Saturday, April 13, 2002

Barry Bonds and Mike Bielecki
Twelve years ago, almost to the day, the Pirates beat the Cubs, 13-12, in a ridiculous Sunday afternoon April game in which Chicago (at Three Rivers Stadium) blew leads of 7-2 after seven innings and 12-7 in the middle of whatever extra inning the game ended on. In the top of the Nth, Doug Dascenzo drew a bases-loaded walk and then Andre Dawson hit his second last-at-bat grand slam in three days. (Cubs lost both games!) In the bottom of the Nth, with it starting to rain harder and the mound being barely usable, Bielecki was basically the last available arm in the Cub bullpen but he couldn't hold the lead. Barry Bonds did something heroic in that game, though I've forgotten specifics.

Bonds hit record-tying and record-breaking home runs yesterday and today, passing Harmon Killebrew on the all-time list. I actually had baseball on the radio, on the way to Igor's poker, when Bonds hit the Friday shot. Of course, since I have all the luck, at the time he hit it I had the A's game on.

Bielecki ["by-LECK-ee"], by contrast, has been out of the majors for several years. His last big league work was as a Braves middle reliever. Now he, like 1989 Cub rotation mate Rick Sutcliffe, is a broadcaster. Not for ESPN radio but rather for local Chicago-area baseball postgame shows.

Speaking of people at about that level of Chicago celebrity, my mom was telling me about a guy who used to host Cubs pre-game who was recently busted for soliciting minors on-line. It was a very long bust involving AOL chat rooms and (from what I infer) police realizing this was someone famous and all but setting him up. (Yeah yeah, doesn't excuse anything. His own fault for doing what he was doing in the first place, especially if the cop pretending to be a 15-year-old girl actually did claim to him that she was 15.) Anyway, I'm blanking on the dude's name but he had Chris Kahrl on his show a lot. When my mom asked if I recognized his name, I actually did, via Baseball Prospectus plugging the Chris Kahrl appearances. Mom actually remembered Kahrl as a frequent guest, which is a good since in that it means one day she too will be a stathead.
The Rock as a gay piano bartender
This is just one of the many things I've seen this weekend that count as odd and amusing. Dead-on Chris Matthews parody too. Also, where some TV has a blatant Harvard influence (Simpsons, Conan, etc.), I'd dead convinced that the creator of the "Drunk Girl" character went to Boston University. Maybe it's just universal, like how so many people assume Scott Adams once worked for their messed-up company.

Since I last wrote...
poker (to be discussed on some other blog)

left Igor's at 4 a.m. and got to Oakland in plenty of time. decided to go straight to the airport, eschewing a shower and anything I needed at home but minimizing bleary-eyed driving. also, didn't want to mess with finding a parking spot out by Great Highway and walking those four blocks each way

saw, in Oakland Aiport, a Black Muslim bakery. with "all natural ingredients." woo.

on the plane ride we had a screaming -- not baby, but rather mentally incapacitated adult. I don't know my Down's Syndrome from my other afflictions but he definitely had something along those lines. He screamed exactly when a baby would scream, only with much better pipes.

parents swung by Krispy Kreme on the way to the airport (so, pace a recent conversation I had, they're near Midway but NOT within it), yet we won't eat the donuts until tomorrow.

instead, ate a late lunch at a place called Famous Dave's (Wisconsin-style(!) barbeque), had good ribs and got wet-naps to wipe our hands off with.

watched the end of the Cubs game on TV after hearing a lot of it on the radio. My thoughts on Ron Santo deserve an entry all their own. basically: Bill James et al are absolutely right that he belongs in the Hall of Fame but part of the campaign to get him in has backfired in that it's turned into a pity party. I don't like thinking of Santo with pity. Then again, listening to him on the radio is kind of difficult. The best way to put it is that he's a very pleasant old man. He's not a painful shadow of his former self the way Harry Caray had been, but nor is he still-going-strong the way Detroit's Ernie Harwell or even the Bay Area's Lon Simmons is or will be remembered as. Instead, Santo sounds vaguely whiny on-air (endearingly whiny?), not as random as Harry but a little out of touch, prone to taking precious time with broadcast partner Pat Hughes on (for example) trying to remember all seven of the seven dwarves.

