Saturday, December 22, 2001

I think we have a goat tonight.

If I have any psychic power -- this is highly questionable -- but if I do, I put it to pretty malicious use tonight. Poor, poor Sebastian.

Did you notice this was a game with two left-footed kickers?

January 2001 Executive Summary

Highlight: Bush inauguration. Words can't fully explain this. Actually one word does it plenty well: Relief. The Onion can make fun of this all it wants to but, honest to gosh, this brought an end to an era of presidential politics that dearly deserves a quick burial.

Lowlight: The accident. Several days in a row in late January I was late to work. With 9:30 teleconference "stand-up" meetings, this was a Bad Thing. One day, struggling not to be late, I was at an intersection near the office at 9:25 or so. Two lanes of traffic, with a left turn lane opening up. So many people wanted to turn left that the last of them were blocking the left lane, right in front of me. To catch the green light while I could, I tried to get into the right lane exactly as a Saab -- a frickin' Saab -- pulled through my blind spot. Nobody was hurt but nobody ever wants to wreck a car, especially a month after it was bought. Scuffed the right front corner paint job a bit but nothing worth bothering to fix.
Quiz Bowl Humor
Okay, so how many "name's the same" questions will find their way into various teams' Penn Bowl (nice domain *snicker*) packs comparing Richard Reid, College Bowl head honco, to Richard Reid, bomber wannabe?

This post is a testament to the... lack of drama... of the current Eagles-Niners tilt.

January 2001

Finally we recap the year we're actually living in. Two events from the end of 2000 foreshadow this: First, the somewhat boring but moreso pleasantly quiet week of work, where the three or four of us not actually spending vacation time (I blew mine April '00) got to plow through requirements documents and assemble questions, clarifications, and instances of diplomatically-worded "that's way too hard and it's not what you want, can we do it like this instead?"

'Twas Will (Business Manager), Tim (COO, DBA, brother of R.), Dex, Matt McGlincy, and myself. (The "other Matt" started doing Silicon Age work in November of 2000, possibly on a contract basis. He abruptly decided in spring 2001 to take time off for travel and grad school apps. He made a trip to Nepal and Tibet, thereby becoming one of the few, the proud, the set of Americans who by dumb luck were in Nepal at the time of the palace shootings.) We'd hung out at the Silicon Age office and on at least one of those days enjoyed a burrito lunch on our front porch.

Unseasonably warm, you might say. Januarys (although the previous paragraph is actually about December, so nyah) in my lifetime have very often been unseasonably warm. Not in Boston, of course, but both Tulsa and San Francisco were great for that. Highs in the 50's, say. Meanwhile, the cold cold Januarys of Boston/Cambridge/Somerville always seemed to focus on Reading Period (google failed to provide a catchy link) or the aforementioned Penn Bowl.

January 2001 was a warm one in a warm place. No Penn Bowl: I casually realized one day that it was coming up and, oh well, guess I wouldn't be going to it that year. Instead, the continuing process of requirements documents. I was put "in charge of" an entire section of the site for version 2.0. (That's misleading, since just about everyone was in charge of what would turn out to be essentially the only part they worked on.)

I got Site List Management, arguably the backbone of the application. (The New Site Wizard turns out emphatically not to be, given that in practice the customers have been buyers rather than brokers; they find it easier to add the data they want via professional services.) The Site Dossier pages are neat but they're really only about one site at a time. The Market stuff is okay. Tasks/Workflow, without intending offense to Kubi I don't think they really thought through what they wanted. He did a fine job implementing what they asked for but it's just not turned out to be what sells the product, at least not so far.

In any case... with filters and sorts came the ability to configure your own site lists with your own criteria. The column configurator, with slight upgrades, became part of this. There was also the page where you could manage your lists (add, delete, whatever) and from the Site Listing page proper you could still checkmark particular sites to compare them, map them, export to spreadsheet, or whatever. Don't glaze your eyes at me like that.

Oh, and Statistics. From their third-party data or (later) the customer's own proprietary data. Optimized spatial queries, block groups, the Business Fact table... all this stuff that both Hentzels spent the spring agonizing over that turns out to be part of my current contract. (More later if I feel like it and/or anyone cares.)

In any case, Kimberly was (to me) an easy prod dev person to work with. She didn't ask for screwed-up things, nor was she terribly aggressive in getting the features she wanted. Then again, I was all the easier a develoepr to work with on signing off on that document. The only aggressive part of it was the absurdity of my time estimates, which bordered on machismo. I'd pay for that through the spring. But I damn well lived up to my promises. :-)

January 2001 (non-work)

The other thing from December 2000: Spent the last 2-3 days of the year writing an ACF Regionals pack from scratch, for Subash. ACF Regionals /West Coast were at Scripps College in January 2001. Inauguration weekend. Like Caltech, Scripps is in a fantastically gorgeous place. It has a much more favorable male/female ratio than Caltech though.

For random philosophical reasons, I read for ACF rather than playing. Kubi, Chris, and Scoon played, as well as someone I'm forgetting from Scoon's car. Shelly was along for the ride. Chris and I both rode straight from Vectiv after a day that I spent banging out changes we'd agreed to after very very contentious discussions about how best to filters and sorts.

(I reworked a whole bunch of Steve's code; a month later Chris would promptly rework a bunch of mine. Bah.)

Scripps got us pizzas (players had to pay, moderators didn't), though they took their sweet time to arrive. All in all a good tournament for a first-time host, although consistent with the ACF traditions they managed to transport us to a twilight-zone world where time was essentially meaningless. No wonder everyone was so tired at the end.

I totally forget who won or how Silicon Age did other than that R. was no doubt disappointed in where Silicon Age finished. He always thought we should do better. The problem is -- and if you saw me as a player you'd be shocked by this -- I'm long past the point of caring whether a team I'm on wins or loses any given quizbowl game. Life is just too short. This probably relates to why I don't play nearly as often or why I never check the Yahoo! board anymore.

January in Tulsa was often a stage-setting month, the least interesting time of a year where the coolest stuff I did was in the summer. In reading period I hardly ever did anything interesting save for studying.

January 1991 was an exception to this: You may remember the Gulf War, for example. Also, I was on the verge of asking my friend Stacy to the prom. One day in late January I rode my bike to the Hallmark in the Target-dominated shopping center about a mile from my house. I left my bike unattended while I ran in to get her a Valentine's card. (At 15 years and 10 months, I couldn't drive. I also didn't want do bother explaining my errand to my parents.) It was a "Hall of Fame" month; don't ask me why I thought of it like that. Even though it was a bike and not a motorcycle, the bike ride reminded me of the song Ride The Wind.

Anyway, dinner's nigh. Gotta cut to the chase about January 2001.
Went to the dentist today for what turns out to be the first time in two years. That's right: I gained and lost an entire job (with dental coverage) between visits.

WARNING: Politics

Feel free to skip to "football" below.

Is it just me or is the scheme of tying your health coverage to your employer absurd? I don't just mean for jobless people but rather, did it not occur to the people who came up with this crock that people might change jobs once in awhile? Move to different parts of the country? Enjoy the personal freedom associated with choosing how much or how little coverage you want? Snide comment about Democrats goes here. Eh, snide (and gratuitous) comment about corrupt union bosses goes here too.

Granted, this has become a hot button for me in that I'm officially an independent contractor now. Within ten years we'll all be independent contractors. (I stole this from one of those political blogs I read, probably Kaus, the "new Democrat" who brings up the left flank of my "Right Thinking" blogs.)

Along those lines, anecdotal evidence suggests that the feds artificially limit the revenue they take in from the capital gains tax. That is, a lower rate would bring them more revenue. Yes, I'm one of those supply side zealots and I make no apology for it. I'll readily admit that with income tax at the current rates, expecting to get more revenue from further cuts would be silly, but for cap gains it honesty works. Here's why:

Random middle-class investor buys stock in Coca Cola, mid 1980s. Stock value goes through the roof over the next decade or so. Said middle-class investor now strongly tempted to sell the stock but decides not to when she realizes Uncle Sam would get more than a third of the cut. So she holds onto the stock, it goes back down, and both she and Uncle Sam are worse off.

Okay, so if the capital gains tax were smaller more people would sell stock. So? I see what you're saying. (Where "you" is this strawman I've set up. Feel free to feed the strawman better arguments than this if you care.) Stock sales tend to drive prices down. Not necessarily desirable. Ah but see: How many people do you think are out there who would buy a given stock, expecting it to go up, but then decide that the tax is so high that there's no point? (That is, they decide the reward isn't worth the risk. The tax reduces the reward without reducing the risk.)

The thing is, the more people buy and sell stock, the closer the value of that stock is to what it "should be." The more efficient the market runs, the better information there is. Information and markets are big fans of each other. Straw man makes snide comment about Enron. Response to strawman: Depending on what the snide comment was, read this.

Gratuitous reference to childhood: When I was in seventh grade I had two Letters to the Editor published. The first was in support of the Nicaraguan contras. The second was in support of right to work laws.

