Saturday, March 02, 2002

Insurance Silver Linings
I've actually been insured since February 12. The cancellation letter from GE finally arrived (the refund check still hasn't), and it lists the effective cancellation date as March 12. Well damn. That means if something really really bad happened to my car, I'd currently be covered after all. Well damn...

Don't worry, I wouldn't do anything stupid. Wouldn't be worth the hassle.
Correction:
Guess the Red Sox didn't make the 2000 playoffs. Come to think of it their run ended when I left. Sorry 'bout that. 2000 was the Carl Everett debut year, no? Then 2001 was Manny Ramirez? I'm so out of it. This is another reason why it's just as well to be upfront about my not being a Sox fan.
So I'm An A's Fan
Okay then. Who's my favorite A?

In 2000 it was Matt Stairs, closely followed by Ben Grieve. They both got shipped out. Last year it's unclear who... actually it's not so unclear, since it was Mark Mulder. Mike Develin can have Barry Zito. The rest of the world can have Tim Hudson (did I ever tell you about going to a Thursday late-afternoon Fenway game with Mike Hoey-Lukakis and seeing Hudson outduel Pedro from our insanely good Howe Sportsdata seats?). Someone somewhere can have Cory Lidle; the fantasy sports geeks who were all into him as a "sleeper" last spring, turned out to be right with a vengeance. Me? I'll take Mulder. Sweet-throwing lefty.

(Yeah, Zito's a lefty too. But Mulder is the relative finesse guy of the pair. I'd claim that Mulder is a young Tom Glavine to Zito's young Steve Avery but this fails on two counts: First, comparing lefthanded pitchers to Tom Glavine has become baseball scouting's most annoying cliche. Second, I don't want to jinx Zito like that. Avery didn't exactly list; Zito will.)

I'm used to my favorite players being hitters. A pitcher is weird since four times out of five I'll go to an A's game and Mulder won't even get into the game.

I could get into Carlos Pena but I'm very worried about jinxing him, for two reasons:
1. I was the one who always shouted "MO!" when Brian Daubach batted. The idea was supposed to be that he wouldn't be all that much worse than Mo Vaughn, but this doesn't communicate well. Notice whose shoes Pena gets to try to fill.

2. Last year I told anyone who would listen that the Cardinals-A's exhibition game featured the league's upcoming rookies of the year. One of those predictions seemed pretty solid, the other seemed way out on a limb anyway. The "solid" one was Jose Ortiz, who had his worst two weeks ever, got relegated, then finally traded to Colorado. The out-on-a-limb pick was a guy who St. Louis didn't even want to start in the bigs, a guy who broke in only because somebody (Bobby Bonilla?) was injured. A guy named Albert Pujols. Damn. He's, like, good and stuff.

But the point is, no matter how right I was about Pujols, I badly blew the Ortiz call. Oh well. Frank Menechino gets a couple more of his 15 minutes.
Matt's Sports Bigamy Anthology
With new and improved Blogback

By the way, rumor has it that the Blogger link-insertion hotkey is acting up. No fear. I roll my own. Just type <a href=", then paste in the URL (you can copy it from the Address line of your browser or right-click on a web link and use "Copy Shortcut"), then ">[the text you want to hyperlink]</a>

Sorry to hear about the recent failings of the Celtics and Bruins. In the spring of 1992, when I went up to visit Harvard as a pre-frosh, the Bruins were in the playoffs. Crimson alumnus Ted Donato scored the winning goal in a game I saw on TV. The Celtics--I'm not too sure. Larry Bird had been going through back problems but no sign of his career being in danger. The Red Sox, October agony aside, had won the AL East three of the previous six years.

Boston was about to become the first major sports market to which I was local. (Tulsa hasn't been "major" since the NASL's Roughnecks and USFL's Oklahoma Outlaws played there, Double-A baseball and Central Hockey League nonwithstanding.) The only question was whether I was about to become a fair weather fan.

Suffice to say, fair weather did not come about. 1992 was arguably the most distasteful season in recent Red Sox history. Maybe my not being there first-hand shields me from the horrors of 2001 but I still say 1992 was worse. That was the year of Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs bitching at each other over scoring decisions in meaningless September games. When was the last time Boston sports fans thought anything non-nasty about those two? More importantly, it was the year of last place in a seven-team division. The Sox have underachieved at times since then, but have they come close to that kind of badness?

Going from memory, though you can cheat here if you want: 1993 they were in fourth place entering September, on the outskirts of a pennant race. Had a wild card existed, wild card fever may have run rampant. 1994 I don't remember; it's a mulligan kind of year. 1995 was the surprise AL East championship. 1996 was the year they started out terrible under Kevin Kennedy but somehow pulled a wild card run out of Mike Greenwell's ass. 1997 was lackluster but who cares? It was Nomar's rookie season. 1998 through 2000 saw a potentially dynastic team make a playoff run but consistently fall short of the American League's other dynasty.

In any case, the 1996 wild card run, coinciding as it did with my moving into Kenmore Square and going to games practically every night on a whim, made me a Red Sox fan. By the Sports Guy rules, that ought to mean I'm always a Sox fan. Things didn't work out that way though. I'll claim that distaste for the new ownership justifies it, since my extreme abhorrence for both Werner and Henry is what officially led me to cut off any Sox ties. Really, though, who was I rooting for when I went to those Sox-A's games through the 2001 season? You could actually see my allegiance changing as the months went on. I have mixed emotions about this.

The thing is, Sports Monogamy isn't very well suited to people who move around a lot. Like me. In any case, the Red Sox were neither my first nor my last local team, logical favorite, whatever you want to call it.

I came of age watching future Texas Rangers, sometimes 19- and 20-year-olds. I thought they were awesome, and as it turns out many of them actually were. In a very short timespan of my early teen years, I got to see Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Kevin Brown, Rich Aurilia (it took him awhile to become a star), Dean Palmer (Dean Palmer?!), and... even though I'm clearly missing guys (Mike Stanley, say), once you hit Dean Palmer you're no longer talking about true all-stars. Rusty Greer was a Driller, though. My favorite player. Could have been awesome but injuries have caught up with him lately.