The Cubs game ended in a jaw-droppingly good double-play by Pittsburgh. If you haven't seen the highlight of it yet, you don't watch enough cable TV. I predict that as late as August or September, you'll still see it on some sort of recap of highlights of the season's web gems.

Right around there Sarah got in from Chicago. My missed flight wasn't all that bad since Sarah couldn't have gotten here any earlier anyway, what with work commitments. (The work commitments are, all in all, a good thing.)

Actually, Sarah got in while we were watching the Masters. Between the golf and her astonishingly blunt, mildly acerbic comments, I couldn't help but think of Jon Couture. It was an interesting mental juxtaposition.

The four of us actually sat at the table together and had a nice lasagna dinner, with Skip Caray as ambient background noise to mask the sounds of chewing and forks scraping. Right before dinner we'd caught some of a Braves-Marlins game that turned out to be very exciting, going into the 14th inning, although instead of watching it past about midway, we put in a tape of the movie Quiz Show.

Mom helped me with my taxes. Rather, I fed her crucial pieces of info and she did mine for me. Thanks mom! She and I also talked about duplicate bridge and she showed me slideshows of pictures she's taken and uploaded to the computer. Dad and Sarah talked about the things they talk about. Sarah and I had time alone to chat while watching Saturday Night Live.

She's sleeping downstairs, in the room with all "my" crap in it, because it's her first choice room. Normally it'd be my first choice room but I just don't care any more. I suspect that I don't mind hearing other people snore nearly as much as she does, so when I finally go to bed I'll take an upstairs room. Supposedly I'm "still on West Coast time," which is amusing given the amount of sleep I'm currently operating on. :-)

Friday, April 12, 2002

In better news, today is absolutely gorgeous
The city of Oakland is quite underrated in terms of weather and fauna. There's a stretch of I-800 northbound, just before the Bay Bridge, that even at the height of rush hour is almost empty. Cars going at full speed, where you can be driving 75 and it feels like you're cruising at 35.

Every body of water in the immediate surroundings is beautiful today, not least of which the Pacific Ocean as I drove towards it on Lincoln. I could run out to the beach to recharge a bit.

Urge to cry sharply decreasing.
I missed my flight
I really don't want to talk about it. Suffice to say this is a major setback in my efforts to become (or pose as) "laid back."
*sigh*
If I had a greater capacity to cry, some tears would feel astonishly good right about now.

I'll go first thing tomorrow morning, on standby, getting into Chicago at 12:50 p.m. instead of 10:50 p.m. So, 14 hours less of a visit, half of which would have been sleeping anyway.

What to do tonight? Oddly enough my friend Igor has poker on what's shaping up to be the second Friday night of every month. At least, some Friday night, where it's happened to be the second the last couple months. I think I could go. We'd probably finish the last hand just in time for me to drive to the airport and be two hours early for tomorrow's flight. Raise your hand if you see me about to lose a crapload of money. :-)

Anxiety Disorder
I've never officially been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness, nor do I take (nor want to take) any kind of medication. I muddle through okay without it. The very act of doing so is enough of a source of pride that in some ways it keeps me going. Also, my irrational fear and dislike of both medicine and hospitals entices me to steer clear from all that. Still, it's become ever more obvious that any problem I have is closer to Anxiety Disorder (if not Panic Disorder, but I think the difference is just a matter of degree) than anything else.

Example: Although "There's Something About Mary" is the only movie I've ever reacted to this way in a theater, all the time I'll watch rental tapes where scenes come up that I have to just leave the room for a bit. Always these involve some character getting the shaft. My sense of basic fairness is so acute that sometimes, in order to fully enjoy fiction, I wish I could turn it off, to fully internalize the whole it's only a movie! disclaimer.

