My parental units are in town, and tonight we all went to spectate upon Fahrenheit 9/11, so now I feel like I have a right to express my opinion about the movie. I tried to keep my expectations in check, although I will say that I expected to be angrier than I was - instead, I was kind of sad, because I'm starting to suspect that the bad guys won a long time ago.
The movie was decent; Moore was barely in it, and he kept his usual stunts to an absolute minimum. It was a tad emotionally manipulative, but nothing so bad that I wasn't sitting there going, "OK, this is manipulative, blah." I read, or knew about, or suspected, many of the things presented in Fahrenheit, and the movie did a nice job of wrapping it up in a pretty little package and putting a cute little bow on it.
What I left the theater thinking was that, now that they are in power and have gotten this far, they're never going to quit. That, more than anything, makes me sad.
Friday, July 30, 2004
My parental units are in town, and tonight we all went to spectate upon Fahrenheit 9/11, so now I feel like I have a right to express my opinion about the movie. I tried to keep my expectations in check, although I will say that I expected to be angrier than I was - instead, I was kind of sad, because I'm starting to suspect that the bad guys won a long time ago.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
I chatted today with one of our painters about politics. There's a joke around the office that he's our "token conservative," and I like the guy a heck of a lot on a personal level, so it's with the utmost respect that I say he takes our constant liberal hand-wringing in stride.
Today we were talking about whether the Iraq was was a mistake, and he said something very interesting: that it wasn't the Bush administration that mislead us, it was the intelligence agencies. Wham, bam, pretty much directly from the mouths of the 9/11 Commission's report.
But it disturbed me on one level, because the way he said it, it was almost as if the Commission's report completely excused the misleading methods that brought us to war. He used it as a way to kind of absolve the Bush administration of its wrongdoing, except it wasn't really the Bush administration, it was his idea of the Bush administration, a kind of ideal Bush administration that I don't think exists, or has ever existed.
That kind of got me thinking: do our political preconceptions ever allow us to objectively analyze what a politician does, or the truth behind a political situation? It's not a stretch to say that public relations is intended to manipulate preconceptions, and it seems like that's all a campaign is these days, but thinking back to my own experience, I opposed Dole in the '96 election and opposed Bush in 2000 because I had certain preconceptions about how those candidates would run the US. And, pretty much everything Bush has done has confirmed my preconceptions about him.
Is it ever possible to make an objective analysis? Or are we doomed to a system that manipulates us? Is the only way to win to use that system to manipulate? If so, how does one do so morally?
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
I just got an unwelcome introduction to a procedure called "email spoofing," where eBay members are contacted by email with a deceptively official-looking message imploring them that their account is being mishandled and that they need to verify information. It seemed odd that it went to an email address that wasn't on my account, but I made the mistake - of course - of clicking the link in the email anyway. My poor, out of date virus software valiantly tried to preform its duty, but succumbed, and now some nasty little bug is chewing on my computer.
A shitty cap to an otherwise decent day.
While my anti-Virus software updates itself, and my emails to eBay's spoof account goes through, I don't have a hell of a lot to do but sit here, wish it wasn't so hot in this stupid office, and think about all the crap I have to do today so I can take Thursday and Friday off. The parental units will be in town, so I get to play tour guide. Should be more fun that I'm making it out to be, but I'm tired, it's late, and that means I'm a bit cranky. I'm also worried that this stupid computer may heading for the scrapheap - as I think about it, there aren't any components in here younger than four years.
I drove out to Lynnwood after work today and traded some of my old worthless LEs off for some cool swag - I scored a bunch of old video game systems (a 32x, a Sega CD, a Saturn, a Jaguar, and a Turbo Grafix 16 to be exact), some X-Box games, and a present for someone at work.
Liz had an extremely promising interview today. They want to bring her back for a second before the end of the week. My fingers are crossed.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Monday, July 26, 2004
Nope, instead I was goin' to Comic-Con International, the US' largest congregation of geeks, nerds, dorks, gamers, goths, anime chicks, fantasy-obsessed people, film fans, LARPers, comic shop guys, and, well, everything. I did so much and saw so much I'm not sure how I'm going to put it all into one bloggie post, but I'll try. Incidentally, their attendence this year was an unprecedented 83,000 people for Saturday's activities.