And actually, I'm not even a Sports Monogamist for favorite players. Thank you, Mr. Klesko and Mr. O'Leary -- yes, he was good once -- and Mr. Grace. I was doing really well about avoiding bandwagons until Barry Bonds. Even at that, not only was I into him well before the home run year (try, February 2000), but I liked him as a person when so many people hated him. Also, he hit the game-winning homer the day of my first trip to PBP. Pluswhich, everyone in this paragraph is lefthanded, like me. Nice pattern until I went and blew it with my recent Bobby Abreu jones.

But back to teams. And future Texas Rangers, many of whom were ultimately traded. (Sign of the passing of generations: I can still remember before the big talent flow of the late 1980s, when the most famous ex-Drillers were Tom Henke and Ron Darling.) Surprisingly, nobody around me was much of a Ranger fan. Not that there was much to root for before Nolan Ryan came to Arlington. It was Pete Incaviglia and Oddibe McDowell and a buttload of strikeouts by hitters and walks by pitchers. Looking back on it, this was really the anti-Stathead team. Everything that numbers geeks now know and cherish and value about winning baseball -- it's all about OBP and the conservation of outs, or keeping guys off base if you're pitching -- was the opposite of how the 1980s Rangers did it. No wonder they failed.

Nonetheless, I followed some of my favorite Drillers as they got called up. And Rafael Palmeiro. Note here that it was basically impossible to get Rangers TV/radio coverage in Tulsa in the 1980s. This is why there was no fan base. Most baseball fans either watched the Cubs on WGN or listened to the Cardinals on the radio. A Tulsa radio station actually carried the Cardinal feed; oddly enough no Tulsa radio station carried the Royals feed. There were some podunk Oklahoma stations that you could pick up if you pointed your antenna in the right direction, so I vaguely identify with Rob Neyer's hardon for Denny Matthews, though I had too hard a time getting the signal in the first place to sit back and appreciate his greatness.

The baseball influences in my family (Mom, Sarah, oddly enough not Dad) were Cub fans, foreshadowing their move to Chicago a decade later. They wore me down eventually. Despite this, I was mad enough about the Palmeiro trade (also known as the Mitch Williams trade) to be about to abandon the Cubs. Instead, I didn't. It's that "once you're a fan, you're always a fan" rule that gave me my first case of baseball bigamy. I'd "switched allegiances" to the Rangers, and yet I know more about the 1989 Cubs than I do about any other team of any other season.

Some Cub fans wax nostalgic about 1984. Younger ones are more into 1998, Kerry Wood and Sammy Sosa and the wild-card run. This is all fine with me, since it leaves the 1989 Cubs relatively to myself.

Of course, once bigamy begins, the slope is ever more slippery. All through high school, and/or when I was home from college with nothing better to do in the evening, I'd watch baseball on cable TV. ESPN was a godsend for me, back when they had five games a week: Tuesday and Friday doubleheaders, single games on Wednesday and Sunday. Even apart from that, WGN started showing both Cubs and Sox games. An outfit called Home Sports Entertainment finally got not only the Rangers but also the Astros onto local cable. And, of course, there were the Braves. Those poor, pathetic, Atlanta Braves.

Now and then we (my family) talked about flying to Atlanta (we figured with Delta it would be cheap and convenient) to see the Cubs play at Fulton County Stadium in one of those late-August series with about 9,000 people in the stands. It never happened. Instead, 1991 happened. My Atlanta Braves 1991 National League Champions t-shirt has worn surprisingly well in the wash over the last decade or so. It's had about three times the lifespan of my typical t-shirt.

To this day, I root for Atlanta in the playoffs. You might call it a "guilty pleasure," but I do it without shame or even guilt. Why? Well, if you accuse someone of jumping on a bandwagon, doesn't there have to be a bandwagon. As far as I can tell, everybody else hates the Braves. This isn't like everyone hating the Yankees, because there really are Yankee fans and they really are insufferable. Rather, at least everywhere I've lived, Atlanta fans have been close to nonexistent. This guy in my dorm (Eliot House) came from around there, Scott Spielvogel. (He went to a handful of quiz practices and might have gotten his name onto some Terrier Tussle scoresheets some year, that kind of player.) When the Braves made their 1995 run, Scott and I were down there every night. He was the vocal rooter and his fervence was contagious.

Okay, tracking my teams, since I'm arguably the worst baseball bigamist you know...
Rangers, check. When all else fails, they're the One True Team default.
Cubs, check.
Braves, check.
Red Sox, check.

Now the Bay Area. If you can't be both a Cubs fan and a Sox fan, and you can't be both a Yankee fan and a Met fan, where does that leave me? 2000 I went to a bunch of Giants games, relatively few A's games, but Oakland was my playoff team because it was easier to get postseason tix there. For 2001 it was the other way around, partly because of Vectiv. And hey look! I'm back at Vectiv now. Actually for my ticket purchases, they're about even. In fact they're exactly even, exactly 20 games apiece. But for the A's games I have much much much better seats.

That probably puts me in the Oakland camp. For that matter, I'm a BP junkie of a stathead, and I think we're required by law to be A's fans and Billy Beane fans and base on balls fetishists and so on. Plus, Carlos Pena. Carlos Pena. The Rafael Palmeiro of his time. If the Rangers were really my One True Team, shouldn't I be pissed off to a white hot fever about losing him? Instead, the thing that pissed me off was the Giambi defection, compared to which I saw it as the A's gaining Carlos Pena.

Well, sonuvabitch. I'm an honest-to-gosh A's fan. Place your bets as to how long this lasts.

There really should be stuff here about more teams than baseball. For example, football, where I really truly am a monogamist. And again, this shows you that TV is king: In Tulsa in the 1980s, almost invariably your football choices were the Dallas Cowboys on CBS early or the Denver Broncos on NBC late. Given that the doubleheader alternated between networks, it should have worked out that way no more than 50% of the time, but maybe I just picked the right Sunday afternoons in my formative season(s). 1983 was John Elway's rookie year. He was young and raw but oh my, did Dick Enberg love him.

I really hope Brian Griese works out. I like the idea of being 40 years old, having rooted for the same NFL team since I was eight, and looking back on exactly two star quarterbacks. (Thus sweeping under the rug Gary Kubiak, who I actually liked a lot, and Bubby Brister, who I didn't like much at all.)

(Here's something Just Wrong about being an A's fan: They share a stadium with the Raiders, the one professional sports team I root against most zealously.)

