Saturday, March 30, 2002

Love/Hate Proviso
I think I see part of the "you can't like them both" justification: There are no doubt some New Yorkers my age who claimed to be big Mets fans as kids and more recently claim to be big Yankee fans. The people who see the bandwagon-jumpers resent them, because they didn't have the full experience of sticking with a team through ups and downs.

Here I'll admit that if the Giants ever win a championship, someone like (say) Paul Lujan will have a moment of ecstasy that many of my readers had when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, just like what I felt when the Broncos won the Super Bowl or what the Arizonans in my one fantasy league felt this part October. I won't feel it the way Paul feels it. Nor will I feel it quite the way Mike Develin feels it when the A's finally get their ring. But I'll be here, I'll be in the seats (on both counts) and I'll be happy.

It's awfully convenient for me to be "choosing" the A's (since if I had to pick just one, it'd be them) at this point, since they've got a decade's worth of contention in them (yes, even if Eric Chavez eventually becomes a Met or Miguel Tejada a Dodger or wherever they might end up after free agency -- I hear the chicken littles, but they won't get me down). The Giants, by contrast, are going to suck in 2004. There's just no way around it. They might contend this year. They might fall just short in 2003 as the core of the team runs on fumes. But come 2004, as SF fails to get the reinforcements from the high minors that any team with an even vaguely useful farm system would get... curtains.

Getting back to the theme of this entry: The fact that I want to root for either or both local teams through their expected runs, that I'll be at a bunch of their games regardless, means that it makes no sense to claim to hate one or the other. And yet I'm sure there will be someone who tries to pull this off. Or better yet (worse yet?), people do this with players.

Barry, Mo, and the rest
I think that anyone who's ever been gratuitously outspoken about Barry Bonds supposedly being a jerk (they don't know him, all they know is what reporters spoon-feed us) is estopped from claiming to be his biggest fan when he breaks some home run record.

Then again, as much and as hard as people rooted for Mo Vaughn in Boston (or even Clemens or Boggs or Manny or Pedro or Nomar), it feels weird to see people (and to be someone) suddenly playing it off as though we knew he was a jerk all along.

Does anyone find it oddly coincidental that Vaughn and Clemens and Boggs all turned out to be such assholes? Is it going to turn out, equally conveniently, that as of five years from now, there's a sudden revelation that Manny or Pedro or Nomar had been just as much of an asshole the whole time too? Not that I'm denying that Vaughn and Clemens and Boggs have done some pretty nasty things but still, how much is sheer coincidence? How much does it come from the organization? How much does it come from fans' sour grapes? I honestly don't know.
How much of a baseball snob am I?
I really really want people to like the game, so much so that I want to throw things at the TV or throttle Bud Selig every time the people who make money off this game are the very ones who diss it for their own nefarious, usually taxpayer-funding-leeching, reasons.

But I draw the line in two places:
1. Stuff that takes away from the game itself, I can do without. It's one thing to make a ballgame a fun place to bring your family, a place where the hot dogs are warm and the beer is cold and the team plays it's heart out. But when you're having those promotions every half inning, to me that's like taking a perfectly good thick juicy hamburger and putting so much ketchup and mustard and onions and pickles and whatever else people out on hamburgers that all of a sudden you can't taste the meat anymore.

Pacific Bell Park Proviso: This place is gorgeous. It's the perfect chance to watch a ballgame and gawk at the San Francisco Bay at the same time. If you're the sort of person who will do both, and not the sort of person who gets so lost in the scenery and the beer and the trendiness that you can't tell a damn thing about what's going on unless/until someone nudges you when Bonds comes to bat.

2. Bill Simmons. (See link in previous post.) I can't put it into words but he's an example of the type of media person who's lack of interest in baseball doesn't faze me in the least. Game's just fine without him.
Yuppies who like them both
Another thing about two-team markets, since this is all basically an excuse to brag about the Bay Area having something that only Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York share. If there's a home game basically every single day between spring and fall, what's the point of pissing away half the fun by gratuitously hating one team or the other?

It's okay to say that you like one team or the other so much that the other team just doesn't measure up, but unless you've been in the area your whole life and you can trash talk with your buddies and go to each other's favorite team's games just to give each other crap in person, the whole "you can't like them both" phenomenon seems like partly a scheme of sour grapes thought up by people who are just jealous that their market has "only" one team.

Then again, it almost hurts to admit just how much of a West Coast Yuppie I've become.
There is No A in Mercy
"I love the smell of burning leather in the morning. It's like the smell of victory."
--Mark Mulder, in a TV ad that features a fireman spraying extinguisher onto the catcher's glove after every warmup pitch.


Let's suppose I'm a fair weather fan, since after all my hand-wringing that actually appears to be the case.

Do I want the No A in Mercy team (they also have a "No A in Surrender" billboard visible from the westbound Bay Bridge entrance, where the Jon Gruden Raider billboard used to be)? Or do I want the team whose radio ads feature a very badly sung "Say Hey!" jingle?

Every TV/radio ad I've heard for the Giants this spring has centered on Pacific Bell Park. Every single one of them. No Bonds, no Kent, no Aurilia, just the ballpark. Obviously the A's can't use the Coliseum as a box office draw. But they can be unapologetic about it's ugliness, unapologetic about losing Jason Giambi, and keep hammering home the fact that this is still a very young, very good, pretty damn promising team.

Even if Carlos Pena (my reaction to his trade kind of signified the shifting of my allegiance from Arlington) had such a bad spring that Scott Hatteberg actually gets to play 1B for awhile.
Light Narrative
After I thought I was flying a terrible itinerary on short notice in a dire emergency, this weekend feels like two extra days given to me for free. Time to make them useful. But first, bloggage.

Friday after work we went to a "bar game night." This company has a "staff meeting" every Friday afternoon around the close of standard business hours that seems like mainly an excuse to socialize. On the theory that crackers and beer in the foyer just aren't enough, a plan is in place that every few weeks we'll have a thematic Friday. "Bar game night" was the first.

We went to some place on the corner of San Pablo and Hearst in Berkeley, your basic generic neighborhood bar. It had a pool table, darts stalls, and boxes of checkers, chess, and Connect Four.

