Friday, February 15, 2002

Boston, Kansas City, and Portland
Boston in particular ought to be roughly the final week of March since among my Boston friends are a group of people with whom I'm in a keeper league. (Fantasy baseball that is.) If I'm coming up, might as well work the draft into the trip.

Kansas City and Portland have no time constraints that I know of other than damn soon, while I still have time on my hands and also before I get into a rut of not getting around to it.

Hell, Chicago for that matter. After all, it's only my family we're talking about, my mom and my dad and my sister. Why am I perfectly willing to live half a country away from them but about to bawl just from losing Kubi? Probably because I know I'll see them every Christmas at least, probably at least one other time in a given year. Friends don't have that kind of routine to fall back on.
[wipes tear from eye]
Also there's a small matter of the farewell gift. The Rams' jersey was really something Chad specifically would enjoy, in a context where they might have expected a gift to both of them. Some sort of housewarming gift should be forthcoming, this time earmarked for her. Ideas?

Just to brainstorm, since I don't know her in a gift-giving sense the way I know Chad...
She loves Mickey Mouse stuff. Mickey Mouse is to her what Snoopy is to me.
She's a banker by profession.
She does have some nieces/nephews, who will be able to visit their aunt a lot more now that she's back in town.

I don't have a crush on her that I know of. (That's the worst thing to think of to say because it's irrelevant by definition, though mumble I can totally imagine people reading this and idly wondering. If it wouldn't have occurred to you to wonder then ignore me, I'm just being paranoid.)
Hey, Wait a Minute...
As our time eating pizza wound down and it became clear that the two cars were going their separate ways and that Kubi would be driving off right away, I started to ask him how often he and Shelly would make it back to San Francisco. He asked how often I'd make it up to Kansas City. I joked about holding out for a bunch of vacation time "when I negotiate with Frank" (Rockwood, Vectiv CEO).

Kansas City is not Walnut Creek. (Although, they're a lot less dissimilar than you'd think, accent aside.) In particular, I can't get up in the middle of the day, drive out there and see him, and then be back in my own bed by nightfall anymore. Went out to see him much than he came up here, basically because they'd invite me out there a lot. It never occurred to me to issue a specific invitation. They came over anyway, often for playtesting. Pluswhich, there was the year or so that Chad lived here, sleeping the very bedroom from which every single one of these entries has been typed.

It's not that I won't see him, just that this will take a whole lot more planning than it would have before. That kind of... sucks? What's the "sad" equivalent of that word?

Also, this logically can't be a first and it yet really feels like it. I suppose usually my goodbye's coincided with graduations and starts/ends of schooling, where everyone was leaving at the same time, with another new group of people waiting to influx. Losing just one particular person/couple, though... Maybe this is what it was like for y'all two years ago? Can't tell if that counts as a sudden moment of my finally considering other people or if it's just a different form of self-absorption: "Oh, they must have hated to see me leave."

Anyway, come out to San Francisco when you can, all the Boston friends who read this. Allowing for the possibility that I've inadvertently forgotten about someone, it looks like five or six of you, all of whom happen to come in pairs. I'm not about to claim that San Francisco is anywhere near as fun as the Canary Islands. Those are probably far more convenient if a whole bunch of people decided to go somewhere at the same time. But in reasonable sizes, I'd enjoy having people over. True, you're no more likely to make it back to your bed by nightfall than I'd be to make it back from Kansas City by nightfall.
That sure was painless...
I feel sort of like a cad that Scott, Chris, and I got to Kubi's place two hours late. By the time we were there, his future brother-in-law and future father-in-law (who flew out from KC one-way to help caravan back) had done all the heavy lifting. The closest to "heavy" that I had to haul was computer equipment, and I even wussed out on the monitors!

In addition to oversleeping a bit, we got way way caught in traffic. There was an accident right before the... tunnel. Not "Callahan Tunnel" since that's actually in Boston, but... hold on... it's the Caldecott Tunnel. Anyway, all but one lane were closed. Looked pretty gruesome.