Then there's basketball and hockey. Well, the Bruins were being mismanaged and the Celtics entered the worst era of their franchise history. Obviously neither of them took. NBA: Became a "charter" Grizzlie fan when they decided to build their franchise around Bryant Reeves. That was a big mistake, as it turns out, although oddly enough my Grizzlie allegiance has outlived my Reeves fandom. It even sort of survived the move to Memphis.

Should I be a Kings fan? I'm definitely not rooting for the Warriors, no-way, no-how. I claim that there's no way to become a King's fan without blatantly bandwagon hopping. Luckily, I don't follow the NBA nearly enough for this to matter. Tickets are impossible to get anyway.

Sharks tix are gettable but butt-expensive, just like the rest of the NHL. To hell with 'em. I seem not to have an NHL team at all. In the 1996 playoffs (the 1996 NHL playoffs basically defining my senior spring), I was all into the St. Louis Blues for no apparent reason. This was the brief synergy of Wayne Gretzky with Brett Hull, which turned out astonishingly disappointing given the talent of those two players. These days I really couldn't tell you who's on the Blues.

I can tell you this, though: I root for the Broncos, Kubi for the Rams. I root for the Blues (nominally), Kubi for the Av's. Is that messed up or what?
The Real Reason to do an A-to-Z
Is this just a subterfuge to get everything refiled correctly? Or even upgraded to some new system? I don't know enough about radio to understand how it would work, but it seems like that's the main thing an A-to-Z accomplishes behind the scenes.
Those Wacky Radio Stations
So The Bone is actually giving prizes to people who correctly predict the first alphabetical song (both title and artist!) to come on after a given commercial break. In this past break, a lot of callers knew that "Smokin' in the Boys Room" would be the next song, but most of them were turned away empty-handed because they gave the artist as Motley Crue, when in fact Brownsville Station has the alphabetically superior band name.

Had I heard the Brownsville Station version of this song before? Maybe. Doesn't come up that often, alas.
Why I Am Not A Defense Attorney
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Nedra Ruiz pressed [Sharon] Smith on why a complaint was never filed: "Have you considered that if you had made a complaint, Ms. [Diane]Whipple would be alive today?"

Okay, this is just a lawyer doing a lawyer's job. Nonetheless, it's a punkass bitch question, asked by someone who dearly belongs on the next people who need to be hurt segment.

It was also an objectionable question. Objection sustained (correctly). Jurors are supposed to ignore it but won't be able to.
InstaPundit
Have Glenn Reynolds and Willy Jay ever been seen in the same room? Their writing style is remarkably similar.
Alphabetically Yours
Predicting the run of an A-to-Z song countdown is a lot harder than you'd think, but it's tempting. This is probably part of what keeps listeners hooked. I finally got one right last night, without even really trying.

As Red came on I was about to switch stations reflexively. There are certain songs and singers that make you switch stations, the reflex so finely tuned that you don't even have to think about it. Which is only fair, since I don't think Sammy Hagar ever actually thought about his lyrics.

Just as I was about to turn it, the thought crossed my mind, keep it here, Red Barchetta is next. As, sure enough, it was.

They're from different worlds but Rush puts Sammy Hagar to shame. Actually the songs are sort of about the same thing but "Red Barchetta" still puts "Red" to shame. My music collection currently has zero Rush. My only requirement for the first Rush album I buy is that it contain "Red Barchetta." Compilations and greatest-hits are fine for this purpose.

Maybe today I'll go buy Diary of a Madman and Chronicles?

Friday, March 01, 2002

Sports Bigamy
Cooch is long gone by now, so no point in e-mailing him. I have quite the baseball polygamy story, too complicated to relate on company time.
Oh Dear
I went from slightly more than $2,000 for a year, to slightly more than $4,000 for six months. The phrase "suspended license" apparently is costly.

But here's the thing... if the City of Oakland and/or Alameda County were really serious about getting my speeding ticket money, would it have killed them to fucking ask for it? A simple phone call, an invoice, god forbid an e-mail.

I'm going to take a wild guess that neither the Alameda County porcine brigade nor the California DMV have a clue what PayPal is.
My Refund
In case it's not clear from the previous entry, I AM (supposedly) getting my money back. I plan to call the 800 number daily, making these poor call center drones' lives a living hell, until they do in fact send the money. This is arguably the nastiest thing any corporate entity has done directly to me or anyone I know.

They took my money and not only wouldn't insure me but also didn't even have the courtesy to tell me until I asked them. If I'd never called the 800 number, would they have taken my money and run? You don't normally think of GE as a "take their money and run" company, but you never know. Is that why their stock does so well?

Bitter irony: I'm in fact a GE stockholder. I'm tempted now to sell their stock in disgust. Fear of tax consequences will probably prevent me from this.
Ode to Geico
I cannot say enough good things about the GEICO Direct web site and free web quotes. In the process of getting a quote, I've been struck by two things:
1. The site is exceedingly well-designed. (I like good web applications, it's my line of work.)
2. They ask exactly the right questions.

Specifically:
1. My license was suspended for one day back in December, because I kept not getting around to paying off a speeding ticket and finally got the money in a DAY LATE. More about this suspension to come. I didn't know I'd even been suspended until just this week. Geico had spots to indicate how long I'd been suspended (1 day) and why (nonpayment of ticket).

2. My accident last January. Their pulldown menu was very thorough. "Intersection" seemed like the best choice. (Cars trying to turn left had backed up from the ad hoc left-turn into the left line proper. Since I was in that lane but wanting to go straight, I tried to make a lane change from stopped left lane traffic to not-stopped right lane traffic. Saab-driving woman was in my blind spot.)

3. My violation last May. They actually have "flashing red light" as a category distinct from "red light/stop sign." Would that the law in the state of California itself made that distinction.

4. My speeding ticket last July. They had a pulldown for what kind of ticket, and then for speeding tickets I could indicate my speed (80) and the posted speed (65).

In short, I can be brutally honest to Geico without fear of being shafted.

Speaking of getting shafted...
Back at the start of February I applied for insurance via Quotesmith. The best rate they gave me came from GE/Colonial Penn. I messed up on the application, though, because I wasn't aware that my license had ever been suspended. It turns out GE/Colonial Penn will not insure you if your license was suspended in the last 36 months.

