Saturday, January 19, 2002

No Santos For You
Oh well. I'll grin and bear Gumbel/Sims.

One of Kubi's biggest sports-related regrets is that he had a chance to go to the Monsoon Game when he was in Kansas City, but turned it down, not realizing that the rainfall would increase to historic levels.

I wonder what he thinks of this game. He and Shelly had already left the playtest (they're at a party with her co-workers) by the time Tim pointed out, come see this game: It's a f*cking blizzard!"
Blizzard!
I'm actually delaying my trip to a party to catch the closing moments of this game. It's high drama. It's riveting. I hope for your sake that one of you went to this or else knows someone who did.

Thought: Does WBCN stream audio and if so would they stream this? I need my Gil Santos fix... hold on...
Smoke Alarms
Setting them with your cooking is a cardinal sin, especially before noon on a weekend. Grr.

Scoon is running late but in his defense we all expected playtesting to be here, until R. moved it to his place at 10:30 this morning. Of course, this is because he'd (mistakenly) told everyone other than us that it would be at his place all along. Or rather, he mistakenly told us it would be here. Either way, I was right until 10:30 and then suddenly I was wrong.

And you wonder why we sometimes look like a seat-of-the-pants outfit?

I think that covers everyone I'm currently miffed at. There *waves hand*, no longer miffed.

Social butterfly day: Corwyn is coming to town but I thought I'd be home so I was just expecting him to call here; rather I left a message on his cell saying to call R's cell if he needs to reach me this afternoon.

Corwyn is "bartending" at a party for his friends Saturday night. Everyone's really impressed by this, as am I, although I can't help but think that part of it will be like a cross between a zoo and a vaudeville act. Hey lookee here, our friend can mix drinks - ooh, ahh! For someone who loses his dignity the way other people lose their car keys, I'm surprisingly hypersensitive about this sometimes on behalf of other people I like.

I have no idea whether I or anyone else is invited to that party but you'd think not, right? I mean, it's a different set of his friends. Then again, he did mention it, probably just in passing. David was interested in getting together with me and Corwyn tonight, possibly involving that party.

In short, much phone tag is about to ensue, involving cell phones that don't belong to me. (How rude is it to give somebody else's cell phone number as your contact? Well, R. can deal with it. He's the one who moved the playtest plus he's the one who once took his sister's cellphone with him on a weekend trip solely because he'd lost his own and still needed to be reachable in an emergency.)

Scoon just said, "gimme five minutes," so one last music observation: When Sarah left my parents' house at the end of our Christmas time together (this always happens sooner than I was thinking it would), as we were saying our goodbyes she had her car doors open (to put her kitties and her stuff in) with the radio on, the radio playing Fat Lip by Sum 41.

If there's a less appropriate song to be exchanging parental/sibling goodbye's to, I'm not sure what it is. Well, it wasn't inappropriate per se, just kind of randomly off-kilter, and not just in a non-sequitur off kilter. "I'll never fall in line / Become another victim of your conformity / And back down." Yep, Sarah's leaving the suburbs again. :-)

The first time I heard that song I was dead certain it was the Beastie Boys from how they rapped the verses. Then when they sang the chorus I realized just how wrong I was.
Re: Grammar Rodeo

(Yes, yet another Cooch's World response, this time in much more lighthearted context. Whew.)

I can't decide if I was that gregarious person who made everyone else look bad in section. No, clearly I wasn't, because at Harvard any given class would have four or five of those. (Actually, those two statements don't logically follow: If there were four or five, it's just as likely and actually even more likely that I'd be one of the four of five. Blah.)

But I never did the reading, so the game for me was:
1. Let the overeager kids (or the people the TF calls on because they're too quiet) get the gimme questions, or rather the questions that are "butt easy if you did the reading, impossible otherwise."

2. Figure out from the context of the discussion what the hell the reading must have been about.

3. Try to figure out if there was some other unit in the same class that this reminds me of, or some other half-baked analogy. Pattern-matching, basically.

Cautionary note: Bad pattern matching is what gets you crack instead of pecan pie.

4. Wait for the perfect opportunity to actually inject this into the conversation.

5. Hope it turned out to be a really good point, thought-provoking, unexpected, and so on. On a bad day people would look at me like I had three heads. On a good day the TF would get this look on her face, or his face, and suddenly the conversation would take a right turn and people would gradually get that same look too, and really interesting conversations would happen and the most scandalous part of it all would be just how badly I was faking it.

Among grizzled, cynical veterans of this discussion section game, the unwritten rule was: You must speak at least once per section meeting. Raise your hand and say something, that is. There were people who followed this rule too much for the sake of it; those, rather than the gregarious people who make you look stupid, are the people who I think need to be hurt. Anyone can raise his hand and say something utterly banal, spew utter bullshit. I don't want to hear the things that people say when it's patently obvious that all they're doing is filling a quota.

So to take the game to the next level, you had to say something that would actually be worthwhile to the people who actually did the reading. That is, fake it but at least make a good-faith effort for it not to be fake.

I was sufficiently good at this that if I'd actually cut the crap and did the reading then heaven only knows how good a student I'd have been. But I'd have sure been a crappy quiz player, newspaper editor, social chair, trumpet player, and so on.

Tradeoffs, you see...
That last entry looks self-centered in that it really doesn't elaborate on what Kevin and I talked about. Oh well. Feels rude to share that anyway. For any given conversation the only real choices are to talk about what the other person had going on (which is really nobody's business) or to talk about what I had going on (which only makes the self-centeredness look worse).

What I can tell you is that apparently I'm on track to apply for Harvard Business School, circa fall 2003. Kevin thinks this would be a wonderful idea, I suspect in large part because it's the most plausible way for me to return to Boston.

(Then again in the long run it's my most plausible path to a baseball front office somewhere. Blah. I hate admitting I still have dreams, since the particular dreams I have feel like really weird choices sometimes.)

Subsequent to that entry, we went and playtested some NAQT questions only it's even worse than a quiz-team practice. There, when people f*ck around, it's fun and interesting and irreverent. F*cking around on playtesting is always a disturbing mix of pointless tangents about the subject matter of the question itself and picayune poking and prodding of possible alternate answers and What Might People Bitch About and "was that too easy for this level? was that other one too hard for this level?" and so on. All in the name of quality control but it seems bassackwards to preen a third of the set to death and then not get to the other two thirds.

