Saturday, June 15, 2002

Poker Last Night
Three very good things:
1. I came out three dollars and thirty cents ahead. (At ten-cent ante, that's not much more than breaking even, but since it's not a loss, I'm happy.)

2. I left at 2 a.m. rather than getting sucked into the spectacle-like hands that happen when the tables consolidate. Among the true nightowls, at some point people just start betting wildly, as people who are behind get ever more anxious to recoup their losses. Also, they play this one game in which a tremendous amount of money changes hands. It's called either Iron Cross or Jenga. The rules are complicated but the short version is I really really don't like this game.

3. People actually like a game that I "invented"! I came to this one with two variants I'd thought up. First, the one that didn't catch on very well:
"Hearts" Stud
Played just like 7-card stud (you can make it a hi-lo pot split if you want) with these variants:
A. If a player is dealt a heart face-up, that player must either put the "value" of that card into the pot or fold. So for a 10-cent ante, if you got the two of hearts face-up you'd owe 20 cents to the pot. Ninety cents for the nine of hearts, $1.00 for a face card (only the way I announced the rules, I had the ace only costing 10 cents - the ace should probably work like a face card). Hearts dealt face-down are free. Other than their cost, hearts are nothing special.

B. The queen of spades is wild. Face down it's free, but if a player gets the queen of spades dealt face-up then that player must match the pot or fold.

Now the one that people did like:
"Chicago Hold-Em"
Short version: Dealt just like Texas Hold-Em but pot split just like Chicago. So start with these rules but add these variants:

A. The pot is split between the high hand and whoever (not counting anyone who folded) has the highest face-down spade, if anyone.

B. The queen of spades is wild if face-down but results in a redeal if face up.

(Here are the Chicago rules...)
The backyard party itself went pretty well. Perfect weather, lots and lots of food. Intimate gathering, where I think everyone who came over did so in two carloads. Everyone there either used to work for Silicon Age or is dating or married to (or raised by) a Silicon Age ex-pat. The couple who hosted have a daughter with just the sweetest disposition imaginable. She didn't talk much but did a whole lot of hosting work, bringing food from the kitchen downstairs to the yard.
Do I write too much?
It came up at the picnic I went to today that in just about anything I do, I generate copious amounts of text. For the most part that's probably a good thing but when the text is crap, the useful info gets lost.

Either this will result in sporadic but better posts, or I'll just mope about it for a few minutes before forgetting about it.
Taxes
(Two disclaimers: First, this is an e-mail forward. Source unclear, although my immediate source was my mom. Second, it really belongs on the politics blog rather than here but I honestly wonder how many people read each of the three heads of this Cerberus-like blog structure. Are there people who read only the politics or only the TMI? Without further ado...)


Subject: Democrat Economics

If you don't understand the Democrats' version of tax cuts (and you are
not alone), this will explain it for you: 50,000 people go to a baseball
game, but the game was rained out. A refund was then due. The team was
about to mail refunds when the Congressional Democrats stopped them and
suggested that they send out refund amounts based on the Democrat
National Committee's interpretation of fairness.

After all, if the refunds were made based on the price each person paid
for the tickets, most of the money would go to the wealthiest ticket
holders. That would be unconscionable.

The DNC plan says;

People in the $10 seats will get back $15, because they have less money
to spend. Call it an "Earned" Income Ticket Credit. Persons "earn" it
by demonstrating little ambition, few skills and poor work habits, thus
keeping them at entry-level wages.

People in the $15 seats will get back $15, because that's only fair.

People in the $25 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot
of money and don't need a refund. If they can afford a $25 ticket, then
they must not be paying enough taxes.

People in the $50 luxury seats will have to pay another $50, because they
have way too much to spend.

The people driving by the stadium who couldn't afford to watch the game
will get $10 each, even though they didn't pay anything in, because they
need the most help.

Now do you understand? If not contact Representative Richard Gephart or
Senator Tom Daschle for assistance.

