A Season In Carcosa

When I heard there was a new anthology of stories based on The King In Yellow stories, A Season In Carcosa became the book I was looking forward to the most this year, and it did not disappoint one bit.

I was looking forward to this for a number of reasons, mainly though I think it’s that I’ve always thought that what is scary about the King in Yellow is the best sort of scary. It’s not that a scary monster is about to eat you, it’s that your own imagination is about to destroy you. It’s that reality is not what you believe it to be. And that reality can change utterly, the reality of fiction can impose itself on your world. This is why I love reading, particularly reading Lovecraft or Philip K Dick and others that give the reader that eerie moment of “wait a second, how do I know my own reality is what I think is?”

I had read Lovecraft before I played Call of Cthulhu, but it was a Call of Cthulhu campaign where I first heard about the King In Yellow. When we as players first encountered the Yellow Sign, our Keeper brilliantly gave us our first explanation by first telling about Robert Chambers book. In the way in which he would normally describe a book that exists only in fiction, such as the Necronomicon, he instead tells us about a book that exists in reality, but is about a fictional play, and when people in the book learn about the play they start to go insane and the events in the reality of the play start to assert itself in our reality. (Tangent: I love stories about these self creating meta fictions: Borges “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” and the opening of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol are great examples.) At this point in the game, our characters encountered cultists who believed the play to be real and believed that a character in the play, the man in the pallid mask, was an avatar of Hastur. None of our characters knew exactly what that meant, but we had a pretty good idea it was bad news. In a follow up adventure, the play starts to infect our dreams. We see signs of the events and characters from the play in our dreams and it starts to affect reality. I don’t remember how we put a stop to that, but we did, and the next couple of adventures were more standard fight the monsters type scenarios, not related to the King In Yellow. We were brought back to twisted changing reality when we discovered an object up for auction, which turned out to be the Pallid mask. I think it was about that time that I, not my character in the game but me in reality, started to have repeating dreams about the King In Yellow. It had that much effect on me. Other games I’ve been afraid in a sense for my character or something, but I’ve never dreamt about it like that before or since.

A few years later I read the excellent anthology from Chaosium, The Hastur Cycle, and in doing so read one of my all time favorite short stories “The River of Night’s Dreaming” by Karl Edward Wagner. When the Wagner story was mentioned prevalently in the introduction to A Season In Carcosa, I knew I was in for a treat.

And the anthology is a treat. Each story seems to recreate that wonderful dreamy quality that I remember from playing the game years ago. I think that the King In Yellow lends itself to moody pieces, which might be why the poetry selections in the anthology are so effective, where establishing mood and evoking emotion are held over concrete story. While there wasn’t one story that effected me so much as “The River of Night’s Dreaming,” the anthology was consistently good and every story in the last third felt close to approaching that very high bar.

Nitpicking, I could point out a greater number of proofreading errors than I normally find (why it is I’m cursed to have the ability to spot these errors in everyone else’s writing, but miss them in my own, I’ll never know), but these hardly detracted from the greatness of the storytelling. I thought all of the stories were high quality, but “My Voice Is Dead” by Joel Lane, “it sees me when I’m not looking” by Gary McMahon, “Wishing Well” by Cody Goodfellow, and “D T” by Laird Baron were all superb.

Dr. Who 1963

We’ve been watching the early Dr. Who starting with the first 1963 episodes, and it’s been a bit of a shock.

I have great memories of the episodes I saw when I was a kid and my formative nerd years. These were the Tom Baker and a few mixed in Jon Pertwee episodes. From there I somehow missed the next couple of Doctors, but when I returned to watching the show I remember enjoying most of the Sylvester McCoy episodes.

And I love the modern show. The show I loved as a kid was very hit or miss, but always had interesting ideas. The new show has those ideas, but is more hit than miss. In the new show the characters learn and grow from episode to episode. The new show combines humor, action, and sentiment to create stories that make me laugh and cry. This is supported by a tremendous soundtrack, which I’ve bought, and there are tracks on that CD that bring tears to my eyes every time they come on.

