Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gaming: Travel Pictures from Wrath of the Lich King

11 million people play World of Warcraft. But that's not everybody.

But everybody likes good travel pictures, right? So here are some pictures taken on my way around the new expansion:
Wrath of the Lich King. And I still have most of the new continent left to explore!

Click on an image to see it full sized.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Top Gear to Save American Auto Industry in Six Days

OK, this is simple. We have three car companies. There are three hosts on Top Gear. Give one company to each of the guys. Give GM to Richard, because it is big, and he gets the Corvette. Chrysler goes to James because of well, nothing special. And Richard gets Ford, so he can have the Mustang.

Problem solved, six days max.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did!

1,000,000 volunteers worked election day.

3,500,000 people donated to the campaign.

After years of neo-com misrule, years of war, income redistribution up to the wealthiest, years of war, and years of being told there was nothing we could do about it, the giant awoke.

In the Clackamas County headquarters I worked in, I saw people hitting every neighborhood, then going back again and again to talk to the undecided, to encourage the discouraged, and to get out the vote. I saw older people with little exposure to computers become skilled at our micro targeting voter database. I saw high school students going out in the rain to register working people at bus stations. And day after day, night after night, volunteers flooded into our headquarters to phone bank. Most had never been involved in a campaign before.

And across the country, our story was repeated. Each office bringing out the voters. Neighbor to neighbor. A triumph of community organizing writ large. Men, women, all ethnicities, rich, poor, and in between, gay, and straight. America showed up, and went to work.

On November 4th, these people stood up and said "Yes We Can!"

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kurt Schrader drops by

Kurt Schrader, Democrat for congress came by the Obama campaign today in Oregon City to talk about the Get Out The Vote campaign. 

Although the man is known as a numbers and budget guy, he is a farmer and in casual mode. We were all Obama volunteers, so he talked campaigning. 

"I got some great news from our latesting polling," he said. "I'm up 9 points."

People whooped.

"And some not so great news. 30% of the voters are undecided." 

I had read he was 13 points up in another poll. His opponent, Mike Erikson, claims to be anti-abortion, but the anti-abortion groups haven't liked him since Erikson arranged for his mistresses abortion. The state Republican party and Gordon Smith, the state's Republican senator, refused to endorse him. So what's with the undecided voters?

"Only about twenty percent of the people in this district read the papers," said Schrader. He asked us, when we were on someone's doorstep or on the phone, to speak up for him.

OK Kurt. It's a deal.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review: Duma Key

Duma Key Duma Key by Stephen King

My review

  rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have a friend who pines for the good old days when Steven King "had an editor that edited." By which she means his older books were tighter paced and more disciplined.

Well, there are very few editors that edit any more. Editing, as it used to be, was dropped long ago as a cost cutting measure.

And this is not a fast paced book. Yet, I do not think it's undisciplined. I get the feeling that King knows how to keep readers of big books happy. It doesn't rush, it doesn't want to. It keeps you interested with whacky characters and relentless foreshadowing.

It's a spooky book. Probably best read on the beach in a storm. The horror element sneaks in slowly as you watch Edgar Freemantle try to reinvent himself as a painter after a terrible construction accident and the breakup of his marriage. He finds a place on the Beach, at Duma Key. A place where *bad things* happened before.

But the real fun is in how Edgar makes new friends. Wireman, the ex-lawyer and Elizabeth, the semi-lucid heiress whose past is entwined with the *bad things* that have gone before.

It's a matter of taste, but I think most readers will find the horror element mild. Not a lot of gross-out scenes, and some of the worst violence occurs "off screen." So spooky, not horrific. At least to my jaded tastes.

Here's a description of Edgar's psychologist:

"He was a very tall, very black black man, with features carved so large they seemed unreal. His great staring eyeballs, ship's figurehead of a nose, and totemic lips were awe-inspiring. Xander Kaman looked like a minor god in a suit from the Men's Warehouse. He also looked like a prime candidate for a fatal heart attack or stroke before his fiftieth birthday."

My major complaint was that in the last quarter of the book, where all hell breaks loose, while it has a few surprises, has been so well foreshadowed, it unrolls pretty much as you expect. But by then, you are so caught up in the characters, you can't put the book down.

View all my reviews.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Am So, So Sorry....

I saw something powerful while working at the Obama campaing office in Oregon City today.

A woman came in with her grandson and asked how to change her party affliiation. She was a regisgtered Republican and wanted to change that. Independant or Democrat, I don't know. I gave her the form and explained how to fill it out. She looked a little shakey.

One of my coworkers told her "We see a lot of people like you, people that voted for both Bushes, they come in here."