I do know that the closest SCT to here is Berkeley. Without knowing for sure, I presume they could use an extra game official or two. R. is flying to St. Louis because apparently that's a sectional that could use a ton of people since the field size is so huge. It's actually tempting to join him. Well, not literally join, I suspect that there are Midwesterners with whom he'll want to spend most of his time given that he can see ol' me any day of the week.

There's an SCT in Seattle (or in the vicinity of Seattle) that will probably have eight teams or so and probably not need too many people.

Corwyn is en route from Portland to Palo Alto, stopping for the night in Redding, CA. Here's the rest of his trip. He'll be in town for just under a week. Yay, being-between-jobs. (Well, he'll start to get bartending jobs as soon as he gets back to Portland. I mean me so I have free time to see him.)

Bookworms
Went out to a Chinese restaurant after playtesting, then to an old bookstore. The latter was heaven for Chris and Scott but hell for me specifically in that bookstores tend not to have rest rooms.

Easy solution: Walk back out. Go to the bar down the street. Notice the sign that says "Restrooms for Customers Only." Casually stroll up to the counter. When the beautiful woman asks what you want to drink, ask for Diet Coke. Sit and wait patiently for her to prepare it. Take a few sips. Slip into the men's room. Come back, slurp down as much of the rest of the Diet Coke as you care to bother with, smile, thank the lady, and leave. Return to the bookstore, where your roommates have finished their quest through "overrated fantasy" (Chris wants to figure out who the most overrated author is in this particular genre; dunno if anyone in the audience has strong thoughts on this but leading candidates include Piers Anthony types) and are ready to leave.

You'd think I'd love old bookstores but I just don't. Am I that much of a Philistine?

Friday, January 18, 2002

Kevin!!



(No, no, not the dismay and alarm of an airborne Kevin!!! but rather surprise and elation, which is completely different.)

My best friend called me today. I wasn't expecting this but it felt really good to have a conversation with him.

Is it dated to refer to Kevin as "my best friend"? No it isn't, and it never will be. The concept isn't dated so much as unnecessarily divisive. Nothing that happens with the friends I'm close to now should lessen the impact in my life of people I've known for longer, nor vice versa.

In day-to-day life it would make more sense to bestow the "best friend" tag on Kubi, if on anyone at all. (If you can see where this was about to go, let's just agree right now that it's pretty inane.) His the one I always chat with on-line, talk sports with, and so on. The one that, for long stretches of the year 2000, I'd be in the company of for hours on end, day or night, sleep or wake, work or home or quiz-bowl.

(Befriend) the one you're with?

Then there are phone calls. Who do I talk to on a weekly basis? Not Kevin, at least not yet. It could always turn out that way. At the moment I have two weekly phone conversations and the one that lasts longer (at least the past three times) is with Corwyn. He always initiates the call and, what with the wonders of cell phone rate plans, apparently the marginal cost of our longer conversations is effectively zero. Kevin would make for a third weekly conversation assuming I actually follow through with my plan to stay in touch.

Sarah would be a logical fourth. My sister, yet I don't call her enough. She calls me sort of periodically, sort of not. Always at about the same time on a Sunday night. Remind me to have a Sarah spider sense this Sunday, so that if she doesn't call me around that time I'll call her and we can take turns and stuff.

(I do in fact return her calls. Well, not "return." Seems like I'm always home when we talk, although it's possible that she calls when nobody is home and doesn't leave a message. She's almost never home when I call her but then again I almost never think to call her at that particular Sunday afternoon/early evening stretch.)

And then of course, my own mother. I mean geez, what kind of son doesn't call his mom? I'll get to it. She's actually far more talkative than Corwyn. (I never expected Corwyn of all people to be the long conversation kind of guy.)

Non Sequitur
Housing question: Three bedrooms, two are 12x14 and one is 11x8. One of the bigger ones has its own bathroom, both of those have porch access that the smaller one lacks. $2100 a month, how do you divide it. Is it relevant that two of the tenants have large book collections (shelves and all)_ and that the other has very little of space occupying nature? (I guess relevant to who lives where, probably not to who pays what. But I really don't want to be screwed.) Initially we thought maybe $800/$700/$600 but that was before we saw relative room sizes. I place far higher premium on size than on existence of own bathroom.
Music News
While waiting for my brain to become convinced that yes, really, sleep would come in handy...

Creed tops album charts again, yet I really think Weathered is a step down from Human Clay. Don't listen to me though. I've got Human Clay engrained in my psyche, almost even beyond American Thighs.

Elliott Smith cancels show. Who? Oh yeah him! I'd forgotten this song existed. Do you miss me, Miss Misery? Heh. Could only ride Matt Damon's coattails for so long.

NIN make in-store appearance. Trent will be opening for Tiffany any day now. Hey it's another split domain! There's the luxury goods store and the singer. But .net and .gov are still available, so it's not like Menino city and the Glob and the classic rock band...

Durst pied. Woo-hoo! Remember the Biotic Baking Brigade?

Weren't Paul McCartney and U2 sufficiently shameless sellouts already?!?

Thursday, January 17, 2002

I'm not sure I like this new Yahoo! Mail interface. The changes are subtle: The header is grayer and less bold; there's a new column that shows whether you've replied to and/or forwarded a given message. What freaks me out is that both Scott and I were on-line (earlier this afternoon) as the changes took effect. He saw them first, then they propogated to whatever server I was logged into.
Meat Locker
It is butt-cold out there. Presumably this is because I wore a t-shirt and shorts. You might guess I'd know better than to wear a t-shirt and shorts outside in Boston. You'd be right: That's why I moved to San Francisco.

I'm starting to fight back in the Battle of the Thermostat. My take is, if your indoor temperature differs from your outdoor temperature by more than 20 degrees either direction then you should seriously reconsider either how you set your thermostat or where you live.

If it's January and you're cold, put on a sweater, even if you're inside.
So Scott, Chris, and I had a Conversation today about our future living.

"Conversations" with a capital C are something that happens if you live and/or work with Chris, everything from the optimum way to design some software subsystem to... well, whatever. My modus operandi (especially if three or more people are involved) is to sit quietly and sullenly while people talk and make their points.

My point, I suppose, is I don't want to move. This may approach irrationality but there comes a time when I just won't.