Okay, enough politics.

How 'bout some football?

Nice job by the Pats today huh? I missed the end of the game for my dentistry. (Oh yeah: I have strong teeth but swollen gums. The latter is unsurprising for going two years without dentistry. They cleaned up enough calculus that I may have lost a pound or two.) But when I left New England was well in control.

Last week I also saw Miami lose a boring game. (21-0 to 49ers) So this is also the second time in less than a week that I've got a game on from San Francisco. Bah. Praise for Jay Fiedler probably premature. Oh well.

My mom expressed relief that John Madden is calling today's game and disdain for Troy Aikman as a broadcaster. (Oops, bad news Mom: Guess who's got the game tomorrow? I'm also dying to know where this fan page got its info.) Apparently Aikman does Bears games "all the time" this year: Based on the link I just found, that's (adjusting for hyperbole) pretty true.

Today I also got to hear the story today of the Oklahoma at Notre Dame game that my parents went to a couple years ago with a couple of their old friends from Oklahoma. (Big OU alumnus/booster, combined the trip to South Bend with a visit to my parents.) Apparently the Notre Dame ushers have extremely low tolerance of banners held by fans of the other team. My dad stuck up for these OU student's who'd brought an "OU" sheet; my mom theorized that the real reason the ushers tried to crack down was they didn't want the sheet visible in TV shots of Touchdown Jesus.

While I'm in "write about parents" mode: Did I ever mention the Led Zeppelin concert they went to at Ohio University? I love google! Their retelling of it puts the concert in 1968 but based on the link I'm going to go out on a limb and say May 17, 1969.

In any case, they did not go to a Led Zeppelin concert on purpose. What the link doesn't tell you is that at Ohio University, Led Zeppelin was opening for Jose Feliciano. (I couldn't make that up if I tried.) Moreover, the Jose Feliciano fans of the state of Ohio were decidedly not ready for the Led Zeppelin sound: The opening act was nearly booed off the stage. My parents, like a whole lot of the audience, left their seats to go wait in a concession line and hope that this group would finish soon.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Not that you care but to clarify: 1991 at times was one of those gawdawful, chunk-blowing years. Serious chemistry problems on our high school quiz team. (Yeah, between Harvard and BU I should... something... but even compared to that this was a bad time.) Roller coaster of breaking up and getting back together on multiple occasions with this gal I dated in high school. (Stacy. Not sure what to blog. Maybe some day.) Then again the "back together" times were pretty cool and in December 1991 I got early acceptance.

Which reminds me, saw Legally Blonde on the plane today.

"You got into Harvard Law?"
"What, like it's hard?"

Apparently a 179 LSAT and a 4.0 GPA in fashion design gets you further than a 177 LSAT and a 2.7 GPA in math. Just a data point. (There are these charts that law schools release plotting the GPA and LSAT of their applications in a given year and who did(n't) get in. Supposedly it's possible to reverse engineer from this exactly where I applied, since my data point strays so far from the normal direct correlation between GPA and LSAT. The "main sequence," for you Hertzsprung-Russel diagram enthusiasts. :-))

Anyway, I suspended my disbelief and found this to be a cute movie, well worth the effort to watch it. (We got it free because of flight delays.) It probably would have been worth $5 for headphones; I'm ambivalent about theater prices if only because this strikes me as much more a rental sort of movie. Big screen adds little to it.

Did I mention that I'm helplessly smitten with Reese Witherspoon? She didn't disappoint.
2000 vs. 2001
I got through December from that recap thingy but never really wrapped it up. It's interesting reviewing a year when you have almost a full year's perspective on it. Especially when the following year was one like this.

On paper 2001 has to suck for most people, right? I mean, the attack, the recession, everything. I didn't know anyone killed on September 11 but I did get laid off a month later. What's interesting is that it runs against the trend I've noticed in thinking back on any given year: There's "memory inflation" in my mind, wherein whatever I'm doing any given moment is the coolest stuff I've ever been up to and so naturally the most recent year has to be the best.

(Two countervailing tendencies guarantee this: If it was an awesome year, I have happy recent memories. If it was more of a bittersweet one with both happiness and sadness then often the point of my glowing recollections is to take my mind off the sadness. This all started with December 1989. An unseasonably cold month and for various reasons (too long-winded to give justice to here) among the most painful/awkward of my adolescence. Mostly it was just butt-cold. Compared to Boston Oklahoma is nothing but certain memories just make me shiver. Summer of '89 was wonderful though.)

In any case, I think 2000 really was the best year of my life to date. This is partly because San Francisco is a wonderful place to live. (Admittedly, I don't really bother to show this in any of my writing, ever, but just trust me. Ocean Beach is just one example of what I take for granted and yet would dearly miss.) Also, comparing what I make now to what I made doing baseball statistics, 2000 and 2001 were both massive financial gains. I suppose there's more to life than that.

Like a girlfriend maybe? How did I manage to go through a presidential election year and not have a girlfriend? Actually that's not quite an accurate depiction of my social life cycle.

Calendar years in which I've been "officially dating" someone at any point in that year: 1987, 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1997 (for 19 days or so). That was more information than you needed.

At the risk of being mocked and compared unfavorably to Louis Farrakhan, I'll admit a year-based fixation here. When I get around to noting the good and bad of 2001 (enough good that I can't just say categorically, "okay this year sucked"), I'll probably have to mention the curse of 1mod4.

1985 was a bad year for me, maybe the worst of my life (which says a lot more about how awesome the rest of life has been) because I adjusted almost sociopathically poorly to middle school.

1989 was mostly a wonderful year but October thru December were still a huge letdown.

1993 is... actually it wasn't so bad but 1992 blew my mind to the point that 1993 couldn't compare. Also... starting to sense a pattern? This is around the time that, at any given academic institution, my performance suddenly craters. I was a good enough student my freshman fall and also my 1L fall. Not really applicable to 1985... neither middle school nor high school were exceptional academic challenges, but for the former I had problem child issues right from the start. Thus unwittingly keeping the four-year pattern since middle school is a three-year prison sentence rather than four.

1997... see above comment on academics. Plus two of our three family cats died (Fluffy is alive and well as I type this, a couple months shy of 17 human years old, I don't even want to think about how many cat years that is) in a three month span. Plus the gratuitious opposite-sex angst that needs no introduction. Not sure if 1997 reached 1985 levels of badness; probably not but oh my goodness it blew. Of course it's also far fresher in my mind. Maybe it was worse for the same reason why good recent years are better?

Compared to that sort of record maybe 2001's closet analogue is 1989, only with less opposite-sex hassle. But I wasn't writing about 2001, was I? Oh yeah, 2000. Election years in general kicked ass for me. The hidden connection that I hadn't really thought about before is the series of transitions, mostly from one school level to another. Then again, this really only applies for high school to college and college to law school (1992, 1996). And in a way 2000 counts for the move to SF. In each case both the end and the beginning kicks ass. Maybe not so much the end of being in Boston, since it's not like there was a commencement ceremony to mark that one.

1988 is sort of an exception to the election year rule for me. My girlfriend-every-four-and-a-half-years plan didn't overlap well with it. (Hey, am I due?) Actually the end of middle school sucked about as much as the beginning did. On the other hand, 1988 is easily the best year in the history of hair metal. Arguably 1988 is the year for hair metal, although 1989 also has some claim to this.

Coincidentally, 1988 and 1989 were the two years that I watched far more MTV than any other year. I was about the right age to start getting into MTV, though I'm not sure what led me to get bored with it. No, I didn't hate grunge. Half my friends in high school ended up really really into Nirvana. I neither joined them nor backlashed as far as I can tell.

Oh, and what about 2mod4 and 3mod4? 2mod4 isn't very special but has some "looking up" feel to it. 1990 was a comedown from 1989 and I still resent 1994 for the baseball strike and 1998 had some 1997 carryover to it but still, those years all had their moments.

Come to think of it 1987 and 1991 and 1995 and 1999 all kicked ass. Does that mean I'll have to wait for 2003 for ultimate bliss? Heh.

For whoever still bothered to continue to read:
Great months of 2000 included April, August, and December. Crappy months included June, September, and November.

Sadly, 2000 was my most musically out-of-touch year. It took awhile to get into San Francisco radio stations, plus I was often listening to stations of whoever I rode in the car with. This meant a lot of questionable Kubi stuff, like when a certain Celine Dion song would come on and he'd turn it way up. (I forget at the moment which one.) A song I listened to a lot via MP3, for coding inspiration: "Thunderstruck," AC/DC.
I have successfully gone to Chicago ("goin' down, goin' down now"), actually to Winfield, Illinois, about an hour west of there, in the remote and obscure but somewhat prosperous Dupage County. It's far from the luxurious splendor of the near North Side seen in Ferris Buehler but it's nice. Four- and five-bedroom houses all with American flags and Christmas tree lights.

This here is my dad's study. Curtains and diplomas on the wall I face, bookshelves flanking me. A plurality of the books deal with geology or military strategy. There are model boats on the shelves and also a picture of our collie dog, Herbie, 1981-1993.