The women looked down at her grandson and her eyes misted up. Her voice cracked as she spoke just above a whisper "I am so, so sorry.

Like it was all her fault. What Bush and the Republicans have done to our country.

We told her it was OK, and that Obama would set things right. 

She then vollunteered to join the campaign. I love working for this man.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2010 McCain Deregulates Traffic Laws, Palin Outlaws Obama

Dateline September 30th, 2010

President John McCain, who is a brain in a jar, deregulated all streets, roads, and highways. "We will have no more restrictive lanes, speed limits, or traffic lights" the floating brain bubbled.

In a separate move, at the recommendation of Vice President Sarah Palin, the administration used the newly expanded Patriot Act Extreme to criminalize all Harvard graduates with Kenyan fathers and American mothers. Barack Obama, who has been contesting the last presidential election for almost two years, was last seen heading for the Canadian border with Tom Morello, banned guitarist, singer, and songwriter.

"This is not a trick to arrest ex-Senator Obama," said Palin. "We were going for Morello, and just got, well, you know... lucky!"

Despite the use of really smart weapons, Homeland Security troops were unable to penetrate the 5,090 high-mileage vehicle caravan escorting the pair north.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin Explains Creationism to Space Aliens

Dateline Sept. 27th, 2010

Vice President for (John McCain's) Life Sarah Palin met today with Ambassador Qualbooplink from Epsilon Eridani, a nearby star system.

"He asked me about the evolution of life on Earth, and I had to set him straight," the Vice President for (John McCain's) Life said. "I told him how the Earth was less than 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs went moose hunting with early humans, and that wasn't he happy his bloated purple mother didn't abort him and leave him as a dying fetus flopping about on some sidewalk up there in space."

Palin went on to ask how the space people dealt with leaders who hold onto power as brains in jars, but Ambassador Qualbooplink told her some of his best friends were brains in jars.

At which point President McCain, who is a brain in a jar,  wheeled himself into the meeting and said "Gotcha, Caribou Barbie!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Renegade's Magic: Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This, the final book in the Soldier Son Trilogy is a great book. While not rushed, none of the slow pacing problems that bothered me in the first two books appear in Renegade's Magic.

If you have read Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage, you should definitely read this book. If you are thinking of starting the entire trilogy, I would recommend it. The pacing is way too slow for my tastes in parts of the first two books, but the characters and the world make it worth reading even so.

This book follows Nevare Burvelle as he moves deep into Spec society. Specs are the mountain people whose shaman's spirits live on in magic trees that the Gernians (and Nevare is a Gernian) are trying to cut down to build a road to the sea. Civilization vs. Tree Huggers cranked up to eleven. We've seen Gernian society from the inside in the previous books, now we see the other side. He follows the Specs to their winter homes, where the climate resembles the Pacific Northwest where Hobb lives.

Hobb immerses her readers into the world view of hunter gatherers confounded by the approach of "civilization." It's not simply Specs are good, Gernians are bad, but she illustrates how alien they are from each other. Both sides do terrible things, and neither has a clue about the other.

This story is really an echo of the settling of the west by white America, but in a topsy turvy fantasy setting, where west and east are flipped, and the settlers have a blend of middle ages and western frontier culture.

Hobb manages to bring out strong emotion as you live the successes and failures of her characters. Navare/Soldier's Boy battles his own two selves, and both are drawn to Lisana, who wants to rejoin these two personalities living in the same body. Navare's feisty cousin Epiny, drawn up as a combination of suffragette, mystic, and frontier women remained the strongest, and funniest, supporting character.

There are many plot twists, and pretty much every character's arc is wrapped up. At one point, the entire story seems wrapped up, but there are over a hundred pages left in the book. At that time Hobb does her biggest twist, and starts it off with some serious creepiness.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Treasury Secretary Phil Gramm's Plan to Solve Illegal Immigration

Dateline: Sept. 24th, 2010

Treasury Secretary Phil Gramm has declared all minimum wage laws in the United States null and void. "First we outlawed unions, now we outlaw the damage they have done. This will push our wages down to parity with Latin America, choking off the desire for anyone to immigrate to the United States."

The undated photo was taken before President John McCain became a brain in a jar.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Small is Big

Tonight was OMSI Science Pub night again, and tonight was Nanotechnology, and how to keep it safe, by Dr. Jim Hutchison, professor of chemistry and the director of the University of Oregon Materials Science Institute. The pub was Imbibe, over in SE Portland, and the beer was HUB Velvet ESB. Good times all around. I recommend Imbibe (2229 SE Hawthorne Blvd), and Science Pub, of course!

And I won an OMSI shopping bag in the Nanotechnology trivia contest. Woot!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

McCain's Brain in a Jar Declares Arizoneish the National Language of the United States

Dateline September 21st, 2010.

