Archive for August, 2003

Nordstroms report

August 25, 2003 - 6:11 pm 2 Comments

I took Jo to Nordstrom today. That is a dangerous place for me to go. I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time (and money) there. Heck, it’s not even like going to the mall. I can pretend I’m in a stand-alone store like Steinmart, only bigger.

Salespeople hunt you down to greet you and ask if you need help, but are non-obtrusive and respect “No thanks, just browsing”. The shoe selection is insane. They carry the European comfy brands like Mephisto and Dansko, along with Kenneth Cole, Stuart Weitzman, and Kate Spade. Huge amount of kids shoes, and a giant aquarium in the kids area above a table with crayons and coloring books. Kid clothing, even boutique labels, is actually not that bad. The most expensive kid thing I saw off-hand was a Cach Cach Yeti coat for $68.

I checked out the Estee Lauder counter because I’d heard raves about the Advanced Night Repair cream from people on a rosacea mailing list. The salesperson was really helpful, mentioned that they had a free gift for purchases over $35 and the cream was in the kit, so I got some other stuff too. She whispered over Jo’s head to ask if Jo would like a balloon, and ran over to the kid department to get one for her.

Jo’s really a timid kid. I think we need to get her into some sort of pre-school. She’s intensely shy around strangers. Every time someone talks to her she turns bright red, mumbles, and hides behind me. She was afraid of the piano player and almost had a heart attack when I took her on the escalator – she clung onto my neck for dear life. I have a really bad feeling about Santa pictures this year.

Anyway, I think I’m going to apply for a Nordstrom card. Lord help us.

Seeing-Eye Cat

August 24, 2003 - 3:06 am Comments Off on Seeing-Eye Cat

The Seeing-Eye Cat made another foray, this time to Lowe’s.


August 23, 2003 - 12:21 am Comments Off on Bedtime

My younger daughter is spending her first night in a Big Girl Bed.

Last night it was like there was a conspiracy to keep me from sleeping. First Cuervo snuck upstairs and started delicately eating kitten food from the bag. Then Maddie decided she was Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore from Max, and chased him around the house for a good 30 minutes, slamming into the kids’ bedroom doors along the way. After I chased off the dog and calmed down the cats, I crawled back into bed and had just started to fall back asleep when I heard a couple of moans and a plaintive “Mommmmmmmmy” from the baby monitor. I crossed my fingers that she would just go back to sleep. All was quiet for the next couple of minutes, save a little thump that might have been the Jo hitting the wall as she rolled over.

Then I hear Caroline’s doorknob rattling, and a voice just behind the door saying “Ey! Openna do! Openna do!”. She had vaulted out of her crib and was trying to escape her room. I opened the door as instructed and she declared, “I got outta bed!”. Agreeing as to how she did, I scooped her up and brought her back to sleep in our bed, where she proceeded to wiggle for an hour or so until settling down sometime around dawn.

Today I sat Jo down and had a long talk with her about the bed situation. She has a built-in window-bed-nook in her room, which we planned to use for her bed. A while back she thought she saw a bug in there, and has refused to sleep in her “tall bed” for over a year since. I somehow convinced her not only to try the bed again but to get excited about it, and we moved the other bed from her room into Caroline’s, which had been our plan all along.

And a good thing we did. The other night, one of Caroline’s stuffed animals, appropriately named Kitty, disappeared into thin air within the space of an hour. This was bad. Kitty is necessary for bedtime. We tore the house apart looking for it in all the places the kids had travelled that day, to no avail. When hub moved the bed tonight, we saw Kitty, as well as a stuffed monkey, dog, and rabbit. Apparently Max the Kitten was making a stuffed animal stash for himself.

What a stinkhead.


August 22, 2003 - 5:46 pm 1 Comment

The elm tree in the back yard is already starting to turn color and drop leaves. It seems like signs of the impending season change come earlier every year. It’s hard to believe in autumn and winter when it’s 94 degrees outside. I wonder if a temperature drop will come early this year. I remember when I was a kid, maybe 13, my mom and I went to eat at a diner. Next door was a time and temperature banner. As we ate lunch, we watched the temperature drop forty degrees, from the nineties to the fifties.