After we got through the tunnel and back up to speed, an ambulance blew by us. Then this dude in a jeep blew by us, gaining on the ambulance. Then he started tailgating the ambulance. Then he passed it on the right. I say "he" without having seen the driver but c'mon, really now. Women take enough grief for their driving (often unjustified) that when someone drives like the kind of asshole driver that only a guy would be, gotta call a spade a spade.

So we'd haul handfuls of stuff out from the apartment (now with no furniture) to either the truck or Kubi's car or Shelly's car or even my own car, since Kubi had lots of food to get rid of. Then we went out for pizza.

Kubi (who starts work on Monday) set off straight from the pizza place, via dropping his future in-laws off at the old apartment, onto his solo journey. He'll stay in Needles, California, tonight, or maybe just cross the Arizona border. The Kings (namesakes of his fantasy football teams!) will leave... not sure if tonight or tomorrow morning but in any case no sooner than when Shelly can depart from her last day of work.

Kubi wore his Rams' "Bruce 80" jersey. He seemed really happy about it. I know I was really happy to see it myself. (At the very least, whatever on-line company that was didn't rip me off.) As long as he has that thing on, I guess I'll be with him in spirit...

In other news... Chris apparently is not at all a fan of Cake. He dissed their cover of "I Will Survive" as leaden and uninteresting. A corollary to my only writing when I'm unhappy is that I only ever write about my roommates to complain about them. This vastly understates the goodness of our roommate chemistry, except that it's a guy roommate chemistry, so you know that in the end apathy will level out both the highs and the lows.

My Berkeley pals may, paradoxically, have been not-ideal roommates. We get along too well: It would have been too much like how women bond with other women as roommates, rather than your standard guy-roommate feigned indifference. True true, I had the same fears about my best friend Kevin and yet we stayed tight. Actually yes and no: We got along golden as roommates but we didn't go out to eat as much anymore. Casually seeing each other every day meant that we had no excuse for our weekly Friday's or Chili's type get-together. So with Kevin things got slightly worse. With Paul and David things would get slightly worse just by regression to the mean. If I'm not their roommate then I can continue to make the half-hour drive to Berkeley every once in awhile and continue to have it feel vaguely special when I'm there. Also, my thereness can include Mike in a way that it wouldn't if he moved out.

Anyway, the connection here is that Paul and Mike (and Joon!) are both really really into Cake. Chris I thought I could convert (I'm kind of a Cake guy myself), but apparently not.

Last but not least, this is an unbelievably disturbing popup.
Tulsa World Headlines
(This being a pay site, no links: Headlines only.)

"Tulsan gets 560 years for rape, molestation of a minor." If Oklahoma's judicial system is (in)famous for anything, it's the cumulative jail sentences that add up to astonishing lengths of time. This is basically the Okie version of life without parole, emphasis on avoiding parole eligibility. Once my sister's boyfriend was visiting from Wisconsin. They had a news story about a guy getting some five-digit year prison sentence. Ted wondered whether they'd literally let the body rot in the cell that long.

"When federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials told Carrie Dickerson in 1973 that she didn't have 'the time, the energy or the money' to stop the Black Fox nuclear plant, it rallied the Goliath in her. 'Oh, yes, I will intervene,' she replied, 'and we'll win. And I can tell you how we'll do it -- delay, delay, delay' in the courts."

The Goliath in her?!? Somebody fails to understand their Bible history.
Ann Widdecombe: an apology.
"In an item yesterday, we referred disapprovingly to a remark made by Ms Widdecombe to my so-called rival on the Telegraph, concerning a male acquaintance going to 'pussy heaven.' We now accept that Ms Widdecombe was in fact referring to her cat, Carruthers, who recently passed away. We are greatly distressed by this misunderstanding."
-The Guardian, via Andrew Sullivan
Mike Darr: 1976 - 2002

Folks, use your seat belts.

"Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man."
-A.E. Housman

In other news I'm surprisingly easy to offend today. Maybe it's the lack of sleep. I woke up (to the news above) and perhaps my sense of humor didn't. This morning's Modern Humorist was offensive to me, and not in the way that people say South Park is offensive when they're laughing even though they don't want to.

This wasn't pushing any kind of envelope, rather it was just (to me) inappropriate. The time where it might be appropriate hasn't come yet. Your mileage may vary.

Today we help Kubi move. Yes, we're running way late. We'll get there.
Man Convicted of Shooting Girlfriend Who He Thought Was About to Say 'New Jersey'

Apparently I'm in denial about having to get up and leave at 9 a.m. (less than five hours from now) and drive or ride to Walnut Creek and haul stuff.

Spent Valentine's Day by going to Hot Pot City, playing Scotland Yard(!), and playing phan-tan. Poor Stephen was a reluctant Mr. X, whom we caught in about 10 moves. But he won the card game.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Happy Valentine's Day
Read this but avoid this.

For some reason I felt like I had to write the latter. Catharsis. This is never a good sign. But the former is beautiful and, by comparison, oddly cleansing.

In non-Valentine's news I (yet again) deeply agree with Gary Huckabay.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Barenaked Ladies just covered The Kinks
This turns out to be the most disturbing thing I've seen or contemplated tonight. And tonight of all nights there was actually fierce competition but in a massive upset, BNL takes the cake. Wow.

Speaking of Canada, I have no comment about the controversial judges, save for one: if you need judges to TELL you who won, it's not a real sport. Baseball and football are sports. If you can find a synonym for sport that removes the "athletic prowess" requirement, quiz-bowl is a sport. Figure skating is not. Using the quiz-bowl analogy, debate emphatically is not.

In other news, I'm really really tired now. Sometimes when you have to write you have to write but good grief, what was up with me tonight?
my stats exceed my player card
copied verbatim from my post to the simbase bulletin board, sorry

Interviewed today with Vectiv, a plurality of whose source code is already by me (via Silicon Age or independent contract) dating back to the company's inception.

I think a couple of people who talked to me got their first look at my resume WHILE they were talking to me. I'm not the best reader of other people but I get the gut feeling that there were some double takes, probably because I'm nowhere near as experienced as they would have guessed I was.

The published requirements for the position(s) they're trying to fill far exceed what I have going for me on paper. This partly explains why the compensation they mentioned exceeds what I would have expected.

I fear losing out to someone who looks better on paper. But it LOOKS as though they want to decide between hiring me (and/or my roommate, for two positions) right away versus waiting to consider truly outside candidates.

Given my institutional memory, it makes far more business sense for them to hire me rather than a newbie. They know I worked out, where an outsider would be an unknown. (This is the OPPOSITE of the usual problem I'd have competing against flashier resumes.)

In theory it makes the most business sense of all for them to exploit my lack of experience and lowball me. I would be quite unhappy with this result, possibly unhappy enough even to take my chances even in this market.

It feels as though someone's bluffing here but I'm not sure who.

Chris also suffers on paper but he has twice the business-related software experience (4 yrs versus 2) and also (thanks in large part to seniority) had a more impressive title while we were both at Silicon Age.

On paper, the last four Silicon Agers still standing for Vectiv were the Chief Technical Officer, a Senior Architect, a Senior Developer, and a mere Developer. Guess which one I was? Silicon Age had exactly one each of the first three and more than a half-dozen at my level.

Almost but not quite making up for this is the darn near cult of personality surrounding me among the product team. "We NEED Matt," people openly say.

Once in a blue moon I find myself among people who, for no apparent reason, deeply admire me. About as often I see people who, with seemingly just as little provocation, deeply despise me. In both cases my first reaction is to be baffled.

On the plus side, the CEO is Harvard '86. Another gentleman I talked to is Harvard 'XX, old enough that his son is a junior at Kirkland.

The second guy was, like me, once a Social Chair of Eliot House Committee. He's old enough that when he was there the Fete did not yet exist.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Coming Attractions
On Now That Everyone Else Has One, the dramatic "war story" of the 1996 ECAC championship tournament up in Lake Placid, right on the heels of basketball's famous Princeton-UCLA upset.

