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December 2002 Archives

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December 31

Watched another Birds of Prey, this time "Lady Shiva". The episode begins eight years previously when Batgirl finds Lady Shiva, who I swore was Catwoman the first time I saw her. Isn't there a supervillain hall of heraldry where you have to register your costume and verify it's not too similar to somebody else?

In the fight, Batgirl causes a gas leak which results in an explosion, supposedly killing Lady Shiva. Fast forward to the present day, where a series of murders including a throwing star suggest Lady Shiva is back. Meanwhile, Helena's best friend from high school, Sandra, also turns up in New Gotham after a long, mysterious absence.

Since comic books characters can't piece clues together, no one makes the connection. Popular undressed model Sung Hi Lee portrays Lady Shiva/Sandra. Meanwhile, Dinah falls for cutie Matt Kendall and uses her psychic powers to discover his interests.

Barbara returns to her Batgirl suit and uses some neural stimulator to enable her to walk again and confront Lady Shiva. The fight doesn't last long, but Huntress soon arrives. Lady Shiva whips off Batgirl's cowl, puts the clues together and runs away.

Lady Shiva's sister died in that explosion eight years previously. Shiva plames Batgirl for the death and Barbara continues to bear the guilt. Obviously, the sister didn't choose a life of crime, but Lady Shiva must bear some of the blame for letting her activities get so close to her sister.

Dinah realizes the shallowness of the tactics she's used to get Matt to like her. At the New Gotham High School dance, she confesses to looking in his PDA. (He never asks how she got his password. What? He doesn't have a password?)

Lady Shiva finds Dinah while she wanders away from the dance. After a little fighting and some running away, Huntress shows up. More fighting ensues and Barbara lands the winning blow. She refuses to kill Lady Shiva/Sandra.

Back at school, Dinah discovers that her friend Gina switched lab partners because Gina was a lesbian and had the hots for the girl who was Matt's partner.

The Enterprise episode "Precious Cargo" was the lamest episode since Justice in The Next Generation. Enterprise finds a cargo ship with two aliens who need a stasis pod repaired. Trip, in the process of repair, discovers the passenger was actually kidnapped. She's Kaitaama, the heir to some empire.

The alien Goff knocks out Trip and escapes with his ship. He leaves his partner Plinn stranded on board Enterprise. What results is the umpty-millionth love story between a couple who can't stand each other and argue incessantly.

For some stupid reason, Goff leaves Trip and and Kaitaama together to leave in the trashcan-shaped escape pod. The pod of course provides little space and results in the inevitable claustrophobic conflict that will bring the couple closer together.

Back on Enterprise, the crew tries to get the warp frequency from Plinn, to better track his vessel. Archer and T'Pol create a pre-"tribunal" scene that provides the only redeeming moments in the entire 45 minutes.

The escape pod lands on Dagobah. Trip and Kaitaama get wet, naked and eventually horizontal. The escape pod sends out a distress call which Trip stops. Goff searches for them, but is easily defeated. Not long after, the Enterprise crew show up and we are put out of our misery.

Goff and Plinn represent two most incompetent crooks in the universe. I don't know how they could have defeated the guard detail Kaitaama claims to have had. The pair spend time on Enterprise instead of with their cargo. How did Trip expect to get rescued if he didn't want the distress call to go out?

According to Monkee, Kaitaama's homeworld of Krios Prime is the same Kamala from The Perfect Mate.

December 30

Watched the Birds of Prey episode "Split". A metahuman named Crawler terrorizes New Gotham, grabbing women and girls from lovers lanes, torturing and killing them. Brian Thompson, a frequent guest Klingon and Luke and the Judge on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrays Crawler.

Darkstrike, a metahuman superhero from Central City, joins Huntress in the search for Crawler. Darkstrike tracked Crawler in Central City, but he killed Darkstrike's fiancée. The audience quickly figures out the Darkstrike and Crawler are one and the same, although the descent was more difficult to trace. Since Darkstrike couldn't stop Crawler from killing his fiancée, he became Crawler in an act of massive guilt, and undergoes a Jekyll/Hyde-Banner/Hulk transformation. Huntress defeats him and he goes to Arkham Asylum.

A beautiful blonde assistant D.A. named Lynne appears at the start of the episode, but results in a total red herring because she never reappears. We just couldn't figure out the purpose of the D.A. at a crime scene with no suspect arrested. TV Tome finds more troubling that the Birds can't figure out Dr. Harleen Quinzel is Harley Quinn. Hey, she can't figure out Helena Kyle is the Huntress who keeps thwarting her plans.

TV Tome also believes the James Marshall who directed this episode also appeared in Twin Peaks and A Few Good Men, but I tend to think the episode director was more likely this guy. Whitlock thinks the Birds resemble the Powerpuff Girls. The redhead-the smart one, the leader-Barbara-Blossom. The brunette-the fighter-Helena-Buttercup. The blonde-the sweet one-Dinah-Bubbles.

Helena answers a call on Kane Street, an homage to Batman creator Bob Kane.

December 29

The Giants are not significantly more talented than the Indigenous Persons, just better coached. That's why they're in the playoffs.

I want to revisit an earlier idea I had. Both East divisions played the West divisions and the North divisions played the South divisions. My point was that if divisions were particularly weak or strong, certain teams may gain an advantage in the wild card race by coming from or playing against weaker divisions. Conversely, there is a disadvantage to playing in or playing against a stronger division. The solution would be to limit the wild cards to one per "subconference," i.e., the divisions that play each other. In addition, the teams in that subconference form a bracket all the way to the conference finals.

Here's how the wild cards turned out:
AFC Wild Cards: Cleveland, Indianapolis
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta, New York Giants

By my method the wild card teams would be:
AFC Wild Cards: Denver, Indianapolis
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta, New York Giants

Denver was hurt by playing in a division where every team finished at least at .500 and playing 4 games a division where every team also finished at least .500. Meanwhile, Cleveland was helped by playing the Bengals twice and the Texans once.

