Saturday, February 02, 2002

Ten Things I Hate About Quiz Bowl
Today I saw both why I keep coming back to play in quiz tournaments* and why I really ought to stop doing that. It's possible this entry will end with a list. Feel free to skip the personal narrative if it does.

*- as opposed to reading for them, which I'll probably keep doing until I'm 60 or something

<personal narrative>
I played in the Cardinal Classic today. It's the last thing I expected to do. When we all went for sushi on Wednesday (Will, old Silicon Age business manager, will spent the next few months visiting distant relatives in China), R. asked me and Scott and Chris, "so are you coming to Cardinal Classic? You? You?" And just like that we were all in. It happened so fast I probably never mentioned it.

Part of it is the obvious appeal of being a remora. Can't remember if this was a post or a private e-mail (enough years have passed so whatever) but Shawn Askew once bitterly called J.J. Todor a remora, gaining quiz circuit fame and esteem solely by captaining the team that Jeff Johnson played on rather than on his own talents or merits. (Privately, I agreed completely at the time, which is not only totally impolitic for someone in your own club but also probably really unfair. It's easy to claim that, say, Phil Jackson has it easy when he coaches Jordan and Pippen or Shaq and Kobe, yet isn't it possible that part of what makes those guys play so well is that something in their surroundings stimulates them to be at their best?)

For the uninitiated: Askew was a Georgia Tech player who compared himself frequently to Charles Barkley. That is, he liked to talk. J.J. (Harvard) was also a larger-than-life figure (figuratively; literally, think of Napoleon) about whose personality you'd get widely varying opinions if you asked around the circuit as of the mid-1990s. Jeff Johnson, despite the infamous Tennessee hill country accent, was one of the five best quiz players ever. Harvard and Georgia Tech were bitter rivals at consecutive ACF nationals right when that part of the quiz circuit was, all of a sudden, becoming just butt-hard.

I was around then. I was a decent to pretty good player, aspiring to become a memorably great one. The extreme difficulty shift coincided exactly with the time when I suddenly lost whatever will I had to actually study for the game. (I'd been very much a speed-and-anticipation player, running and gunning.) By the time I got to BU I was a paradox of a player: I could singlehandedly get respectable tossup conversion for any team I was on, yet perversely this may have made other teammates too gun-shy and too deferential. That or I rang in too soon, take your pick. But I was a total generalist, with no depth in any one subject, so at a school like Harvard where they could tile the answer-space with four specialists, I wouldn't belong within two miles of any non-CBI "A" team.

Oh yeah, and NAQT was new. We tried it. I sucked at the college level, worse than I'd sucked at any format including ACF. But I kicked ass at the high school level. Instead of resolving the disconnect I ended up writing for NAQT (before I even left BU), becoming a member, and becoming the company's most prolific writer, not necessarily in that order.

So anyway, the remora effect. If you know how good a quiz player R. is, the appeal here should be obvious. We're all reasonable support players but having him around would lead to a lot of easy wins and still a fair amount of confidence against even the best of the field.

Guess what happened? R. bailed on us at 3:00 in the afternoon. He warned us in the morning that this would happen. He and Tim were going down to Sun for this software project thing that happened to come up, where they were bailing out someone else's project (and presumably being paid handsomely for it).

11 team field, four teams making the top playoff bracket. Six opponents before R. left: no playoff teams, so obviously 6-0. Four round-robin opponents after R. left: all three fellow playoff teams, which means we faced the best of the field six times out of seven, following zero times out of six. That's part of why we were 2-5 without him.

But we beat Chicago once. Against the playoff teams, we lost twice to Berkeley A (a team we should beat at most once out of ten without R.) and combined for 1-3 against Chicago and the "SUK" free agent team (Mike Usher, Jordan Katine, Kristin Chevalier), a pair of teams that we should probably beat about a third of the time without R. Berkeley A won the thing, although they did manage to lose a game somewhere.

Two hair sightings today: David Farris needs no introduction to New England quiz players, although his former 'fro has collapsed under its own weight. Now it just looks like rock star hair, maybe like one of the KISS guys. Then there's a guy on UC Davis with very thick, very bushy, long long black hair. I can't compete with either of these and it's unclear whether I want to. Therefore, massive haircut any day now. The mullet will be history unless anyone e-mails and begs me not to.
</personal narrative>

Anyway, every now and then I saw examples of the particulars things that I find annoying. Maybe you can even add to the list (people's pet peeves are fun) but I'm very wary of making it too public even though I'm not in general referring to any particular person/people.

Don't you hate it when?
1. You get a cheap neg-5 because the moderator didn't finish the last syllable? ("blah blah blah England blah blah written constitu-"<buzz/> "Magna Carta?" "Minus 5. -tion")

2. Both teams kick ass in the first half, the moderator has found the perfect groove of a pace, everybody's really psyched, and then three different people have three different opinions on what the score is? In other words you're going to spend the next two minutes reconstructing the points question by question.

N.B. Some time ago, or maybe it was pretty recent, I totally quit caring what the score was. This has made me a somewhat worse player but also a far easier teammate to get along with. Unless of course you're Scoon, in which case in the car ride home you make an off-hand complaint about my lack of energy. Bite me, we can't all be Chad. I mean that in the best way of course.

