Friday, November 16, 2001

BRUCES COAST TO COAST
(How conspicuously am I procrastinating?)

On the final weekend of January 2000 I had a very nice evening that included dinner (Uno's) and a movie (American Beauty). This was the sort of weekend evening that normal people probably take for granted. I wish I'd been better company that evening: Signs that you probably shouldn't have had so much to drink at dinner include watching the climactic scene of American Beauty and actually being disappointed when Kevin Spacey's moral compass finally kicks in.

Describing other people is inherently awkward since everybody is a private figure by default and a blog is somewhat public even if nobody really reads it. But the previous paragraph sounds really self-centered. For posterity: I spent the evening with a fascinating person who under difference circumstances I'd have loved to get to know better. Here "different circumstances" means something other than my moving across-country less than a week later. Incredibly, after parting ways with her I went directly to work, probably not quite sober yet when I arrived.

Working nights and weekends now seems quite foreign. Actually I'm a bit out of practice of working at all, since it's been just over a month. Weekend nights I'd get a ride home from this guy Gavin. (Not having a car also seems vaguely foreign from this vantagepoint.) Before the worknight ended we would typically stand around and talk through about the 9:00 hour, then get the first faxes around 9:45/9:50. By 11 it would be a frenzy of data entry and recap-writing: my job was a hybrid of the two. Often I'd volunteer to pull stuff off the faxes and distribute the load, while also nominally doing my own data entry or recaps (I typed fast). Once the rush died down, weekends were perfect for Sarge's jazz collection. Billie Holliday would sing and I'd wonder why we didn't have cocktails or something.

Right after I left they place they finally got the TV hookup they'd been promising forever. Apparently this hurt productivity a bit. It's probably a completely different place now. Note that in my notice-giving, "so long and thanks for all the fish" letter, I joked that one thing I'd miss most were the free Red Sox tickets. The day after I put that letter in people's mailboxes, SportsTicker issued a directive that there'd be no more free Sox tix.

I still came into work those last couple nights even with my mom in town. My old roommate Kevin describes Mom as a very talkative but incredibly patient person. She'd be doing laundry and packing stuff while I was at work or asleep. She never complained about this. Thanks Mom!

The last night we were in town Kevin and his girlfriend and our other roommate Leo and my mom and I went to the steakhouse on Massachusetts Ave. (Jack's? Frank's?) Leo's the one who had made us an Italian meal when my parents came to visit earlier that fall. He was from Milano, very good-natured, quite a ladies' man. After all the good-byes, the next morning the last thing we did before leaving Boston was catch a round or two of Terrier Tussle. I got a really nice going-away card that still sits atop my dresser (thanks Allyson!).

We'd just gotten onto the Mass Pike when Mom's car phone rang. Dad told her to stop at the next exit and call him back. That's never a good sign. Did something happen to Sarah (my sister)? To Fluffly (our cat, not to be confused with Eric Cartman's pig or the three-headed dog from Sorceror's Stone)? Rather, my grandmother had passed away. My mom's mom. Years after first being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She'd gotten excellent care in the last years of her life, lived in a home run by a man named Tore whose purpose in life is to provide the elderly with top-flight care. Her decline had been remarkably slow, with plateaus of contentment, but nothing lasts forever.

We made it all the way home (an hour west of Chicago) that night and I cooled my heels a couple days while Mom did her part with funeral arrangements and such. With me headed for my first week on a new job in a new city, my going to the funeral seemed out of the question. Apparently our relatives all understood. We left Chicago on a Tuesday afternoon (the day "Uncle Bob," longtime WGN-AM DJ, died in a plane crash, leading to somber, bittersweet ongoing news coverage on both WGN and AM rival WLS), drove as far as Council Bluffs, Iowa (on the Mississippi River across from Omaha); then to the border town of Wendover the next night (made it to an exit in NV, then technically the hotel was back in UT); then to SF on a Thursday evening.