Did they tell me this? Did they bother calling or e-mailing me? No. On February 13 I received their quote in the mail. On February 14 I postmarked a check for a year's worth of insurance (over $2,000) along with all the relevant signatures and forms. Then nothing happened. Then nothing continued to happen. Needing to renew my car's registration, I booked multiple DMV appointments, and had to cancel them one by one as I failed to have proof of insurance.

(Yes, my old insurance had lapsed. Yes, technically I've been uninsured for awhile. Yes, that makes my Oregon road trip doubly sketchy. The slimy GE sales guy claimed to me on the phone back on February 7 that the coverage would take effect retroactive to when they postmarked the quote to me. Lying bastard.)

On February 26, GE/Colonial Penn deposited my check. It may have happened earlier but Wells Fargo posted it and debited my account on the 26th. Now, they've failed to tell me anything about coverage or non-coverage, but they've taken my money. What's a person to think?

I called their 800 number yesterday. They told me they'd declined to cover me. Did they explain why? No. I got a runaround about my speeding ticket and flashing red light and accident and so on. Found out TODAY about the suspended license and the "last 36 month" policy.

You know, I could really use that $2,000 to -- I don't know -- maybe buy some OTHER company's insurance?!

Stupid fucks. As you might guess, the DMV this morning was fun. I brought a printout of my checking account records, with the check posted, as well as the quote from GE. The DMV lady wanted me to call the 800 number and get them to fax me a copy of the policy. Obviously that didn't work out.
Ode to Friday
This really isn't the best day of the week to start a new job. The spirit is willing...

Today I learned of two regularly scheduled meetings that Vectiv has. One is a daily 9 a.m. "stand-up" meeting where everyone is supposed to go around and mention what their task is for that day. Surprisingly few people seem to go to this. I can see why from past stand-up meeting experience: The concept is tremendous if people can explain themselves in five seconds; unfortunately, it ends up more like 45 seconds a person. That adds up.

The other (which I guess I already knew about), every Friday afternoon in the foyer, starting around 5 p.m. (maybe 4?), involves whatever beer is in the fridge.

Not sure what to do about the standup meeting. In a perfect world I would tell them to expect me in no later than 10 and out no earlier than 7, and just routinely stroll in around 9:40 or so. That seems to beat promising 9 and delivering 9:20.

The people I work with are happy to see me all the same.
Corwyn is gainfully employed.

Thursday, February 28, 2002

Putting things in perspective
I've had an exceptionally trying day because of mundane issues involving cars and banks and so on. In an e-mail to a friend I even described myself as "homicidal" (read what set me off, although I have no idea who the guy is who sent that e-mail) -- and wasn't joking.

Then I read this. It's... sobering. The short version is that there are bigger problems out there than my own day-to-day problems. Compared to the things the world has to solve, the things the world has been through, anything that inconveniences me or challenges me is really quite trivial.

Also, The Bone is doing "Classic Rock A-to-Z." This afternoon they were in the L's. Let's Roll still gives me chills.
Sometimes, dammit, the customer is wrong
I can't decide if I'd be good at customer service or not. Probably not. There are always people who want ridiculous things.

At line in the bank today (by the way, I'm a moron, Wells Fargo did send me a card. It's unclear now whether I'll get any use out of this card), in front of me was an old woman who wanted to deposit a check but had neither a Social Security # or an account # to give the teller. She seemed very confused. It's unclear whether she even HAS a Wells Fargo account, though she definitely has something at/with Merrill Lynch.

That's not what inspired me to write this cryptic entry though. No, I can't really talk about the bee currently in my bonnet. It's got nothing to do with you guys, though, thankfully. (Okay, I'm mildly disappointed about BU not hosting a high school championship; nonetheless, blah.)
I put my trust in you.... got as far as I could go. For all this there's only one thing you should know...

Sorry. Catharsis. Was stuck in my head, now it's gone. Hopefully not stuck in yours.
Billboard Charts
Hot 100
Who the hell is Ja Rule? Do I even want to know? I assume I don't.

It's funny how some of these songs get airplay on "my" stations and some get absolutely zero.

So far the most astonishing chart phenomenon is Nickelback. The Northern Invasion (surely I've joked about this before, in my Nellie Furtado reveries) is really on, eh? Ya hosers. It boggles me that "How You Remind Me" hit #1 when "Get This Party Started" could only peak at #4. Not that I'm really complaining, it's probably a step in the right direction. It's still a massive shock.

Note that Linkin Park is already falling in the Modern Rock chart but still holding its own on the Hot 100. Let's hear it for Crossover!
Billboard Charts
Modern Rock Tracks
I guess this is "my" format.

Props to Puddle of Mudd for "Blurry." Can you take it all away? This song is underplayed in my humble opinion.

I could stand a lot more of it and a lot less of "Youth of the Nation." Skid Row did the same topic much much better with "Youth Gone Wild" back in my day. "Youth of the Nation" seems to be the defining song of Portland's alt/rock stations, which were way too head-bangy for my taste.

Who is Hoobastank and where did they get their name? Even after the lyric cheat-sheet I don't think I've heard that one. It sure meets the Recommended Daily Allowance of Teen Angst, though.

"I'm Wasting My Time" is another that I didn't hear much of in SF but heard all the damn time in Portland. Speaking of all the damn time, on both legs of my car trip the "In The End" quotient was about once an hour on some radio station somewhere. I tried so hard and got so far, yet somehow I'm not yet sick of this song. My fear is that if the airplay keeps up much longer my enjoyment of it will be tapped, but so far it still rawks.

Most of this chart needs less airplay. I guess Portland has dead-on "Modern Rock" and San Francisco really doesn't. My sources of teen angst music in SF are all "alternative" stations, if not classic rock hybrids.
Billboard Charts
Adult:
This isn't porn soundtracks, despite the name.

Some stasis at the top of this chart, where the top two songs astonish me. People like Nickelback that much?! I'm not as surprised by The Calling; "disappointed" is a better word. But a look at the Grammy nominees tells me plenty about how bad popular music taste is.

Most of the songs on this top 20 are songs I hear a lot on the radio. I guess that means I'm an Adult? Most of them also suck, where the notable exceptions are by Creed, Alanis Morissette (benefit of the doubt: it does sound like every other bitter breakup song she's had though), U2, Staind, and maybe Chris Isaak. Haven't made up my mind about his latest effort.