President John McCain, who is running the country as a brain in a jar after a tragic face transplant incident, declared Arizoneish the official language of the United States of America.

Arizoneish is a dialect of English as spoken by natives of Arizona "in fiscal leadership positions," or those better than middle class incomes, so greater than $5,000,000.00 a year.

In financial news, the dollar was up sharply against the Euro, trading at 509.00 dollars to one Euro at closing. Unemployment numbers came in lower than expected, at 19%, possibly reflecting the new accounting practice that eliminates those who are eligible for service in the Spanish Occupation Authority but choose not to take advantage of this opportunity to fulfill their patriotic duty.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCain Bails Out Fortune 500 on Expenses, becomes Brain in a Jar

Dateline September 20th, 2010.

President John McCain gave a government bailout to all Fortune 500 companies, in the form of paying all their expenses.

"Why should these entrenpenural firms have to pay their own bills?" he asked. "I know critics will claim they have shipped 98.6% of their jobs overseas, but that is just normal. And free expenses are what the free market is all about."

In other news, the doctors at Walter Reed, despite heroic measures, were unable to save President John McCain's face. "The President is in stable condition," said Dr. Frakenfruter of Walter Reed. "What's left of him anyway. As you can see, he is safe in this big glass jar. We have saved his brain and spinal cord."

Vice President Sarah Palin asked "Can I be President now? I mean the guy is like a pickel now. God wants me to be President...."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain Invades Spain

Dateline: 9/11/2010: Operation Windmill: McCain Invades Spain.

"I have always been ready to stand up and take a stand against Spain," said President McCain from his recovery ward at Walter Reed.

White House spokesman Todd Pailin said: "The Invasion of Spain has been a long time coming. They were tricky, but now we have found out their hiding place. Europe."

Wrath of the Lich King goes on pre-order

Over 11 million people play World of Warcraft, the on-line fantasy role playing game. Me too. I play with family (Hi Tim! Connor!), friends (Hi Twilight Folk!) and complete strangers. Love it.

And we can now pre-order the expansion that will let us meet Arthus, the once noble prince who murdered his farther, turned against his people, and became the Lich King. Trechery, Madness, and Fun! Take my money now!

Check out Arthus remembering the sage advice his father gave him. Before the murder thing:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Two Minute Overview

Yesterday I posted a link to Obama's economic speech from Golden Colorado. It is great, and if you have 35+ minutes, it's well worth seeing.

Today, we get the two minute version.

And here is the economic plan we need:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Republican Deregulation Killed the Economy

About four months ago I started telling people, "The S&L crisis is just the start. The economy is going to keep tanking, and we're going to elect a Democrat to the White House."

Be careful what you say. Maybe a little downturn would be enough. Right now the needle is gyrating from recession to depression. Since Reagan, we've deregulated the shadow banking system to where it's taken over the economy. And now as it dies, it's trying to take us down with it.

Let's stop listening to a clueless old man who gave away his honor to try and smear his way to the White House. Let's listen to what Barak Obama has been saying for months and fix this mess before it fixes us good.

Monday, September 15, 2008


They just keep coming. People were saying that Obama needs to defend himself from the lies and smears of the McCain machine. Well, he is.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Ad: "His Administration"

I like this ad. McSame just tapped Bill Timmons, an Oil and Credit Card Lobbyist to set up his White House, should he be elected.

I like this ad.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hobnobing with Howard Dean

Howard Dean was in Portland, Oregon today, and called. He did a conference call with our (Obama) campaign headquarters in Oregon City. 

Unfortunatly, no screams. :) However he is all fired up over the election. He expects a large Republican voter supression effort, as in the last election where African American neighborhoods were targeted with flyers under windshield wipers warning about the dire consequences of voting. Since we are a vote by mail state, there is no one single day they have to pull such "stunts."

Howard gave strong support to Merkley for Senate, saying that the 40 Republicans now in the Senate had only one agenda: don't let the Democrats look good. He also predicted Smith's ads would get a lot nastier than they are now. Ug!

Anyway, it was great to hear from the head of the Democratic Party. He should come to Oregon more often.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Colbert and Lord British in Space!

Lord British (AKA Richard Garriott) is taking Steven Cobert's DNA into space to the International Space Station. Garriott is responsible for UO, or Ultima Online, the first graphic MMO with a large audience. 

Cobert says "I am thrilled to have my DNA shot into space, as this brings me one step closer to my lifelong dream of being the baby at the end of 2001"

Obama's Bipartisanship: Republicans Confused

When Obama talks about his bipartisan record, the national Republicans clain it never happened.