I drank a cosmopolitan. The advantage to visiting someone who just got out of bartending school is that you can look through his sourcebook for interesting-sounding mixed drinks. Mmm... pink booze in a chilled martini glass. Multiple people asked what it was. Someone thought it was a Manhattan. Close enough.

Paradox: The cosmopolitan looks (I'll readily admit) like a girly drink. But like so many other girly drinks, it contains far more alcohol than the beer that a typical guy typically orders.

Paired with a reasonably good pool player (my boss's boss) in two-on-two, I stood by and watched (and missed a shot every turn or so) as all seven solids disappeared from the table while four stripes remained. I promptly scratched my attempt to sink the eight-ball.

Chess went much better. Against novice players I played games that ended in Nf6 mate and Bc7 mate. Carmen wants to play me some more but wants to practice first. She mentioned having trouble concentrating, which makes perfect sense in a bar. Heck, I had trouble concentrating. The lighting was terrible.

Then Seiken, whom I'd beaten at chess, suggested darts as a game that he'd beat me as easily as I beat him at chess. He was right. Steer clear of me if I'm playing darts. I'm a southpaw with a lot of motion, hit-or-miss velocity, and terrible location. Basically my mechanics are messed up.

I am in not one or two but five fantasy baseball leagues. That's only counting leagues where each player is uniquely owned, whose player universe is the 2002 major and/or minor leagues. So it doesn't even count ESPN Baseball Challenge or HACKING MASS or simbase or whatever.

The fifth of those five, hosted on Yahoo! and organized by Will Au-Yeung (Silicon Age emeritus), finally had its multi-list draft Friday night. Since I'd used the same pre-rankings for another Yahoo! league (quiz-bowl players, organized by Guy Jordan), I ended up with a lot of players in common. Magglio Ordonez, Cliff Floyd, Johnny Damon, Ryan Klesko, Luis Castillo, Ugueth Urbina, just to name a few.

Joon earlier this week challenged me to a chess game via e-mail. I played terribly at first but all is not lost. It's a pretty wild game.

Friday, March 29, 2002

Remember my fantasy baseball rant about Ben Petrick getting screwed the same way Bobby Estalella was screwed before him? The Yankees have given up on Estalella but now the Rockies might sign him. So they'll have one underrated, defensively challenged, power-hitting catcher on their bench in the majors, one underrated, defensively-challenged, power-hitting catcher playing every day at Triple-A.

Whatever became of Hector Villanueva? Both Petrick and Estalella have a little Hector in them.
Two Days Later
That Easter Sunday was some sort of promotional "Kids' Opening Day." The pre-game festivities included an interminable set of song-and-dance numbers in all the worst Disney-eque stylings. Fans in the bleachers (this one I was at) getting a little drunker, a lot more restless.

Our attention was directed to left field, to Fenway Park's green monster. Long long intro later, there sprang from the scoreboard... Wally the Green Monster.

You'll never in your life hear a mascot so thoroughly booed on his debut as poor Wally. I felt sorry for whoever was inside that costume. Which didn't stop me from booing as loud as anyone else. This was a baseball game here, not Sesame Street Live.

So rumor has it that Wally hasn't been back onto the field since then. He'll go to charity shows and hospitals a lot, or maybe in the luxury boxes or something. But he's been banished from the field itself, and I played my own small role in this.
Remember the year the Sox home opener was on Good Friday?
If there's ever such a thing as "ESPN Classic Radio," the WEEI feed for this game needs to be near the top of their playlist.

Things worth remembering about this game (1997, I think):
The start time of 3 p.m., somehow timed so that it'd be a day game but not interfere with Mass.
No alcohol served at the game? At least this is what I remember hearing. I wasn't there.
Randy Johnson, then with Seattle, dominant over eight innings.
Whoever Boston put on the mound, definitely NOT dominant.

Sox came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth down 7-2, Jerry and Joe sounding pretty downbeat. Six batters, three runs, no outs, and three pitching changes later, it was 7-5, bases loaded, Mo Vaughn (maligned here earlier this week but hey, he did good things too) facing a situational lefty named Paul Spoljaric.

Written text can't come close to capturing the radio call of what came next. Suffice to say Lou Piniella and Joe Castiglione both probably lost a year off their life expectancy that moment.
"damn, Gina"
1. Meme common in Boston University student activities as of the late 1990s. I don't know the story behind this, all I know is I remember playing pool and hearing it on really good or really bad shots.

2. Overheard on the radio this morning. Gina Horan, radio personality, wins her radio station basketball pool if Maryland beats Oklahoma. As always, it's the hot chick who wins it. Note also that this seems to have been the trendy final. Sure seems like a plurality of upper-end pool entries had it. Them and the Duke-all-the-way people, who seem to have crashed and burned.

Supposedly I can still win a pool in which I picked Duke, if the final is Indiana over Maryland. Not to be confused with the pools I can win on Kansas over Oklahoma.
How long these things take to write.
Someone asked this once. This will have been four entries, typed pretty much in a row. Subtract one timestamp from the other. Add a couple minutes (say, the difference between the earliest two timestamps) to the total; there's an approximate answer.
Good Friday
Christians in the audience... well, surely one doesn't say Happy Good Friday? Whatever one says, you get the idea.

Easter is the most important holiday to me. I'm so glad it hasn't become in U.S. culture anything near what Christmas has. Lots of people all around are unhappy about what's become of the latter, where non-Christians object to whatever beliefs are foisted on them while some Christians object to what they see as a dilution of "the reason for the season." Bah. The way Christmas is celebrated in the U.S., culturally, puts it somehow at "winter festival" status.

I don't get anything like that kind of vibe for Easter. Also, where Christmas it's expected that family members will all come together, I don't think that's nearly so much an Easter meme. Your mileage may vary. But notice how strange it is that I was making last-minute plans to see my family on the weekend that happened to be Easter.

Instead I'll celebrate the way I always do, with private introspection and gratittude that's impossible to put into words. You'd think I'd go to a church. Maybe I will. I wonder if Scott will go to mass. If he does I'm tempted to go with him. Then again, this could also be an excuse to resume my own search for a suitable Lutheran church.

Don't get me wrong, I somewhat strongly dislike the idea of church shopping. If you belong to a reasonably popular denomination, I'm strongly in favor of going to the church of that denomination nearest you. That's why it's there.