So I got in on Tuesday, so I could help with set-up on Wednesday and be there for preview night. I'm glad I did, becuase preview night allowed me to walk around relatively unmolested, without the crowds. On the flight down, I read through Stephen Brust's To Reign in Hell, a groovy little riff on the Fall. It was thankfully underbearing as far as religious-moral messages went; Brust went for a good-fantasy-read tack, and it was refreshing and interesting at the same time. The characters were well sculpted and believable, although he mixed his Jewish mythology a little. My favorite part was that the Fall was a conscious choice to rebel against God, almost as an afterthought of the events that came before, when Satan and his angels saw God's true character. Anyway, I recommend it.
Preview night at the con was more about scoring cool stuff - the boys and girls at The Red Star gave me a great deal on one of their R.S.S. Konstantinov lighters (I don't smoke, but a Zippo is a great lighter, and it looks like it came from the ship, so it's cool). I scored the first season of The Slayers, a silly little anime, and I got copies of Hero and Shaolin Soccer from Asia; both movies will come out later in US theaters, but I'd much rather watch them at home on Gigantor the TV, and I didn't spend all that money on the region-free DVD Playa' O' Doom for nothing. I've actually been listening to the soundtrack to Hero thanks to Seth's music-education regime he's been putting me through. It may be one of the best movie soundtracks ever, and it's perfect for pumping through the iTunes at work.
Thursday I caught the Groo panel, hosted by Mark Evanier. It was kind of cool to see the four folks who worked on Groo in the same place. I didn't ask any questions, but hearing Sergio Aragones talk (he's got a really sexy old-Spanish accent, he kind of seems like a character from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel) was worth it. I also made a lot of really good press contacts, which was my primary goal for the show. I actually did that throughout the show, and I would say without reservation "Mission Accomplished." Heh.
Friday I spoke with the nice blokes at Green Ronin about the possibility of doing some writing work for them; speaking of, I've got notes for a little bit of RPG work I've been hammering away on, and I've got to finish it before my parental units show up next week. But that's another post. I slipped out that afternoon to a DC Comics party, where I hobnobbed with people, made more contacts, got some excellent love for HeroClix, and talked to comic editors about writing. My only disappointment was that Mark Waid wasn't there; I'd love to meet him and tell him what a great writer he is. After that, I joined the group that became the first on American soil to see Shaun of the Dead. Shaun is a Brit zombie movie - they bill it as "a romantic comedy with zombies," and that seems about right. It reminded me a lot of The Office meets Monty Python meets, well, zombie flicks. Some of the people from The Office were even in Shaun. I will probably import this one on DVD come September, when it releases in the UK. Again, I highly recommended it. I skipped the screening of Saw that night (which is House of 1000 Corpses meets Cube), and instead headed to bed.
Saturday I caught a Simpsons panel, most notable for the discussion on future Futurama projects (try feeding that sentence into a grammar checker!) and the clips shown at the beginning. I picked up a copy of Illuminati University, because the only place I've ever been able to find it is at Comic-Con, and I picked up Galadriel's Ring from Lord of the Rings for Liz. And some more cool Red Star stuff. One of our sculptors sat on an action figure panel, which I attended, and then I went to a sushi place with some of our staff, even though I didn't have any - my last sushi experience landed me in the hospital, and I'm not ready to take that risk again.
Today was easygoing, I played in one of our HeroClix Battle Royales - I've got to do that at least once at every con, it's fucking great - and did some last-minute browsing and schmoozing. The highlight was the Serenity panel (AKA Firefly). I got to see the very first teaser trailer for Serenity, and enjoyed the Q and A afterwards. And yes, Jewel Staite is as beautiful in person as she is on TV, but she's got a really wicked sense of humor. It was a great panel, and if I were to organize such a panel (ahem), I would certainly use that one as a model. Then, I flew back. I started reading Altered Carbon, a really good sci-fi noir book that a whole bunch of folks recommended to me. I'm only halfway through, so I'll post more later.