3. At the post-game ceremony, a really attractive female quiz personality gets a little PDA-ish with her (I didn't know she had a) boyfriend?

3a. At the post-game ceremony, a really unattractive female quiz personality gets a little PDA-ish with her (I knew all too well she had a) boyfriend?

4. About five tossups into the game, whichever team has a bye decides to fling the door open and just barge on into the room and start watching your game in progress?

5. People on both teams talk too much as the moderator seques from tossup to bonus in a timed tournament?

5a. People in the audience talk too much as the moderator seques from tossup to bonus in a timed tournament?

6. Someone loses a buzzer race and lets out a women's tennis tournament quality grunt of pain? (Hey wait, I do this.)

6a. Someone desperately flailing for an answer gets all beat red and starts damn near flagellating himself? (Hey wait, I also do this. And I don't hate it when other people do it, I get really really really amused watching it.)

7. After a one-sided half, the scorekeeper announces the score as something like "a lot to a little"? I know they're just trying to protect the weaker team's feelings but if I were on the weaker team I don't think I'd want to be patronized. Just say what the score is, play the second half, and let's take it as a learning experience.

8. Two of the best teams in the field play on a butt-easy pack and spend the first half trading 30's on the bonuses?

8a. Two of the best teams in the field play on a butt-easy pack and spend the first half trading 30's on the bonuses, but just when one team gets about a 70-point lead (two questions, say), the pack suddenly gets butt-hard at the end?

8b. Two of the weakest teams in the field play on the token butt-hard pack and everybody on both teams is hating life when it's 40-30 at the half?

9. The stats program fucks up and the statkeeper has no idea what went wrong with it?

9a. You actually wrote the damn stats program and it's a total ass-coincidence that you're at this tournament, yet you can't figure out what the hell went wrong with it either?

9b. Part of what went wrong with the stats program involved Excel doing things it's totally not supposed to do, like trying to stop a summation if it runs into a blank cell?

9c. Part of what went wrong with the stats program was that the statkeeper had his period and his comma key-mapped to each other for complicated reasons involving documents in Spanish?

9d. The stats program snafu is so bad that they can't even announce individual stats at the end and everyone basically knows it's your fault even if they're too polite to say anything?

(Wait, I guess 9b thru 9d only ever happen to me. Blah.)

10. Something absolutely maddening happens during a game and just as you feel your heart rate and blood pressure start to rise, you suddenly remember that it doesn't make ass worth of difference who wins this game?

10a. Even that realization fails to bring your heart rate and blood pressure back down to where they belong?
"Go Ashlin!"

In the mid-1990s there was a Harvard hockey player named Ashlin Halfnight. He had a major major fan in the percussion section of the Band. "Go Ashlin!" she'd screech out at the top of her lungs. You could hear it anywhere in the rink.

Every time I'm expecting to get about four hours of sleep, that screech pops into my head. There are worse screeches (and worse puns, see Arlo & Janis).
Sylvia versus That's Jake: 2/2/2

No cognitive dissonance between the two strips today, yet the Sylvia alone is disturbing enough to make the exercise worthwhile.

"Surrogate boyfriends" indeed. No comment.

Friday, February 01, 2002

Speaking of "better than these people"
If ESPN's Sports Guy has it Friday, then Cooch's World had it Monday. (The Bills-Giants Super Bowl angle.)
Do I want it?
Have you ever been a lot less excited about something than you thought you'd be? I suppose it can mean one of several things:

1. You don't actually want what you think you want.
2. It's possible that you do in fact want it but you really don't know for sure. There are both pluses and minuses.
3. You actually do want it but you're expecting the worst to protect yourself against being let down.
4. Not only do you actually want it but the opportunity actually seems to be there. With no other reason to fail, you have to make up some yourself.

This sort of reminds me of my job search. I mean hell yeah, the places I'm applying get 500 resumes a day. But I'm better than those people, swear to God I am.

Lease news: My roommates want to hold the line at $3,800 per month for six months. This greatly disappoints me. I think we're setting ourselves up for impasse and lack of a deal. But what do I know? I suck at negotiations. If the landlady agrees to $3,800 instead of $4,000 (or if we compromise) then hey, free money all around. If we don't agree...

I wonder if Sarah wants to go apartment hunting with me next week.
What the hell was I thinking?
Any time I read That's Jake and Sylvia back to back, the cognitive dissonance is so jarring that my world view takes several minutes on end to resolve itself.

I think my head is still spinning.

Thursday, January 31, 2002

R. Wars
Dunno if the Hentzels are into Beat the Geeks but tonight the guest geek was a Star Wars Geek. I wonder how Rob would have done against her. Speaking of R., this was e-mailed to me:

-----Original Message-----
From: Chad Kubicek
Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2002 1:46 PM
Subject: R on sports

kubiwan: so who you like to win the Super Bowl?
elouhd: Who cares?
elouhd: Patriots.
elouhd: They seem scrappy and nobody likes them.
kubiwan: do you know who the other team is?
elouhd: no

My roommates (by now half current, half former) were on the road from Kansas City to San Francisco at the time of the Super Bowl two years ago. They listened to the game on the radio and made a rest stop right after the goalline tackle. Everyone was making comments to the effect of, "Great game!"

