Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Quiz time!

I'm in a foul mood, so I've decided to mock one of my favorite targets. No, not the President. Karma! I have created a little quiz called Are You Karma? It's a simple 10 question quiz where you are asked to try to determine how Karma would respond. So, a perfect score does not really mean that you ARE Karma. It just means that you know how she would respond in a variety of situations. Some of them are tricky because I've added some responses that she might have made, but she didn't. Good luck.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

My Gamer Daughter

So, Maya saw me playing Kingdom of Loathing and wanted to try. I told her to give me a minute as I needed to get my turns down low enough that I wouldn't lose any at rollover. If you aren't following, go back and read the post "An Adventurer is You!". There's too much to cover here. Suffice it to say that it is an online adventure game that is turn based. You get a certain number of turns each day. If you don't use them, they are rolled over, but there is a limit. And I was pushing it. Once I was squared away, I decided it would be okay for her to have a turn. We made her a character and she played for a while and enjoyed herself thoroughly. So, thorughly, that it's all she wanted to talk about at dinner. She proudly announced, "Mom, I looted a corpse!" My wife's response? "You're grounded." But she meant ME! Maya tried to help. "Oh, don't worry. *I* didn't kill him. I just found the body in the forest and took his stuff."

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hulk..er...Kong Smash!

So, it's Josh's Birthday. Happy Birthday little guy! Earlier in the week, he had a party at pre-school. He wanted a King Kong theme, or King Kond as he likes to say. So, my wife dutifully went to the party store and bought the plates, napkins, and such. Sadly, they were out of King Kong pinatas. She didn't have time to go to other stores, so she went a different way. She bought a Hulk pinata and told him that she got him Kong. She then instructed me to paint it black. "He'll never know the difference." So, I spray painted it to the best of my ability. It looked like the Hulk pained black. "No, it looks like King Kong," she insisted. Not sure if she was trying to convince me or herself. Josh came to have a look because he wanted to see his pinata. "See, Josh. It's King Kond" He started jumping for joy. "It is! It is!" He stopped. "It looks more like the Helk".

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dubai or Not Dubai, that is the Question

Ok, time for BriWise to get political again. I'm sure that by now, you've all heard of the deal to allow a state owned company from the United Arab Emerates to run shipping operations in six major U.S. ports. These ports were previously controlled by British P&O shipping until Dubai ports made a bid to buy British P&O. So, we didn't actually sell the port access to the UAE so much as they bought the company that had the contract. Now much of Congress is in an uproar over the deal. They asked the Bush administration to postpone approval of the deal so they had time to study it. The President declined...

You can read the details here. I know I linked to FOX News, but I wanted to get their perspective as I figured it would be the most sympathetic to Dubya. And before we start, there is no truth to the rumor that he was pushing the deal because he misread Dubai and thought that he was going to get to take over the "place where all the boats go". You can also read this AP story on Yahoo to fill in some of the blanks. All my quotes come from these two stories.

The above opening more or less sets the stage for what is a very complicated issue. The visceral reaction is "We can't let the Middle East take over our ports!" But is there any substance to that fear? There are a number of factors here and many of them are politically or financially motivated. That makes it doubly difficult to find something closer to objective truth. Therefore most people are going to believe the person or group they already feel is looking after their best interests. If this were an issue typical of the recent political unrest, the Democrats would be on one side and the Republicans on the other. However, this one seems to be split between the Administration and their friends and everyone else.

There are some high profile Republicans lining up to take shots at Dubya on this one. Bill Frist wants to introduce legislation to delay the deal. Hastert and Bohner, the House Republican comedy duo announced they were going to be "flexing muscle" against the administration on this. Then there are the Republican Governors of New York and Maryland, Pataki and Ehrlich. They are concerned about due diligence as two of the ports are in their states. Ehrlich is willing to go so far as to void the contract between Baltimore and DP if he doesn't get some satisfaction.

