Dozer Online


Writing group

Well, I haven't submitted anything yet to the Cat Vacuuming Society writers' group. But I'm still plugging away at those random writing prompts. This entry is for the prompt "Every (k)night". There's some pretty clunky dialogue here, but remember, it's all impromptu writing.

Every knight on the chessboard was missing its left ear. Arivali picked up one of the white knights and looked for other marks.

"When I was a girl," Kiran explained, "my sisters and I were each given a foal to raise. I named my baby girl (I never came up with a name, so blank). We nurtured our children, and when they grew strong enough, we raced them through the family wheat fields.

"(Blank) was always the swiftest, and that was one of the many reasons I gave my siblings to envy me. Her beauty was fascinating. I spent entire afternoons marveling at her flawless physique. Not a blemish in her coat, not an ounce of weakness in her entire frame.

"One morning, I found out that someone had cut the tip of her left ear off during the night. The deliberate maiming maddened me, to be honest. Her perfection was lost to me, and I saw no point in keeping her around. I made sure that her death was painless and personally administered."

Arivali looked down and noticed that the kings were missing their heads.

"Don't ask," Kiran smiled.


Cheating on blog entry dates

You may have noticed lately that there won't be any posts on Dozer Online for several days, and then all of a sudden a week's worth of blogging magically appears overnight.

I've been posting retroactively. That is, whenever I don't take the time to post a blog entry, I'll at least start an entry to set the time stamp. Then I'll go back and fill the entry in later.

Cheating? Technically. At least I'm writing.


Living in DC

A big impending life change is on the way in less than two weeks, as Liv will come to DC and move into my apartment.

Over the past eight months, we've had a long-distance relationship. While the distance meant we didn't see each other more than once a month, it also added an extra element of excitement and freshness to the times that we were together.

Now, being together will become far more commonplace, and maybe the magic of long-distance visits will give way to petty annoyances and the drudgery of apartment upkeep. And maybe I'll miss the comfort bubble of privacy that I've gotten used to, having my own place.

Still, the companionship will be really nice. I've made friends over the past two years in the Washington DC area, but I don't see many people on a regular basis. When I was in Cleveland, I could drive over to a friend's house on a moment's notice and hang out for the evening. But distance and scheduling (and my own shyness) prohibits that here.

So even though cohabitation is uncharted territory for me, I look forward to sharing my time in the nation's capitol with Liv.


Truth and miracles: Monday night TV on ABC

Last night, I watched some new shows that ABC was promoting heavily during the Super Bowl: Veritas: The Quest and Miracles.

Veritas was about a globetrotting team of adventurers who searched for ancient relics while being pursued by gun-toting bad guys. The show was like the movie Independence Day, in that you could make a drinking game out of the numerous "homages" to scenes in previous movies. This has heaping doses of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, with a little bit of Entrapment for good measure.

Also, Veritas commits the cardinal sin of making a main character out of the Alienated Teen with a Chip on His Shoulder. Message to Hollywood: No One Likes This Character. From Buffy's Dawn to Angel's Connor to Veritas' own Mini-Keanu, they serve only to annoy.

Miracles showed more promise. It's about a Catholic priest who verifies or debunks miracles, at a time when an impending Big Bad is making its presence known. The show started out with effectively creepy imagery, and it developed an ominous atmosphere of mystery. I'll stick with this show for now, and hope that it doesn't fall into the trap of laying on a thick layer of style to mask a threadbare story.


Reading Fellowship of the Ring

Inspired by the Two Towers movie and the Platinum DVD set for Fellowship of the Rings, I'm trying for the fourth time to read the first book in Tolkien's classic trilogy.

In my previous attempts to read this, the slow pace of the story's beginning left me uninspired to plow forward. The encyclopedic introduction of the hobbits, the dense descriptions, all the songs and the seemingly countless breaks for meals while on the run gradually wore down my interest, and shook my sense of self as fan of fantasy literature.

So now, I cheated and started reading at the chapter where the hobbits meet Strider. I take the book with me whenever I ride the metro, and I've actually made it to Part 2 of the novel.

I feel confident that I'll actually finish the book. It's interesting to see where the movie deviated from the original text. Hell, I'm even reading the songs and the verse now.


Once more into the gaming breach

One of the constant recreational activities in my life has been role-playing games. I started with Dungeons and Dragons in my early grade school years, and then moved on to other games well into my post-college days.

I've started gaming with a new group. We're playing Spycraft, a cinematic, colorful espionage game.

Imagine if Q from the Bond movies went AWOL, and took his entire technology team with him. That's the basic premise of our game. Our goal is to track down the renegade scientists and engineers who have gone rogue from a global conglomerate of ultra-secret, trans-national espionage agencies.

The group has met once to set the statistics that define our characters' abilities. The people seem bright and friendly; there are no apparent social misfits that can so often tank a role-playing group.

One interesting aspect of the group is the near-even gender ratio. The players are almost entirely made up of couples.

I'm far behind everyone else in establishing a history for my character. I've always taken a long time to make a unique character that will remain interesting over months of play, and also fit in well with the general theme and direction of the game.