Special "damn that sucks" callout for Train, No Doubt, and Three Doors Down.
Billboard Charts
Country:
Looks like some turnover from week to week. A changing of the guard?

For some reason I'm not remembering the Messina/McGraw duet from last week's chart. I do remember they played a classic McGraw hit, namely Just To See You Smile. The host (you can find his name at the ACC Top 40 site but I find the web design to be heinous, so I just now closed the window) mentioned that "Just To See You Smile" was the #1 country hit of the year 1998(? - I may have the year wrong). My reaction, driving along, was a WHY?!?, shouted surprisingly loud for me talking to myself.

The thing about "Just To See You Smile" is that the guy singing it really really really needs to get over her. I've been there, I guess. Not literally, since the details of the lyrics make it different from any situation I've been in. But I've come close enough in the "really really really needing to get over her" department. Tim McGraw, if you're out there and you haven't already, for heaven's sake get over her. I cannot emphasize enough the "get over her already" nature of this warped, insipid song.

Not that I'm being defensive or anything.

Anyway, Jo Dee Messina. I disapprove of how her parents spelled her name but I approve of her music. Some station on my way back played "Heads Carolina Tails California" -- nifty little driving song.

Since I also don't remember "The Long Goodbye," I must have flipped during a commercial and missed last week's #3 and #4 songs. I definitely remember "The Cowboy In Me" though. Lyrics are mostly inane but I like how the last two stanzas mention "The Cowboy In You" and "The Cowboy In Us All." Tim McGraw, country music's O. Henry?

"Blessed" and "Wrapped Around" and "Good Morning Beautiful" all got previous mention in this space, though I've gone back and corrected Brad Paisley's name in the previous entry and I gratuitously mention Steve Holy here to give props to him. Think that's his real name?

Took me awhile, took reading the lyrics, but Kenny Chesney's Young did come back to me. Vaguely reminds me of Springsteen's "Glory Days" or of an amalgam of John Cougar Mellancamp songs, better than the latter but not quite as good as the former.

"Some Days You Gotta Dance" sounds like it should have crossover appeal, though they do exaggerate the twang on the word "tea" in the second verse. They give it like five syllables.

I also somehow missed "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out" (this may have been when I went to the rest stop to call Corwyn) but it's definitely a "get over her" song. As is, I suppose, "In Another World," but that song I actually like. Maybe I have a blind spot for Joe Diffie, since the other song of his they played was cool. But "I'm Moving On" has got to be the anti-"get over her" song. This is the song you sing when you really ARE over it all.

Hadn't been listening to the countdown yet when "My List" came on but Toby Keith goes all the way back to the last time I started getting into country, when Who's That Man was all over the airwaves. Man, divorce must suck.

"Where Were You" has been mentioned. "Run" (George Strait) hasn't but is a cool song by a cool artist.

"Where The Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly" was the other post-9/11 song, the one I actually like a lot better than "Where Were You." But since people have heard of Alan Jackson and haven't heard of Aaron Tippin, you know which one will be remembered.
I aced the Wonderlic
Did you?

You know, some people say that the Wonderlic test is overemphasized but as a matter of principle I couldn't hire someone who did badly on a test this easy. Football looks like a dumb person's game but there's a lot of cleverness required, at least a lot of decision-making, memorization of plays and patterns, and so on.
Stuff on CNN
Rashes. This was the biggest story in the Oregon papers earlier this week, other than some boring stuff about the state budget and ongoing Christian Longo news. (Longo is not to be confused with Roberto Luongo.)

Convictions overturned. You wouldn't know from the headlines, but the overturned convictions look like only the obstruction of justice ones. Abner Louima's actual attacker(s) still face(s) being locked with key thrown away. When Willy and Corwyn and I helped that woman help that strung-out guy, Willy pointed out the risk we'd incurred of being assaulted by a crazed druggie. "We had numbers," I insisted. He asked me if I'd ever seen the first part of the Rodney King video, the part that sensationalist newscasts never showed, where King was singlehandedly beating the tar out of several cops until they could finally subdue him. (For what it's worth, the Portland strung-out sidewalk guy is white, as was everyone else involved in that incident: The woman, the guy in the car, the cop, the paramedics, Corwyn, Willy, and myself. Multiple people who've known Corwyn online but not in person have assumed for some reason that he was black. This makes his Republican activism slightly more amusing but not much.)

Celebrity Boxing. I might actually watch the "Battle of the Bad Girls," since they were the anti-heroines of the last two national news phenomena that I can remember actively obsessing over. (O.J. killed the joy of shock-news obsessions, among other things. I did closely follow some Clinton scandals, but this was blind seething outrage rather than any kind of rapt attention. Eventually the outrage forced me for my own good to start ignoring anything Clintonian.)

Monday Night Madden. Awww yeah.

Furtado shafted. CNN actually didn't seem to cover this, or hasn't bothered to put out an article with who actually won the awards. (Sorry, I didn't watch.) There are two sides to every kiss-of-death "Best New Artist" award: The artist who gets it and goes THUD, but also the artist who in hindsight will appear to have deserved it. Ask me about Nellie Furtado in five years or so.
People Who Can Suck Me
The California Department of Motor Vehicles on general principle
GE/Colonial Penn for depositing my $2,300 check but issuing me no policy
Wells Fargo for not issuing me a new ATM card (old one expires 02/02)

Come tomorrow, I'll be on my first day on the job but I'll also be driving highly illegally, with no grace period and no easy source of money.

To: Bureaucrats the world over
From: Me
Re: making me bend over

F*ck the lot of you

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Sarah Danielle Madison
...is the actress, Sarah Glass the character. Apparently I'm a Johnny-come-lately to this well-known wedding plot line.

Hard time finding any pics of her though. C'est la vie.
Matt's New Celebrity Crush Math
(Sara Gilbert x Reese Witherspoon) / 2 = Alyson Hannigan

So in which season will Hannigan do the voiceover for Bart Simpson's new girlfriend?
Seventh Heaven, Alyson Hannigan, et al
Some TV/VCR thoughts. I couldn't decide whether to blog these or write kickass Cancel Bowl questions about 'em. But I'll go ahead and ruin the material, thus forcing my Cancel Bowl pack to be somewhat less disturbing than it would have been. In no particular order...