Given all the high profile Republican opposition, you'd think the President would at least be willing to talk about it. Delay things for a month or so to give all concerned parties a chance to investigate. But, no. What was I thinking. This administration will not tolerate being questioned. They know what's best and we just have to trust them. According to King George, "they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully." How many of us will sleep easier knowing that? And if Congress decided to legislate to get their way? Dubya has an answer for that, too. "They ought to listen to what I have to say to this. I'll deal with it with a veto."

How does that sit with the Republican leadership?

"I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
That's right, the Homeland Security Committee doesn't like it.

Muddying the waters are some financial interests. There is a Miami based port management company that is suing to overturn the deal. What do you suppose THEIR motives are?

And the Democrats have stepped in as well. Most of the criticism is similar to the Republican side. Senator Joe Biden isn't against the deal. "Sure, we have to link up with our Arab friends but ... we want to see and those in Congress want to know what ... safeguards are built in." Then of course, there are the usual suspects such as Senators Schumer and Rodham-Clinton.

The main concerns from both parties are that the administration did the oversight of the deal as they do most everything. In secret. So Congress has no way of assuring their constituents that the review process was faithfully followed other than "trust Bush". Given his approval ratings, I don't think many is Congress feel like trusting their re-elections to that. The other area of concern is the one that potentially has substance.
Lawmakers from both parties have noted that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial base. In addition, critics contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

Rep. Edward Markey, from Massachusetts is coming at this from another angle. He feels our cargo security is already inadequate and is capitalizing on this transaction to highlight the issue. He is not against DP so much as he is against all of our current procedures.
"Cargo containers represent a cheap, deadly method for delivering (a) bomb on U.S. soil. We cannot afford to be lax in our oversight of the shipping and handling of these containers. This administration's scrutiny of this UAE deal is just like their treatment of tons of cargos at our door: insufficient, incomplete and incomprehensible, given the security threats we face," he added.

Lest you think we have covered all the bases in this morass, there is still at least one more. Let's add a conflict of interest for the President to spice things up. You see, he recently nominated David Sanborn to be U.S. Maritime Administrator. Sanborn testified before Congress earlier this month. Why is this a potential conflict? Oh, did I forget to mention that Sanborn is currently Director of Operations for Europe and Latin America at DP World? So DP would be overseen by a guy who used to work for them. Does he still have stock? What are his personal connections to DP World?

Every time I try to decide which way to come down on this issue, my head hurts. There are too many angles and I have no idea how we can shake this one out. I suspect I'd have an easier time mapping the topography of R'Lyeh. If it weren't so serious, I might enjoy the irony of Bush having 9/11 used against him or a change. The one thing I do feel certain about is that this deal needs to be held up until we sort this out. It may well be that there is no greater security risk in having DP take over than we presently face from our cargo security procedures. Perhaps that issue will surge to the fore and result in reform that makes the ownership of port management irrelevant. But given the way this administration handles dissent internally, what are the odds that this has gotten a fair review? We have no way to know at present. Is a month or two really that long to wait to ensure our safety and security?


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Closing Jinx -or- Bringing Down the House

Well, we closed out our show at Patio Playhouse. "Chicken Every Sunday" closed out to an oversold house. Apparently, we decided to sell the seats normally reserved for our concessions and box office volunteers. Fortunately, they had all seen it. This was by far the most eager to laugh audience we had during the run, so it was a good way to close it out. And, although nobody died or was even injured, we managed to keep our Sunday jinx run alive. There is a curtain that separates the lobby from the seating area. It also conceals the actors making stage right entrances. The former is important during matinees because, if anyone opens the door, sunlight streams in. The latter for obvious reasons. So, it was truly unfortunate that it came down halfway through Act II. It was not something easily fixed, so we had an assortment of volunteers hold the loose end of a fairly heavy and wide canvas backed curtain up as high as they could for the rest of Act II and all of Act III!

