|12/14/2001 I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. >PM|
October 16, 2002
I've been trying to get this issue of Chatter written for the longest time, but things kept popping up. Here's hoping that I'll be able to get this done today!
Later: why do I say dumb things like that? Of course I didn't finish yesterday. Sigh.
The site is doing really well; readership is regularly over 300 unique visitors per day now. I'm still in a creative zone, so I have quite a few ideas noted down for the various sections of the Chaos Project (which I'll write up as soon as I can). Some great new material was sent in by a few contributors, which always blows my mind.
I'm still thinking about adding a new NPC section to the Chaos Project, and more and more I think it should be aimed at generic use; RQ stats and skills could be used because frankly they're an easy way to represent elements of a character in ways that most roleplayers can understand, but the key thing will be the underlying concept of the NPC. In other words, this would be a place to put interesting characters who can serve as plot hooks, not lists of stats for use in combat.
I also haven't forgotten about my plan to take all the old material from the Chaos Project and put it into some sort of extremely useful and compact form. Again, this will take some timebut it's definitely on the agenda. If you're wondering, the next big update to the site will take place next week, when I plan to post another old zine and editorial.
Recently I got curious about RuneQuest-related domains and did a little looking. www.runequest.com is owned by Hasbro, who have no RQ material at all on their site (neither does the corpse-site of Avalon Hill, if you were wondering). www.runequest.net did an update on 10/15/02 but still have large blank sections; it is not unfair to say that they've added very little material in the past year (it sounds as if they have some big plans, though). But www.runequest.orgah. To my amazement, that domain was available for registration! I'd have sworn that it was taken a while ago, but can't find any evidence of that. In any case, I snapped it up. It's currently aliased to www.maranci.net; unfortunately I can't alias it directly to Pete's RQ!, and right now I just can't spare the money to have it hosted separately. Still, it's nice to have a major RQ domain, and eventually I plan to find a way to make better use of it. When I do, I'll probably offer free runequest.org email address aliases.
I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that on October 18th this site will be celebrating its sixth birthdayquite a milestone for a web site. Here's the announcement I made on Usenet at the time. I feel like celebrating. Maybe I'll set up a an online chat sometime soon and see if anyone wants to talk. Perhaps on RQ Addicts, since they offer chat and it doesn't cost anything.
On October 5th Sebastian celebrated his first birthday. About 40 people came to help, including eight or nine kids. It was loads of fun to have so many kids running around the back yard and playing on the slides and swings! We have a veritable playground back there, between the swings and slide that were already there and a large plastic playset with slides and a little tunnel that Teri's father gave to Sebastian. Sebastian had a blasthe loves watching other kids.
He also loves cake! Below is his birthday cake, which we picked up from Wright's Dairy. It was vanilla with a chocolate pudding filling and whipped-cream frosting, and was one of the best cakes I've ever had in my life. Incidentally, notice the scooped-out area at the bottom of the cake? Guess whose chubby little hands did that?
He's doing wonderfully, by the way. Over 25 lbs, and 30 3/4 inches long. All eight incisors are in now, as well as his first molarand a second (opposing) molar is on the way. He walks, runs, claps, and laughs and grins a LOT. Likes to imitate me, making clicking and clucking noises with his tongue. Just went off formulahe drinks whole milk insteadand off of baby food as well, eating pretty much what we do (with some obvious exceptions such as coffee, which he apparently craves but is NOT allowed to have).
I've had several large scenarios queued up in my head for a long time now. Unfortunately I don't have a group to run them for, and even if I did it would be hard to find the time to write them upparticularly since I'd like to write them up in real detail, with maps and everything (something I've only managed with "To Kill A Monster"). I asked around to find collaborators, but although some people are willing to kick the ideas around with me a bit, nobody is able to step in and get the real work done. Which is understandable, of course; why should anyone labor to develop my ideas?
But the ideas keep piling up, and some of them just keep developing layers and layers until they seem quite beautiful. So recently I had a sudden realization: if I can't write them up as scenarios, why not think about writing one up as a novel?