Even some promos give me the willies, most recently for Changing Lanes. Heard a radio ad for it while in the car in heavy traffic. It's not even the fear of an accident but rather, from the promo it sounds like the Samuel L. Jackson character's life gets ruined as a result of Affleck being a dick. Or at least, that's what they need to set up for the rest of the premise to work. I'd love to know more about the plot. (Actually, that turns out to be wrong: I read some spoilage at IMDB and now I wish I hadn't) But in any case, I know for dead certain that this is a movie I couldn't stomach.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

9:11
Are they going to have a moment of silence every night? If so, why wasn't there one at PBP? Oh, thanks Joe... each club's first home night game, or at least first game that lasts that long (the 6 p.m. start time is funny that way).
Age old fantasy baseball dilemma
(At least for daily transaction leagues.) Randy Johnson pitches at Coors Field tonight.
This helps my Baseball Challenge team
In the time it took to type the last entry, both Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa homered in the same game. Thanks to my dislike of the Cub radio guys, I actually get to hear the "Let's go Mets! F-A-N" radio jingle for the first time all year.
Aussies suck
a post wherein I do exactly what is I hate, arguing by assertion and character assassination; but just deal
At least, a lot of the vocal ones do. And not just Aussies: Probably also a lot of Canadians, Brits, basically anyone who babbles in English on the Internet but doesn't hail from the U.S. Like this one (via Lileks).

This kind of anti-American sentiment is all over the place among international computer geek circles. Slashdot has the worst of it, though they're all just whiny bordering on insufferable in the first place.

I was part of an on-line group once with a couple of Australians and a whole bunch of Harvard folk. Of the Aussies, one was really nice but the other fairly young, far more opinioned than informed, and prone to saying things like "the Bush administration is slowly transforming that bastion of the free world into a police state." A couple years back I managed to offend them all at the same time, to burn every bridge I could possibly burn in one spectacular Ueberflamewar sprung from about four distinct arguments. Let's see...

gays in the military was one (gay marriage an offshoot of this, where the irony is that I'm all in favor of it but just hate the way that some of its advocates argue the point, as though marriage were nothing more than an entitlement)

some weird thing about prenatal care was one, where basically there exist people who will rail against anything that results in the law even vaguely treating anyone as a person before birth

but the really underrated one was the thing that, these days, you'd shorthand to "unilateralism," at least if you were a Bush critic. In some thread on the U.N., I made the point that by and large, most countries out there are shitholes run by tyrants. The young hotheaded Australian was especially offended by this, which is weird because I didn't mean her country. Obviously "most" does not mean "all." I meant more the Robert Mugabe's of the world. Still, it's not like the Euroweenies are a huge improvement.
What I love about blogs
Some real Nazi skinheads tried to set up in Knoxville (they came from Georgia, I think). They visited a bar called the "SnakeSnatch" (moment of silence, please -- it's a Knoxville icon now departed, and inspired a song of that name by the Rude Street Peters) and tried to beat up its inhabitants under the impression that it was a gay bar. I think a fair number of the patrons may have been gay, but they weren't especially nonviolent, as the skinheads discovered to their dismay.
--Glenn (Instapundit) Reynolds in an uncharacteristic digression

Along those lines, at the Giant's game last night they periodicially had game show type features. One guy had to choose between a pair of weekend game tickets and the contents of a gift-wrapped back, which turned out to be a Dodger media guide. Between innings they had a "Date Cam," where they went around the stadium showing cute couples, all of whom were straight.

I kept waiting, in vain, to see the two gay guys or the dykes who were made for each other. I mean, this is San Francisco, right? But no such luck. I wonder how long it'll be before someone complains.
Typical Texas Rangers game, circa early 1990s
As seen on TV!
First pitch temperature is about 98 degrees. (No exaggeration.) Both starting pitchers just wilt in the evening heat. The score's 6-5 at some point in the top of the fifth. The three-hour mark comes and goes around seventh inning stretch time. One team or the other blows a lead in the eighth. Rusty Greer hits a walkoff homer.

Rusty Greer has gotten, in his career, an insane number of game-winning hits. I don't know if this can be borne out statistically or is just my impression. I did see numbers once, specific to Greer, suggesting that he got more than usual. But there are other players -- Troy O'Leary while the aliens were still possessing him -- about whom I also have this game-winner impression without really knowing how true it is. Maybe they only win games when I'm watching.
The "Typical" Giants or A's Game
I saw baseball last night. So did Monde de Cooch. The comments about a "typical Red Sox game" (which, alas, ring true) got me to thinking about what a typical Bay Area baseball game has been like, at least since 2000. Two seasons and change is a tiny sample size, and it helps to have two of baseball's model franchises out here, but it's an interesting difference. Out here the home team wins the archetypical game.

