Saturday, September 21, 2002

Homepage aesthetic question
So as you know if you check this page (you don't have any major reason to; it's just where I keep whichever of my links are okay to share with the public -- much more convenient than bookmarks), I rotate the featured photograph a lot.

(Sometimes I get too busy to; I apologize for leaving that Bobby Valentine collie photo up for weeks on end.)

The question now:
Do I keep Anna Smashova up or do I replace her with bong-sucking Grant Roberts? I'm deeply deeply torn by this.

Pro Anna: She's gorgeous; Roberts might be Met overkill and give people the wrong idea.
Pro Grant Roberts: Dude!! This is bar none the most hilarious newspaper photo I've seen this year.
All that and Greg Myers!
A's just took the lead. Wow, Saturdays really are sports-packed this time of year.

So my plans will be tomorrow rather than today; long, complicated story. I'm in an exceedingly strange mood with regard to the honest-to-goodness things that need taken care of.

That is to say, I'm either going to write 5 or fewer quiz questions today or 40 or more.
Big baseball news
So go to Baseball Primer if you want news and commentary about either the Royals' coach being attacked or the Mets' players all being high. My quick comments:

The attack incident is a shame. Throw the book at the idiots who ran onto the field.

The reefer madness story is amusing more than anything. If you want kids not to toke up, just make sure they see pictures of how dopey people look sucking on a bong. Same principle as making fun of Ozzy.
Speaking of impressive touchdowns
I assume the vast majority of college football fans just saw that Michigan State play in real time; I made due with the "SportsCenter In-Game" highlight.

College football is, like a weblog, good for me for the random hard-to-fill idle moments.
That was a pretty impressive TD run
When I was little I had an Ohio State Buckeye football that played "Fight the Team Across the Field" if you wound it up. So many times I'd fall asleep to that song (well, the musicbox/chime version of it anyway). This may have messed me up in unexpected ways.
I'm the worst person I know at killing indefinite amounts of time
It's possible that I still have plans today, though the minutes and hours that pass leave things more up in the air. A phone call will come soon, so I sit tight.

There are all sorts of productive ways I could spend this time but because I don't know how much time is involved (and also would rather be making/carrying out the plans for the day than marking time), I remain figuratively paralyzed. The plight of a Type A personality I guess.

Ohio State may be about to lose to Cincinnati. I don't know the relative strengths of these teams other than that the Buckeyes are ranked #6 and the Bearcats unranked.

The A's game is not on TV because of the Fox Saturday monopoly; I could turn on my radio or check ESPN but I have yet to do so.

Nickelodeon has some decent-looking cartoon with animation clearly set in San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge et al).

I've seen two music videos today: Caught the end of No Doubt's "Underneath It All." Pretty good production values -- Stefani knows how to make love to the camera. Musically I can buy the song but lyrically I probably can't. This is what happens when you pay too close attention to the lyrics but the gist of "Underneath It All" is the guy I'm dating is scuzzy but I have the hots for him just the same.

The other one was Creed's latest, "Six Feet Under" or somesuch. In the big picture it's exactly what you'd expect a Creed video to look like, but they get the little details wrong. They don't quite illustrate the song with the video the way I'd have expected them to. Also, the end of the video seems to totally miss the point of (or, what I took to be the point of) the end of the song.

Are you surprised that I have yet to post about Tom Gamboa or Grant Roberts with a bong?

Friday, September 20, 2002

Don't pay cash!
Back in Oklahoma I knew some nut-cases who refused to use checks or credit cards; they paid cash for everything.

Maybe this unfortunate guy is like that.
This is so sweet!
Deconstructing my e-mail forwards
Surprisingly big -- and objectionable -- batch today.

One has the subject line Who understands men? and asserts:
1. The nice men are ugly.
2. The handsome men are not nice.
3. The handsome and nice men are gay.
4. The handsome, nice, and heterosexual men are married.

...and so on.

What gets me is the tag line: Send this to smart women who need a laugh and to the guys you think can handle it!
(converted by me from all-caps to sentence case)

I suspect that most "smart women" have better things to do than bitch about this particular situation, even if the statements are mostly true.

Then again for some reason I read this thing and felt extraordinarily smug. That kind of hubris is usually a jinx.