We have some set construction folks stopping by this week for the next show. A few of us got together and engineered a solution that ought to prevent a recurrence. We are going to have 3/4 inch pipe bracketed to the walls on either side of the entrance. The curtain will be hung with rings looped through grommets. Take that!

For my next trick, I will be in a musical review while co-directing a youth theater show. Both are listed on the front page of the Patio website. The challenging part is that the performances and rehearsals overlap! After that, I'm taking a break until the summer musical, "Guys and Dolls"! (I'm going for one of the Guys.)

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday morning donuts

Ok, so it's an old Foliage tradition and I don't really work there any more, but it is still a fond memory. Every Friday, someone was tasked with picking up a couple dozen donuts and bagels, and a bucket o' munchkins. I even got to do it for a while. So, in memory of that, a donut quiz!

You Are a Powdered Devil's Food Donut

A total sweetheart on the outside, you love to fool people with your innocent image. On the inside you're a little darker, richer, and more complex. You're a hedonist who demands more than one pleasure at a time. Decadent and daring, you test the limits of human indulgence.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Today's Exercise in Self Loathing

So, my friend Kerri pointed me to one of those self knowledge type applets. This one is called a Johari Window. It was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram, hence the name. The way it works is that you select six adjectives for yourself from the grid. Then you have all your friends select six for you. Then we see how your self-knowledge matches with others' perceptions of you. There are four quadrants of results: Arena - the area of overlap, Facade - Things you believe about yourself that nobody else sees, Blind spots - Things others see that you don't, and Unknown - neither you nor any participants thus far have selected these. Here is my Johari window. By clicking the link, you will be taken to a page where your adjectives for me will be recorded. Then you will have a button to press to see how others voted.

There is also an insidious inversion of this. In the inverted version, you pick the person's weaknesses. I chose five for myself here. I think these are both masochistic in their own way. To contribute to the pain, click on my Nohari window.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

This Week's Jinx

Well, we had a Sunday performance again this week and again something went awry. I am actually nervous about closing Sunday. I realize I'm being silly and superstitious, but that makes three Sundays in a row that things something screwy has happened to mess with the show. We've had a cancellation to illness, and actor not show, and now, we can add an elderly gentleman collapsing near the end of Act I. Fortunately, he seemed to be all right when the EMTs wheeled him out. They wheeled him in a sitting position and he was upright. They thing it was a diabetic low sugar reaction, but they took him to the hospital just to be safe. So, we had a 30 minute intermission instead of a 15. At least nobody died. We also got another good review!

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Next Time We Do Christmas in Colorado...

I found the shirt I am going to wear. I'm going to wear it every day and to every event. I think it will settle, once and for all, the issue of whether or not I am saved. Observe:

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Meet the new boss...

So, the GOP are cleaning house, eh? They have a new majority leader in the House. They have other new leaders as well, but the majority leader is the guy who has what it takes to clean things up in the House! Honest. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, we salute you! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

For those who don't want to follow the link, allow me to 'splain. No, there is no time. Allow me to sum up. Boehner is renting an apartment from a lobbyist. Read that again. You know those influence peddlers who he is planning to sweep out of Congress? He writes a check to one every month. It's not illegal as he is paying market rate for his rent, unlike Duke Cunningham and his defense contractor yacht. So, why am I upset? Oh, I don't know. His landlord happens to lobby on issues that come before the committee that Boehner is the chair of. Boehner's spokesperson insists that there is nothing unethical and that Milne, the landlord has not lobbied Boehner on any of his issues.