The place down the street from us is a three-bedroom at $2100 a month. (Ah, the good old days when you could get a nice three-bedroom back in Somerville for $1500 a month... where have you gone?) Less space than we have here, aside from the bedrooms, though I haven't seen it. We'll look at it tomorrow. The biggest bedroom has its own porch and bathroom; the medium-sized bedroom has a porch but no unique bathroom; the smallest has neither porch nor bathroom.

We'd have a month of lease overlap if we got it and took it. So if, say, we were there for three months, our effective rent would be $2800 a month. Taken into account what we'd pay to stay here (minus Nelson's share), we'd either break even or come out slightly ahead on rent alone but then be way behind when you figure in moving expenses, getting DSL set up, getting cable set up, and so on. Then again, if we stayed there longer than three months the deal would be progressively better.

I'm not the one who's big on limited term. Scott is, apparently Nelson also is. Our place was $4200 a month in 2000, $4500 a month in 2100. It's nominally a five-bedroom but I took the fifth bedroom two years ago because nobody else was willing to. It's really not inhabitable. Tiny, no closet, and so on. But if the landlady sees it as a five-bedroom, that affects how she prices it.

Chris's choice of living arrangement, using that room as a study/video game nook, forecloses us from taking on a fifth. That kind of sucks and also means he ought to be paying a higher share than he is, but see the point below about good faith and not going back on your initial offer.

Upstairs is a three-bedroom that had been going at $2800. They wanted to cut their rent to $1800 (their lease also expires in February) but she would go no lower than $2200 so they're moving out.

We offered $3800, month-to-month or three-month. She countered $4000 with no mention of length of term. Had we known about the upstairs guys, the original offer ought to have been lower. Now we really can't counter below our original offer. Looks like the counter will be choice of $3800 x 6 mo's or $4000 x 3 mo's, which one she takes will result from what she sees the market as.

Nelson wants us to bargain harder, or wishes we had. "She has no negotiating position!" The paradox is that he's the one most screwed if we don't renew the lease here. Then again, effectively for him it becomes a one-month lease instead of four months. Whatever. He expressed his misgivings but did accept.

Anyway, tomorrow we look at the new place (since the current landlady could very well decline our offer or reach impasse. (The most likely source of impasse is the term.) The appointment was supposed to be prior to playtesting of SCT, which was to be noon here, but then R. went at the last minue and proposed moving it to 11 a.m. at his place because he has some appointment of his own (not househunting). R. lives a 20-minute drive from here. Tomorrow I'll be looking at an apartment that all things considered I probably don't want to move to, and therefore I'll get to playtesting at best an hour later. Chris and Scott would also be playtesting. Apart from Kubi, I have no idea who else. Oh yeah, Steve. And maybe Tim and his girlfriend if it's at Chez Hentzel.

Before tomorrow comes tonight. Why the hell am I typing all this? I'd just sent R. some questions and was hungry. But I didn't like what I have here at the house. So I was going to find a fast food place. But I need money and the most convenient ATM is at the grocery store. Okay fine, while I'm there, buy some food anyway. Except you're not supposed to go grocery shopping when you're hungry. So I popped a pizza pocket into the microwave and munched on someone else's cereal. Remind me to buy some Brown Sugar & Oat Total while I'm at the store.

Obviously, to bother sitting here typing this, I'm not as hungry as I used to be. Still, might as well shop, else the previous Catch-22 will come up again.
sigh
Guess I really will be openly rooting against the Red Sox this year. And the Marlins. Not the Expos. They're dead in the water but it'd make a great Major League story if they got some cantankerous bastard to manage them and Vlad Guerrero finally lived up to potential and so on.
Best AOK Game Ever
Note: This will be pointless to you if you're unfamiliar with Age of Kings. Blah.

In one hour, three minutes, and seven seconds of gametime (1:03:07) I managed to inflict military defeat upon a computer set to "Hard" -- moreover, I did this with a finished Wonder AND with all five relics in my possession.

Easily the most EFFICIENT game I've been involved in. Peons were always in the right place at the right time, resource levels hit the right amount at the right time. Felt like synchronized swimming.

"Rivers" map. Inexplicably the computer didn't bother building a navy until I basically ruled the water. There was one marshy pass between my side of the main river and his. Peons built twin towers on my side, flanking the edges of the marsh. Between the towers and my boats and my barracks, he couldn't get anything through there but he kept trying, like in those kung fu movies where Jackie Chan beats dozens of opponents one at a time.

Actually felt like the game would suck. I got beat to both Feudal and Castle Age and may have hit Imperial before I'd finished building a castle. Then again, all those foot soldiers and all those boats cost resources. Once I owned the pass I could build a castle on his side.

Four of the five relics lay across water from me. I had about three different monk/transport combos going.

Started building trebs as soon as I had the castle up. Only needed one castle, come to think of it only needed one mine because my gold and my stone were so close to each other.

I was the Franks, so got all the free farm upgrades. Between farms and fishing boats there was plenty of food. Perfect for building a whole bunch o' foot soldiers. Got through one of his gates, started mowing down both buildings and peons. The biggest suspense was whether I'd get the wonder finished before he was wiped out.

Next time, either 1-on-N (for N > 1) at "Hard" or 1-on-1 at "Hardest." Hardest is brutal. You wouldn't think AI could do much in a real-time (rather than turn-based) game but at "Hardest" the computer gets through the ages unholy fast. Seems to be cheating.

Final stats:
Military: 2509 to 508
Economy: 3064 to 533
Technology: 3183 to 3452 (he beat me to both Feudal and Castle)
Society: 697 to 0
Total: 9453 to 4493

Units Killed: 134 to 17
Units Lost: 30 to 134
Buildings: 28 to 0
Conversions: 0 to 2 (punk! :-))
Largest Army: 24 to 8

Food: 15969 to 13038
Wood: 13081 to 11098
Stone: 2759 to 1170
Gold: 5901 to 4192
no trade profit or tribute

Feudal: 15:51 to 14:21
Castle: 25:07 to 22:36
Imperial: 36:31 to 39:10
Map Exploration: 90% to 99%
Research: 31 to 32

I had 1 Castle, 1 Wonder, 5 Relics, and 1781 relic gold to his zeroes.
Villager high: 51 to 41

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

I used to think that the woman of my dreams was someone not unlike Virginia Postrel.