So the current playoff schedule has:
Indianapolis at New York Jets, with the winner playing at Oakland, unless Cleveland wins, then the winner plays at Tennessee.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh, with Cleveland playing at Oakland if they win and Pittsburgh playing at Tennessee if they win.
New York Giants at San Francisco, with the winner playing at Philadelphia, unless Atlanta wins, then the winner plays at Green Bay.
Atlanta at Green Bay, with Atlanta playing at Philadelphia if they win and Green Bay playing at Tampa Bay if they win.

I would have:
Denver at New York Jets, with the winner playing at Oakland.
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, with the winner playing at Tennessee.
New York Giants at San Francisco, with the winner playing at Philadelphia.
Atlanta at Green Bay, with the winner playing at Tampa Bay.
So I have Denver in the playoffs, and the divisional games are set in stone.

December 28

Went grocery shopping this morning, then this evening, went to Winter Lights Festival.

We watched the CSI episode "Blood Lust". An Indian cabdriver is flirting with his passenger. He's not watching when he runs over a boy. The cabdriver steps out to look, then gets back in his car to radio for help. However, bystanders pull him out of the car and beat him up.

The dead boy has his viscera exposed, an unlikely injury from a hit and run. Turns out the boy, Todd Branson, was stabbed several blocks away in a park. The crime scene investigators also find a man's dead body there.

The man is the mother's boyfriend. The family had moved several times, trying to get away from a stalking biological father. The boyfriend was going to take another job in another city and the family would move with him. The younger boy Eric, tired of moving, shot him. The boyfriend stabbed the older brother in the fray.

A lot of torture and gunfire in the Firefly episode "War Stories", especially for an episode written by a woman (Cheryl Cain). The historical character Shan Yu figures prominently for the belief that a person's true nature can only be revealed under torture. It also follows from the opening episode,"The Train Job," where the Serenity crew turn down a heist and give back the money to the crime boss Niska.

Wash reveals that he's jealous of Zoe's relationship with Malcolm so he asks to join him on a delivery run. The pair are captured by Niska's forces who proceed to torture them mercilessly. Wash and Mal survive by arguing vociferously over Zoe.

Zoe comes with money to ransom them, but Niska will only release one. Zoe takes Wash and Niska gives them Malcolm's ear as well. Wash wants go back and rescue Mal because their argument kept him alive.

Except for Inara and River, the entire crew mount a rescue effort. Jayne, Wash and Zoe represent the primary fire team while Book, Simon and Kaylee provide cover. Kaylee gets shellshocked, but River comes along and shoots down several folks with her psychic powers.

In a sideplot, Inara entertains a female client. Jayne watches them go to Inara's shuttle and says,"I'll be in my bunk."

Again the evening ended with Birds of Prey and the episode "Primal Scream". Reese gets Helena to go undercover and join a gang of thieves called the Animals who hide behind animal masks and steal from rich patrons of public establishments. Reese and Helena's mutual distrust is re-kindled as Helena enjoys the lawless life a little too much.

Helena's cover is blown and she and Reese are chained up in the Animals' basement. She turns into Huntress and takes on the gang single-handedly. Meanwhile, Barbara has sex with Wade.

Sunderland lost to look-alike Southampton. It's getting pretty depressing.

December 27

This bit from Peter Gammons:

Fact or Fiction: Washington D.C. is baseball's ideal 2004 solution for the Expos.

Fiction. Baseball agrees to a large degree with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who thinks that moving the Expos to Northern Virginia would rob him of a big chunk of his revenue and create two mediocre franchises. One MLB official says, however, that since the union would never sign off on having a team in Mexico City, the only alternative might be San Antonio, if they could play a quarter of their games in Mexico. That would be great: in two seasons, the Expos could have played home games in Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Texas.

I believe major league baseball officials spend their lunch hour concocting outlandish scenarios to feed Gammons. The ones that find their way to his column get a free lunch that week.

Watched the Enterprise episode "Vanishing Point". Sato and Tucker are visiting the ruins of civilization on a planet with no bio-signs. They must quickly teleport up to Enterprise because of a particularly dangerous electrical storm that only happens on alien planets.

Trip goes first, followed by Hoshi. Upon her return to the starship, she feels different and apprehensive. Repeated visits to Doctor Phlox reveal no abnormalities.

Hoshi finds a birthmark has moved, she sometimes becomes invisible in the mirror, and the shower water passes through her hands. She oversleeps and must report to the bridge to respond to a hostage emergency. Tucker and Mayweather, down on the planet to recover the shuttle, have been abducted by aliens. Never mind that they previously found no bio-signs. Hoshi frantically tries to translate the aliens' language to no avail. Archer sends her to her quarters and puts Crewman Baird at her post.

Later, Hoshi finds T'Pol in the mess hall and inquires about the emergency. The Vulcan replies that Baird used the universal translator to win release of Tucker and Mayweather. All Enterprise had to do was give back the rocks and destroy the photographs.

In the fitness center, Hoshi tells Trip about her continuing transporter apprehensions. After he leaves, she becomes totally immaterial. The crew undertakes a massive search for her and Dr. Phlox discovers that she was degrading at the sub-molecular level.

Archer must inform her father of Hoshi's death. The captain gets tongue-tied and technical. Her father talks as if a telephone is technology beyond him. Hoshi tries to communicate with Archer by using Morse code and interrupting plasma flow inside his room. He decides to tell Trip to look at it in the morning.

Hoshi discovers aliens, supposedly the same ones who abducted Tucker and Mayweather, are setting explosives to blow up the ship. She disarms some of the devices, but the aliens are leaving from the portable transporter pad. Hearing mysterious voices of Reed and Tucker, she follows the second alien onto the transporter pad.