Chris -- who'd been alone in the vehicle he was driving -- quite innocently asked, "who was playing?"
By the way, Sarah called me during this entry. I'm really looking forward to her being in town.

Come to think of it my casual reference to "whoring" (two entries below this) is an unfortunate use of language, similar to when people casually describe someone as (figuratively) a "Nazi." Just now I got to this article about the sex abuse cases involving Boston priests.

I have absolutely nothing intelligent to say about this other than to express deep sadness. John O'Sullivan has some harsh words that sound right, though I'm not sure who's in the best position to say them. This seems (to me) to be the biggest scandal the country has faced in the past couple decades, bigger than Enron, bigger than Iran-Contra, bigger than anything in the Clinton administration.

That is to say, it's a social scandal. Everyone cares so deeply about the political ones but nobody seems to worry enough about which kids are getting a crappy education or even which kids are getting (both metaphorically and literally) f*cked by their own religion. I guess the problem is that whatever the best solutions are, they don't naturally come from the government. It's easier to cover a story if it involves what the politicians will do than if it involves what real people will do.
By the way
I'm now dead certain the Koob reads this. I could actually picture Shelly enjoying it more, to the extent that this blog is gossipy. Then again, he'd be the one with the free time to peruse it. Clearly the audience is there. Effective immediately, more sports coverage. :-)
World's Finest Chocolate
Already I've shown my disdain for Harvard the pimp. Well, if anything, the whoring that goes on with school kids and band trips and so on is actually worse. I had to sell Goo Goo Clusters door-to-door once, I'm sure it's a stage everyone goes through unless they have the balls to stand up for themselves.

(When Lita Ford was on VH1 she said something about how it took balls to succeed in heavy metal, and while she didn't have balls the place most metal singers have 'em, hers must have been "right here" (cupping her chest).)

At Safeway today there were girls in plaid skirts, selling candy "to help our school." I paid $2.00 for some almond candy. Nominally the money was for the candy, when in fact it was a token of appreciation for their being willing to bare their legs on a cold dark January evening. Okay, this being San Francisco it's neither all that dark (yet) nor all that cold but still. This week's been unseasonably cool.
Vectiv did indeed pay me.
That's a relief.

Also I wrote an evil, highly deranged column about McCarver's unique broadcasting style. You may or may not see it here over the weekend. If they don't run it, I'll add it to my "original content" here.


I'm so not ready to face the day. :-(
Radio Blather et al
I hadn't checked the Boston Radio Watch page in awhile. Good to see Neal Robert back on the Boston airwaves, someone from back when WFNX was actually good. I don't remember a thing about Leslie Gold but somewhere out there Howard Stern is dissing her, perhaps even on the air. At Howe, I worked with a guy who'd always turn on Stern at the end of the night. He loves talking about New York radio phenomena about which the national audience wouldn't give a damn.

By the way, Udo flew to Germany (for good) today. He left this morning. Scoon and I were both up so late that we caught him as he left rather than the pre-bedtime good-bye's being the end. Now, Nelson is here, moving some stuff in. He just knocked on my door to see if I was awake ("sort of") to make sure running the vaccuum was okay. Yeah I'm awake. I'm just not ready to face other people. I'm blatantly stalling. This day will get going any minute now.

Kubi wants to know who I'm bringing to watch the Super Bowl with him other than my sister. The obvious implication is I should ask someone out or something. In addition to facing my day any minute now, I'll actually start writing back to e-mail any minute now.

Other than sending my January invoice and hectoring Susan about my December payment (unless it was in today's mail), I need to make a deposit to e*Trade so that I can take advantage of all the "strong buy's" I have in mind. And what might those be? (I am not an investment adviser. I have no expertise in this whatsoever. Any money you invest you may lose. Also I am not a lawyer.)

Amazon is a ridiculously strong buy now that they're turning a profit. Everyone knows this though, so I won't get nearly the price I'd hoped for.

Clear Channel, as an Evil Monopoly, has to be worth something. I had no idea they were public, then read a newspaper article mentioning this. Alas, now some California Congressman wants to investigate them. Should I get in now and then sell right before the jig is up?

eBay has the Best Business Model Ever. It's a cash cow. And it's probably deeply undervalued since the economic recovery hasn't come yet (or, hasn't obviously come yet, since we're probably recovering already and don't know it yet).

Okay, I'm sort of hungry now. I have really nothing to wear, although my roommates would probably be deeply offended if I left my room in my underwear. Tons of laundry. Tons of cleaning up to do if Sarah's going to find this room sanitary enough to sleep in it. Two more nights in my own bed before the four nights of couch duty.

Why did I ever agree to play in Cardinal Classic?! Not only do I have crap to do related to hosting my sister bu talso the tourney is the same day that Giants single game tickets go on sale...
What color is your resume?
Mine is #FFFFDD, that kind of yellowish-white that makes for a relatively good resume paper hue. For what it's worth, that robin's egg kind of background color you see on all my various pages is #CCFFFF.