I think a lot of things about the woman of my dreams, too many of which are completely contradictory.

When, in fact, the woman of my dreams is far more likely to be like Moira Breen. Or maybe Charles Barkley, except that this fails on so many levels.

Anyway, read Moira. She's in the middle of a fascinating discussion. She's also pointing out simple truths of the hey, I never thought of that variety.

(Oh, and if you care, I spent a long time once thinking about whether Ayn Rand made for an ideal woman. In the dating context, the answer turned out to be emphatically no. Read The Fountainhead, I think you'll see why. Also, deciding openly to cheat on your spouse after taking popular vote of your followers strikes me as, if ballsy, not only wrong but also cold. Brutal directness I can take; I eat that stuff up. But there has to be some sort of conscience at the core of it. Your soulmate is someone with whom you share things; Rand almost by definition isn't the sharing type.)
Meds
The Chicago Tribune has been running a series this week to the effect that more Americans than ever are being treated for mental illness (requires registration but registration is free so go ahead and do it). Or maybe I was thinking of this CNN story on medication in general.

Mental health has randomly been on my mind since I woke up. It may stem from common usage of the word "depression" and the difference between what healthy people mean when they use the term to describe their mood and what the clinical definition would be.

<irrelevant aside>
Is Sabotage the only song you can think of with a consistently unbleeped f-bomb? I know tons of songs with radio-edited f-bombs, yet every time Sabotage comes on, "sit back and wonder why I got this fucking thorn in my side" comes through clear as crystal. Odd. What do Beastie Boys have on the FCC?
</irrelevant aside>

Anyway, depression. The article (I suppose it was more an article/sidebar thing than a series proper) heavily touts medication. Psychiatrists have written to the editor chiding them for underemphasizing psychotherapy. I'm ambivalent at best about this because I suspect that more people are using drugs and more people are in therapy, than actually need it.

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely people who need it and for the most part I'm unwilling to question any particular person's decision. All the same... I suppose this applies more to therapy than to drugs, which don't have much of a substitute. The substitute for therapy seems reasonably obvious to me. What is psychotherapy? For the most part it's a matter of talking to someone you trust, listening to that person, taking advice from that person, sharing as you feel comfortable sharing.

I've been doing that for years now. Everybody does it. And apart from restaurant tabs and phone bills, it doesn't cost anything. How much do psychiatrists charge and how many of them are worth it? Honest question. I don't know enough to be that critical but my ignorance does lead me to be skeptical.

Aside from the cost I have nothing against psychotherapy. I availed myself of it for a six-week period once when it was free. Talking things out seemed useful but then the semester ended and I was going to have to both go to a different person and start paying money for it. For some reason the going to a different person was almost as big a deal as the money. What surprises me in hindsight about this was that she really didn't say anything to me. For an hour I'd talk; every five minutes or so she'd make a quiet observation or ask a pointed question.

Then there's medicine. I suspect -- again, this is talking out of my ass and so not all that useful -- that most people who really truly need mental help have some sort of brain chemical imbalance that would be far better treated by meds, if the meds were fairly predictable and did what they theoretically seek to do. The problem is that nobody really knows what they'll do. A hundred years from now they'll probably be shocked at the crude state of mental health drugs circa 2000. Astonishingly many people I knew in college took mental health-related medication, suspiciously often first prescribed by our friendly University Health Services. Most of them would admit needing the treatment yet all of them worried about what it did to their personality. The most common complaint was that it set up an artificial barrier, that there was this part of themselves that they couldn't get to, stuck behind a metaphorical locked door. The barrier apparently prevented the lowest lows but maybe also the highest highs.

On the subject of medication in general, aside from mental health, the big trend I suppose actually is that we have much better drugs than we ever did before. These things cost primo research money to develop, then once a given treatment is available people take it for granted. Andrew Sullivan over the past few months has had really intelligent things to say about this.

I'm mildly surprised after all these years that I've never been subjected to any medical treatment for mental health. (I say subjected because one of my random quirks is a fear -- no, more an anxiety -- of doctors and hospitals generally.) Why would I be? I'm fine, right? Hmm...

On the floor of my room is an empty bag of "Ruffles Flavor Rush: Wild Wings and Ranch"; in the wastebasket in the kitchen is an empty bag of "Doritos Extreme: Queso Grande." Both are the large size, both consumed in the last 72 hours. In theory I'm losing weight. If somebody put will power in a pill I bet the thing would have made some drug company rich a long time ago.

Every few months I go through a couple of days when I really need to be left alone. I can't overemphasize how badly I need to be left alone. There's wild variance in my productivity in those times. Sometimes the fact that I've gotten so deeply into some random project is precisely why I can't or don't want to be bothered, other times I can't motivate myself to do anything and being social is part of that. So? I've come to accept that in a typical year of full employment this will cost me from one to three workdays. Normal people call them "mental health days."

My interpersonal skills could use a lot of work. That's true of most people, it seems like.

I have an inexplicable attraction to people with questionable mental health. See the whole Courtney Love thing. It's not their mental state itself that lures me -- surely it isn't -- and yet it's not a case of being surprised over and over again when they turn out to have baggage. Rather, the baggage will be in plain sight and I'll still be drawn to people. Sometimes it's because there's a fine line between genius and insanity.

There should be a gratuitous Beautiful Mind reference in here but I haven't seen it and probably won't. What I hear is that Ron Howard took way too many artistic liberties, which is an absolute no-no if the whole point is to make a biography of a real person.

All these paragraphs and yet I have absolutely no point to make. I'm probably fine. Anyone saner than me is also probably fine. Anyone compared to whom I'm sane, might not be. Is that my purpose in life, to be the borderline standard bearer?

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Are you kidding?
This looks so fake to me and yet I could imagine it happening.
*sigh*
Pass the '40'
"According to the NIH definition, metabolic disorder is present if a patient has any three or more symptoms: a waist measuring at least 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women; levels of triglycerides — fats that circulate in the blood — of at least 150 milligrams per deciliter; HDL levels of less than 40 mgs in men and less than 50 mgs in women; blood pressure of at least 135/80; and blood sugar of at least 110 mgs."

-Study: 47 million adults have obesity-related syndrome

No idea what my BP or cholesterol is. I do know that my size 40 pants are starting to fit me again even as the 42's start to become a little baggy. If I can get back to 38 then I'll officially be in the clear. Heh.
That didn't help as much as I thought
In the previous entry, I almost threw in a gratuitous link to these lyrics. I'd never really listened to them before. It's a far more disturbing song than I thought.