My new apartment-mate (and fellow downstairs-dweller) Chris helped me move stuff into my room. Before that, roommates had helpfully cleared the driveway so Mom could back the rental van into it ("Were you a truck driver in a past life?" - Chris admiring my mom's parking job). She thought Chris was absolutely delightful. Heck, I think he's absolutely delightful. He's the early-to-bed, early-to-rise guy, the only software developer I've ever seen who makes slow steady consistent progress rather than loading up on last-minute caffeine and slamming out code. He gets good-natured grief for being a little odd (the only straight white male I know who's that into anime but only for the clean stuff), even in a company full of odd people, but he's one of the good guys.

Chad Kubicek was his gregarious self, though he was on his way out the door when I first saw him at our new place. Both Scott's made cameo appearances: That my conversation with Scott C. was the latest and the shortest now seems ironic. I remember him sipping coffee from a Friends mug. This kind of blow-by-blow account must be dreadfully boring. Anyway, I made it to SF in one piece.

The day we returned the van it poured down rain. Mom and I took the wrong bus and ended up on a long, discouraging walk through Golden Gate Park. At the end of her time in SF, I ditched her to ride to Berkeley with R. for NAQT sectionals. That also took place in the pouring rain. Tourney supposed to start at 7:30; R. and I, both game officials, got there at 7:25 but apparently in no danger of delaying the tourney any further than it would have been. There were fun people at the tournament--Maribeth, Jason Z., various Berkeley personi--though I guess every quiz tourney gets those. Ponderously detailed essay on West Coast QB to come much, much later. When we return... (probably over the weekend sometime) more than you wanted to know about those first couple weeks on the job, my brief dabbling in a weekly Scrabble club, and other February/March highlights as I happen to remember them.
JANUARY 2000 (first in a series)
On the first day of 2000, I covered the Bruins-Devils hockey game for SportsTicker. This turned out to be a bad idea. The game was fun--and free--but in various ways I messed up. They said to bring a phone. Instead of a *real* phone that I could plug into a receiver at the table, I brought a cell phone that completely failed to work inside Fleet Center. For score updates I had to race to a pay phone and call Ticker's 800 #. I didn't buddy up to get post-game quotes, so the quotes I got sucked. Still it was a worthwhile experience and the food was good and Ray Bourque achieved some decade-related milestones.

On the first weekend of 2000 I flew to San Francisco for a job interview. The interview took place in Tim and Rob Hentzel's apartment. Steve, future co-worker, was living on their living room floor at the time, on an air mattress. (SF housing market sucked.) I took a sleeping bag. (Had I so desired, they would have booked a hotel room for me. This seemed unnecessary to me.) We had lunch at a Taiwanese place, made a bunch of geek jokes, and came back and played Age of Empires in the afternoon. At various times Tim also showed us Driver. Saturday night I wrote questions(!). Sunday morning my friend Cindy and I went for dim sum in Chinatown.

The weather was gorgeous. The houses were painted various pink and yellow and blue pastel colors. (In The Richmond that is; The Sunset is just like it.) Shortly after my return to Boston, the first blizzard of 1999-2000 hit. I got a job offer and immediately accepted it, giving sudden lame duck status to my Boston tenure. By the time Silicon Age finally folded I was making a shade over twice the figure that the VP of Howe Sportsdata thought would entice me to stay. (I don't trust that he could have convinced Ticker to pay me that: If he could, why wasn't I paid fairly already?)

Much of the final days of overnight baseball/hockey work were spent on this pre-2000 season fantasy baseball project. I covered something like the Cubs, Royals, Rangers, Rockies, Marlins, and one or two teams I've forgotten. Still have a 1999 Florida Marlins post-season media guide.

Until sitting down to type this I completely forgot about that year's Penn Bowl trip. Much of what happened that weekend is unfit for public blogging, especially since I'm sure I don't know the half of it. We'll just hand-wave a bit, make knowing references to electric lemonade, and trust that everyone on that trip brought back their own memories... mostly fond, definitely unique.

