Entry for April 25, 2007: Yeltsin, Earth Day, schedule, and SFTV

Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin died this week. I remember him facing down tanks in Moscow during an attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. The two men, different in temperament, helped dismantle the Soviet Union and end the Cold War.

Unfortunately, like many larger-than-life politicians, Yeltsin's flaws mirrored the problems of his homeland, such as alcoholism and persistent authoritarianism. Like industrialist George Soros, I feel that the U.S. and the other Western nations missed an opportunity after the fall of the Berlin Wall to help rebuild Eastern Europe as a prosperous, democratic region.

Instead, ethnic and religious strife in the Balkans and Chechnya, inequality and crime, and overly centralized control continue to threaten capitalism and liberty in Russia and elsewhere. Tensions over the Middle East, insecure stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. return to promises of an antimissile shield over part of Europe, and unease over migration have harmed relations between our two great nations. I hope that the best legacies of Yeltsin and other visionaries inspire the next generation to do better than we have.

Speaking of international affairs, this past Sunday was Earth Day. Steve M.R., Jim J.D'B., and I have debated the urgency of environmental protection measures on Steve's blog (http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-zA8iOK8iaalgc0hpoQY-?cq=1), so I won't repeat that discussion here. However, I do feel that the largest consumers of natural resources (the U.S., China, Europe, and Japan) should do more to conserve, renew, and recycle. Stagnant automotive efficiency standards, suburban sprawl, and wasteful manufacturing/packaging are only part of the problem.

Even if some naysayers still deny that climate change is a serious threat, the rapid rise of autism and asthma among U.S. children and the extinction of numerous species (small ones such as honeybees or fish deserve at least as much attention as cute bears or owls) demand our attention. I hope that my fellow voters and consumers will make ecologically wise policies a higher priority soon.

On a lighter note, Janice and I will be very busy in the coming month or so! This coming weekend, we'll be flying down to Virginia to visit my family and finally see our newest niece Lili in person. After that, I have a compressed workweek because of CW's 40th anniversary celebration, followed by a Friday night screening of "Spider-Man 3" organized by co-worker Ken G. (http://www.showbits.net/), our annual editorial offsite retreat, and visits by former gamer Mark A.S. and former co-worker Jacqui M.D.! (They now live in New Zealand and Iowa, respectively.)

Plus, I have my next dental follow-up appointment, and a few weeks after that, Janice's middle sister Shelly hopes to visit Boston with her family. Janice and I have made reservations to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary in Manhattan in mid-June, and CW's trim size will be moving from tabloid to magazine, requiring a redesign of the print edition even as the online edition is thriving.

Last night's D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains" Arabian fantasy session went well, with the gamers finding their characters in the oasis of Galko. The latest party was attacked by assassins, but rather than run or fight blindly, we role-played their investigation and discovery of intrigue in the city. As always, more information can be found at the Yahoo/eGroups Web club: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/DnD3VanishedLands/

I'll continue fighting sleep deprivation for the Wednesday night D&D3.5 teleconferencing sessions with Dexter V.H./"Faelonia" and Byron V.O./"Ibrahim," as well as for the Thursday and Sunday "City of Heroes" online game as "Scarlet Saber 2" with David I.S./"Mega Therion," Kim A.G./"Dr. Debt Reduction," Steve M.R./"Spectacular Torch," Thomas K.Y./"SubtleFist," and Shari S./"Ashri" (among others; see http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/dimensionalcorpsonline/).

However, I expect my participation to slip because of the aforementioned travel and visitors. It would also be nice to have time to occasionally go for a walk or mow my lawn between work and nightfall, now that the weather has belatedly improved.

On television, I've enjoyed the latest episodes of military space opera "Stargate SG1" and superhuman drama "Heroes" for their appealing ensemble casts, cliffhanging plot developments, and strong late-season writing. I'm probably also biased in favor of the New York and global settings. Even though "SG1" is declining in the ratings for its final episodes after a 10-year run, I found lots of good character moments. Alas, "Stargate: Atlantis" and the new "Painkiller Jane" haven't held my attention, falling short in script quality.

I've also wondered if "Heroes" can sustain the suspense and continue intertwining the fates of its expanding cast into next season. Although more uneven in tone, the similarly themed superhumans on "Smallville" remain interesting, and I hope that Clark Kent will step up to his destiny as Superman by the show's end.

This week also brought the good news that the SciFi Channel will broadcast Series 3 of the BBC's revived "Doctor Who" in the U.S. starting this summer. My TARDIS USB hub is humming along, and I recently picked up "The Ultimate Highlander: the Series," which supposedly has the best 15 episodes of the swashbuckling fantasy.

We've also been watching "Animal Precinct" and "RSPCA" on Animal Planet, and when we're around on Saturday mornings, music videos on VH1 and "The Phantom Gourmet." The latter is arguably the best local show on the air, reviewing numerous restaurants and giving me a new appreciation for New England cuisine.

Next time: gamer cohorts, Virginia visit, and more!