Sense of color: The first step on the road to quality interior decorating, and for a San Francisco boy, we all know where that leads...

(Disclaimer: Everything I learned about HTML color, I learned from Paul. He is a San Francisco boy but he's clearly straight.)
Resumes sent, and all that
So far, Google has jobs for me and Yahoo! has jobs for me and maybe TeamSphere even has a job for me. Note that the latter was very hard to click to; a Douglas Adams fan might say it was "on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'"

I did in fact send the TeamSphere as a serious inquiry. I don't think I'll get it, nor do I deserve it. I have no work experience with Perl. (The Thing To Do of course is to develop a Perl code sample.)

The warning about how many engineering resumes Google sends may turn out to be overstated, given that a couple of the jobs I applied to were for Product Management. Oddly enough, given the way I illustrate my strengths in my resume and cover letter, I seem to have typecast myself as future Product Manager who happens also to have engineering experience. That could be a Good Thing if those jobs are easier to get, or a Bad Thing if the pay is significantly worse. I wonder how much Eric and Kimberly and Jake and Brian and the gang made. Probably less than I did, certainly less than I did while contracting. Blah.

Did I mention my excellent communication skills?

Yahoo! has a weird web site, weird and wonderful. They've automated the job find process in several amusing ways. Their resume parser is scary-good. I applied for a buttload of Yahoo! positions but discovered, after submitting my first one, that I'd misspelled a word when I went to correct something in a text box. Argh. All but one of the positions I applied to got the correct version.

Who do I know who works for Yahoo!? Anybody? That could suck.

Oh, and our DSL went down for awhile at 2 a.m., right when I was about to wrap things up nicely. This led to a long game of AOK for me and paradoxically to my being more awake out of adrenaline and such. Most of the Yahoo! apps went out around 5:30. Now I'm awake, seven hours after falling asleep, with a splitting headache and no frickin' offense (at least through six games). I think I liked Spring Training better when the results weren't available until the end. More to the point, when Mike Develin could get through it in six hours or so. Joon plays the regular season faster but I'm not sure what his deal is with spring training.

Develin is far more mercurial but it's unclear whether the league is healthier with him in charge or with Joon. With him the risk was total burnout; with Joon the risk is that he'll gradually lose interest as he realizes he has better things to do with his time than play all those baseball games. At the moment I actually don't have better things to do with my time. In theory I could commish if bad things happened to Joon and to Mike. Would other owners trust me? Interesting question. They'd have no reason not to, motive-wise. On gameplay competence... eh. I think I'd do okay. Mike and Joon are awesome though, tough act to follow.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

What does this do to my NCAA pool?
Every March I enter the same NCAA tournament pool, always with exactly two entries. The first one tries to maximize my point total, with all the right early upsets and then a Final Four full of #1 seeds, totally playing the percentages. The second one invariably has OSU and Oklahoma and Tulsa all making the final four.

But guess who's both in the top 10? We have bracket convergence.

Oh yeah, and since I worked with a bunch of Iowa State alumni, I guess the Cyclones have become my fourth in that personal-favorites second entry.
When did Fox News become a tabloid?
I mean this in the best way possible, though. Looking at current headlines...

Threat to Reporter's Life. Short, sweet, to the point. On the issue itself, I say if they kill the guy, Pakistan gets retribution.

Man on a Mission (re Bush) Heh.

Jackson on Enron Bandwagon Hmm. I bitched at the Chronicle for its verb choice, guess in fairness this headline and the last one show a bit of a righty bias in their noun choice. Blah.

Football Feminized More women are watching the sport — not just for cute players
Say what? That's vaguely insulting.

A Beautiful Mess Opinions divided over semi-fictional biopic
I'm so glad someone's finally pointing this out. That movie is so fake. I refuse to see it because there are only so many artistic liberties that one should take with a supposed biography for crying out loud.
Also, guys know how to evaluate guys. No straight guy will ever admit this because so many straight guys are homophobic or otherwise paranoid but guys know pretty darn well who's attractive and who isn't.

Somewhere out there is a guy who's just drop-dead gorgeous and gets all the one-nighters he wants yet is just miserable because he can never actually be friends with a woman. The ones who throw themselves at him are the ones who want his body, where even if he did find a woman who wasn't in it for that, if she had a boyfriend, an even remotely jealous one, then this hypothetical unlucky stud would never be able to get within several feet of her.

Me? I can vaguely picture at some point a group of people gossiping in hushed tones about something, then discovering, oh it's Matt, laughing out loud (somewhere in there a yeah right), and realizing that there just isn't any kind of story there.
Speaking of Top-Notch Writing...
Why are the best ones always taken? Why? (Read the "26 short stories" as they come out...)

Here I'll admit what's bloody obvious (or should have been) to anyone who knows or cares or observes this sort of thing, namely that yes, I have a thing for my friend Cindy. This probably goes back several years.