The church that I went to 14 months ago, though (First United, 30th & Geary), actually severed ties with the ELCA in the 1990's on the issue of openly gay pastors. Which is fine with me. If ever a real live gay person got "the call," I could even see University Lutheran in Cambridge going down a similar path. (Though ELCA would probably have a much harder time cutting off the student church that attracts people Boston-wide, as opposed to a quiet outlet in a San Francisco neighborhood.)

The only problem that arises from this is that it felt like there were all of 20 or so people in the actual worship service. Also, the sanctuary had all the ambience of a class room or maybe an elementary school auditorium/gymnasium. So I decided that I'd probably be better suited to go to the nearest ELCA church to me (20th and Quintara). Still haven't been there, though.
News on the home front is relatively good
While the relevant people were extremely touched that I'd make arrangements on such short notice to come up and see them, there was outspokenness about how it would be a waste of my time and money. The money I may or may not be able to get back. The time... yeah, it's reasonable to assume I can do productive things here this weekend. Sleep, do laundry, and so on.

My original itinerary called for me to leave here 12:50 a.m. Friday night, arrive in Milwaukee at 8:14 a.m. Saturday, then leave Madison at 6:40 a.m. Monday. My parents claim that the latter trip would require a midnight departure from their place. That's not quite true: I checked MapQuest and I have a 2:30 a.m. departure doing the trick (before September you could even do 3/3:15). Still, you get the idea. That was basically what I could book.

In a way I'm quite relieved not to have to make that trip after all. I'll be there two weeks later anyway.
That Wasn't Who I Thought It Would Be
Phone rang just now. Second time in as many days that it rang in the 6:00 hour, this one a little later than the other. I thought it might be my parents with news from home.

Instead it was Macy's. Seems that when I bought a wedding gift yesterday, the card was declined with "unknown address." I asked if I could give the address by phone.

So I'm rattling off...
1250
46th Avenue
San Francisco

"Oh I'm sorry sir, I didn't know it would be a California address."

This made my day. I think I'll go head into work now.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Temporary Hiatus
Got some bad news earlier tonight. No, not the worst possible news (for those close to the situation) but nonetheless close to it.

I'll fly to Chicago Friday night. Actually to Milwaukee. Arriving Saturday morning. It's unclear what the etiquette is for certain family emergencies. Scott my roommate was surprised that I wasn't flying out still earlier. Ethical question: Should I try to get standby earlier anyway? The X-factor is work, as in I'd like to get a reasonable amount of it done in the interest of the company I work for not being screwed. This files under living one's life as normally as possible, although ironically earlier tonight I was with a group of people making typical complaints about work.

Without the bad news, tonight's bloggage would have meandered around the pretty good sushi we had, the cute couple that I saw for the first time as a couple, the fact that my audience is wider than I thought it was and so on. The TMI blog would have probably had some almost unreadable dithering about how I'm too damn sheepish about certain things, to the point that acting guilty just gives me the worst of all possible worlds. For any given reader, for most readers, it would have boiled down to "yeah of course I had a crush on her," maybe with different she's depending on the reader.

The next 48 hours I'll spend either working my ass off, having a mental block about same, sleeping fitfully, or finagling plane reservation changes. What would you do? It's impossible to answer especially since I'm not telling the full story in a place where total strangers could see it.

With luck, see you Monday with good tidings...

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

WOW!!



Here's a country music song for you. This ought to be the dictionary definition of it. My hat's off to whoever wrote this.
Well, that's gratifying
Of the three people who've voted so far, one actually picked my team. The other two (including me) both chose "Ben Petrick, Chad Fox, & Kyle Farnsworth" as the three-time defending champion's downfall.

Part of his downfall is the fact that the #1 overall pick (also known as "the A-Rod pick"), by sheer random draw, went to one of the owners who actually knows what he's doing. (Me.) This league's about half-and-half between serious roto players and casual friends and filler. Jason Z. of the Arizona State quiz team (most of the league knows each other from ASU) is in the former camp, as is the commisioner/perennial champ Keith.

My team spent most of the summer in first place before crashing and burning. I overpaid for help in July, then Keith and Jason both benefitted from last place teams making player dumps (keeper league). Sure, I could have traded my good keepers (Mark Mulder drafted absurdly low for one, Mark Buehrle on free agency), but I'd already traded Roy Oswalt. He'll be a STEAL for the next 2-3 years.
Ben Petrick, Chad Fox, & Kyle Farnsworth

Here's an e-mail I just got from one of those fantasy baseball leagues...
Enter your vote today! A new poll has been created for the
downwith group:

Who will prevent the four-peat (other
than yourself of course)?

o Bruce
o Kevin
o Adam
o Miguel
o Jason
o John
o Brian
o Bob
o Tait
o Eric
o UKB
o Mike
o Jehu
o Ben Petrick, Chad Fox & Kyle Farnsworth
o None of the above


To vote, please visit the following web page:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/downwith/polls

Note: Please do not reply to this message. Poll votes are
not collected via email. To vote, you must go to the Yahoo! Groups
web site listed above.

Thanks!







"[Troy] O'Leary can afford to go out feeling a little proud, because he's been executing Operation Shutdown with quiet dignity for a couple of years, while Derek Bell is only teasing us with bold talk and less playing time."
--Transaction Analysis, Baseball Prospectus
I Love Her, But I Love to Fish
So now look what I've gone and done. I have a favorite country singer now. That's just so wrong.

There's an interesting chicken-and-egg question about favorites. Does my liking this song so much contribute all the more to my sudden Paisley fixation or is it the other way around, where I see it's him and prepare myself to like it so much?

"I'm gonna miss her... lookee there, I got a bite."
Kubi doesn't like this song.

I adored it the first time I heard it (today). Then again, I was all over "Drive" the first time I heard it too.
Novices to the Musical Genre
I take it WSM doesn't exactly have a "no repeat workday" policy. This feels like the third time today I've heard "Drive" although it may be only the second. Still, congratulations to Alan Jackson for becoming the first country singer to have a song that I got sick of hearing during my current phase.

I'm still a novice, though. I bet this was painfully obvious given that I'd never even heard "Wide Open Spaces" before. It's an album title, so I'm figuring this was like their breakthrough hit or something. Then again, in the hair-band world of all the singles Def Leppard got from Hysteria, the title track was pretty unmemorable. Varies by band I suppose.