San Francisco: Last night's game was typical in a disturbing number of ways. Scoreless into the fourth inning (on average, if I'm at a weeknight game the first run doesn't happen until inning 5 or so), remarkably fast-paced game. The listed start time was 7:15 but as of 7:21 on the ballpark clock the first inning was already over. Not half-inning, but full. Guess they switched the start time on us? Bastards. Oh well. Chill wind streaming in from the Bay, lots of balls crushed that die just short of the warning track. (To me, this makes the Barry Bonds HR record significantly more impressive than people will ever know. If you're a power hitter, PBP is a bitch of a place to play. My anecdotal evidence is that it's the anti-Coors.) Giants cling to a late lead in a low-scoring game. Robb Nen comes on to "Smoke on the Water." Then one of two things happen: He's on and gets the save, or he's off and the other team ties it but SF eventually wins anyway. I stick around to hear the Tony Bennett finale, walk 5-10 minutes to my favorite parking area, and hear Jon Miller's highlights on the radio on the ride through SF city streets. Average game time: about 2 hours, 20 minutes

Oakland: The striking feature of A's baseball, to a football fan, would be time of possession. Through the first six-seven innings, seems to me as though a vast majority of the time is spent with Oakland batting. There's a simple reason for this, and it involves bases on balls. Not only does every A's hitter seem to get to 2-2 every time up, but the pitchers themselves never walk anyone. Tim Hudson doesn't. Mulder and Zito: You'd normally associate hotshot young lefties with control problems, but not these guys. So Oakland gets tons of baserunners, the other team far fewer. But instead of stringing enough hits together to lead like 12-0, the A's will strand a bunch of runners until whatever inning(s) they get either two clutch hits in a row or a massive, towering home run. Around stretch time, the score is invariably something like 6-3 or 7-2. Then one of two things happens:
1. The starter's still going strong; the game ends very uneventfully.

2. Whoever it is does start to run out of gas. Bring on Jim Mecir, Jeff Tam, Mark Guthrie, your basic cast of thousands of middle relievers. This lengthens the game a little. Also, this is when the other team finally starts to figure out, hey, if we take a few pitches then maybe we can get baserunners too! So this (the eventful outcome) invariably leads to something like 6-4 or 7-5 entering the ninth. Enter Jason Isringhausen (substitute Billy Koch this year) and fasten your seat belt! (We'll see soon if Koch is a seat belt fastening kind of closer.) A baserunner or two later, Izzy does strike the last guy out. Celebratory music plays. People file out of the concrete bowl. Somewhere in the massive parking lot (or, if I was a cheapskate, in the unofficial dirt lots across the bridge over 880), I finally get to my car and hear Ken Korac's radio highlights on the highway en route to the Bay Bridge tool. Average game time: about 3 hours, 10 minutes
overrated
pretty good
awesome
heinous

That's my take on this week's 10@10. (Depending on when you read this, the Thursday set list may not be posted there yet.)

The degree to which I've been hearing it says bad things about what time I'm driving into work, though in fairness last night I caught the evening replay. Sort of the perfect ending to the perfect ballgame. I hadn't heard Crazy in ages. Most people, when they think of Icehouse, all they know of is "Electric Blue."

Then this morning I discovered, song after song after miserable song, precisely what was wrong with 1977. Where to begin? There was "Birdland" -- actually the first time I'd heard the radio version rather than struggling through the pep band version. Immediately after that some song with a porno bass that turned out to be from the Alan Parsons Project. Somewhere before "Birdland" was that dopey "Time Keeps on Slipping into the Future" song. Note: Sometimes I'm annoyed when commercials reappropriate pop songs. But in this case, for the US Postal Service to take such an awful song, it makes me want to gloat on a bunch of levels. Late in the set was the obligatory Steely Dan, in this case "Josie." But none could possibly compare to the worst song ever.

See it for yourself here, though a simple lyrics sheet can't possibly do justice to Andrew Gold's mournful, melodramatic wailing. Guterman and O'Donnell just excoriate this song, making fun of the awful thing that happened to this poor child, the heinous fate that his parents inflicted on him in the form of (gasp!) a younger sister.

Back when I first read that book, I'd only heard maybe two thirds of the songs on their list. One of the ones I'd never heard was "Lonely Boy." Had to take their word how bad it was. Then when I finally did hear it (maybe two years ago), I could only wonder why it wasn't even higher on their list.