When I turn on my TV (Portland, Oregon TV stations), REPUBLICAN GORDAN SMITH is running ads boasting of his bipartisan work with Senator Obama. This is meant to show me how bipartisan Gordan Smith is.

To see one of these ads, go to Senator Smith's website, and select the video "TV AD: ENERGY TRUTH"

Who's telling lies? 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Book Review: "The Child Goddess"

The Child Goddess The Child Goddess by Louise Marley

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was predisposed to hate this book. Both the title and the cover screamed "Preachy New Age." I'm so glad I'm in a reading group, and we chose it, for this is one great read.

The story and characters are much better than the background. This is science fiction without the science. The most important hydrogen refueling planet is an earth type water world, with active volcanoes and no moon. Why extracting hydrogen from water is cheaper than skimming gas giants is never explained, or how a moonless world stays habitable (the Carbon Cycle should be broken and all oxygen should get locked up). And how you would have star-flight and still have humans, un-enhanced, very mortal, with our same life expectancy.

The story, however, blew me away. A child is found on the refueling world, and returned to Earth against her will. The protagonist is a woman Catholic priest (why the cover art didn't include a collar is beyond me) and anthropologist sent to be her guardian. The company that owns the refueling operation wants the child for something else, something medical, and isn't sharing that information with the protagonist. Very early in the story you get mystery, tension, and powerful emotion.

One relationship did bother me. That of the corporate CEO and one if its doctors. The doctor seemed outclassed by the rest of the main characters, I never did figure out why he was allowed to stay on the job when the CEO should have had better talent at her beck and call.

However, each mystery that is resolved leads to a further and more profound one. By the time the book is wrapping up, the reader has followed these characters though many intense changes.

I recommend this book to all but the most hard-core, hard-science fiction readers.  

View all my reviews.

A Week in the Campaign -- History up Close

I survived my first week working (volunteering) with the Obama campaign. I'm working at the Oregon City office, you can find me there every afternoon. Well, not today, as I'm at the beach, but most afternoons. 

One day a new volunteer came in. Tall, older guy (70), wearing a black leather biker vest and a leather bandana over his head. We shook hands and I explained how to work the phones.

"This is the first campaign I've worked on in a long time," he said.

"How long," I asked.

"Since John F. Kennedy's campaign."

It sent shivers down my spine. History is happening here, and we are part of it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I <3 Sarah Palin

What's not to love?

  • She's so anti-choice, she wants abortion criminalized in cases of rape and incest.
  • She wants Creationism taught in science classes.
  • She supported Pat Buchanan in 2000.
  • She is a climate change denier.
  • She's been governor for one and half years, and has zero national or international experience.
  • She would be next in line to deal with Putin and the rest of the world behind an ailing and aged John McCain.
On the other hand, she would be a good model for Lenscrafters, should the whole right wing VP thing not work out.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Campaign for Change

Monday at noon I start working (volunteering) for the Barak Obama's Campaign for Change in Oregon City. I don't know what took me so long, but after donating about as much as I could, it was time to do some work for the campaign.

Last night Alison and I went to a great MoveOn "Yes We Can Party" party at a neighbor's here in Lake Oswego. We watched the best speech in my lifetime (and I'm 52) as Barak accepted the nomination. The only questionable moment was when I tried a cherry flavored beer....

It was great to be clapping, cheering, and tearing up in a party of people eating hot dogs and doing the same. The entire convention has been inspiring, and it was great sharing the culimation with my neighbors. As we left, I kept saying, "It's up to us now."

So I went to and signed up last night. Monday can't come too soon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John Marvin for President?

My stealth campaign.

Forest Mage

I first met Robin Hobb at the Tacoma's Writer's Convention in 2004. She sat at our table, and I was a total dolt. I hadn't read her yet, so was a bit tongue tied. I asked her about breaking into writing, and she suggested getting a few short stories published before trying to sell a novel. Good advice, taken badly:

"I don't like short stories." I told her. "I don't read them, I don't want to read them, I wish they would just go away. My ideas can't fit into a short story."

I am such an idiot. And now, when I'm not writing short stories, I'm often reading Robin Hobb.

Forest Mage (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 2)Forest Mage by Robin Hobb

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This sequel to Shaman's Crossing was a bit of a let down. I don't mind when a book takes its own good time, but this was glacial.

Many authors will use narrative time to skip ahead, but Robin Hobb teased the reader with lines like "It was twenty days before..." and you think you are about to skip twenty days. But no. "On the first day..." "The second day..." and so on.

If you use Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey model, this book, and the first, find the protagonist stuck in the Refusal of the Call for two, thick, slow, books.