Hoshi appears in the transporter room, just after beaming up from the planet. The storm had disrupted her in the pattern buffer for eight seconds. The rest of the show was the equivalent of "It was all a dream."

In many ways, this was a good episode showing character development, but it turned out only to be Hoshi's development. The actions of every other character was an artifact of her point of view. I wish there had been a logical explanation for invisibility like the Next Generation episode The Next Phase.

We also watched The Twilight Zone episodes "Future Trade" and "Found and Lost". In "Future Trade," Frank Whalley plays Martin Donner, a hardware assistant manager with a nagging wife and hateful kids. Both his home and work computer are inundated with pop-up ads for an entity called "Future Trade".

In the Future Trade offices, Martin learns that the company acts as a go-between for people who want to exchange their future lives. He agrees and finds himself in the life of a rich executive with a beautiful house and wife. One must ask at this point, why would someone give this up for Martin's mundane existence?

I figured Martin's new future must involve either: a gangster in the sights of his rivals or someone dying of a terminal disease. Turns out the South American wife had been intending to kill him all along.

In "Found and Lost," Brian Austin Green plays Sean Moore, an executive about to sell the coffee chain he founded. As an aside, the name Sean Moore was a popular live role-playing name, being a combination of the names of two James Bond actors. I guess there were a lot of Roger Connerys also.

Back to the story. A writer for a major finance magazine comes to interview him, but insists on asking Moore about his past. Sean financed his first coffee shop by selling a family heirloom, an autographed 1927 Yankees baseball.

When she leaves, he finds the baseball in his drawer. Back in his apartment, Moore finds his old high school letter jacket. When he calls the business magazine, Sean finds the woman interviewing him died three days earlier and was his high school sweetheart, Bess.

We find that Moore actually stole the ball from his father, who was heartbroken ever after. Sean returns to his old house, opens the door and finds himself an 18-year-old once again. This time he doesn't steal the ball and his life resumes from there.

The episode ends with Sean taking Bess to see Roger Rabbit. Given that this was probably the spring of 1990, maybe Back to the Future II would have been a more accurate and appropriate selection.

The final show of the evening was the episode "Prey for the Hunter" from Birds of Prey. Joe Flanegan plays Claude Morton, a detective ostracized for his bizarre beliefs, much like Fox Mulder. Interestingly, he looks like a combination of David Duchovny and Dylan McDermott.

Metahumans appear to have been killed by their own powers. Turns out Morton is a metahuman-hater, but is himself a metahuman who can copy the powers of other metahumans. Seems that no two metahumans have the same powers. Now it starts to feel like Cosmic Encounter.

Alone against the metahuman he copies, Morton can win, but surrounded and overwhelmed by a number of metahumans, he's incapacitated. Morton commits suicide by jumping off the building.

December 26

Wonderful Lord of the Rings movie using old film stock, primarily of Humphrey Bogart. I use to read the trilogy to my sister when she was eight years old with a Peter Lorre-like voice for Gollum. The editor of this film had the same idea.

December 25

Got a white Christmas after all. After opening the presents, I shoveled the driveway and sidewalk. Christmas dinner at my parents house with the usual suspects, except for those working.

December 24

I can't believe I'm first with this but I haven't seen any tale-of-the-tape comparison between Bill Frist, the newly ascendant Republican physician, and Howard Dean, the Presidential hopeful and Democratic physician.

Taught blackjack to Miranda as an adding exercise.

December 23

Finally got to the doctor to get some antibiotics and decongestant. You ever notice Robitussin DM tastes like Play-Doh?

Watched the Buffy episode "Never Leave Me". This one served to transition between episodes. Andrew is back in Sunnydale and, under the influence of the First Evil, believes Warren and Jonathan are guiding him. Willow finds Andrew buying pig's blood at the butcher and takes him into custody.

Buffy has Spike tied up in their home to figure out the First Evil. In their conversation, Buffy believes Spike is redeemable because he has faced and fought his own true evil. The First Evil possesses him and breaks through a wall to grab Andrew and give him a massive hickey.

The harbingers of the first evil blow up Watcher headquarters and break into the Summers house to abduct Spike. Spike's blood is used to call up a primordial vampire. Principal Wood goes into the basement of the school to find Jonathan's body, which he buries somewhere outside.

December 22

Miranda put return address labels and stamps on our Christmas cards. The return address labels this year feature Kauai. The stamps are the neuter and spaying ones. We finished sealing them and will mail them out tomorrow.

The Indigenous Persons defeated the Moo Cows with a good running game. I hope Spurrier doesn't consider game Osaka II, and believe that just because things worked in this game, his philosophy should work in every game.

Watched the CSI: Miami episode "A Horrible Mind". In one case, a college professor is found brutally tortured and murdered. He specialized in the psychology of evil as well as playing cruel mind games on his students. His killer turned out to be a relatively small girl who accomplished several hours of torture, as well as suspending him from a tree with a the help of a surge of adrenaline. Sorry, I really didn't believe it.

In the other case, the bloated body of a man is found in the trunk of a car, which has been dumped in the water. The victim was disposing of his boss's vehicle as an insurance scam, in return for money to take his girlfriend to Aruba. Turns out there was no foul play. The victim reached into the trunk of the car to get a Neil Diamond CD, bumped his head against a bolt, and fell unconscious into the boot as the vehicle tumbled into the water.

Apparently, this was Kim Delaney's last episode. They didn't make a big deal of it and she was barely recognizable in the early part of the show.

December 21

Finished the Christmas cards. Whitlock still has to write little notes in some of them.

Sunderland drew West Bromwich Albion, which keeps them just outside the drop zone.

