Friday, November 08, 2002

Ed Wade will satisfy you...
Wooing Jim Thome, taken a little bit too literally.
"But I swear I thought she was..."
Interesting legal argument in an chat-room sting operation.

I think I agree with Volokh that the court made the case harder than it had to. On the other hand, in states where (by statute) what matters is the actual age of the person solicited rather than how old you think she is, I can see why -- by public policy -- you'd want a sting operation like this to do what it was meant to do.

I suppose in Minnesota an actual 14-year-old could pretend to be 19 and anyone who solicited her wouldn't necessarily be guilty of soliciting a child. Of course, if you start to suspect that she's really 14 instead of 19, continuing to hit on her is pretty sleazy.
I don't follow monarchy at all but
I read this article for some reason, and did a double-take on the bold title of the second section. Talk about weird turns...
For all that, my portfolio ain't doing so badly
Checked e*Trade for the first time in awhile. (During the summer bear market I'd averted my eyes.) It turns out I'm still pretty close to where I started; a little behind, but in position to gain some over the coming years and decades.

Big winner: The former PYPL stock that's now part of EBAY. (Incidentally, the fact that I already had both PYPL and EBAY seems to have confused the heck out of e*Trade's portfolio manager software from when it tried to bookkeep the merger.) AMZN and BUD are my only other net gains. Ah, in good times or bad times, people will always drink cheap mass-produced beer. Bless 'em.

Big loser is still ORCL but that's been true forever; it tanked shortly after I bought it. KKD and my Evil Monopolist Duo (MSFT and CC) are both somewhat down.

If I weren't unemployed and on a tight budget now would be about the time to get a third installment of YHOO. If they can't make the good old ad-sales-based dot-com portal business model work, then nobody can. And if nobody can then I really shouldn't be in this city and industry.

Maybe they could hire me. Then I'd not only have the word "Yahoo" in my job title but also yet another source of this guilty pleasure of a stock offering. (For what it's worth: On both YHOO and AMZN, I didn't get in until well after both the bubble and the catastrophe. Got my AMZN right after their first-ever quarterly profit. I'm still shocked that that news didn't push the price up a bit more.)

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Notes from the very first day of my trip
(as written on a slip of DoubleTree (tm) paper, before I went to bed, so I wouldn't forget anything)

no SprintPCS reception, but ethernet

Everywhere I went I got "Analog/Roam." My room had an Internet connection but I had no computer. I did get a chance to log in Friday night though.

SWest blazing fast - A, B, & C, not 1-30...
Halloween - gates decorated

Oh yeah: You should try traveling on Halloween sometime. They had "theme" gates, one done up as Harry Potter, one generic Hollywood, one from the crypt, one "insane asylum," and so on.

wrong turn, tour of Paradise Valley

Blah. I spent an hour on the road. It turns out the Phoenix Airport Doubletree is maybe six blocks from the Dollar rental lot.

Mat Olkin -> Trey Malloy

So at the first-night get-together I talked to Mat Olkin of USA Baseball Weekly (since renamed, baseball shunted to the back, and various unspeakable things). When he heard I was from Tulsa he asked whether this was from the Trey Malloy era or the Bubba Smith era. I was duly impressed. A couple hours later I realized I could have namedropped Monte Farris. None of those names would mean anything to any of you. But I told him how happy I was to be in San Francisco and see Robb Nen and Rich Aurilia years after I'd seen them as young prospects.

Dollar Rent a Car Dbacks fan
Dollar + DoubleTree = Dollartree

The guy behind the counter had been to Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. He commisserated with me, since he'd hoped San Francisco would win this year; I forget why he didn't like Anaheim. Since my rental was from Dollar and my reservation at DoubleTree, I kept wanting to refer to Dollar Tree (customer of my recent employer).

the one woman at the party

There were more than one. The others were in their 40's or 50's and obviously married. The one whose presence was worth jotting a note about was younger but, on further review, also obviously married. The point of the original note was probably how the only plausibly single woman at a profound sausage party (it doesn't get any more sausage than fantasy baseball) will come off as highly attractive, like a Park Effect. The husband (he's a big dude too) and wife run this site.

WSU girls volleyball team

Shared the hotel with us. Some thin, buff, athletic types around the pool. Not bad.