Stations that repeat music every couple hours are good for people who are just starting to learn the genre, and need to start with the basic hits. Come to think of it this explains the KISS 108 phenomeon. How much of the KISS listenership falls into the 12-to-14 demographic? These are kids not too far removed from listening captively to whatever it was their parents listened to. Also, the top of the charts changes just often enough that if you're slow on the uptake, you might as well be thumped over the head with the set of things that's popular right now.

That also explains why certain classical music stations get the criticism from both ends. Serious classic music fans hate some of the stations that only play the same standards over and over again: Your daily dose of the 1812 Overture, Beethoven's 9th, and so on. But they're just doing the same thing KISS does, playing what's at the top of the chart so that new listeners can get the basics first. It gets old more quickly but only because the top of the chart never actually changes.

(Unless... I wonder... in AOR there's a whole trend of cover songs. Well, any recording you hear on the radio of any classical piece will be, in its own way, a cover. Do you suppose that there's a sudden surge of interest in, say, Mozart's Jupiter symphony if, say, the Boston Symphony Orchestra comes out with a new "cover" of it? Does some chart measure these things? I haven't looked at Billboard in awhile...)
I am not the Stanford Fan
What is this?

Someone who isn't me keeps voting for Stanford. What intrigues me about this is that people assumed it was me; it's not. I did vote for Stanford maybe five times. So I'm dying to know who the other one is.
When not to prompt
The DJ was appropriately hardass and did not prompt on the mere "playing golf." Obviously there's far more to the wish than that.

I feel like when you're on the other team and know a 40-30-20-10-5-1 bonus on the 20 point clue and you're hearing the other team choke on the 5.
"Impossible" Question
Radio trivia. Answer still hasn't been given but I'm pretty sure I know.

Allegedly, it's what men wish for most often when they blow out birthday candles.

Next clue: If the wish is granted, it happens outdoors.
Here I thought, "hit a home run," but that's since become clearly wrong.

Next clue: Sand will be nearby.
Here I had it nailed.

Next clue: You often do it on vacation.

Next clue: You need special "tools" to do it.

About here it reaches duh proportions.

The people guessing sound impossibly stupid and impossibly Southern. For the nth time, it is NOT hunting or fishing related.
Country Again
I meant to bring more CD's in to work with me today but walked out the door without them.

Department of taking the Space Shuttle to the grocery store:
Unfamiliar song comes on the radio -- Is that the Dixie Chicks? -- check google, indeed it is the Dixie Chicks.

Attempts by female vocalists to sound like them may do lasting damage to the music scene. Think back to the worst of the Star Search performers. To show off your pipes, you actually need pipes to show off. Luckily, these women have 'em.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Mo
If I had less to do today you'd think there would have been a rant about this by now. The problem is that rants are wasted on the likes of Mo Vaughn.

I'll keep it short and sweet: There are people who actually lead (as often as not, by example) and then there are blowhards who call themselves leaders. Sometimes the difference is obvious. Of Mo Vaughn and Troy Percival, I know exactly which one I'd follow into battle and which one I'd frag.
Cool Links via Instapundit
Three in a row that made me (silently) go "YEAH!!" to myself...

Why normal people don't like the Oscars.

Why America beats Europe: We support the yearning for freedom, Eurocrats don't.

Bush's secret Central American aid program, or why a free market economy kicks ass.
In the Steppes of Davis Square
Listening to Borodin and being relatively sleep-deprived is a double-whammy of sensory memory: It takes me back to the Davis Square Au Bon Pain, fall of 1999, where I'd often go for an orange juice and a ham & cheese croissant after working all night. "Processing baseball statistics" would be the meme but for the times I'm remembering it was more like "processing hockey statistics."

Two things were happening that fall that I noticed but didn't really notice. First, it was unseasonably warm. Very very pleasant. In the winter of 1998-99 I'd made a vow to myself that I'd never again spend another winter in Boston; the warm fall almost made me forget that vow. Second, on both coasts anyone who was even remotely skilled at computers/software was suddenly in a position to be very rich (albeit temporarily, and only on paper) if they lucked into the right position.

Better late than never, I guess: R. finally invited me to San Francisco, and the blizzard hit right after I got back. The rest is history. I don't mind making five times what I was making just two-and-a-half years ago.

Sign up for Hacking Mass today. I've entered a team, I'll tell you who's on it tomorrow so that my picks don't spoil your own brainstorm. The Red Sox have exactly one player on my team.

At 10:45 a.m. the city streets have an interesting female-to-male ratio of drivers. Guess it makes sense.

Dwight Kidder describes this as what the kids should be playing.

The best comparison for my current mood is hung over, but not hung over. (Department of self-centered insecurity: I don't mind at all not being mentioned here, but dude, she didn't even mention the post-game Krispy Kremes!)

Randomly seen on the spinning dial
On Classic Sports Reporters Bill James was heaping praise on all-time great pitchers. Not much groundbreaking other than seeing Bill James live on TV.

Conan O'Brien had a somewhat interesting piece on different countries' new Euro coins.

Flipped past Elimidate and Craig Kilborn.

Saw part of a Taxi where Danny DeVito is at some high school reunion and all hell breaks loose. "I don't know about you, but I had a great time!"

Unless my eyes deceived me, the BU Terrier mascot is in some sort of Sportscenter commercial.

Some chick actually beat a geek on Beat the Geeks. What sucks is I missed it, at least all but the end credits.

You know a movie is old if it has both Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in it. I wonder how many people younger than me would have so quickly recognized even one, much less both, of them.

Started to watch a Twilight Zone where a salesman named Lou is being stalked by death. Had to give up on it when it turned out he was the only one who saw the guy. I see where that leads. Sorry, Rod, not tonight, I smiled to myself.

Significantly more unwound now than half an hour ago. Possibly ready to turn in.
typos all over the place
The typography of today's entries has suffered grievously from my being angry/stressed out while at work today to my feeling as though I don't have time to think tonight. In a writing groove. The latest news from the needs list is good. Actually no, the needs list still looks grim but R. says that the "actual" needs are way below what's on the list. Critical step right now is the editing process, which for reasons of division of labor I'm really not a part of other than allegedly proofreading my own stuff.