The other one worth commenting on urges me to contact the head of the Minnesota Green Party and urge its Senate candidate to stand down, so that he doesn't inadvertently cause Paul Wellstone to lose to a Republican and therefore give the GOP the Senate. Do I want to comment on this? Eh.
A surprisingly interesting Settlers of Catan configuration
This resulted from totally random placement. The people who taught me how to play don't adhere to the "arrange number tiles by the letters of the alphabet" convention. (That sentence will make no sense if you don't play Settlers. Perhaps this whole post won't.)

Hexes, column by column, top down within each column:
First column = 8/Sheep, 9/Wheat, Desert
Second column = 8/Brick, 9/Stone, 11/Stone, 4/Wood
Third column = 3/Brick, 10/Wheat, 11/Stone, 6/Sheep, 3/Wood
Fourth column = 10/Wood, 5/Wood, 6/Sheep, 5/Wheat
Fifth column = 12/Wheat, 2/Sheep, 4/Brick

Ports, clockwise from top left (first port adjacent only to the 8/Sheep hex):
3, 3, Sheep, Wood, 3, Wheat, 3, Brick, Stone

I noticed right away that same resources tended to border each other pairwise, and also that the worst hexes were clustered by the right coast (leaving plenty of amazing settlement spots).

Didn't notice until putting the game away how the numbers lay adjacent pairwise: The 8's, 9's, 10's, 11's, and 6's were all adjacent to each other, with the 8's thru 11's making a really amusing sequence. Definitely not on purpose since I think I dropped number tiles from upper left to bottom right, the 8-9-11-6-4 swath first, then the "rows" flanking it, then the rows flanking them.

How should this game play out? "Obviously" the first two placements should be the 8/8/9 and the 6/6/5. But then what? The mythical player 3 went 9/9/11 with the idea that late in the game a single 9 will be almost a city.

Player 4 did 8/3/10 (mmm, brick!) and 5/6/11 for balanced resources, brick domination, and a road pointing from the 5/6/11 into the stone quarry.

But then Player 3 has a dilemma again (placing third/six is hands-down the worst spot to be in for the four-player game!). Player 2 will want to grab the Sheep port and Player 1 will be almost unbeatable if he gets the 10/10/5 settlement. (Balanced resources, 24 production dots!) Here Player 3 should maybe grab the sheep port despite (ironically!) thus beginning the game with zero sheep production. Instead, "he" blundered and took the 4/6/3 Wood/Sheep/Wood for higher overall production and a vague (vain?) hope of getting brick in trade.

Player 2 did get "his" sheep port, Player 1 got the good production, although because of how "his" roads were pointed he didn't get any of his new settlements on stone. Players 3 and 4 got some luckly 11 rolls and early cities. Player 2 did get the sheep port and finished the game with longest road but a hair shy of victory. Player 3 had longest road at one point and almost won but couldn't produce or acquire a sheep when it counted. (Also at one point had three cities and resources for a fourth city but no other settlements!) Player 4 looked great early with quick expansion and useful brick but ran out of places to build. In the end Player 1 won with two cities, three settlements, largest army, and a victory point.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

This is a little frightening
Fun with Nigerian scammers!
I'm arguably too drunk to drive but not too drunk to code (specifically to fix bugs). What does that say about the market value of my talents?
On Liquor
Every Friday this particular company starts drinking around 4:30 p.m. That is to say, the powers that be and the people who happen to get along well socially with the powers that be start drinking around then, getting into the gin or the Vodka or what-have-you.

Today, perhaps because of the uniquely trying circumstance of restructuring, alcohol was resorted to despite Thursday's being one day short of Friday.

Because I happen to fit in and know how to play the game (at least when it's useful: nobody I know seems to appreciate just how much I spin you all, just how much bullshit there is going on here; either that or you're too nice to actually say anything about it), I was there with the CEO and the chief of sales and my direct boss and the sysadmin and the guy who's at the same level as my boss but not actually my boss (if an org chart were family tree I guess he'd be my uncle?).

Vodka was my drink of choice. Straight because as Vodka goes this was the good stuff. For whatever reason I had seconds.