One of my favorite things to do is watch a storm roll in. Texas gets some really fierce and elemental storms twice a year – first in spring, around May, which is when the tornado happened in Cedar Park and Jarrell; then in fall, when the cold fronts battle with the existing warm air. The ranch in South Texas is the perfect place to watch a cold front approach. The house is set on a high hill, with views that go on for miles. The view to the north and northwest is unfettered, and the lights from the refinery 5 miles away look like a fairy land from the hilltop vantage. Since cold fronts usually come from the northwest, I can sit outside at the picnic table for hours, watching the black wall of clouds and lightning approach. This viewpoint is also perfect for watching the sunset. In fact, it was my “safe place” thought during the 24 hours of labor I had with my first daughter. I pictured myself drinking a longneck, with a mild breeze in my face, and a perfect purple and orange and red sunset that lasted as long as I wanted; a star peeking out from between the tree branches above.

Mom told me that as I got older, time would go faster. I didn’t believe her then. Now I do.

Stunning realization

August 22, 2003 - 1:24 am 2 Comments

I’m all signed up for Journalcon 2003, and confirmed as a panelist in the session titled “Niches and Hoes: Specialty Web Sites”. When I went to the Programming page to see if my name was there, I saw that I was a moderator. Zoinks! Sure enough, that’s what I was asked to be.

Hopefully the panels won’t be as formal and structured as panels at other conferences. I’m a little anxious though – I don’t know many of the journal crowd, and here I’m going to be speaking. I hope it won’t end like all the school dances I went to: alone and crying in the bathroom. Okay, not all the dances were like that. Just middle school. Shudder.

Anyway, I’m scouring Google for ‘panel moderator tips’.

I really hated middle school. That’s another story for another day.


August 21, 2003 - 4:32 pm 2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had posted a desperate cry for help in locating a forum about immersive gaming. Someone pointed me in the right direction a couple of days later. What I was seeking is called Alternate Reality Gaming, or ARG.

A couple of years ago when the movie A.I. came out, there was a massive immersive gaming experience in order to promote the movie. History and massive spoilers can be found here. Basically there was some weird stuff on the movie posters that got a group of people interested, who started digging for information. The group came together and called themselves Cloudmakers. The game was known as The Beast.

Not long after, Electronic Arts launched their game called Majestic, which was conspiracy theory laden. The game came to a halt on September 11 with this letter to players:

EA has temporarily suspended service on Majestic. Given the recent
national tragedy, we feel that some of the fictional elements in the
game may not be appropriate at this time. We will contact you again
concerning resumption of the game.

Alas, it was not to be. The game was never resumed.

Fine, you say, but what’s your point, and what is an ARG? Well, as Fark would say, “In Soviet Russia, game plays you“. Alternate reality gaming is played on the web, but also via instant messaging, email, IRC, phone calls to and from you, postal mail, and occasionally elements are played in person. When you sign up for a game, you can choose to give them as much information as you feel comfortable with.

The web puzzles are usually devilishly difficult, which is why people team up to work them. It generally takes a group of people to figure them out. I read about one that had letters interspersed through a block of text. You had to extract the letters, then find out how they had been coded (base 64 and rot 13 are popular choices). Uncoded, they came out to something like “WHO ROBS CAVE FISH OF THEIR SIGHT WE DO WE DO”. You had to realize that those were lyrics from a Simpsons episode about the Stonecutters, then go back to the URL you were previously looking at and substitute “stonecutters.html” for the page.

The ARG community can be as persistent as a yap dog on a pants leg. The site generated such buzz that the authors had to put up a disclaimer so that people would leave them alone. The blog She’s a Flight Risk has had people speculating for months whether it is a factual or fictional account.