Watched the The Twilight Zone episodes "Mr. Motivation" and "Sanctuary". "Mr. Motivation" was directed by Deran Sarafian whose father Richard C. Sarafian directed the episode "Living Doll" from the 1958 incarnation of the show. This episode starred Wallace Langham and Christopher McDonald who both previously appeared on Star Trek. Langham played the holographic children's character Flotter on Voyager while McDonald played Lieutenant Richard Castillo, in temporary command of the Enterprise-C.

Langham plays a cubicle doormat named Charlie who gets a gag doll named "Mr. Motivation" from Rick, his boss, played by McDonald.. Of course, this doll has a mind of its own, but you realize it's Charlie's conscience, and not inherently evil. The doll is voiced by Pat O'Brien, world-famous interview suck-up.

Mr. Motivation encourages Charlie to ask co-worker Linda out. Meanwhile, Rick has committed a massive screw-up with respect to expired birth control pills. He wants Charlie to find the accompanying documentation which he will alter. With the encouragement of the doll, Charlie stands up to Rick and reveals the mistake to the superiors who eventually give Charlie Rick's job.

With the closed-captioning, lyrics are shown to songs which are not playing on the audio. Also, the character graphics indicate that most of episode takes place on a Tuesday, but all the calendars inside the office say it's Wednesday.

"Sanctuary" starred the ubiquitous Elizabeth Berkley, Rob Estes, and Nicki Lynn Aycox. Aycox played Elie Brass, Brass's daughter on CSI, although Brass reveals she was the result of one of his wife's affairs.

Estes plays Scott, a sports agent whose car is disabled in traffic. He goes into the woods to pee and finds himself in the forest by a beautiful house, but he can't find his way out and his cellphone won't work. Before long, she finds Marissa, played by Berkley. She too has found herself lost here, although she ran away from her fiancé on the highway after an argument.

They can't escape, food seems to magically appear and the two fall in love. Suddenly, Aycox appears in the character of Rikki. At this moment, the Eden parallel was obvious to me.

Rikki's cellphone works and Scott uses it to call his most important client. That was the apple and Rikki ejects the pair back to the parkway.

We also watched the CSI episode "Snuff". Willows and Sidle investigate a snuff film which apparently had a death with real arterial bleeding. DNA traces the murderer to a pornographer who apparently will use the proceeds from his snuff film to finance a mainstream career. They eventually catch him when they trace the victim's HIV-tainted blood to his blood. He contracted it when her blood splattered into his eye.

Is the Zapruder film a snuff film?

In the other case, Grissom is pulled off the snuff case to track a body, partially decomposed by fire ants. With help from occasional regular Teri Miller, a face is extrapolated from the skull of young man with Down's Syndrome. He was killed by a rodeo cowboy against the steer horns on the front of his truck.

December 20

Travels with Brick: Manitoba

We went to Winnipeg for the Worldcon. Although we'd been to Chicago before, Whitlock had never seen anything so flat. It was also her first trip to a foreign country. Seems the Canada customs people looked suspiciously at us as if they couldn't believe we were married.

Whitlock realized she didn't have a warm enough winter coat with her, even though this was August. She bought a coat, which she still has today, from The Bay, the surviving entity from the old Hudson Bay Company. Where else are you going to find a warm coat but in Canada?

The main purpose for the coat was the game between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Duluth-Superior Dukes at Winnipeg Stadium, now Canadinns Stadium, the same place the Blue Bombers play. At the far end of the field and across the street sat the Winnipeg Arena, home then to the Jets.

The home plate area at Winnipeg Stadium sat in a corner of the endzone with a corner of the stands angled properly for baseball. The first base stands doubled as one sideline for football while the third base stands served as the endzone seats. The turf was artificial with some Blue Bomber paint remaining on the field.

We sat with a regular couple named Norman and Jackie, a colorful, dumpy middle-aged pair who, almost stereotypically, punctuated their sentences with "ehs". Both natives, Norman claimed to have played high school football on that very field for the city championship. Team owner Sam Katz sat near the front row since there were no luxury boxes, with a "sweetie" who looked like a 19-year-old beauty pageant contestant.

That game was the last of the regular season so they were giving away all their leftover promotions, the most useful of which was a beachball. In most ballparks, people sneak in beachballs, here, they give them away. Fans punched them around the stands, even in the direction of the owner. Whitlock yelled,"Hit the owner!"

I yelled,"Hit the owner's bimbo!" Afterwards, they set off a fireworks display as we walked back to our car. I can also say I saw Ted Williams play in person that night. No, not the one on ice, this was an unfortunately-named African-American outfielder who was a hot prospect in the late 1980s. Again, the city is so flat you could see the stadium, which was on the outskirts of the city, from the hotel, which was downtown. The Goldeyes have since moved to CanWest Global Park.

I don't remember much from the Assiniboine Park Zoo trip. Whitlock petted zebu cattle. There were very fat geese, like from 19th century novels, which we dubbed "Gardner geese". The zoo also had free-ranging peacocks.

I remember better the trip to Whiteshell Provincian Park. We saw deer, foxes, and beaver lodges. Whitlock saw a yearling black bear. All I saw was a dark blur going into the woods.

At the convention, I sat on a high-powered panel on anthologies with Mike Resnick, Ellen Datlow and Kevin J. Anderson. The more fruitful panel concerned the world political and economic situation. Phil Kaveny and M. Shayne Bell were among the other panelists. Although the entire political spectrum was represented, the panelists were much more civil than the audience. For a while, this panel's transcript was on the web. I think my brilliant comment was that we wouldn't have one government or one currency in the near future. Humans like to be divided.

I'd known Risa and Sandy Stewart from writer's group meetings, but they didn't meet Whitlock until this convention. For a few months afterwards, I kept pointing out to them that they only saw her in Winnipeg. For all they knew, I hired somebody in Winnipeg to pose as my wife.