And, when I checked my email, it turned out that Rama had emailed me (kinda like I asked him to in my comments). I'm glad I made contact with him - the entire NCHS crew has their own blog, which is groovy. I guess Jen is in New York these days. She should email me too. Hint Hint.
Alrighty, I think I've rambled enough - I'm gonna go crank up Hero.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
I just watched Bob Roberts, a Tim Robbins joint from the early 1990s, thanks to Seth's generous recommendation and loaning. It was one of the more effective political satires I've watched; it kind of reminded me of Three Kings, because I was sitting there thinking, Jesus, how did this movie ever get made?
Wolf asked what The Crocodile Man is about, and I realized that I don't think I've really ever shared anything about the book, so here goes.
I started working on The Crocodile Man in late 2002; before September 11th, I had been working on a novel that was, in some ways, a political satire, mostly dealing with the ineffectual nature of a missile defense shield that our government seemed bound and determined to waste billions on (speaking of, whatever did happen to that?) After September 11th, I put that aside - although I have a feeling some of the scenes and/or premises from that book will make their way into a future novel - because it no longer seemed timely. I wrote a few stories, one of them even got published online, but didn't really start working on a novel until more than a year later. And then, I took a fresh start; I'd hooked up with an RPG website to do a monthly column with them, in addition to a lot of the work I was doing on local news rags and mags at the time. They asked me to do some fiction, too, so I said, sure, I'll do twelve 10000-word installments of a serial novel, and that became The Crocodile Man.
I didn't even have a title for it for about the first 30,000 words, and I'll admit, the title is still pretty arbitrary. The only goals I set out for myself were to create a science fiction novel with a strong female lead; I had finished M.K. Wren's A Gift Upon the Shore and was lamenting the lack of good female leads in SF, especially post-apocalyptic fiction. I did an independent study of PA literature in college, so I was very familiar with the genre, and I figured I might give it a shot, so I set Crocodile in a near-future where there hasn't been one, large collapse, but a series of smaller ones collectively called "The Fall," so resources are scarce and there's little to no infrastructure, but still quite a few people around, all trying to pick up the pieces. I very strongly based the scenario off of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael series of books, and the suggestions Quinn has made about our future if our method of agriculture eventually leads to a major collapse in biostructure.
After the first three chapters, I had a lot of the typical genre-stuff - racist militias, crazy scientists, survivalist enclaves, religious whackos, and so on. I really wasn't aiming for art when I started Crocodile - aside from actually displaying the discipline to write a book, I just wanted to add something else to a portfolio - but I also didn't want something so bland that it was doomed to languish in the bottom of my desk for the rest of my life, either. So I started subverting the cliches - the militias aren't always bad, the survivalists aren't all good, there are uncommon acts of kindness here and there. I think I was influenced more than a little by the TV version of Jeremiah, but I'd also like to think that there's a somewhat positive note to humanity, too. SF, especially PA-SF, allows is to explore what people can do in extreme situations - in fact, the most extreme of situations - because it's only in those kinds of situations where our precious philosophies and moralities will stand up to the hard truths of experience. Was it possible for a person to survive in a world like this without killing anyone? Does the drive for power really cancel out every aspect of a person's humanity?
Reading over this, I think I'm taking myself way too seriously, which is never a good thing. My plan for Crocodile is to put it away for about six months and then come back to it after I've completely put it out of my mind, so I can wade through and give it a really good editing. Then, I might do that again. Then, I might try to find an agent, or a publisher, or both.
And in the meantime, I've already started making notes for my next little work. I'll shoot for another 120,000 words, but this time, I'm not going to stick nearly as rigorously to form. For some reason, the thought of 120 1000-word chapters amuses me; 240 500-word chapters seems even funnier. Hell, I can write a 500-word chapter over my lunch break at work. I could have another novel in less than a year if I could keep up one chapter a day.
Monday, July 19, 2004
At 10:55 PST tonight, I finished my first novel. The Crocodile Man is done. I took a look at when I started working on it; I began on November 6th, 2002, so I was at it for a little over a year and a half. Hopefully, the next one will go faster.
