Thursday, March 07, 2002

These Are Heady Times
I just made an on-line reservation at Caesar's Palace. This seems wrong somehow. We'll see if it works.
Intermittend outbursts yesterday afternoon and this morning. The only times I've seen it rain harder were Oklahoma thunderstorms and Orlando at 2:45 p.m. every afternoon.
Before I Go To Vegas
Off-site meeting begins in an hour. Objectives:

  • Presentation and discussion of Profit Plan 2002 including identification of key challenges

  • Revisit Vectiv's culture and values

  • Presentation of new compensation plan

  • Review refinements in Vectiv's positioning

  • Have fun and learn more about each other

Based on other handout content, Vectiv appears to have exactly 25 employees (counting me).

After the off-site, everyone else goes to a Happy Hour at Chevy's. I go to 2706 MLK, grab Mike and Joon, and drive to a Baseball Prospectus pizza feed.

My car is insured, registered, stickered, and cleaned out. The smell of Glade is starting to mask the smell of sesame seed oil. (Not that it makes a HUGE difference, since I'm flying and not driving to Las Vegas. It's almost as far as to Portland.)

Last but not least, if anyone cares:
I did NOT specifically remember the March 8 date. Rather, once I realized the time periods were close, I looked it up.
Vegas Style
March 8-10, 2002, is the National Open chess tournament. (Thanks to side events, it's actually March 7-11 but the main tourney is March 8-10.) Pending my phoned-in hotel reservation, I'll be there for it.

By sheer dumb coincidence that marks the fifth anniversary of March 8, 1997, the day I got on a plane from Las Vegas to Phoenix, wandered around the Phoenix airport a bit (stepped outside to feel the 90-degree dry heat, the technicality on which I base my having "been to Arizona"), then got on a plane going to Boston via Las Vegas. So that makes three distinct takeoff-landing sequences, of which I could have avoided the first two had the gate attendant not been an airhead.

Then again, this was a very last minute itinerary, the return to Boston. I was supposed to have flown on to San Diego and spent a week with my ex-girlfriend (ex as in we were already exes then) and her parents. Why? This is unclear.

Friday night we'd flown from Boston to Las Vegas on a flight that was so bad that I vowed after this trip was over never ever again to fly America West. So far I've kept that promise to myself. The time in Vegas was technically an 18-hour layover, basically an excuse to spend some time there. I needed to sleep. Debbie, after our 1 a.m. arrival time and room check-in and so on, immediately went to the casino for several hours of blackjack. Saturday we had a really good buffet breakfast and took a long walk up and down the main drag, into and out of various hotel lobbies, including but not limited to Caesar's Palace and Luxor. Despite the fight we'd gotten into Friday night at Logan Airport, things were going swimmingly.

We got into a silly, pointless argument at some sort of ice cream parlor, about how Keno works, of all things. Without a word she got up and walked out. At this point I'm following my travel companion and she's a few paces ahead, refusing to speak to or acknowledge me. She has the claim tickets for our luggage. She has the itinerary. Hell, she's the one who knows what to do when the plane lands in San Diego. If her parents were going to pick us up, they'd recognize her, not me.

It turned out to be a very very long walk back to the hotel. (I do distinctly remember that at some point a man and woman came walking the other direction. Noticing that I was following this woman and that she was pointedly not saying a word to me, the guy asked me how long we'd been married.) Back at the hotel she got our bags and handed me mine. We waited in the taxicab line. Not sure whether it was the hot weather (well, compared to a Boston winter), the long walk, the silent treatment, or all three, but suddenly my body was done for the day.

If I've ever had fainting spells then I've apparently had exactly two of them. Both times someone else noticed something was wrong before I did. Both times -- the other time was the last time I attempted to give blood -- someone else told me very urgently that I needed to lie down before I fell down. It's unclear how you can be unaware that you're losing your balance until someone else tells you you're losing your balance, but it's true.

(The Red Cross lady (this was my senior year of college) told me as nicely as possible that I probably shouldn't attempt to give blood again, since the concept of it apparently stresses me out too much. From then until September 12, 2001, I was very happy not to come near a bloodmobile. I actually was going to give blood to "do my part" after the attack, but when we called the waiting list was over a week.)

