Saturday, November 24, 2001

Umm. Call it cold feet but I'm not all that thrilled about joining the military anymore. Paradoxically the sudden success in Afghanistan has partly to do with this. Also discouragement over how slowly I'd been losing weight. Also worry about what happens when the severance pay runs out. Also, I'd love to give my sister an open-ended plane ticket to San Francisco for Christmas. This seems like something she'd enjoy: The two times she's come out here before it's definitely been to recharge. Also I'd love to still live in this specific apartment if we can afford it. Scott and Chris seem to be in on it. Udo's time in America may have achieved lame duck status: Supposedly he'll go back to Germany after the lease is up, maybe sooner if/as he sublets. Those pesky work visa requirements...

Parents of small children can never stay up-to-date on what their kids like and don't like because tastes change so quickly. I'd like to think I'd grown up but maybe there was some of this. Just when my parents were in town to say supportive things about the military, at that very moment I was having near-fatal second thoughts.

Sorry but I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Well-meaning attempts to help guide me have tended to backfire. My parents are obviously concerned that their son is unemployed. Their advice was conceivably helpful. I mostly listened silently and tried not to stress about it, which frequently meant simply failing to engage. The subject would be changed quickly enough that in general I still had a great time.
Oh, you want to know how my Thanksgiving went?!?

Tuesday: My parents came in. I was a little late getting to the airport and they were the first ones off the plane. No big deal, I found them standing outside instead of at the baggage claim. We went to my place to chill. Dad ordered us a pizza. Mom, my roommate Chris, and I played Scrabble. Years ago this was the last game at which my mom could still beat me, the one she held onto the longest. Then at some point I finally turned the corner. Theory: Having one's parents around gives one astonishingly good dumb luck. All the tiles worked out perfectly for me. I won three times and ended up looking like some savant. If you have parents who think you're some sort of freaking demigod (as most parents actually think of their kids), worse things can happen than actually managing to live up to the hype.

Note that my parents stayed at the Great Highway Inn, about four blocks from where I live, right on the ocean. This was a last-minute decision after the previous plan had been for me to put them up in my room and sleep on a couch. Supposedly they'd be more comfy and my dad's snoring wouldn't disturb anyone. Whatever the reason, I think they made the right choice. They got themselves a room.

Wednesday: We hiked through the rain along Ocean Beach (don't ask me, I just told google I felt lucky), the trails by the Sea Cliffs, and onward to the part where all the rich people live, between China Beach and Baker Beach, just west of the Presidio. We walked back along 30th Street, past a high school and over a steep hill and through Golden Gate Park. We went to the mall to buy gifts for our Thanksgiving hosts. Actually the point was for me to weigh in with the U.S. Army but the recruiting station was closed. They simply decided to take that week off or something? After driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the Presidio, we came back and ate at the "Thai-American" place attached to the hotel.

Thanksgiving: In the morning we went to Coit Tower for the great view. Then we drove past Pacific Bell Park and got lost somewhere near 3Com Park because it's impossible to get onto 101 North from 280 South where they cross just south of downtown (not to be confused with where they cross just north of the airport). Got to Walnut Creek 30 minutes late. Kubi predicted we'd be late. Shelly (Kubi's gf) already had the cooking well in hand. We watched the Broncos-Cowboys game, ate, drank, talked. Menfolk watched Mississippi-Mississippi State while women talked.

Footbal thoughts: Kewl to see the Bronco uni's of the 1980s. I hate the new design with the snarling horse: I'll always be a "D-with-the-upright-horse" kind of guy. Took me forever to even realize something was out of the ordinary. If Denver had blown that lead... man... but of course I knew they wouldn't. I had absolutely no rooting interest in the Egg Bowl but when you're digesting turkey your standards aren't so high. It was a passable football game and I remember watching last year's game, learning all about Deuce McAllister and Rudy Johnson that way. Eli Manning fails to impress me.

Friday: We spent the day at Angel Island, walking around the five-mile perimeter, taking the ferry to and fro. Caught a nice dinner on Fisherman's Wharf. Couldn't take a cable car because they weren't running at the time (there was a fire somewhere or something) and the line was humongous. Took one more spin (by car) around Golden Gate Park and the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Saturday: For the fourth day in a row, bought a newspaper for my parents. We took turns doing the Jumble before I drove them to the airport. I got to go first because I'd do it in my head. Then Dad would write his answers down on scrap paper and finally Mom always got to write on the newspaper itself. Just one of those spontaneous traditions I guess. Monty Burns likes to do the Jumble, I think. He also wonders when Ziggy will ever catch a break. There should be a bounty on both those references because I'm forgetting which episodes they appear in.