Everything was going swimmingly until Les (my "uncle") happened to point out just how much Vodka he'd witnessed me consume. Until that point I thought everything was fine and acted as though everything was fine. But Les's comment actually psyched me out. At some point in the last half-hour or so, my body suddenly had the revelation: Dammit, I'm drunk. Ever since then productivity has been impossible but getting in my car and going home has seemed unwise for obvious reasons.

Bear with me while I sober up. I can't even remember the last time I was drunk. Blame any typos in this entry on that. (Astonishingly there seem to be none, or at least none that I notice.)
On Ego
Okay, I lied. Yet another "one last Bob Greene comment," this from Ken Layne:

Much as I disliked his writing, Bob Greene was a beloved columnist, and with that fame came power and influence. The Tribune Co. and its robotic corporate culture is no place for a famous writer. Greene wasn't going to die anytime soon. Piss off Greene, and he might just launch a media jihad. (Greene's huge ego is well documented.) A whole boardroom of Tribune Co. executives couldn't stand up to such a figure.

So now, based on a decade-old incident in which Greene is guilty of nothing beyond being a crappy human being, he's gone. He can't do much about it, because he has been publicly shamed.

Don't hold your breath waiting for his replacement. There won't be one.

On one level I instinctively hate pretentious bastards. But then on another level I know (fear?) that for the most part I am one. (Getting back to the Nall piece, it's unclear whether I'm either a hack or a horndog to quite the levels that Greene hit.) This is probably a case where one despises in other people the things that he sees as reminders of what he dislikes about himself.

Speaking of pretentious bastards, have I posted about Jon Gruden yet? For sure I've swooned over the new Raider coach and his combination of quiet personality (to the point that off the top of my head I couldn't even name him) with brilliant game plans. You may also have read about how a deafening cheer rose from the Raiders' assistant coaches' locker room the first week of the season when Gruden's Buccaneers lost their opener.

What I suspect is that people who keep a high profile end up being overrated because of their high profile. Because you know all of Gruden's faces, you know just how much he cares about the game, or something like that. For sure, someone like that is a lightning rod when things go bad, except that by getting the press to like him he actually seemed to have escaped most of the blame for whatever went wrong with the 2001 Raiders. (It helps that so many locals think it was the officials who blew the game, rather than Oakland's failure to break the game open or even get a key late-fourth-quarter first down.)

By contrast there are the people of quiet competence. I deeply, deeply admire these people, partly because I'm extremely partial to people who are really good at what they do but mostly because these particular people have a skill that I dearly wish I had: The ability to keep a low profile, to be subtle, to show dignity and class and so on.

For whatever reason I can't keep a low profile to save my life. (Writing so much and using the first person so much can't help.) So maybe the next best thing is using your high profile for good -- keeping cameraderie, doing right by people -- rather than for evil. In that regard I really wish today of all days wasn't the day I sauntered into work at 11 a.m. Yeah, that guy who came in really late, he won't be affected by the layoffs. Uh, yeah.

Full disclosure: Their plan was to go down to just one software developer, me to be specific. (Apparently I'm the best "maintenance engineer" of the brood.) Having none of this, I suggested it would make far more sense to pay two people part-time rather than one full-time, so that the two part-timers can adjust to full-time more easily when better times come. Hence, Chris keeps his job after all.

More full disclosure: They presented a plan of action at an all-hands (well, post-downsize "all hands") meeting today. At one point the CEO described a particular strategy as having "no technical risks." That's just inherently false (everything technical carries risk, especially attempting to integrate two companies' stuff) but nobody called him on it because quietly, tacitly, we all know better. Just like when they presented the sales goals back in March, we all knew better.
Following a tangent: the Nancy Nall site
From Nall's September 18 entry, quoting an actual newspaper story:
And you'd be surprised how many people just come to Fort Wayne and die.
I knew someone from Fort Wayne. Daisy would get a kick out of that quote.

Nall then links to this Carroll piece, which I'd find amusing if he hadn't stolen the premise from a lame e-mail forward.
More "final thoughts" on Bob Greene
Excellent satire/critique of the news media here.

And for one more day, and one day only, Nancy Nall is keeping her analysis up.
An excellent development on the homelessness front
Weblogs. This guy does have a tip jar; use it generously.
Love in the time of corporate downsizing
The thing I remember most about the day Silicon Age decided to pack it in was, afterwards, seeing the CEO swoon over his new romance.