Behind me is a stereo that had been tuned to WLS (AM 890) by default. Dr. Laura's callers were tolerable but I draw the line at Art Bell. (Actually it was mildly amusing to listen to Bell while driving through western Utah on that February trip. Just something about the bleakness and flatness of that part of Utah, not to mention roads open only to military access.)

Also behind me is a bar (sink, modest assortment of alcohol, glasses on shelves above). Decorations include portraits of Ronald Reagan with a cowboy hat and my mom looking about 20 years old, plus a large Eric Cartman doll (word bubble: "Try me! I talk").

Wanna see something a little creepy but on balance really really neat? Here is the Pisgah Inn, a hotel in the mountains of scenic western North Carolina. If you take a look at the slide show linked from the home page, eventually you'll see some tree-covered mountains, maybe also some that show a hitching post. Just behind the hitching post were scattered my grandmother's ashes, the February before last. Tourists often get their picture taken by that hitching post. As Mom puts it, "that means Grandma gets a lot of visitors." I like this. I think it's touching.

So touching that I can't bear to get into the venom I have for the new Red Sox owners. I'd planned an entry with "RED SOX SUCK" in colorful (<font color="red"> and so on) big letters but hey, it's not the fans' fault. Basically, here's the problem I have, lesser evil first:

John Henry spent much of his time as Marlin owner whining about how the team could never be competitive, pleading and cajoling Florida for a new stadium (some would call it blackmail), and in the process basically alienating any fans who might have wanted to come to Pro Player Park for a game. Anti-marketing, basically. Now he's going to unload his old team (at a modest profit, unless he's a blithering idiot financially) and take a shot at the Massachusetts and Boston governments. Easier marks?

(This sort of thing is crying out for links. Evidence. Yeah. I'll get to it.)

Tom Werner... where to begin? Remember the San Diego Padres' fire sale of the early 1990s? For a couple of seasons, this coming right before the strike, the "Padregs" were the laughingstock of the league. Why did Werner do this? Same reason the Twins operate the way they currently do: So that he could make money hand over fist. That's not even why I despise him so. (Clarification: For all I know he's a fine person, though given his TV/Hollywood background I have my doubts. More prudent would be to say I despise what he's done.) Rather, he's the cretin responsible for "The Baseball Network," wherein all those playoff games were broadcast at the same time. Also I blame him for that Roseanne national anthem thing.

So these two won the lottery. Now they get to sit atop one of the biggest money-making machines in baseball. There's just no justice. Then again, maybe I'd have a hard time convincing long-suffering Cub fans that either or both of them are worse than the Tribune Company.

I can deal with (and actually be highly amused by) the Rocker and Everett signings. This, on the other hand, is sickening. I may formally cut off my Red Sox allegiance in protest. This is not something I'd do lightly because the reason why it always seems like I'm rooting for eight or ten different teams is that I'm an allegiance packrat. I develop loyalties and the fade a little but never really go away. How severe is this? I still root for the Braves in the post-season even though it's been about ten years since they were a Cinderella team. (I still own my 1991 National League Champion t-shirt though. Astonishingly it still fits; it must have hung down to my knees when I first had it.)

Then again, hey, count my blessings. I've put roots down in a (stop me if I've blogged down this road before) two-team market, both of whose teams have done very well of late. So no more Red Sox whining for me. It's just... put those two [epithet] together in the same ownership group and you may actually have a set that I revile even more than Angelos. It's close. Nope, still Angelos. Remind me some time soon to explain my Angelos animosity.

(Steinbrenner now clearly a distant third in his own division among owners/ownership groups who need to be hurt. Overall actually I'd place him fifth behind Angelos, Werner/Henry, Selig, and the Tribune Company. Hey, maybe even put Satan (aka Carl Pohlad, of Minnesota Twin infamy) ahead of Steinbrenner.)

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Guess things could be worse. For one thing, I'm in a two-team market and those teams have combined for three playoff appearances (two games shy of a fourth) in four chances since I got here. For another... let's talk about the market I left. But not for very long. I pity the fools.

Okay, that's unfair to their long-suffering fans. It's not your fault you've been run by the dolts who've run that team. Still, looking at that deal, and thinking about the time that's passed since I moved away, all I can think of is, "so long, suckers!" Maybe that's unkind.
See, even Google knows better. Shame on you A's brass.
Do I Want Oakland Athletics Season Tickets Again>?

(The 20-game miniplan, that is.)

Oakland owes me hundreds of dollars for the playoff tickets I'd bought for games that didn't come to pass. (Three ALCS games, three World Series games.) On the invoice for my 2002 season tix, I noticed $265.00 balance, $265.00 paid, $0.00 due. Oh, so that's how this works. Uh, I dunno about this.

I have to decide whether letting Giambi walk was a Good Thing For the Franchise. Gary Huckabay sure thinks it was but c'mon, in addition to franchise success we're talking about game watchability here. I feel like, as a consumer, I should penalize the A's for losing Giambi, just as I feel the urge to reward the Giants for their good fortune in keeping Barry Bonds.

(There's an arbitration hearing I'd want no part of. "Sir, we'll grant that Bonds was the best player in baseball last year, but if you'll note on the accompanying chart the direct correlation between surliness and lost marketing revenue...")

Amusing phrases from Oakland's cover letter (which, despite my HTML playfulness, was in a basic black Times New Roman typeface):

For the next few seasons (got that? not for a decade or anything, but at least for a few seasons) you'll be able to count on having Gold Glove winner Eric Chavez at third base, Miguel Tejada at short, Terrance [sic] Holy f-ck how do you get your own player's name wrong?!? Long roaming the outfield, and a starting staff that will include Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito."

Hella nice pitchers, you have to admit. Red Sox fans ought to be jealous, if only of the rotation. Probably only of the rotation. Skip ahead a few paragraphs.

As stated, we have the goal of keeping this franchise competitive. Oh, well that's nice I guess. I'm glad these aren't like the Twins or something. Therefore, while reviewing your invoice you will notice that some seating areas have been subject to a slight price increase. Specifically, my seats went from $5 to $6 apiece. Plus a handling fee that I'm pretty sure I didn't have to pay last year. My outlay went up 32.5%. Bastards. :-(

Of course I could always turn down the tickets and demand my full refund. Like I'll get around to it anytime soon.
Cindy and Kimberly

While I'm in the groove of telling pointless stories (how much alcohol do you think I've consumed in the course of last night's blog entries and also tonight's? I could tell you none but you wouldn't even believe me even though it's the truth), here's where I tell you about two completely unrelated women, just because I felt like mentioning them both. Maybe this is where a gratuitously clever essay writer tries to compare and contrast but I'm too lazy to analyze that far.

In the early 1990s, before we fell into a group of gratuitously cool people who'd staked out their territory in the "alt" hierarchy, Cindy Alvarez (screen name "calvarez") was the most notable female poster to the
newsgroups. I was just a fan; I tried not to act all weird or anything.

In 1995 Cindy crashed the Eliot House Fete (that link's kind of old but this one is randomly intriguing), the year I was Social Chair. That is, the year I planned it.

Worse than crashing the thing (Kirkland residents did it all the time, thanks to the underground connection between the houses' two kitchens), Cindy had the temerity to post to
claiming that the dance was "lame." Lots of people took umbrage. Some took it personally; I basically talked trash instead. Somehow out of that she and I became fast friends.

She and I were among the first of the too-cool Harvard Usenet geeks. We weren't the first; those would be Stewart (that's his homepage, I swear) and Susan (Susan Marie Groppi's resume page is way out of date by now). But we're still suitably old-school.

(No, Cindy had nothing to do with that terrible terrible flamewar of 1996. That was basically my fault. Well, apart from some common sense about proportionate response: These dudes out there basically committed the equivalent of using a thermonuclear warhead to prevent shoplifting. Anyway...)

Cindy dated Willy Jay for awhile. To most of you, Willy needs no introduction. To the rest: Willy's a really nice guy who played quiz-bowl for Harvard, two years behind me. When they were about to break up, 'Silly' and 'Wendy' went to me and to a mutual female friend for venting and solace. That is, Cindy came to me and Willy went to her. The fact that I thought nothing of this at the time means I possibly regressed socially from spring 1996 to fall 1996.

I did ask Cindy to the 1996 Fete. (A lot of this was covered in that entry that Blogger ate on Sunday.) Only I waited too long to do it and tried to hard to make it plausibly come off as a joke. She couldn't plan on such short notice. I had a CS problem set to do that night.

As friends, Cindy and I get on well for two reasons. My complaints about the opposite sex are very very similar to her complaints about the opposite sex. Also, neither of us has any compunction at all about Too Much Information. Rather, we revel in it.

Only we're the exceptions to a rule. Picture a quiz practice (no, Cindy never played, this anecdote has nothing to do with her) where a female player is very enthusiastically describing the genital piercings of some guy she slept with once. I'd be (was, since this is Based On A True Story) the only person in the room not grossed out by this. Unless Cindy were also in the room, in which case she too would fail to be grossed out. The thing is neither Cindy nor I would actually be the person whose sex partner(s) had pierced genitals. We had more of the intellectual curiosity.