There'll be an unusually diverse distribution of authorship for this set. Much more of an ensemble cast than previous year's ICT's, at least looking at who's ahead in the stats and with how many. I probably shouldn't say any more about that. But it's not like your spot in the tournament is going to depend on to what extent you make a point of attempting to read my mind or R's mind or whoever else's. Blah.
Thoughts on the Portland Trail Blazers
Continuing the sports theme...

1. My team stunned them tonight, at the Rose Garden. That won't sit well.

2. Prior to this massive upset, the Blazers had run off some really long winning streak. I had no idea about this, not being much of an NBA follower. But it led to Corwyn's first bartending gig! He'll be doing some catering and some conession line work at the Rose Garden for Portland's remaining regular season and playoff games, not to mention a good shot at whatever concerts roll into town over the summer.

Apparently this year's Blazers are better than management expected. That is, their success has translated into unusually good attendance and unexpected demand for group parties and the like. This suggests an "in" for the gambling-inclined among you: Cultivate connections among the hospitality staffs of various pro sports franchises. Use the rate of change in hiring numbers (adjusted for things like the economy, I guess) to get a sense of how well ownership thinks its team will do.

Completing my narrative of this evening:
Wrote a buttload of questions.

Earlier, had the reserve draft for the RMO. Walked away with Torii Hunter, Gary Bennett (yes, the one mentioned below), and Cesar Izturis. Tough call on Izturis veruss Derrek Lee. It's not that I value steals that much more than power; rather, I might need a fill-in at middle infield if Marcus Giles misses any time with hemorrhoids.

Heh. "The next George Brett." I've heard that phrase a ton about members of this year's blue-chip rookie 3B crop. Now Giles, a 2B, gets his own piece of it.

Just now found out that with Emily in town, R. wants to do a sushi dinner at this awesome place in Marin County. He wants to have it late, like 10:30. Carmen the DBA wants it early, like 5:30. The storyline is that reservations are all but impossible in between there, although smaller groups can just show up and get lucky sometimes.

I'm looking forward to seeing R. and Emily. Well, yeah, I see her every year at both NAQT ICT and NAQT HSNCT; I see R. all the frickin' time. But I've never seen Emily in San Francisco. And so on and so forth. I've never seen one of them while that one was in the act of visiting the other one.

Brought some CD's in from home to work today. Listened to some Ozzy and some Winger and some Creed, with the Alanis and the Borodin saved for later.

Last but not least there's a new draft pool of fictional players for me to look at, which I get to it.

Monday, March 25, 2002

"Pitching Hot"
Last week on the radio play-by-play I heard Mike Krukow use this phrase. Tim Worrell, Giants reliever, had made a mistake and hung an outside fastball that some hitter crushed. Apparently he was visibly angry on the mound and spent the rest of the inning trying to blow heat past hitters instead of calming down, relaxing, and sticking to the game plan that makes the most sense given his stuff.

Right now I think I'm "pitching hot." You should've seen me -- well, you can picture it. It didn't even involve interaction with people. Just sitting at my desk, headphones on, typing away and fuming. And, as is so often the case when I fume, it's over the stupidest things.

The problem is I'm still angry, but it's the kind of anger that far outlives whatever the reason was that you were angry. I'm not mad at anything in particular, I'm just mad in abstract, solely because anger lingers. I want to not just fix bugs but find them, strangle them, and leave them by the side of the curb, if a CVS repository has the metaophircal equivalent of a curbside.

This could lead to really inspired coding or really really really crappy coding. Or, most likely, an unconscionable amount of procrastination.
None of which changes the fact that...
Benito Santiago is satan.

Not that the Giants mistake will ever be obvious, at least not as long as Estalella is buried behind Jorge Posada and left to languish at Columbus.

Small World factor: Estalella and Bennett were longtime teammates in the Phillies chain. Either of them would have done a fine job if/when Mike Lieberthal broke down, except that by the time Lieberthal did break down, Estalella was out of the organization and the front office had a hard-on for Johnny Estrada, who is not a prospect but occasionally masquerades as one.

Somewhere Chris Rosenberg's Phanatical ears are burning.
Fantasy Baseball Multitudes and the Joys of Hedging
Not counting ESPN Baseball Challenge (I need to join this soon, right?) and simulations, I'm part of five real live fantasy baseball leagues entering the 2002 season.

Just-posted rant aside I picked up that Gary Bennett guy in two of the five just now. Of the other three... one has a reserve draft tonight. The other two haven't had the actual drafts yet. It woudl be funny if I ended up with Bennett all five places. Hell, I already have Hank Blalock (3B-TX) in two-going-on-three of them.
Turns Out I Was Full of Crap About That Backup Catcher Metaphor
Don't know if it's just fantasy baseball angst or what but lately I've felt an astonishing degree of loathing about how certain NL West teams have handled their catching situations.

Giants basically ran Bobby Estalella out of town on a rail so that they could hand the job to Benito Santiago -- Benito @#*@!*( Santiago -- whose offensive output predictably went to hell.

Now the Rockies are about to make the same mistake. Granting that I don't know catcher defense from adam -- I'm one of those people who "needs to get his head out of the statbook and actually watch the game," never mind the 40 or so games a year that I do go to -- some things here:

1. Labels do suck. It sucks to get labeled a "backup" and typecast that way, but what about the bad-defense label? For whatever reason, a catcher's perceived defensive value is inversely proportional to his actual offensive value. It's like they're afraid of starting a catcher who isn't a hole in the lineup.

2. Petrick is 25; Bennett is 33. Which one's going to be around when Colorado is finally a championship contender?

3. Certain pitchers just need to shut up and pitch. Don't like the pitches he calls? Shake him off. Don't like it when he lets the ball go by him and the runners take an extra base? Curse him under your breath now but keep track of how often it happens. And keep track of how many doubles, triples, and home runs he hits compared to . Be sure to double, triple, or quadruple the output as appropriate. Hell, you're in frickin' Colorado. It's not like you're going to win the game 2-1 on fundamentals. And if you'd rather have good stats than team victories, why the hell are you a mile high anyway?