Oh yeah, and the 10@10 set for 1977 also had Elvis Costello's "Allison." My aim is true.
Holy F*cking Shinjo
Dodgers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 1 8 0
Giants 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 - 2 7 0

W-Nen (1-0), L-Quantrill (0-1), HR-Shinjo (1)


The new guy did really well in my first live ballgame of spring, even if it was Bonds who ended up with the headline.

Shinjo hit a little 340-foot clothesline/bullet of a homer down the left field line in the 4th, then later somehow managed to hold a guy at third, who'd come from second to third on a double. (Hiram Bocachica inexplicably tagged up at second on a ball that ended up off the wall. Dodgers can't be too happy about that.)

Heard "Take Me Out the Ballgame" (and no sign of patriotic music: ah, San Francisco...), heard "Smoke on the Water" for Nen (who promptly blew a 1-0 lead thanks to some bad luck).

Saw Chad Kreuter choke with the bases loaded. I still have issues with Kreuter, the guy who stiffed my sister out of an autograph in Tulsa once. Damn prima donna. Even Juan Gonzalez was friendly to her. But Kreuter -- just because he was a catcher who'd gotten The Call, he was too good for her. Never mind that he wasn't as good as Mike Stanley before him or even Bill Haselman, his immediate predecessor. Of course, Kreuter was replaced in Tulsa (and ultimately in Arlington) by some guy named Pudge.

Since Nen had blown the lead and the Giants needed a bottom of the ninth after all, saw their rally clip, sampled from Network, in which the guy says, I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell: except instead of being "mad as hell," we just want to "go Giants" or "beat LA" or somesuch.

Brian Jordan was beaten like a rented mule
Seeing him take two steps in on the Bonds hit, then freeze, then start to backpedal and finally sprint backwards after it was too late, I suddenly got the feeling of what it must have been like to see Jordan burned -- torched -- by Jerry Rice when Jordan was a Falcon cornerback.

People watching
To my immediate left (in the CF bleachers) were a pair of nice, mildly geeky guys (sort of like me) who were actually paying close attention to the game, knowing who did and didn't swing at the first pitch and a fair amount about the players. To my right and also behind me was a contingent of two girls and four or five really boisterous guys. Beer drinkers all. They give one of the girls some serious shit over, as far as I can tell, the fact that she was dating some crack dealer named Jake. They also swore a lot and tried to imitate the speaking tones of The Rock. In front of me was a couple with a baby. The baby was very well-behaved; the mom a diehard Giant fan, the dad a Dodger fan. To the immediate left of the mildly geeky guys were a trio of really cute girls, a redhead and two blondes, all with black "SF" paint on their cheeks. The cutest blonde girl, with the dimples and the moist eyes and the toothy smile, alas! - it's bad enough that she was attached but it seemed like her beau was also a Dodger fan. Curses! The joke was on them though.

Last but not least, courtesy of Tony Bennett, the music they always play at PBP following a victory (almost like their version of Dirty Water, only they wait a couple minutes to put it on; they put it on about when they first shut off a bank of outfield light), the music that almost singlehandedly defines and validates my SF Giants outings:

The loveliness of Paris
seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome
is of another day
I've been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan
I'm going home to my city by the bay.

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me.
To be where little cable cars
climb halfway to the stars!
The morning fog may chill the air
I don't care!
My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco,
your golden sun will shine for me!

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

The Computer Geek Who Loved Ugie Urbina
Guess Stephen King won't write about my life anytime soon. As it happens the Sox appear to be trailing Kansas City. Tying run did manage to get on deck though.
They're playing "Get This Party Started" on the Fenway PA system. THAT IS SO WRONG.
Fruit Candy
Not only does this stuff I'm chowing on look like miniature pieces of fruit, but each particular piece actually tastes like the kind of fruit it looks like. We've got apples, oranges, bananas, cherries... and massive amounts of sugar.
Would you like fries with that?
My favorite part of this story is the house -- apparently unrelated to the story -- that shows up on the inpage ad. (Or at least did the first time I loaded the page.)
blah
Been tired all week. Post-tournament, this always happens. You can tell even from my prose.