What a strange coincidence, then, that Boehner co-sponsored the Small Business Tax Fairness Act, which Milne was hired by Buca di Beppo to lobby for. He also helped write what evolved into the Economic Security and Worker Assistance Act. This was lobbied for by Fortis insurance, which is, surprise surprise, another Milne client. Now, while it is not always true that where there's smoke, there's fire, it's certainly a good place to look. And if Boehner really wants to clean things up, then he needs to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Sorry, John, but you're gonna have to find a new place to live.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Another Openin', Another Show

Well, we're at it again. We've put two weekends behind us for our latest production, Chicken Every Sunday. So far, every show has been sold out. That's pretty unheard of for this theater. The show has not been without it's bumps and bruises, though. Much of the cast has gotten pretty ill during the run. We actually had to cancel the Sunday performance of opening weekend because our leading lady had no voice and we don't use understudies. Three performers even had to wear body microphones for the whole second weekend because their voices were so weak. Then, this past Sunday, one of our actors missed the show entirely. He thought it was an evening show, not a matinee. And he had his cell phone turned off, so all our calls to him went for naught. One of our props guys, who is actually a pretty talented actor in his own right had to go on. He studied his lines during Act I as he didn't come on until Act II. He had the script with him for two of his scenes, but he never looked at it. He did the character quite well, too. I have renamed the show "Jinxes Every Sunday" and am wondering what will happen this week. In spite of it all, we got a pretty good review! Maya got written up as a "scene stealer", while the wife and I just get mentions. But that is appropriate for our characters. None of us has terribly huge parts and the fact that the reviewer feels that we all add life to the show is a very good thing!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rainy Season? What Rainy Season?

Here in San Deigo, December to February is considered the rainy season. We're basically a desert climate with an average annual rainfall of about 5.6 inches from July to the beinning of February. Imagine my surprise when it seemed to always be raining during my first year here. Every time someone visited me, it was raining. "I thought you said the weather here was good!" they lamented. From July to January, we got 13.4 inches of rain. For the full year from July to June, we got 22.5 inches! I was told not to get used to it. I was told it was an aberration. And I'm beginning to believe them. The grand total thus far from July to now? 1.3 inches. The real test is coming, though. My folks are going to be here in a couple weeks. Any predictions as to how many inches of rain we get during their stay?

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So, What'd I Miss?

I did not get to watch the Super Bowl this year. We had a matinee performance and then I had a youth theater rehearsal that I had to run that evening. In addition, I have bronchitis, my wife has bronchitis, and Josh has pink-eye. So, I haven't been online much since last Friday. C'est la guerre. So, tell me, what were the good commercials? I DVRd the game so I could watc the good ones, but I gotta know which ones they are.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

An Adventurer Is You!

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I have a new addiction and I think some of you will, too. It's an incredibly silly online adventure game called Kingdom of Loathing. The name does not do it justice. If features silly stick figure art, lots of bad puns, and amusing cultural references. It also has some built in limitations to prevent you from playing constantly...
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There are six character classes in KoL, and these reveal much about the style and flavor of the game:

  • Seal Clubber - Seal Clubbers hail from the frigid Northlands, because one character class always hails from the frigid Northlands. They rely on their Muscle to survive.
  • Turtle Tamer - The Turtle Tamer's mystical connection with his terrapin brethren imbues him with great power. He excels at moving very slowly and winning footraces with smug satisfaction. His Muscle is the key to his success, and to his long lifespan.
  • Pastamancer - With his mastery of the arcane secrets of Noodlecraft, the Pastamancer is a force to be reckoned with. He relies on his Mysticality to get ahead in the world.
  • Sauceror - Long engaged in an uneasy truce with the Pastamancers, the guild of Saucerors protects the secrets of the Ancient Brotherhood of Gravymakers. Their Mysticality is their most important attribute.
  • Disco Bandit - The Disco Bandit boogies to and fro, hither and yon. Whence comes he? No man knows. Whither strikes he next? All men live in fear of him and his Moxie.
  • Accordion Thief - The scourge of mariachis and polka bands, the Accordion Thieves have plied their malign craft since time out of mind. Their Moxie serves them well in both their adventures and their interactions with "the ladies."