On Matt After Dark, a 100% true Valentine's Day special of sorts.

On ESPN 2, Georgetown takes on Seton Hall and the San Jose Sharks host Edmonton.

And on Outer Sunset, I'll bitch about high taxes or something.
It's Blogback Time Again
...seeing as how fightin' words have been posted.

Lake Superior State won the 1994 national championship, defeating both Harvard and BU in the Frozen Four. The Harvard game was a hard-fought match, in which the Crimson scored both of its goals on separate concession stand trips I made. Always I was just getting back to the Band section when the puck went in and pandemonium ensued and drinks would spill all over the place. High slapstick. Thanks to the worst call I've ever seen, Harvard suffered a five-minute major with six minutes left in the third period of a tie game. Why five instead of two? Apparently because the way the dude fell he ended up hitting his head on the ice and the refs felt sorry for him. The penalty was actually killed but there was nothing left in the tank for overtime.

How, you might ask, did BU do against Lake State? If memory serves it was a 9-1 thrashing. Have yet to find this one on-line though.

Granted, BU has since won a title and Harvard has since done basically nothing. All the same. There may be BU alumni, obviously much older than some of us, who still resent Tripp Tracy (all five feet or so of him) for knocking the Terriers out of two Beanpots in a row. One of which Harvard actually won. My freshman year.

Clearly if they won my freshman year, they'd win every year, right?
Our hockey team kicks ass.
USA women, that is. Apparently not Harvard men though.

All these exceptional athletes, exceptional people, women I'd love to meet one day but are probably way out of my league.

Hockey: When soccer is just too wussy. But I adore the women's soccer players too. There needs to be more of those sports and less gymnastics and figure skating. And less of everything that the men do.
I thought I'd be interviewing this afternoon when in fact I'll be interviewing tomorrow morning. The phone call to reschedule happened at 9:20 a.m. She (Susan, the admin assistant and czarina of invoices and check-writing) asked if she should wait to call me back until I was more awake. When the reschedule details were confirmed, she e-mailed them. For business communication, e-mail rocks and phone calls are deeply overrated.

Pointless Unrelated Story
I once went a whole week without eating meat, this after seeing Babe of course.

There's (continuing the pointless story) a generation gap among east coast quiz bowlers between people who know who Patrick Friel is and people who don't. If you don't, it's very hard to describe him. Based on his web page he's become a Math Grad Student, with all of the professional front-end demeanor that this implies. On the back end... well, again, he's a math geek. We're pretty much alike. (Can I still say "we" for math geeks after going to law school?)

Except that we're all different in our own ways, and Friel even more different than most. He was into a little philosophy, a little mysticism, a lot of cool music. He hosted an overnight radio show when he was at Swarthmore. Think of the guy from Green Day. Add to this a reputedly ambiguous sexuality. The only specific rumors I remember are probably false and anyway involve people who, if you don't know Patrick, you probably don't know them either.

If you don't know Patrick from quiz-bowl then you probably don't know Felicia Wu Morris from quiz bowl. "Strait-laced" is a gross oversimplification but for brevity it'll do.

To be continued...

Monday, February 11, 2002

I have competition?
I thought at first this would be a good thing. The sooner someone writes a better program, the less I'll have to worry about flaws in mine. Unfortunately, the biggest flaw in Stats 2001 is that it's not terribly user friendly. So now the best alternative is a command-line utility using perl? :-)

Just when it was about to be a good time for me to touch up my work, now I won't be unemployed much longer.

Anyway, my first look at the Yahoo! message board in almost a year revealed pretty much what I thought would be there. People have complained about NAQT distribution but not quite what I thought.

There (relating to behind-the-scenes stuff that must remain behind the scenes) exists a heroic flaw wherein one person tries to do too much. On the one hand I greatly admire people like that. Certain positions need a person like that. Quarterback is one -- even though he gets paid like one and stands behind the center, Vinny Testaverde is not a quarterback, by definition. CEO is another.