Today my own company became leaner and meaner, so to speak. I marked the occasion by searching on-line for an Alameda florist.

Just to avoid confusion: Yes, I still have a job. You'd be surprised by the guilt complex associated with this, or maybe you wouldn't.

There were people let go today who contribute as much as I do, or at least the difference between their value and mine is surely less than people think. I'm dead convinced that I'm overrated. Maybe it pays to have a Harvard degree, or maybe it pays to speak knowledgeably about the local baseball teams.

Really, the issues involved seem to be partly seniority but mostly the innate ability to fix bugs quickly and gently. Maybe I'm good at that. At least, my "fixes' cause far less long-term pain than they used to. (With the caveat that it's entirely possible that for some of them, "long term" has yet to come to pass.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Sergio Mendes
Annoying for the exact same reasons why the 5th Dimension is annoying, but at least it's a higher quality of song.

If and when I do get over my "Adult Standards" kick, Sergio Mendes is probably the most likely reason for it.
Accolates to those teachers
What a time to draw a blank on Ms. Kimrey's first name. It makes googling her more difficult. In high school she consistently gave me B's on essays that I thought were well-written but that had plenty of room for improvement.

In college the late Richard Marius was a pretty colorful figure. He ran the expository writing program and also taught the "advanced" expos class that I voluntarily took. (Everyone had to take one semester of expository writing as a freshman, hence the existence of dozens of sections of 15 kids apiece. There was also a purely elective expos class that maybe a dozen people a year took. This was arguably the best college class I had.)

Actually three writers team-taught the advanced class, so that each of us could meet with a particular mentor one-on-one. My mentor was one Bob Ginna (google search results didn't yield remotely what I expected; have I misremembered the spelling of his name?). He spent his life editing various magazines then moved to teaching after retiring. He really liked the practice of journalism but didn't care much for journalism schools. The only way to learn the craft was by doing. I wrote a 15-page paper about the growth of the Internet that he got a kick out of. I wonder if he's still around to be amused and delighted by weblogs.
I can write, but can you?
Read this USA Today column and fear for the future.

One thing I'm deeply thankful for is to have not only a decent amount of God-given writing talent (readers may disagree) but also a set of teachers (both high school and college) who knew how to teach writing and cared enough actually to do so.

Even at that I can't claim to be any kind of savant. Tons of people write better than I do, whether they express themselves better or just have more interesting things to say. Many of these people also keep weblogs.

But still, I have the rudimentary skills that one needs to write. Without them I'd feel so lost. How does one get through life being unable to write (or do basic addition or any of the other things schoolkids aren't learning these days)?

I suppose a star athelete would ask a similar question about how I could possible get through life being so physically out-of-shape.
Question about Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea"
Of which game show (if any) is this the theme music? I was whistling this last night and Chris thought for sure it was associated with some particular game show rather than 1970s game shows generically.

We both ascertained that it's clearly not The Newlywed Game, not even close.
Baseball Affiliate Geekery
Baseball America has the scoop on minor league reshuffling.

It's unclear to me who's unhappy with whom in the San Francisco-Fresno partnership but if those two teams split up then either the Expos or Orioles will be majorly screwed by being an entire coast way from their Triple-A team. Likewise it's unclear what San Francisco would want with Ottawa, though an Ottawa-Baltimore pairing vaguely makes sense.

At the Double-A level the most fascinating development is Trenton jumping ship from the Red Sox to Yankees. Right behind that is the team relocating from Shreveport, LA, to Frisco, TX. As deeply amusing as it would be for San Francisco's Double-A team to be Frisco, rumor has it that team wants to affiliate with the Texas Rangers (and vice versa), which would screw the Tulsa Driller other than that the Cardinals happen to be affiliate-shopping. Lots and lots of St. Louis Cardinal fans in Tulsa to this day from back when the Tulsa Oilers were the Cards' top affiliate.
In fairness
San Francisco and the Bay Area have been on a pretty singular sports high ever since I got here. I still have yet to see how this town treats losing teams.

Well, there are the Warriors, who get either ignored or mocked but not taken seriously enough for actual recriminations or hatchet-jobs. Nobody has any existential angst about the Warriors sucking the way people did about the Celtics sucking.