Sidebar: Boston University at Penn Bowl, Era of The Bruce
1997: Actually the first NAQT ICT. We sucked. Godboy did the shirtless macarena Friday night; your humble author drank too much, made a fool of himself, and had a stretch of ten score-changing buzzes that featured one right answer and nine negs.
1998: Sort of the "12 players, 12 cabs" trip but not really. (Sadly, Mark Coen was not on this trip, instead we were "chaperoned" by a woman whom nobody really knew and her niece. They too went their own way.) The coming shift in officerdom was painfully conspicuous. Not counting the chaperones there was a 5-8 male-female ratio wherein all five of us guys had to share the same room. A group of cool people did something (I forget what) that was so cool that not everybody could fully appreciate its coolness. Matt Boggie had a Deep Conversation with someone in the hotel lobby. Four of us went to this sports bar where a then-freshman who shall remain nameless got carded. She handed the waitress her actual Maine driver's license and inexplicably was still served what she ordered. Mike Hoey-Lukakis ordered a (non-alcoholic) iced tea and carded himself for it. Three of us went to the Hard Rock Cafe. That would have been a perfect sit-com moment if I were like The Gay Guy or something.
1999: My last year playing featured lots of disturbingly good buzzes Friday night followed by the Saturday afternoon "crack" debacle that ended up being the difference between missing the playoffs and getting annihilated by Yaphe's Chicago team in the round-of-16. We dined as one at the Schula's Steakhouse that had formerly been Smart Alek's. Cooch got a wedgie or two. Joey Joe Joe Jr. Shabadoo kept the mood light.
2000: I read. Perhaps BU A yet again just missed a playoff berth. While nobody at Penn was paying attention to their own computer/overhead projector setup, the computer's web browser mysteriously found its way to a porn site and a nightmare of popup windows before certain suspicious-acting people ran like hell.
2001: I'm sitting in an office somewhere. "Oh, Penn Bowl's this weekend. Damn. Guess I'm not going."
Draco Malfoy was ill, the day the Earth stood still...
We decided at about 11:45 last night to go catch a midnight movie. This was Scott's idea; Chris and I came along. In hindsight I'm surprised I went but if you ask somebody spontaneously enough it's amazing how people will suddenly decide to spend their time.

There was a long line to get in, lots of people in costume, possibly some as their favorite characters. The movie theater staff gave us a quick talk before the show began. An excited buzz passed through the crowd. Ah, nothing like Harry Potter. The movie that is. Or as I've started to think of it, the Harry Potter Picture Show.

Apparently nobody else saw quite the movie I saw but there has to be a first time for everything. Anyway, my favorite scenes was the one where Meat Loaf rode his motorcycle into the girls' bathroom and Weasley had to defeat him with a levitation spell. Or the one where all the Wizard Chess pieces fall into the swimming pool and start singing Don't Dream It, Be It. The one where Tim Curry sneaks into Potter's bedroom pretending to be Hermione is pretty creepy though. And who knew that the teacher who was after the Sorcerer's Stone was actually Riff-Raff?!?

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Anybody smell a copycat? (I guess, "anybody care?")

Yahoo! Messenger
(Red "Y!" with smiley face)
Although you have closed the program window, Yahoo! Messenger will continue to run in the taskbar (near the clock) so that you can receive notifications messages and instant messages.
[graphic with sound cone, Y! logo, and time 11:25]
[*] Show this dialog in the future
[OK]


AOL Instant Messenger (SM)
(blue "i" in a quote bubble)
Although you have closed your buddy list window, you will remain signed on, and AOL Instant Messenger will continue to run in the taskbar (near the clock) so that you can continue to receive notifications and instant messages.
[graphic with sound cone, AOL "running man" logo, and time 2:43]
[] Do not show me this message again.
[OK]
What's scarier? This picture (seen here) or how I found it? It's a scary, scary world. Then again I know nontrivially many people whose names lead to zero search results on google.