(But "Dear 'Life in These United States'" is a Sideshow Bob line.)

Of my roommates, Scott and Chris at Thanksgiving dinner at their friend Nick's house, then played a D&D game there the next day. After Tuesday the roommate I've seen most often is Udo, with his Eastern European posse. His lady Dagmar is from Slovakia. Martin may also be Czech or Slovak. They had a couple Russian friends. Thursday everyone was taking about which country's economy was more of a basketcase before "the changes" (i.e. fall of Communism). Udo couldn't really compete here since Frankfurt is firmly in the Western part of the country.

I'm glad they can bond and stuff, since it's unclear how much Thanksgiving means to 'em. I don't know much about the group, though some may be visiting from Utah (Udo got his PhD there). Call me xenophobic but having them around puts me on edge for reasons I can't put my finger on. I guess I'd feel the same way if Scott brought his Berkeley friends (all Midwestern-Americans) over and had them crashing here for days on end. I guess that's the part that gets to me. I don't know what their timetable is because I'm too passive-aggressive to ask. Every night there is drinking of beer. Every morning I wake up and the furniture in the living room is configured differently. A sleeping bag or two sprawls across, sometimes occupied and sometimes not.

This is what I get for keeping my mouth shut rather than trying to get Udo invited to Kubi's place. The thing is, my first choice for Turkey Day (prior to Kubi's invite) was to take my parents out. If I did that I'd have probably invited all three of my roommates, it's unclear who would have gone. My last resort was making something at home, in which case obviously any roommates who were around would get theirs. Thanks to the wonders of Instant Messenger, I got a "boomerang invitation" from Kubi Monday. That is, I invited him and Shelly to join us going out for Thanksgiving dinner and instead he said, "no, how 'bout if y'all come here instead?" This could have been a rude surprise for Shelly (what my parents fretted about) but he assured me she was fine with it and point out just how absurdly much food they'd bought.

Last but not least, phooey. I never did show my parents the pictures of Coit Tower and Golden Gate Bridge etc. etc. from when Ashlie was here last October. Oh well. I guess I never did adequately explain (on the off chance that somebody stumbles across this blog and has no idea who the hell these people are) who Ashlie is and probably never will to anyone's satisfaction. It's a long story, apart from her status as onetime quiz-bowl teammate: At times we've been good friends, never more than that, sometimes far less, you figure it out. :-)

Footnotes For Newbies...
Other random names from recent blog entires: Scott, Chris, and Udo are my three roommates; two hail from Iowa and one from Germany. Guess who's who. Chad Kubicek (known to his friends as "Kubi") also hails from Iowa and used to live here, in the very bedroom I currently have. We all worked for Silicon Age before it became defunct.

Paul Lujan was a Harvard quiz-bowl player. Someone once called him "poofy-hair boy" but I'm too lazy to find a picture of him.

Quiz-bowl is basically trivia competition, generally at the college level. I write questions for a leading trivia company, apparently the only one to host legimate national title competitions at both the college and high schol levels. A lot of people use the term "college bowl" to refer to quiz competition at the college level. But I bet nobody at Canon or Ricoh refers to their copy machines as Xeroxes.

I'm not much of a college football fan. Of all the sports for me to know almost nothing about, this one's almost certainly the most "major" in the eyes of a typical American sports fan.


My team actually went undefeated this year. I heard about the victory over yale from Paul Lujan, all the other wins from Kubi, who didn't even go there. He knows more about Harvard football than I do, than most Crimson alumni do.


Kubi also likes to point out that my team sucks -- that is, the team I grew up rooting for, the team that matters to him for Big12 purposes. I like the other school in my fine home state. Bully to them for winning the national title and going undefeated and all that. They're still not my team and never will be. My team won today.

Go Pokes!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Host's Note: Some somewhat amusing brief commentary on the day has now become completely buried by those ponderous recollection posts. That is to say, I think I've made more than 5 posts since you last read this thing. If you want to sift through them somehow, the Blogspot navigation seems to work well.
(Please come to Boston in the springtime...)

The point of the trip was the NAQT 2000 ICT, hosted in Boston. I decided to make the trip last a little longer. What a way to shoot your whole wad of vacation for the year eh?