I was in the tenth grade when I lost my religion, but last Friday I lost a little bit of my faith again. Not necessarily faith in a higher power, but I had one of those Joycian moments where my worldview suddenly became very obsolete in a very small amount of time.
It came about because of the synthesis of two conversations. The first involved advertising and public relations - my job. Yup, these days I spend my free time thinking how to do my job well, and my job happens to be using advertising and PR to sell things. Liz and I were talking about effective marketing, and she told me (this is one of the drawbacks of not having a formal education in my chosen field) that there is a theory about marketing - if you repeat a marketing message seven times, then it sinks in the consumer's head as "fact." For example, if you make sure that your ad for a new gas-efficient SUV (heh heh) runs in seven different consumer car magazines, then people in the market for a new SUV will see this, and those who want a gas-efficient SUV will then experience something where your marketing message sticks in their head as "fact." It may not necessarily be true, but if you repeat it, it's true.
This actually came about based on a discussion about using Skinnerian psychology to train dogs. I'm not sure of that's a commentary on my job or just the fact that the average consumer can be trained with a standard click-treat, or what.
So anyhoo, on last Thursday's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," they ran a little blurb about talking points from the Republican Party. Specifically, how people go on talk shows and news shows and repeat these talking points over and over. Even more specifically, they showed bits about John Edwards from the day where the Kerry campaign announced Edwards' candidacy for the Vice-Presidency. And, specifically, they showed eight or nine different people repeating two things over and over: that Edwards was "out of touch with mainstream America" and that he was a "liberal." In fact, it was usually a combination of those two things: that Edwards was a liberal out of touch with mainstream America. These talking points, Stewart pointed out, first appeared on the Bush campaign's website, and were emailed out to party rank-and-file soon after. And yes, one of them was exactly that Edwards was out of touch with mainstream America.
OK, I'm not even going to tackle the truth of that statement. No doubt Edwards is quite liberal, but whether or not that automatically means he's out of touch with mainstream America (whatever that is) is beside the point.
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this: as I was having lunch and thinking about Liz's statement regarding marketing, I realized: that's exactly what the Republicans are doing. If enough people see these folks saying it on TV, writing about it in newspapers from the letters to the editor to editorials carried by five hundred papers a day, they will believe it: Edwards is out of touch with mainsteam America. Will they stop to think about what "mainstream America" means? Probably not. They will think, from the poor farmer in the midwest who values his family, his religion, and his right to bear arms; to the wealthy yuppie in Orange County who values his sports car and his money, that they, no matter who they are, are mainstream America. Because that statement is intended to be so ambiguous and twisted that anyone who hears it thinks, "hey, that applies to me!" I know this, because I write stuff like this too.
And I thought, what a nasty, insidious way to run politics: it's not based on dialoge, compromise, or even on truth; it's based on who's got the bigger network of talking points people. And, let's face it, the Republicans have been at this for a while. They honed it in the 80s with the Reagan campaign, and they won the majority in '94 doing just what I said - turning our "must have news" agencies into methods for disseminating talking points, to the point where those points become truths.
Now, I'm not saying liberals haven't done this, or wouldn't do this if given the chance. Not at all. What I'm saying is, the right is much more organized to take advantage of this at the moment than the left, and I don't think anyone, on either side, would argue with that.
Being my noble self, while I think this theory works for, and should be applied to, methods to seperate people from their hard-earned cash, I'm not sure it makes for a good way to run politics - because it favors the wealthier party, and it certainly favors those in power over the disenfranchised.
So my next question was, "how do we fight against this?" Liz's answer, which I believe is the correct answer, was "education." You make people realize that they are being manipulated and pandered too, and they won't like it, or will at the very least act and think more critically.
But that made me stop and think, too. One of Bush's main goals was a revamp of the education system, and his main method of doing so involved rigorous application of standardized tests to evaluate what students were learning, and when. Now, what are standardized tests exactly? Do they test critical thinking skills? No. A standardized test for, say, History, won't require a student to synthesize why the XYZ Affair was one of the first blows to American leadership for possible attempts to take bribes from foreign powers, and what possible effects that had on both the voting populace at the time and the newly-born republic. Instead, they will know that it involved three American agents, and took place in 1797 - because that's what fits on a line in a standardized test, and that's what can be read by a ScanTron machine.