So I Married An Axe Murderer. The guy at the rental place was visibly impressed that we rented this. "Best movie ever!" he exclaimed. He asked his counter buddy, "isn't that right?" The counter buddy sorted of said yeah in a humoring-him way. Another member of the Mike Myers cult, revealed. There are some plausibility problems with SIMAAM that I'd never really thought about and probably shouldn't because it misses the point. Still... if you can't even tell your girlfriend that you honestly worry about whether she's some axe-murderess, seems like a communication problem or two.

American Pie II. Now that I've seen it, I really really should see the original. Of the two, I actually liked it better than SIMAAM. Feels like I should turn in some sort of badge for saying that, but it's true. In particular, I want to be the father of Michelle's (Alyson Hannigan) children. Good god. That part singlehandedly tore up and repaved everything I thought I ever knew about celebrity crushes. That is so the woman I want, everything from band geek to (shy but trying to do a sweet thing for the guy she likes) to unabashed kink.

Note that I hadn't previously been exposed to Hannigan, at least not much. Hadn't seen either American Pie. Since I never watch Buffy on purpose, the whole Willow is so cool! meme was only second-hand to me. I'll buy it, though I suspect that my abject longing isn't for Hannigan so much as for Michelle. (If it were purely about actresses, well, there are certainly much worse things in life than thinking you're about to watch Mena Suvari play with herself.)

Seventh Heaven. The Tuesday dinner thing precluded being subjected to Buffy, though Corwyn and I (and Willy!--for the second half) did watch Seventh Heaven on Monday. Note that Corwyn gets lousy, unusable reception on every station except for the Portland WB and UPN affiliates. (If he's hooked on something on any other network, he has to go to Willy's to watch it.)

Don't know if anyone who reads this watches Seventh Heaven--I never had until Monday night--but the oldest brother of all those siblings? He's about to go to medical school, yet he's decided he wants to get married. Starts reading bridal magazines and all that. So this woman he works with at whatever clinic it is, this gal also about to go to the same med school as he, picked up on the fact that he was doing this. She asked him what he was looking for in a wife, and called him on it when she caught him quoting verbatim from a bridal magazine article reader's answer. It turns out that these two people have amazing chemistry, and possibly in earlier episodes had crushes on each other (I honestly don't know), such that they're immediately hitting it off and he proposed to her on like the second date. A couple of problems have come up. In no particular order...

He's a Republican. She wouldn't even think of being Republican, though she admits to liking both Rumsfield and Bush.
He's dirt-poor, she's trust-fund rich. (This doesn't sound like a problem, though, just one of those "oh" moments.)
He doesn't like baseball (WTF?!), she's a diehard Yankee fan, watches every game. "Baseball is life!"

Most importantly, though, he's Protestant, a minister's kid. She Jewish, a rabbi's daughter. The rabbi is played by Richard Lewis. Or, as Willy inflected it when he was startled by the guest appearance, "that's Richard Lewis!? It's a rabbi, but it's Richard Lewis." Eventually we restored Willy's jaw to its rightful, non-dropped position.

Now, maybe my mind is in a weird state, but even independently of my wanting Michelle Flaherty (or Alyson Hannigan if you prefer, but note that my hopeless crush on Lisa Simpson has NOTHING to do with Yeardley Smith, and generalize as appropriate), this woman is also someone who I deeply, desperately want. Not sure what role her Judaism plays, but the actress who plays her is drop-dead beautiful, and the character herself freely and hilariously speaks her mind. I want an assertive woman, you see.

But it's a little bit disturbing what the character names are. This couple is Matt and Sarah. (Or "Sara"? Trying to find info on-line as I type.) My name is Matt. My sister's name is Sarah. Then again, I guess in my lifetime I've had crushes on more than one "Sarah"--unsurprising given that I've known what seems like dozens of them. (Almost as many as the Matt's I've known.)
Omnibus Portland Recap
Lots to talk about, much of which I've probably already forgotten. Need to keep a little calendar with me to jot down quick observations, but would that be a metajournal?

Pulled out of the 24-hour parking lot at 6:30 a.m. exactly (by my car clock) this morning and into a parking spot a half-block from my home at 4:00 p.m. exactly (also by my car clock). What's disturbing about this, apart from the round numbers on both ends, is that 4:00 is precisely what my arrival goal was. Actually what's disturbing about this, according to Corwyn (when I sent him a "home-safely" note), is how balls-out I supposedly drive.

(Well, everyone in my core audience has taken a long car/van trip on which I drove part or all-way, so this is probably not new to you.)

Stopped three times, which is two more than I ought to have. Got gas in Yreka. Had to get gas at some point. But instead of just buying a soda from the gas station (planned not to have lunch since I'd been munching on TGIF Quesadilla Chips in a Bag (as sold by the Plaid Pantry, Portland's Store 24 equivalent) all morning), I neglected to get any caffeine there. Feeling as though I were about to fall asleep at the wheel and die, I pulled into the Cypress Ave exit in Redding, went to the same Del Taco I'd gone to on the way, and not only got a 44-oz soda but also some sort of "macho burrito."

The third stop is what you might have guessed from the 44-oz soda. Kept driving past rest stops and arrogantly assuming I could hold it awhile longer. When I was almost back in town anyway, finally just couldn't. Had to exit somewhere between Vacaville and Vallejo, SPRINT into a Chevron men's room, and drain like there was no tomorrow.

Quick mention here of a promising (but ultimately disappointing) radio station as well as an insipid one. "Red 103" in Redding (no web page, at least none found here) almost singlehandedly saved my morale, right as I was pulling in for lunch, by playing Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" for my cranking pleasure. They then played a bunch of the kind of hard rock you'd expect, none of which really wowed me. I've become jaded. Blame the Bone in part, but just how many times in your lifetime can you hear the likes of "Girls Girls Girls" before it just gets worn out?

Don't blame the Bone for what sucked about KGON in Portland. Both may use the phrase "classic rock," but they have little in common, nor is either station very similar to WZLX. The core-constituency artists (small sample size I guess) at KGON were Tom Petty (ugh) and Carlos Santana (double-ugh). Lots of whiny stoner guys who think they rock but really don't. Oh and the Marshall Tucker Band. Basically, take the phrase "classic rock" and try to come up with the worst possible definition of that phrase. Then put the syndicated "Mark and Brian" program onto their morning drive time.