Early one (Monday?) morning I caught the overnight "Owl" service along the N Line, catching one of the first BART's from downtown to the Oakland Coliseum/Airport stop. I almost didn't figure out how to catch the $2.50 "AirBART" shuttle bus to the airport proper (Free service? you Bostonians are spoiled), though a talkative woman who turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness was happy to help me.

Oakland to Los Angeles to Kansas City to Chicago to Providence I flew, mind you I didn't actually have to deplane at LAX and almost failed to notice our stopping there. A shuttle bus later I was at South Station, thence a 20-minute walk to my old office (ick! the Borg of corporate culture has now thoroughly manifested myself; I left at exactly the right time). I hung out and surfed the net for awhile and then caught a ride home with... actually with my old boss Brian, who at the time was living with (tenant of?) our colleague Sarge. In exchange for helping him get his computer and CompuServe account set up, I got to crash in yet another room Sarge had free. We also prepared for a fantasy baseball draft in which I badly choked. I don't even want to talk about it. Not him or him. (Note: I lucked out on this guy a year later but--astonishingly--traded him for a package of talent.)

Tuesday thru Thursday I spent with Kevin and Leo and Sara back at the old haunts. Wednesday I vaguely remember sitting in Widener Library and writing a baseball column (the particular one won't have still been archived by now). We reminisced. We walked past (and maybe into) Diesel Cafe and expressed our silent admiration of all the lesbians there. At least one night I spent on the computer at Sara's apartment, taking advantage of a fast dial-up connection to write questions--desperately to write questions--all through the night. Eventually I stumbled onto a sleeping bag and woke up to the end of one of those Cub-Met games in Tokyo.

Thursday I worked still more frantically on some other baseball web site to which I devoted my talents. That was somewhere in the Harvard Science Center and resulted in lunch with my old pal Claudia.

Spent the weekend in Cleveland at TRASHionals 2000, on a team with Brian Hight (he's on the page somewhere). He was also my roommate. We were not as good as we thought we were, maybe I brought him down. We were both free agents. On the plus side I once got to see Hight and Edmund Schluessel end up in a heated argument that basically came down to their (on the surface) completely different ways of viewing the world. The irony being the extent to which they're the same person, I guess. (Sorry, I'll leave it at that to be gratuitously cryptic.)

Back in town, I got to watch some sort of Opening Night Red Sox game (at Seattle?) from the comfort of Pondscumme Manor (google claims I can get there from here but everything's all out of date anyway). Crashed there that night, perhaps the only full night of sleep I got in the whole two weeks.

This left me with at most one more night crashing at Kevin's place and, due to all the question writing, a piss-poor degree of contact with my old friend. Then a night or two of greatly-appreciated Montfort Street hospitality dominated by writing up a schedule and stuff.

Here are the official results of the NAQT 2000 ICT. If I do say so myself (and blatantly flattering the known audience), this was the best ICT ever, clearly the only one that ever went on time. Compliments abounded.

On that Friday two very lovely young lasses helped me carry really heavy boxes to the official NAQT hotel room. One of them recognized me on the street and like grabbed my ass or something. (Clearly I'm remembering this wrong. But it's the sort of thing she'd do and have it turn out to be cute. By now she's already enough of a legend on other people's blogs.) The other one was her friend Annie. General consensus among friends who shall remain nameless was that both Sarah and Annie were quite the lookers. :-)

In any case, not everybody who was supposed to officiate came. Not everybody who was supposed to play came. But we pulled off a tournament. What can I say about April 8, 2000? What can I possibly say? It was the most intense, most palpable, yet most indescribable feeling I've ever had. I don't think I've ever been more aware of the present moment than during that tournament. And sharing pizza with people over lunch. And, okay, seeing Ashlie for the first time in two years. One thing happened. Then another thing happened. All of them frozen moments, yet time still going faster than I could possibly catch up with it. Exhilirating is the best word.

In the end it was all too much. So many people wanted me to go out to eat with them--the Harvardians (Joon et al), the MIT people (Tanis et al), maybe Ashlie and Daisy. In the end I felt like I was going to be sick. Instead I took a nap. NAQT got its food at My Brother's Place and held a very somber annual meeting in the basement of a BU dorm.