You only adventure one character at a time, but are allowed to have multiple characters, as long as you are not using them all to bulk up one character. To that end, I have thus far tried a Disco Bandit, a Sauceror, and a Pastamancer, in that order. There's always plenty of amusing stuff to read at every turn. Even the level descriptions are funny. I started out as a Funk Footpad, but have worked my way up to Sample Swindler with my Bandit. The levels are silly, the weapons are silly, and the monsters are especially silly. I've encountered Sabre Toothed Limes, Knob Goblins, Booze Giants, and Bread Golems.

This game does not use gold as its currency. Oh no. The way to buy things in game is with meat. Meat has other uses, as well. Mash 10 meat up and you've got meat paste. Meat paste can be used to stick thins together. I used several wads of meat paste and assorted items and made a Bitchin' Meatcar. (You need it so you can go on vacation.) Combine 100 meat and you get a meat stack. Meat stacks can be used in meatsmithing. 1000 meat is a dense meat stack, for those higher quality items.

Each encounter that has the chance to net you something costs 1 adventure. On your first day you get 80 adventures. After that, you get 40 per day. But it is possible to get more. Eating food gets you more adventures as well as possible stat gains. However, there is a limit to the amount of food you can eat daily. The more complex the food, the more adventures it yields. For example, eat a tomato and you'll only get one adventure. Combine that tomato with an EZ bake oven and awad of dough and you have a plain pizza, worth 3 adventures. Add a knob sausage to the pizza and bake, and you have a sausage pizza worth 10 adventures and a few points of strengthliness or muscleboundedness. All characters can bake simple food items. Saucerors and Pastamancers each have special foodmaking skills that enhance the basic food. They'll need to work together to make the pr0n chow mein which will net you 16-23 adventures plus some assorted substat bumps.

Don't worry if cooking ain't your thing. Booze also grants adventures as well as drunkenness. You can continue adventuring as long as your drunkenness is 14 or less. If you go over and try to adventure, bad things will happen to you. All characters can mix drinks, but you need to be a Disco Bandit or an Accordion Thief to mix the good stuff. Again, the benefits increase with the complexity. A beer will get you 1 adventure. Boxed wine will get you 3. Mix that wine with a strawberry and you get strawberry wine, worth 3-6 plus some Moxie. Put the strawberry wine in a coconut shell and you've got a pink pony, for 10-14 adventures, some muscle and some moxie. The descriptions of what happens when you use the item are pretty good, too. Here's what happens when you drink strawberry wine:

You drink the strawberry wine. You're reminded of the time Old Man Boone tried to touch you in an inappropriate way behind the granary.

Y'know, because it's totally inappropriate to touch somebody behind the granary.

If that doesn't make you laugh, then this is not the game for you.

The gear is equally silly. I'm currently stylin' with my disco fro pick and wielding a Gnollish plunger. I picked it up at Degrassi Knoll.

They also have clans in the game, though I haven't otten that far. Apparently, clans offer you various benfits in return for in game contributions. Perhaps if a bunch of us start playing we can form a silly clan of some sort or other.

This may sound overwhelming, but the extra adventures on day 1 are to help you get oriented. Just go to Mount Noob and visit the Toot Oriole. He'll give you step by step instructions to learn the game. There are also some help sites for the game. The two best I've found are The Kingdom of Loathing Coldfront and Visual KoL Wiki.

If you feel like joining me in the game, let me know what your character's names are. I have:

briwei - Disco Rogue
Gibletz - Sauceror
KidKugel - Pastamancer

I may try some others later, but that's enough for now. Join me. There's plenty of meat for everyone!

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Ok, these aren't particularly strange changes, but I've been starting to tweak the site. I've added tags, compressed the archive into a drop down menu, and moved the lengthy "About Me" behind a link. I'll probably put a "Categories" box in once I have caught up on my tags somewhat and maybe a "Favorite Posts" box. Any others thoughts or comments on layout by you, the consumer?

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Coincidence? Yes.

Two significant events happened yesterday. I suppose they could be considered ironic. Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King died yesterday. On the same day, Samuel Alito was sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. We lost a great leader for civil rights and elevated a great opponent of civil rights. You know what? That's not ironic. It's tragic.

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