But what does studying for such a standardized test really boil down to? What is "the XYZ Affair took place under John Adams in 1797?"
It's a talking point.
Who's going to be writing the standardized tests? Who's going to be approving the questions on those tests?
Bush-appointed education officials.
What will teachers have to teach so their students pass these standardized tests?
Talking points. Historical talking points. Hippies spat on soldiers returning from Vietnam. It's true; it's a talking point. I learned it in the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th grade. I heard it three times in each class. That's 12 repeated points. It's become a fact. Scientific talking points. There's no proof that Darwin's theory of Evolution is correct. I heard that in four different grades, three times each. 12 repeated points. As far as I'm concerned, it's a fact.
They want to take away our greatest weapon against manipulation. They want to turn education into something that teaches talking points.
You may be looking for the foil on my head, and I would expect that right now. Because it seems pretty outlandish to me, too. But if I were in Karl Rove's position, and my job were to ensure that the Republican party stayed in power for the next 100 years, I would sure as hell do exactly what I just outlined above. Luckily, my job is to make people happy by introducing them to games.
Is it true? Who knows. I think it's time to read Brave New World again, but I fear that if I do, I'm going to end up like the Savage.
Liz and I spent the last two days at Brook and Wendi's wedding in Portland. It was a great event; the rehersal dinner was very nice, and the ceremony was low-key and fun, much like the couple. The reception had a swing band, a slideshow, and everything was outside, but I didn't even notice how much I was sweating until I stopped dancing.
Portland itself seemed pretty cool too; we hit Powell's books, easily the largest bookstore I've ever been in (there's one in London off Charing Cross road that's close, but the name escapes me at the moment). They had some great used books, including a couple of Phillip Wylie books I hadn't seen before. They had an extensive gaming section with a ton of used stuff; I scored an original AD&D Oriental Adventures book for 13 bucks, and a couple very obscure Ravenloft things for even cheaper. The drive down and back took far longer than it should have, because apparently Washingtonians are idiots and do not know the basic premise of highway driving: pass people on the left, and then get over. Instead, they just drive really slow in the passing lane, even when the other two lanes are devoid of traffic. Eventually, I figured that if they were going to break the rules, then it didn't matter if I passed them on the right, and my trip went a hell of a lot faster after that.
Tonight, I shall watch The Bourne Identity and chuckle at Matt Damon as an action star.
Friday, July 16, 2004
I wouldn't say this is the best opening line I've ever read, but it's goddamned close. From Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell:
Snow, tenderly caught by eddying breezes, swirled and spun in to and out of bright, lustrous shapes that gleamed against the emerald-blazoned black drape of sky and sparkled there for a moment, hanging, before settling gently on the soft, green-tufted plain with all the sickly sweetness of an over-written sentence.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
This is of great interest to me, as my grandmother immigrated from Lebanon and when I stay in the sun for longer than a few hours, I get dark:
In George W. Bush's Brave New World, run by Homeland Security and the PATRIOT ACT, hundreds of white people can take pictures of public property, but brown-skinned folks who look like "Arabs" can't. It happened here, in liberal Seattle. The photographer, a student at a local community college, describes his experience here, and has created blog-site with comments and art here. Read, and be pissed.
Thanks for Jon for the link.
I just finished watching The Dreamers, a kind of love-letter to "film buffs" and extraordinarily well-done cinema piece. It wasn't a movie I would watch over and over, and it's not as cerebral as some, but the eye-popping cinematography, film references, and decent story tied themselves together well.
I'm sure I could go on at length about it, but I'm still pretty wiped from work and tomorrow is going to be even more tiring, if that's possible.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
President Bush recently said in a speech that "America is safer." In fact, according to the timecode on the Daily Show segement that reran the speech, Bush said "America is safer" four times in five minutes.
Why then is the administration even considering delaying or changing the elections based on the threat of a "catastrophic" terrorist attack, if we're so much safer thanks to Bush's policies?