One thing the show from my childhood and the new show have in common is that the Doctor is smart. He is good. He is a force for chaotic goodness. He shows up unarmed and defeats a heavily armed enemy while smooching him in the face. He is Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd. A trickster god of an alien. And Craig Fergusson is right, it’s all about intellect and romance overcoming brute force and cynicism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9P4SxtphJ4 .

On the 1963 show this is not so. Not only can the Doctor not outsmart his enemies, his enemies frequently trick him in the easiest ways. It’s as though he has “rube” painted across his forehead. And this stupidity isn’t limited to just him, his companions are often equally dumb. Often it’s like in order for the plot to work all of the characters have to stumble through it like they’ve just sustained a serious head injury. Seriously. Far from growing from episode to episode, the original cast can’t remember events that happened to them a minute ago, sometimes only remembering these things after whatever calamity has resulted that would have been prevented if they possessed the memory and basic reasoning skills of a five year old.

The pacing is terrible. I think as much happens in one hour of the modern show as happens in the sum total of six half hour episodes of the old show. Part of this is because the writers don’t seem to trust the viewers to understand what they’ve seen, and need the characters to see it and then discuss and explain it. Another part of it is that it seems like they’re killing time very deliberately going over everything more than once and shooting lots of scenes of people moving, often needlessly slowly, from point A to B with nothing happening.

We just watched the episode (the combination of half hour episodes) The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964). In this episode, all characters perceptions are limited to events taking place less than three feet directly in front of them. They have zero peripheral vision. Must be that head injury. They begin by staggering out of the Tardis and not noticing the warning poster on the wall right next to them until fifteen minutes in and they’ve already started to explore and break things.

This episode was written by Terry Nation, who created the Daleks and went on to create Blake’s 7. I’ve also seen episodes of the Avengers he wrote. I know he could write. So what’s wrong here? And how did the early sixties Dr. Who ever last to become such a success? Was television just terrible during the early sixties and the bar was set really low? Were people actually as stupid as the characters on the show during the sixties? Did the writing have to be this way because people couldn’t keep up?

I think that Barbara is the most interesting of the characters in the ’63 show. At times she shows some thought and initiative. When she’s separated from the group anyway. If there’s a man around she’s apparently not allowed to think for herself. Actually if I remember correctly this was also mostly true of the show in the 70s and 80s as well. Happily on the modern show there are female characters who are strong and intelligent.

Special effects were always bad of course. But those aren’t a big deal to me if the story and characters are there, and they aren’t yet. And while special effects aren’t a big deal, I would like to see some level of caring in the production. Actors, usually the Doctor, often flub a line and repeat it a couple times until they get it right. Was editing something that hadn’t occurred to the BBC in 1963?

But unfortunately most of the time, none of the characters are very bright. So now I’m wondering, when does the show start to get better? Does it ever get good with the first Doctor? If so, what episodes? How about the second Doctor? I know there are good episodes with Jon Pertwee, assuming that I remember correctly and it’s not just nostalgia making me think that. I’d like to see this because I’m interested in the history, but at the moment I don’t look forward to watching it, and if more than two of the half hour installments are watched at a time, it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll fall asleep.

Perhaps a drinking game is in order. Just do enough shots until my brain is as impaired as the characters on the show. Now that’s an idea. Though I wouldn’t want to drink enough to be as impaired as Susan. I never want to be that drunk.

Why I would not vote 3rd party

I’m talking to my fellow lefties here, but if you’re right wing and want to read along, by all means be my guest.

There’s an argument being made to vote third party in the presidential election as a protest vote. The argument goes something like Barack Obama has done many things you find intolerable as President, how can you vote for him. An article recently ran in the Atlantic with this opinion: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/ . I heard a similar opinion shared by Walter Mosley when I saw him speak at the LA Times book fair a couple of years ago. And then there’s the thinking that you should really vote for the person who most represents your views, in my case this would be Jill Stein.

Here is why I am not voting third party. There are two reasons. One is simply realism, and the other is trickier.