AZ ballot = Indian gaming, Matt Salmon

Heavy ad blitz in the Arizona goober race. Matt Salmon (who I like because of his first name and party) actually lost. I don't know how the Indian gaming measures did.
Justice, Canadian Style
Fail to win an MVP? Just file suit!

A-Rod, call your office.

Speaking of sports absurdities, I have an unrelated story from last weekend. Somewhere within the city limits of Cincinnati, Ohio, there exists a recreational (as opposed to "select") girls' soccer team that did poorly a year ago but spent time this summer with a volunteer from the Xavier women's team. With good coaching, they actually became really really good, went undefeated in their regular season, and were invited to some prestigious suburban tournament. They bought matching scrunchies and so on to celebrate their success.

In the first round of the tournament, they beat another team 10-0. They were then immediately excluded from the tournament on the grounds that they were too good, or that the organizers suspected them secretly of being a select team or somesuch. Not just uninvited for future years, but kicked out right away. Some reward for winning, huh?

The guy who told me about this had a pretty distraught nine-year-old daughter. What do you tell someone after something like this? (I hope, at the very least, you don't file a lawsuit.)
Es regnet.
Periodic squalls today, with more isolated storm clouds rolling through tomorrow and Saturday. Apparently the dry season has ended; wet stuff will be here on-and-off until March or so.
Words missing
A general thanks/apology to everyone who faithfully reads this site. The apology is because I quit proofreading these things a long time ago but once in awhile I'll see a glaring problem -- missing words are a bugaboo in anything I write, probably from trying to write too fast -- and feel a momentary ick.
Pop Culture and Masters' Level Quiz-Bowl
Apparently trash (specifically TRASH) is quite popular among aging quiz-bowl alumni like me.*

I know a fair number of TRASH people read this weblog, as do NAQT folk. I wonder whether there's some convenient way to target-market to people who are older than college (maybe more disposable income?), people who might or might not have even done the college trivia thing -- even if they did, they really don't follow any mailing list or newsgroup, so they don't find out about stuff like this until the last minute -- but who have buddies and co-workers and maybe also do the pub quiz thing.

If there's a reasonable business plan for marketing to this audience, then the people best situated to implement this plan would seem to be something like:
A. NAQT? (big and resourceful, relatively speaking, but lots of other priorities and already strained resources)
B. TRASH? (comes closest to the product these people seem to enjoy most, but I don't know about organizational size/capacity, or if they're all that organized)
C. some combination? (sounds great on paper but boy would the details be a pain)

Anyhow, in the long run it feels more noble to reach out to high school kids and present quiz competition as educational; also kids that get a chance to do this in high school have more of a lifetime ahead of them to become college quiz players, young adult triva mavens, and so on. But still, the enthusiasm for TRASH Regionals struck me. (To be honest, I've long since lost the desire to play in an academic tournament; even play-testing -- I feel awful admitting this -- doesn't sound as fun to me as it probably sounds to other people.) Trash: Antidote to burnout, or untapped market?

*- I found out barely a week ago that TRASH regionals were this weekend, in fact I can thank my Arizona trip for that knowledge. (For a couple years I've done fantasy baseball/football in a league with some Arizona State folk, of whom Jason Z. was the only one I'd ever met in person. When I sent him a last-minute e-mail about my Fall League weekend, I found out he's actually in New Mexico now but would be coming to TRASH at Berkeley.)

When I got back in town Monday I sent the Berkeley folk an extremely last-minute plea to let me into the field, being equally willing to play solo or be a free agent.

A day later Seth included me on the list of teams in his e-mail update; right after that Maribeth wrote to ask if she & Richard could join me. (By the way, this just made my day.)

Then came word that they might bring a teammate up from Caltech.

Then just today -- in the context of R. trying to recruit post-college Bay Area quiz types to playtest -- I saw an e-mail saying:
There's a TRASH tournament on Saturday? Does anybody need an extra player?
A little more on the Phoenix radio market
One of the songs in the lyric quiz below is a song I hadn't heard until this past weekend, but a very catchy song all the same. As someone who e-mailed answers to me put it: (I am freakishly into this song right now!)

So, if you care, my subjective experiences with the Phoenix dial:
First station I heard when I got in the rental car was tepid classic rock (that should be its own format, tepid classic rock, since enough stations around the country fit that category), at 100.7 on the dial. (If you're from Boston then that's mild irony.) Only other notable thing about this station is that it's the Arizona Cardinals' flagship.