It's hard to think of a reason not to! Admittedly I may never finish it, but then again, I mightand if I did, there would be a small but real chance that it could get published. So I'm seriously thinking of writing up my scenario concept for "A Breath of Evil" as a novel. It's set in Glorantha, but it shouldn't be too hard to de-Glorantha-ize it; I don't need to retain anything specifically Gloranthan, and in fact I could replace many elements with redeveloped background elements of my long-ago Disque campaign. We'll see how it goes...
My commute has gotten longer, if anything; I'm spending 3-4 hours a day on the road, driving in an area famed for the rudeness of its drivers. I've dealt with every kind of rude driving bastard you can imagine, and I don't mind telling you that I'm really starting to hate those jerks. There's not a lot I can DO to them, of course, but sometimes I fantasize about starting up a website in which people can post their stories of encounters with bad drivers on the roadand post their license plate numbers. I'm sure I'd get sued in an instant, and it wouldn't be worth the aggravation, but it's a pleasant fantasy...finding some way to get back those assholes.
Speaking of new sites, I've been wondering lately if I should have made the Chaos Project into a separate site with its own domain, rather than left it as a part of Pete's RQ!. I suspect that there's a large readership out there that might be more likely to read the Chaos Project if it wasn't tied into RQ, and that they'd probably find it useful. Eh. Too late to worry about that now, I suppose!
I am heartbroken. For twenty years now I've been barbecuing, searching for just the right combination of wood, marinade, and meat to produce the perfect hamburger. A few months ago, I found it. And now the key ingredient has been discontinued, and isn't for sale anywhere.
It was House of Tsang Thick and Rich Soy Sauce. A few tablespoons mixed in to a generic mesquite-marinade-and-worcestershire base gave hamburgers a mind-blowingly good flavor. Plus that soy sauce was the ONLY thing I'd use on rice. The company has discontinued it, though, and to my horror "thick and rich" is NOT a standard type of soy sauce. There are thousands of kinds of soy sauce out there, but none of the best-known ones match Tsang's. It was only slightly thick, but had a delicious salty, slightly smoky flavor; less salty than popular soy sauces, but not sweet the way more common molasses-based soy sauces are. I posted a plea for help in rec.food.cooking and received one mildly helpful suggestion and several sneers in the form of suggestions. Apparently some people feel that Tsang's was not "real" soy sauce.
I have one full bottle left, but I don't want to open it until I've found an acceptable replacement. I also have an empty bottle in the refrigerator. Perhaps I'll dab a little sauce from that bottle into a plastic bag and go to Chinatown looking for something that smells the same...but that will be an arduous task, and there's no guarantee of success. Plus right now I really can't afford to spend tons of money on a huge selection of soy sauces.
I did read a description of Philippine soy sauce that made it sound very similar to Tsang's, but I'm not at all sure where to find it...and it may well not be the same. I'm SO disappointed...
While I'm on the subject, there are a bunch of other things that have disappeared or are getting very hard to find:
Underwood's Deviled Roast Beef spread. Their deviled ham is still pretty widely available, but the roast beef spread disappeared from ALL stores in my area a few years ago. Which is a pity, because it was far superior and no one else makes anything like it. Deviled roast beef on good bread, buttered and grilled and served with puffed Cheese Doodles, is probably the ultimate bad-for-me indulgence. There's a service that sells the spread by mail (or did), but the cost comes to over $2 per can and you have to buy 12 cans minimum. A can makes three or four large sandwiches, by the way.