"Do I deserve to be? Is that the question? If so, who answers?"

Re: Tony
The January 14, 2002, entry, in case you're reading this after any subsequent post.

Short version: Don't be down on yourself. You did what you could. Hope and pray he's in a better place.

I'm terrible at expressions of grief or sympathy. That's probably obvious enough by now. It's also among the biggest of a million reasons for me just to shut up. The other major reason is that already (as I think of what I'm about to type) this is going to violate the cardinal rule of dealing with tragedy.

Every now and then you'll see someone on the news or someone reflecting on September 11 or any other sad story, who uses entirely too much of the first-person pronoun. For lack of any other convenient examples this is basically part of what my mom objected to about The Pilot's Wife. There are tons of people who need to be grabbed by the shoulders and told extremely forcefully, This isn't about you. Don't get the wrong idea, it actually doesn't apply to Cooch or anyone else in the known audience. It does, however, too frequently apply to the person I see in the mirror.

With that disclaimer...

I've said some things about suicide lately that now feel, well, awkward. It's not about whether those things were true but just, when someone actually does kill himself, they're entirely inappropriate to say. All the moreso, I wish I'd read Cooch's World before posting either of the previous two entries.

In any case, you have a much deeper effect on the people around you than you think. That's not just a plural "you" but a universal one. Everyone forgets that they live by example, even apart from the things they mean to say and do, even apart from the example they think they're setting or want to set.

If you really want to know why the things I said about suicide were relevant to say (apart from the immediate relevance, which always happened to be about Staind or Slaughter or some other inconsequential heavy metal band), it's because this has actually occurred to me a lot more than you'd think, a lot more than I feel comfortable elaborating on.

And you've seen the things that I don't flinch from posting here or even saying in public. So yes, even I have a private reserve.

There are two reasons why I know that I won't take my own life. One is the very strong opinion I've developed about that subject. The other is that whenever I've felt the worst about myself or about life, by fortunate coincidence the other people around me have touched me, cheered me up, made me smile. Most of the time I bet they have no idea they've had that effect. Not they so much as you (the "my known audience" you rather than the universal you). That probably applies to anyone reading this, apart from complete strangers who saw this as one of the 10 most recently updated blogs.

Please don't think about this harder than you have to. Or at least, abstract it away from me. Anything I write will make you think that I've been either far more despondent or far less despondent than I've actually been. Or both. No disclaimer or over-elaboration would solve that.

Unfortunately, it would have never worked if people explicitly knew that I was feeling down-beyond-some-threshold and were trying to cheer me up with the explicit motive of trying to cheer me up. That doesn't work because people see through it. Instead, just being you (depending on who you are), you probably make the people around you a lot happier than you think you do, just by living from day to day.

Obviously I didn't know Tony, never met him. There are all these wonderful people whose existence you know of (the royal "you"?) but who you'll probably never meet because life is too short. There are cities I've traveled to, wonderful places, that I'd love to see again but probably won't. It should go without saying that I wish he'd lived but it's (despite being trite) a more powerful thing to say than you think.

I wish he had lived.

Then again, Harry Potter fans all know about the Mirror of Erised. Wishing won't bring Tony back. His time on Earth was short but while he was here, clearly there are other people whose lives he touched. One of the most tragic elements is that apparently he didn't realize this.

<TMI>
I wonder how Dorri's doing. (For any theoretical newbies: BU quiz player, brilliant person in the sense that a creative person can be brilliant, had a rough childhood that no parenthetical comment could do justice to.) She -- in so many ways this is an inherently offensive thing to say about a person, please forgive me -- struck me as someone capable of doing something drastic. I wanted to help her but most things I said or did were counterproductive for various reasons:

1. As mentioned above, my "want to help you" mode is way too transparent and probably easily rubs people the wrong way.
2. Even worse (even more transparent) is to be openly attracted to someone, because then no matter what you do will have these creepy undertones. Is he really interested in being my friend or does he just want to make out with me?
3. Ultimately it was up to her to make whatever choices she needed to make. This is true of everybody, it's just more obvious for some people than for others.
</TMI>

So unfortunately there's a problem with thinking in retrospect that you could have reached out to someone, or even looking ahead to your conscious effort to reach out to someone. It's a whatever you do, don't think of an elephant sort of problem. Reaching out to someone who seems to be in need is more dubious than it seems. If you really think you're in that position...

Set aside any crushes or lust or whatever. It will only get in the way and make both of you look and feel stupid.
Think long and hard about your motives in any case. Did I mention It's not about you! yet?
Make sure you're not overreacting to the situation. Lots of people need help but to single out a specific person and say, "oh yeah he definitely needs help" is (in some ways) insulting enough that you have to be careful whether it's true.

Does this sound pessimistic? Well the good news I suppose, is that you honest-to-gosh can help. In fact you can help everyone you come into contact, as soon as you drop whatever conceit you have about the act of being helpful and just do nice things in general. Live by example (is that a "do as I say, not as I do?" hmm...), say and do courteous things. I bet even etiquette goes a really long way if it doesn't seem to be an affectation.

The best description of a person that I ever heard (and this is self-evidently Mark Coen so now the self-referentialness of this entry is almost complete) was to the effect (paraphrasing while I try to fabricate the exact quote), "he looks like someone you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley but if you actually did meet him there, he'd say: 'you look lost, can I get you directions or something?'"

Is the moral to be more like Mark? I suppose so. (In so many ways that's a disturbing point to reach but run with it; hey, it's true!) Other bumper sticker-sized morals...

Be more like Mark.

Dorri is still alive (as far as I know) -- this sounds extremely flip but for all we know this could be a more profound statement than it sounds like.

I'm still alive -- same thing. There's really no way to tell, since it's never as blatant as George saving his brother's life and then his brother saving a whole platoon, but for all any of us knows any particular act of kindness, or set of acts of kindness, may unwittingly be responsible for friends or acquaintances being alive.