Just to be clear: I'm NOT begrudging the veteran guy finally getting a break. He had to earn the thing; obviously, since nobody reading this has a clue who Gary Bennett is (maybe you saw him at a Scranton-Pawtucket game, I dunno), it's not like he coasted on his reputation the way Santiago did. But what I can tell you is that guys like him are replacement level. They're a dime a dozen. And this is why I usually rail against the idea that a Santiago coasts for so long while guys as good as him languish in Triple A just for lack of opportunity. Bully for Bennett, actually getting the opportunity. It's just they're giving it to him for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, folks, somebody had Bobby Estalella in a keeper league, and then overpaid for Petrick in the off-season. Bite me.
Holy Crap Was That Incisive
Sometimes Mike leaves me cold because I read the words he wrote and they don't seem to line up into to thoughts that I easily grasp. You could say he writes over my head a lot. I'm cocky enough about my own cleverness to assert that if you're writing over my head, you're probably writing over a whole lot of people's heads.

Today is different, though. He makes perfect sense. I can't write any snap judgments about his thought experiment but trust me, I'll sleep on it. The results may end up being much more than you wanted to know.

Or not: He leaves out an important detail, which is pure physical attraction. In general when I have a crush on someone, part of what I'm into is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- the hot body. The eyes, the smile, the curves, the silky skin, and so on and so forth. It's possible that a huge chunk of figuring out how things would have ended up with your guy friends involves attempting to evaluate them purely sexually, to guess what your taste in men would have been had you been a straight woman.

(How does this differ from what your taste in men would have been had you been a gay man? It's unclear.)

I can't remember if Mike knows of this blog's existence. He probably does. It's unclear whether he reads it. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Paul reads it -- he's known about things that I'm pretty sure I didn't express in any other outlet. Then again, I'm so quick to express my thoughts that I could have posted something to the simbase bulletin board or e-mailed it or even blurted it out and just completely forgotten having done so.

Something that Mike Develin and Peter Keshavan have in common: They are both highly intelligent and also highly competitive with regard to their intelligence. Not the garden-variety "competition" that you'd normally associate with Ivy-type students grubbing for grades or jobs or traditional get-ahead stuff. Rather, the "purer" form of competition, where you want to play brain-type games and win them, literally to outwit the people you're around, except in a way that's not a zero-sum game. In the grubbing competition, the competitors don't give a damn what becomes of the rest of the field -- they're just obstacles. But if you have competitive wit then in a lot of cases you're looking for people who will play off of you and push you. You don't want to win a parlor game in a cakewalk: There's no incentive, if all it is is a parlor game. Rather, you want it to be close and well-fought and just flat beat a really good opponent.

Mike Develin and Peter Keshavan are exactly alike in this regard. (Or, were; it's been so long since I talked to or heard from the latter that for all I know he's become a completely different person.) A corollary to this personality is that these people have extremely high standards for their friends. They crave intellectual stimulation even from their close friends. They easily think of some of the people around them as, relatively speaking, a waste of time.

Here I'll toot my own horn: I think -- I infer from reactions and conversations -- that Mike and Peter both esteem(ed) me in a way that they don't/didn't esteem other people. For the most part I've lived up to their demands in the field of parlor games. I've been a worthy foil. Don't get me wrong: I don't think either of them are actively in the business of rating people, at least not consciously or on purpose. And even if they did obviously there'd be far more to life than measuring up on that particular scale, just as there's far more to life than doing well on standardized tests.

But, dammit, I do know what I'm good at, and I actually do get a kick out of getting the positive feedback for it.
Don't get me wrong. I'd love someday to get an invitation from Mike to play Settlers of Catan and get there and find a real live, engaging, witty, beautiful woman in the group. I'm just not holding my breath for it to happen. I guess Mike's point is, it's all well and good that this is the situation in life but why is it that way? I take a somewhat darker view in that I've (mostly) given up on even wondering why.

(In the short term I'll settle for getting that invitation and even being able to accept it. Miles to go before I sleep... -- actually that's a lie. Soon as I'm done with the Develin blog I'll probably just turn in. The needs will still be there tomorrow night. Or maybe they won't if a bunch of people suddenly send stuff in and a bunch of editors turn around their files too.)
<misogynistic stereotypes deleted>
"yesterday i had a lot of fun gaming, which of course brought up a recurring issue: why i have not met any girls who have the same voracity for games as joon and jeremy and i, for three."
--Mike Develin

Is that a rhetorical question? (Was that a rhetorical question? Was that a [and so on])

Why have I not met any girls who have the same voracity for baseball as Mike and Joon and Kubi and myself?

Why have I not met any girls who have the same voracity for chess as -- oh wait, I have. But they're all either ludicrously underage or (both already dating someone and swarmed by other guys).

Naomi Schaefer, former Salient editor and recent Commentary managing editor (also a freelance writer, published in various conservative and neoconservative outlets), suggests that a guy who wants to meet women should go where the women are. Allegedly the women are at coffee houses, or at least some of them are.

Wherever they are, they're not at Igor's D&D campaign, nor are they playing games on Mike and Paul and David's playstation. For the most part, they aren't in the Coliseum bleachers either.

Kind of a shame.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

What Godforsaken Country Is This?
Tabs currently on my Windows 98 "Start" bar:

Microsoft Office Shortcut thingy, annoying, I never actually use it.
Matt's Page (homepage)
NAQT list of already-included answers
Microsoft Word
Random page from the nobel.se site
Yahoo! Mail
NAQT needs list by subject
CIA World Factbook page
Simbase
"edit your blog" (this window)

Try to guess which country is the subject of that particular CIA World Factbook page. I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you. Actually, it probably wouldn't make much difference. Still, I'll just tell you in two weeks and if you think you're psychic you can guess right now. It's not intuitively obvious. I'll tell you the place is probably a shithole, which maybe narrows things down a little.
Hoops
In honor of Oscar Night, not to mention the unbearable heaviness of championship-level Social Science questions, a quick update on various NCAA Tournament pools.

This year I am in four, two run by the esteemed Mr. Mark Coen, two run by the folks at ESPN. The better of the two Coen entries may, alas, be out of contention despite its lofty current point total. I don't know that for sure but suffice to say the final won't be Duke-Oregon. Nor will it be Oklahoma-Oregon, which means the second of the two entries can't gain enough ground.

