That Loop. The One Over There. The One I'm Out Of.

So the other night I had Evilpheemy, Cearalaith, and Craymore over for Session Two of "Incident at Mount Joyce", the Outer Darkness adventure that’s supposed to test the integrity of the system setting, just as much as it’s supposed to test the rules set that Evilpheemy’s come up with for the game, which we determined last night we’ve been working on for about five years at this point.

I have to admit that I was kind of discouraged that night. We didn’t really even finish making up characters, let alone actually play the game. This is frustrating to me, because I’ve been plotting out this game for months; years, actually. The campaign setting has been in development for a very long time and I’m pretty pleased with it… if only we could get the game running. I’m not entirely sure what happened… we chatted and tried to get going, but it didn’t really happen. While Evilpheemy and Cearalaith tried to work out the details of her character in the dining room, Craymore and I wandered into the living room to develop some background for his character. Then the others followed us, and the conversation just drifted into other areas. I suppose that these things happen… just the same, though, this is going to be a very difficult campaign for me to run if the pattern which has been holding so far continues: one session every eight weeks or so, and that session being an incomplete character development sesion.

My enthusiasm for the project waxes and wanes. Evipheemy’s going to be putting his part of development on hold for awhile while he gets some of his other projets up and running for Chaosium This is good. I approve. I want Evilpheemy to make this stage of his career a priority, over Outer Darkness. On the other hand, I have to admit that because I’ve always felt like I’m part of a team for this thing, it’s hard for me to put my heart into it when I’m going solo. The milieu is an interesting one, and the limits we’ve placed on it make for some interesting challenges for my creative self, but it is rather tough for me to develop fully within its constraints. To be perfectly honest, I think I’d much rather ran another Dungeons and Dragons game right now than "Incident at Mount Joyce". I’ve got an intruiging world and storyline that I developed over the summer but which I haven’t gotten to run because I was focusing on Outer Darkness.

But, then, that’s just the way I feel at the moment. It could change at any time.

Gaming used to be a very central part of my life: from my college days when I was running two simultaneous campaigns in different settings, two or three sessions a week, five or six hours at a shot (time I probably should have more productively spent planning out for some sort of career), to the days when I ran Underground Puppeteers, a Live Action Role-Playing game in Davis, elements of which are still going on (and which is as much a creation of Craymore now as it is mine — perhaps more so, since he’s actually put more work into its overall development than I have at this point). Now, though, I feel very isolated from the gaming community that used to be so central to my life. New LARPs spring up which take place in the Underground Puppeteers universe, which is kind of weird — the universe I put so much of my creative energy into evolves without me, and I sometimes get the sense that the new maintainers almost resent any input I might give into how some elements of it might develop (although I believe this universe is in very good hands, as the people who are maintaining it are brilliant and creative).

It’s not just the games, of course… I also am starting to feel cut off from the people in the gaming community, some of whom I used to be very, very close to. One in particular I used to chat with on a daily basis; that same person is graduating from college now, and I only found out about this second-hand.

I suppose these things happen, but it’s still somewhat depressing. I still love all of my friends… I just wish I had more time to spend with them.

Bah. I must just be feeling grumpy.

The job hunt is as glacial as it ever was. I’ve applied for over 150 jobs at this point without a single interview, a statistic which I find does absolute wonders for my self-esteem, the way that an iceberg did wonders for the Titanic. I’m having difficulty figuring out how to launch a freelance writing career, because of the old catch-22: people who would pay you for writing for them want to see samples of professional writing, which you won’t really get under your belt until somene pays you for writing for them. I’ll be meeting next month with a career counselor in the hopes of making my resume a bit less pathetic.

The temp job I’m in is fine. I like my co-workers, and it’s close enough to home so that I can ride my bike in, which is good. I enjoy riding my bike a lot (though there was that time, two weeks ago, when I messed up my legs badly trying to ride hard against the wind, to the point where I could barely walk without liberal dosages of ibuprofin and ice packs), but the best part is that I can park my bike without having to worry about moving it every two hours to avoid getting a parking ticket.

On another note, I did finally get to see Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones this past weekend. I enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed it more for its place in the overall development of the Star Wars storyline, rather than for itself as a movie. It was a decent film, much better than Episode I; the special effects were spectacular, of course, and I was thoroughly impressed with the design of the scenery in the Coruscant scenes. And I was pleased that Jar Jar Binks was mostly absent from the film, and that there were no poop jokes. But I do wish George Lucas would admit that he’s a bad scriptwriter and an uninspiring director, and let someone else handle those elements. I’d have to join the legion of nerds and fanboys who say things like, "Yeah, if I had to choose between Attack of the Clones and Spiderman, I’d go see Attack of the Clones… but I really liked Spiderman better."

