The Play’s the Thing

Barbara and I were talking about Reed playwrights after watching the rebroadcast of the second episode of Treme the other night. Eric Overmyer (’73) is executive producer and writer on the series—set in the months after the flooding of New Orleans—and he’s also worked on a couple of other critically-acclaimed shows: Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire among them.

Today’s mail brings a flyer from the Reed Alumni association about Lee Blessing who graduated a couple of years before Overmyer. Profile Theater, in the Theater! Theatre space in my neighborhood is doing a staged reading of Blessing’s new work, When We Go Upon the Sea, in a couple of weeks (in addition to producing several other Blessing works this year). I cannot recommend Fortinbras enough for serious but humorful Shakespeare aficianodos.

When We Go Upon the Sea is described in the flyer as exploring “a future, in which President George W. Bush is put on trial for international war crimes.” I have to say that I find this sort of amusing because the one act play I wrote for my playwriting class twenty years ago at Reed was “Ollie North, 2000 A.D.,” with a sort of similar premise. It starred my classmate (not from playwriting) Scott Quinn as Ollie North, local cinephile D.K. Holm as The People, and Barbara as Fawn Hall. I lost my digital copy years ago but D.K. gave me a copy of the script a few years ago. I may have to dig it up and wander over to the show.

Uncivil Defense

Just watched the end of the 2010 version of “The Crazies”—one of the latest entries in the “fast zombie”-style movies of recent years—and aside from the typical huge number of plot holes in any zombie movie it ends as many zombie movies do with a nuclear explosion to wipe out the infection. The two main characters are speeding away from the afflicted area in a big rig, listening to the last thirty seconds of a countdown (presumably they’ve seen zombie movies), asking each other repeatedly “Do you see anything?”

Now, apart from the fact that a truck speeding away from—well, anything—isn’t going to cover even a mile unless they’re going 120 miles an hour, so perhaps it might be a good idea to get the rig pulled over and hunker down rather than be hit by the shockwave while you’re moving at full speed, anyone should know that you don’t look at the nuclear explosion.

A couple of generations of children had that drummed into them. I took an afterschool class taught by the former head of local Civil Defense when I was in third grade. “Duck and cover” may be a joke but you don’t look at the sun unprotected and you don’t look at the nuclear explosion.

Inconvenient Truths Are … Inconvenient

As I mentioned back at the beginning of November, Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski banned me from commenting at his site (again) for a throwaway comment about how I didn’t think a City of Portland web page on living car-less amounted to “hectoring.”

I’ve tended to check his site less and less—not being a believer in one-way communication—but what the heck, it was Christmas Eve and I was looking for distraction from my work. I ran across a one-line comment link he made about why Oregon’s population didn’t grow as fast as Washington’s over the past decade, which linked to a Washington Examiner opinion piece by right-wing economist Michael Barone. Could it be “lack of a personal income tax?”

Barone’s article doesn’t mention Washington or Oregon although he rhapsodizes at length about “diversified,” “business-friendly,” “low-tax” Texas. Bogdanski’s takeaway from the article seems to have been this line: “Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average.”

Now, there are a couple of problems with this that would be evident to anyone who’s both seen anything about the Census report and been watching the business news over the past few years. First, the state that grew the most between 2000 and 2010 was Nevada (35.1%). Nevada’s one of the entries on Barone’s list of states that can teach us all a lesson about taxes. On the other hand, as of October Nevada had been leading the nation in home foreclosures (currently 1 out of every 74 homes) for nearly two years. And their preliminary seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for November 2010 was 14.3%. Maybe rapid growth isn’t such a great thing.

Then again, how much of an edge did no sales tax supposedly net Washington state? But if you look at the chart, their rate of growth was barely higher than Oregon’s: 14.1% vs. 12%. Sure, they got another US House seat but Washington’s population was already 70% larger than Oregon’s ten years ago. Two percent extra growth seems a rather thin ledge to hang this claim from.

And what about all of the states that grew faster than Washington even though they had personal income taxes? Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The first three on that list actually grew faster than Barone’s beloved Texas, although Arizona’s high in the rankings of per capita foreclosures along with Nevada.

And what about Texas itself? Sixth-highest poverty rate (17.3%) in the nation. A child poverty rate of 25.6% last year, seventh-highest in the US. Largest share of the population lacking health insurance. Sure, sign me up.

I put a few of those facts together in a short comment, pointing out that Barone was full of hot air. Bogdanski rejected the comment and posted back to me:

Not today.

We had a couple of email exchanges after that but there was no explanation as to why he banned the post other than my presumed reason that it made the guy he linked to look like a fool.

Digitized Decade: Wry

It’s hard to remember—in this world where every cell phone has a camera, you can have a face-to-face video conversation from a smart phone, and even Barbie is enhanced with more than just plastic breasts—that the whole digital photo thing didn’t hit the consumer world more than about ten years ago.

Digital cameras weren’t exactly new. Working in the printing business in the early 1990s I’d been around as the early professional models were having the kinks worked out of them. Those cost tens of thousands of dollars and most were tethered to a computer for storage. But it wasn’t until 1999-2000 that the first models broke the $1,000 price barrier. Being the good little digital consumer that I was I went out to buy one.

Barbara and I were heading to Hawaii just after Christmas, along with my parents and brother and neither of us had a camera that was in working order. I bought what was then a relatively low-end but decent-quality model: the Canon PowerShot S20.