Smuckers' Magic Shell. I discovered this many years ago (at least 15 or 20), back before it was acquired by Smuckersalthough it may have always been owned by them, I don't know. They didn't used to have "Smuckers" on the label, though. It's an interesting product: a chocolate syrup that you pour on ice cream. It's liquid at room temperature, but once it hits ice cream (or anything cold) it quickly hardens and turns into solid chocolate; the process takes perhaps 30 seconds or so, depending on various temperature factors. The flavor is delectable, particularly when the hardening process isn't complete. In any case, the chocolate is converted back into a liquid by the heat of your mouth, releasing a wonderful flavor. Breyers natural vanilla bean ice cream with Magic Shell on top is pretty hard to beat. There are a bunch of flavors, by the way: caramel, chocolate, chocolate fudge, cookie dough crunch, and Twix. I recently saw a lot of the chocolate fudge flavor in Ocean State Job Lot, which is often a dumping ground for discontinued products, so I fear that it has been discontinuedalthough that's something I've been expecting for a long, long time, because it never seems to have been a huge seller and there have been stretches when it has been very hard to find. On the other hand, a couple of years ago another major company brought out their own chocolate syrup that hardened on ice cream, and I still see that for sale here and there, so maybe Magic Shell won't disappear completely. Here's hoping. Perhaps I should mention that all of these products are probably based on a similar syrup that is still used in some ice-cream shops; they dip soft-serve ice cream cones into it. Carvels used to call them "brown bonnets", I think. They had a strawberry flavor too, as I recall, but personally I wouldn't touch it. I don't like strawberry.
Murphy's chocolate-chip sandwich cookies. Murphy's has no web site, so I wasn't able to look up ANYTHING about these cookies. But I first tried them when I was in college in Pennsylvania. For a while I was able to find them at an odd market here or there in the Boston area, but the continuing consolidation of the economy (into the hands of an ever-fewer number of megacorporations) has wiped out every one of them. Which is unfortunate, because I haven't found anything like these cookies: two chocolate chip cookies sandwiching a creme center, like an Oreo. These weren't soft cookies, nor the home-baked kind; they were good old-fashioned supermarket-type cookies, crisp and small. Yet for some reason they were absolutely delicious. I found some in a supermarket in Virginia on my honeymoon, and bought a bunch. I still have two packages left! Teri thinks I'm nuts, of course. But they keep pretty well as long as you don't open the package. Incidentally, Murphy's sugar-free cookies are available in markets in the area, but they apparently don't make a sugar-free chocolate-chip sandwichwhich is too bad, because I'd try it if they did.
Ye gods and little fishes. I thought that that was all of the lost products I could think of, but now I've remembered several more!
Morton's Mini Donuts. Morton's makes really gooey frozen honey buns that are a kid's insulin-devouring dream, but their frozen mini donuts were magical. They were little cinnamon donuts, about the size of a small yo-yo, sprinkled with granulated (not powdered) cinnamon sugar. Put them in the oven for 15 minutes and they came out crusty on the outside, incredibly moist and delicious on the inside. Alas, it seems they're no longer being made, although the honey buns are still around.
Dunkin' Donuts whole wheat donuts. While we're talking about donuts, one of my favorites was the whole wheat ones that Dunkin' Donuts sold for a while about ten years ago. They were honey-dipped but had a solidness and texture that the normal donuts lackedit's not that they weren't sweet (they were) but they had more flavor than the usual donuts. A friend of mine runs a DD, and he tells me that they were discontinued because they were the only donut that required a different batter. Of course, these days the damn donuts are made at central factories and shipped by truck to DD stores. They maintain fake little "bakery" rooms in the back, but those are just used to prep the already-baked donuts. DD has gone WAY downhill in the past decade or sowhich is what you'd expect of a donut shop which doesn't bake donuts, right? For example, Teri used to get jelly sticks at several local DDs pretty oftenuntil seven or eight times in a row she got jelly sticks in which the jelly was merely a dot of jelly at each end, not "filled" in any sense of the word! And of course there was the purchase and destruction of the extremely funny dunkindonuts.org site, which featured complaints of all sorts from angry DD customers. Fortunately Krispy Kreme is moving into the area. It sounds as if their "hot donuts NOW" might be a lot like the Morton's I remember from my childhood.
Dunkin Donuts chocolate Coolattas. Another thing that pisses me off about DD: They have a frozen drink, I can't remember the cutesy name at the moment (just remembered it: the Coolatta). It seems to be made of ice crystals mixed with a flavored drink, the result being very refreshing with quite a different texture. Early on they had a chocolate-flavored one, which was usually extremely goodat first. As time went by it became more and more common to discover that the chocolate Coolatta I'd just picked up tasted like swill. Before long that flavor was discontinued. Apparently they weren't willing to spend the time to train the disposable 14-year-old girls that they hire by preference to make the chocolate Coolattas properly, and that particular flavor was more vulnerable to being screwed up than the others.