(I'm probably misremembering one or both of those entries, so if you're Mark and you see this and spot an error, you're right & I'm wrong.)

Oddly enough I can still win both of the ESPN-hosted pools, and with identical brackets at that. Alas, the one with a dozen people in it is the money bracket and not the one with 50 people in it.

In both cases, I need three games all to come out correctly, with the final result being Oklahoma over Kansas.

In Craig Barker's quiz-bowl pool...
Robert Flaxman wins outright if and only if Maryland beats Kansas in the semifinal. Mike Wehrman wins if Kansas goes all the way and ties with Flaxman in the unlikely event of an Indiana-over-Kansas final. That leaves Oklahoma-over-Kansas for me.

In the Vectiv office pool...
Kimberly Carlson (only female entrant! yay!), goddess of implementation and professional services (previously goddess of requirements/product team, back when Silicon Age was contracting to build this thing in the first place) wins outright if and only if Maryland beats Kansas in the semifinal. Mark Thompson, CFO, gets the "Kansas all the way" scenarios and barely edges Carlson out in the "Indiana-over-Kansas" scenario. Again, leaving Oklahoma-over-Kansas for me.

A bunch of people in both brackets had the final as Maryland over Oklahoma. I wonder why that one was so popular. Feel sorry for the people who had it but didn't get as many prelim points as their bandwagon-hopping brethren.
I was on call this weekend but it turns out I wasn't needed.
This is a result of either fantastic code or crappy testing. Take your pick. Possibly some of both.

Found out about the "on call" thing at the end of the day Friday, to my mild chagrin, since I'd set aside this entire weekend for question writing. Speaking of which, this here blog doesn't fulfill any NAQT ICT needs so adios for now.
Something that I'm not.
While I'm handing out praise to my friends like so much tip money, Yet Another Blogback Moment ensues so that we can pretend that we're having an actual conversation.

In my long journey of self-knowledge and self-fulfillment, I think I'll be a lot happier when I come to terms with the fact that I really don't like Las Vegas after all. The problem is that I absolutely adore the concept of Las Vegas: On paper, it has not only everything I love about this country but also a lot of the things that people who I find annoying hate about this country, things that other people claim are signs of the apocalypse when I, by contrast, really don't see the harm.

In theory I should have fun in Las Vegas. The fact that generally don't have fun there is a non-trivial disappointment in the "how I measure up to myself" department. But sometimes it's okay to just cut your losses and admit you're not having a good time. For casino purposes, my problem is that (like a big ol' loser) I went there by myself this most recent time and so didn't have anyone to hang with, didn't have anyone to give me kick in the pants when I got a sudden case of the introverts every time I was just about to sit down at a table somewhere.

I rationalized this: Oh, I don't know the rules so I'd embarrass myself. Well, in blackjack at least the rules are trivial enough, but I had a two-part rebuttal to that:
1. Not only are the rules to blackjack simple, there's even a set of advanced strategies where a good player knows to stay on some absurdly small hands if the dealer has, say, a five showing.

2. But I came to town unprepared, not remembering exactly how any of those formulas went. Didn't want to f*ck the deck, to piss someone off by taking his card or failing to take my own.

When it comes down to it, though, Las Vegas is to me exactly what New York City is to Homer J. Simpson. Which is why I'm going to go there yet again, maybe not next month or next year but it'll happen. And unless I've got the most beautiful girl in the world along for the ride, it's not going to be pretty then either.

Cindy and Justin don't go to Las Vegas; they go to Tahoe. They go there often enough to get a bunch of comps. I'm mildly jealous of Justin but we've been down this road a million times and it doesn't exactly make Justin unique. :-)

Anyway, the obligatory "always look on the bright side" ending: In June, baseball tickets permitting (even if baseball tickets not permitting, I could always just scalp 'em), I'll fly to Phoenix to play in a weekend Swiss tournament (chess) in some Holiday Inn. It's all about the expectations game: This is exactly the sort of place where I end up having the time of my life without having any way of expressing to people why that's so. Well, for Holiday Inns it all boils down to the indoor domed thing with all the plants and the fountains and the swimming pool. Especially the swimming pool. Water makes me happy.

Crap. Is the Phoenix tournament is the same day as Cancel Bowl? Well, it's a paradox: I have no vacation time to spare so I can't go to Boston because it's impossible to go to Boston for the weekend (or at least, totally not worth it) without missing either a Friday or a Monday to travel. But Phoenix is trivial: Both the Friday night and Sunday night flights would be on the order of 10 p.m. departure, 11:30 p.m. arrival.
The other thing about Duane
Best foosball player I ever knew, bar none. After spending too much of my undergraduate years playing foosball, I suddenly have massive Issues surrounding the game. To wit:

1. It's been years since I played.

2. AND YET, since I'm one of those dot-commers (said these days the way you'd speak of someone farting) people assume I must have played all the time, had a table in the office and all that.

3. The dot-commers who did play foosball were probably some of the same people who dominated the tables at Quincy House. But the folks at Quincy were kind of jerks. Maybe this is just me being bitter on my behalf and on Duane's, but there was a nontrivial rivalry. Maybe partly inferiority complex: Quincy had very very many enthusiastic players to face off with each other. The Eliot group was smaller and more close-knit and (beyond my own example) didn't get into the dot-com world. Okay, Charlie Graham started his own company, but he was basically the roommate of foosball players rather than a foosball player himself. In Eliot the foosball core was in '95 and '96; by contrast, I think the worst of the excessive dot-com people were all in the '97 to '99 range.
Duane Arthur Stewart III
I think I have a candidate for Best Phone Conversationalist Ever (male division, I guess). This is best illustrated by mentioning some of the common phone call pitfalls:

1. People who talk too little. They give monosyllabic answers. They leave the conversational steering entirely to you. They don't bother to fill pauses. This is behavior you'd associate with some grunting guy, yet the people I notice it from the most are all women.

2. People who keep talking and won't let the conversation end. You know the type. Your own end of the conversation quickly degenerates to giving ever less enthusiastic conversational cues. The only upside here is that some people are predictable enough that you can actually talk to them and read a book at the same time. But this is a terrible habit to fall into if you also frequently have phone conversations with people who are interesting. To be clear, this isn't about boredom versus interest; it's about endgame. It's about holding this object in your hand and pressing it against your ear (both your hand and your ear feel it after awhile) and not knowing when it will all end.