(Aside: My weakness for "bad girls," brilliant and/or creative but mentally imbalanced women, occasionally makes my life a little too interesting, although not in awhile. This is similar to my interest in the movie 54, a movie I unexpectedly liked despite completely failing to identify with any of the characters. It's relevant to the previous paragraph but I have a hard time expressing why this is.)

One time Cindy complained that it had been way too long since she'd been on a good-old-fashioned "date." This led to my nominally asking her to one. The whole point was... there may be a logical contradiction here but the idea was that she accepted explicitly on the condition that this didn't actually "mean" anything. A platonic date if you will.

(If this is a valid definition, and I sure can't think of any reason why it couldn't be, then hell, I went on tons of dates in 1996, none of them involving Panda Express. Almost none of them "meaning" anything either but still, this is a whole set of issues that just aren't bloggable.)

Our "date" was to go see In & Out. She stood me up. Soon after I got home we did have a phone conversation in which she, quite frantically, explained just how stranded she'd managed to become within Boston's convoluted bus system. (Trying to Alewife from that portion of the MIT campus that's least convenient to Kendall.) We never did set up a raincheck.

When I came to San Francisco in January 2000 to interview with Silicon Age, Cindy is the one with whom I went to dim sum. By then she'd been in SF for awhile, and well into dating her long-term boyfriend Justin. As she puts it, someday they'll have the cutest little Chinese-Mexican kids together.

I gave Cindy a ride (she still doesn't drive) to and from the cooking/gaming social about which I tried and failed to blog back on Sunday. Thanks to the blog glitch, you won't get to hear ponderous detail about the food (Eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles, hamburgers, pasta, cookies and cakes) or the games (two Trivial Pursuit games, different groups of people playing various card games and Cheapass Games), or Mike Develin's brilliant entrance line ("I saw the most ironic car accident!" -- one of those trucks with a bunch of cars on it had rolled off the road), or whatever else.

Oh yeah, my seeing Groppi for the first time in awhile. (She's cute in an unconventional way. She went to a Terrier Tussle once.) Gossip (with me and Cindy in the car ride home) over which single people had been eying each other at Dave and Augusta's wedding. Gratuitous Janis Ian lyrics. (Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, did you notice the domain on that link? Your tax dollars at work!)

Cindy is the one whose soccer team I went to see a couple of times. In addition to soccer, she's run at least one marathon in her life. Lately she's become a morning person, and very energetic. This is what she told me when I picked her up Saturday. It's a stunning change given that she and I were both nightowls. She's the only person I know who got worse grades than I did and still graduated.

For all the exercise (not to mention cooking expertise), her body type means she'll always pretty much have the same look. Short, voluptious, bubbly... "Cindy," if that makes sense as an adjective.

Odd that looks would be the last thing to come up in an extended narrative on Cindy and the first to come up in an extended narrative on Kimberly.

The latter is tallish (maybe not if you got out a yardstick but she has slender features that contribute to an appearance of height, including unusually long and/or thin fingers), with blonde hair and doe-like blue eyes. She's 31 if I remember right, though I'd have had a hard time guessing her age if I hadn't known. In December 2001 she joined the Vectiv product team. I was absent-mindedly coding something when Bryan came to introduce her to us. I said something dopey about how I guessed it was her job for us to give her what she wanted.

The joke goes that her presence on the product team is the real reason why I've been working my ass off for Vectiv for so long. This is at most partly true, since I'd worked my ass off for version 1.0 long before she was around. Still, for various reasons I find it easy to get along with her and have no qualms about at least trying to do things the way she thinks they should be done.

Part of it is that either we think on the same wavelength a lot or she's good at feigning this. She's good at cutting to the chase and coming up with big-picture solutions that lead to very pleasantly simple user interfaces. She's also almost relentlessly cheerful. Earlier this week she called Sprint customer service from her work phone, a call in which she was put on hold repeatedly and ultimatedly decided to change cell phone vendors, and even as she was explaining why she was mad as hell and couldn't take it anymore, she softened her end of the conversation with question-mark inflections and a nervous laugh.

Although I've never seen her freak out or anything, I've seen her be under stress such that she was still being cheerful but you could tell that doing so was an effort. It's hard to explain. Some people just have a noticeable difference between happy camper mode and not-happy-camper mode. Seeing her smile is enough to want her to be happy and, if you're a sufficiently soft touch, to want do whatever needs to be done for that to happen.

So it's plausible that she's high-maintenance, though obviously I don't know this for sure. I met someone at the holiday party whom I believe to be her boyfriend.

When Tim was hospitalized last week, Kim was the one who took the initiative to get the flower/fruit thing sent to him. She... by now I shouldn't even have to tell you who she reminds me of, you'd have long since figured it out. Only with the hair color, eye color, and features, I suspect that any impartial observer would look at the two people I'm thinking of and decide that, as pure aesthetic beauty goes, it's no contest. I'm not so sure about that... well, it's just apples and oranges. Blonde and brunette. California sunshine and Western Pennsylvania [noun]. Except that it turns out Kimberly grew up in Ohio. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Rocket Man, Or, "The Other Keshavan Story"

Here's the one I was gonna tell you last night but never got around to. Peter and I went to see Roger Clemens in his first appearance at Fenway Park as a Toronto Blue Jay.

If you were around at the time (as basically all my known audience was), you remember the big dilemma over whether Sox fans should boo him or cheer him. Keshavan and I were both emphatically in the "cheer our lungs out" category. Ultimately, the cheers drowned out the boos.

Although when Clemens drilled Mo Vaughn with a pitch and the next batter was Wil Cordero in his post-wife-beating return, I don't think I've ever seen a more confused set of fans. We had about a half-dozen reasons to cheer and boo at the same time.

In any case, I'm still a little torn about what to do when Jason Giambi returns to Oakland (link isn't timely yet but will be someday). Nobody out here understands why I can't, for the life of me, bring myself to cheer a Yankee, any Yankee (you guys, however, know exactly where I'm coming from). It may yet be possible that I make an exception for Jason though.

Back to 1997. Keshavan and I had a great time until the very end. I stuck my foot in my mouth as we were parting ways.

Those who saw my apartment (61 Bay State Road) back then probably remember the news clippings of the second Clemens 20 strikeout game. As it happens I taped the last five innings of that game on my boombox.

Temporarily flashing back to September 1996, I went ahead and made a copy of that tape for him. Since I had the tape to give him and Ashlie had something random to give me related to quiz-bowl, she suggested meeting for dinner at Panda Express, back when Kenmore Square had such a thing. Meeting other people for meals is probably something that people more extroverted than I take for granted.

The Panda Express thing happened a couple more times, including one November Wednesday where I was ten minutes late to a game at the BU chess club as a result. This was the first time I'd ever played a rated chess game with someone else there specifically to watch me play. (Okay yeah, there were the 1992 high school national chess championships in Louisville, KY, but my mom and my friend Darren's mom couldn't watch the games because parents were banned from the playing hall.) Granted, at some point she got bored and left, long before the game actually finished. It was also just a butt-ugly game, ugly in the way that only a chessplayer would appreciate (actually, anti-appreciate). Somewhere in this pit of a room I probably have the scoresheet for that game. I could post it but the last chess game I posted here failed to generate enthusiastic response.

Oddly enough, had I gotten to the mall at 9:20 instead of 9:50 tonight, I may have partaken of Panda Express. But as it is, I'd eaten an Uncle Ben's Noodle Bowl that didn't sit well at all. This was an unpleasant surprise, since the rice bowls I've had (and the pasta bowl with the shrimp in it) are all so good.

In any case, back to the Jays-Sox series of July 1997, just because. I went to three games that series. One was either a Thursday or a Friday night (on further review it was probably this one) with both Peter and Ashlie. They bickered, if memory serves. One was the Clemens return (better link this time), in which Clemens and Aaron Sele combined for 31 K (a major league record for a pitching duel, if memory serves).

Dude: Winger covered "Purple Haze." Just thought you should know. It's a very disturbing cover.

The last game I went to that series was on a hot scorching Sunday afternoon, when I saw this yawner (huh, close game, yet I remember it as a yawner) with my redhead friend Cammie. She's the long-ago ex-girlfriend of my best friend Kevin from college. Every now and then she and I would go to the Crimson Sports Grill to play NTN together. Her scores were a little lower but she had fun all the same. I wonder what Cammie is up to these days.

(No, there was no "there" there. Cammie's preference for rail-thin guys was very well known among our circle of (Band) friends.)

The random thing I remember about the Sunday afternoon game, apart from the sunburn being nowhere near as bad as I feared it'd be, was that afterwards I went into Campus Convenience and stocked up on the funky new Gatorade Frost.

Is that CampCo still around? It was right next to the aforementioned Panda Express. I know frickin' Fenway Park is still around but it seems like all the other places I think back to are gone now. Feh.
Least Favorite Christmas Song?!? that a feeling of bliss has come over me from the wailing saxophone chorus of my favorite one...