Scanning around over the weekend brought to my attention:
Two country stations (maybe there were more; San Francisco has none on the FM dial but one AM)
Lots of Spanish-language that I skipped over
One urban/rab/club/dance
One Mix station that, contrary to a typical "mix," billed itself as '80s... and beyond! I guess the all-'80s-all-the-time failed nationwide and so now everyone ease out of it.
One "Real Rock" that seemed to trend toward new stuff
One "Edge - new music" that never once called itself alternative, but probably did claim to be alternative as recently as two years or so ago.
(Is falsely claiming to be "alternative" finally passe?)
One honest-to-goodness top 40 station, the kind that probably has songs on a two-hour rotation, though not as much dance music as those stations played in the 1990s

Songs that caught my ear:
The one mentioned above
Eminem, "Lose Yourself," as mentioned somewhere below.
"Hey Ma," Cam'ron featuring Juelz Santana -- does there exist a more hilarious "f-me" song?
On the country side of things, a ballad that melted my heart, and sure enough it was Brad Paisley
(By the way, he's geographically correct: Once you reach Salisaw, it really is all interstate. Apparently the protagonist and his ex-lover live in or near Tulsa.)
"Hard Call To Make," by one J. Michael Harter, passes the country music has better lyrics test:
Namely, could you ever imagine an Aerosmith song even remotely about dying-with-dignity? I think not.

(I don't mean to sound like I'm making fun. In different circumstances I could imagine that song making cry. It did almost make me cry, and my dad and mom are healthy.)
We need more soft-core porn
This guy is dead-on.

If there's demand for it then I'll write something soon (you'll know where to find it) on pay-per-view hotel room porn. That assumes I remembered to pack the notepad I wrote comments on.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

LYRICS QUIZ II: Estrogen Edition
(okay, so 100 is a bit many; but you still have time to try out the first one -- just scroll down a ways or click here)

For what it's worth these are all most famously performed by female singers. Have at it...

1. "Rest assured that when I start to make you nervous and I'm going to extremes, tomorrow I will change and today won't mean a thing."

2. "He was a boy, she was a girl; can I make it more obvious? He was a punk, she did ballet; what more can I say?"

3. "The sweet words you whispered didn't mean a thing. I guess our song is over as we begin to sing."

4. "I feel so foolish, I never noticed you'd act so nervous: Could you be falling for me?"

5. "One night I saw them kissing at a party so I kissed some other guy. Johnny jumped up and he hit him, 'cause he still loves me, that's why."

6. "It's about time that I came to start the party, sweat dripping over my body, dancing and getting just a little naughty."

7. "When we get to know each other and we're both feeling much stronger, then let's try to talk it over."

8. "Are you an angel? Am I already that gone? I only hope that I won't disappoint you when I'm down here on my knees."

9. "Take a look around now. Change direction; adjust the tuning. Try a new translation."

10. "Swaying room as the music starts; strangers making the most of the dark. Two by two their bodies become one."

11. "Canine, feline, Jeckyll and Hyde; wear your fake fur on the inside."

12. "Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears. She's so pretty; that just ain't me."

13. "Every time you look at me my heart is jumping; it's easy to see. Loving you means so much more, more than anything I ever felt before."

14. "I've been looking for a savior in these dirty streets, looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets."

15. "My baby may not be rich, he's watching every dime, but he loves me, loves me, loves me, we always have a real good time."

16. "Do I stress you out? My sweater's on backwards and inside-out."

17. "You keep playing where you shouldn't be playing and you keep thinking that you'll never get burnt. Well, I've just found me a brand new box of matches."

18. "I always thought that everything was fine without you, never knowing you'd be mine. Suddenly my world has changed, and I wonder why all it took was just one smile."

19. "I'm gonna tell my son to keep his money in his matress and his watch on any hand between his thighs."

20. "When you give it up so easy you ain't even fooling him. If you did it then, then you'll probably fuck again."

21. "If I could fall into the sky, do you think time would pass me by?"

22. "Maybe the sun's light will be dim and it won't matter anyhow. If morning's echo says we sinned, well it was what I wanted now."

23. "My tea's gone cold, I'm wondering why I got out of bed at all. The morning rain clouds up my window and I can't see at all."

24. "Do you really wanna love me forever, or am I caught in a hit and run?"