Earlier tonight I went to the old office (company is defunct, ignore any dated info on the site) to scavenge stuff before the November 15 day of reckoning for the office space itself. Don't call it looting because Tim explicitly said that everything still left in the office would be thrown out. Well, not computers and servers and stuff but you get the idea.

A show I don't care to watch: The West Wing. Inexplicably my arch-conservative roommate (I'm measurably to his Left) likes this show. I caught about five minutes of it by accident while in conversation with him. My take is, hell, we finally got rid of Clinton, I have no need to relive the era. Also it seems a lot like a bizarro Dr. Laura, in that although lip service is given to a diversity of arguments, the Sorkin/Democratic POV always "wins." Strawmen? Got better things to do then see them.

A show I don't care to watch but I have no idea why I instinctively distrust it: Spin City. Antipathy towards Michael J. Fox maybe? I caught the pre-credits portion of a syndicated rerun, for the life of me couldn't identify what show it was. It turns out this also means I can watch Heather Locklear act in a sit-com and not recognize her. There was her, some guy she worked with, and some friend she'd met at a yoga class and she was mad because her co-worker was hitting on her new friend.

A show that frightens me, again without my having a good explanation: Ally McBeal. Caught 15 minutes of it once as a captive audience in the basement bar section of the Harvard Square Pizzeria Uno. (The sports offerings that night must have been terrible that night.) The world from Ally's point of view is going to end up completely screwed-up, nothing much we can do about it. Except show some common sense. Guys (there's strong evidence I'm preaching entirely to the choir so ignore me), Callista Flockheart is NOT physically attractive. At least to me she's not. YMMV. I fear for what happens if she's caught in a strong wind, not that her skirt would fly up or anything but just that I can imagine limbs snapping off.

My cool Internet geek friends (is that an oxymoron? given that these are Harvard kids it almost has to be) knew by about the second or third episode that Ally (AMcB was their immediate shorthand) would be the next big thing. Not related: Once I watched the Puppy Episode of Ellen on tape in an apartment with a group of people of which--I have to think hard about this--I may have been the only straight person in the room. Check that, there were other hets. The room was overwhelmingly gay or poly though. Neat group of people, many of whom would come to despise me after one political argument too many. *sigh*

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Someone (he knows who he is) has a hair obsession. Imagine how he'd feel if he had what I have going, the Jeff Fisher look. (Okay, I don't have a moustache, but other than that...)

Commuter Karaoke, Family Values Tour Edition:
The timbre of my voice is perfect for singing along to Staind songs. It's a dead-on match, if I do say so myself. Depending on who I've been bitter at, it turns out a lot of people have been ugly, ugly like me, moreso than people whose taste I remember.

By contrast, for whatever reason I cannot for the life of me do an even vaguely convincing Linkin Park singalong. I'll start to belt out the line, CRAW-ling IN my SKIN, only it'll sound like Sarah McLachlan.

Heads-up for whoever's marriage begins with the next wedding I go to: I will, after I'm good and liquored, request if not demand some Linkin Park at the reception.

Back to Staind: As their latest hit makes clear, Staind has apparently succeeded Everclear in the "life sucks and it's all my Dad's fault" niche of alternative music. It's so blatant that I can't ever admit liking Staind without quickly pointing out just how happy a childhood I had. One more Staind comment to come, depending on how I feel about "adult language" (consider this a spoiler).

Right after the back-to-back metal angst ("It's Been Awhile" and "Crawling"), I went into a drug store whose piped music was playing You Must Love Me. (Kudos to google for setting me straight here: In the store I swore it was Celine Dion but I guess it's really Madonna. Who knew?) Felt like those Pittsburgh Steeler fans in that Visa commercial.

(Meta-rant: Why don't companies with really funny commercials make info about their commercials more easily accessible on-line? I say that as a hardcore question writer. I'm sure these guys feel even stronger about it.)