On the other hand, the details were great, the characters felt real, and the magic was new, different, and magical. And the book is about something. The tension between nature and civilization. Between two conflicting rules of conduct. Yes, even good and evil, and the big grey/green area in between.

If you have time, and you enjoyed the first book, I'd say keep going. If you want to see her at her best, try the Tawny Man trilogy, starting with Fool's Errand.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pashazade Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a great read.

In an alt-Alexandria (Egypt, not Virginia, and part of an Ottoman empire that lasts past the present day and into the near future), a minor Seattle criminal finds himself treated as royalty and gets implicated in murder. He has very little idea of who he is supposed to be, and there is dangerous conspiracies on all sides.

Much of the book is told in flashback, where we learn of his past in Seattle. I found these tedious at first. He seemed more three dimensional in the book's present of El Iskandryria than the spaced out small time crook in Seattle. As the book goes on, you get a better sense of him in both places, and the flashbacks stopped annoying me, and I became engaged in both threads.

The setting contained a nice mix of historic plus modern Muslim with a cyberpunky youth culture and high tech surveillance. The protagonist is the classic outsider, but with the twist of everyone thinks he's a high powered insider.

The plot is very noir detective, and the characters end up very memorable and over the top.

I will definitely read Jon Courtenay Grimwood again.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kennedy at the Podium

Watching Senator Ted Kennedy speak at the Democratic convention last night flipped all my emotional buttons. I was sad, moved, happy, and enraged.

There was a man with terminal brain cancer whose doctor told him not to go to Denver, whose wife asked him not to go, who checked himself out of the hospital and took the stage and gave a great speech. While he did praise Obama as a commander in chief who would never commit our servicemen and women to a mistake, "but always to a mission worthy of their bravery," his main focus was on health care.

Which is what really made me mad. Listen to each of his lines, delivered with force, he did not say what was on my mind.

What was taking America so long? Why had he spent his life pushing the rock of universal health care uphill? What is wrong with us? Health care is a basic human right. This should have been done long before Kennedy grew old...

Friday, August 22, 2008


The Complete Persepolis The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this after listening to Marjane Satrapi speak in Portland: http://johnwsmarvin.blogspot.c...

This is one powerful story. Marjane is a very intelligent person and a great storyteller who lived through the Iranian revolution and watched it turn against her and her family. When war with Iraq breaks out her parents send her to she study abroad in Austria where she becomes unhinged, lost in a culture she can't relate to. Back in Iran the war grinds to a halt, as she becomes a mature woman.

The stark black and white comics look fits her story. She must cover herself in black to go out on the streets. The simplicity of pen and ink draws you into the facial expressions and the eyes that take all this history in.

Some events that Americans are very familiar with are new again when told from her Iranian perspective. When Kuwait is invaded by Iraq the Iranian mood was one of relief that they were out of the war. She is propositioned by a Kuwaiti "refugee" in a big car who assumes she must be a prostitute even though she wears the veil because she is alone and drinking a coke.

She has boyfriends, sex, and a husband. Eventually she leaves for France, where she take up art studies and produces this book.

View all my reviews.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Children of Chaos

Children of Chaos Children of Chaos by Dave Duncan

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was a fun and fast read, but ultimately lightweight. It's the first part of a two part story, and it never really engaged me.

The setting is a twelve sided world. At the start of the book, a group of children are taken from one of the pentagonal faces to another, as war hostages. The siblings are split up, and the book takes place years later, after they have all grown up among their people's occupiers.

Each chapter uses one of the children as its point of view character. The plot is fairly simple, which can be fine, but so are the characters. One of the characters, the sculptor, is so unconcerned about his own life that it was very hard for me to care about him either.

The sister is the most interesting character, as she pursues forbidden magic in order to survive in a nest of vipers.

There are some nice twists, but ultimately I found the book overly simple. As far as I could tell, it wasn't about anything.

On the up side, it moves fast and is written in a clear and direct style. This is my first Dave Duncan, I enjoyed it, and will try him again.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

People of the Book

People of the Book: A Novel People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
What an amazing read. Geraldine Brooks stunned me.

I love historical fiction that teaches me about history inside of a great story, but this book exceeds expectations all around.

The book is about a five hundred year old book, and the history of the people whose lives intersected with the book. The present day protagonist is Hanna, an Australian rare book expert sent to Sarajevo to work on Sarajevo Haggadah which was saved from Serbian shelling by a Muslim librarian.

As Hanna investigates the book, the story jumps further and further into the past, where we see the book menaced in other times and places. Sarajevo in World War II, Vienna in the time of the Empire, Venice in the waning years of the inquisition, Spain during the expulsion of the Jews, and finally in Muslim Spain.