Back to Las Vegas, 1997. This guy on the ground (me) apparently resulted in some commotion. People asked if I was all right. My gut response was that I wasn't. Among other things, I couldn't talk. I tried to talk but couldn't actually enunciate words. My first choice was to see a doctor. The cabdriver, of all people, talked us out of this. We went to the airport. On the way to the airport, I explained as best I could why I couldn't go on to San Diego. Not to hurt anyone's feelings, but it just wasn't going to work.

Maybe I've had three of these whatever-you'd-call them. (My mom was convinced that the Las Vegas one was just heat stroke.) The third time there was no risk of falling from a movie theater seat. Something about There's Something About Mary made me get progressively more anxious, and progressively more dead certain that I needed to be somewhere, anywhere, other than that specific theater. Or rather, something about watching There's Something About Mary with a woman who, for various reasons, I didn't think I should be dating. The process of explaining in slurred speech why I couldn't go to San Diego seems very similar to the process of explaining in slurred speech why I couldn't keep dating.

Hey, I wonder if the 1997 National Open was taking place while I was in the city. I could have ditched Debbie to go play chess. That would've gone over well.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Willow vs. Michelle
Just caught 30 seconds of a Buffy rerun. Alyson Hannigan is an extraordinarily talented actress, but not as attractive in her own right as I'd thought. Guess my actual crush was on the character.
Yet more people who have weblogs...
You know this person. (Where "you" refers to the half-dozen or so core audience members.) She played in a Terrier Tussle once, read for a Harvard tournament once. Also was once somewhat of a Usenet celebrity, similar to how I used to be somewhat of a Usenet celebrity. I'm actually surprised at how uninteresting this is, relative to her other on-line content. It's all context, though. She writes to an audience that doesn't include me. I pretty blatantly write to an audience. Neither of us will ever be confused with the Lileks guy.

You don't know this person. I barely know him myself but from what I do know he compares highly favorably to The Onion's supportive gay friend. That's not important. What's important is that he writes well. Maybe his secret is to write more sparingly?
Ned Flanders Keeps Banker's Hours
Met with my Good Neighbor today. This made me nontrivially late. A meeting was postponed half an hour, solely because of me. You wouldn't believe how awful this makes me feel. Whenever I walk in unconscionably late, I'm always deathly pale and a little bit stomach-swimming. This is always in equal parts real (being late makes me anxious), fake (looking sick makes being sick plausible and being sick is a reasonable excuse), and psychomatic (anything you fake, eventually becomes real). Don't try this at home.

On the plus side my insurance problems and car problems may be solved at long last. Actually, car problems do remain:
I need a tuneup. They say to get your oil changed, what, every 3,000 miles and see a mechanic every 5,000? Well, it's been 18,000 and counting since I got this vehicle and... I'll get it looked at soon. Just take it into my trusted mechanic (the one who fixed my broken door handle last July and didn't even charge me!), tell them to look at everything, leave it for the day... soon as I'm insured and DMV-compliant and all that.

My car smells like sesame seed oil. This is all Chad Kubicek's fault. Sesame seed oil was one of the things he foisted on me, not even on moving day but rather the preceding Super Bowl Sunday. I managed never to take the sesame seed oil in from the back seat of my car. And then at some point on the Portland trip, I must have done something that caused the lid to open and the contents to leak. Long story short, it's a really really really gross smell and it won't go away. I have to figure out how to make it go away.

I also have to make this one bug go away. It's not even a "bug" in that it's not actually on the defect manager. But it's blocking my ability to test the bug I did take. The behavior I'm observing can't possibly happen, except that it is happening. And I just noticed something that looks evil, in a method that shouldn't have been being messed with. I want my afternoon back.

Monday, March 04, 2002

Corporate QOTD: Monday, March 4
"Please take the time to fill out the survey below, as we would like more feedback prior to our offsite. Your answers are confidential, however we can tell who has responded and who has not." (emphasis added)

That's right folks, CFO Mark G. Thompson knows when you've been sleeping, knows when you're awake, knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.