I won second prize in the mostly-media trivia contest. An occasional Worldcon feature is a kafeeklatsch, where fans can sign up on a first-come first-served basis to sit and talk in a small group with one of their favorite writers. Well, it wasn't only writers, it was everyone on a panel, which therefore included me. I was both embarrassed and frightened at the thought that someone would sign up to talk with me. Fortunately, no one signed up and I was a no-show.

People in Canada are extraordinary friendly. Most urban Easterners would think there was something wrong with them, they were so nice.

This ends the Travels with Brick series. I hope you enjoyed it. I realize that with a kid, especially with one that doesn't like travel, I haven't gone anywhere new in eight years. Here's to joyous future excursions and another idea to fill up the blog when I've got writer's block.

December 19

This Wired column talks about putting John Poindexter's public information all over the web. I was more shocked that his Rockville home is worth $269,700. That's probably the price they bought it at 10 years ago. It's probably worth more than half a million by now.

December 18

Soon to be a trash regular on par with Weird Al:
Las Ketchup, performers of the international dance hit "The Ketchup Song (Hey Hah)," consist of the sisters Lola, Pilar and Lucia Muñoz. I will remember this because my maternal grandmother's name was Pilar and the Tagalog word for grandmother is Lola.

December 17

One more point on Weird Al. John told me that Gina was lurking on a Weird Al board. Someone posted with great surprise to discover that Albuquerque is a real place. The poster also verified the existence of Albuquerque with this mug shot of Bill Gates from a traffic violation. Former University of Maryland College Bowl teammate Robert Whaples also notes that his kids have a map computer program where you can put electronic thumbtacks. Along with the locations of their relatives, Albuquerque is also pinpointed, all because of Weird Al. Never underestimate Mr. Yankovic's contributions to geographic literacy.

December 16

I thought the Devil Rays were turning things around by hiring Lou Pinella, but they get Rey Ordoñez. Meanwhile, the Orioles get Deivi Cruz. If only the Blue Jays held onto Cesar Izturis. Anything to make Derek and Nomar look great by comparison.

Can't say I really like the Saints' old gold shirts. The Indigeous Persons should have a yellow alternate jersey when Shane Matthews is quarterback.

December 15

More disaster at the Vet, although I honestly didn't expect a victory and the Indigenous Persons looked good losing. Across the pond, a miracle at the Stadium of Light. On the coast of the other big ocean, Terrel Owens plays the clown once again.

December 14

Watched the Enterprise episode "Singularity". The crew comes upon a black hole that produces radiation that causes the crew (except for T'Pol) to obsess on trivial matters. Conveniently, the illness eventually results in unconsciousness and T'Pol has to awaken Archer to pilot the ship. First of all, awakening Mayweather would have been more logical, being the better pilot, and performing this duty would actually be helped by his obsession. The episode could have been more interesting if the crew were conscious during the climax, actually fighting their obsessions to survive. Interesting from a character and acting standpoint, but generally a plot cop-out.

December 13

Try this one: Which Science Fiction Writer Are You?. I came up Philip Jose Farmer.

On one hand, I share the "World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket" attitude when ESPN broadcast a LeBron James game. On the other hand, Cleveland high school basketball means very little to me. I'd rather watch him in college or in the pros.

More importantly, I was on television in high school competition seven times. I work with an entity that broadcast national competitions between high schools. I associate with others who strongly feel that these competitors at the high school and college level need more attention. So who am I to complain?

My parents came over to give Miranda Christmas dresses. My father played chess with Miranda. At one point, I was trying to hurry it up so that someone would win and discovered my father seriously behind in pieces. A bit incredulous, I gave Miranda a few hints and Lolo resigned.

December 12

Travels with Brick: Minnesota

Whitlock and I went to Mythcon in Minneapolis because we were going to host it the following year in Washington, D.C. We though it was a good idea to actually attend a convention before running it. Whitlock and I stayed in a hotel while most of the con stayed in the dorms. One of the cable channels continually showed a high school quiz show.

For Whitlock's benefit, we visited the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley. In terms of sheer land area, this is the biggest zoo we've visited. In the Minnesota Trail section I saw a beaver cut down a small tree and carry it the lodge. The Northern Trail featured bison in a more open habitat than I've ever seen. They actually ran little bit. We were reminded of the Far Side cartoon "Where the Buffalo Cruise". It turned out, on that exact day, that was the cartoon on my Far Side Day-by-Day calendar at work.

My side trip was to Midway Stadium in St. Paul, home of the Saints. They weren't playing that day, but I got in, took some pictures and saw the train going by beyond the outfield fence.

We also saw the Twins play. In that part of the country, unlike the Northeast, people travel to a major league city, stay in a hotel, and watch a few games. Our hotel was one catering to that crowd, so instead of driving, we took the hotel's shuttle bus to the Metrodome. The first thing I learned was that Minneapolis gets cold, even in the first week of August, so regardless of what you think of domes, behind inside where it's warm is a great help.

Whitlock kept saying,"Where's the sky?" I can understand the difficulty in following a flyball. Heck, I have a hard time finding a pop-up in an outdoor stadium.

The Metrodome is obviously built for football with baseball only as an afterthought. Sitting along the third-base line, I had to twist my neck to follow the goings-on at home plate. However, we were close enough to the bullpen to hear the pop of Willie Banks' fastball.

Unlike the Astrodome, the Humphrey Dome is not built with posterity in mind. Still, it's quirky like stadiums should be. Tom Boswell has said that if the Metrodome were old, purists would cling lovingly to it as untouchable.

You can't go to Twin Cities without visiting the Mall of America. Home plate for Metropolitan Stadium is inside Camp Snoopy, which we didn't go see. The Mall is just bigger, not necessarily any better than your local enclosed emporium. They did have an interesting feature of folks who had a wall, rather than a cart to sell their wares. One of those was a seller only of Matryoshka dolls.