I’ll start with Realism. The reality is that a third party candidate will not win. Without major problems with the front runners, a third party candidate will not get the 5% required to get matching funds in the next election. They won’t even come close to that 5%. Some might say this is a self fulfilling prophecy, people won’t vote for third party candidates because they won’t win, so they can’t win. I’d say those people are not thinking about how the constitution and the nature of the presidential election work. As much as I agree with Jill Stein, were she one of only two candidates running, she would still be unelectable. Hell, a candidate that actually represented what I think should be done, would effectively be many of the things FOX News claims about Obama. Having one person who represents the country as a whole is always going to mean electing someone who doesn’t represent many of our individual views.

Then there’s the thing not mentioned in the Atlantic article and rarely thought of by the protest-vote-arguers: the Supreme Court. That third branch of government. The one with the lifetime appointees. Don’t like the money in politics? Citizens United got put through by a 5-4 vote. How brazen could things get if that one vote majority turns to two or three? Think about what happens if Justice Ginsburg is replaced with another Scalia. You might find fault in the policies of Obama, but you can’t tell me that he’d appoint a Scalia type Supreme Court Justice. Romney on the other hand has made it clear he does whatever he’s told to satisfy the extreme base of his party.

Don’t like the two party system? Neither do I. But like the Supreme Court with it’s lifetime appointees, I think there are critical flaws in our form of government. Without a change in that form of government, I’m voting the party with the chance of winning that comes closest to my views, because that’s what’s going to make the most difference in the reality I live in.

Accepting that the third party won’t win the election, then what? The Atlantic article mentions some things that trouble me greatly about the President. But would these things get better under a Romney presidency? I highly doubt it. If anything I suspect that these same powers are expanded upon and extended to more countries. War with Iran seems likely under a Romney presidency. So instead of a failure to reign in the wrong, it would be expanded.

Walter Mosley mentioned some of the same things as the Atlantic article. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like “is there a difference between Obama and Bush to a family bombed in Pakistan?” And he’s right. To a family in Pakistan that’s lost their child to a drone missile strike, there’s no difference. On the other hand, to an American family whose child will live because they have healthcare now, there’s a great big difference.

This gets me into the trickier question, how do you weigh the good and bad of a presidency?

The Atlantic article did get me thinking. What President by the article’s standards is worthy of reelection? Lincoln? With all the deplorable things that happened in the civil war? With suspending Habeas Corpus and a host of civil rights issues? My own favorite President was FDR. I think FDR was the best president for how he handled the crises of his time, and for the legacy he left us with (much of which has been torn down in the last thirty years but that’s another essay). That said, FDR was also president when we rounded up citizens of Japanese heritage and threw them in concentration camps. That’s pretty awful. Not to mention the terrible things that happened in the war. I think Eisenhower was a great President, but it’s not like he didn’t have his faults. The CIA was up to all manner of evil during his administration. And his mideast policy essentially led to our trouble there now. But the Civil Rights Act, continuing and expanding on New Deal programs (despite the fact that he was a Republican) … these things make me think of him as a great President.

Another thing that bothers me about the Atlantic article is its discounting of the importance of domestic issues and economics. How can one complain about Romney being a Plutocrat when Obama is a killer, the article suggests. First of all, I believe as I’ve suggested above that every President weighed by this standard will be a killer. Second, economics are more important that people seem to realize. Sure the language might be loftier. But economics are also whether or not people eat. Whether or not they end up in debtors prison. Whether or not they ever have hope or a chance to make things better in their lives.

And as for the foreign policy issues the Atlantic article mentions, I think these things will change for the better in an Obama second term. In the first term, he got us out of military operations in Iraq. Forces are supposed to be withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2013. Do I think this will mean the end forever to drone strikes? Probably not. But I’m betting there will be fewer. Possibly none. And I’m certain that will not be the case in a Romney administration.

At the end of the day that’s the trickier thing to say, but I believe it’s true: under Obama I think there’s the chance that things will get better for more people, and I don't see that happening under any other possible outcome in this election.

An open letter to Mitt Romney

Mr. Romney,

I see today that you’re insisting that you’ve paid at least 13% taxes every year, but that you’re still not releasing your tax returns.