Not that I haven't been writing buttloads of it, just not here. Writing back to people about NAQT stuff. Also, the biggest contribution I've made at work today has been sending a pair of lengthy e-mails with design recommendations.

Got home last night, wanting to sleep. Only thing on my agenda was a routine phone call. But before I could make it, I had two phone calls to return. One was from my sister. We had a great conversation, but suffice to say I didn't return the other phone call nor make my routine call.

On the plus side, get your stats here. From my Excel spreadsheet on Emil T. Chuck's computer to my own computer (via Yahoo!) to Chad Kubicek's computer to well-formed HTML. Woo.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Fun with design changes: The meeting I just got out of made moot pretty much any productive work that I did or would have done from the start of the workweek to just before the meeting. There's a silver lining to this, though, one that I probably shouldn't admit (and therefore won't) but that you'll figure out pretty easily if you read Dilbert.

Don't get me wrong, though: I do now think that the work they want is well-defined and well worth doing, possibly because I'm cocky enough to think that I can give them exactly what they want remarkably quickly, so long as they keep things simple, or at least not totally illogical. At least, I can deliver it quicker than anyone else here would (experience bears this out), even without factoring in whether I suddenly went gung-ho and immersed myself into evenings of work.

I'm such a big believer in the current design (a relative convert, since there are things that sound ridiculous at first until one sees where they're coming from on particular issues) that there's actually a nontrivial risk that I'll go gung-ho soon. Which would suck if they suddenly changed their mind on key design issues. Which is why I'm typing here at this instant instead of drawing a model on scratch paper and crafting some code.

Time for lunch.
I may never talk about fantasy baseball again
Despite the occasional rants about him, I do normally enjoy reading that sports person. But my eyes glazed over around the second paragraph of this column. Way too much information and not even in the "mosquito bite on the scrotum" sort of TMI tradition.

So, barring special requests, no blather about my fantasy teams here.

Recognizing other people's character flaws and vowing not to make the same mistakes they do is a great way to improve your own character, if your flaws are similar to theirs.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Speak softly and never lose your cool
Having seen what I don't like in other people, I'm making a concerted effort myself to speak softly and never lose my cool. One goal here is some day to have some acquaintance describe me, without irony, as "laid back." Things may never get that far but it's something nice to shoot for.

Oddly enough my dad has a set of heroes, coach/leader types, including but not limited to General Patton, Woody Hayes, and Bob Knight. These seem like exactly the folks I'd clash with. What's odd about it is that Dad himself seems to have gotten really good at getting what he wants in the real world through sweet-talk and diplomacy. Sometimes I surprise myself with my own skill at this; maybe I got it from him. Makes up for getting the hot temper from him.

So what coach/leader types do I like? The ones who are really intense but in spite of that intensity, really do seem to keep quiet and never lose their cool. At both my previous jobs I reported to people like this, people I held in extremely high regard. It's actually pretty rare for my opinion of someone to go that high, so to have two job situations in a row like that is extraordinarily good luck. Sad to say, there's nobody in this office who I respect that much. Mind, this says far more about people I used to work with than about people here. They're fine too, just not singularly revered.

Meanwhile, members at the NAQT annual meeting this weekend included both a practicing attorney and someone who's in (or recently completed) some business program. At some point I realized just how obvious it was who the lawyer was and who the B-school guy was. The latter spoke and acted with a glossy sheen. The former was soft-spoken, maybe even a little self-effacing, but brutally quick-witted and direct in communicating. What's funny is just how inaccurate some stereotypes are: I bet there are a lot of people who would have gotten the B-school person and the lawyer switched around.
The Padre radio announcers get political
Today is San Diego's home opener and of all the games currently live (or, currently live as of an hour ago), this was the one I happened to click on.

Today the Padres honor America, the military and all. The radio guys are all in favor of this. They pointed out that people had written letters to the editor expressing fatigue with the whole "God Bless America" thing, expressing the desire to go to a baseball game to get away from the world and its problems and 9/11 and so on. The radio guys were aghast by this attitude, saying why not sing God Bless America every day? Heck, these guys openly advocated on the air just now the return of the Pledge of Allegiance to public schools.

San Diego: Interesting place. (For what it's worth, I think I agree with the letter writers, without feeling all that strongly.)