A few month's before our visit, Locus had a cover story about a fire at Uncle Edgar's and Uncle Hugo's, a science fiction and mystery bookstore in Minneapolis. If it weren't for that fire, we wouldn't have made the trip. We bought a bunch of books and sent most them home by UPS. I highly recommend this for book lovers on vacation. They also have a great newsletter which they send out for free.

A final statement about Twin Cities sports fans - they're front runners. By coincidence, the Indigenous Persons won their last two Super Bowls immediately after the Twins won their World Series. In Minnesota, nearly every Twins shirt boasted of the World Championship. At the same time in DC, nearly every home town football shirt was generic, with nary a mention of those championships.

After the convention we drove to Ely and stayed at the Silver Rapids Lodge. We did a little bit of hiking to reach a small waterfall. Deep in the woods, in the middle of the day, we stopped to hear a silence we would never expect to find in Maryland. We rode a paddleboat out to the middle White Iron Lake. Still, we never saw any unusual wild animals like bears, moose or foxes. We visited the International Wolf Center. To find an Italian Restaurant, we had to drive all the way to Hibbing, Bob Dylan's hometown, some 70 miles away.

We caught the plane home from Duluth. Along the way, we stopped by Split Rock Lighthouse along Lake Superior. Unlike other lighthouses, it is only two stories tall, so you can walk up to the top. It makes up for the height by sitting on such a tall outcropping. Also, because it's so small, there are very few replicas of it to be found in curio stores.

Before we got to the airport, I drove Whitlock across the river into Superior, Wisconsin, just to say she'd been in Wisconsin. She never even got out of the car.

December 11

Stayed home due to the ice storm.

Craig Barker, Victoria Groce, and Craig Barker again have weighed in on what constitutes canon in trash. I forwarded Victoria's post to John Cooper and Gina Mai Denn because Gina used to date Weird Al.

In the last year I've played one and read one trash tournament. The most recent music question I got was on Enya (1989), but I'm pretty lost on video games. I guess I'm an above average player since I seemed to carry my team at Beltway Bandits.

While I don't advocate a trash canon, every team should construct one of their own. Really. Start with a time line. You can use Mike Burger's or make up your own. I probably stretch the early end further than most people, but I still 2K-load. Then for each decade make a list of canonical items. It might be best to pretend you are writing for a single tournament. That means 4-5 questions per packet for each of the big 4 trash categories. Assuming 15 packets, that's 60-75 items per category. For example, if you're doing music, list 60-75 acts, alongside 60-75 albums and 60-75 songs.

If everyone thinks of their entire packet submission body of work as their own tournament, then there will be less chance of the same topics coming up over and over again. At the very least, just looking at what your personal canon looks like will become a (possibly embarassing) private revelation of your writing tendencies. This alone will make you a better player and writer. After you've written questions about everyone on your canon, double its length, then start over again.

December 10

Something's in the air or water when both Matt Bruce and Max Sawicky are recommending the same blog.

Whitlock turned in her ATM card back in October because there was crack in it and some machines were not accepting it. She still hadn't received her card so she called back and it turned out OBA Bank had lost her application so she has to apply all over again. In trying to try track it down, the customer service representative named Lena demanded to know the teller Whitlock gave the application to. Since she couldn't remember Lena said she couldn't help her. Lena did not give any apology or give anything remotely resembling courteous customer service. We went with OBA because we thought a smaller bank might serve us better. Guess we were wrong.

December 9

Put together another bowl playoff grid, just like last year. Again, you can make up your own seeds or heirarchy of bowl games if you want. The point is, they could have a playoff if they wanted.

December 8

We went to the annual Knossos December meeting which doesn't involve reading a book, but just having a pot luck party. Bill, Maryanne and Christina Hussar hosted the shindig at their Silver Spring home.

When we got to the meeting, the television was still showing the Indigenous Persons game. Spurrier still doesn't get it and I'm ready to believe he'll depart after the 2004 season.

World-famous media fan Martin Morse Wooster expressed some interest in playing a TRASH tournament, so I read him some old questions. He was a bit intimidated, but would play on a team with similarly talented individuals.

Whitlock spent some time talking to Jennifer and Jeff Escano, the new Filipino members who live in Oxon Hill. She also talked to Maryanne about mother issues. Martin gave a copy of The Politics of the PTA by Charlene K. Haar to Whitlock. He is reviewing the book for The Washington Times.

World-famous media fan with a boxed slinky December 7

World-famous media fan Martin Morse Wooster had his 45th birthday party at O'Brien's Pit Barbecue. We gave him a card with a picture of Jeri Ryan saying,"Wanna see me with something slinky?" The next card had the identical demure photograph with a slinky inside.

Wendell Wagner wanted his copy of The Blair Witch Project back so we watched it. I'd already seen it back when the home video was first released and my opinion remains the same. The scariest moment was when the child covered her mother's mouth.

The second time around, the plot developed slightly more coherently, but generally the characters created their own problems by their own stupidity rather than the intervention of evil outside forces. Some of the initial outside characters like Mary Brown and the two fishermen were quite interesting. But you can't get lost for more than one day in Maryland without world-class incompetence. Eventually you will find a road and cars driving on that road. Otherwise, the characters were just dim-witted whiners.

Afterwards, Whitlock and I joked about the movie. The snapping sounds were cars going by on Interstate 270. They describe as "weird voodoo, man," the constructs for the annual Winter Lights Festival. Seneca Creek State Park, one of the locations for the film in contiguous to the park behind our house. I got lost in Patapsco Valley State Park, the other location, for about an hour, in a car, looking for the camping site for a Markland event.

