Saturday, November 23, 2002

Various Shades of Red
Havard won. Ohio State won.

Good day to root for your crimson and/or scarlet side against its blue arch-rivals.

(What percent of long-running sports rivalries feature a red team versus a blue team? Baseball's best-known red-versus-blue would be Cardinals-Cubs, although Red Sox-Yankees might also count.)

Best rivalry that has nothing at all to do with Red or Blue: Vikings-Packers. Mmm, {purple and white} versus {green and gold}.
Pascal's Wager in reverse
I think somewhere along the line I became an agnostic/atheist. I'm as shocked by this as anyone else -- since to this day I call myself Lutheran, aside from the small matter of having been to church exactly once since 1999 (and not even Christmas or Easter!). The problem is that as much faith as I have (had? there might be some in there somewhere), obviously I don't have dead certainty of the existence of a higher power, much less salvation through Jesus, eternal life, eternal happiness, and so on.

(I do subscribe to the theory that life is so beautiful in so many ways that it's unlikely to have evolved through chance, though somebody -- maybe Paul -- recently posted a very strong counterargument to this.)

The point of my post, at least of its title, is that I've become convinced specifically of one thing: Regardless of whether or not a higher power or an afterlife exists, we have almost a moral imperative to act as though it doesn't. That is, to do whatever we can to make the world a better place in this life, just in case it really does turn out to be the only chance we get. Also, to the extent that our days on Earth are numbered, we should all probably go out and live fuller lives. Especially me; I've been a complete bump-on-a-log lately.

As a sidenote to this, I'm ever more impatient (angry?) with the people who try to prove god's existence by claiming that without a god, no sense of morality would be possible. Quite the opposite. There exists a certain code of conduct--well, code is the wrong word, since it's not a strict set of laws so much as some commonsense guidelines for how people need to treat each other--that I think we all recognize when we see it. This code isn't perfect; it leaves a lot of "hard cases." But there are a whole lot more "easy cases," fairly clear-cut ethical situations where it alarms me that people aren't willing to take a stand.

Part of this is probably just my deathly fear of militant Islamists, which probably belongs elsewhere (and which I've expressed, frequently, on the political blog); still, I think we have legitimate reason to fear them and I think any intellectually/morally coherent response to the threat needs to be able to avoid either relying on Christianity (the last thing we need is for this to devolve into religion-vs.-religion) or any specific government or governing body.

Forgive me for ranting. Something set me off. I'll be normal again in a few minutes.

Actually, this is a good deal of what set me off. It's a terrible idea all around. Choosing Nigeria in the first place was breathtakingly stupid but moving the whole ceremony, now, what lesson do you think that teaches the rioters?

Step 1: Raise holy hell, kill anyone we disagree with.
Step 2: Get exactly what we want.

You see how the cycle might continue.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Slacker's Lament
Since this is personal I almost relegated this to TMI; but it's not that personal and maybe someone will have useful comments.

I haven't done a damn thing all week. Worse yet, I could have told you this would happen. Right around, oh, late Tuesday afternoon it became obvious that this would happen. I thought maybe I could get around it by telling other people I'd get things accomplished or by, heaven forbid, showing actual willpower. But no.

How this affects different areas of my life:
1. OLD WORK. There appears to have been no work for me on my retainer, except that two e-mail messages might plausibly reflect something. One looks like Chris's problem to me but I haven't followed up with him yet. The other just came in late this afternoon and because my computer sucks I literally haven't had a chance to read it yet. (Note: For some reason IE and AIM don't play nice together on Windows 98, at least not if one was up way late playing Java-applet-based Yahoo! games and hasn't rebooted since then.)

1a. NEW WORK. I really really really really need to find a job. This current retainer thing is nice but obviously won't last forever and by itself doesn't quite support life in the Bay Area. So have I been beating people's doors down? Checking HotJobs on a daily basis? No. Instead, right now my hottest lead basically fell into my lap. (Thank you Captain Fancy!)