I'm getting sick of the politics of fear.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
I didn't get as much writing done as I wanted to tonight, but I did get about 400 words on a very important conversation - the opening of the final chapter, where the main character has a nice talk with her dream-alter-ego and basically sums up the ways she's changed throughout the novel.
Seth was kind enough to tutor me in Bit Torrent tonight, which offset the fact that I think I got hosed on an eBay auction last week, as the seller (zero feedback, and only wanted a money order), is no longer listed as an active member of eBay.
Thanks to Seth for pointing me to a website explaining John Cage's "Organ2/ASLSP," an avant-garde piece of music that will take 636 years to finish playing.
You know, when Douglas Adams put something like that in the Hitchhiker's Guide, it was a joke. I'll bet scholars all over the world are dissecting every note of Cage's song. And people who read Douglas Adams are laughing at them.
I heard a while ago about a new documentary film by a guy named Mike Wilson called Michael Moore Hates America. I'm sure generously funded by GOP folks who would just as soon see Moore dropped off a cliff as they would shake his hand, Wilson's premise is that Moore, well, hates America because - get this - he's manipulative.
Well, fucking duh.
So here's a quick email I drafted to him. He doesn't have a real email address, but they have one set up on their site for crackpots like me - HateMail@michaelmoorehatesamerica.com. So I penned a quick email and sent it along. The text is below.
The problem with Michael Moore is that he intentionally manipulates facts to serve his own agenda. I once interned for him, and I respect him as a filmmaker, but I also realize that his technique, especially in his two most recent films, dilutes his message.
But, I also realize that this is the exact same thing the Bush administration did to justify conflict in Iraq.
So far, 1000 soldiers and lots more Iraqis died because of the Bush administration intentionally manipulating facts to serve their agenda.
Michael Moore has killed no one.
And, by the argument I just saw on the Daily Show, you seem to be doing the same thing by dubbing your film Michael Moore Hates America.
I'm sure an intelligent and reasonable individual such as yourself realizes that you're committing the same hypocrisies that Moore has committed. And, I'm sure that you're a logical enough person to compare the body counts of the Bush administration's maniupative efforts, and Moore's manipulative efforts. And, being a person who is of voting age, I certainly hope that you realize a body count of over a thousand is, by definition, more dangerous than a body count of zero.
If you really cared about America, you would take your equipment, time, effort, and energy to create a documentary about the person who has caused over 1000 American deaths that doesn't distort the facts. After all, it would be a fitting tribute for those dead Americans - for who is America but those who protect it?
But you have elected, instead of using your gifts and resources to prove you are a better man than Moore, to instead ignore that which has killed a thousand times more Americans and go after a documentary filmmaker who anyone realizes is a manipulative individual.
I have a very difficult time respecting or taking a person seriously who can commit such a grevious error in logical thought.
I doubt you'll read this, but if you do, I would invite rational, intelligent conversation on the subject.
I took the weekend off from working on the bloggie to write and relax - 2000 words on the novel (hopefully, I'll double that tonight). I watched three great horror flicks - Ravenous on Friday night, The Abominable Dr. Phibes on Saturday night, and Jimmy's suggestion, Curse of the Demon, on Sunday night. Curse was outstanding, near Hitchcock-grade stuff from the mid-50s. For a no-budget horror flick, it had some really amazing lighting and sets.
Anyway, I've got some backlogged bullshit to post, and then I'm going to write.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Tonight, Liz and I, along with Brook and Wendi, took in the high culture of Wooden O Theater's production of Love's Labour's Lost at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island. It's one of about five (now four) Bard plays that I've not seen or read, and it was entertaining - it almost struck me as a rough draft of Measure for Measure. They did it as a kind of N'Awlin's in the 20s motiff, with Dixieland music to accompany and costumes to match. I suspect the play was considerably shortened based on the number of scene breaks, but not having read it, I don't know for sure. The acting was great all around, and the guy playing Armando did an excellent job (unfortunately, I left the program in the car, otherwise I'd have his name, too).
And, to counter all of that high culture, I'm going to watch Ravenous, a cannibal-vampire-zombie-Vengeful Indian Spirit movie.