Signs your radio station sucks: Syndicated morning shows!! They all suck. Let's exhaust the possibilities. If your morning show is Howard Stern, the reason your station probably sucks is that it used to be a good rocking station but doesn't play real music anymore. If your morning show is Imus, your station sucks because either it's a talk station or it doesn't know what the hell it's supposed to be. If your morning show is anyone other than Stern or Imus, then why aren't you just doing your own damn morning show in the first place? I dislike Imus as a matter of taste and even Howard can grate on me but I'll give them both credit for talent. Nobody else in syndicated morning radio -- Mancow, Mark and Brian, you name it -- has any business doing multi-market.

When did I become such a freak about radio stuff? Don't ask me, I just am. Hey, I know I have some COM alumni in my core audience, maybe you get a kick out of it.

That more or less covers my trip home. Oh yeah, I feel sunburnt from all that driving in the sunny state of California. And I did a lot of cruise-controlling at exactly 15 m.p.h. over the limit (usually limit 65 in Oregon, limit 70 in California; some variations on curves or construction zones). Sometimes I'd be the "leader of the pack," or even right behind a "leader," those wonderful moments of confluence when two drivers just the right distance apart immediately realize that their preferred cruise control speeds match. The "leader of the pack" has to coordinate slowdowns and lane changes related to what happens when a merely excruciatingly slow truck dares to pass a glacially slow truck if there are just two lanes of traffic in the relevant direction.

Quick Notes About Corwyn
His shirts don't seem to fit him well. I've had that problem in the past, I guess. I really shouldn't say something like that on what amounts to a public forum but... I worry, and I'm not sure how to express that worry. (Corwyn definitely doesn't read any weblogs. Willy expressed some disdain about the idea of personal weblogs, which led me not to talk about mine after all.) We definitely didn't eat very well while I was visiting him. All our meals were out to eat, sometimes gratuitously to Carl's (Monday, when we tooled around downtown Portland) or KFC (on the road to Mt. Saint Helen's Tuesday).

So about Derek Lowe--does this amount to gratuitous blogback? It's always weird to see a fat Red Sox reliever other than Rich Garces. One time I noticed that Jim Corsi had put on a view pounds. This was back when I heckled and stuff. In this case, something like...

Hey Corsi, you look like Guapo! Hey, I'll go on Weight Watchers if you do!

Notionally I'm still losing weight. It's possible that I've hit a plateau, which is better than a relapse but still suboptimal. I hope there's a gym somewhere near Vectiv. Odd that it took until now for me to even ponder that.

Willy is still tallish and thinnish. He works too damn hard, as always. He's on his judicial externship with a federal court judge. The judge flew somewhere Monday for on-location proceedings. Therefore Willy's weekend was hell but after a quick Saturday night chat, he got to hang out with us Monday night (we went to some bar that had no customers but was showing Apocalypse Now) and Tuesday night.

Tuesday night I took them out to Jake's, a seafoody place downtown. I meant to treat them both but Willy believed that he ought not be treated; he could see treating Corwyn, since it was Corwyn's place where I crashed. Jake's was really nice, with one caveat: I keep forgetting that I don't like prime rib. Nothing particularly bad except that as a matter of taste, it's not my thing. Only I always forget that I don't like prime rib, and order it anyway, when maybe some other cut (or, heaven forbid, actual seafood?!) would have been more enjoyable. From this point on let me never forget, that as a simple matter of taste I do not like prime rib and therefore ought not order it.

After Jake's, as we were walking home we found this strung-out guy passed out on the sidewalk. Big dude, with icky-looking fluids coming out of his eyes and mouth. Sounded like difficulty breathing. Some woman was already there (apparently she'd found him on the sidewalk), along with a guy in a car who'd just called 911. The woman asked us to help her put the guy on his side so that he couldn't choke on any of his body fluids. Then the police and ambulance got there. Cop asked the guy some questions but he didn't stand a chance of answering coherently. To every question the answer vaguely resembled, Huh?!? HUNGHshshshshrrrrrrrnnnnn. We inconspicuously departed the scene, hoping that the dude was in good care.

That night in Willy's apartment, we chatted awhile and then someone gratuitously mentioned Alan Keyes. Willy suddenly realized that Alan Keyes Is Making Sense was actually on at that very moment. So we watched it, transfixed. As Willy puts it, "if you put a beard and a turban on Alan Keyes, he'd look really hilarious. He'd also look a lot like Osama bin Laden." We came up with an Alan Keyes drinking game that involves his uncanny ability to speak in thoughtful, intelligent, complete paragraphs. Sip every time he avoids a common grammatical pitfall but chug every time he actually does mangle syntax. (Which is rarely if ever.)

Keyes, unlike (say) Chris Matthews, has the virtue that he doesn't interrupt his guests. This meant that everyone on his show got to speak themselves in well-formed paragraphs.

Making fun of (but also to some extent highly esteeming) Alan Keyes is an example of what makes Willy Jay tick. So what makes Corwyn tick? Some of you will get a kick out of this: What makes Corwyn tick includes Arena Football.

("Bakersfield!? I can't believe BAKERSFIELD has an Arena II team and Portland can't even support one.")

Although I've mentioned that Corwyn is plus-sized, from New York, opinionated, and a football fan, this probably gives you entirely the wrong impression of him. He's somewhat soft-spoken, though he also speaks at the breakneck spoken-word pace that seemingly all New Yorkers have. He likes to talk, though his speech is soft and understated. The part of Long Island he's from is very blue-collar.

What else to say? Oh yeah, Mount St. Helens is very scenic, especially where the timber line is between the part that private logging companies have reseeded and the part the gov't has left alone. We got a little lost, which meant we didn't get to see any Visitor's Centers, but what we did see was breathtaking.

Corwyn followed a couple of job leads while I was in town but got squeezed by the whole overqualified/underqualified thing.