Let’s just skip past the part where you think that 13% is acceptable. While we’re at it, let’s skip how it is you can possibly have any interest in the general public good if you believe that 13% is acceptable for someone in your position. This post isn’t about policy, or arguing that persons who make money in investment income should pay the same rate as those of us that work for our money. This post is about your argument. This post is about why you need to see how your argument appears to the rest of us. And maybe if you can see your argument through our eyes, maybe you can begin to relate to the rest of us a little better, and that will go a long way to making you closer to likable.

My problem here isn’t even that I don’t trust you at your word, we’re moving right past that too.

The problem is this, if it is true that you’ve paid what you’ve said, why wouldn’t you release your returns? What do you have to lose? You have a lot to gain, right? I mean a) it would shut up everyone that’s been calling you out on these if you just released them, and b) if it is as you say, you can catch Harry Reid in a lie. Both of those have got to be good for a bump in the polls.

That you’ve come out and said “13%” but are still unwilling to release the forms just makes it look like either a) you are lying or b) there’s something in your returns that makes you look worse than merely having paid only 13%. Something so bad that it’s more damaging than the gain you’d get from showing up Reid.

Here’s the thing though, you’re now leaving whatever badness this is to our imaginations. So instead of confronting us with whatever’s wrong, you’re letting our imaginations run wild. And the longer you go without releasing these, the worse it’s going to get. We’re capable of imagining things far worse than whatever the reality likely is. Trust me, you don’t want that.

Oh, and while I don’t like that candidates spouses get asked questions as though they’re running too, you should probably ask Ann to put a lid on the “you people” crap.

If we can just get past this, maybe then we can focus on how you’re wrong on every single issue, or at least your party is. Your flip-flopping makes it difficult to tell, but it seems like you stand with your party, so yeah.

Really I’d rather there be focus on the issues as that could help sink GOP Congressional candidates as well.

Ian Welke

The southwest roadtrip

Roadtripzilla

On Monday, July 9th, Amy and I started off on a road trip of the southwest. Why would someone go on a road trip of the southwest in July, you might well ask? Especially me, the guy who once moved to Seattle for the weather. Well, July is the only time we could block out the time.

Right away I thought I was in a lot of trouble. We stopped in Needles for gas. The temperature was well over a hundred degrees. I started filling the tank, and my body sent this message to my brain: Drop what you are doing now and get us out of here or we will die.

Returned to the safety of the air conditioned car, we made our way to the El Tovar lodge at the Grand Canyon. I should start out by saying, I differ greatly from most people when I travel. I do not like hiking, boating, biking, or even being outside. Especially if it’s hot. I also don’t like crowds. So the Grand Canyon was pretty much not my cup of tea.

The El Tovar lodge was strange. It was the first of many places we stayed on our tour with a weird problem in the bathroom, like someone has been designing hotel bathrooms throughout the Southwest without any concept that someone might come along and actually try and use them. The bathroom here had a number of weird problems. The most significant was that the toilet paper roll hung over the seat in such a way that it shared space with my leg. Without getting into what one does on the toilet too much, the last thing one wants to do when… doing one’s business… is clench one’s legs together.

The food at El Tovar, pricey and highly touted, was not good. Maybe it’s just the vegetarian menu. Maybe they do better with meat. But I hate when I travel when I’m served something that I would cook better, especially if they’re charging $20 for an entrée. Amy ordered a pasta that I would have been mad at myself if I’d cooked, but then I would have shrugged had I cooked it because it wouldn’t have felt like a great loss for a couple bucks of ingredients. She also ordered tofu to be added to it. This wasn’t cooked with the sauce, or flavored in any way, so it was just bland tofu, that seemed strange… foamy… maybe microwaved.

The next day we drove to Flagstaff. We had lunch at the Beaver Street Brew Pub which was tasty, and the beer was good. Flagstaff seemed interesting. Lots of restaurants and pubs, though seemingly they don’t want anyone to be able to park there.