Friday, July 09, 2004
Thursday, July 08, 2004
I got in pretty late last night from playtesting, our last session, and I had a great time pushing the envelope to discover just what's broken and what wasn't. I also came away with a couple of good ideas for my Skull & Bones campaign that resumes this evening (not related to the playtest session, but stuff I thought of while leafing through the Monster Manual looking for something else). I've got other stuff on my plate, and since this weekend is the last weekend before my life turns really busy, I'm trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to get all this stuff done.
On the upside, I had an incredible meeting with our new VP of Sales and Marketing (and currently my direct supervisor), and I found that he and I share many views about the future of the company and how we should take the company to that future. I'm excited because a) the last business-related class I had was Freshman year of high school, so most of what I do is based on common sense and intuition, and b) we discussed refocusing my job on where my abilities lie, rather than what was convenient for the company at the time.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
So I'm back from a lovely three days in British Columbia, most of which was spent in and around Victoria. This was byfar the best vacation Liz and I have taken since we got hitched (this was our three-year anniversary present to ourselves). Once we pulled out at O'DarkThirty on Saturday morning, I didn't think of a single work-related thing until Monday night, and even that was just a funny story I told Liz over dinner.
Tomorrow, it's back to the office, but even so I get to sleep in a little later than normal.
As I said, Saturday we headed out early to catch the 8:15 ferry to Sidney, BC from Anacortes, WA. Our reservation recommended we arrive at least an hour before departure; when we got there, it turned out the whole reservation thing seemed a bit like a sham, since we waited in line anyway. The boat sailed late, and the trip took a good two hours as the ferry plied through the San Juan islands. We did catch a pod of Killer Whales playing off the side of the ferry - although it was a quick glimpse at their fins as they kind of "waved" them out of the water. Still, it was pretty cool to actually see in person.
We arrived at Sidney around lunchtime and drove down to Victoria, probably a half-hour away. Victoria prides itself on being more British than the British, and that is certainly the image that the travel literature sells, but it seemed like it was really what most Americans (and Canadians, I suppose) would have thought the Brits were like - as much British as they dared to be without still being strictly American. In other words, yes, they had quaint little shops, Victorian-era hotels, and smallish one-way streets, but there was a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the way into town and there was a Best Western two blocks away.
Saturday we spent dinking around Victoria. Lunch was a curry buffet at The Empress Hotel, probably the most recognizable site in downtown Victoria. It was very kitsch-Indian; the Mogul Palace in Bellevue has better curry, but the tiger skin on the wall scored some points. After lunch, we walked around the grounds of the capitol building before touring the Royal British Columbia Museum, which has been advertising their "Eternal Egypt" exhibit for a long time - except that it doesn't actually start until July 10th. The wilflife of the northwest exhibits were lame (the stuffed animal specimens were kind of scary, in that zombie-like way), but the third floor is a pseudo-replica of a late 19th-Century British Columbia village, not unlike what COSI did back in Ohio. That part was pretty nifty, and was worth the price of admission alone.
Speaking of price, things in Canada really didn't seem any more expensive than here; in fact, things like beef are significantly cheaper. It was a little disheartening to find that good sirloin was cheaper in the BC boonies than it was in my local Bellevue supermarket - cheaper by half, at least. And we grilled it, and it was good beef.
Anyway, after the museum we wandered around a little and poked into some shops without actually buying anything. We took some funny money out of an ATM just in case (finding an ATM that accepted an American ATM card was a chore), and did dinner at a small pub outside of town one of our guidebooks recommended called Six Mile Pub (guess how far away from downtown it was!) Not bad, but like everything else, the vineer of history was a tad thin - it was basically a glorified bar in a historic building.
Then it was down the Southwestern coast of the island to Sooke, about an hour outside of Victoria, to stay at the Lakeside Hideaway B&B. The entire building was being renovated, so there was construction stuff everywhere, but our room was nice and relatively private. The queen-sized bed (they told us it was a king - ick) was ringed with fake flowers and Christmas lights ("honeymoon suite") and the lady checking us in was sure to point out this amazing feature as it "enhanced the ambiance," in her terms. I smiled politely and nodded. The good news was that we were the only ones there aside from the staff, so we basically had the run of the place.