Yeah, that's what I typed. Nothing against the Kinks but you have to admit that's a pretty warped, if not morbid, song. Oddly enough the reasons I hate that song are completely different from reasons why any other Christmas song annoys me. Others that I can most certainly do without, in no particular order:

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - The chorus o' kids worked on You Can't Always Get What You Want but nowhere else

Little St. Nick - "Christmas comes this time each year" is a demonically banal lyric.

Erp: Google seems to lead me to belive that Hanson covered "Little St. Nick"?!? Excuse me while I curl up into a little ball.

Last but not least, the Chipmunks Christmas song. *shudder*

"Bah, humbug!" no, that's too strong
'Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year's been a busy blur
Don't think I have the energy

To add to my already mad rush
Just 'cause it's 'tis the season.
The perfect gift for me would be
Completions and connections left from

Last year, ski shop,
Encounter, most interesting.
Had his number but never the time
Most of '81 passed along those lines.

So deck those halls, trim those trees
Raise up cups of Christmas cheer,
I just need to catch my breath,
Christmas by myself this year.

Calendar picture, frozen landscape,
Chilled this room for twenty-four days,
Evergreens, sparkling snow
Get this winter over with!

Flashback to springtime, saw him again,
Would've been good to go for lunch,
Couldn't agree when we were both free,
We tried, we said we'd keep in touch.

Didn't, of course, 'til summertime,
Out to the beach to his boat could I join him?
No, this time it was me,
Sunburn in the third degree.

Now the calendar's just one page
And, of course, I am excited
Tonight's the night, but I've set my mind
Not to do too much about it.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.

Hardly dashing through the snow
Cause I bundled up too tight
Last minute have-to-do's
A few cards a few calls
'Cause it's r-s-v-p
No thanks, no party lights
It's Christmas Eve, gonna relax
Turned down all of my invites.

Last fall I had a night to myself,
Same guy called, halloween party,
Waited all night for him to show,
This time his car wouldn't go,

Forget it, it's cold, it's getting late,
Trudge on home to celebrate
In a quiet way, unwind
Doing Christmas right this time.

A&P has provided me
With the world's smallest turkey
Already in the oven, nice and hot
Oh damn! Guess what I forgot?

So on with the boots, back out in the snow
To the only all-night grocery,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
In the line is that guy I've been chasing all year!

"I'm spending this one alone," he said.
"Need a break; this year's been crazy."
I said, "Me too, but why are you?
You mean you forgot cranberries too?"

Then suddenly we laughed and laughed
Caught on to what was happening
That Christmas magic's brought this tale
To a very happy ending! "

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Couldn't miss this one this year!
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Couldn't miss this one this year!

Best Christmas Shopping Trip Ever

No, I'm not done with my Christmas shopping. Indeed I didn't buy any gifts for anyone tonight. Rather, at about 9:00 I realized that I had yet to hear my all-time favorite Christmas song at all this season. In the car on the way home from work I'd heard my second-favorite Christmas song, but still no Waitresses.

And no, for the life of me I'm not sure why that's my second-favorite song. But I'm probably less than a year away from suddenly becoming an insufferable Emerson, Lake, & Palmer fan. The song is about a snot-nosed punk who's too cool for Christmas but then decides, eh, whatever, let's celebrate. Backed by stunningly overblown horns. Note that a year ago I was dismissing Creed lyrics as "bad high school poetry" and yet now I'm as big a Creed fan as they come. But so far only up through Human Clay. It's all radio's fault. If I hear one more playing of "My Sacrifice" I'll probably scream.

In any case, it should be obvious on so many levels why I love "Christmas Wrapping." So, while I failed at my quest specifically to get The Waitresses' Greatest Hits, I did wind up with the song.

First stop: Amoeba, the big indy used record store on Haight Street. Always nice to see what the hippies are up to these days, since time doesn't really pass for them.

No dice at Amoeba: In the rock & roll alphabetical order, there was a plastic thingy saying "Waitresses" but it was empty. Plenty of Tom Waits but none of what I wanted. Although it wasn't a total loss. I went to the "W" section of the clearance bin just in case and, although no Waitresses were to be found there,

I got two Winger CD's for $1.95 apiece! For those who've forgotten, Winger was Stuart's favorite band. Looking over the albums, though, what surprises me is how many good songs they have, some of which I'd even forgotten about. From their self-titled debut, we have "Madalaine," "Seventeen," and "Headed For A Heartbreak." From their follow-up we have both "Can't Get Enuff" [sic] and "Miles Away."

Coincidentally, at the end of the trip I was in the car in time to hear the Boneyard B side. Not an album side I recognized this time, although the band had this distinctive sound. Not Winger but rather... Ratt?!? And hey, guess what the next song was? And guess who recognized it from the first guitar chord? Round and round, love will find a way just give it time.

But I'm jumping ahead of myself. I got back to the municipal lot (right next to Kezar Stadium), with validated parking, and pulled out around 9:35. By 9:50 I'd reached Stonestown Galleria, with barely time to park and go in and maybe spend ten seconds browsing for something. First things first I marched into Sam Goody and took a gander at their holiday special rack, sort of speedreading titles.

Sure enough they had A Rock 'n' Roll Christmas, on which "Christmas Wrapping" is track 9. I got in line to pay for it (just $8!) just as the chick announced, "we're closing, if you have purchases get in line at checkout." And now that's the album I'm listening to.

Downside: The album ends with my all-time least favorite Christmas song. But oh well. Okay, Waitresses coming up... :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
Warning: Kitty Porn
(but no annoying popup windows)
...this is so cute!!! And so funny!!! And so wrong!!! But so worth it!!!
My home page looks more like an actual home page now. I'm done tinkering with it, although tinkering with the links could potentially result in endless fun. To slack-and-surf the way I slack-and-surf, those are roughly the links you want. I'm probably leaving stuff out. Note: No porn. :-)
When you look in the mirror, Which NFL head coach do you see?

"Have you ever noticed that Jeff Fisher's mullet seems to grow or shrink depending on his level of anger? It's like a separate living entity. The other day I was watching Fisher give an interview at halftime when his mullet suddenly covered his mouth and screamed at the interviewer, 'This interview is over!'" -Keaton Durham, reader of the ESPN Page 2 Sports Guy

Every now and then I catch myself in the mirror. What's frightening is that my mullet does the same thing.
Today I will talk back to other people's blogs.

In re The Onion, as criticized here and defended here, I'm as rock-ribbed Republican as they come (at least as they come in Boston collegiate circles), yet I thought the God piece was deeply, powerfully moving, especially the last line.

In re my perfunctory homepage, mentioned here, I never had the patience to learn how to set up the FTP. I'm glad this set-up worked out better for pop-up ad purposes, though it's basically dumb luck.

The Yahoo! Geocities page is surprisingly hard to navigate. They need some use case expert to come in and show them how to put the things people actually want in places where they can be found. For example, my real life source code. The home page took a minute or two to create using their page wizard stuff. Not that I especially care about the raw HTML they use for it, but at least now I know where stuff is if I want to (heaven forbid) show one more link than they set me up to show.

Maybe this weekend I'll put even more links and/or content on that thing. Maybe.


I've just set some sort of unofficial personal record for blogging word count and entry count. Scroll through, read what you want to read, skip what you don't feel like tackling. It'll be there for you next time. Thank you, loyal readers, for your indulgence. :-)

Plot Giveaway: The last (in the order that you see them) words of my recent posting binge are, "I know they wouldn't necessarily be great conversationalists but damned if I haven't had great dreams about the Saberkittens." Clearly you want to find out more. So read through. Consider that a teaser.

Oh also, gratuitous Mrs. Wallace (former upstairs neighbor, mentioned below) reference: She's the one from whom I heard about the decision in Bush v. Gore. She rejoiced. I rejoiced. Scoon rejoiced. I called my mom. My mom rejoiced.
December 2000

I can't really finish off the 2000 section of my year-recap on this much fatigue. Much better to come back another day and get the overview. But why not get most of the tedious detail out of the way while I'm still thinking of it? :-)

In November we'd been forced to move twice: From campsix to the new Silicon Age office just south of downtown (actually south of SOMA, specifically at 2700 18th Street), then those of us who'd be on-site at Vectiv moved our computers to Berkeley as soon as their new office was ready.

The first thing to take place in the new Vectiv office was a tedious developer discussion of the Model/View/Controller architecture, which the guy from Idea engineering felt very strongly about (but didn't seem fully to understand). This was before we even moved our computers there.

Early on for Vectiv, we had to use the annex because the main building wasn't ready for use yet. Upstairs in the annex there was this one room, where four Silicon Age developers and Fel the newly-hired VP of Engineering. I remember it well because none of us turned the lights on when we came in but Fel always did when he came in.

Also this is when we first started using AOL Instant Messenger for business communication because various people left behind in San Francisco were highly concerned about level of communication between the two workplaces. I used AIM to communicate with Steve. Slowly but surely I became more productive, carrying my own weight on the filtering and sorting code.