You know, if a country music singer can temporarily reinvent himself as rock star Chris Gaines then could I one day reinvent my listening profile? One day before you know it I'll have my mind on my money and my money on my mind, all while putting my ass into it. Eh, check that, I guess I have to meet someone and she puts her ass into it. Rap lyrics can be so confusing!

But there's obvious common ground between Family Values Tour bands and hip-hop. Sure enough when I got back into the car a Beastie Boys song came on.

Overheard at Pacific Bell Park at least 200 times a year:
NO! SLEEP!!! Shortstop, #35 no sleep till Rich Brooklyn AURILIA!!

Barry Bonds bats to Dre 2001: The Next Episode, sans lyrics. Once I finally heard the song I always wanted to drop an MF-bomb about the "D-O-G" but never did. Jeff Kent's batting music is a rotation of miscellaneous AC/DC.

A friend of mine grew up on a farm, where among the other animals were a lot of stray cats whom they'd feed. The cats would roam around, sometimes one or the other of them would disappear for awhile but always come back. A whole bunch of blog thoughts popped into my head in the car (I went for a long swim (okay, that link was kinda gratuitous)) and this was one of them only I forget where it fits in. Oh yeah, after the conversation recounted in the previous entry, Chris told me, "I'm headed out for awhile." I never actually say things like that to my roommates, I just leave.

My friend and Boston roommate Kevin thought I was the perfect roommate. This is plainly ludicrous, since among other things everywhere I live has become a disaster area of messiness. But his basic point was that I didn't care where he went or how late he stayed up. He'd previously had roommates who were always asking him questions that, I guess, felt prying. The thing is, I honestly don't care. I hope nobody I live with ever takes that the wrong way. But life seems to work best like those cats on the farm. Maybe this is why, with one highly improbable exception, I do a terrible job staying in touch with people, I dunno.

This may have been relevant to how I thought my day would turn out, though what I thought turned out to be wrong. :-)

Staind has another really interesting song called Waste, whose lyrics are the best possible summation of why I know I'll never ever kill myself. Yeah, most people would take this for granted, they'd say it would never even occur to them. I suspect a lot of the people who answered that way are conveniently forgetting the times they wake up in the middle of the night with doubt or even Charlie Brown-like existential worry.

Anyway (pardon the upcoming French), the song is pretty transparently sung to someone who's just killed himself. Staind takes a tough-love approach to the situation:
"I've been there many times before
I've tasted the cold steel of my life crashing down before me

But these words
They can't repace
The life you...
...the life you waste

Did Daddy not love you?
Or did he love you just too much?
Did he control you?
Did he live through you at your cost?
Did he leave no questions for you to answer on your own?

WELL FUCK THEM!
AND FUCK HER!
AND FUCK HIM!
AND FUCK YOU!
For not having
The strengh in your heart
To pull through!
I've had doubts!
I have failed!
I've fucked up!
I've had plans!
Doesn't mean
I should take
My Life
With my own hands
"

Yeah, morbid I know. Powerful. Depending on just how depressed teenagers are these days, I hope the message spreads, only it's not something you can actually come out and say to any particular person. It's... it sounds insensitive.

On the "sounding insensitive" front, if I really truly succeed at losing all this weight then I wonder what my general level of tolerance/sympathy will be for people who are as overweight as I've been. It's hard work but still, I think I'll be really happy for me and probably apathetic about them.

At some point the reputation developed that I had a thing for women who had a few extra pounds. This is an almost poisonously unfortunate conception to come up because here's what it often means, at least in any given woman's mind:
1. He likes big women in general
2. In particular he likes [whoever]
3. I don't think she's attractive at all, she needs to lose a few pounds
4. He likes me?!
5. Then I must be... ack!!

I see how it works but I don't like it. For what it's worth, if I met a woman who had exactly my (as of, say, a month ago) height, weight, and fitness level, I'd find her unattractive. (This varies considerably with personality but just for hypothetical's sake, count me out.) I'm not into Big Beautiful Women, rather, it's all about the happy medium. BBW scare me whereas thin people are merely aesthetically displeasing.