December 6

Watched the Angel episode "Apocalypse, Nowish (Rain of Fire)". As the gang prepares for another apocalyse, many omens appear like plagues of rats and sparrows. Angel enlists Lilah's aid because someone is horning in on the Wolfram and Hart apocalypse. Cordelia, accompanied by Connor, is drawn to the alley where Darla gave birth. An incredibly powerful demon appears in that location. Angel, Gunn, Wesley and Lorne track the demon to a hip penthouse club. The foursome survive, but the demon converts the nubile, young bodies into energy to cause flaming rocks to fall from the skies.

Gunn and Fred have trouble dealing with killing Professor Seidel. Fred is away from the others in a diner when the hard shower begins. Lilah, incredibly jealous of Fred, dresses up like her for Wesley. It's pretty cruel, considering she doesn't mean it in fun. Finally, like I guessed earlier, Connor and Cordelia do the horizontal mambo, presumably with Angel watching.

Lilah's Fred outfit is more like the Britney Spears schoolgirl uniform. Funny, I now associate that clothing too closely with fetish. So when I see a girl dressed that way, I have the same reaction in my mind as if she wore short shorts, halter and six-inch spike heels,"Does your mother let you out of the house dressed like that?"

The CSI: Miami episode,"Killzone," was the controversial sniper episode. There was a crawl on WUSA-TV warning that a sniper was involved and viewer discretion advised. I don't know if that warning appeared in other markets.

They find his shooting location by using lasers and bullet trajectories. Fortunately, he leaves a lot of clues there like his camouflage suit and where he practices. Cornering the suspect was pretty straightforward, although Whitlock thought that Caine shouldn't have been in the open as a target as he cleared the final target site. It was pretty different from the Washington snipers because he was so easy to catch.

We watched the Buffy episode "Sleeper". Right after seeing the major evil that can take any form, Buffy suspects Spike may be killing again. It turns out he has been murdering while under the control of the major evil.

Spike is set off by the tune Early One Morning. Clam Chowder sang a parody entitled Early One Evening. The link is cached from Google. I liked Aimee Mann's line,"Man, I hate playing vampire towns." As I suspected, the killings of young women are of potential slayers.

December 5

Whitlock got the okay to start driving again, but today we got hit with snow and everyone stayed home. I didn't even venture outside. Mary and Miranda went out, but Miranda only stayed on the porch and put an icicle in the freezer. Pictures accompany. I saw deer in the woods behind our house for the first time. They were pretty far back in the park, so any pictures would be pretty unhelpful. Since we were home we watched the television episodes we had on tape.

On The Twilight Zone, the first segment,"Sensuous Cindy," starred Greg Germann, Richard Fish from Ally McBeal, as Ben, an engaged man working at a fashion magazine who is living with and sleeping in the same bed as his fiancée Samantha. They have promised to the priest that they will not have sex for the next six months until their wedding night. If this sort of thing is important to you, for heaven's sake, move out. Don't be sleeping in the same bed every night.

Ben discovers a beta version of a virtual reality program featuring Cindy, played by Jaime Pressly. After the virtual sex, Cindy starts calling his house, appearing on the television and trapping him in the elevator. Ben returns to the office and destroys her with an anti-virus program. Meanwhile, we discover Samantha has also been playing with Cindy.

As a good fiancée, shouldn't Samantha have offered Cindy to Ben herself? Wouldn't it better for him to take out his sexual frustrations on a virtual partner he can't get pregnant and won't give diseases?

The next segment,"Hunted," concerns a near future society where a genetically engineered creature known as the Kreetor is killing people in the woods. Jeff Freed is a doctor and a volunteer that leads a squad to hunt a Kreetor down. These beasts are like chameleons, difficult to spot with the eyes. So if they hide well in visual light, why not take along infrared goggles and other technology we have now that don't rely on visible light? And if that technology is not available, create some reason that it's not.

The Kreetor kills Freed's squad one-by-one, but drags him to the lair. He is spared because he is a doctor who can save the Kreetor's sick, pregnant wife. It turns out the Kreetor is a base human, and everyone else we've seen so far is a cyborg created by humans. Freed kills the Kreetor and the story ends with his newborn baby being unplugged for the night.

The surprise was cute. For most of the story, it is a Blair Witch-style suspense piece. Don't distract the audience from the suspense by making them think about the other technology that could be available to the characters.

We watched the CSI episode "Fight Night", which I'd already watched live when it first aired. Catherine Willows has a new wavy hairdo. Richard Biggs, Dr. Stephen Franklin from Babylon 5, makes a cameo as the lawyer of a gang-banger. Ron Canada, who's played several roles on Star Trek, including a Klingon attorney, appeared as a fight manager.

The main case involves the death a middlewight in the ring. While suspicion drifts from the referee, to his manager, to the promoter, the culprit turns out to be his opponent who loaded his gloves with mercury for extra heft. Catherine's case involves LA gangs, in town for the fight, taking their vendettas to Vegas. Nick Stokes gets to work a jewelry store smash-and-grab alone. He finds the thief easily enough in the ER, but a Texas couple claim the diamond they brought in for cleaning wasn't recovered. Turns out the woman switched it long ago for a cheaper copy and just wants to collect on the insurance.

On Firefly, the crew land on the Alliance planet "Ariel," which gaves this episode its name. Book is at a monastery meditating while Inara must report for her annual Companion physical.

Simon proposes a heist. He and River need to be smuggled into the medical facility to gain access to diagnostic equipment in order to heal her sister. In return, the crew will steal drugs they can sell later on. The plan calls for an ambulance vehicle to be brought to the hospital. Serenity crew members, posing as emergency medical technicians, bring Simon and River in a deep coma, claiming they are dead. When the Tams are revived, Simon will use the diagnostic equipment on River. Meanwhile, Zoe and Mal steal the drugs.