That muse of mine is being recalcitrant. "Homeworld" is a difficult story for me to write, because it requires a different approach than I’m used to writing. "Mother Tsan Chan" is difficult because I have no idea what story to build around the basic plot elements. And The Troll King’s Daughter doesn’t feel ready to start yet. I set myself a goal a couple of weeks ago of writing 1,000 words per day, but I have yet to meet that goal on any of my projects.

Ah, well.

Here’s hoping that the next time I write one of these journal entries, I’ll be in a better mood.


I’m not sure if I’ve made my feelings about President Bush and the current administration clear in this forum before; but just in case I haven’t, let me clarify. I think that President Bush is a typical politician, guided more by the big money interests that he is firmly in bed with (I think I prefer my Presidents to be fooling around with interns and not major oil companies) than by any genuine interest in what’s best for the country. I’m not sure he has any clue as to what is best for the country. I think he has a fine speechwriter, but I’m not impressed by his foreign policies nor his domestic ones. And I am not a fan of the current administration by any stretch of the imagination.

And yet, painful as it is for me to say this, I think that the current flap over what Bush might have known about an attack on our country on September 11th is overblown and driven not by patriotism but by politics. This is why I’m registered as "decline to state political party". I think that both Democrats and Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves. The Democrats ought to be ashamed of themselves for manipulating the situation to their own political gain, and the Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves for… well, for being Republicans. I think that’s enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think that there were massive failures of intelligence in the past few years; contrary to the Democrats, though, I don’t believe that anyone could have successfully put together enough information from the disparate pieces to conclude that nineteen insane martyrs would hijack four jets on the 11th of September and kill thousands of civilians. On the other hand, contrary to the Republicans, I believe very strongly that Congress ought to examine the failures occurred. It’s not so much a matter of finding out who was to blame, but of learning from our mistakes. Obviously, having different intelligence agencies working in isolation and not talking to each other didn’t work; we should investigate the ways the old model failed, and make improvements.

Some critics have said that the administration should have issued a serious terror alert prior to the 11th of September; but what good would that have done? In the eight months prior to September 11, there were a total of fifteen alerts issued to the airline industry about potential terrorist actions. Some of those alerts involved possible hijacking attempts. None of them was specific enough to allow the airlines to take any precautions.

And since September 11th, there have been at least four more terror alerts; and we are currently at yellow alert, an "elevated" risk of terror attack. These days, we take this alerts somewhat seriously, but that’s in light of a post-9/11 mindset. How seriously would such threats have been taken prior to that date? Pre-9/11, we, as a country, lived in a heightened state of complacency, knowing that there were a few people in the world who didn’t like us, but convinced that all of the world’s troubles were on the other side of the planet and didn’t affect us at all. For a few weeks after 9/11, as the political posturing continued and the spectre of bioterrorism in the form of anthrax mailings, we were shaken, and lived in the sort of ongoing state of alert that many people throughout the world accept as daily life. Since then, some of our complacency has returned, allowing the politicians to do what they do best: posture, cast blame, point fingers, find scapegoats, do anything but find answers and solutions.

The monstrous evil and stupidity of 9/11 are incomprehensible to rational, moral human beings. We’re all still looking for answers, trying to find ways to protect the freedom, security, and prosperity of our nation and the world. Part of that process will involve taking a hard look at where mistakes were made in the past, and finding ways to rectify them in the future. Tossing blame around will not contribute to that process.

On a side note, just as I was in the middle of the last paragraph, I found this article on MSNBC, which indicates the the United States already had plans for a full-scale war on al-Qaeda in place, and such plans were due to be signed by President Bush two days before September 11. I still don’t believe that anyone knew what was going to happen on that day, but I find the timing very interesting. Don’t you?


Around about the 18th mile, I turned to start heading west on Vaughn off of Runge.

"No, no!" I told the wind. "You’re supposed to be at my back now! It’s supposed to be easier now!"

The wind didn’t oblige me. Bastard.

It’s one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. Over the weekend, Jennifer and I had ridden 11 miles to the UC Davis campus without much grief. And since I work in downtown Davis, I thought it would be an excellent idea to ride my bike to work and back home today.

Silly me, I thought it was going to be just as easy as it was on Saturday.