For awhile it looked like the Vectiv move would result in my getting up much earlier than I'd been doing. Specifically, Chris was giving me rides (and giving Ben rides) but he insists on leaving around 7 a.m. because that's how he is.

That didn't last long because in mid-December I got me a car. 2000 Dodge Intrepid from Enterprise Car Sales, which means it used to be a rental car. Spent most of my share of the Vectiv bonus on the down payment. This entailed my going to San Leandro, twice, and signing up on-line for some pretty sketchy-looking insurance.

But no matter. I had a @#*@**! car!

That seems like an oddly materialistic note to end these blog musings on but this car was the defining moment of my December 2000 so what the hey.
November 2000

Am I plowing through these too fast? It feels as though there should be something more to say about October. Basically, I completely and utterly avoided any following of the Subway Series (not even a link here).

NAQT question production was uniquely hellish that fall. Strikingly, it's been very very not-hellish this year. Part of it, alas, is that we're no longer supplying questions for the MSN Gaming Zone. It's debatable whether we had the resources to continue to do that well but in any case the funding dropoff will have killed us, I fear. Not literally, don't worry! Still, NAQT is nowhere near the organization it'd like to be by now. Growth can be slow I guess.

In October, after frantically wrapping things up with the Vectiv project Version 1.0, we got a couple unexpected days off to recuperate. "Come back Monday," they told us. So in my time off I wrote a buttload of science questions. (Yeah that belongs in the October entry, oh well it's a little out of chronology.)

When we came back we had lots of documentation to write and then... uh... suddenly much less work to do than before. Steve and I began work on filtering and sorting, although I have to admit I was a lazy bastard and left most of the implementation to him.

It was just very very hard to accomplish anything productive in November. There's nothing I can tell you about the election that you don't already know, except that I got far more worked-up about it than I let on to really anyone. Radio stations were doing hourly AP news updates on the controversy. (Eerily similar to what they did in the wake of September 11.)

My favorite part of the election coverage was when all the journalists got kicked out because of the fans who had hotel reservations for the FSU-Florida football game.

Shelly visited Kubi for Thanksgiving. We made a meal at our place (I say "we" as though I did any cooking; I didn't, though I peeled potatoes) and Scoon made his infamous yams.

Two things happened in November that greatly shaped the living environment here: We got cable TV, something Scoon ordered specifically so that he could enjoy election coverage. (He made this decision prior to election day. If only he knew what it was he'd bargained for...) Also, Udo began subletting here. Scott Williams, aka "SWill," was still largely in Pittsburgh for BodyMedia. Udo had just joined Silicon Age, moving out from Utah, and needed a place to stay. The sublet was obvious, especially as appealing as the master bedroom would be.

Coincidentally, Udo now sublets to that guy Nelson, who wants to take over Udo's lease if Udo can't continue to work in the U.S.
October 2000

Believe it or not, baseball wasn't always owned exclusively by Fox. NBC had the rights to Game 1 of the American League Division Series. I vaguely remember the controversy surrounding whether various NBC affiliates would show the game (Roger Clemens Lost!) or the Presidential Debates.

Game 1 of the AL NLDS was wonderful; Games 2 and 5 was a let-down.

Game 5 was a weird day because the Raiders played at Candlestick Park that day. Also because on the day of that "Battle of the Bay" the Giants were eliminated at Shea Stadium from their own Division Series.

Kubi drove me to the Coliseum. We heard the end of the Giants game in the car, then listened to some of the football game. A group of 49er fans, tailgating before the ALCS game, was listening to the game too and cheering When San Francisco scored. Also known as, against the Raiders despite being in the Coliseum parking lot. Irony. Also cajones.

The first inning of Game 5 really tells the whole story, though this wasn't nearly so heartbreaking as the 2001 NLDS. You may have forgotten by now that, with Bob Costas stuck on Olympic duties, NBC paired Skip Caray with Joe Morgan for that first round. Fun, fun.

Also that month, Kubi and I were on a softball team together. He pitched, most of the time. I caught. If you know much about slow-pitch softball then you know how badly this reflects on my athleticism.

I went to a quiz-tournament at Berkeley that month. Showed up at the last minute. They didn't need any officiating help but actually did need players! I ended up playing with some B-type Stanfordians. On one of the other teams were Tim and Vinita, freshmen that year, both of whom had kicked butt at the high school tournament earlier that summer. The second game of the day, on a very easy pack, Vinita and I got into a buzzer shootout that I (barely) won. She thoroughly enjoyed that game.

Holy Cow! Vinita Won The 2001 College Jeopardy Tournament! Does Stanford itself give a rat's ass about this? Apparently not. But click here or here for stories from other college papers. How out-of-it am I that I didn't even know this?

I'm willing to bet that all my known readership actually watched these games, maybe even read about it on the quiz bowl Yahoo! club (which I haven't read in months). So there's not much I can say about Vinita that you don't already know.

I sent her a Valentine e-greeting last February. Her and Anna Hentzel. Odds are they were both 18 at the time. She sent me a polite thank-you. Come to think of it Anna didn't. Heh. Summer 2001 will be an interesting blog.
For What It's Worth

In high school I was... thin wouldn't be the right word but I absolutely wasn't overweight. My first driver's license lists me at 5'6", 143 pounds, both accurate as of my junior year.

College did it to me. I'd like to thank the Frito Lay Company, Store 24, and of course (this time of year) the folks at Hickory Farms, makers of the "Victoria's Secret" of Dog Catalogs.
Astonishing Coincidence

Unless the web page is significantly out of date, this girl I had a crush on all the way through high school is now studying mammalian systematics as an Evolutionary Biology grad student at San Diego State University. I thought for a moment that this put her in the same grad program as Debbie but, looking back at the link, I guess Debbie's actually in the real world. But both are studying organic sciences in the San Diego area.

My Amanda story.... well, to be pedantic I have a ton of them. They fill a journal kept in 1989. (Astonishingly, I never kept a day-to-day journal in the last five years or so. I think I just flat didn't have time for all the introspection, self-absorption, and relationship angst this journal would have contained. I did write those end-of-year year summary things though.) Your basic adolescent crush. Odd thing about life is remembering the unrequited crushes far more vividly than the people one actually dated.

In any case I remember exactly the day the crush completely ended. It was the bestest, most liberating day imaginable. She offered me a ride from the main building of our high school to the annex (a former elementary school) a 5-minute walk away, where we both had our Calculus B/C class. Aside: how many students at a typical high school take second-year Calculus? Surely not many. This class averaged two or three students a year, although my year there were eight of us. This cries out for a subsequent googling/blog-up. On that very brief trip, she lit a cigarette in her car. No big deal, right? Her car and all. Yet I found it singularly unattractive. Which is a good thing, because seeing something that unappealing made... it's hard to explain. It made her human.

Despite this reaction, I would go on voluntarily to date a smoker. Supposedly that's the first and last time I'll ever do that.

I suppose I should mention that when Ashlie visited, she lit up on occasion. Either in the rental car (window down) or at one of those ritzy dinner places in the heart of San Francisco. Which leads to a segue, which is weird given the order in which I've written these.
Ashlie Came To Town

On a Thursday, the last weekend of September 2000. I picked her up at the airport. It was understood that she would sleep in my room and I would sleep on the basement couch. My room was in the basement then, the one Chris now uses as a study. Some sad irony: Chris had been in Pittsburgh for several months; Ashlie's visit began just days after his return to SF (via a few days vacation in Iowa).

Apart from her lost bag, the first day went well. I picked her up at the airport, driving a rented red Dodge Intrepid. We ate at a nice, quiet, Thai restaurant. We talked, just catching up. I stayed up late to wait for her bag. I wrote a long handwritten note that spent the next few days in my pocket. Giving that note to her would have been a bad idea.

On Friday she went to Berkeley to talk to some professors. I drove her there. I made productive use of her class time in the Berkeley computer lab, grabbed a slice of pizza somewhere, bought a new bathing suit, and bought a radio alarm clock that has served me quite well for over a year. That night we went the A's-Rangers game that I mentioned in one of my very first blog entries.

On Saturday we went to Ocean Beach together. This was, in hindsight, stupid for a ton of reasons:
1. You don't do Ocean Beach on a weekend day when it's all crowded; you go in the evening when it's nice.
2. I can't, for the life of me, just lay out. I'm not that kind of person. (So why the hell am I in California again?)
3. They don't let you swim at Ocean Beach because of the undertow. At a beach, I'm useless if I can't swim.
4. All day Friday I'd been taking pictures. I asked Saturday if I should bring the camera to the beach. In hindsight that was a faux pas. No camera, obviously.

After I was told to get out of the water, she suggested putting suntan lotion on the exposed part of her back. Of course, because I'm a klutz, I'd already put my wet hands in the sand before she asked. It's impossible to apply suntan lotion effectively if you have sand stuck to your fingers.