Seriously, I don't care who knows what I said on my survey because it basically amounts to:
Keep the retreat short and sweet.
Everything else about Vectiv is perfect but meetings are inherently bad.
Hold fewer meetings.
...and so on.. -- with a little bit about making sure sales people don't promise stuff that techies can't deliver too, but you get the gist.

Corporate QOTD may or may not become a daily feature, depending on whether enough material presents itself. Friday's quote, courtesy of the VP of Engineering, can no longer be captured exactly (my memory's not so good) but I can definitely tell you it included the phrase, "rearranging Helen Keller's furniture." (Doing that is a Bad Thing, as -- apparently -- is spending too much time on repeatedly overhauling a web site, if the cumulative effort spent ends up cancelling itself out.)
My News
In no particular order..

Got the W-4 and I-9 from HR today. Forgot to bring my passport. I'll have to remember it tomorrow. They trust me: I've been here before. I won't turn out to be an illegal alien. Come to think of it a bunch of likely illegals stand on the street corner a half-block from here, looking for day work. I always wonder how they'd do if Vectiv's CEO went out and hauled 'em in to try to fix bugs. Somedays I think they'd do no worse than I do.

Got an appointment at State Farm tomorrow morning. The clerical worker there had trouble with both the phone system and the English language but she seems nice enough. The knock on State Farm is high rates but surely nothing higher than what I saw on-line. Ruth Lee is conveniently located in the Sunset. I may be one of her few non-Asian clients.

It's unclear whether this appointment will get me paperwork in time for my March 6 (Wednesday) DMV rendezvous, or whether my "we're insuring you but it expires March 12" letter from GE/Colonial Penn will suffice as proof of insurance. The struggle continues there.

Yahoo! Messenger kept booting me again. That makes two computers, and I refuse to believe they're BOTH on the wrong end of firewalls. It's plausible that I'd have been too busy today to have signed onto chat in the first place. I really wish it'd been that instead of this. It's frustrating is all, almost but not quite as frustrating as the idea that I'm probably taking this way harder than she would in the same situation.

(AOL Instant Messenger works fine from this machine, for what it's worth.)

Got my time off requests approved for March 8 (chess, Las Vegas), April 4-5 (NAQT ICT, Chapel Hill), and June 7 (NAQT High School, Austin). Assuming I took NO other time off between now and June 7, that would leave me with ONE vacation day left (not counting the one accrued by working through June or the ones accrued in July onward). Spending that one vacation day on a pipe-dreamy Cancel Bowl trip seems sketchy.

This place has GREAT health benefits and 401(k) type stuff. The one downside for compensation is relatively stingy vacation time.

A run on pitchers is supposedly about to happen in the RMO. I can handle that. Mike Cameron unbelievably is still out there, as is (for value relative to the remaining alternatives at the position) Marcus Giles.

Tomorrow I'll vote for Riordan in the California GOP gubernatorial primary, on the theory that I'd much rather Gray Davis lose in November than win in November. I suspect that I live in a household that will lead to a lot of... Oh crap. I'll vote for some goofball in the Libertarian primary tomorrow. Damn closed primaries. Maybe I won't vote.

Thursday Vectiv has an off-site but I personally also have a BP pizza feed, which requires showing up at the MLK crib around 5:55 for 6 p.m. departure to some East Bay suburb (Concord?). Balancing this will be tricky.
Today's News Frightens Me
Which of these stories is most disturbing?
A. Ozzy gets a family sitcom. I think I'd actually watch this. The theoretical concept of Ozzy Osbourne's 17-year-old daughter is somewhat attractive to me. The real-life one though, eh... seen better, seen worse.

B. Catfight at the screen actor's guild. My head hurts.

C. Ground Zero Flag ownership claimed. Dude, just let it go. I know all they want is the recognition, but... whatever. If it were me I think I'd keep my mouth shut. Don't firefighters have better things to do than sign affadavits?

D. Paula Jones replaces Amy Fisher. James Carville may have been right after all. He was still a jackass for smearing her (the quote about $100 bills and "trailer trash") but... words fail me. In the end Jones wasn't at all who I thought she was. Then again, neither was David Brock. (Question about Brock that probably ought to be relegated to political blogs: If he was an opportunistic charlatan as a right-winger, what on Earth makes him NOT an opportunistic charlatan now? Lock him in a closet with Whitaker Chambers.)