You're still alive -- so for the love of God go out there and make the most of it. Not necessarily to succeed, to feel as though you have to be justified in being alive. Fail just for the sake of failing even. Or sit there on your butt, staring at a computer, if that floats your boat, just because you can. (Again, that sounds way more flip than it actually was meant to be.)
Weekly rite of package
Clearly the new Onion is out, since the server's taking forever to load the page. :-) I've already seen enough to have some choice lines that I won't ruin for you yet.
<politics>
Are they crazy?
I have some set standards for vitriolic reactions to news and opinion. If you lived with me in the 1990s you may now and then have seen copies of the Globe with wet spots of massive expectoration over the picture of Mike Barnicle. It's been a long time since I saw a "spitting bad" columnist and even longer since I had a spontaneous, say-it-out-loud, "F*ck you!" moment.

Until now.


Families of September 11 victims said there should be no extensions.

"This is a standard that the airlines have to be held to," said Stephen Push of the advocacy group Families of September 11. Push's wife, Lisa Raines, was among the victims who died when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

"If they can't implement the procedures by the deadline, then the airline should be shut down until they can do it."


Yes sir. Right away sir. We'll just shut all the airlines down, quit traveling completely, stop visiting our loved ones, stop vacationing, stop conducting business face to face, cripple the tourism industry, and basically turn this recession into a depression. And it still won't get your wife back. Sorry. That's just how it is.

Not to be crass, but it bugs me to no end when people who have been on the wrong end of a tragedy completely forget, as a result of that tragedy, not only any sense of perspective but also any sence of cost-benefit analysis. It's the same kind of thinking that leads the Mothers Against Drunk Driving zealots to say not only that rising the drinking age to 21 was a good idea but that, hey wait, maybe raising it to 24 would be a better idea? (I'm too lazy and too frothing at the mouth to bother with the link but I swear up and down, Liddy Dole of all people actually said this. One reason to thank God for W. is that his existence prevented her from getting even a sniff of the GOP nomination.)

You know the thinking. If even one life can be saved, it's worth it. Well, sorry, no, it usually isn't.

I suppose there's also an element of bearing such shock and grief that you want to do something to make it right. That's what so much left-wing crusading is all about, isn't it? I'll give people credit for having their heart in the right place but no credit at all if the result of their good intentions takes away liberties at the same time it does more harm than good.

Sorry. Soapbox done. The world is full of people who just need to think. And when they speak without thinking it makes me angry.
</politics>
Dolari
("Whoa-oa-oah, Dolari...")

There's a woman by the name of Jenn Dolari who posts some of the best Family Circus captions out there. (Nyder is also quite enjoyable) In a fit of goofiness I considered putting a link to her home page on mine. Then I went and read her journal and her Yahoo! Profile and so on.

That's a lot of info to be posting about oneself on-line. I suppose someone could say the same about me. Maybe a cautionary tale?
<FBoFW>
About that honeymoon trip:
1. Shouldn't you find out whether your loved one packs light vs. heavy before you actually marry her?
2. Not that there's a line around the block of my suitors or anything but if there were, anyone who doesn't travel light, need not apply.
</FBoFW>
Okay, I guess it's not a hard and fast rule, there are enough of those things that if I enforced them all then my dating prospects might be the empty set. But it's pretty close to one. And shut up, I know exactly what you're thinking. Yeah yeah, mumble-mumble-mumble bite me! :-)
Oh. Okay. I love the Internet.
The stuff nobody tells me...
Not that I was ever into him (he seemed to be past his prime by the time I got to Boston, which is odd since he was still on 'BCN) but When Did Charles Laquidera (not pictured) Get Put Out To Pasture?

What will you tell me next? Hey, is Clayton Vaughn still the 6 p.m. anchor at Channel 6 in Tulsa? Damn, guess not. Time never waits for me. (Not that I expected anyone in my audience to know who the hell Clayton Vaughn is -- his daughter was in my high school class but not as famous as Kevin Lockett or Amber Valetta -- but damn, nobody thought to mention Laquidera to me.)

Also how disturbing is it that the #4 link on the Laquidera google search is for Matty? Maybe not as disturbing as the fact that I still remember so much about a DJ I never listened to in a city I no longer live in.

Is there any metro area other than Boston where my namesakes are routinely called "Matty"? So far I haven't found one but I was Matty my share of times up in New England...
Beats Friends
My roommate is very enamored of Miss Congeniality. This is the second time since Thanksgiving I've happened upon him watching it.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Some People Have That PR Knack
I'm looking for a new friend with a web site. This is purely because my homepage columns are out of alignment now and a new "Other Friend" would balance the columns. I tried putting people's names into google. There's this guy, Eric Fain, who I've worked with at Vectiv. It turns out USA Today randomly did a whole article about him (or at least a whole sidebar). He also co-wrote a Joke-A-Day calendar with someone but Google has no idea this thing exists.

Things To Do


In no particular order... yeah, this qualifies as way TMI but I have to write it down somewhere and this is convenient enough...

Get my DVD ROM fixed do it myself or find a repair place? surely the latter!
Student loan payment done - check written & mailed
Car payment done - check written & mailed
Auto insurance renewal shop for a better rate?
Health insurance
Refund on my Giants' playoff tix
Refund on my A's playoff tix let it ride into season tix?
Refund on the cancelled Poison concert
IRA deposits for tax years 2001 & 2002
Update my resume for tech-specific applications
Cover letter & resume to Yahoo!
Cover letter & resume to google
Brainstorm other suitable employers
Depost various checks
Laundry
Dry cleaning
Finish cleaning my room
Clean bathroom
Write a bunch of NAQT questions R. is back in town
Organize bookshelves
Clear out my USPS mail backlog
Delete old mail from Outlook inbox
Delete old mail from Yahoo! inbox
Call sister
Call parents
Buy new shorts didn't like what I saw at Gap today, Foot Locker was out of those comfy Adidas ones
Amoeba run My Own Prison, any other must-have's to look for?
Spend another afternoon at the beach just because
Look into buying a fanny pack since the comfy Adidas shorts lack pockets
Look into Discman would it inspire me to jog more?
Jog more
Ensure that all my Traveler's Cheques are all spent and none about to expire
Get upcoming chess tournament schedule
Go back onto Yahoo! Chess and see how far my ladder rank has fallen, restore it to where I belong
Plan Las Vegas trip (possibly chess tourney?)
Consider a spring training trip
Trip to Boston in March?
Revisit living arrangment if I get a job in South Bay, move out of the city?
Get some scales to track weight? haven't been to the Army in awhile, they haven't bothered to contact me during that time, guess they just don't need me?
Join a gym?
Send Allyson the funky newspaper front page still sitting here next to my monitor
Schedule note: Corwyn in town this coming weekend he need crash space? how this affect NAQT playtesting?
Stay on the ball for planning upcoming Portland trip which weekend will it be? February? can't be NAQT SCT...
Chess: Go to Amateur Team West?
Organize tape collection how to store them? time to rotate which ones are in my car?
Any of Tim's CDs I want to keep?
Put those head support thingies in my car (GM "safety recall")
Car tuneup: oil? tires? haven't heard the funny steering wheel noise in awhile
Attend a church service somewhere/sometime
Write to my old high school teachers (anyone I can track down on-line)
Write to my college professors
Consider new computer games only after some of this other stuff taken care of!
Any upcoming music concerts I'm dying to see?
Valentine's Day *sigh*, another of "those" years isn't it?
Figure out which parking tickets are outstanding and pay them all off
Pay Chris for December rent et al
Clean up backyard again (one last cookout if we don't renew the lease? all that meat in the freezer, why not?)