25. "I don't know my future after this weekend and I don't want to. It takes courage to enjoy it, the hardcore and the gentle."
More Joanne Jacobs-y goodness
I hadn't read my favorite San Jose resident's weblog in awhile; turns out I missed a lot.

(This approaches the line of where I'd relegate something to my op-ed page, but probably doesn't cross it. By the way, scads and scads of wonkish posts there yesterday & today.)

1. On bilingual education and racist ad campaigns by the pro-bilingual side: I guess I was talking out of my ass, since this was Colorado rather than California. I watch so little local TV that sometimes I use second-hand TV watching as a surrogate.

2. Bad news and good news from the public schools -- a favorite Jacobs topic.

3. Apathy and irony on the part of NY Times columnists. Speaking of the Times, a long-overdue rebuke by one columnist of a couple colleagues.

4. More education tidbits: Jeb's One Florida plan works; specialty classes for "average" students probably don't.

5. Recorded phone call envy. I don't think anyone more notable than Martin Sheen called my household.

6. Last but not least, this Steisand note is priceless for the last line alone.
Where have you gone
Mike? For that matter, Mike?

I've seen the former a few times lately. Maybe twice, both times bowling. And before that the morning of the day the A's lost Game 5 and Giants won Game 4.
Yet another joke from an e-mail forward
(You could rewrite this one to make fun of different college quiz-bowl formats if you wanted.)

Three doctors are in the duck blind and a bird flies overhead. The
general practitioner looks at it and says, "Looks like a duck, flies
like a duck... it's probably a duck," and shoots at it but misses and
the bird flies away. The next bird flies overhead and the pathologist
looks at it, then looks through the pages of a bird manual, and says,
" wings, yellow bill, quacking sound...might be a duck." He
raises his gun to shoot it, but the bird is long gone. A third bird
flies over. The surgeon raises his gun and shoots almost without
looking, brings the bird down, and turns to the pathologist and says,
"Go see if that was a duck."
A joke from an e-mail forward
A Texan was taking a taxi tour of London, and was in a hurry. As they
went by the Tower of London the cabbie explained what it was and that
construction started in 1346 and it was completed in 1412. The Texan
replied, "Shoot, a little ol' tower like that? In Houston we'd have that
thing up in two weeks!" House of Parliament next - Started construction
in 1544, completed 1618. "Hell boy, we put up a bigger one than that in
Dallas and it only took a year!" As they passed Westminister Abbey the
cabby was silent. "Whoah! What's that over there?" "Damned if I know,
wasn't there yesterday..."
The home state of many of my readers not only elected Mitt Romney but also scrapped bilingual education.

I'm actually in favor of English immersion, though maybe a longer explanation would belong on my political spinoff. The short version, at least based on what I understand California politics to be:
Grassroots Hispanics seem, by a small but distinct margin, to prefer English-only classes. (This is truer of recent immigrants than people who've been here awhile.) The idea seems to be that the better education their children get -- the sooner they know English -- the more successful they become.

The biggest proponents of English immersion actually are immigrants, though in fairness so are some of the biggest opponents. The other side also gets support from teacher's unions and from, as it happens, a handful of wealthy white people whose motiviation (in my humble opinion) is pretty transparently xenophobic. You'll see commercials about the horrors of mainstreaming, where what's "horrible" about it is apparently that these innocent white kids will suddenly have a bunch more brown kids in their classrooms.

(To be less prejudicial: The commercials claim that in the English-only classes, comprehension problems by the newbies will slow the whole class down. I agree that this is plausible in the short term; in the long term I'm skeptical. I think some of the same people who worry about English-only classes now, worried for the same reasons about welfare reform seven years ago. Their hearts are in the right place but they just happen to be wrong on policy.)
"a television program"
Striking thing about this news story: The newspaper reporting it goes out of its way not to mention America's Most Wanted by name.
I voted against her mom today
But didn't get a chance to watch her own work.
Hilarious story here (those wacky Germans) and interesting idea here.
Peggy Noonan, call your office
(as originally pointed out by Tim Blair...)

The late Paul Wellstone is one thing; the late Tupac Shakur as a spoof of the late Paul Wellstone is side-splitting.

All of this is probably in dreadful taste.
On celebrities and their busy schedules
I think I'm just as flummoxed as Lileks by the piece of hate-mail (or just heckle-mail?) he reprints at the bottom of his column.