Actually, getting there this morning wasn’t all that bad. Sure, it was a bit of a workout, and even with the cold outside air I still worked up a decent sweat riding my bike (note to self: bring clean t-shirt with me next time). And during lunch, as I wandered the streets of Davis, I noticed that there was a wind coming up from the north; and since my ride home is mostly southward, with a few jaunts westward, I was anticipating a nice, easy, relaxing bike ride home after work.

The wind, of course, had others ideas. Just to spite me, it decided that it was tired of blowing south and wanted to blow north east for a change… which meant that whether I was riding south on the way home, or west, I was against the wind. That fact, coupled with the heavy backpack I was wearing (note to self: invest in something else besides a backpack to carry my clothes in), plus the fact that I really needed to urinate for the entire trip home, made for a less than entirely pleasant experience.

Mile 18 — that is, the 11 miles to work in the morning, plus the 4 miles from work to this intersection, plus the additional 3 honorary miles that I had awarded myself at that point as a morale booster — is where I decided that the route simply had it in for me. The sun, which was shining right in my face, was against me. The road, bumpy and littered with pebbles and bits of cracked asphalt, was against me. The stupid red-winged blackbird with its annoying little "Eeep! Eeep!" was simply trying to drive me insane, just to heighten the experience.

And, of course, the wind, as I have already indicated, was exercising some sort of perverse vendetta against me as well.

There were times when the ride reminded me of my days in grade school. I remember sitting at my desk, trying to think about how long it had been since the last time I checked the clock. "I’m sure it’s been half an hour," I’d tell myself, counting down until the bell rang. "But it’s probably only been twenty minutes. I’ll say fifteen, just to be safe." Then, of course, I’d check the clock on the wall and note with agony that only three minutes had passed since the last time I’d checked it.

That’s what it was like at points today: Certain that I’d traveled another two miles, I’d look at the odometer on my bicycle, and curse to see that I’d gone less than a tenth of a mile.

It was the wind. And the blackbird, whose song was tuned to just the right wavelength to interfere with my brainwaves, causing disorientation. I’m sure of it.

In the home stretch now, and I get to turn left from Vaughn and southbound onto Pedrick. Going south, the wind might not be less but it might be at least slightly different. Panting and puffing to myself, and proud that I was hitting twelve miles an hour in second gear, I heard the sound of two other bicycles behind me. I glanced and saw two people, dressed in full Lycra and riding expensive road bikes and each of them skinny as rails. The caught up with me easily, of course, and passed me, probably doing at least thirty — no, fifty — miles an hour against the wind. I was annoyed. Would it have killed them to have given me a little encouragement, a little "Hang in there, buddy" or something like that? Or perhaps one of them could have keeled over from a cardiac arrest. Yeah, that would have made me feel better.

Well, okay, that’s a bit harsh.

I got home just before Jennifer, who commented how proud she was of me for having made the ride, than muttered something about me needing a shower as she headed into the kitchen to start supper.

My legs were hurting, and so was my butt. I was leaning so hard on the handlebars at some points that I cut off the bloodflow in my palms and my fingers became numb. I stank to high heaven.

And the really, truly frightening thing of it all is that I’m looking forward to doing this again on Thursday.

My Nerd Heritage

First thing’s first. Last Thursday I opened to mailbox to find that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction had rejected the short story that I had sent to them just two or three weeks back. I was impressed that they had returned it so quickly, but even more impressed that the rejection slip was a personal one; it was signed by the chief editor, and the substance of the letter was such that it was obvious that he had actually read the story instead of sending a generic "this story does not meet our needs blah blah blah’ letter.

Either that, or they have a very sophisticated form letter generator.

At any rate, I feel very proud. I have my first Real Rejection Letter. I’ve taped it up over my desk. Go me.

And a side note: just the other night, I dreamt that the same magazine had purchased another one of my short stories, and that they liked it so much they had nominated it for a Hugo Award… which is kind of odd, considering that the Hugo Awards are awarded to science fiction stories, and my stories are generally horror or dark fantasy. Still, it was a sad dream to have to awaken from.

Silly me, I went and volunteered to give a presentation on Ximian Evolution, a personal information management tool for Linux; it’s basically an open source version of Microsoft Outlook, but better because (a) it’s free, and (b) it’s immune to the virus du jour that infects Outlook. I’ve been using it for e-mail and calendaring for a couple of months now, and, aside from some minor issues getting it to talk to my Palm Pilot, I’ve loved it. So when one of the gurus in LUGOD, the Linux Users’ Group of Davis, announced that he was putting together a class called "Linux On the Desktop" for the general public and asked for volunteers to give presentations, I went and volunteered.