Friday, June 14, 2002

O Canada!
I'm listening to the performance of O Canada! from Le Stade Olympique, on the Toronto Blue Jays' webcast. As far as I can tell, they're not going to bother with the U.S. national athem on this one, but it's unclear because of all the commercials.
I think I like Mike Develin more than I like his weblog.
That sounds almost like an insult, but it's not. You can tell how much I like his weblog because I link to it all the time. But contrary to his fears (expressed near the end of that post), I don't like it as much as I like him.

Mike in person is spontaneous, where a given weblog entry is pretty static. Also, Mike in person doesn't that hard-to-read font. I'm all about dark text on light background; light text on dark background makes my eyes hurt.
Secret "Service"
Yikes! Thanks to a couple of those movies from the early to mid 1990s, there used to be a cult/fetish of Secret Service agent garb, Halloween costumes and so on. Now I don't know. I don't loathe them but I do fear them a little.

Since Secret "Service" is such a Fucked Company kind of headline I went to check if he had it. Not yet. He does have this, though. If and when I give up completely on women, that e-mail will be one of the exhibits.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

I was really sad for awhile today but it's much better now.
I wasn't even sad for the reasons that you might think. Maybe it was more of a tired kind of sad.

One thing about this April 2003 wedding is that I can say very defiantly to myself, or to whatever impersonal forces would create a risk here, that nothing bad can happen to me between now and then. Well, of course generically sucky things can happen between now and then, but nothing that prevents me from going to the wedding. It's part of a sense of duty -- I have promises to keep there now.
For the first time in my life, I actually fear death.
I don't know if fear is the right word. Apprehension maybe.

I just realized this very very recently. Not sure when it began, although this is definitely more recent than September. The India-Pakistan thing contributed greatly to my realizing how I felt, or maybe shaped how I felt.

It's unclear what's changed other than world events, if anything. Maybe if I were going to church every Sunday, or going to church at all, I'd have the moral support for what has always been at my core (always used to be at my core), the idea that things would always work out in the end.

Actually, you know what it is? Contemplating what it's like to lose a loved once. I should say, contemplating losing a loved one who passed away far before their time. I always used to be so completely certain that this wasn't so bad, given that we'd all just see each other again in heaven anyway. Now... I guess it's not that I have doubts about heaven but rather that I'm not ready for it yet. There's way too much on this world that I -- all of us really -- still need to get out and do.

This vaguely relates to a post I just made elsewhere in this set of blogs.
It's A Dysfunctional Life
Hey, the IADL Archive is back!

Also, I tinkered with my GeoCities homepage again.
This is why I support a timebank.
Londoners might be fired over World Cup. Several work-related points here:

1. On the basic issue, the union is right here. On the meta-issue there's a problem: ``Most employers have acted sensibly throughout the World Cup and workers have responded to that positively,'' the GMB union said. The problem is that from what I understand of union-management negotiations, once you have collective bargaining, it's very hard to act sensibly because the bureaucratic rigor gets in your way.

2. Calling in sick. It galls me that people would have to (or want to) feign illness to take time off here. Drawing a distinction between sick time and vacation time seems absurd to me. Let people take off the time they need without having to justify it. "You're sick -- but are you really 'sick'?" That's invasive. So the problem of course is what if you use all your vacation time and then really do get sick? The possibilities:
A. You go to work anyway (please don't do this! it's a pet peeve of mine) and infect the whole office.
B. You arrange for comp time (or "anti-comp time"? -- come in on the weekend or something)
C. Unpaid time off
How does this happen?
Aren't street cleaners really really slow?
How jarring to read a badly-written article about writing!
This guy doesn't like complete sentences very much. Either that or my reading comprehension is shot. Apparently there's a regional dialect in which the word "Though" can be put at the beginning of an otherwise complete sentence.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

This is my life.
I saw Spider-Man this evening. I can't tell you how my evening went without spoiling the movie.

If you've either seen the movie or read the James Lileks discourse on it (I can't find the actual article; it ran on May 7), I can tell you that Lileks is dead-on in many respects about the allegory involved.
Because we can!
Harvard pulls rank. Outspoken objection from Joanne Jacobs a few entries down but she and her e-mail correspondent miss a key point.