...work in progress... how to blog this?
Stonestown
I hadn't been to the mall in awhile but today was some of the most disappointing skirt-watching ever. Maybe Mercy High has some Monday afternoon program?

CD purchases:
Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory
Creed, Weathered

(Yeah, I finally broke down and bought it. As I was pulling into the mall parking lot, coincidentally, "My Sacrifice" came on. After so many times in a row that I'd caught it in the middle and instinctively changed stations, this time I listened from the beginning and was deeply moved. The album still won't be as good as Human Clay because nothing can be. I'll probably still like it okay though.)

Giving Hybrid Theory the ol' listen-through as I type this. Factoid that I didn't know until opening the liner notes: The name of Linkin Park's lead singer. He's one Chester Bennington.

Chester Bennington... I bet kids made fun of his name in school. Ah, the random things that make you warped and bitter enough to produce restaurant-quality angst metal. In a parallel universe did he and Scott Stapp and Aaron Lewis all go to law school? If they formed a firm, what order would their names go?

You're clerking for Scalia? Congratulations! I guess I'll just have to settle for this great offer I got from Bennington, Stapp, and Lewis...
Dilferization
Tom Jackson actually used that term on Primetime to refer to what the Ravens' offense does in the playoffs. Trent Dilfer has now won N straight games for some large value of N. He's also, in a manner of speaking, the reigning Super Bowl champion QB. Seems like Tampa Bay could use a QB like that.

How would Tony Dungy do coaching Peyton Manning? I'm surprised Steve Spurrier isn't angling for the Indy job but for the kind of money he'd get in D.C., hard to blame him.

Unrelated: Guess which alumni association has invited me to "The 50th Annual Beanpot Telecast"? Hint: The one whose team is currently seventh in the country rather than the one whose team is merely "also receiving votes." For all I know this would be a wonderful chance to meet people. (Mostly guys and couples.) This would be right up Kubi's alley and if he were single he'd be the perfect sidekick. But he isn't. The other people whom it'd be perfect for me to bring along are probably, like me, waiting with bated breath to see if there's some Harvard-specific Beanpot telecast.

We can beat Northeastern!! By the polls we'd be the favorite! One of the few times I'd have ever really wanted a Harvard hockey jersey would've been to wear to Mugar just to be a punk, but the whole time I was at BU there was no point because Harvard was so much worse than any of the Hockey East schools.
Celebrity Math
(Mike Ditka + Andy Richter) / 2 = Andy Reid?
Random photos are up.

I couldn't find a Jeff Fisher that looked reasonably like me after all. Nor for that matter a Jack Black, which is an immense relief because the other day I had a horrifying, wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night nightmarish thought. Specifically, that events from my life would be made into a romantic comedy with Jack Black in the lead role. It made my skin crawl because it was so plausible.
Passer Rating
"why is it that football passer rating is accepted among the mainstream, but equivalent average -- which is a much better comprehensive rating stat -- is still scoffed at as an obscure sabermetric contrivance among baseball fans?" -Mike Develin, quick hits

Damn good question. I'm still ambivalent about EqA (for intuitive purposes I'm just fine with OBP, Runs Created, and some crude park adjustments) but I do know that one time when I was in the office by myself at Howe Sportsdata someone asked me about Passer Rating. It had to do with Arena Football, which added yet another twist in that for all I knew Arena League had some totally different metric. Even going on the assumption that Arena used the same formula as the NFL, I still had to look it up. By the time I got back to the guy he'd hung up, apparently tired of being on hold.

Something similar happened the night of Robin Ventura's grand single. In both cases I looked something up for a caller and was too slow for them, left them on hold too long. This is so unlike me regarding two completely unrelated things in which I take extreme pride: very fast web searches and excellent customer service. Twice I let these people down. It sounds like a joke but this honest-to-gosh is the kind of thing I brood about.

Notice that in both cases I had the office to myself? Sounds like they trusted me with a lot of authority but that's not really quite what it is. See, on Sunday nights exactly one person would come in at 7 p.m. Somebody (or bodies) from the Day Crew would have drawn the short straw for that weekend and been around to process most, if not all, of the afternoon baseball or afternoon hockey depending on the time of year. The 7 p.m. guy would tie up any loose ends and usually have almost exactly enough work for exactly one person to do until everyone else got in later in the evening. It's unclear why but I really liked the 7 p.m. Sunday shift and so it almost always went to me. I wasn't such a fan of the 7 p.m. weeknight shift. Oddly enough what I hated about that one was the lack of things to do, whereas on Sunday you could be really efficient and as West Coast afternoon games came in, process them and even recap them exactly in time for the next one to come in. It was the kind of gratuitous productivity that gets my rocks off sometimes.

(Come to think of it one thing I disliked about weeknight 7 p.m. shifts as opposed to weekend was that I liked having early weeknight evenings free to see other friends who were students or who had day jobs. On Sunday anybody who you'd see in the evening was someone you could've seen in the afternoon anyway. You know what? I was really really good at that job. But I readily admit that my marginal excellence over Don or Gavin or Marshall or Matt or whoever was worth almost nothing to Sportsticker's bottom line. It made no business sense at all for them to pay me anywhere near what I think I'm worth.)
Musically Inappropriate References
In addition to being a fanatic about music I'm a nitpicker about music. In particular, (as with any other pop cultural medium) I don't like lazy references. Words aren't sufficing to explain this so onto the examples:

A few years back, P.J. O'Rourke wrote a piece for The American Spectator on why young people ought to vote for Republicans. Actually (from my handy copy of Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut) the piece ("Republicans Take Control of Congress") was originally for Rolling Stone, who rejected it because they wanted "a more serious exposition of conservative beliefs."