Mind you, I’ve never done any sort of presentation like this before in my life. My only recent experience in public speaking of any sort in recent years has been acting on stage at the Renaissance Faire. So I’ve been pondering an approach along the lines of, "In sooth, I tell thee that Bill Shakespeare hath done his coding in C". But that probably isn’t nearly as funny as it sounds to me, so I won’t be doing it like that.

So last Wednesday, I met with some of the other members of LUGOD to discuss the presentation. Over boti kabob, salmon tandoori, and beer, we talked about the class and our presentations. The organizer expects that most of the people coming to the class will be Windows users who are inteested in Linux, so we have been focusing on ways that an ordinary user who is not a high-end system administrator can use Linux in a daily setting. Since I consider myself a "desktop user", a hobbyist, and not a true Linux guru, I figured I would bring a useful perspective to the project. And I think my input was valued. I really do. I’ve noticed one thing about many of the Linux folks I’ve talked to, and that is that the vast majority of them are friendly, likable folks who honestly respect people who want to learn new things. Okay, granted, if you go up to the average Linux evangelist and tell him something like, "Linux sucks and you’re a bunch of hippy communists who are probably atheists and why don’t you just give your money to Bill Gates where it belongs!" you’re likely to get nasty looks. But if you say, respectfully, "I prefer using Microsoft Windows over Linux and here are my well-thought-out reasons why," you’re likely to get a respectful response.

At any rate, the conversation wandered, as such conversations do. We talked about Linux on the desktop, but we also talked about other things: science fiction, The Simpsons, Star Trek, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, the best Indian beers, and Wuthering Heights. Okay, our discussion of Wuthering Heights didn’t last long. We all thought it was a bad book, and for precisely the same reasons.

Then I brought up a point that I’ve thought about quite a bit over the past few months, and that is that being a Linux user carries with it a certain level of social activism. Many of the Linux users I know — the more "evangelical" of them, at least, the ones who sit at booths handing out copies of Linux disks — are people with strong ethical stances. One of the founders of LUGOD is a committed vegetarian. Many have socialist leanings. Many are involved in liberal causes of one sort or another.

We talked about this for awhile. There is a common image of the average Linux user which Microsoft and other vendors of proprietary software seem to be promoting: that of a anarchist who is opposed to capitalism and who believes in destroying intellectual property laws ‘because information wants to be free", and so on. The joke of the Linux user as a "hippy communist, and probably an atheist to boot" is based on this image. It’s nonsense of course. Many Linux users and programmers are hard-core capitalists; it’s just that they believe at the same time that access to information technology should be available to everyone, and not just those who shell out thousands of dollars to a few monolithic corporations.

And while there are those in the Linux community (or, more accurately, the "open source community") who are opposed to all forms of copyright and patent law, the culture as a whole has a very strong regard for the rights of people to be credited and acknowledged (and occasionally even paid) for their work.

The vagaries of software licensing in the open source and Linux communities are complicated and I don’t feel like going into it here. Suffice to say: these people take these things very seriously.

Anyway. Linux as a form of social activism. I think that there is a point there to be made, and that it probably stems from a strong belief in the rights of all people to have access to information. The nerd heritage that I inherit from the community carries a certain level of activism, I think. I’ll probably go the environmental route. Buy a Linux box for a panda today.

In other news, one of those unfortunates who feel compelled to read my journal regularly dug and found that is available for the taking. I hadn’t thought about that one. It’s a good idea. But I like better. Lordofthegrill makes me feel like I should be wearing tights while grilling and doing it to Irish music. I have nothing against Irish music (I love it and own several albums of it, in fact), but tights and I just don’t get along.

But I get along very well with my grill. While the jalapeno glazed ham that I made tonight was less than a roaring success (I was experimenting with supplementing my charcoal with mesquite wood, which made the fire hotter, which burned the outside of the vegetables and made the ham dry), I did make a spice-rubbed chicken earlier this week which was very good if I do say so myself. The chicken was perfectly cooked. I’m getting better.

And biking. Jennifer and I have been doing a lot of that. Yesterday we biked nearly twenty-three miles, from Dixon to Davis and back again, averaging about 13 miles an hour but occasionally pushing it up over 20 mph.