The "early decision" contract is between one student and one school ONLY. No contract ever binds a third party. Well, I suppose you could somehow argue that, say, marriage vows morally bind a third party not to sleep with your spouse. Somehow this doesn't strike me as even close to the same.

Early decision is bogus, as are (in the sports world) letters of intent. Go Crimson!
Who is Andy Etchebarren and what's that rod up his butt?!
Maybe I'm just misunderstanding but what part of "flipping the ball" (I still don't have a good mental image of this) constitutes showing someone up? Just let it go. Managers with fragile egos can kill an entire franchise.
Rooting Against the Yankees
I suppose the Giants would gain far more from an Arizona loss today than the A's would from a Yankee loss. Still, rooting against Steinbrenner's club is a must. Especially when it's (so far) successful.
I went to one of these games but not the one I thought I would.
The story of my Monday night is a long one.

Tuesday
MIL 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 - 2 5 2
OAK 5 0 1 0 0 1 0 4 X - 11 14 0

WP- Zito (8-2)
LP- Figueroa (1-4)

HR- Dye (5), Jenkins (9), Tejada (13)

Recap et al

Monday
MIL 0 0 0 3 2 0 1 0 0 - 6 16 0
OAK 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 X - 8 10 0

WP- Bradford (2-1)
LP- de Los Santos (1-2)
S- Koch (13)

HR- Hatteberg (10), Jenkins (8), Dye (4)

Recap et al

Tuesday's game was a spontaneous decision predicated on my assumption that my cellphone would work and that I could manage to have discreet conversations on it. One for two, maybe one-and-a-half. Mike and Joon and I went with a box full of Z's to post on Zito strikeouts. So of course, while pitching an otherwise dominant game (just three baserunners in eight innings!), he didn't strike anyone out until the fifth. Still, a fun game, like the 2001 vintage A's. Having a crappy opponent helps.

Monday's game was, from what I hear, a coming-out party for utility infielder Mark Ellis. You can read it for yourself. I heard the radio highlights a bit while driving out of Berkeley.
All mathematicians are British?!
Don't know how many readers live in areas served by 76 gasoline, but 76 runs racing-themed commercials in which stereotypical members of various professions try to join a NASCAR pit crew.

The mathematician is identified primarily by his British accent. I suppose it's the "educated person" accent archetype, since it's not Cockney or anything. Still, this seems inauthentic to me. Any actual math alumnus would know that the more accurate generalization would involve a Russian accent. :-)

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Down and In
I'm a hulking lefthander. Well, not hulking so much as bulky. Think of Matt Stairs, or maybe a vertically challenged Ryan Klesko. (Hence my great affinity for Klesko.)

This ought to make me a dead pull hitter who much prefers the ball down and in.

That's not so true: At the diamond I consistently pound the ball into the ground, resulting in either base hits through the hole or (much more likely) the dreaded 4-6-3 double play. But a couple times at the diamond last time and a bunch of times with the wiffle/nerf stuff upstairs, I've found my sweet spot: A little bit inside and about ankle high.

I drill that thing. This is incredibly validating.
Keep on "dancing"
Two thoughts about lyrics like these. First, they're a little clumsy. The waves crash over her for some reason? What kind of an opening line is that? I guess if you have the best beat/riffs of any pop song in years, you don't need real lyrics. But second, I think we all know what this song is really about. I mean, there are a lot of "I want your love" songs -- that's what pop is all about -- but purely physical F-me songs are rarer than you'd think.

Okay, maybe it's really about dancing. Maybe She-Bop is also really about dancing. Maybe.

Speaking of which, I was wondering the other day what became of Cyndi Lauper. Apparently she's opening for Cher?!
Random musing that will be too obscure for anyone to get
There's a street named Shattuck in Berkeley. I bet there's no street named Froggatt in Ann Arbor.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Craig
Craig's blog, not to be confused with Craig's List.

Speaking of which...
Between round 7 and round 8 of Saturday play, I had to run from my building to the primary building, confer over the pairings (this was the last time we'd need to switch teams between buildings), and then run back with the printouts. When I got back everyone was mobbing the spot where I'd post pairings, to the point that the hallways was almost impassable. I was out of breath, savaged by the heat, not in much of a condition to deal, so as I sprinted past him I blurted out: Hey Craig, could you yell?