Hanna has her own journey, which is often painful. Her story has the most complete arc. The historical episodes have well drawn characters, but they come and go. Hanna's discoveries about the book lead into each of these vignettes. Since we are going backwards in time, we get background information about people and events that we've already read about. And Hanna's story is told chronologically, so we have two time streams, going in opposite directions.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Game Book Reivew: Purge the Unlcean

Purge the Unclean: Dark Heresy adventure anthology (Dark Heresy) Purge the Unclean: Dark Heresy adventure anthology by Black Industies

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is more than three well written and connected adventures for Dark Heresy. It is also a template for how to write your own Dark Heresy adventures, with tips on Action, Horror, and Investigation adventures.

The adventures are for acolytes new in their careers, and can be played after the example adventure in the core Dark Heresy rule book.

T. S. Luikhart is a fine game designer, and these are fun adventures that will have your players hopping.

The three adventures showcase Investigation, Action, and Horror. I would quibble that the Horror adventure doesn't get truly horrific until the end, but it goes all out once it gets there. The action adventure is my favorite, and I like the design hints for doing your own action adventures.

View all my reviews.

Edit 8/21/09: Now that I've GM'd them all, I'd like to say the third adventure, Baron Hopes, required a lot of modification:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Clean Coal still polluting my TV

OK, I'm finally back on my soap box.

Clean Coal does not exist. See my previous post.

What to do is easy to say, hard to do:

  • Build no more coal plants unless they have a working carbon sequestering program that is operational before the plant is turned on.
  • Prohibit the expansion of capacity of all coal plants without working sequestering programs.
So what does this give us? It closes out the option for "cheap" electricity. It will drive everyone's rates up. So what do we build? Expand?

  • Conserve. Up energy requirements across the board. Put a big prize out for anyone who can design an energy efficient dryer.
  • Allow natural gas plants to be built and expand capacity. Allow liquid natural gas to be imported. Natural gas still produces carbon dioxide, and is getting more expensive every day. But it's well understood.
  • Subsidize solar and wind power. Support the development of saving energy when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing to lower the requirements for other energy sources.
  • Allow replacement of existing nuclear plants with newer, safer nuclear plants. If and when "Generation IV" plants come on line, and if they really shrink the wastes down, we can expand them if they are cheaper than solar/wind.
Importing liquid natural gas and building nuclear power plants put me at odds with the Sierra Club, which I'm a member of. They do support conservation and renewables, but their policies would leave a hole in our energy needs big enough to demand more coal.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Connor on You Tube

I'll solve the energy problem in a bit.

But first, Connor in a (silent) You Tube video.

Student ID

He's the one with the sideburns and the blue sweater...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clean Coal All Over My TV Screen

We've been watching more CNN in the primary season, and one thing I've noticed is the ads for "Clean Coal" are 24 x 7. This pisses me off.

No matter how you clean it up, coal is 60% to 91% carbon. High grade coal basicly is carbon. Burning it takes oxygen out of the air, binds it with the carbon, and produces carbon dioxide (or worse), the biggest greenhouse gas.

And in 100% of the power plants on earth, that carbon goes into the air, trapping heat, and changing the climate. The ads mention carbon sequestering, capturing it before it goes into the air. But that has never, ever, been done in a commercial power plant. Maybe someday.

But right now, coal use is climbing world wide. Why? It's cheap, old tech, easy to build, easy to run. And the world wants more electricity.

What are the choices?
  • Conservation: We could be a lot more efficient, so we could get more use with less electricity. In any plan, this has to happen. However, this won't be enough. Around the world people are getting their first refrigerators. People want a decent life, and are going to get one, coal or no coal.
  • Oil: Oil has less carbon than coal, about 40% in gasoline, with the rest as hydrogen. That's still a lot of carbon, and it's way more expensive than coal.
  • Natural gas: The cleanest of the fossil fuels is about 20% carbon and the rest is hydrogen. The infrastructure for natural gas is similar (but easier) to what pure hydrogen would need. Where I live in Oregon, the Sierra Club, (I am a member) has been lobbying against building a port to import natural gas by sea. In my mind this is counter productive, and will result in more coal power.
  • Hydrogen. 0% carbon, all hydrogen. Expensive (now), and will leak out of the tiniest holes. Burning hydrogen creates water. It can also generate electricity in fuel cell. The infrastructure is not built yet. It would be like the natural gas infrastructure. Pipelines and tanker ships.
  • Nuclear fission. Produces 0% carbon. Expensive and very toxic wastes. The US gets 20% of its electricity from nuclear power, and most of the reactors are nearing the end of their lifetime. The cheapest replacement for them is more coal plants.
  • Solar. 0% carbon. Tiny but growing. Expensive, and requires a back up (coal?) plant for when the sun is not shinning.
  • Wind. 0% carbon. Bigger and less expensive than Solar, but still tiny. Shares the same need of a back up plant, which could be coal, for when the winds die down.
  • Hydroelectric. 0% carbon. Requires big dams that flood large areas and disturb fisheries and habitats. Most of the good (as in they make a lot of electricity) dam sites already have dams on them.
Next. What to do?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The End of Publishing?