Near Flagstaff we went to the Lowell Observatory, the site where they discovered Pluto. This was the first of the science stops on the trip. Despite being buzzbombed by insects (why do I ever have to go outside?) it was an enjoyable stop. Though towards the end of it, we found ourselves questioning again, why our country has stopped looking forward, stopped being interested in research and investigation, instead preferring to protect the assets of multimillionaires and perpetuating the idiocy of supply side economics. As if this question weren’t on our minds enough, when we returned to the hotel I was stunned by the campaign ad of raging imbecile, Ben Quayle. Yes, the son of the former Vice President. And the dipshit acorn doesn’t fall far from the moron tree apparently. This commercial was so odious and obnoxious that it presented a bit of a blow to our journey. One of the things that stood in our way planning the trip, was we weren’t sure we wanted to go to Arizona, we didn’t want to support the dipshittery that is that state’s politics. But then we rationalized that Sheriff Joe and that mummified Governor are probably just extreme examples. Ben Quayle’s ad was a glass of cold water on that dream that people might not be all that bad after all. We resolved that we’d see all we needed to of Arizona on that trip, and not come back, not until they’d rid themselves of such fuckwittery.

Leaving Flagstaff we drove to the giant meteor crater. At this point I started to wonder about Arizona’s economy. Can you have a “holes in the ground” dominated economy?

And so began a lot of driving across a lot of desert. We crossed a large amount of reservation land. The a/c in my car isn’t strong. Not strong enough to deal with that level of heat. It was able to keep the worst of it off of me, but if I sat still sweat would start to run down my back or wherever surfaces touched.

Apart from strange hallucinations of amalgam creatures in the reservation, one of the strangers things we stopped for was the four corners site, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all touch.

AZ CO NM 057

I was thankful with when we came to Mesa Verde national park in Colorado and things cooled off a bit. This lodge was much better. The meal is the first ever meal I had at a lodge where I can say I couldn’t or wouldn’t think to cook the meal I had. I ordered the chile relleno, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, a sort of fine dining take on the dish.

Our room at the Longview lodge had a great view. So I sat out on the deck, drinking rye and watching the critters below. The only problem with the room, was the bathroom, which again was weird. The raised basin had a little sign saying to close the basin to shave, but I found no means of stopping the water. The fan in the bathroom sounded like a plane taking off, and rattled the walls. Otherwise though, I highly recommend the Longview Lodge at Mesa Verde.

The next day we took a tour to look at the cliff dwellings. I’d like to say that I felt something here, experienced something important, but honestly, I was mostly annoyed. Our group was slow. This is because one woman kept asking the most useless questions. I thought at first it was just me being grumpy here, and that maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt, but even super nice Amy whispered to me, “That woman needs to check a book out of a library.”

Durango ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I thought I’d drank enough water on the tour, and the drive from Mesa Verde, but I don’t know if I was dehydrated or what, but I had a terrible headache. The town itself looked like it might have been enjoyable otherwise. We had a good lunch at the Steamworks brewery. The Victorian decorated room at the hotel though, was clearly not meant for us. There was no desk or table space, clearly they assumed that people would stay there to go out on the town or do outdoorsy things. Despite the sadness at missing other brewery potential, I was happy to move on.

Los Alamos was interesting. The Bradbury Science Museum filled me with ideas for stories, most of which are probably already happening in the excellent comic series “Manhattan Projects” from Image Comics, but I’ll keep my notes to see what they don’t cover.

Santa Fe was probably my favorite place on the trip. We stayed at the Old Santa Fe Inn, and had a great room. First it had the first bathroom of any room on the trip without some weird usage issue. Next, and this will seem strange to people that aren’t like me I guess, but I loved the desk. It had something that I think every hotel room should have: a station of plugs on the desk so that I can plug in my laptop, Amy can plug in her laptop, and all our chargers. I know. I’m not raving about a view of a sunset or proximity to a hiking trail or whatever people want. I’m trilled by access to electricity.

The location of the hotel is also quite good. Easy walking distance to the plaza.

We had dinner at the Shed, which I really liked, though Amy was a bit overwhelmed by the spice. Still better than the people next to us, discussing their preference for using “Fritos” in cooking. I noticed this throughout our two days in Santa Fe, that with all the good food available, the place seemed filled with people that would prefer crap. On our walking tour the next day we walked by a group discussing going to Denny’s. I actually overhear one of them stating his preference for Denny’s over the local fare.