E. Cap flap at Yankee camp. We have a winner. Don't be discouraged by my no longer rooting for the Red Sox: There's a still a huge difference between benign apathy for a team and utter loathing of it. This is just reason #[some five-digit number] to despise the Yankees above and beyond any other despicable franchise. Hey, Pettitte is a native Texan. Maybe he'd rather pitch in Arlington?
Joe Queenan, Call Your Office
I own three of these. A vast majority of the other 22 are so execrable that you wouldn't believe me if I tried to tell you.

Twenty-One Twelve
Yeah yeah, I'm going to bed soon.

While I was en route to D&D and while The Bone was finishing up the T's, they played the full 20:34 version of the Rush song 2112. I don't think I'd ever heard it before but knowing the band and the place in the alphabet and the sheer length and over-the-topness of the allegory made it pretty obvious which song it was. Next up alphabetically was the Black Crowes' "Twice As Hard."
Five Best Albums
The other thing in "blog queue." Saturday night someone asked me to name the five best (rock/pop) albums ever. It was someone whose own answer included Disintegration, The Unforgettable Fire, and at least one Oasis album.

It's a hard-to-answer question and not all that useful, sort of like baseball fans who debate marginal Hall of Famers. But off the top of my head, my five were
Veruca Salt, American Thighs
Hole, Live Through This
Creed, Human Clay
Metallica, Reload
U2, The Joshua Tree

Your mileage definitely varies, especially since my own might vary if I thought about it a little more. My roommate Chris, for example, is highly partial to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.
Something that isn't about Veruca Salt...
...but instead something even worse?

You know what, I'll ruin the ending for you since the story's pretty boring. Basically I got to give an orc an obscene gesture in a context where the obscene gesture was both relevant and useful. Even better, I got to create a massive explosion that killed a bunch of orcs and left a six-foot crater.

Had an unusually good D&D campaign today. Some day I should make a gratuitous web page about this campaign. The basics...

Background (skippable, really)
I am Boddicker LaSalle, named after pitcher Mike Boddicker and explorer Robert LaSalle. (Both choices are utterly random.) Human warrior, background as a sailor, introduced to the rest of the gang on a ghost-ship adventure. Big ugly dude, strong and hardy (Strength and Constitution, for you D&D freaks), able to absorb massive amounts of damage without going down but also able to inflict massive amounts of damage that ideally do cause an opponent to go down. Boddicker is at his best if he's fighting four or five evil dudes at once. He's at his worst if he has to interact with other people, though is heart's in the right place (Neutral Good).

Boddicker has a knack for coming up with both the dumbest and the most frighteningly brilliant plans for accomplishing things, as you'll see. He's played by someone who rolls both 20's and 1's on a d20 astonishingly frequently, leading to sublime and catastrophic results. (Late in the ghost ship adventure, serving no purpose whatsoever, I tossed some chum out just to attract sharks and get some harpoon practice in. Rolled a 1, fell overboard, got mauled by the sharks, lived to tell about it, so it goes.)

Boddicker's buddies include Lytel Broadleaf, a charismatic elvin bard who sings beautiful songs but has amazingly consistent bad luck in battle, or anything involving dice. Especially anything involving the gain of hit points. (Lytel doesn't have the best Constitution.) Neville (I forget if he has a last name) is a human fighter who wants to be a great swordsman, this after dropping out of the magic academy. (Mmm... multi-classing.) Sure of foot and with multiple attacks, Neville wins style points (read: high Dexterity). Neville wants the great swordsman Ortin to train him but even more desperately wants the hand of Ortin's daughter Teira.