Last night, at a dinner with Mary Rosenblum and others from the Other Worlds Book Club, we talked about the future of publishing. Or the lack of one.

Today, the big publishers are all operating on razor thin profits, and are cutting back to only celebrity authors and best sellers. The bookstores only carry books by the big, New York, publishers.

This is not just a problem for authors. Where do readers go to find new books? It used to be if it was on the shelf at a big bookstore, it had a good chance of being a decent read. After all, a big publisher put it out. But if the shelves are full only of celebrity mommy books and best sellers the reader has already read, what then? Where do they find their new favorite author?

Random searching for your favorite genre on Amazon will yield a sea of titles. Many of them self-published, most of them awful.

So, from the readers point of view, what is the future of book finding? Mary thought that quality small presses could be come a brand that readers would use. Many were not so sure. Who notices the publisher? We talked about favorite book review blogs. If a blog gained your trust, you would try a new book it recommended. Or both. The reader might not know a "quality" small press from a "publish anything that gets submitted on" but the blogger might.

Whatever happens, interesting times ahead.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


My friend Garth Upshaw has a story in the current (May 2008) Clarkesworld. Check out Birdwatcher.

I critiqued an early version of this story, and while I can't claim any credit for the Garth's work, I do feel a slight sense of being there at the genesis. And this is Garth's first professional sale. Go Garth!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Manatee Madness

Sailors used to believe manatees were mermaids. 3,000 pound mermaids with very bad breath. But still cool in their own way.

I just got back from kayaking about Merritt Island with the manatees. I shared a kayak with my mother, who in her 70's is a great kayaker. My sister Kathleen and brother in law Tim shared another one, and we took the Manatee Encounter Tour. We saw at least a half dozen of the creatures, flipping and snorting about. Not to mention dolphins, sting rays, and sea birds.

Such an adventure, then off to Dixie Crossroads for fresh red rock shrimp. Yum!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Saint Augustine

We've left the Winter that Would Not End in Portland and are in Saint Augustine, Florida. I'm in shorts on the porch at Casa de Solana, a B&B in old town. Cobblestone streets and old Spanish buildings. I recommend the A1A Alehouse's Red Brick Ale. We got in late last night, and the Alehouse is all we've explored so far. So far, this town is perfect...
The excuse for the trip is my cousin Gail, who is getting married on Sunday in Daytona.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oregeon Writers Colony convention with Christopher Vogler

8 OWC Spring Convention, 2008April 11th to 13th was the time for sun, sand, and Christopher Vogler. He was the instructor for the spring convention of the Oregon Writers Colony at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. Depending on your point of view, he is a visionary who has brought Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey to inspire writers and directors everywhere, or he is the man who ruined Hollywood and can be blamed for every bad movie. I'm in the former camp, and find great value in his models, but they shouldn't be taken as cookbook recipes.

I had read his book, The Writer's Journey, years ago. In fact I used it when I designed a role playing adventure that won first prize in an international contest put on by Green Ronin. I used it when working on my first novel. But let's face it, I didn't know much about writing back then, so a refresher would be useful. I had been recommending this book to Alison, who is great on characters and setting, but was looking for direction on plot structure. So off we went.

We tried to find our copy on the way out, but no. Chaos can be good, as we got the third edition, and it's full of cool new models for writing. Catharsis (which means vomiting!), polarity, and more. Friday evening, Christopher and Alice, his wife, displayed the good taste to sit at our dinner table. Then he gave a talk about his new Manga, Ravenskull. Long into the night about a dozen of us critiqued each other's work up in the library. LONG into the night. Hearing people's stories was a great way to get to know them.

12 OWC Spring Convention, 2008Saturday Chris (first name basis now ;) lectured at the Newport Performing Arts Center. All of us from the Sylvia Beach Hotel walked over and were joined by a few dozen people who where there just for the day. He did his 12 steps of the Hero's Journey and his story archetypes. That night more critiquing, even longer into the night. I got to read the first scene from "Self Love," a short story I'm working on.

Sunday he spoke about his new ideas, some of which are in the third edition, and told us about his journey to getting published. The guy who published him is the guy who made Hardware Wars, one of my favorite shorts.