As published it had a new intro: Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, Let P.J. O'Rourke Talk Sense to Your Kids. In the intro, P.J. needed a throwaway reference to a bad heavy metal band.

Okay, somewhere along the line someone came to their senses. As reprinted in the anthology, the magazine itself (referring to the author) says, "he claims that he can actually tell the difference between Nine Inch Nails and the noise a washtub full of cats makes when you throw it down the cellar stairs."

The problem is that, so help me God I remember this photographically (and for all I know could prove it if I were at my parents' house and went down to the basement), as originally published the same phrase read, "he claims that he can actually tell the difference between Hootie and the Blowfish and the noise a washtub full of cats makes when you throw it down the cellar stairs." (emphasis added) Trust me, you never ever ever forget a pop cultural reference that jarringly inappropriate.

(Along those lines, ever notice in Cathy comic strips that she not only still works in (her own) office (nearly a decade after everyone shy of CEO level got relegated to cubicles) but also doesn't have a computer on her desk?)

In any case, this doesn't nearly reach Hootie levels of boat-missedness but the whole reason for this entry is Jim Caple's fault. From fake notes for a mythical David Wells physical: "When I twisted the left elbow slightly, it made a grinding noise similar to Scott Stapp's vocals on Creed's 'With Arms Wide Open.' "

On the one hand, he's thorough enough to namedrop not only a hit song but also a lead singer. (At least he gets the guy's name right.) On the other, I really can't see where Caple (or his production assistant?) and I were listening to the same song. Now I'll readily admit that Stapp has made "grinding" vocals every now and then. Think of My Own Prison.

But... and I guarantee this, just listen to the thing... Stapp no more "grinds" in his vocals on the ode to the birth of his son than Clapton rocks out on the vocals to the death of his.

In the grand scheme of things it's harmless but inapt references like that just bug me.

Sunday, January 13, 2002

The New York Times doesn't even charge people money. (You do have to sign up is all.)

Sorry, I'm still in stunned disbelief about the World have the gall to charge money. It's a mid-sized newspaper for a mid-sized town. These days those are all so incredibly interchangeable that I'm idly wonder who at the World decided their product was worth money. Presumably it's what people are willing to pay. Hell, I was interested enough to give them a link in the first place. Just not that interested. :-)
Quote of the Day:
"I think this case is more interesting than it looks at first glance. My first reaction was 'hey, whaddaya want, it's Saudi Arabia. It sucks, but you can't go around breaking local law, as much as I sympathize with your having to put up with that sort of crap.' But on further consideration it's one of those little things that eventually raise questions about why we're shoring up these peckerwoods at all." --Moira Breen on the case of the woman who's suing because U.S. military women in Saudi are required to dress from head-to-toe and men are not.

My feeling, I suppose, is that the Saudis need us a lot more than we need them. While I'll grant that individual "Ugly Americans" exist, I'm sick of this nation bending over backwards, kissing tyrant's rings, and so on, when we just don't have to. We're powerful enough not to and we're justified enough not to. Might obviously doesn't make right but when they're both in the same place, use it for all it's worth.

Everyone else has a better blog than I do.
I'm neither casually sardonic nor earnest about life issues. My life is too mundane for the latter although apparently not too mundane to wax on about it at great length.

On the subject of living space, Chris is sending an offer to our landlord this week and wants to be sure that a quartet of us are on the same page. To save some typing I'll cut-and-paste from the e-mail I sent to my aces in the hole...


Hi,

What's the latest on Mike's bold ambitions of meeting people by living closer to campus? (I couldn't decide whether to cc him, whether it's worse to look like I'm pushing him out or talk about him behind his back. :-))

My situation over here involves five people: The four currently under this roof plus Nelson, who had sublet from Udo over the break. Officially it's a five-bedroom place but the fifth "bedroom" is... how to put it? Smaller than Mike's room. I guess you actually saw it, the place with all the video games.

Udo is a lame duck for visa reasons.

(So you'd think it'd be in his best interest to let Nelson take over his spot but I can't blame him for liking the U.S., San Francisco, and/or us.)

Nelson was very interested in staying on here but the longer he has temporary housing (in a hotel somewhere at a weekly rate) the more I worry that he'll lose patience and bail.

Chris shares my interest in staying here. Spacewise he has a steal, paying exactly as much for the two small downstairs bedrooms (and effectively the downstairs den since the rest of us rarely use it) as Udo/Nelson for the master bedroom. I'd complain about this but I love this house enough that the dealbreaker won't be me.

The dealbreaker will probably be Scott since he's unwilling to go beyond month-to-month or three-month if such is available. (Ah, the joys of being unemployed and making your job search be officially nationwide... I was in that boat once. The fact that I don't feel that way anymore speaks volumes about the Bay Area versus Boston, or maybe just me being older.)

Scott suggested looking on craig's list and elsewhere for month-to-month or quarterly three-bedroom places. That's undesirable for me because I don't want to move twice.

Matt


On the subject of driving in Boston, I take getting across the city in 15 minutes for granted, possibly because the vast majority of car rides I've been in with regard to Boston have involved the wee hours of the morning. (Reasonable minority of them involve getting from Budget Rent-a-Car to 775 Commonwealth Avenue and then back to the Pike again.)
Parochial Newspapers
The unfortunately named Tulsa World announced today that it's adding a tech section to its Sunday business section. This after I'd lived in two cities worth of newspapers where a "tech" subsection of the business pages was something I took for granted.

Don't bother clicking the link, though. The World is both behind and ahead of the times, still daring to charge money for its content. I suppose the theory is that a vast majority of the people who give a damn what's in those pages are willing to pay money for them. (Hmm, as of a few months ago the site was free.)

Looks like the Call doesn't even charge for its on-line content, although as part of a vast conglomerate I notice they have a cookie-cutter domain host with a cool name. "Zwire" is a nice little name, nice layout. Good service it looks like.