"Athletic" works for me. (Ah but what sport? Here's where some guys I used to work with roundly mocked me for liking hockey, rugby, lacrosse, or even (heaven forbid!) soccer or softball players. Their idea of an athletic woman was a tennis player or a track star, if not a gymnast.)

If ever there were a written test, a background check for the "Be Matt's Woman" derby, a simplified form of it might be something like:
1. Has anyone ever called you a "tomboy"?
2. Do you like baseball?
3. Have you ever gotten a non-zero score in the Putnam Mathematical Competition?

There probably should be a question about politics but I'm content just if she's never ever had a bumper sticker that says anything like, "Hey Bush - Stay Out Of Mine!" (as seen on a car in a driveway on my street).

But anyway, I'm glad I'm not currently active in the on-line match-making scene. I think if I were then the movie Shallow Hal would send me into conniption fits. Not that it doesn't already. I have issues with that movie that I still haven't been able to put into words. When I was seeking Bostonians on-line a few summers ago, more than one of them metioned the movie Next Stop Wonderland, for obvious reasons. I never did see either of these movies and probably never will.

This Just In: AOL Appears To Suck
"Have we bombed them into the Stonge Age yet?"
-my roommate Chris to me as I watched CNN just now, Donald Rumsfeld press conference with "FALL OF KABUL" graphic

"No, but we took their capital, and since you've played Axis & Allies, you know that's the key to victory."
"Woo-hoo! We get all their IPC points."
"Yep, all 14 of them."
"AND they don't get any more of them until liberated."

Kidding aside this appears to be a joyous occasion.

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
-Winston Churchill

Monday, November 12, 2001

"I quit my job today." --father-looking guy in the front seat
"I met this really cool guy on the Internet... he's 30." --teen-looking girl in the back seat.
(from a Lexus commercial comparing the curves of life to the curves of a street)

Tonight's football game is incredibly boring. Having said that I have a thing for sporting events with degenerately low (or high) scores. Football games scoreless into the second-half, or for that matter 31-31 in the third quarter, either way.

This is a waste of time. I have too much crap that I'm putting off doing.
Happy Veteran's Day!

All is right with the world. Almost all is right with the world. If you're easily bored then skip this entry and go watch this episode of Just Shoot Me. (My roommate Scott was watching it in syndication just now.)

The Broncos won today and the 49ers played an exciting game whose tail end I caught. (I root against both Bay Area teams for unrelated reasons of principles, though I mind a Niner victory far less than I mind a Raider victory.) Any Sunday on which one can watch either an entire Baseball Tonight or an entire NFL Prime Time is officially pretty darned good. Either of those goes even better with a swimming pool or grilled meats or both.

I actually drove to a swimming pool today but it was closed. An old lady on the street warned me of this after I got out my car holding a swimsuit. Indeed the sign, dated November 5, indicated that the pool would be closed two weeks for "cleaning."

I didn't even consider grilling any meat today yet I did spend some time in our back yard. A little bit of sweeping leaves off the concrete and a lot of bouncing a superball and playing this game where I'd try to catch it after one bounce, then two, then three--highest I got was 12.

Sent chat messages to four people I know today and had neat conversations with two of them.

Oh, and before any of this I went and ran 1.5 miles (well, ran & walked) and didn't feel as though I'd end up throwing up.

The only real downer today: The KFC/Taco Bell hybrid at 20th and Irving puts some sort of weird crap (it tastes like a cross between mayo and ranch) on chicken quesadillas. The Taco Bell we stopped at on my last trip to LA had no such weird crap on its chicken quesadillas. Should've gotten the honey BBQ wings I guess. Oh, and even there, I noticed a Round Table Pizza at 25th and Irving, within reasonable long-walking distance of me! Anyone who's lived on the West Coast will tell you that Round Table cannot be beaten.

Cross-plugs are so evil that this should only happen once. That said, on the off-chance that you read me but not him, read the November 11 entry here. Touching.