The thing is, nobody's perfect. The more one person tries to do, the more likely an unseen flaw is to creep into one's work. Delegate, delegate, delegate! This is easier said than done when you singlehandedly accomplish something that would have been impossible to do without some particular innovation you introduced. It's still a pretty good general rule though.
(groggy sigh)
Had an interesting but (ultimately) disheartening dream last night. It involved me and someone whom I haven't mentioned here in awhile. We were sitting or lying somewhere and unexpectedly started to snuggle. She rubbed the back of my calf and I kissed the back of her neck. Perhaps we held hands. (The longer you're awake, the more details of dreams fade.) It occurred to me that Valentine's Day was coming up. I asked her if she had any plans and if not, whether I could take her out to dinner.

Then I woke up. Damn. That's when I realized that none of this actually happened. Worse yet, the heroine herself isn't anywhere near San Francisco. Worse yet, I don't think she was interested in me anyway.

Guess I'll have to find someone else to cure my crippling depression. YY-yar!!

("I thought he had it all!")

It's more interesting than you think that (in the dream) Valentine's Day was coming up. Often I'll have dreams set in a completely different time of year than what it is in waking life.

In other news, War Elephants (Age of Kings) are very powerful and very strong. Hard to kill but easy to convert. Attacking the Persians? Build a bunch of monasteries. Six elephants storming a castle are fearsome. Three-on-three is far more favorable.

It's unclear which is cooler, converting War Elephants or laying waste to orcs (Advanced D&D). Probably the former since you see it happen.

If I'm good today I'll write questions. If I'm bad today then I'll play a bunch of Settlers of Catan, something else I haven't done in awhile. (That's not strictly true: We played at the social thing a couple weeks ago, though Mike Develin's rule of everybody's cards being face up strikes me as weird after learnign to play where you hold your cards in your hand. But what I haven't done in awhile is play by myself as four players at once. That's fun but maybe a little pathetic.)

Sunday, February 10, 2002

WARNING: Quiz Bowl
Click here to skip the trivia stuff, but just about everyone in my known audience is into qb anyway. Also, maybe you don't like trivia but you do want to get to Chapel Hill from Boston?
A Theory of Power Marking
(These opinions are mine alone and NOT necessarily those of National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC or any other member.)

By any useful measurement, I'm either NAQT's most prolific writer or second most prolific. Oddly enough, there are three different perfectly reasonable timeframes (career, last 2-3 years, current academic year) for measure that leave me #2 behind three distinct top dogs. But along with all the writing, I do no editing, at least not in 18 months or so. Yay for division of labor, though nearly everyone else who writes so much does also have an editing load, either subject editing or packet set editing. Part of not editing means that it's been forever since I power-marked a set. NAQT is the company that introduced "power tossups," wherein you get more points than usual if you get the right answer to a tossup before a certain point in the question. The power mark is the point where the value of getting the question right goes back down to normal.

If I'm reading an NAQT set, one thing I love to see is a lot of tossups on which players just miss getting power. This is partly because I'm a ripe bastard but mostly because it seems to mean that the power marks are in just the right place.

The basic idea is that the power mark goes immediately before some especially useful clue, such that the very first word after the power mark provides some especially useful information. One way I like to look at it: Suppose someone hears the very first clue of a tossup and right away they think it's some answer (and they're right) but they're not quite sure enough to buzz. What clue what it take for that particular player finally to be confident enough to buzz? Very often, that will be the clue that goes right after the power mark, or at least ought to. Think of it as the point at which that player-with-the-premonition no longer felt as though buzzing in was too big a risk.

It's sort of a bad sign if someone misses power but thinks he might have gotten it. (But not really, since everyone wants to power and everyone's an optimist.) The better "oops, the mark was too early" indicator is if someone misses power but half the room assumes it must have been power. Especially if one of them is the scorekeeper.