It was hard to leave, I met so many wonderful people. I typically critique with science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers, and it is good to just work with people doing all sorts of work. Non-fiction, mystery, children's literature, and more.

Then we drove home the long way, and stomach declared war on me on those twisty roads over the coastal range. Catharsis eluded me, which may be for the best.

More Pictures
of Alison & me in Newport.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Marjane Satrapi: From Persepolis to Portland

Marjane Satrapi came to talk to me (and a few thousand others, Portland Literary Arts) last night. What a monologue! For a visual artist, she can talk.
She has taken her comics (she thinks Graphic Novel sounds a bit too Lady Chatterley's Lover) Persepolis I and II and made a movie out of them, which I have yet to see. It showed in Lake Oswego for a week, and I couldn't get anyone to go with me. I hate seeing movies alone.

In any case, this solitary little woman was a first class speaker, careening from one topic to the next. Random highlights (paraphrased from memory):

  • On People: When I made my comics, I worked alone. I'm a solitary artist. When I made the movie, I had to deal with 100 people every day. For the first six months, I wanted them all to die.
  • On dictatorship: When I studied in Austria, everyone assumed I was a mullah, an extremist, and that I never bathed. When I studied in France years later, I thought they would be different, but no. I am a human, an individual. Why would you assume I represent my government? Do you represent George Bush? If everyone in Iran supported the government it would be the world's most perfect democracy. It is a dictatorship. They beat, kill, and imprison people who speak out. That's what a dictatorship is.
  • On extremism: What is the commonality between me and Iranian extremists? Nothing. What is the commonality between an American liberal and George Bush? Nothing. What is the commonality between an Iranian extremist and George Bush? Everything. They have the same language, "defeat the infidels" "defeat the axis of evil." When Iran is run by extremists it is a tragedy. When the greatest secular democracy in the world is run by an extremist, it is a danger to the entire world.
  • On not being allowed to smoke on stage: It is so stupid. The government is telling me what to do. As an adult I should be able to smoke, one, two, five cigarettes here. Joe Strummer of the Clash once said that no great work of art, no great book, no great piece of music, was ever created by a non-smoker.
  • On the French law that prohibits wearing the scarf in school: People assumed I would be jumping up and down supporting this law. I do not. I do not understand why anyone would cover themselves up that way. I hated being forced to wear those things in Iran. They say these girls are pressured to wear the scarf and that boys in their neighborhood call them whores when they do not. But guess what? Those parents will pressure those girls to stay home and marry at the age of 16. Education is what will set them free. Prohibit the scarf, and you take them out of school. Those boys calling them whores? They will still be in school. It is a stupid law.
  • When asked (Q&A from the audience) if her family still lived in Iraq: My family lives in Iran, dear. My parents are fine and they say hi to all of you.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sex, Lies, and Nazi Themed Orgies. And the Bra-Cam.

And Formula One racing.

Sometimes you see the oddest things in the news.

At least it's not over the top. OK, it is. The head of Formula One racing, Max Mosley, was filmed by a British tabloid News of the World in an S&M five-some that includes prison uniforms and yelling in German.

Max Mosley is the son of British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. Hitler was a guest at Sir Oswald's wedding.

The New York Times reported that Mosley denied it was Nazi themed sex, it was only prison themed sex, and that he had been set up by the tabloid and photographed by a bra-cam.

For some reason, Formula One sponsors would like Mr. Mosley to find new work.

Life can be so unfair.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Large Hadron Collider: Answer to the Empty Skies Problem?

The Empty Skies Problem is: If life exists elsewhere in the universe, and it naturally evolves toward intelligence, where is everyone? Why don't we get radio signals from other civilizations? If it's possible to go out to other stars and colonize other planets, why haven't we seen any evidence of this? Assuming other intelligences, some should have evolved earlier than us, and been able to cross the stars millions of years ago. Hundreds of millions. The galaxy should be thick with aliens, an interstellar Manhattan.

Yet the sky seems empty.

Now some people grumpy pants about how the Large Hadron Collider under Geneva could create a black hole. This black hole could then absorb all the matter it came in contact with. The collider, Geneva, and the Earth.

The nice thing about this theory, is that it could explain why the sky isn't full of evidence of intelligent life. Before a species becomes advanced enough to expand into space, it hits upon the idea to build a Large Hadron Collider. Thus avoiding filling the universe with annoying little space people.

Now if only I can write a story with this premise, and get it published before the Swiss destroy the Earth...

Of course this probably won't happen. But still. Maybe there is another experiment, another collider, another thing that makes it easy to destroy your own planet that intelligent species are sure to stumble across. Sure, it sounds grim, but at least it solves the empty skies problem.

I mean, you can't have everything.