The closest thing to ugly sports fandom is when Raider fans blame everyone other than their own team for big-game losses. Then again maybe that's the opposite of what Boston sports fans do.

(Or not: Jon Gruden seems to be quite suddenly a figure of loathing, although at least people were classy enough to wait until he was already gone before turning on him.)
Disgusting Sportswriter of the Day
If I ever call myself a Red Sox fan again, shoot me.

Moving to the west coast contributes to my outlook but this hatchet job illustrates exactly why Boston, as a sports town, is worth despising.
Look up "clutch" in a sports dictionary and you might be a little surprised to see Buffy
In theory this gamelog results purely from ones and zeroes and random number generation. In practice, though... just check out d40 (last scheduled day of the regular season) or d42 (the first of two games to resolve a three-way tie for the wild card) and tell me there's not magic here.

Magic, that is, until d43, which I dearly hope to win.
Health Tips for Porn Stars
This is priceless.

In other news, just because I can (correctly) identify "One Less Bell To Answer" from its opening notes, doesn't mean I have to subject myself to that or any other 5th Dimension song.

It's unclear whether I've mentioned this on-line before but the 5th Dimension is, bar none, the worst band ever. I won't so much as entertain opposing arguments.

(Well, I guess I will, hence the comments widget, but I'll disagree with you.)
Snidely Apologetic
Sounds like an oxymoron? And yet, this phrase is the best I can come up with to finger just what it is that I still don't like about Coldplay, the band Mark saw last night.

There's just something about opening a song with the ad-lib What's this I see?/An Aerosmith fan chucking stuff at me that seems unnaturally self-pitying. But I do like the rest of what Mark describes the band doing and it's also entirely possible that what I don't like about Coldplay is disturbingly similar to part of what I don't like about myself.

Speaking of bands vaguely of that ilk (but not really), Allyson is right about Ben Folds. Give Coldplay happy pills, maybe. (Before Mark's concert review I'd have said "give them a sense of humor" but apparently their humor is quite underrated.)

Useless trivia: The two biggest Coldplay fans I know are my sister and Craig.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Reminder: Talk like a pirate day
is this Thursday, September 19
If I declared myself to be the Sun God
Would anyone actually worship me?

Hmm, that's what I thought. Maybe declaring oneself Sun God is a bad thing for a pious Lutheran to do.
You don't say
Khufu's pyramid has never yielded the treasures usually associated with pharaohs, perhaps because tomb robbers plundered it thousands of years ago.
Sounds like Sinatra but isn't
The song is "My Kind of Girl" but the livestream widget lists the Artist as one Matt Munro.

Fun game for the "Adult Standards" format: That song sounds like Sinatra. But is it him or a cover?

Meanwhile, fun game for bloggage: Randomly choose a paragraph from one weblog and a paragraph from some other weblog. Take somebody who reads both weblogs but not necessarily well enough to literally recognize either paragraph. See if they can match the paragraph to the blog. (Or the sentence, if paragraph is too easy.)

I know two high school teachers who keep weblogs. Never thought of the two in the same context before but they're really quite different people.
Weird things happen to cheesy songs with the passage of time
By the Time I Get To Phoenix used to be a staple on oldies station playlists. This was slightly before every oldies station in the country started calling itself "KOOL" [frequency] and advertising Good times and great oldies, though not by much.

I used to hate that song. Then for years on end I didn't hear it anywhere.

Now it's on my "Adult Standards" station and it seems perfectly natural there, in a league with "The Impossible Dream" and so on. And I rather like the song now.
Old people are on the road. Nothing intelligent to say here other than relief that I'm not in Florida.

Young people are wasting your tuition money (maybe your tax money?) trying to get there. This epitomizes everything that's wrong with self-centered student unions. Isn't it exactly the sort of hare-brained scheme you expect from a student government? And then the geeks/wonks make their way into real government power and the boondoggles continue.

Journalists among you: Don't be that guy. (Try to be this guy instead.)

Matt has some unique and disturbing treasures on his weblog lately.

That is all for now. Traffic sucked this morning.
Sports stuff
Too exhausted to be especially high or low.