3. Self-centered but abrupt people. They have a very clear idea of what it is they want to talk about. On the plus side you know the conversation will be short yet filling; on the minus side you'll find that even if you wanted to open up to them, you won't actually get a chance to share whatever your first choice of sharing something with them would have been. But even that is a silver lining if there are things in your life that you shouldn't talk about but would have been tempted to. This is a very difficult archetype to explain. It may not even be an archetype because there's only one person I know well who fits it. Bottom line: Excellent for the other end of a business conversation, not so much for a social call.

Even these pitfalls to some extent represent good things about phone calls, just taken too far. The ideal social phone call has some combination of:
1. Depth without excessive length.
2. Conversational balance, where both people talk enough to keep the conversation going and interesting but listen enough to let the other person participate, to play off each other.
3. A certain spontaneous, unaffected wit.

This is my perspective; your mileage may vary. I can certainly have phone conversations that are less than ideal but I won't enjoy them so much and they're at a major risk of petering out. But people with whom I can have the ideal phone conversation are people with whom I greatly look forward to speaking. Sometimes (well, one time) I'll enjoy somebody's phone conversation so much (and vice versa, I guess) that we'll do something utterly inexplicable like maintaining a weekly phone conversation for five-plus years.

Did I mention that, for the most part, I fear and loathe the telephone? So for me to have one enjoyable conversation, much less 200 of them over a five-year span, speaks volumes.

Anyway, about Duane. As you probably guessed from the name, he went to Harvard. That said, he isn't at all like what you might have inferred from the formality of his name. As a student he was plus-sized (my size if I were about six feet tall) with an ungainly moustache and long, scraggly hair. Somebody found a picture of Jaromir Jagr once that looked a lot like him. Since then he has shaved the moustache and cut the hair. More on that later.

Duane lived in Eliot and played trumpet in the Band, just like me on both counts. He was DrillMaster, which mean that in the fall of his senior year he got to write all the funny halftime shows. He's an amazing person to talk to, at least for me, in that I immediately pick up that he's very intelligent, quick-witted, and keenly observent. Also a little jaded and bitter, but only a little. It makes for dark humor rather than annoying complaint, because at heart he's good-natured. Maybe a little old-fashioned too. (He's dead set on having a son named Duane Arthur Stewart IV, where negotiations will ensue about what the kid is actually called. Possibly "Clay" since this is supposedly what the fourth is often called.)

Despite studying chemistry(?) in college, he went to law school. Ohio Northern to be exact. From what I hear he was an amazing student there. That part I know from my friend Kevin, Harvard bandie '98. Basically everyone in the band with whom I'm still in touch, I have Kevin to thank. Kevin is in some ways the more social side of me.

Anyway, Duane got a shave and a haircut in law school, partly for job interview purposes. When he went back for a Band reunion, one of his classmates didn't recognize him.
"You don't recogize me, do you."

"Matt Bruce!??"


Duane says he briefly considered playing along and claiming to be me but wasn't sure how to pull it off.

Almost the defining thing about Duane is that he hails from Western Pennsylvania. For the purposes of this blog entry, exactly two people on Earth hail from Western Pennsylvania and the other one isn't Dan Marino. Duane is a big hockey fan (Harvard, Penguins), a somewhat bitter baseball fan (for obvious reasons), and a loyal but frequently disappointed football fan.

Vinny Fiorino was also in Eliot House, class of '95. In fact Vinny was one of Duane's roommates. Vinny chaired Eliot House Committee when I was on it. Vinny hails from Revere ("Reveah?") and is prone to rash pronouncements about sports. He's the sort of person who would have predicted in September 2001 that the Patriots would win the Super Bowl, the sort of person who'd stick by that prediction, and become more outspoken about it the more people made fun of him for it. Duane hadn't heard from Vinny in awhile and made the mistake of renewing the acquaintance right before this year's AFC Championship game. Duane assumed that, Vinny's bubble summarily burst, he could call, gloat a little (just a little), and have a conversation.

There was a girl in the class of '95, in the band but not in Eliot. Indian-American (that is, South Asian, not Apache or Navajo) but from Texas. Probably from Plano, which you may or may not realize is arguably the most ethnically diverse suburb in this country. Reshma studied hard, got great grades, busted tail in whatever positions she held in the band. All these great things except that she was a little high-strung. Well, more than a little. Maybe also a bit prissy but I didn't really know her enough to see it.

Either she was the bane of Duane's existence or he was the bane of hers. From my vantage point (being a trumpet player and a guy rather than a woodwind (or was it drums?) and a girl) I caught onto this as Duane mercilessly making fun of her. The chemistry problems came up, to the point that the two of them weren't both going to be on senior staff. Since the previous regime saw more value to his being DrillMaster than to her being Manager, that's what gave. She was unhappy about this, to say the least.

The best way to put this, and the whole purpose of even mentioning Reshma, is that Duane the Western Pennsylvanian reacted to this overachieving, extracurricular control freak, academically stressed-out, high strung young lady in almost the exact same way that I reacted to a certain overachieving, extracurricular control freak, academically stressed-out, high strung young Western Pennsylvanian. And with a lot of the exact same motivations too, although obviously the details of the backstory would be quite different in the two cases.

No, neither Ashlie nor Reshma came up in the phone conversation today. Come to think of it, the time between my being in close contact with Duane was such that the name would mean nothing to him unless Kevin ever gossiped about me to him. With Kevin, that could go either way.

Anyway, Duane is getting married in two weeks. His fiancee was a law classmate of his. Melissa hails from Augusta, Georgia, and currently works for Lexis Nexus, writing up headnotes and summaries of recently decided cases. She does this from home and can do it anywhere that there's an Internet connection, so when he starts working for his firm in Pittsburgh, they'll pack up and say goodbye to Toledo, Ohio.

Their wedding will be in Augusta, one week after the Master's. I gave my regrets about attending, though he'll mention to everyone he sees (at least everyone who knows me) that I'm doing well. Since he's the groom I have my doubts about this -- he has better things to do -- but if anyone asks about me (maybe they will), hey, we just had a really nice conversation.