Emandrick (Stephen S. Lee doesn't seem to have a home page, though his baseball team is really good lately) is a priest of the sun god Calydon. One time Emandrick inadvertently introduced himself as "Calydon, a priest of Emandrick," leading to the usual running jokes. As with any cleric in a fledgling party, Emandrick's biggest asset is the ability to Cure Light Wounds. Then there's Art, a gnome (with a long last name that nobody ever remembered). He was played by David Alpert, my Google contact, who recently decided he doesn't have time to game anymore. Conveniently, Art disappeared from the party right after David stopped coming. We were ransacking the tomb of an ancient king and Art made off with a bunch of treasure, like the little thief he is.

The Good Stuff
Today's adventure began where the last one left off, with the four of us on an island along with a wizard named Leovan (non-party character), discovering that the handful of orcs we'd chased were retreating to an encampment of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of orcs. The island had a big tent in the middle that seemed to be orc headquarters, plus a castle on the opposite end of the island from us. And a bunch of folks in black robes, necromancers.

We were able to sneak across the island (through some hills) to the castle, with a ruined side and a mostly pristine side. On the ruined side, some passageways. One of those passageways led us to a dank pool of water with these mutant half-man, half-salamander creatures that nearly killed Neville but were still subdueable. Another passageway led us to some rubble, beyond which lay this corridor. We were able to waylay some young female necromancer, interrogate her (didn't learn much), and so on.

You know those bad movies where the protagonists waylay someone to steal their clothes and pose as them? We decided to procure some black robes, pretend to be necromancers, do mean things to the orcs, and turn the orcs and necromancers against each other. This involved busting up a necromancer poker game -- yet another battle royale, this time with Lytel nearly dying -- and we're still not even to the best part.

The necromancers were traveling alone or in pairs among the orcs, presumably giving them food and water (we learned from the one we captured that they were helping the orcs to become stronger so that the orcs would do their bidding). So we decided to split up, me with Lytel and Neville with the wizard, casually slip our way to the orc HQ tent, and cause some havoc that'd be blamed on the necromancers. (Emandrick couldn't take part in this kind of dishonesty, so he got to drive the escape raft.)

So some orc called out to me and Lytel, motioning us over, unfortunately in a language we couldn't understand. When we refused to actually go over to him, he started shouting (presumably) rude things to us. I asked DM Igor, is there some sort of universal obscene gesture in this world? Sure enough, as in real life, the finger does the trick. Or technically, the whole arm. That's right folks, I flipped off an orc. Who promptly ran after us with a club. Lytel shot an arrow at the poor thing. Then we were beset by other orcs, one of whom Lytel (at the cost of a hero point) chopped up impressively.

Then we had to beat a retreat but I dropped my bucket of water so that when I was like 20 feet away, I could toss natrium pellets at the water. (Natrium, in D&D, is highly explosive, but needs water to be activated.) The first one missed. The second one missed. The third one went in the water, and the explosion caused the other two to explode. That's right, a three-natrium bomb. Six-foot crater where a bunch of orcs used to be. Total mayhem, people running everywhere, orcs attacking random necromancers, necromancers trying to defend ourselves, and here's where we had to turn tail and run (although alas, in ensuring our safe passage, Leovan the wizard ended up losing his own life -- funny that, always the NPC dies but never the player characters).
Holy Shit!
Sometimes I get this great idea and then I find out it's already been done. This is really truly uncanny. This one tops them all and will probably keep me up all night just thinking about it. At some point on the Portland trip I started thinking about what the Grrl-Band Traveling Wilburys would be like. You know, just as the Three Tenors spawned the Three Sopranos, so would the Wilburys get their own analogue.

On the trip, what I came up with was: Louise Post. Tanya Donelly. Liz Phair. Someone from Hole, maybe even someone who isn't Courtney Love. Couldn't settle on a fifth, but hey four is a start. Especially when two of the four actually do form a band together (third item). Have they actually made this album yet? I really really really really really want it if they have.

The other way of looking at it is: Kurt Cobain's widow. Dave Grohl's ex. Is there any similarly worthy woman in Krist Novoselic's past?
When do I sleep again?
And what the hell did I do Friday night? Write questions? There's a big hole in my timeline that I can't fill.

Saturday during the day I wrote questions and posted heinously rambling blog entries until my computer crashed, at which point I restarted it, leading to (what always happens when I restart this computer) an automatic signon to Yahoo! Messenger, at which point I discovered that Y! Messenger disconnected me every time I tried to send someone a message.