While the author might be right, it's a really undiplomatic way of putting it. As if ordinary people have some god-given right to hear back from famous people. When they do reach out to you, it's nice and all -- more than a day later I'm still giddy about the Garrison Keillor thing, speaking of great Minnesota writers -- but not something you could ever expect or demand.

This is why (as mentioned elsewhere on the weblog) I have a lot of trouble approaching famous people, or even pretty women for that matter. They have, no doubt, better things to do with their time; I'd rather not intrude.

(But the problem with this mindset fails if you try to flip it around! Sometimes people make a point of including me in their social plans, sometimes not. Usually I'm tickled pink when they do. Then again, I'm only me. Any given other person is... any given other person I guess.)

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

The worst ballot result today, by far
From Craig Barker's 128-song tournament:
The Police's "Every Breath You Take"--23 votes
The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"--18 votes
Abstentions: 0
Oncoming Traffic: 1

Not that I'll light a candle for "Satisfaction" (there are at least five better Stones songs) but for heaven's sake, you folks actually dissed one of their standards for the stalker anthem? [ears raised, fur standing up Dogbert-style] WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??? Must the cat-slappings begin?

Any further round that putrid song advances, that worthless waste of CD space, is another reason to mourn the future of humanity, or at least of the trivia geeks that haunt Barker's realm.

(But would a Stone's victory have been worth not having a GOP Senate? Hmm... almost...)
A beautiful (admittedly jingoistic) punchline at the end here
Al Qaeda blames recalled Ford...
On negative campaigning and U.S. history
(I put this here instead of politics because there are people whose feedback I want on this who definitely read this weblog but possibly not the political one... heads up in Livonia, Michigan, for example)

This Tuesday Morning Quarterback column lost me right at the beginning, mainly because if my historical understanding is correct, the political rhetoric of 200 years ago was distinctly nastier than it is today. Granted, TV wasn't available for wide distribution but anyone who owned a printing press could or would accuse his enemies of adultery, treason, sedition, all sorts of crimes against humanity. Am I on dope here?

Every time I hear someone bitch and moan about negative campaigns, I wonder if they're really that ignorant -- or if I am.
To: All DJ's, PA system operators, and other relevant tune-spinners
From: me
Re: my new theme music

Effective immediately please introduce all of my at-bats, pitching appearances, grand entrances, and so on with Eminem's Lose Yourself. Copy available on request.

(I do plan to buy the 8 Mile soundtrack, and probably even see the movie, based almost singlehandedly on this song.)

If you worry about saturation then for variety you may indulge my recent Metallica phase on second and subsequent references.

This supercedes any previous announcements/requests, including the recent longstanding request of Creed's Higher. Note that "Higher" is fair game, indeed encouraged, to mark home runs, strong outings, or other big successes like finding a job or a lover.

(Note on airplay: At least one Phoenix-area station has "Lose Yourself" in its rotation. I have yet to hear it in San Francisco, though Live 105 is pushing a different Eminem song, "Cleaning Out My Closet." More Arizona-related radio notes to come if I feel like it.)
I'll leave you tonight with some quotes
"I don't like him."
--one Arizona Fall League manager on Brandon Phillips (will play 2B in Cleveland until he replaces Omar Vizquel at SS), who has tremendous talent but an allegedly subpar work ethic.

(Okay, if you care, the manager was Al Pedrique, and not Tommy John, Razor Shines, Lenn Sakata, or... I'm blanking out on this year's other two AFL skips.)

"He does have a big butt, but it's mostly muscle."
"How do you know that?"
--John Sickels and audience member (NOT me!), on Phillies' outfield prospect Marlon Byrd
I do not like Drew Henson
Didn't want to get into the baseball already tonight, since once I start writing it's hard to stop. But couldn't leave the NFL post as the most recent one, lest you misunderstand why I made the Arizona trip.

Best player at this year's Arizona Fall League: Hands down, Mark Texeira [te-SHARE-uh], future Texas Ranger infielder. (He and fellow super-prospect Hank Blalock both play third base natively so one of them must move.) I saw him make two stunning plays in the field, and also get the game-tying RBI and go-ahead run scored in a 9th inning rally.