I saw this game in person, then heard the last innings of this game on the radio. To recap the latter:

Marquis Grissom robbed Rich Aurilia of the game-tying home run. Then Jeff Kent struck out. Then the Dodgers walked Barry Bonds with the bases empty, putting the tying run on first base and allowing the potential go-ahead run to bat. Then Benito Santiago struck out. I promised earlier this year not to rail against Santiago anymore, therefore I have nothing to say.

After Giants games, the TV guys (sans Tim McCarver if it's a McCarver game) join the radio guys for a little bull session on the flagship station. That is, Jon Miller, Joe Angell, Mike Krukow, and Duane Kuiper shooting the breeze. It's surprisingly entertaining, especially if Krukow is in a bad mood. I empathized with him.

In football, I had a seemingly insurmountable fantasy deficit entering Monday night. But thanks to David Akers and James Thrash, my miraculous comeback... came up one point short. Curses! I actually became convinced while watching ESPN News that I'd pulled out the win. No dice.

Then there's this league, with a big standings cockup at the scheduled end of the regular season, leading into a slate of rainout makeups and the strong likelihood of tiebreaker games. Go wildcard!

Check out the late-season winning streak. This team needed every win it got but may still have come up short, given that Oklahoma's rainout makeup is against the best team in the league and possibly the best starting pitcher in the league should the Isotopes choose to use him.

(They have little incentive to given that they want him for Game 1 of their playoff series.)

I have this Linkin Park song stuck in my head. You live what you learn.

Pants are in the laundry; while they wash I ought to write questions. Unfortunately I can't.

Boy, I really thought I'd pulled off the fantasy football comeback. *sigh*

Monday, September 16, 2002

She's still pretty.

Thanks Matt!
I promise this is the last Bob Greene post
(WLS really had nothing of interest on him)

First, this article is dead-on. Funny too.

Second, quoting from the Tribune story:

Said one longtime colleague: "There's no one in the history of Chicago newspapers with better commercial instincts. If anybody can turn this disaster into a saleable commodity, Bob's it."

As Kubicek put it, "here's a hint.....
dont you ever compliment me like that ;-)"
Possibly Bob Greene Rubbernecking Here
If you want, you can catch Roe and Garry on-line. Dunno for sure yet (currently it's the top-of-the-hour news) but the Greene story seems right up their alley.
This has "trash prize" written all over it
Fill in your own Maine jokes.
This is easily the most shocking media news I've heard in awhile.
Fantasy Defense
(or, when will I learn?)

2001: Believed the hype, drafted the Tennessee defense high.
2002: Believed the hype, drafted the Pittsburgh defense high.

The worst part is, given that there are always more adequate defenses than teams (and people underrate the fantasy defenses of teams with sucky franchise history), you just know that a Falcon or Saint squad will be lying around on the free agent wire.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Saturday Night
Better belated bloggage than omitted bloggage: Last night featured the first Saturday night baseball (major league variety) in this market since before anyone I know can remember.

The game was actually a makeup of sorts: The Giants and Padres had a four-game series in June and another one this weekend, the June one originally scheduled for here and this weekend for there . Thanks to this Chargers game, though, the Pads couldn't use their home field on Sunday. Hence the two-game for two-game switch, and hence my going to last night's game with tickets labeled "Monday, June 24."

Anyway, SF won big. Friday night Barry Zito took a no-hitter into the 8th inning at Oakland. Saturday afternoon Tim Hudson won a 1-0 game. If the question-writing needs were less acute I'd have been tempted to do three baseball games in 24 hours, including two in different MLB parks on the same day, thanks to the power of the commute.
Bledsoe Loves Minnesota
Games like this are why I should watch more NFL football.

(I woke up around noon, showered, lollygagged, prepared to write questions, then found out we were supposed to playtest today. Apparently Chris got the memo and I missed it. Went to R's place, lay on his bedroom floor hearing high school-level trivia goodness and trying to remember did I write that one?)

Games like this justify my not watching. It's not quite gotten to the point of Billy Beane's refusal to watch A's games, but I find Denver does significantly better when I don't watch. I did listen to a few minutes on the radio in the car but Chris's Everquest narrative was far too stimulating for me to concentrate on football.
Letter to the World
This is beautifully written.