Also, if you're looking for Roger Hedgecock, this afternoon at least you can find him on one of KOGO's sister stations, as the commercial bumper voiceover has reminded me every half-inning. Hedgecock's stock has gone way up lately among various Rush Limbaugh backup hosts. Seems like Sean Hannity's holding steady, with Tony Snow heard a lot less often. Snow's got better things to do though.
People who fail my inner bullshit detector
Read the next to last paragraph. Yeah, I bet he didn't know.
Brick
One of my all-time least favorite radio personalities is returning to the Boston airwaves. I'm sure he's a fine person, and his schtick is harmless and all, I just don't like listening to him much. This wouldn't be a big deal except that one particular summer, depending on who else was working that night, I'd be a captive audience for hours on end, several nights a week. That's how mild dislike turns into seething resentment.

I am nothing if not passive-aggressive.

So it turns out there's an entire personality type that rubs me completely the wrong way. Brick is poster boy for it. Call it bluster or "talking a good game" or whatever you prefer.

There's actually someone with that personality in the quiz company I'm part of. It's a little unfortunate, since all in all I think he does do great work. Cool guy, heart in the right place, but exactly the kind of high-strung person whose high-strungness clashes with mine. Yes, I'm high-strung. But yes, there are intense people whose intensity dovetails pretty well with mine. It's hard to explain. Basically it's the shouting that gets to me. I'm turning one of those ex mental patients who can get along just fine but needs to avoid sudden loud noises. :-)

There's also someone in the same company who I don't completely trust. Sometimes my ability to dislike people so quickly is a little distressing, since I'd really rather not. I'd just as soon like everyone and be liked by everyone. It actually works out that way a lot, just not often enough. What's also disturbing is how often my instincts turn out to be right. False positives versus false negatives, maybe: On the specific issue of trust, I'm so naive and trust people so easily that if there's someone I don't trust, then the rest of you really better keep your hand on your wallet.

Even at that, whether it's trust or respect or hard work or whatever, I have a chicken-egg problem. All these people who I didn't like or didn't trust, who ended up turning out to be bad fits in whatever group we shared. There's a recurring process here:
1. I realize I have my doubts about the person but am not sure what to do about it.
2. Since I have all the subtlety of a yak falling off a mountain, pretty soon it feels (to me) like everyone can tell how I feel even though I'm way too much of a wuss to actually say it.
3. Suddenly it becomes clear that whoever it is, other people don't seem to like that person either.
4. It all becomes more and more awkward, and then suddenly the other person isn't around anymore.

Every time we reach step #4, I feel really powerful but in kind of a sickening way. It's even happened at the previous places I worked. Not at my current place of employment, though. At least, not yet.
Israel: The Country That Can Do No Right

"Is it just me or does it seem that the U.S. has an "Israel can do no wrong" attitude?"
--random thought from a potpourri-type post to a mailing list I'm on, a list supposedly devoted to sports of all things


Not all that many countries, nor all that many religions, have to deal with groups of well-armed and well-armed fanatics hell-bent on their eradication. Perhaps the U.S. counts, since we're the Great Satan and all, though we're big enough and bad enough not to tolerate outright attacks.

Israel has to deal with those sorts of people. Not to get all political on you (though I'll probably have some thoughts on the political blog, time permitting, one of these days) but I don't think most Americans fully appreciate that. It's a democracy in a region full of tyrants, a Jewish nation surrounded by countries full of people who honestly think that Jews are evil and need to be destroyed.

But that doesn't justify X.

Maybe, maybe not, depending on what X is. Ask yourself, though: Is Israel sending suicide bombers out to kill a bunch of civilians? When you're the nation whose civilians are being targeted by bigoted, no-good cowards, in my book you get a little slack. Jay Nordlinger (first item) puts it much better than I ever could.
Fantasy baseball news
Here's what's up in the big leagues as far as I can tell:
San Francisco is undefeated. All clubs other than the Giants have lost at least once. They're just mauling people.

Ken Griffey is hurt again and may miss the season.

Jacque Jones, Minnesota outfielder, is red-hot.

Carlos Pena, A's rookie 1B, leads the American League in home runs. He's a big boost to at least one (maybe exactly one) of my teams.