2. NAQT. Here's where it's the most blatant. I'm currently failing to live up to promises to R. on the question writing side and the coding side. We've been through this cycle before. When it's only a mild crisis, I talk a big game but fall tremendously short on actually doing the work. Then when it's really truly deadline pressure I'm finally motivated to bust tail, do phenomenal work, but wreck my social life and sleeping habits in the process.

(The work equivalent of this would be if I continued to do no job searching at all until I suddenly ran out of money and were a week away from homelessness, then pulled a couple of all-nighters in the most thorough job search ever and somehow pulled a position out of my butt.)

3. PERSONAL LIFE. In fairness, I actually have been checking Yahoo! Personals on a daily basis and strongly considered branching out to Craig's List and Nerve. (More on those later, maybe, elsewhere.) But it's not like I actually went somewhere in person where meeting interesting strangers would be likely. Blah.

I don't know what it is but many times in my life I'll have days on end where I just don't actually do anything. It's not quite as bad as the people who literally can't or won't get out of bed but it's closer to than than I'm comfortable with.

Thanks for listening.
North Dakota zen
James Lileks is as quotable as ever. He's dead right about how the mainstream media screws up anything that one has first-hand familiarity with. (This is just fact, not blame; I know all the reasons for why it works out that way, mainly reporters not having all the time in the world and press releases tending to suck.)

But my favorite lines (having grown up in northeast Oklahoma):
Imagine a mountain range that reshapes itself hourly, and you have the cloud banks of the North Dakota prairie. And this sight is available to all, unimpeded by any signs of civilization, five minutes from the Barnes and Noble. You can put down your Starbucks, drive west, stop, and behold a magnificent void that humbles your heart more than any city skyline or coastal view. It’s not for everyone; it has its chilling existential implications, but don’t say they don’t have scenery. When you hit the Great Plains, the sky is your IMAX, and it’s open 24/7.
Best song ever?
You're probably following Craig Barker's 128-song tournament. If not, you should.

I'll post this so close to the voting deadline that it won't affect anyone's decision but I have to say, "Born to Run" versus "Baba O'Riley" is a ridiculously tough decision. One or the other of these is the best radio-listening song of the rock era; I just don't know which one.

(Yeah, there's another semifinal. The third and fourth best songs of the final four are in it. U2's "Pride" might be worthy of a championship-round loss but "Layla" just isn't. Just my opinion.)

You can do much worse than to get either "Born to Run" or "Baba O'Riley" stuck in your head.
I got to see The Onion's Moscow-theater parody and you didn't
How many articles were on the Opinion segment of last week's Onion when you saw it?

They took down the column by some Hollywood movie director. Here's an excerpt of Those Chechen Rebels Stole My Idea.
Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern
(more blog-network synergy: this is inspired from a digression in a post elsewhere)

Does anyone else remember the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Limbaugh and Stern? (For that matter, who played them in the sketch?)

It opens with a shot of a building somewhere in NYC and the sound effect that ends every segment of Rush's radio show. (If you've heard the show, you know the one.) He takes one final caller, a woman from somewhere in Montana who gushes praise on him -- "ditto" this and "ditto" that. Then his radio theme song (Pretenders, "My City Was Gone").

(Nitpicker's amusement: Apparently time runs backwards in the parody, since a show segment starts with the segment-ending sound effect -- usually the start-of-segment bumper will be some random upbeat music -- and ends with the opening theme.)

Long story short, right as the show ends Howard Stern shows up looking for a fight. He's all belligerent but Rush behaves like an exaggerated gentleman. (Think of the maitre d' on the Simpsons.) Stern's sidekick/newsgal Robin decides that she'd much rather be with Rush than with him. Sketch ends with Limbaugh feeling very smug and Stern walking off dejectedly.
Kind of a bummer
This Wired story appears to have crashed the Brown Daily Herald.