Sooke was kind of a funny little town; the area reminded me of northwestern Arkansas in the way it juxtaposed rural living with B&Bs catering to tourists, rolling hills and woods with new construction and trash. I don't mean that in an offensive way at all, it was extremely pleasant, and the people were friendly and willing to give directions, suggestions, and advice.
Sunday we drove further west to French Beach Provincial Park, and I have to say Chad was 100% correct when he said that even the Provincial parks in Canada put our parks to shame. It's amazing how well maintained and equipped the park was. We hiked around there for most of the day, and then, feeling sluggish, went back to the B&B and read for the rest of the afternoon. We grilled burgers that night and enjoyed a lack of television, news, and distractions.
Monday we got a late start and made our way back to Victoria, but only for a brief excursion to a huge, cool coal-baron's house called Craigdarroch Castle. It had a very Rose Red-feel to it, but was worth walking through to see the artifacts, the arcitecture, and the wood carvings throughout. Then it was on to Butchart Gardens, the second-biggest tourist draw after Victoria itself. It's basically a damn big flower garden, which is fine if you're into flowers, but if you're allergic to the little fuckers, you're better off spending your time at the winery on the way in (which, we decided later, would have been a much better use of $42 Canadian). There were some very rare Tibetan Blue Poppies, but the only thing I could think of to do with those special flowers was manufacture opium. Maybe I'm a realist.
After the layover at the winery, we got back in the ferry line to return and found the 90-minute suggestion for pre-arrival time was entirely unwarrented; I burned through my book (re-reading Game of Thrones), and was left with nothing to do but pace and be hungry for the rest of the trip. Liz doesn't really care for boats that much, and made it known, but she held up OK.
So that's the story, I'm sticking to it, and I don't think I'm making a hell of a lot of sense anymore, so it's off to dreamy-land.
Friday, July 02, 2004
According to this story in Forbes, if your job has been outsourced to cheaper labor abroad, you should "stop whining" - at least, according to Thomas Donohue.
I miss the good old days, when they at least pretended to try to work for us common folk.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Yesterday was certainly a day of ups and downs. When I hopped on the scale in the morning, I discovered I'd reached my first real goal of my weight loss plan - below 300. It felt fantastic, and I know it was because I walked around a got a lot of excercise at the convention this last weekend. I stopped walking to work because it just got too damn hot (I would show up sweaty and kind of gross - the temperature itself, relatively speaking, is very nice). So I need to figure something else out for exercise, and I need to do it sooner rather than later.
Last night, I went over to Wolf's for some fine D&D playing. That was fun; a good chance to unwind a little after an otherwise stressful day.
It wasn't my job, although Wednesdays are traditionally my hard days at the office. Liz got laid off. Downsized. Let go. However you want to phrase it. The woman who hired her there had been downsized a couple of months ago, largely because her personality and the Big Boss's personality clashed. Liz, being a byproduct of the woman who hired her, was on the Big Boss's short list. In other words, we both saw this coming, but I don't think either of us expected it quite so soon. It's really not as bad as it seems, beyond the shock of being told "you don't have a job" and that being something out of her control; the position is being turned over to contractors, so Liz will be eligible for unemployment, and her insurance will run to the end of July, as will her pay (they are giving her two weeks severance - not a lot in our brave new economy, but it's a start).
The good news is, because we anticipated this, Liz was already looking for another job. In fact, she's had four interviews (!) at a PR firm downtown, and has been meeting regularly with a career counselor about other opportunities in other fields.
Still though, it's one of those things that really blows because you know these people were talking about you behind your back, sitting and planning that you would no longer have a job without including you, telling you, or even asking how that fits into your plans. That kind of power is pretty sickening, when you stop and think about it. And, come what may, it is going to be a fundamental change in her habits; she may not have to get up and drive to work for a few weeks. She will end up working somewhere else. Those kinds of changes can be a little daunting, but Liz has constantly surprised me with her adaptability - she is an extraordinarily capable person.
Whatever happens, this is really going to be for the better.