Everyone else is already role-playing the gathering of the characters over e-mail. I really need to get my character set so that I can jump in the fun.


The Invite Everyone You've Ever Met in DC Happy Hour

On a late weekend night, three friends at a bar decided to throw a happy hour party and invite everyone they had met in DC.

They scoured through their archived e-mail, and flipped through every business card that they picked up over more than a year's worth of volunteer activities, theater outings, and other social activities.

More than 200 e-mailed invitations later, there was the Invite Everyone You've Ever Met in DC happy hour. It was held this past Thursday night at the Hawk and Dove.

Roughly two dozen people braved the frigid night air to attend. It's a good thing more people didn't turn out: we had only a small room in the basement, meagerly warmed by two anemic fireplaces.

The room had large windows facing a narrow alleyway. I wondered if drunken wanderers ever stumbled to relieve themselves there, inadvertently giving a free show to patrons at the Hawk and Dove.

At the start, we all tried to figure out just how we had gotten invited. A few people didn't even remember the person who invited them. But it wasn't long before friendly conversation built up its momentum.

I knew several people in the group, through the Dcplay group and the local blogger community. After participating in the various social mailing list scene, you can count on recognizing at least one person at any given event. Which can be good or bad, but usually good in my experience.

There's talk of continuing the happy hour tradition. I look forward to the next one.


It's getting cold in here, let's keep on all our clothes

So in case you haven't noticed, it's been damn cold lately, with temperatures approaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit once you account for the wind chill.

The kind of cold where it feels like needles are plunging into your skin.

Honestly, the weather reminds me of my college days in Ann Arbor, MI. I may start getting the urge to change my career direction on a weekly basis.

It has been unfortunate timing that the weather would turn so bad on the week when I would be going out almost every other day.

But I'm just thankful that I have a thick comfortable coat, and heating that is covered in my rent.


Winter Carnival

Last night, I attended the opening night of the second annual Winter Carnival of New Works.

This was a group of eight 10-minute plays that were put together by the Madcap Players. These plays were selected out of more than 80 submissions from local playwrights.

One of the final pieces was written by Dcplay organizer Daniel Louie. So I joined members of the theatergoing group to check out his latest work and to provide moral support.

With only one or two exceptions, the mini-plays were interesting, clever, funny, or all three.

The last piece was my favorite, in which a man who is grieving his deceased grandfather is tormented by his restless girlfriend as she speculates on the nature of his family dynamics.

In another clever story, a clothing store manager helps a customer with her shopping. They interrupt each other's dialogue so often that not a single complete sentence is uttered. Yet their expressions and actions fully express their feelings and attitudes.

The show is housed at the H Street Playhouse. It runs through January 28.


Listening to Kerouac?

For the first time, I'm listening to an audio book. It's a CD version of "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac.

I'm not sure audio books are for me. Hearing the narrator interferes with my visualization of the story.

I would expect this tale of wanderlust, soul-seeking, and abandon to be voiced by a manic, raspy-throated young man.

Instead, the book is read by someone who sounds like the guy who announces the endorsement grants on National Public Radio.


Chicago movie

I saw the movie adaptation of the musical Chicago yesterday, which I liked.

The musical numbers were catchy and vibrant. They were presented as taking place in the imagination of the lead character. So you never stop to wonder why people are dancing and singing in jail. Also, everyone does their own singing and acting, which is always nice to see.

The characters are brash and energetic, but not particularly sympathetic... they include fame-starved killers, a manipulative lawyer, and a corrupt prison warden. But that pretty much crystallizes the popular understanding of Jazz Age Chicago. And everyone dances and sings well, so you're entertained enough to care about them.

One character who elicits some pity is a manipulated husband, played by John C. Reilly (who, along with William H. Macy, has mastered the art of portraying the downtrodden Everyman).


Driving to Ohio

This is an extended weekend for me, since Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday. So I'm taking advantage of the extra time off to drive to Ohio and see Liv.

I left work in the early afternoon to cram as much of the road trip as possible into the daylight hours. In fact, the day provided the nicest driving weather I'd enjoyed in quite awhile... blue skies, no rain, no fog.


Writing group last night

Another person joined the Cat Vacuuming Society writing group last night. It seems the group's new exposure in the Barnes and Noble newsletter is paying off.

In addition, we got two more writing pieces to evaluate. So group activity is pretty good. Now I just need to get something of my own together for evaluation.

Anyway, most of my writing exercises this week continued a story that spontaneously began forming during last week's meeting. Here's part of the continuation. The prompt for this exercise was "Being young"...

They strode the hospital hallways like giants in rented velvet. Goov was in full character. He stopped being on a date and started auditioning for the next Santa Claus movie. He bellowed his ho ho hos and pointed at all the doctors to let them know that Saint Nick was watching. "You're not cheating on your golf scores still, I hope," he joked.

Kimmie bounced in step with her date for the day. She wasn't paying the camera operator any heed for the first time since the date started.

The camera guy followed three steps behind, focused on the couple but occasionally panning for reaction shots by the hospital residents. Their faces may need to be fuzzed out for privacy reasons, but that was something for editing to worry about.