The next morning, as previously arranged, I went out to brunch. What was the name of that place? And why did I run into my old church friend Julie when she was waiting at the C Line to head into town? So many coincidences that morning. Somewhere near Coolidge Corner. Oh well, the name's not important. What's important is we talked and talked and talked and stayed in the present tense, my second day in a row of managing to live precisely in the moment and lose all track of past or future. Until I had to catch the subway to the Bonanza Bus (which I barely caught) to the Providence Airport to the Southwest flights to Nashville and then Oakland. In Nashville, the cool Caltech people and I had a long conversation and then the cool Berkeley people and I had a long conversation and boarded the same plane.

Then I took BART to the N Line and the N Line to 46th Street and walked home and went to work the next morning. It's always so anti-climactic.
Back to a completely different set of pointless "rememberies," as the melonheads would say...

At this time (cue Abe Simpson talking about how it was customary to carry a green onion...), we worked in a sketchy office suite in the Hamm's Building, across the street from a Safeway complex on the land that used to be Seals Stadium. The suite technically belonged to a near-bankrupt former client (if you know what the dot-com market was like as 1999-2000, you realize it took special talent to already be hard-up for money) that owed our company money. Nearby food options included mediocre Chinese food at the Jade Cafe and mediocre Oaxacan food at the phonetically-named !Wa-Ha-Ka!.

I puttered around for the first couple weeks, nominally working on an ASP/VBScript upgrade to my stats program (top link, left column). We had these weekly Wednesday 6 p.m. status meetings to talk about new business, new employees, and so on. I should share deep thoughts and impressions of all my colleagues and in a spiral notebook I would but why bother? Read it all here (Luoi, the new guy, who ended up getting paid severance for a longer time period than he actually did work, didn't end up here but he wasn't around until long after this time period).

Oh, I also learned SQL. You too must learn SQL even if you have no desire to be a computer geek. You simply must. R. Robert Hentzel wrote the tutorial I used. It's probably somewhere on this site, maintained by my old colleague Ben.

(Without meaning to set a precedent or to diss anyone else I worked with--all wonderful people--I absolutely have to mention that Ben Jackson may be the nicest guy I've ever met, where by "nice" I also mean that he knows a ton of stuff, is happy to pass that knowledge on to you, and is an incredibly easy person to work with and get along with. For much of my time at Silicon Age Ben was my hero.)

The Scrabble thing: Once a week my friend Cindy and I played Scrabble with this informal club that had gathered via Craig's List. (Aside, discovered "by accident" once by Kubi: Do Not Click This Link unless you want lots of XXX porn in a never-ending cycle of popup windows. Instead, click here for your fill of "Euro Sluts" at a highly amusing domain name that used to serve a valid purpose.)

The core of the group was me, Cindy, one other woman, a straight guy, and a gay guy. (But not a pizza place.) Rumor has it that the repeated Scrabble playing became basically a pretext for someone (neither me nor Cindy) to hit on someone else (neither me nor Cindy). In any case it lasted just long enough that we went out to this really nice Mexican place on my 25th birthday. (Crap, I was 24 when I got here and I'm damn near 27.)

Through much of mid-March we had our first prolonged period of all work and absolutely no free time. Sadly the site we created no longer exists, at least not at the same domain name. It was a webzine about the health care business. But it was not WebMD nor Dr. Koop's site. I guess this was my first project though I never met the client(s). It was still ASP.

This project was still going on when I left town for a two-week journey that was (mostly) a return to Boston...

Monday, November 19, 2001

November 19, 2001
Here's the uncool part of the day. I woke up at 9:20 (actually 9:17) and realized I had a court appointment at 9:30. I left in my car at 9:22. By 9:48 I finally found parking.

Background: A few Wednesdays ago I got into an argument over parking. Namely, some guy called the cops on me because my car was an inch over the space that's legally an extension of his driveway. Was he in fact physically prevented from accessing the street from the driveway or vice versa? He (when I rang his doorbell) refused to even attempt to say one way or the other. What, then, was the point of causing me to be $50 poorer (assuming some day I pay the ticket)?

The ensuing argument featured two expectorations and a shove. The parking enforcement dude actually witnessed the latter. In other words, I seriously fucked up.

Rather than have an actual court date, I received a notice that it was sent to this Pre-Trial Diversion dispute resolution thing. I was supposed to meet Tuesday, November 13, at 10:45 a.m. I received the notice some time that evening. The next morning I called frantically to reschedule.