It's been forever since I came remotely close to hitting on her but I assume (yeah, bite me) that if someone asked her then she'd be like, "yeah, of course he does," and shrug or something. Draw whatever analogy you see fit. I think the Thing To Do is just be open about it and treat it like, I dunno, like when a guy has a crush on a movie star and jokes about how one day he'll date Michelle Pfeiffer or Sarah Michelle Gellar or whoever. (The canonical "movie star guys have the hots for" always used to be Pfeiffer but now I can't think of anyone who's smitten for her, at least not compared to, say, Anna Paquin.)

She dated Willy. In our common circle of friends (no, she never did quiz-bowl, at least I don't think she did) it was pretty transparent that she had a thing for him; the time leading up to their dating was long and vaguely annoying, as when you read a story and know exactly how it will come out but the author won't get to the point.

She and Willy broke up. Right before they broke up they went through that phase where each was venting to a friend. Willy was one of my closest friends so naturally I was the one to whom she went to vent. Conversely, he went to one of her closest friends (female) to vent. (I wonder if the other friend and I ever compared notes about this. Probably, for me to be remembering it this way.) It was the first of two times that year (1996) that the girlfriend of one of my closest friends would come to me to vent about their relationship. Odd that as far as I remember I handled this one exactly right, yet apparently not the second one.

(Also as it was happening I may have handled the second one just right. The problem is I managed to eff it up retroactively.)

Anyway, I'd see Cindy once every few months ("see" her and everyone else far more often on-line), then she moved to San Francisco, then she invited me to dim sum when I came out for an interview here, then I moved out here. Before I moved out here I'd heard this juicy gossip that she was one of some tiny number of employees of an Internet start-up, living with her boss and in also in the process of dating him. After I got here I found that the gossip was true.

I haven't seen or talked to her in about a week-in-a-half, which is a good sign in terms of my avoiding the temptation to retroactively eff it up. Then again, the Thing To Do is suddenly wickedly deliciously clear. Obviously I have to apply for a job with this company. Then Justin can be my boss as well as hers. But he won't be my boyfriend, he'll only be her boyfriend. Cindy would be my co-worker. Actually it sounds like she'd be the one to decide whether to even hire me. And depending on how the workflow went, she'd probably be more of an immediate boss to me than Justin.

This sounds so sick but it would actually work out pretty well. I mean, c'mon. You know me. Somehow I've gotten this reputation as being a really safe person, something totally out of line with intentions that from time to time are just transparently bad. Maybe what makes me a safe person lies outside of me. Maybe the fact that nearly every guy I know could look at me, think yeah, I could take him, pretty easily, and probably be right, has a little something to do with it.

Paradoxically, I pose no threat.
I Love To Hear The Sound Of My Own Voice
That's not literally true. One of the first things I'd change about me would be my voice, though it's a fairly good voice for singing.

Rather, I love to read my own words. Check out Kid Fan Bids Hub Adieu. So much in it is oddly prescient. So many turns of phrase that I'd cherish if it weren't so blatantly egotistical to do so.

Screw software development, I think I'll start on a novel or something.
Hey, did you ever stop and wonder why I don't write for StrikeThree anymore? (I'm spiffying up a work-specific web page thanks to a Unix account I forgot I had.)

I just this instant wondered the same thing. Near as I can tell, I stopped sending them stuff right after I started this blog. They like my columns enough to run them but not enough to either pay me (I don't think anyone at that site gets paid) nor to worry about me if I stop sending them stuff.

For what it's worth, I also still haven't been paid yet for my December contract work. They have until tomorrow. January 31 is their contractual deadline. Oh yeah, it's also when I'm supposed to get them the invoice for my January contract work, which in theory will be compensated by February 28.

In theory.

At least when StrikeThree doesn't pay me it's because they have no obligation to.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

New thing: The "Recent Music" to your left there will be what I've actually been listening to. Obviously not everything I listen to but basically, if I put in a tape or CD, what it was (even then I'll miss stuff, like over the weekend I had Cake's Fashion Nugget to drive to), or if some band has a song that makes my day, maybe a link to the song lyrics.

Like yesterday, cranking the Mandatory Metallica Monday on KSJO. Even though it's a very rockable song, gotta say "One" has both one of the most disturbing premises and one of the most disturbing videos ever. When I was 13 that thing gave me nightmares. I still feel a little awkward about it. It's... not a guilty pleasure, not a masochistic pleasure, something in between.

Don't look now but my resemblance to Travis Bickle increases each day. (No, I don't have a mohawk, hopefully never will.) This mildly disturbs me.
Speaking of politics (but not really), my roommates watched the State of the Union. I emphatically refuse to do this. Not sure why, but I just don't like presidential speeches.

Actually more ethics than politics. Actually more icky than anything else.
Read this but only if you're not squeamish.

I'll readily admit to being highly pro-life. This has a lot to do with how people should and shouldn't treat other people in general, children especially[1]. Of all the people who need to be hurt, the ones who hurt children are at the top of my list, followed closely by the ones who hurt animals. If and when I'm filthy rich, the Mark McGwire Foundation For Children will be my charity of choice, with various local Animal Rescue Leagues a close second.