Most overrated/disappointed player: Drew Henson, trying to become the New York Yankees' next 3B. You may remember him for passing up a chance to quarterback the Michigan Wolverines and become hyped far above and beyond his actual baseball potential. (Or so I'd always claimed: Henson is the only minor leaguer I've ever irrationally disliked.) It was strangely gratifying, though at the same time really sad, to see just how deeply he sucked it up. He looked completely lost in the field, probably unable to field the hot corner in the big leagues, but if he were moved to an easier position then his offense would be way too paltry. Bottom line, he still has no idea how to play baseball and really should have stuck with football. In that category, he might have even outdone Josh Booty (reader demographic question: how many of you know who Josh Booty is?).

On this point several elite analysts were unanimous.
May Contain Football-Like Substance
This game was far more exciting than the score indicates. Or was it? Granted, the Rams jumped out to a 10-0 lead and just looked like the better team from start to finish. Then again, for most of the fourth quarter (between Arizona's TD interception return and Plummer's fourth-down incompletion near the two-minute warning) the Cardinals were down by less than a touchdown and seemed to have a shot.

Things worth remembering:
Obviously Marshall Faulk, first and foremost; with apologies to Brett Favre, Faulk is the best player currently in the NFL
A successful coach's challenge (plus an unsuccessful one on the incompletion, and an automatic review that upheld the fumble call on Arizona's final possession)
Arizona scoring late in the first half, only for St. Louis to succeed at its two-minute drill
First-half possession results, from memory: touchdown, punt, missed FG, interception, made FG, fumble, interception, touchdown, touchdown, end of half
(Granted, second-half possessions started out with several punts in a row)
A brawl in the stands directly across the field from me -- looked like a mosh pit. (Whenever that happens in baseball, I can't find the action until the cops already broke it up)
An interception returned for a touchdown, where the return required a lateral (and fooled me -- I was still watching the guy who'd caught the ball and ended up out of bounds)
Halftime entertainment: Four teams of kids in two flag football exhibitions, on on each end of the field
Good-natured banter between fans. A black family sat behind us, diehard Rams fans, (my hosts for the game, ASU-affiliated, obviously wore red, including a Seth Joyner jersey) but as the dad put it, "I don't take it personally, we know it's just a game."

Actually (you might guess this) a whole lot of Rams fans, given that the visiting team made the Super Bowl and the home team has a sadly outnumbered fan base.

I'd be surprised if I went to another game any time soon, for several reasons:
1. Local opportunity: 49ers have a many-year waiting list for season tickets; Raiders have ample seating but a hostile environment to say the least
2. Without the "first game" novelty, a typical NFL game isn't worth (to me) the combination of ticket prices with post-game traffic jam
3. This game was good enough for me. I can still think of it as special.

Before the game my friends and I -- actually I'd never met 'em before but I've done fantasy sports with them for years (Jason Z. recruited me into a league with his ASU buddies) -- met up at McDuffy's, a sports bar in Tempe. (FYI: pronounce it tem-PEE) We got saturation coverage of all eight early games, in a room that usually serves as a concert hall: three huge screens up on stage (from left to right: Eagles-Bears, Steelers-Browns, Pats-Bills); two high screens on each side wall (left: Titans-Colts and Bucs-Vikings; right: Lions-Cowboys and Falcons-Ravens); and a few TV's above the bar, at least one of which (the one right above my stool) had Bengals-Texans.

I still can't follow every game, but I can know the current scores of nearly every game and catch 70% of the scoring plays, in time at least for the replay. (That's 90% of most of the games, and then I might get lucky and happen to see both field goals in what was a 6-0 Detroit game as of when we had to walk to the stadium.)

Monday, November 04, 2002

On business etiquette, bullpen analysis, and standardized tests
How many of you ever fly Southwest? Worth noting that some in the last six months or so, they changed procedures from plastic boarding cards (different colors for 1-30, 31-60, and so on) to paper boarding passes with an letter A, B, or C on them. Similar general-seating principle but they've abstracted away from the plastic and the hardwired groupings of 30. For all I know, on some flights 20 people are "A" while others have 40 in the "A" column.

In any case, going both directions my airport experience was insanely efficient, especially relative to the year following September 11, 2001. It looks as though they've either gotten rid of some inane holdups or found a ton of good ways to streamline. Perhaps I just chose a good time to travel.