On our walking tour we also saw the oldest house in North America and the Georgia O’Keefe museum, which was neat, though I think, personally, I admire her spirit more than her art.

Albuquerque was interesting. First on the drive in, I couldn’t help but feel that the location scout for Breaking Bad has the cushiest job in the world, as every bit of desert north of Albuquerque looks like a spot one would expect to see the Winnebago and people cooking up a batch of meth.

On the way to Albuquerque, we stopped and saw the petroglyphs which were neat, though I couldn’t help but think “what if someone’s just grabbed some chalk and is fucking with us?”

In Albuquerque we had two really nice meals. Stuffed sopapillas at Stufys for lunch, and then I had the best veggie burger I’ve ever had at the Flying Star Café, before we headed to the ballpark for the Isotopes game. I think this might be my favorite ballpark I’ve been to. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a baseball game before where there seemed to be such a concerted effort to make sure everyone at the game got plastered. Hard liquor was available throughout the park as well as beer, so thumbs up from this drunkard! Someday I’d like to go back for a game when I’m there to drink, and just sit on the bench with Homer Simpson until I’ve drank enough that I think he’s real.

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Roswell was a bit of a surprise. We had no idea the town would be that big. I expected the alien museum and some places around it, but it’s apparently the county seat and it has a military academy and other business, so it’s built up more. This doesn’t stop the museum and surrounding businesses from being depressing however. The museum has exhibits that could be good, though they’re in need of copy editing, but it looks beat up, dirty. Next to the museum we ate at a Mexican food place that seemed just as dreary. At one point Amy said something about the service being a little slow, and all I could think was of course it’s slow, they’re too depressed to be quick, it’s a wonder they got out of bed today. I think maybe it’s just because it was so quiet. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a library as quiet as that museum, or that restaurant for that matter. It’s like there’s a mirth sucking vampire somewhere there… that this downward spiral of despair starts as you enter the museum and you need time to recover afterward.

At Almagordo we stopped for the next of our science visits, seeing the museum of Space History. This was pretty cool, getting a lot of history and more story ideas, as well as seeing the final resting place of HAM, the first ape in space.

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We drove down to El Paso. I’m not sure why I thought this would be a good idea, but it was a bit bleak, though we did have some good Mexican food at the L&J Café, which looks like a dive bar, but there’s good food in there. It’s also across the street from a cemetery, so if I wasn’t already having ideas for western stories, zombie-dive bar-modern western ideas were flying through my head.

Maintaining the western theme, we drove on to Tombstone. The best part of Tombstone I thought was Boot Hill. It’s been restored, so the graves and markers are modern, but the booklet detailing how people died is a treasure trove of dark humor.

We made a mistake here. We thought we’d go into the town a bit later when it might be cooler. What we didn’t realize was, the town, and much of Arizona I later learned, closes early during the summer. I could see summer not being a peak tourist season, but I’m surprised that they don’t do more in the cooler evening rather than the hot afternoons. The result of this was we went into a mostly closed town. It was like a tourist trap that had given up on trying to trap the tourists. I’m guessing a different time of year and it might be different. At Big Nosed Kate’s, I had a few drinks and we ate. Amy found this place to be more depressing then Roswell. While I thought the town was depressing, the bar seemed okay to me… maybe that was the whiskey talking, but with a drink in my hand I’m pretty happy to sit back and people watch.

The next day we had lunch in Tucson at the Tucson Tamale Factory. Along with Stufy’s from Albuquerque, if this place was near my house I’d eat there at least twice a week. They do basically nothing but tamales, but the tamale options are fantastic. My favorite was the Tucson. They also had Indian (east) tamales, stuffed with curried potatoes and vegetables. Really it all tasted good.

That night we part of a Tucson Padres game, before heading out to meet up with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen since I left Blizzard way back in 2004. It was a nice, if brief visit. Amy and I were pretty much running on fumes by that point, having decided earlier that day to go home the next day rather than spend the planned night in Phoenix and seeing the Diamondbacks play.

Before heading home, we did stop off to see my aunt, cousin, and grandfather, who all live just north of Phoenix. It was good to get to see them all, and to meet my cousin’s children.