The amusing irony here is how it relates to one of my single biggest complaints about past NAQT events, and the running disagreement that he and I have had just in the matter of leadership style, personality, crowd control and all that good stuff. Still the thing is, not only did he take control of the situation, but he gave exactly the information that I wanted him to give. It worked out better than I could have dreamed. When everyone quickly dispersed to exactly the correct places, I was so happy I almost gave him a bear-hug. Instead I gave him a salaam.

We all have our quirks of style. Nothing elates me quite as much as matching a specific person's unique strengths to exactly the situation that calls for those strengths.
Bonus Airline Advice
(another of many in a series of entries I write in my head while away from the computer, then forget about for awhile)

Do not fly Continental. This is just a suggestion; it's not as strong an opinion as Do not fly U.S. Air or Do not fly America West but it still holds.

Granting that part of the problem yesterday was weather in Houston, Continental hasn't quite gotten the customer service thing down yet. Also, they inexplicably pipe classic rock through the plane's sound system when we're on the ground.

Most disturbing music overheard this weekend: At the Indian restaurant Saturday night, an India-themed muzak rendition of "Jumpin Jack Flash."
The Other Erratum
I knew I had at least three. The other was that Alice in Chains doesn't suck after all. They had a few songs I hate but also a few songs that are quite good.
Hella Good on demand
The song doesn't kick quite as much butt now that I have it so accessible, but I still deeply appreciate RealOne for brining it to me. The video even, not that it's office-safe to "watch" a music video.

The radio version I hear doesn't feature quite so much panting, though. Hey Gavin, next time you leave Gwen in the car, roll the window down a little or at least give her a water dish.
This probably relates to some B.S. about public trust
Let the grandstanding begin. I know nothing about this senator other than his party affiliation, but "prick from a hick state" seems like a reasonable pigeonhole.
America's Team
Earlier this morning I overheard a co-worker use the second person pronoun ("you") to refer to the U.S. World Cup team. I suppose his first-person team ("we") would be Belgium or France.

This does raise the question: Are the U.S. footballers indeed "America's team" in the way that the overmarketed Dallas Cowboys or Atlanta Braves always posed as?

I'm also convinced, after reading this column, that American sports fans following the U.S. team have by and large the best possible attitude to take towards sports. If and as long as the U.S. wins, everyone is deliriously happy. But if they lose... not disappointment but rather apathy.

It's fair weather fandom, I'll readily admit, but there's nothing negative about it, nothing opportunistic or what-have-you.

What it basically reflects is the disposition that sports are fun but that there's more to life. Specific to the World Cup, it's the idea that this country is such a kickass nation in just about everything else that we can afford to suck at soccer without our psyche being shredded. In other sports, I'm not sure how to put it. I do know I'm less happy at this instant than I'd be if the A's were in first place but with age the difference there gets smaller and smaller.

So I want to write about the "bad kind" of fair weather fandom but it's unclear how to do this. Maybe specifically with Yankee fans or Laker fans? There's a certain kind of bandwagon-jumper who somehow manages to convey the impression that not only is his team better than anyone else's but that he himself is better than anyone else, by virtue of rooting for the best team.

People who infer this are probably reading way too much into things but the impression is certainly there -- the hubris. It's especially grating coming from people who would drop a team like a hot potato once it's no longer in their personal interest to be seen rooting for that team. Like, I'll root for the U.S. now. If the unthinkable happens and the team goes on a run, as the bandwagon grows I'll casually sneak off to the side.

Around Beanpot time I end up really outspoken about Harvard hockey. It's really the only time I'm much of a Crimson booster, and what's weird is that I don't think I'd be at all that way if hockey were yet another thing that Harvard dominated. Instead, in that case BU is the team that I get privileged-white-guy guilt-complexed out of rooting for. :-)
Lance Berkman update
From game notes of the aforementioned Harang win, Houston's Lance Berkman grounded into a double play and walked twice. For each at-bat, the A's employed a dramatic shift to the right.

The Berkman Shift!