The worst part about flying Southwest (and the meat of this post) is that their inflight magazine consistently contains the WORST TRIVIA QUIZ EVER. You only think I'm kidding, or at least exaggerating. Every month it's a ten-question quiz on business etiquette, written every month by one Valerie Sokolosky. (Perhaps she'll google herself a few months from now and be in for a surprise, unless I've misspelled her name.) Each question has three possible choices, nearly as bad as a coin flip; worse yet, to my (admittedly untrained eye), on at least half the questions, at least two of the answers will seem equally valid. Even the explanations of the answers completely fail to distinguish why, even if B is correct, C wouldn't also be.

One of my secret insights to doing really well on standardized tests is -- this applies mainly to essay passage parts, or analogies/vocabulary -- to go beyond simply getting the right answer and feel as though I could explain in a sentence or so, why each particular wrong answer is wrong. In theory I think this is an excellent strategy for eliminating answers until you have the right one; in practice if most people made an effort to do that they'd run out of time.

A presentation I saw this weekend (I was at a fantasy baseball symposium; that's one possible answer to the question how geeky am I?) involved bullpen analysis, and figuring out who would get a team's save chances by looking at how teams construct a pitching staff and assign people to roles. The short version: Take a team's current roster (possibly also people in Triple A who are likely to come up soon if you have that info handy); eliminate the top three (or so) rotation members since they're likely to start all year long. Of the remaining guys, the team will want some swingmen, a one-out reliever or two (usually a situational lefty), a set-up guy, and a closer. The biggest factor -- the duh factor -- is whether a given player actually pitches well, though stamina vs. resilience (can he throw three days in a row, or three innings in one game?) and platoon splits are relevant to role-slotting.

The content of that presentation was great but the approach made me worry a bit: I don't think anyone, even the presenter himself, actually goes through rigorously the process he outlined, at least not for all 30 teams. (Granted, he did talk about how even a Mariano Rivera can get hurt or something, how you want to predict who's likely to get the contigency saves before Joe Torre actually makes the decision.) My problem with it is that it looks as though the step-by-step approach takes forever, unless all the steps just become instinct for you, the way so much of standardized test-taking is instinct for me.

I wish I knew how I processed standardized tests so quickly, since it seems as though a whole lot of people who struggle on them do so because they run out of time. If I had a better understanding of how my own mind works, I could teach these things. Similarly I could teach people how I write quickly. (Nothing fancy here: I literally sit and type one sentence at a time and think about the next sentence as I'm typing the current one.)

Something I could teach people -- and surely many of my readers also could -- is how to avoid writing bad test questions.
If you're scoring at home
Counting 5 each for title/artist, top score on the lyrics thingy is 530 by Joshua K.
It's been a quiet week...
(lyrics update: just to avoid spoilers I think I'll e-mail answers to interested parties instead of posting 'em; plenty more to come on my weekend after unwinding from the trip but I had one post that couldn't wait)

So my roommate Chris picked me up from the Oakland airport tonight and asked if I'd eaten -- he was hungry. After dining at the Chevy's by Stonestown Galleria, he asked me if I'd mind stopping in at the Borders bookstore. As we walked through the door I noticed a poster advertising:

GARRISON KEILLOR will sign his new book [...] Monday, November 4, 7 p.m.

Did a major doubletake when I realized that this was tonight and that we were there by total serendipity. You wouldn't know this -- I don't mention it very often -- but Garrison Keillor is my biggest inspiration of anyone who's ever published a book. (P.J. O'Rourke is up there too.) He's just an incredibly talented guy and a truly nice guy to boot. He's still quite tall but the years show on his face. (That or every photograph ever taken of him has been really flattering.)

The new book is, of all things, a poetry anthology inspired by a radio show I didn't even know he had. I wonder if there exist people who know him only from that writing segment (each morning he reads a poem out loud, on NPR), as opposed to knowing him only from A Prairie Home Companion.

The best narrative -- this should be pretty obvious given what the word "narrative" means -- tells a story. No better storyteller exists than Keillor, who (if I remember right) delivers his Lake Wobegon monologues as improvisation, all off the top of his head. One can identify with his characters. (Or at least I can. Disclaimer: I'm Lutheran, though none of my family has Minnesota ties.) He has good timing and a great sense of humor.

Most of all he's not afraid to ramble; most of the time when he rambles the direction the narrative takes turns out to be a fascinating one. If you've read much of this site then you know how easily I ramble myself.

P.S. Just so you can sound like you know what you're talking about, here are the phrases so many people think they know but manage to screw up:
It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, the place that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.
that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, the men good-looking, and the children above average.