The reason for our trip was UC Davis’s annual Whole Earth Festival a three-day event filled with hippies, handmade crafts, acoustic music, and left-wing activism. Personally, I love it; I enjoy going and people-watching, listening to the music, talking to people. This year, unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay very long, only a couple of hours on Saturday. I would have liked to have stayed several hours longer, poking around, talking to people, sitting on the grass and listening to music and taking in the atmosphere. I did take some time to talk to some people at some of the wildlife and old-growth conservations booths, partially because it’s an issue I’m interested in but also partially to start gathering some resources for The Troll King’s Daughter.

LUGOD also had a booth up at the Whole Earth Festival. It seemed appropriate.

Does it Count?

Yesterday I got home and decided that what I needed to do was go on some sort of bike ride. I enjoy riding in the mornings with Jennifer (once I get past the primordial dawn grumpiness), but sometimes I just feel a need to go a heck of a lot faster down some of those rural roads that Jennifer is too sensible to speed down. So I rode up Pitt School, fighting a wind that wouldn’t let me go more than ten miles an hour or so, then down Porter, taking advantage of a wind that let me go at twenty miles an hour and more. I came back home all sweaty and sore and feeling great. Aside from charcoal dust and the grease from your grill, there is little in the world that can make you feel more manly than the sweat you get from exercising in the hot sun. And when you’re riding your cool 15 speed hybrid bike down rural roads past cows and sheep and haystacks and farms, you can even pretend that the sweat you got is from good honest outdoors work. Though I suppose that might be a bit of a stretch.

So at any rate, when I got back to our street, I pulled up to the mailbox to check the mail. To my surprise, I found that one of the magazines I’d sent my story to last week had sent it back! For a brand new writer, a rejection slip can be almost as exciting in some ways as a check; it’s the magazine acknowledging your existence. "You, yes you, are worthy, if only of rejection. You may now grovel."

So I opened the large manila envelope, expecting my manuscript and a rejection slip to slide out. Instead, it was my manuscript and a piece of paper with a photocopied note on it:

We apologize for not reading your manuscript or poem
XXXXX Magazine has suspended publication and is on
hiatus until further notice.

Good luck with your future endeavors.

In its own way, though, it’s okay. For me, it’s almost like when I first started driving, and noticed that other cars were slowing down or stopping or adjusting their course when I approached in my car. "They’re noticing me!" I would think to myself. The first time it happened, I was almost in awe.

Hey, I’ll authentication wherever I can find it.

I’m getting better as this grilling thing. The last chicken meal I cooked was done perfectly: not dry, nor undercooked. I had prepared a dry rub with cayenne, chili powder, and black and white pepper. I’d never used a rub before, and actually had to go to the web to look up how to apply a dry rub to uncooked meat. When describing the process, I told her, "It’s kind of cold and slimy. It’s just like sex with one of my old girlfriends." To which she appropriately replied, "Ew."

Jennifer’s parents had come for the feast. Her father made the standard jokes about the meal when we were planning to get together ("Should we come by at 7 sharp, or just wait until we hear the firetrucks?"), since the last time I’d grilled with him around, I’d tried to shoot the grill into orbit. However, this time around, he saw that there were no pyrotechnics involved, and the chicken was perfectly done. As were the asparagus (I think I’m addicted now to grilled asparagus) and the corn. I explained the ingredients in the rub I used on the chicken and the sauce I used on the vegetables, and I think he was impressed. This is good. Impressing your father-in-law is never a bad thing.

Here’s one of those silly "what type of x are you?" quizzes. I found the result amusing because even though I answered all of the questions honestly, the answer is entirely inappropriate:

Which Royalty Are You? Find out! By Nishi.
You are the epitomy of what every man should be. What sets you apart from the other men of rank and nobility is you combine every best quality they possess into one. You are skilled, motivated, ambitious, filled with a sense of purpose and morality. You know when to relax and have fun and when to be serious and courageous. You seek peace, prosperity and love in your life, and as a ruler, you seek it for your kingdom. Others follow you because of your ability to move them, and because you earned their respect. You are admired, even envied, but above all else, greatly loved.

Perhaps I can be the Grill King.

Lord of the Grill. That has a nice ring to it.

Someone has already claimed Bastards. I was beginning to map out my own grilling site, complete with tips and recipes and so on. The focus was going to be how grilling fit in with a healthy lifestyle. I’m still not sure how to fit grilling in with being a Linux administrator, but I have faith.

On the other hand, — with a hyphen — is still available. I’m still tempted.