These (Astros and A's) were the two teams I picked to face each other in the World Series. Same as last year I think. For Houston it's not a rooting interest but rather just an outspoken belief that this is just a really really well-run organization, with buttloads of talent. Or was until Jimy Williams came along; not sure what to make of him as manager. In any case, when I noticed that they'd play each other in Oakland I was happy. Then I realized I'd be out of town that weekend and was crestfallen.
Aaron Harang update
Nice third major league start, the low strikeout total aside.

The Texas Rangers in their infinite wisdom traded half a season of Randy Velarde for this guy.

His next start... good question. All three so far have been at home. Thursday would be an off day. Maybe they'll skip his spot; if they don't, he'll go Friday at Pacific Bell Park. A road start for him but actually not for me. I could go to that. Maybe. Not easy to get tickets though.
Errata, Hindsight, Followups, and so on...
Beth Henary of The Weekly Standard (who I mentioned four months ago) is apparently much prettier than the line drawing of her on the site. At least this is what her fiancee tells me in an e-mail.

Speaking of pretty women, they come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnic heritage. I said something here a week ago that, barely 24 hours after I'd written it, became just embarrassingly ironic. What I wrote is actually still mostly true, just like it's still true that 99% of the time my knowledge that any given woman has a boyfriend causes me to completely fail to notice whether she's attractive. As in much of life, the interesting cases are the exceptions.
NAQT HSNCT
Results here.

Best high school national championship NAQT has run, which by no means suggests that it was perfect but still. Instead of feeling as though various logistical problems made the tourney a disaster (I've felt that way in the past), I just felt vague annoyance and a handful of minor things, maybe one or two major.

Nearly everything that I either disliked myself or feared that teams would dislike, turned out to be not a problem at all. In particular, with power-matching teams have come to expect a bit of a delay in the posting of pairings.

Excellent job by the host school (UT-Austin site but logistics mainly by A&M). There were problems with a really long line for the catered lunch, plus odd problems with the hotel. (Front desk staff of mixed competence, either overbooking or simply assigning people the wrong room(s).) Busy at the Holiday Inn, what with both NAQT and various high school level athletic tournaments or camps. Saw some softball players, some volleyball, a little of everything.

Nobody had anything bad to say about the questions and many people had good things to say about them. Questions are, in my opinion, definitely NAQT's strong suit for a championship event. (In too many cases they're way too hard but that's my opinion and also another story.)

Marketing is, in my opinion, not NAQT's strong suit. At least it's not nearly as bad as MLB, where so much anti-marketing is driven by nefarious schemes to defraud taxpayers, but there are still a lot of opportunities that it feels to me as though we miss. Like, for packet security reasons, not being able to allow the rest of the field to watch the match that determined which team got the final playoff spot.

I knew first- or second-hand (i.e. as Saturday bracketmeister or Sunday playoff reader) of three major protests, all filed by the same team, two of them ultimately (and correctly in my opinion) rejected, the other one moot. It's a little extra work but I actually understand where this team is coming from: They're here to win, nothing personal, but anything that may have been ruled against their team unfairly, they'll want it looked at.

I used to feel that way about college games, which is absurd when you consider how little is at stake anywhere other than a national championship. If it is the title on the line, though...
Waiting for laundry.
Somebody else's clothes are in the dryer, with the dryer running, therefore I can't move my clothes out of the washer right away.

This load includes what I'll wear to work tomorrow (Monday).

It's unclear what the workload will be tomorrow and/or what I'm up to tomorrow evening. I didn't get as much non-spam e-mail as I'd hoped to get.
April Wedding
While the group of us waited at an airport gate, he pulled me aside, ostensibly to toss a miniature football around the concourse.

He said he was thirsty and, conveniently enough, had a dollar left. Then again, he needed to buy souvenirs, but what could he get cheap? Nothing says Austin like a Butterfinger, I suggested helpfully as we walked past a candy rack. He went with a postcard instead.

Then he popped the question.

That is to say, I guess I'll have a bigger role in the Kubicek-King wedding than I thought I would. That's also probably my biggest news this weekend, which is an odd thing to say about the weekend a company I'm in runs a national championship quiz tournament.