So where can you go to try out the experience? A very short (some campaigns last for months) game can be found at Random House’s DaVinci Code site. There’s a game on at Jaded Media which is not exactly full-blown alternate reality, which usually has a very complicated plot, but gives a good example of the types of puzzles you’re likely to encounter while playing other games. Martha’s Boarding House has a rundown of games that are ongoing. Currently, the active games seem to be Chasing the Wish, Capture the Flagmonkey, Search4E, and Jaded Media. Other recent games have suffered meltdowns, as either the puppetmasters (parlance for those who run the game) have realized they bit off more than they could chew, or gamers lost interest.

Coming up is Acheron, which has been advertising a Summer 2003 start but is rumored to be waiting for Chasing the Wish to end.

The true immersive games don’t have any replayability factor, nor can you play them after the game is ended. You have to be in the game as it happens. I’ve signed up for the Acheron game and am anxiously awaiting its start. In the meantime I’m amusing myself by reading up on past games and speculating about those in the future.

Other resources:
Alternate Reality Gaming Network
UnFiction and the UnForum
Collective Detective
Martha’s Boarding House

Also check out Yahoo Groups for the game you’re looking for. There are several groups on there.

SWAT’s that?

August 21, 2003 - 3:30 am 2 Comments

What SWAT hand signals really mean.
Money’s gonna get strange this fall. You have been warned.
For the person who has everything, a kangaroo scrotum to hang from a car.
Isn’t Larry Flynt special?
Saddam as you’ve never seen him before.

Head games

August 20, 2003 - 3:46 am 6 Comments

I’ve posted about my migraines recently. Lately they’re out of control. I’ve been getting incapacitating headaches around 2 times a week now. It used to be that I would get them twice a year. I’ve tried all of the new migraine drugs – frova, zomig, imitrex, relpax; the old reliable that used to work, midrin, heavy amounts of advil and caffeine; elavil and muscle relaxants to take at night. My lord, that is an insane amount of medication, all taken in trial and error form, and nothing working.

Last night I had a brainstorm. After my second daughter was born I was getting occasional migraines, a little more often than usual. I changed my Pill to a different kind. I called the nurse at my doctor’s office today and after hearing what I had to say about the migraines and some other stuff, she agreed that something was woefully wrong and that I shouldn’t take it anymore. I’m so glad it only took me over a year to figure that out.

What’s awful is when I get one of these headaches and guinea pig my way through the new medications I’m supposed to try. Nope, relpax didn’t work, wait an hour, try another. That didn’t work either, wait an hour, try midrin. Nope, that’s not it either, wait an hour, try a pain pill. Now I’m woozy and my eyes are rolling back in my head, guess I’ll just sleep through the pain as best as I can. It’s scary. I don’t like taking all that crap. What if I have a reaction to something? Bad juju.

Max the kitten is amazing. He’s stuck to me like glue. He follows me everywhere I go and jumps into my lap while I’m still in the process of sitting down. He looks and acts a lot like Gus, with some of the same weird idiosyncrasies. Like digging underwear out of the dirty clothes pile and running around the room with it on his head. That’s weird. And gross. But Gus did it too, when he was a kitten. I did a little research – cat gestation times are 57-65 days. Max was born 57 days after Gus died. Hub thinks Gus was a Buddhist. Which makes me feel pretty good, I think. Following that line of reasoning, his reward for a good life (and it was good, he was in every way a wonderful cat) is to come back and spend another lifetime with me?

Not to say that I think I’ve replaced Gus. Max is definitely his own little cat. But he does remind me of the good times with the kitties who have gone before, and I’m remembering the cute things they used to do before getting elderly and ill. I think of Gus and Lilly with more smiles than sad now.

Of course, the only problem is that Max has a godawful case of the farts today, and if you have never smelled a cat fart, you don’t know from noxious. That’ll teach me to switch his food.

I think I’m going to join the panel at the Journalcon this October. I’ll find out some more about it tomorrow at the Meetup (barring unforeseen circumstances; I’ve been adding that caveat to just about any plans I make recently because of how often I get migraines).