In any case, part of being pro-life is I'm supposed to be adamantly opposed to the death penalty on principle. No exceptions. It's bad enough for one of us to take the life of another, worse still for the state to do so. The only problem is, I have a really hard time working up any conviction (pardon the term) about this. So many people who face the death penalty, richly deserve it. (I guess it's too late for me to get any kind of Fry Mumia insignia.)

The link above is one of those cases where -- how to put this? -- I'd object even less than usual if someone somehow managed to make both these parents fry. Them and the "therapists" who killed that girl in Colorado too.

Don't f*ck with kids. Just don't. (Sometimes when people make jokes about me and pornography and teenaged girls and so on, things approach a certain line. That line has never been crossed that I know of, and if anything it's probably me who's come closest to crossing it, but still the line is there. And no, if you're wondering, this isn't about any particular person or people I know, just a general thing about life.)

[1] Oddly enough you could accuse me here of begging the question and actually use the phrase more or less correctly. I don't feel like getting into that debate at this time, especially with friends, but it just amused me in that the phrase "begging the question" is misused so often. Ignore me, I'm a language geek.

Everything else aside, just pray that this poor girl turns out okay.
Ceci n'est pas une Media Bias

The last time President Bush addressed Congress, Democrats embraced him so vigorously that he and Sen. Tom Daschle engaged in a bear hug, and Rep. Dick Gephardt got a kiss.

Tonight, as Bush delivers his first State of the Union address, nobody seems to be in a hugging mood.

Democrats are already warning that Bush's economic plans are a disaster for "working families" and compare his handling of the federal budget with Enron's treatment of its own finances.

Republicans are poised to use the war for political advantage and stick it to the Democrats as the party of tax increases.

--lead to a front page story in this morning's Chronicle

Now, I know I have experienced journalists in my audience. I can think of at least three. Check those verbs out: Democrats warn but Republicans use?! (In the hard copy I bought this morning, it's even worse: Republicans "exploit" the war.) In a COM class, don't you get graded way down if you give away your axe to grind in a news story like that?

Maybe I'm overreacting but there's a reason why that Goldberg book is selling so well. It's even approaching household name status: Chris Kahrl of all people made passing reference to it last week.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Hear Hear Hear!
Reason on the U.S. military. Urge to serve... rising (again)...
Hear Hear!
Get Fuzzy strikes a major chord today. And no, not about the Cowboys.
By the way...
The day of Super Bowl XXXII, I went out to a Tower Records and bought the Queen - Greatest Hits cassette. I took it home, put it in my boombox, and played the first track ("We Will Rock You") -- solely so that the tape would be cued up if (and when, as I kept saying to myself, correctly it turned out) the Broncos prevailed, for the cranking of We Are The Champions.

This was the 31-24 Super Bowl, the one with a whole bunch of lead changes, or if not lead changes then at least a few ties here and there. At the crucial juncture it was 24-all, then Denver drove for a touchdown, then Favre ran out of downs with about a minute to go. I still remember the fourth down play, the pass he threw... incomplete.

The Broncos were underdogs that game, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 points. Anyway, go out and buy Queen's Greatest Hits so that you can root for your Pats in style.
Take the Rams, Give the Points
Who am I and what did I do with the real Matt?

It's unclear what happened but I find myself unable to hate the Rams and also unable fully to appreciate New England's Cinderella run. A number of factors on the latter: First, that I'm not actually there (though, admittedly, I still could really use a good Gil Santos fix, even Bill Abate for the pre/post-game stuff); second, is it possible that Sports Guy ran it into the ground?

In any case from about 1985 to about 1995, I lost on average about a dollar or two a year on consistently taking the AFC team and the points during that hideous NFC run with those ludicrous point spreads that were equally ludicrously shattered.

This time I'm so convinced that St. Louis will annihilate New England (much as I'd love to see the Pats win) that this could be a chance for me to win all of that back. Either way, I sort of win and sort of lose. I think I'd rather come out looking like an ass and get the result that I want, but at least if the Rams do win big I can exploit the Goliath side of things for a buck or two...

(Pats fans, you know you want to...)
Do I need to turn in my man credentials?
I totally forgot about football today.

I wish I could have bought stock in "Tom Brady will get hurt and Drew Bledsoe will have to step up."
Six Things Dave Holland Likes
I can only think of two of them, plus the unofficial seventh thing. C (the programming language) and Shostakovich. At least one of the others has to do with food. The unofficial seventh one is Asian women but he doesn't actually say this (I think he came up with the list of six himself), rather everyone else observes it and says it behind his back.
Gaming Marathon, Day 3
...or, "thank heaven the gas prices went back down..."

We're back to Igor's place (Palo Alto) for D&D today. Well, "we" is misleading in that the only two people involved in all three of these activities will have been Stephen S. Lee and myself. This is odd in that both he and I are both extraordinarily introverted. He actually has the medical diagnosis to prove it (I forget precisely what and it's not really anybody's business anyway); not sure what my excuse is.

Igor and Dave Alpert may go all weekend without seeing each other. The same weekend he hosted his social, Alpert dropped out of our D&D group citing work commitments and lack of time. Fair enough -- I can certainly see wanting to host socials and invite many people rather than play D&D and always see the same half-dozen.