A few kids flocked around Goov and Kimmie, pattering along the cold tiled hallway in their plastic slippers. One girl in red pigtails glided before them in her wheelchair, leading the parade of toy seekers. The children looked up and smiled at the two Santas, hoping for toys. A few were delighted simply because they were going to be on TV.


Sneak preview of Return of the King?

Just before I woke up a few mornings ago, I was dreaming that I was watching the last Lord of the Rings movie.

Gandalf was in a red Corvette. Arwen was by his side, wearing a wedding dress.

I haven't read the book, but I'm pretty sure that's not how the story ends.


Music I'm listening to... Hot Hot Heat

If you like early 80s post-punk rock, you may want to check out the CD "Make Up the Breakdown" by Hot Hot Heat.

The quick, energetic songs evoke memories of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, and the singer's delivery sounds like Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo) or Robert Smith (The Cure). But the music is never bluntly derivative.


Tracking codes on junk mail response envelopes

Back in October, I wrote about junk mail and the customer tracking codes on postage-paid return envelopes.

The point is to discourage people from mailing the envelopes for purposes other than their intended use, i.e. to make junk mailers pay twice for their unsolicited mail.

It turns out that the code may very well be a bluff. I've heard from two people who have seen the same tracking code on their junk mail envelopes: 0016542323019. The envelopes were sent by Capital One and Visa.

Of course, it's easy enough to simply cut out or mark over the code...


Colossal colon!

Only 54 days until the Colossal Colon comes to Washington DC...


The value of art versus life

I watched The Train last night at the Library of Congress' Mary Pickford Theater.

The movie's set in France during World War 2. The story focuses on resistance fighters who try to stop a Nazi colonel from moving a trainload of priceless paintings to Germany. It starred Burt Lancaster and was directed by John Frankenheimer.

The Train has a clever plot that earned an Oscar nomination for best screenplay. Much of its cleverness shows in the numerous ways that the resistance delays, reroutes, and otherwise impedes the train's journey.

Another thoughtful aspect of the movie is the question it poses about what is more valuable: paintings by artists such as Picasso and Gauguin, or the lives of the people who strive to protect them.

Lancaster's character, Labiche, doesn't think the paintings are worth risking lives. He takes on the mission to protect them only because his compatriots are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for them.

Meanwhile, the Nazi colonel who values the art for their irreplaceable beauty is also capable of coldly, ruthlessly killing scores of people to secure the paintings.

I saw the movie with a group from the dcclassics movie-viewing group. After the free showing, we hung out at Cosi's and talked about movies over dinner.


Impromptu writing exercise

Last night, I attended my first 2003 meeting of the Cat Vacuuming Society writing group.

Here's the result of one of my writing exercises, inspired by the prompt "She had her suitcase with her":

She had her suitcase with her. She swung it and clocked Jim right in the face. He stumbled three quick steps, and then straightened out with his hands held up before him. That way, he was in position to catch the suitcase during the inevitable follow-up swing. Jim yanked it away and threw it across the room.

He just stood and looked at Kimmy with his fists clenched. She held her face downward, but her tear-soaked eyes kept contact with his. Two moments passed. A tear grew ripe and dripped down Kimmy's cheek.

Jim took one quick step at Kimmie, and she flinched back, darting back to the center of the room. Then Jim unclenched his right fist and rubbed the point of impact on his face.

"You packed the iron, didn't you?" he asked.

"Hotels always supply crappy irons," Kimmie mumbled. "They take forever to heat up."


Everyone they've ever met in DC

Here's something to look forward to: three people decided to throw a happy hour party and invited everyone they'd ever met in town. They scrounged their old e-mail archives and business card collections, gathered from numerous theater outings, happy hours, volunteer projects, and so forth. The last I checked, the invite list boasted more than 200 names!

I was invited by someone I met through the Washington Post Restaurants group. Should be fun...


Post-holiday blues

The downside of spending so much time in Ohio was that the vacation break was just long enough to get used to being with my friends and family.

Now I miss everyone more than I had before; before the break, I had been pretty well-adjusted to being in the Washington DC area.

I have plenty of friends here, but none as close as the people I grew up with. And logistically, it's not as easy to get together with people here than it was in Cleveland.

I went through a similar mood dip this time last year. So maybe there's a little seasonal affective disorder at play here.

So until I start seeing people again, my plan to get over this is to keep as busy as possible, so I don't dwell on the residual homesickness.


Closing out 2002

This past holiday season was great. I drove back to Cleveland the weekend before Christmas, just in time for a few parties. There was lots of quality time with friends, family, and Liv too!

Liv and I parted ways after Christmas so that she could see college friends and I could celebrate my dad's birthday. Then I met Liv back at her hometown to close out the year and meet a bunch of her friends.

Highlights of the season included:
  • Sharing a kiss in front of church underneath a healthy Christmas Eve snowfall

  • The surprise of a friend's engagement

  • Making a half-dozen store visits in a mere two hours for last-minute gift shopping with friends

  • Movies: Two Towers and Catch Me If You Can

  • 2003-01-02


    Happy new year, everyone.