I got a nasty burn on my own back that day. It had never occurred to me to ask her to put lotion there.

Before the beach trip proper, I'd stopped at 7-Eleven to get some stuff. Two big water bottles. Two yogurts, one of which was still in my room as of January 2001 (and smelled really bad by then). And... I bought something that one wouldn't normally think of buying at a 7-Eleven. In fact I'm still in such a degree of shock that I'd buy such a thing at a 7-Eleven of all places that I refuse to tell you what it is. I'd be mortified if this thing had actually been seen after I bought it. For awhile I had it hidden in the garage(!), though I think it's in my room somewhere now. Why the hell did I buy such a thing at a 7-Eleven? Well, Saturday morning while I was waiting for people to get up and trying not to be so nervous, I'll readily admit that I drank three beers. In hindsight that too was probably a bad idea.

Anyway, while I was at that 7-Eleven I saw Mrs. Wallace, who at the time was our upstairs neighbor. Well, her and her husband and her college-age art student daughter (pretty but had a boyfriend) and I guess some nieces and/or nephews who paid extended visits. Not sure why that just occurred to me, although I've never written about the Wallaces in this space. When they moved out, these punk-type artsy kids moved in, Travis and some other guy. They and their friends have interesting piercings, dyes, and so on. Nice kids though.

I made an ass of myself Saturday at dinner and also Monday at dinner. Sunday we actually had a nice day although for the life of me I forget what we did. Hike the Golden Gate Bridge? This came up, as did Coit Tower. Oh, we had brunch on Sunday. During the meal, for reasons that make utterly no sense to me, the Uncle Fucka song popped into my head. I never said anything about this although it was hard not to burst out laughing.

I have a ton of pictures from this visit that I haven't really looked at. She left Tuesday morning: Travel problems and a messed-up coffee order put her in a foul mood, far different from the great, effervescent mood she'd been in both the times we went over to Berkeley.

I never heard from her after she left. It's unclear whether she got into grad school at Berkeley. I'm guessing that even if she did, she went somewhere else instead. Like maybe Harvard or NYU.

In a year or so I'll probably be mature enough (for good) to welcome hearing from her again. Hell, I'd welcome it now but I wouldn't trust myself, even now, to handle things as well as I'd like to.
December 18, 1986

Posting this here in particular totally breaks up the narrative but what the hell, I just realized it, only a few hours too late I guess.

In seventh grade I had these two friends, Shelly and Christina. (No relation to Chad's girlfriend Shelly of course.) I suppose at that age it's unusual to have one's two closest friends be female but this was the case. I had a crush on someone else. I ended up in an embarrassing debacle involving her after someone prank-called me claiming to be her. The night after that cleared itself up, I had a dream about Shelly. No, not that kind of dream, just a premonition kind of dream.

For the holidays we had "candy-grams" wherein for 50 cents you could give someone some candy and a message. I gave Shelly a candygram, delivered December 17. The next day she brought me a homemade candy-gram. (Halloween candy figured prominently.)

Our next-to-last class of the day was gym. For whatever reason this was a free-time day for us that day. Christina was out sick that day but Shelly and I stood in one corner of the gym and had a surprisingly long conversation with surprising detail about what we thought life would be like grown up. At some point we each wanted to know who the other person "liked," and decided to share this info by trading notes to each other in the next class ("Humanities" it was called even though it was really "Social Studies" or "History." Darned silly middle school nomenclature.)

The notes revealed that the person we each liked was... each other. The next words out of my mouth were, "will you go with me?" The social convention of the time was to "go with" someone. No, there was no "where" component to this, it was just the 7th grade component of going steady. It's not as if 7th graders can easily "date," although my parents did subsequently take her and me to the theater so that we could watch Mannequin together.

Soon after deciding that we would "go together," we decided that we'd marry on December 18, 1993. That was the first December 18 by which we'd both be 18. That was seven years away, seven also being kind of a lucky number. Seven years away then, eight years ago now. No, I don't feel old, why do you ask?

After marrying we were supposed to move to Colorado (yeah I guess it's kind of a gratuitous link).

We made these ludicrously grandiose plans. By some point the next summer I think she liked the plans more than she liked me. Still, all in all it was fun.

Songs we happened to like (at least, the ones I remember):
Corey Hart's cover of "I Can't Help Falling In Love"
Starship, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
Chicago, "Will You Still Love Me"

Somewhere out there is a classic recording of American Top 40 that would send (pleasant) chills down my spine.

If memory serves Shelly married a long time ago and now has at least one child. The oldest (if there is more than one) might already be in elementary school.
Fantasy Football 2000

Between this and the story about the demo, this is a pompous-ass stretch of bragging. Sorry about that. Usually I cloak this in false modesty or something. In any case, my 2001 fantasy football teams have all sucked. None made the playoffs. Stark contrast to 2000. In one league, I had a team led by Peyton Manning and Curtis Martin that made the playoffs but lost a semifinal. This was a keeper league with two keeps. So it's pretty obvious who I kept, right? Except that I brain-farted and kept Griese (yes, a second QB) over CuMar. Argh.

Anyway, my much much better team started out with the likes of...
RB Marshall Faulk
RB Ricky Williams
RB Mike Anderson
WR Isaac Bruce
WR Rod Smith
TE Tony Gonzalez
K Ryan Longwell

Smith actually began the year as my third-string WR (playing two at a time), though he quickly passed Wayne Chrebet. Anderson was a lucky waiver-wire pickup, since the third-best back I'd drafted had been Curtis Enis. Speaking of bad Bears, Cade McNown was backing up Vinny Testaverde at QB.

So in the middle of the season I made a trade. This trade brought me Brett Favre but also cost me Gonzalez and Anderson. At the time of the deal Terrell Davis had just returned to the lineup. Also, for Gonzalez I got Wesley Walls, right before he hurt his knee for the year.

In any case, I went from this team that was just beating the living daylights out of every opponent it ran up against, to suddenly struggling: Faulk was out a week or two, Rickey Williams out for the year, and so on. I ended up having to rely on Thomas Jones as my second-best RB in the playoffs. And yet, oddly enough, I won the championship. Note that, had I never made this trade, had I been starting Testaverde instead of Favre, Mike Anderson instead of Thomas Jones, and so on, I'd have fallen two points shy on championship weekend.

Of course it helps that Marshall Faulk scored four touchdowns each week of the playoffs.

While I'm in the act of bragging about fantasy teams:

1999-2000 Basketball
J-Will, Brevin Knight, Sam Cassell
Michael Dickerson, Bob Sura
Grant Hill, Sharif Abdur-Rahim, Kevin Garnett
Vin Baker, Tom Gugliotta
a motley, forgettable cast of centers

2000 Baseball
Won a league title on the last day behind strong starts by Tim Hudson and Adam Eaton. This was the league in which, oddly enough, I had both Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. Hmm... Javy Lopez, Jose Valentin, Jim Edmonds... some pretty good players on that team. Needed pitching help though.

So between one basketball and two baseball leagues (the other was this silly 8-team midseason league that way way overemphasized pitching stats, where Pedro singlehandedly won it for me), I had a streak of three straight league titles on Yahoo! The football championship was in a league that (at the time) was scored by hand.

Then the bottom fell out with the 2000-2001 basketball season. I bet big on rookies, Stromile Swift types, and none of them worked out. Mike Miller was in this group. Desmond Mason, DeShawn Stevenson... oh, the unhappy roster management memories. Except the night of the Slam Dunk Contest but alas that earns no fantasy points.

2001 baseball, not worth remembering much of. I won a midseason league with a lineup that included
Barry Bonds
Mike Piazza
Gary Sheffield
Larry Walker
Juan Gonzalez
Ryan Klesko
Phil Nevin
J.D. Drew
Ken Griffey, Jr.
How on Earth did I get so lucky? All I can figure is there was an early run on pitching. Sheesh! And even getting Griff as a sleeper, wow.

Back to football 2000, a big contest between me and the commissioner took place while I was entertaining an out-of-town guest. I remember e-mailing him something about this on a Friday morning, writing from some particular library at Berkeley. This was also the morning that Giants' Division Series tickets went on sale and I didn't have nearly the patience to keep attempting to buy them on-line. (Paul did.) Fortunately, I'd long since set myself up with A's Division Series tickets.

What was I doing at Berkeley, you ask? Answer: taking an unpaid day off, of course. Between the work time off and the rental car and various stuff I didn't have the heart to keep track of, that was an expensive weekend.
September 2000

Suppose that our country had not been attacked a year later. Prior to that tragic day, I knew of September 11, 2000 as the day of The Demo That Completely Worked. Demos are so notoriously unreliable, so apt to result in unexpected failures, that a perfectly functioning demo is the stuff of legend. This was such a wonderful moment that I made a note of the date. When I thought of this demo, I knew I knew exactly what date it was because suddenly "September 11" popped into my head and I thought oh crap, and indeed -- bizarre, morbid coincidence -- it's the same date.