Similarly, it's a bad sign when people hear that a particular buzz was power and groan. Especially if the player who got the power mark herself makes a "something smells" face and has a hard time hiding the belief that power really wasn't deserved there. I have no problem with people getting a lot of power tossups -- makes the game really exciting -- so long as they honestly feel as though they earned it.

I've never seen a packet set where power marks were consistently too generous. A lot of people consistently power-mark too stingily, particularly when independent circuit invitationals try to put power-marking into their set editing.

Note: editing for an invitational is a pain in the ass. Most students just don't have time to do this, at least not to do it right. I'm shocked that invitationals have not only survived but developed such high standards. Then again, people also seem to adjust and forgive, because to me it's butt-obvious that every central supplier of questions does a better editing job than every independent circuit tourney, though people don't always realize this. As a coping mechanism, it's probably a good thing that people don't think about that. Given how high standards have become, I think it's suicidal to try to edit an invitational without at least setting up a packet swap with one (or two!) other schools whose editing you trust. Also, submitting a pack itself is an incredible pain in the ass that nobody has time to do right. My biggest regret from pack editing days other than failing to pass any of my tricks of the trade down for posterity is giving ridiculously uptight packet requirements to people. Much much better to use the Potter Stewart "you know a good pack when you see it" example, give submitters a little leeway, and be prepared to slip in one or two replacement q's for category balance.
My Proudest "Team Player" Moment
(see previous entry, below)
Boston University beat Harvard at the 1999 CBCI regional competition. This was my last CBCI event. We led at the half and held that lead by the end. Note that I did not touch my buzzer in the first half. (Caffeine highs produce caffeine lows!) Our lead was entirely the doing of Matt Boggie, Mike H-L, and (Cooch or Sarah, I think Cooch...), all of whom had (if memory serves) multiple tossups at that point.
The Road to a Championship
Here, use these directions.

"Satan, already having his overcoat in hand from the Super Bowl, requested extra blankets on his bed last night."
--Jon Couture (by e-mail) on Boston University's undefeated record at the Dartmouth sectional.

...and now some blogback...
I graduated from Harvard without honors. This took some effort. It made me one of less than 10% of the graduating class. Hmm, "one in ten." That means there were more gays in my class than fellow non-honor receivers. Actually, given how visible BGLTSA was, probably a whole lot more gays. Then again, how many of them are still gay?

Truism: A team with three (or more) 20ppg players will go a lot further than a team with one 40ppg player. Some of the teams I was on at Boston University, it seemed like...

  • We just won a close game? Oh, I went 4-0 on tossups.

  • We just lost a heartbreaker? Oh, I went 5-2 on tossups.

  • We just got our asses kicked? Huh, still, I guess 3-1 isn't so bad.

Once in a blue moon we'd stomp someone and I'd get seven or eight. But the usual signifier of an ass-kicking would be all four BU players chipping in.

Theory: My teammates consistently lost buzzer races (often to me) on the things they knew best. That or they weren't confident enough. Playing a much weaker opponnent helped us (collectively) in three ways. First, the opponent wouldn't be winning nearly so many buzzer races against my teammates. Second, I think I played with some people who buzzed more aggressively against weaker opponents on the theory that there was much less risk of their buzz causing us to lose. Given that they were almost always right anyway, this is good. Nearly everyone who plays quiz-bowl buzzes too timidly. Unfortunately for many teams I was on, I often made up for it the other way. Sorry. Third, I actually buzzed far more conservatively against weaker teams.

Hear a clue, think "it's probably X," decide not to buzz for awhile on the theory that this particular opponent probably won't get this particular tossup any time soon anyway. Wait, wait a little more, key on the particular "now it HAS to be X" clue, pounce... and then either win the race or lose to a teammate anyway.
You might think Sarah and I got to the zoo just in time but when we were there we saw no koalas. We figured they were ("he was"?) sleeping or hiding.
Politics is NOT "Public Service"
The more I think about it, the more I resent people (Beltway types mainly) who think that their career aspirations somehow do the rest of us a favor. It's even worse when I see it from Republicans. [To be continued...]