Hank Blalock (granting that a week is small sample size), Rangers rookie 3B, is absolutely killing a bunch of my teams.

John Smoltz, Braves closer, got rocked Armageddon-style against New York on Saturday. This may singlehandedly kill my team in the weeniest league I'm even in, the league that, if I fail to win it, I should just go ahead and turn in every piece of fantasy baseball cred I have. Yes, Will Au-Yeung, I'm talking about your league. All nine teams of it.

In one of those wacky late-night real-time e-mail exchanges (the kind that bring back memories of college), Joon pointed out that my team and his were #1-2 in the quiz bowl fantasy league. Fancy that. It's unclear to me how my team is doing this. Lots of unexpectedly good pitching, the opposite of what people thought coming out of the draft.

I'm 3rd of 14 in the Arizona guys' league, with outstanding pitching and mediocre hitting.

8th of 9 in the Will league. Grr.

4th of 12 in that "masters" league for Baseball HQ. There it's my hitting that rocks and my pitching that's been (aside from Randy Johnson) total dreck. This is the team that's the Big Unit, two blue-chip middle infielders (Alomar and Tejada), two blue-chip closers (Hoffman and Sasaki), plus a whole bunch of middle relievers that give me great ERA and WHIP and above-average strikeouts. Then for the rest of the roster, hitting just good enough to make due. When you draft Unit and middle infielders early, you miss out on the Bonds/Sosa/Magglio type outfielders. C'est la vie. But when suddenly Steve Finley and Mark Kotsay are carrying your offense, life is a little upside down.
Indian food
Sticking with the cuisine riff: Chris Nolte, R. Robert Hentzel & I flew together and shared a room Thursday night. We discovered the existence of an Indian restaurant at that 54 & 55 intersection. Knowing its exact location would have been far more helpful than just knowing that it existed, as we ended up walking all over the place on foot.

North Carolina roads are decidedly NOT pedestrian-friendly. Another of those crappy things that you just admit are crappy and make due.

Once finally at the place, we made our order and requested our food "hot." Or, "extra-hot" as R. put it. Now, some Indian places won't serve food beyond a certain hotness to pasty-white people. This place, though... it was indeed hot. I've had my fill of Indian spices for awhile.

This would have been far more interesting as a TMI post. Oh well. I'm at work and all.
Back from North Carolina
The tournament went reasonably well. I'll post links to places with more info as soon as the info is there (much of it for Division I supplied by me, since I did stats).

One thing about a long time away from the on-line world is that returning to it forces one to focus on the big picture as opposed to picayune stuff. And yet, sometimes the picayune things make for better stories.

Like Waffle House. Friday morning we went to one of those and got the Worst Service Ever. Here, "we" refers to a combination of NAQT people and Carleton people. Eric Hillemann (the point of intersection for those sets) had been told that Waffle House was a good place to eat south of the Mason-Dixon line, and in any case people were in no mood for fast food. I'm not sure why it came so highly recommended. I'm from Tulsa; I know what a Waffle House can be like. When the service sucked (long wait for our bill, messed-up orders, and so on), various people were shocked and had cows. Not even the usual suspects either -- Michigan folk weren't even in town yet. I was a little surprised that other people were so surprised. Maybe this is my own soft bigotry of low expectations, but growing up in Tulsa has led me to expect so little competence from anyone anywhere southeast of there that it's impossible to disappoint me.

Also, I don't understand this knee-jerk condemnation of fast food. More to the point, I don't understand what it is that people despise about certain franchises. Granted, I literally don't have the stomach for (say) McDonald's. But there's list of places that work just fine for me in a pinch: Arby's, Taco Bell, Wendy's, BK, just off the top of my head. The intersection of NC 54 and NC 55 had franchises in spades. Pick your poison and know that while you're not getting exceptional quality, what you'll get is a pretty well-known quantity, more-than-passable food with no burden on your schedule.

They even had a Chick-Fil-A! I was mildly disappointed, though, to find that the chicken I got there didn't taste nearly as good as what they had (maybe still have) in Harvard's Science Center, where a Chick-Fil-A now occupies some of the Greenhouse Cafe space. Julie Stahlhut and I shared our memories of the legendarily bad Greenhouse food & service, me from being at Harvard in the mid-1990s, her from being at MIT in the late 1970s.