September 11, 2000, was a Monday. We'd worked feverishly to get our stuff in order. I was more-or-less on schedule, though I felt as though I were a little behind. What I'd soon come to discover was that I was actually a few days ahead of everyone else on this project. As we all went from writing application classes to writing web pages, this meant that I ran into certain problems before anyone else did. Specifically, I ran into Javascript issues before anyone else did. This led to my becoming, relative to Silicon Age, the unofficial Javascript expert. "Javascript Boy," as Kubi would call me.

(Tim Hentzel knew -- probably knows -- more about Javascript than I, but it's a lot more efficient to ask someone other than the DBA about Javascript so that you can focus the DBA's time on actual database issues.)

I did two things in particular for this demo that really led to this aura within which I could do everything right and nothing wrong for Vectiv. First, the column-configurator widget was really neat. The UI in the original spec was terrible and I didn't have the balls to demand a better one, so a Vectiv HTML guru swapped in a better UI on me in summer 2001 (I'm still a little bitter because the person who made the change botched some stuff but oh well), but the functionality was fun to watch. The column configurator was a "must have."

By contrast, the "export to spreadsheet" functionality was on a "nice to have" list, a set of things that we weren't required to do that in fact we would probably push back on. Yet one evening I started thinking about just how it was that we'd do something like that. Heck, all summer outside of work I'd been maintaining these various spreadsheets for BaseballHQ, a subscription-based fantasy baseball website. (HQ was subscription-based back when everything else on the web, including RotoWire (formerly RotoNews), was free. I remember thinking, who would actually pay for fantasy baseball insight. But they do. And the product they get is damn good if I say so myself.)

Anyway, I finished the "export to spreadsheet" feature right before the demo. (This demo was for Vectiv itself, of the work we'd been doing for them; they'd subsequently give their own demos, to venture capitalists and then on to potential customers.) Ben, controlling the demo, wasn't expecting to show it off. He asked me, "does it really work already?" I told him I was "90% sure" it would work. It worked. Spontaneous applause. Arguably my proudest moment as a code geek.

Two other things worth noting about September, both related to my Harvard on-line friends:

For one, Cindy hosted a gaming social at her place. This gave me a chance to see Mike Develin again, and Stephen and Corwyn and Tonia and Marshall and various other people whose names probably won't come up again in this blog, at least not nearly enough that you get impressions of them. (Stephen: Originally Harvard '95, took a lot of time off, working at a bio lab(?) in Berkeley. Corwyn: Harvard '96, he's come up before and will again. Tonia, aspiring singer. Marshall, her bf, aspiring astronomer.) Cindy made really good paella; I made an ass of myself at the game Mafia, a terrible terrible game that I now absolutely hate. (Sorry, had to vent that.) Paul brought some Cheapass Games that were far more fun to play. If you've never played a Cheapass game, please do so.

Speaking of making an ass of myself, however, I believe September was the month that I really truly burned my bridges with the on-line news server portion of my interaction with my on-line Harvard friends. Basically, about 4-5 bitter, contentious flamewars came up at once, spiraling out of control. What's odd is that although all were basically political discussions, they each happened on different newsgroups (of this closed server). In no particular order:

1. Debate about the U.N. leading to my observation that it's absurd for the U.S. to be lectured about its policies by countries, many of which are human rights nightmares run by criminals. Led to serious misunderstandings from people who apparently don't differentiate well between the words "many" or "most" or "all." People thought I was xenophobic, maybe somehow tarring Australia with the same brush as Somalia. (Although a disturbing # of countries in the world behave more like Somalia than Australia.)

2. Reactions to a news story about mothers being charged with child abuse for reckless prenatal care. You'd think this would have devolved into the Abortion Debate except it actually didn't. I still pissed off a whole set of people though. There's a clear, common-sense obvious difference between (say) not eating the right kind of fruit or going to the doctor often enough and (say) drinking and toking and freebasing your way through the pregnancy. Still, lost some serious tact points by being insufficiently compassionate when I got into an argument with a friend who, um, happened actually to be pregnant at the time.

3. The usual stuff about the presidential campaign. Just as a refresher, in June it had seemed like a foregone conclusion that George W. Bush would be our next president. Then the conventions happened, and the Dem's got a much bigger bounce from theirs. (Picture Gore sticking his tongue down Tipper's throat. I didn't actually see this. I didn't watch any live convention coverage, rather preferring to read the speech transcripts on-line.) By September it was a foregone conclusion that Al Gore would be the next president, especially after that 'RATS' ad controversy. All in all, this was a time of great partisan rancor, especially between Mark Staloff (you know him from quiz-bowl) and myself. After some time away from the scene, I made the mistake of trying to ease back into posting right as the November election went down, which only made things worse between me and Mark.

4. (The one that probably really did it.) In a thread about television, someone posted to complain that Will and Grace wasn't sensitive enough to the trials and tribulations of gay life. That is, they wanted to see discrimination or gay-bashing or whatever used as a serious plot device. No doubt for one of those Very Special episodes. Suffice it to say this set me off. (I mean, what the f-ck? Isn't that just like the people who attacked the Cosby show for not being set in a ghetto?) I said rude things about why whiny politically correct people are so easily disliked. Many people misunderstood me to mean that whiny politically correct people were the reason why gays themselves were so disliked. There followed an emotionally raw exchange about hate crimes and such. Bitterness all around.

For what it's worth, my views on gays are very similar to those expressed by Dick Cheney in the October 2001 vice presidential debate. I believe in tolerance and respect but am strongly opposed to identity politics. This is something that Andrew Sullivan writes about all the time.

Anyway, although it sucks to end things so bitterly, it's great that I stopped spending so much time on those silly Harvard newsgroups. Life is too short. On to a more cheerful entry (either in my writing order or in your reading order).
JULY-AUGUST 2000 (at play)

Apart from the work (mentioned in my last "2000 recap" entry) or the Giants games (mentioned, hell, weeks ago by now), there are two things worth remembering about this time of year, both of them related to specific weekends.

In late July, a group of us played at a Berkeley Mirror of the Chicago Open. We probably also did some trash packs. There were my roommates Chad (aka Kubi, Iowa State) and Scott (aka Scoon, Iowa State and Illinois, the only time I've seen him play since we moved to California, not counting playtesting NAQT sets), plus Steve from Silicon Age (Carleton) and his old teammate Andy Pedler. Come to think of it Pedler and James Rogers have a lot in common as quiz players and people. Andy got most of our points on the academic stuff, although I think he opted against playing trash.

In late August, Dave Krinsky (disclaimer: page is more than two years out of date) came to town. Dave was one of those Harvard on-line people. After graduation he began working in North Carolina as a software developer while Augusta went to law school at Duke. I have yet to write about Dave and Augusta but since I'm posting in increments, you may already have read about them if I get (got) to them.

By "to town" I mean he went out to dinner at a Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto on a Friday night and a whole lot of us were invited. This includes people I'd previously known on-line but not in person. This also includes employees of TellMe and Google and BEA (makers of WebLogic). I was supposed to do some networking here on behalf of Silicon Age but wasn't nearly conscientious enough about it (obsequious enough?).

Of those whom I had only met on-line but never in person (and everyone there went to Harvard), by far the most interesting was Mike Develin. I could go on for several paragraphs about (and Cindy and I, in the car last Saturday, spent several minutes discussing) why of all these Harvard computer geek people, Develin is the one who reminds me the most of myself. Just take my word for it. Oh, and he also started up the baseball league that I've long since become addicted to. But he didn't do that until November.

Anyway, in August he made quite an entrance. He was short. (Is short.) He had a bandana on his head. Very outgoing, prone to making random comments. Kind of a squeaky speaking voice. Huh, I guess I only needed one paragraph to explain why he reminds me of me. Oh, and math grad student, which you know if you followed the link. There was a parking sign in Palo Alto that said "WELCOME TO THE PURPLE ZONE." We ended up getting a picture of a group of us standing under this sign; I'm not sure what became of that picture.

Cindy and I (I'm presupposing that in writing I do a bit later tonight, I'll write--and you'll have already read--slightly more about Cindy) took Caltrain together to get to the place. Once in the city of Palo Alto, we dined, walked around a bit (this big group), and eventually made it to a pizzeria/sports bar whose name I've completely forgotten. The pizza there is cheap and good and they have an outdoor patio. Drawing a total blank on the name though!!

While on my way to whatever that place is I wrote in Paul Lujan's car. He and I listened to the end of the Livan Herandez CG shutout, 2-0 over Greg Maddux, the game for which I gave my ticket to Kubi so that I could be at this Harvardian-type gathering.

Apart from all that, at least once, maybe twice, I went down to visit my friend Corwyn at Stanford (always taking Caltrain), mostly (that summer) to go on to see the San Jose Sabercats. Like Corwyn's beloved Jets, the Sabercats wear green. Also, the highlight by far of any Sabercats game is seeing the Saberkittens (what a bizarre disclaimer on that page) cheer. Mrowr! They love to dance, especially to songs like Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever.

I know they wouldn't necessarily be great conversationalists but damned if I haven't had great dreams about the Saberkittens.