove over to Bellevue to see The Bourne Ultimatum. We both enjoyed it a lot and it was nice to get out of the house for the evening. The movie was very good, but the action scenes were by far the best part; so visceral and "realistic" despite how over the top they are.

I'm typing this in snippets during the day, so please forgive me if this post seems a little scattered.

Monday was Julia's birthday, so we went to her parents' place for dinner. The food was excellent and it really helped her to relax before starting her new job, which was nice.

I painted another miniature over the weekend. I'll take some pictures soon and show off my mad skills with a paintbrush. I'm pretty happy with the results.

Last night (Tuesday, that is) the group created characters for the new REIGN game. We have an interesting mix of characters whose Company is called the Red Doves. We're a group of cult-hunters who have an inordinate amount of influence and connections, but not much else. I'm sure our power base will expand quickly.

More soon.