The drive home was fairly miserable. I don’t think it was the longest drive of the trip, but it might have been the hottest, and having spent so much time in the car over the past weeks, it seemed longer than it probably was.

We stopped for gas and to use the restroom in Blythe. Blythe is a hard town to describe. It’s hot, miserable, and dirty. I got a sense that everyone there had given up, and I can’t say I blame them. Yes, it would only take a moment to make some small part of it a bit less disgusting, but expending energy in that heat for even a moment must be a monumental effort.

As we approached Indio, I realized I’d never been that far east on the 10 before. Well, obviously since we were coming west, I’d been further east that week, as far as El Paso, even. What I mean is, living in California the majority of my life, having had a grandmother that lived in Palm Desert, I’d been to Indio a number of times, Coachella once, but if you told me before this trip that the map actually ended there and a few miles to the east the world ended, I would have believed you. Not rationally. In my mind I’d say, clearly the world doesn’t end, I’ve seen maps. It goes on past there. But in my heart I’d have said, yes, thar be monsters. I still think I might believe that. It had a feel like we were climbing out of Hell… in a Toyota econobox.

On a more serious and dour note, just before the split for the 60 we passed a motorcyclist laying in the second lane of the freeway with a bloody sheet covering the body. I’ve seen corpses before, but for some reason this really stuck with me. It had that sort of unrealness to it. I had to look a few times to verify I was really seeing it. (I wasn’t driving, before you accuse me of being a bad driver for looking.) I felt vaguely nauseous for the rest of the drive.

The odd thing about getting home: I would have thought that with the relative drop in temperature I’d feel cool, but I’ve felt like my skin is on fire ever since the trip. I suppose when you get out of the oven, it takes a while to cool back down.

webcomic

For those people not on Facebook, or maybe missed it when I posted it there earlier, the webcomic my sister and I are doing is now up with its first post: http://www.nightmaresbyday.com/ .

We'll be updating it each Friday.

Brain so drained now... I think it's time to drown the brain in whiskey.

Another summer, another volcano

Last week Amy and I flew up to Portland to visit some friends and complete our checklist of the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest.

The trip did not begin well. First we were mistaken which hotel we were staying at (we were meant to be at the airport Holiday Inn not the Express), which meant that we got in a bit late and not seeing any restaurants close by, ate at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn. DO NOT do this. DO NOT eat at the Portland Holiday Inn. We ordered a mushroom appetizer that tasted suspiciously like someone had chopped up mushrooms and drizzled microwaved brown sauce over them. Amy ordered a stuffed bell pepper. I can think, off the top of my head without trying, of better ways to prepare this. (Begin tangent: (Mexican: stuff the pepper with cheese, beans, rice, onions, tomato) (Mediterranean: garlic, chickpeas, feta, olives, either dill or oregano, couscous) there are a lot more, but that's the first two. End Tangent). Holiday Inn's cook just went with some sad vegetable remnants and a whole block of cheese. I love cheese, even I thought this was a disgusting amount of cheese. But even if it had been good, it still would have been slighted by the fact that the cook had not bothered to remove the sticker from the bell pepper before cooking it. I've done this at home, but then I'm not charging $15+ for a stuffed bell pepper at home.

The problems with the first night's hotel did not end with the restaurant. The cable went out in the room, and I don't know if the hotel had one of those bundles, but we lost internet and the phone didn't work. Fortunately the hotel was gracious the next morning and offered us a slew of "points". Hopefully these "points" convert to airline miles or can be used at the Holiday Inn Express... I can't say I'm in a hurry to stay at a Holiday Inn again.

The previous evening we'd driven away from the airport in a rental car. A brand new GMC... I want to say it was the Acadia. It had been dry when we arrived. When we left the hotel it was pouring rain. I opened the door to the Acadia, and it was full of water. Someone, apparently, had neglected to put a part in or something, because the light consul on the ceiling was leaking water into the vehicle, to the point that the overhead lights and cup holders beneath were full of water. Fortunately we were still close to the Hertz so we drove the car back to Hertz, for a new car (the Chevy model of the exact same vehicle), and to collect Hertz points for our trouble. At this point I was starting to feel like I was in some sort of bizarre traveling video game, where instead of quests you experience inconveniences and return to the quest givers for rewards which will enable you to experience more inconveniences at another date.