Last but not least, unrelated to Corwyn, I listened to a lot of country music in the radio hinterlands. This includes the top 40 countdown, where I became familiar with (and had reinforced by subsequent airplay) several songs. Among them...
Dixie Chicks, "Some Days You Gotta Dance"
Brad Paisley, "(Put A Ring On The Finger I'm) Wrapped Around"
Martina McBride, "Blessed"
[I didn't catch his name but it's #1 overall], "Good Morning Beautiful"

Amazing to me how many country songs are about the joy of engagement and marriage. I don't know how many other artists, if any, have songs like Paisley's "Wrapped Around." Definitely can't picture Aerosmith taking that material.

Oh yeah, and Alan Jackson. The new Lee Greenwood? He had that "Where Were You On That September Day" song (which seems vaguely cheesy) but he also had a song, "Drive," about his dad teaching him how to drive and later his teaching his daughters how. Again, great country material.

Country music has a bad rap from all those "my wife left me and my dog died" beer-crying songs but there's an amazingly uplifting trend, at least in what's currently atop the charts. Don't forget (though his name escapes me) the guy with the song about how it's a pretty good flag, bald eagle, statue in the harbor and so on.

My "stop the world" moment of today's drive. Some small-town, catch-all station played Alan Jackson followed by Janet Jackson. The latter featured a disturing sample of... damned if I can get the title OR artist, some classic rock smack that sounds like CSNY. Actually it's America, "Ventura Highway." Yes, Janet Jackson sampled that. Just kill me now.

Monday, February 25, 2002

Quick Notes From Portland, OR
Got here safe and sound Saturday night. Left 2:15 p.m., arrived 12:45 a.m. Stopped for gas near Chico (where I-5 meets Cali 32) and in Springfield, OR. Stopped at Redding (town at base of mountains, whose sole purpose seems to be to serve interstate travelers) for dinner at a Del Taco. (Start with Taco Bell but upgrade a couple notches; works only if native to CA.) Since Del Taco had 44-oz beverages, stopped not one or two but THREE times for bathroom breaks at Oregon rest stops. This is very unlike me. But at the final stop, just south of Salem, called Corwyn to touch base and all.

Parked at a lot that charges $6/day for all day parking, actually 24/hr, except that no matter when you buy, "all day" runs out at midnight. So every night around 12:02 a.m. I run out and get another $6 ticket to put on my dash.

Saturday night, Corwyn and I hung out at Willy Jay's a bit. The two of them had been at a party and drank heavily but were not acting drunk. Willy's very tired these days, very hard at work for his judge (he's on a judicial externship). We won't see him again until tonight sometime.

Willy lives on the 18th floor of a gray building called "the battleship" for its paint job. Corwyn is across the street from him in a much cheaper building. This is near 23rd and Burnside, if you know much about Portland geography, though I know next to nothing.

Portland has quadrants, where Burnside is the X axis and some river is the Y axis. SE is quiet, average, and residential. NE is somewhat yuppied, though all in patches. NE is also where the Rose Garden is. SW has the downtown area and PGE park and possibly some yuppy to rival NE. NW is stratified a bit: The North corridor (more like north central than NW) is very industrial and also has shades of the Hood. But once you get out to 23rd (or "Trendy-Third"), think of night clubs and espresso and so on.

Corwyn and Willy both live closer to PGE park than I ever did to Fenway. I'm mildly jealous. Depends on how much you value Triple-A.

Sunday we went to a pub owned by McMenamen's. (spelling is wrong) Apparently EVERY Portland pub with microbrews and such is owned by the same company but they have different names, like "Ram's Head." We ate burgers and drank root beer, Corwyn because he was somewhat hung over and me because I decided at the last minute not to drink alcohol, thus totally defeating the purpose of being there.

(Did I ever mention I HATE bar food? I'm such a conoisseur of unhealthy food, especially mall food courts and Applebee's and the like, but I loathe those places where the menu consists entirely of overpriced hamburgers and/or an obligatory chicken sandwich with pretentious ingredients. Bad cost/benefit ratio on the food! Nothing tasty.)

I drove and Corwyn navigated on a rambling tour of Portland itself, most scenically the hills just south of where Corwyn and Willy are (SW is a quadrant of great contrast: The downtown but also some rural-seeming hills around Oregon Health & Science University.)

Later on we ordered a pizza from Escape from New York, rented some movies (So I Married an Axe Murderer & American Pie II; wanted Shrek but they were out), and collaborated on Corwyn's cover letters.

(He'd been at Stanford immunology grad school, burned out a bit, taking time off now, went to bartending school, got out just in time for bartending jobs to completely dry up. Now his prospects are bartending, things similar to it (e.g. hotel front desk), clerical/office temp, manual labor(!), or--most recent idea--sales jobs that claim "no experience required." All this follows from what the Oregonian help wanted classifieds list.)

Today it's raining. We'll have a look at Pioneer Plaza, I'll do this fantasy baseball crap (URL forthcoming) at 6 p.m., then Willy will join us for TBA. Tuesday during the day we'll go to Mt. St. Helen's, then Tuesday evening yet again TBA with Willy.

Wednesday around 6 a.m. I'll leave here. Wednesday late in the afternoon IN THEORY I'll run errands. In practice I'll probably say the hell with it, too tired, thus defeating the purpose of leaving so early. :-)

Corwyn's VCR sucks (bad motor, he's well aware of it) and he loves to talk. Otherwise I'm having fun. It's vaguely similar in timescale and suspension of the rest of my life to having Sarah come to SF. Only, of course, I'm guesting instead of hosting. Oregon is likeable. It's almost exactly what I expected it to be, especially the scenery.

Once we get into Washington tomorrow, my "states NOT visited in the U.S." will dwindle to...
Alaska
Hawaii (hey, I wonder if Avynne ever reads this or if she's drawn the matt979/[my alter ego] connection yet)
Idaho
Montana
North Dakota
South Dakota
Wisconsin(! - you'd think I'd been there but I'm fairly certain I haven't)
New Mexico
of these I predict NM comes last.

Corwyn makes Earl Grey tea for me which is wonderful when I have the patience to let it cool to my preferred temperature, which some would claim is barely room temperature. He has a one-bedroom with a weird walkthrough situation: living room (with couch) -> bedroom -> kitchen -> bathroom. The computer (signed on to AOL, woo-hoo!) is in the bedroom. He's showering as I type this. OR, just shut off the water. Onto a quick e-mail check, then lunch somewhere.