A judge listened to my side of the story (the dude who had insisted on pressing charges also happened not to show up). Given the choice between paying $150 or signing up for anger management classes, on a lark I chose the latter. Starting next week I'll know what's up with those. (You can imagine the interior monologue. "I don't need anger management classes, do I?" *series of flashbacks to various points in my life* "Oh, o-kayyyyyyyy. Fudge. I bet parking will suck.")

Some bureaucracy later, a nice (almost smarmy) caseworker named Steve got me the referral I'd need. The classes will happen at some church downtown.

The cool part of my day involved, in no particular order:
Awkward smalltalk
Discussion of what it means to be mean, or to be devilish (there's an icon for the latter)
A piggy-back ride
Brief digression about Chomper from The Land Before Time
Impersonation of a police officer
A novelty item
Brief digression about Shrek (oh nonononono... IMDB insists a sequel is in the making, please let it not ruin the wonderful original)
A slight delay
Breaking news from Afghanistan
Impersonation of a cat
Christmas memories: various narratives
The nature of Christianity, to wit Catholicism
The effect of water on fake felines
More analysis of the Afghan situation
Another slight delay
A brief, poignant send-off
(Or, a huge ploy to get you to follow a bunch of links.)

It's embarrassing to admit this but I have a new heartthrob in the world of alternative music.

I almost never develop celebrity crushes. It's just not something I do. Off the top of my head who else is there? Hmm, there's her especially after this (okay, you got me, I have a debilitating fondness for Bad Girls sometimes) and this. I haven't seen her latest yet because I'm deathly afraid it'll disappoint me.

Who else? Oh yeah, (don't laugh!!) there's her, though she looks better with glasses on. Uh... I was briefly obsessed with her for awhile when I realized who she was in this and this and this (my first "date movie," if it's possible to have one of those in seventh grade) and this, to say nothing of this (which I almost never watch but am convinced it pales in comparison to the previous link: this bias is probably Debbie's fault).

That was pure harmonic convergence, realizing that all these characters I so adored were played by the same woman. Sort of like when I realized that every song I hate from the 1960s and '70s, without out fail, every single one of them came from this band (oh geez, for the love of all that's good don't follow that link, the page makes my skin crawl).

(Looks around furtively, convinced this will get me in trouble...) will you think any less of me if I admit to her? I swear it's the character moreso than the actress but still. Anyway follow the link, it's pretty funny.

Anyway... there are all my celebrity crushes (except for ones I may have forgotten). But my new one trumps them all, especially since she's a musician. Those crushes are hard to come by. Oh sure, I was jonesing for these gals for ages but mostly for their music itself. (All the same, buy this CD, the inside sleeve picture is to die for.

With all due respect to Nina, though, I now have my first musical crush since I was 13 years old and she was all the rage.

(For casual readers if any exist: Q. "Who the hell is Nina?" A. Follow the link. Q. "Who the hell is Debbie?" A. Wouldn't you like to know? According to this, apparently America's Sweetheart now works for a biotech company in San Diego.)

...followmefollowmefollowmedown, down down down...
Breast-Only Orgasms
At least that was the last line of Boston Public I overheard before retreating to my room. It turns out the set of television with which I have "issues" is greater than I thought. Well, maybe it's only Sorkin and Kelley. (By the way, somebody should tell FOX to change the title of this page. I turned to google for help spelling the guy's name but apparently they don't know either.)

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against breast-only orgasms. I hear they're quite amazing. And well worth a bold headline. Anyway this was the school newspaper headline to which a large black teacher objected. This immediately after she caught some kids making out and told them to go to class and, in the act of threatening them, made a derogatory comment about a hook-handed rival teacher.

What I fear -- though I admit I'm too stubborn to actually watch for sure; I'd claim "better things to do with my time" except the existence of this blog shoots down that argument -- is that this woman is going to end up as a straw-man, as not only the token "conservative" but also a gross caricature of prudishness and closed-mindedness. And hostile to the handicapped to boot.
Notes on that last post: AFAIK two people, maybe three, actually read this thing other than me. Also, it's funny that the HTML link didn't render. Once more, with A HREF tags, click here.
Cool Web Site of the Day:

I've been skeptical lately. Most people who read this site probably know what I'm talking about. If you don't but you care enough to want to, drop me a line or something. I don't know how to resolve this skepticism other than by not asking for more out of life than what it actually offers, what I actually see. Not everyone is who they seem to be, I guess, but that's okay if everyone is nice to each other.

Sometimes I think I'm gratuitously cryptic.