With our new, non leaky SUV, we drove to Mount Hood where it was snowing. A lot. Fortunately it was not sticking on the road, but let's see if I can load the pictures:

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The rest of the trip was just fun. Got to go drinking with friends in Seattle on Friday. Played Small World (excellent board game) with friends on the East Side on Saturday. Met up with more friends on the East Side for lunch on Sunday. And my good friend Bob was kind enough to put us up, which meant getting to spend time with him.

And that's it for the volcanoes in the PNW. Now it's Hawaii and Iceland to travel to.

(no subject)

One of the nice things about living in L.A. is having a large and diverse area where I can quickly (relatively) research story settings. Pictures from yesterday's research trip below:







The Danger In Between

Apologies to anyone feeling like they're getting spammed with this, but it's hard to tell where and when people are reading posts to the million different social media, so if you've already read this on the Facebooks, the Twitters, and the Google Plusses, I'm sorry.

But if you haven't already seen it: A supernatural noir story I wrote has appeared in this month's issue of KZine: http://www.amazon.com/Kzine-Issue-3-ebook/dp/B0085KA9E4/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337837679&sr=1-3 .

Home Again

It occurs to me that when I returned to California from living in Seattle I should've realized how often I'd be staying in hotels and started a hotel blog. I suppose there's still time. The room from this weekend certainly would have been blog worthy.

The big thing was that it was on an incline, and I don't mean you ask "Is this on an incline? I don't know. Let's put a pen on the table and see if it rolls." I mean a significant... maybe 3%... grade. The tilt was significant enough that I'd gain momentum walking towards the bed. Trying to get out of bed and leave on the other hand, made all the more difficult by the climb. This also added to the difficulties in trying to get anything done while in the room, being in a hotel can be strange enough, but when you're sitting at a desk that's tilted 10 degrees down to the left, it's an extra blow to the concentration.

Another weirdness was the cellphone reception. I'm not someone that's always on my cellphone, but there's something strange about my wife texting me while she's at her conference and I don't get the text until she's back in the room and in the bathroom at that. For a disturbing moment I though she was texting me from the toilet.

Of course the hotel can't do anything about the incline. The interior design of the room on the other hand was a victory of form over function, and whoever chose the design wasn't going to have it jeopardized by pesky things like "do the customers have access to electrical outlets." The only outlets at the desk were at the base of the oddly shaped lamp, which didn't allow for me to plugin the adapter for my MacBook until I put a notebook under the lamp to tilt it upwards, putting something else at a weird angle in a room of odd angles. Despite being a huge room (we'd gotten an upgrade to this suite), I'd say it was almost as large square footagewise as the condo I'd lived at in Washington, the use of space was strange. The bathroom, the part of it with the toilet and shower, was tiny, so much so that I had to change clothes outside of it. There were two rooms with sinks and mirrors, but one of these was on the other side of the suite, next to the door. Oddly this other sink room had a fan whereas the room with the shower did not. I wonder if when they put the room together they had a list of things that go in a hotel room but chose to put them in at random.

Speaking of design over function, the television was far away from the bed, and had to be re-angled to be seen from the bed. I don't sleep well in hotels generally, and like to fall asleep to the television, so that was a bit of a negative, or would've been if I hadn't taken the precaution to pack a bottle of Trader Joe's Single Malt Whisky.

My other complaints, was that cigarette smoke from somewhere nearby kept making it into the room. I don't mind the smell of smoke, but my wife does, so I wasn't thrilled about that either. Not that it's the hotel's fault, but our neighbors had kids, and these were running up and down the halls shrieking all Saturday afternoon.

On the plus side, I could see across the bay and had a nice view of the San Francisco cityscape. And the hotel did bring us a complimentary wine and cheese platter, and one reason I couldn't be a hotel blogger, I think I'd be far too easily bribeable with booze.

So there you go, the DoubleDay Berkeley Marina: Tolerable with Booze.