If I ever wrote a book about Michael Bodell I think I'd call it The Canadian I Didn't Like. Past tense because I've basically come around to not only accepting him but also enjoying his company. What, you ask, did he ever do to me? In no particular order...

In simbase there was an MVP controversy in year 2 between Donald Knuth and Peerless Price. They split the first-place votes among the 12 then-owners but Knuth won the MVP because somebody left Price off the ballot completely. Bodell admitted it was he and actually attempted to explain this purely on the merits but I don't think many people bought it. This left a sour taste for a couple people but everyone moved on.

Also related to simbase, he's swindled my shirt away at least once. The second deal wasn't a swindle per se but it was still a stupid deal for me, paying too high a price for instant gratification and overestimating whether my team was good enough to do it that way. These two deals have made my track record far far worse than it should be but that's actually my fault, not his. Any trade takes two people.

Over to our little Harvard social circle of computer geeks and Usenet and all... I've never seen anybody that smart show that little respect for syntax and typography. Yes, nobody is a perfect speller or grammarian but there are different levels of magnitude. His posts used to be extremely hard to read. People commented on this and he responded, matter-of-factly, that it wasn't worth his time to fix them. (In a way he had a point but didn't take it far enough: It wasn't worth our taking the extra time to decipher him either, so to some extent his posting at all was a waste of time; then again all of our posts were basically a waste of time since we all should have left our computers, gotten lives, and seen each other in person instead.)

What else? Oh yeah: He and I rubbed each other the wrong way on politics. He's one of the few and proud who rail against the right-wing media (more specifically the "corporate media"). And his position on abortion is hard-core. I'm ambivalent about whether to elaborate on either or both of those. No time now and you're probably not interested.

In any case, for all the things that rub people the wrong way, I suppose Mike Bodell is just a really smart, really shy person (like all the rest of us). He likes bridge and poker and baseball statistics. He likes programming. Apparently when he first came out to California he lived a 20-minute walk from where he worked, somewhere in Mountain View, and kept an empty refrigerator. The story goes that the only thing he ever ate was pizza. I can identify with the "empty fridge" part at least.

Why was this tangent necessary? And will there be another one about Dave Holland (of whom some say Bodell is the Canadian equivalent)? Without mentioning my personal history with dholland, the gist of it is that there are exactly six (exactly seven?) things he likes. Everything else, he doesn't like. This defeats the comparison, since Bodell really isn't actually misanthropic that I can tell, just highly introverted.
Boy do my friends seem deep at 4 a.m. In this case I think it is because, in fact, he really truly is that insightful. I rank these aphorisms above the vast majority of on-line aphorisms, and not just because I know their author.

...whose first language is Russian. Twice I've been in a social gathering with him, seen him take a (cell) phone call, and switch from fluent English to fluent Russian and back. If you didn't know how much of his life he'd spent in Moscow or never saw him take such a call, you'd have no idea.
All in all I think my fictional manifestation (do a page search) leads a more amusing life than I do.

Of all the times anyone has admitted to my appearance in their dreams, this one is by far the most impersonal method of conveying that information to me.

Also... quick quiz... when your friends and acquaintances refer to you, do they do so:
A. By your first name? (e.g. Elmer, Meg...)
B. By your last name? (e.g. Coen, Develin...)
C. By your full name? (e.g. Matt Bruce, Charlie Brown...)
D. By a nickname based on your first name? (e.g. R., Scoon...)
E. By a nickname based on your last name? (e.g. Kubi, Cooch...)
F. Other

Igor, when playing poker, has taken to calling me "Mr. The Bruce" - I deeply enjoy this.
More on Mack vs. Rickey
Other obvious parallels include both the housing market and the job market. I should be looking at dozens of apartments and applying to hundreds of companies. It's just not the way I am though.

I need to meet more of them more often. This is about to have the potential to sound very crass if taken the wrong way but humor me... It's like the difference between being Connie Mack and being Branch Rickey.

Rickey pioneered the minor league system, the theory being that if he could get as many players either scouted or under contract or both as possible, his teams (the Cardinals, then Dodgers) would have a far far greater talent pool to draw from. Before Rickey, and in fact at the same time as his early years (1930s, 1940s), a handful of teams (most infamously both Philadelphia teams) were still stuck in the old mode of signing talented players directly out of college or off the street. Gradually the teams with the farm systems kicked the other teams' asses left and right.

(Aside that's completely unrelated to my allegory: Not sure which was a bigger effect, this, or the disparity between teams that kept up their pointless racial bigotry and those that got over it and expanded their talent pool accordingly. Want to know the real reason the Cubs and Red Sox sucked for most of the middle of the 20th century? They were the last teams to bother signing black players.)

In any case, there's a point here I'm trying to make but also a point I'm definitely not making. Please don't take this too literally and think I want to set up some sort of a harem where I have some girls in "the big leagues" and some at Triple-A or something. Rather, the more I meet, the more likely I'll be to find a good fit (and also to find someone who's fond of me herself).