Had the hissy fit, went off and drank and played games, stayed up until 4:30, woke up just in time Sunday to drive to Palo Alto and play D&D, went straight from there to Berkeley for yet more spontaneous games. Got home from that half an hour ago, checked e-mail and stuff. Before I know it, time to go to work tomorrow.

Random thoughts, built up, in no logical order:
I can't believe they cancelled Freaks and Geeks.
Okay, so this was two years ago. Still, I can't believe it. A perfectly fine show that they didn't give a fighting chance to. The problem was, it didn't belong on one of the "mainstream" three networks. It has Fox show written all over it, partly because it has elements of both That 70s Show and Malcolm in the Middle, yet handles everything better than either of those shows.

I know people who say Malcolm is the best show on TV. They're not too far from the truth, it's certainly one of the best, but it's still really overrated in that it could be so much better than it even is. *sigh*

The silver lining here is that it gives me something utterly inconsequential to bitch about, utterly inconsequential and yet important enough to me that thinking about it actually takes my mind OFF of other things I'd bitch about. And then I realize, hey it's only a TV show, and stop bitching about it but am left with a clean bitching slate. It's like a bitch catharsis.

Veruca Salt is way better than the Breeders.
Damn, I hate it when people make this reference. It came up so many times that I ended up buying not one but TWO Breeders tapes at Nuggets in Boston once. That turned out to have been a waste of money. No disrespect meant to the Breeders, since I certainly own worse tapes, but I never listen to them and have no real reason to.

That comes up in this review of Eight Arms To Hold You. The other thing from the review: Bob Rock is a perfectly fine choice to produce a Veruca Salt album because one of the ingredients to their sound is, in fact, a deep dark hard rock sound, kind of an anguished hard rock, that the Breeders would never ever ever share.

Listen to 25 (last song on American Thighs) for it. Then listen to Earthcrosser (last song on Eight Arms To Hold You). These are two songs that when I think of listening to them, I think of catharsis. Specifically, for 25 it's the part where everythings fading to quiet, then you hear a staccato drumbeat on the fourth bar of the measure right before the guitars come blaring again. For Earthcrosser it's the part where they ask, suddenly bellowingly, "where's my lip gloss?" -- with the word 'gloss' about three times as loud as the rest of the line.

Still on the Veruca Salt train of thought: Straight. Just listen to it. Or even reading the lyrics should be plenty. Not to go all Bert and Ernie on you, but c'mon. It's pretty blatant here. It never came to pass but Nina and Louise would have been perfect. Nina would be the femme. I guess San Francisco is full of butcher women than Louise but still, what was she thinking? The perfect partner was right there for her, and she had to go blow it all on Dave Grohl, when Grohl was still married. Grohl, of course, dumped her for Winona Ryder. Ryder dumped Grohl for every male celebrity and his dog. The beat goes on.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Deleted Post
Apologies to anyone who saw it before it was deleted. If you didn't see it, it wasn't important. (So I claim.)

The gist of it: I had problems with Yahoo! Messenger today and overreacted to them. Hissy fit basically, with plenty of noise. The noise prompted even greater noise from Scoon, who's deeply under the weather, imploring me to shut up.

Well, between the roommate tension and the Yahoo! Messenger problem, I had to get out of the house, and in fact just spent the last eight hours of my life playing various games with people in various states of drunkenness. No, none of the games were strip poker and none of the players were at all comely. It was five geeky guys, cycling through Tetris Attack (video game), Outburst, Racko, Apples to Apples, Fan-Tan, and finally more Racko. I'm now deeply enamored of this Racko game, so much so that I'll actually link to it. It's the Coolest Game Ever. The probability theory is just fiendish.

Racko is like chess in that the key to victory, in my opinion, is to waste as few moves as possible.

In any case, what was here before I deleted it was incredible on-line chat related angst that in hindsight reflects taking everything way too seriously. Not sure what else to say or do about that.

Also, it's been forever since I deleted a post. The last time would have been some time in November and would have had to do with someone who I haven't obsessed about in... four months doesn't sound like a long time but it's all relative.