Wash and Kaylee go to a junkyard and create a wonderful imitation emergency vehicle. When the bodies are brought to the front desk, the medical speak the crew has been learning goes for naught when the receptionist just tells them to go to the morgue. However, like Wesley on Angel, Jayne has betrayed them to the Feds. After the diagnosis, Alliance forces capture the trio and the officer in charge takes for himself the reward Jayne believed was his.

When Jayne, Simon and River are late for the rendezvous, Mal and Zoe undertake a rescue. In an extended wrestling scene, Jayne and Simon free the group from their captors. As they try to escape, the men with blue hands arrive, killing everyone who talked to River. Mal and Zoe find them and everyone returns to Serenity.

Simon is oblivious to Jayne's betrayal, but Reynolds knows better. He tosses Jayne in the airlock as the ship lifts off. Eventually, Mal lets Jayne off the hook.

It seems the Blue Hand Men are not really that interested in retrieving River as much as they are throwing their weight around. It would have made more sense to secure her on their ship before killing the officers. Whitlock was really convinced Mal would let Jayne die, but I didn't read anything on the web that said Adam Baldwin would leave the show. The net indicates that River has been slashing at the blue Alliance sunburst logo, both on Jayne's tatoo and on the canned foods.

December 4

The December 2 issue of Time magazine has an article entitled Feeding on Fantasy, which operates on the the thesis that America escapes to fantasy during a time of crisis. More correctly, two films with huge budgets The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are out at the same time.

The Lord of the Rings first made a big splash on these shores in 1965. The Society for Creative Anachronism described in the first paragraph first began in 1966. The Mythopoeic Society began about the same time in the same place. My medieval group,Markland began in 1969. I would submit that Tolkien created the revolution, along with similar countercultural revolutions of the day. Again, there is not fantasy trend, just two big budget movies.

Dungeons and Dragons came along in the mid-1970s in a totally different trend resulting from dissatisfaction with entertainment. Other developments in this trend include fan fiction, fantasy sports and eventually, blogging.

Media is always behind the written work and the movies have come to high fantasy 30 years too late. The same can be said for science fiction as well. Fantastic Hollywood seems to be driven by special effects. Everyone's tired of space battles, but not yet jaded with the creatures created for fantasy.

December 3

Travels with Brick: Carolinas

I passed through the Carolinas on a midnight train to Georgia. When Bob Maranto god married, we connected in Charlotte on the way to Greenville, South Carolina. The Greenville airport has only three gates as I seem to recall.

That year I had the National Academic Championship one weekend, my sister's wedding the next weekend, and Bob and April's wedding on the third weekend. By the last wedding, I was exhausted and sick.

We visited the Greenville Zoo which had a white tiger on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo (a Cincinnati Bengal). For me, we went to see Greenville Municipal Stadium, where the Braves still play, and Duncan Park, where the South Atlantic League Spartanburg Phillies played at that time, but we didn't see any games at either. Duncan Park was more interesting, traveling past rundown shacks to a wooded depression. The steps and railing down to the stadium were falling apart. Inside the park, a huge dog barked at us, but was quieted down by someone who was probably the business manager. Rickety planks led up to the press box.

The wedding was held on the campus of Furman University, the most beautiful college I've ever seen. Fountains and landscaped gardens greet the eye everywhere. April told me that's all the school spent their money on.

December 2

I've seen ads on both Buffy and Angel for Remote Possibilities. It's a trivia game with questions and a buzzer system where the signaling devices transmit wirelessly to the central unit. I suppose everyone in the quizbowl community could ask for it as a holiday present, then we wouldn't need to resort to slapbowl. However, Remote Possibilities only accomodates six players, so it wouldn't be a perfect replacement for the standard four-player teams.

Some of you may remember Quizzard, a device from the late 1980s that first came with the Sale of the Century home game, then packaged by itself. It was a wired six-player home buzzer system. Not a big seller, I picked up one copy of the Sale of the Century version and two copies of the stand-alone model at half-price clearance. All three of mine still work and when confronted with slapbowl, I keep reminding myself to bring the Quizzards to the next tournament.

I frankly don't believe that Remote Possibilities will fare any better than Quizzard. So I'd advise everyone to be on the lookout for the markdowns at K-B or Toys "R" Us 18 months to two years down the road. Still, I think a device like this is the entry into the larger world for the quizbowl community. A cheap buzzer system for someone to use at home and bring to tournaments, would be like the cheap chess or go sets for those games. In a world where quizbowl is a popular leisure activity, people would bring their own buzzer systems, or maybe just a signaling unit, and play an afternoon of quizzes at frequently held tournaments. The clubs hosting the tournaments would still provide the questions, but they wouldn't have to be tied to an educational institution.

December 1

While I went grocery shopping, Whitlock and Miranda baked a marble pound cake, which Miranda greatly enjoyed helping with. Miranda also enjoyed helping me bring books upstairs to fill the shelves in the library.

Watched the Enterprise episode,"The Communicator". After visiting a pre-Warp culture, Malcolm realizes he forgot his communicator. He and the Captain go back for it and are captured. Just before they are hanged as spies, the crew rescues them using a cloaked Suliban vessel.

After a series of some pretty good episodes, we're back to the drivel we're used to. Why bother to go back for the communicator? Why not have a signal that turns it into unidentifiable mush? They entire exercise created more trouble than just leaving the communicator to begin with.

The society hadn't split the atom yet and this nation had a decidedly Nazi-cast to it. For comic relief, Trip develops an invisible hand in an accident with the Suliban ship. Perhaps he could use it in free market economics lessons.

The aliens are surprised to find the humans' hemoglobin is based on iron. Of course, the word "hemoglobin" has roots in "iron". Apparently it's a toxic metal to them. What are their guns made out of?

The Undertow... another pointless surfing metaphor ...

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