As it is, I meet few enough women but the ones I do meet seem almsot uniformly to be appealing people. I gave someone a ride to the gaming social today and, completely as expected, she fell into the set of women about whom I'd say, "I'd probaby enjoy dating her," if I were lucky and a long time down the road the right breaks happened and so on.

Meg (no, not Meg but a different Meg) in particular gave me a brilliancy vibe. I have absurdly high standards for intelligence but she's one of those people who easily meets those standards. This completely fails to surprise me giving her "pedigree": In particular that she took Math 55.

(The link is better than none but not by much. Specifically, Math 55 is the freshman course for total math gods, whereas Math 25 is only for demigods. Normal people take Math 21 at most. I took 25. The best thing about 25 is that the floor and ceiling of talent are so close to each other (you have to be really good to be there but 55 siphons off the best) that everyone basically works together.)

I have a facetious theorem that no Caucasian women ever take Math 55. The best proofs are by counterexample. Meg (short for "Meghana" - pronounced like "Megan" but with a schwa at the end) herself is not Caucasian; she seems to be of South Asian heritage but probably American-born. On pure physical appearance I'd say sort of a cross between Erica Farmer of Harvard quiz fame and the tall teenaged incarnation of Maggie Simpson from Lisa's Wedding. (Remind me some other time to spend way too much of the too much time on my hands actually explaining which Simpsons episodes rock and which suck.)

Anyway, sharing a car ride with an intelligent, talkative person is always fun. Sharing a car ride with someone whom you'd never met before is an adventure. This one seemed to turn out reasonably well.
Brief Food Recap
Glass of water right after I got dressed, around 11:30 a.m.
Diet Dr. Pepper bought at the gas station in SF, around noon
Eggs benedict, around 2 p.m.
Two sausages in buns, around 4 p.m.
Chili, around 6 p.m.
Various handfuls of chips, various points in the afternoon
Various pastries (including cheesecake, chocolate cookies, dumplings...), various points in the evening
Arizona Iced Tea & cinnamon twist, 7-Eleven, 2 a.m.

<gaming pedantry>
Read the F*cking Manual
There's something that bugs me, one of those things that's probably completely irrational. Four people are playing a board game together. A handful of other people come up at regular intervals and ask questions involving specific rules of the game. Beyond a certain point those questions consist entirely of repeats. It's not the end of the world, except that there's a rulebook just inside the box that the game came in. You could look it up.

For whatever reason people are unwilling to consult documentation. I also noticed this at work. I'd spell out, step by step, how a system works. Instead of reading what I'd written, people would ask the same questions over and over again.

Perhaps I'm just unusually predisposed to writing and other people aren't. For my part I do know that I write reasonably well but that live, in person, I'm both frighteningly incoherent and somewhat of an ass.

In defense of the annoying kibitzers, I suppose the phrase "gaming social" consists of two words, not one. It's not like it matters in the grand scheme of things who wins any particular game.

For what it's worth, things we played today (of what I participated in)...
Mafia: I hate this game. Every time I've exaggerated how much I suck at any given game, I forget games like this.

Mille Bornes: Three teams of two. I forget who won (it wasn't us) but winning isn't the point of Milles Bornes, rather, the point is the gratuitous French. And jokes about being the Driving Ass. (Technically As du Volant.) My partner was the host, the same guy through whom I want to be hired by google. Today's google fact: They get 500 engineering resumes each day. Not that I'm going to let this discourage me or anything.

Bridge: Another "celebrity partnership." Opponents were Mike Bodell (former Harvard CS wiz, originally from Canada) and this guy Anthony whom I don't know much about. My partner was Chris Thorpe, also one of the hosts. He's friendly to me and seems to like me, which I appreciate. Took me forever to put a name to a face but it turns out he was the head TF the year I took CS 50 (woo-hoo: google gives Harvard top billing). Second-hand knowledge puts him at a very high level of brilliance even relative to Harvard alumni-type computer geek people. He also plays piano well.

Settlers of Catan: I know what you're thinking. With four players on a board with 19 hexagons, did I end up with room for six settlements or only five? Well, was I feeling lucky? In fact, I wasn't. I felt cocky for spending far less money on roads than anyone else but people boxed me in. Also, some jackass put the robber on my proprietary stone patch. Every time a nine (9) was rolled, that was four stone I ought to have gotten but didn't. This was also the only scarce sheep Settlers game I've seen. Usually you're crawling in wool. Settlers of Catan shouldn't be the time of game that the same player consistently wins over and over again but Mike Develin has that knack. Anna Hentzel also does.

Mao: You'd think I'd despise this game but, taking it for what it is, I rather enjoy it. Learn to stop worrying and love finding things out by trial and error.

(What I do hate is when somebody is explaining the rules of the game to you, and instead of telling you all the rules, gives you only a brief overview and suggests "learning as you play." Of course, your strategy will suck because the rules they don't tell you until it's too late will be the ones that are more important than they think.)

Games played by people other than me included The Obligatory Big Group Trivial Pursuit (while I was playing bridge) and a Cheapass Game called Give Me The Brain.
</gaming pedantry>