Arthur Treacher's. Ah, Arthur Treacher's. I can still remember the theme song from their commercials..."Arthur Treacher's fish & chips, the meal you cannot make at home"...of course I hate fish, but their fries were quite probably the best I'd ever had: big steak fries with grooves along the sides, they were simply delicious. They also had something which my memory swears was called a "hush puppy", but wasn't what is generally called a hush puppy now (i.e. a fried call of corn batter): a hot dog on a stick, dipped in fish batter and deep fried. Delectable. Arthur Treacher's still exists in a sense, but there don't seem to be any stores within a thousand miles and the franchise seems to have been acquired by some giant organization. My impression is that the menu is now totally different, and that they probably are nothing like what I remember.
York Steakhouse. Another lost chain, this one totally gone. I started a thread on Usenet last year about it. There was something about their meat that was unique and extremely appetizing. Unfortunately no one else has it, and it has been so long that I can only barely remember what they tasted like...it was very distinctive, and the meat was very tender. The staff also tended to use an amusing patois behind the counter. I remember that my father would always order a potato without butter or sour cream, and they'd always yell "dry baga!" to the cooks. It cracked us all up.
Others? Well, I remember some sort of cornbread toaster thing that my mother used to feed us when we were little. It came frozen in a box, sort of like a toaster waffle. But it was shaped oddly, with four or five flattened corn-shaped sections joined at the sidesthe whole thing was about the size of a waffle. As I remember, it was really good; like a crispy, light cornbread.
The world, and particularly America, are becoming more and more a monoculture...regional differences are disappearing, be they cultural, linguistic, or economic. Of course, this has been an ongoing process for a while now. I suppose that back in the 1940's there were mom & pop places for all sorts of goods, foods, and services, but the big chains have been taking all that ecodiversity ("eco" for "economic", that is, not "ecological") and turning our ecosphere (perhaps "plutosphere" would be a better word?) into a sterile trash pine desert, lacking all life, interest, and freedom of choice. I'll try to tell Sebastian how things were when he gets olderthat you used to actually have a choice of where to go or who to buy frombut I don't know if he'll believe me.
There are a number of novels and moviessome good, some crappyin which someone travels back in time and tries to fix past mistakes, either personal or historical. In fact, there are two new TV shows which use that very theme, which only goes to prove that Hollywood is out of ideas (and integrity). Still, the concept is a fascinating one. I don't suppose that I'm the only one who has fantasized about traveling back to my past self and whispering even just one or two words in my past self's ear...
They won't be selling tickets for time-traveling any time soon, so all we can do is use the best surrogate we have: the experience of others. Here's something I wish someone had said to me ten or even twenty years ago. Well, actually, people did say this sort of thing to me back then, but of course it never sank in:
OWNING IS BETTER THAN RENTING!
I paid rent on various apartments for eighteen years. I can't imagine how much the total rent I paid would be; certainly at least 40 or 50 THOUSAND. What do I have to show for that? I'm still alive, and there are some landlords out there who have my money. That's about it. When you rent, you pay a landlord and the money is his.
But when you OWN, every payment you make increases your equity. If you were to sell that house or condo and walk away, you'd get back most if not all of the value of your equity, depending on circumstances. So if I'd bought a condo in 1989, say, I would now be sitting on $100,000.00 or more. I could sell that condo, having lived in it for all that time, and still have that huge wad of cash with which to buy another house.
My parents told me this many times, particularly my mother (hi, Mom!). But I just assumed that I couldn't afford a mortgage. When Teri insisted that we check and see, it turned out that in fact I could...and probably could have even sixteen years ago. Another opportunity lost. Still, if anyone ever reads this and takes it seriously, it will have been worth it. Or at least there will be some good produced by my stupidity, which is something positive, anyway.
Until next time!
[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: July 18, 2005. version 1.2