The S20 had 3.3 megapixels of resolution, which was somewhat offset by the fact that the memory card that shipped with the camera held only 8MB. It being the beginnning of the digitized decade, extra memory chips weren’t in every Walgreen’s or corner grocery; you had to order them online or go to a photo shop and pay an outrageous price to expand to 16MB or—if you were packing a wad of cash—32MB. Or take a few shots and download them to your computer ASAP. I deleted a lot more shots directly from the camera back in those early days than I do now when I have the luxury of a memory chip with literally orders of magnitude more capacity.

The S20 got a lot of work in its first months. A slip on a path in Hawaii dropped it on lava rock, leaving a dent on the corner next to the flash. A couple of weeks later I was in San Francisco for a meeting at Macromedia of the “Director Advisory Council.” Back to San Francisco in February for one of a FlashForward conference (oddly, I don’t appear to have taken any photos of the last trip I made to NYC, in April for the Macromedia UCON). Then it was off across the country and the Atlantic for the wedding of my friends Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin in Ireland, followed by a stay with Director developer James Newton, and a week in Amsterdam where we met up with even more Director folks.

Eric, who was working in the middle of the digital media world at Apple at the time, told me in later years that I was one of the first people he knew with a digital camera and that the pictures I sent them of the wedding and surrounding events were the main digital record they had. That wouldn’t happen now.

The Canon’s sort of a brick compared to my iPhone or the svelte, higher-resolution cameras you can pick up for an eighth the price I paid a decade ago, but it still takes good photos and it’s been stolidly reliable. Below is a picture of an old friend of mine after work as we were getting ready to grab a beer. It’s the fourth picture I took with the S20. The first three photos were deleted long ago.

Brian Wry, 21 December 2000

The Digitized Decade is a look back at the first year of our entry into consumer digital photography.

Unequal Pairing

From the list of offerings at TicketMaster this month:

Husky Men's Basketball

As a man of larger size myself, it doesn’t really seem like a fair match.

Shining Critical Path

Kudos to Critical Path Software for getting gobbled up by eBay.

A dozen years ago, back when I had an office across from the then-under-construction Westin Hotel, Critical Path was in an adjacent building on the northwest corner of SW Broadway & Alder. My office partners, graphic designer Brad Hicks and Flash developer/animator Peter Sylwester collaborated on a web site for the Critical Path, with Brad designing the fish skeleton logo that they’ve used ever since and Peter helping to get the whole thing into shape.

A couple of times, Critical Path asked me to collaborate on bids when the projects they’d been asked to take on included Director content—most of their work at the time was Mac ports of software, from hardware drivers to CD-ROMs—but it wasn’t until they brought me the first of the UbiSoft CSI games (which included some Shockwave 3D content) to port to the mac that I actually was able to do anything for them. I managed to help out on a couple of other projects in the years since.

A number of the folks I play poker with have worked for (or are working once again for) Critical Path, and every time I’ve talked to CEO Steve Romero I’ve told him I need to invite him out to pay him back for having us over a party. That’s probably going to be a harder date to make now that he’s a vice president at eBay!

Why We Raise

Bonehead play of the night. We were more than two hours into a tournament limited to eight players per table and full up at 1,000 players. I’ve been playing a fairly tight, aggressive style that’s got me in around 50th place among the 240 remaining players. 104 places get paid, $750 goes to the top spot, but you need to make at least sixth to break triple digits from your $4 buy-in.

I’m on the button with QcKc. We’re in Level XII, blinds are 150/300 with 40 ante. UTG+2 (with about 17K in his stack) raises to 600 and the cutoff position (the table leader with 27K) calls. I call when I should have re-raised. The big blind (with 22K) calls.

The flop drops a Tc8d8c on the table. The big blind checks to UTG+2 who bets 600. The cutoff calls and this time I re-raise to 1,200. The big blind makes a pot-sized raise to 5,100, which is called by UTG+2 but drives out the big stack. I call, leaving me with over 12K behind. There’s almost 19K in the pot.

After a 6d shows on the turn, the big blind tries to take the pot down with an all-in of almost 17K. That drives out UTG+2, leaving me heads-up wondering if I can snag a club on the river. I’m reasonably certain the big blind has a set of 8s which I can only beat If I call, I’m out if I don’t. I shove my last 12.3K in.

As it happens, the river gives me my club but it’s another 6, making a full house for the guy who was holding 8s9h which I doubt he’d have kept if a substantial re-raise had been made by me in the pre-flop betting.


I thought that Harold White—the mayor of Aumsville, Oregon where a tornado hit yesterday—was remarkably collected during his press conference just a few hours after it ripped through the town of 3,500. For someone faced with something as rare as a tornado in Oregon, who presumably doesn’t have to run a lot of press conferences, he managed to get the right questions to the right agency chiefs with aplomb.

One of the KGW reporters on the scene? Their take was that White seemed “ho-hum” about the whole thing. Seriously, I know there are endless hours of newshole to fill with blather, but “ho-hum?”


I’m glad the FBI has developed the capabilities to ferret out young men with murder on their minds in places like Portland and Maryland, but it does make me wonder if some of the energy needed for supporting an operation that builds fake bombs and people to track these targets for months on end could possibly have been spent looking for people like Byron Williams who was actually on his way to kill people with real bullets when the California Highway Patrol tried to stop him for reckless driving.