Things I didn't know until now: The Apple "It" Girl (as Wired calls her) is just 15 years old. She's turned down invitations to appear on both Letterman and Leno.
When did "bitch" cross the line?
My roommate is watching his taped shows from earlier tonight. Not to spoil Friends but someone calls someone else a bitch and they leave the word in.

Didn't "bitch" used to be a network TV no-no? Likewise, in Ralph Wiley's ESPN "Page 2" NFL thought-bubble column, they won't let him say "shit" or "fuck" but "bitch" was fair game.

Is "bitch" the new "ass"? (I think "ass" became no-big-deal a few years ago.)

Is it Meredith Brooks's fault?

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Christmas and Pets
Useful advice here via here.

Getting a new pet (unless it's fish or something similarly low-maintenance) for Christmas is a terrible idea. If you were thinking about doing that, instead:
1. Go in January instead, after the hoopla has died down.

2. Go to an animal shelter. Do not -- do not -- buy from a pet store. As long as there are animals in shelters, I will cast fiery death down upon people who spend good money at a pet store. It encourages the puppy mills and leaves the shelters marginally in-the-lurch.
Jesse Walker, radio geek par excellence
This post is interesting to me, but then, I'm a "radiohead" myself: It is to me what TV is to a normal person.

Walker's dead-on about real deregulation but until that actually happens, my CCU stock and I will laugh all the way to the bank. Okay, we'll laugh all the way to mild losses that aren't as bad as my other losses.

The big deal to me is that even with "different formats," each station that exemplifies a given format will be a cookie-cutter. For example, you can get "good times and great oldies" anywhere in the country (or "real rock" or "the best mix of yesterday and today"); I have mixed emotions about that.
The event horizon of Which X are you? surveys
Don't ask me how I found this. (Well, duh, google search.) I'm just ignorant enough not to find the survey useful but just knowledgeable enough to be vaguely creeped out by it.

In particular, I suspect that all five choices in Which song do you relate to the most? are songs I don't think I know, but if I did know, I'd probably hate.
National Geographic
Take this survey, then read this contrarian opinion.
Today's little known baseball fact
Everyone knows that Alex Rodriguez makes a ton of money for playing on a last-place team. But even without A-Rod, Texas spent $84 million in 2002 contracts for its other players. That alone would be baseball's sixth-highest payroll instead of third-highest.

(Courtesy of Keith Woolner)
On current events
(warning: quiz-bowl geekery)

Dwight's comments are apt.

According to the NAQT internal website, I've written exactly 10,131 questions. (Current breakdown: 8,494 accepted for use; 347 checked out to editors; 8 queued for editing; 1,282 returned for rewriting. That's a 12.7% rejection rate, probably about twice the rate most writers have. It's artificially high for various reasons but you honestly don't care.)

Of those, 2,218 are current events. Next highest categories are science (1,496) and sports (1,131). The latter is "write what you know." The second is "write what we need." The first is a lot of factors coming together. Allegedly I have a comparative advantage at writing current events. More to the point it's the most fun category to write in because by definition the answer-set is always changing. (Contrast to, say, ancient history.)

But most of all, quoting Dwight, the two best ideas I can offer are to write them more, and write them more often. The two best writers of current events I'd ever seen (Pat Matthews and Eric Tentarelli, both unfortunately no longer writing) both wrote them ahead of deadlines. Additionally, they wrote them constantly. So if a tournament deadline was 3 weeks out, they'd have questions to put in from a variety of times, and a variety of subjects.

Some the proprietary elements of how NAQT puts packs together will help take care of the variety. Even so, you'll only have as much variety as what was written in the first place. So when I'm writing whatever -- or better yet when I haven't written in awhile and need to ease back into a writing routine -- there's no better way than to check the news and see if anything interesting has happened.

It's also a really good way to stay informed.
i.n.c.
Yeah. Go Harvard. Woo.

It's Rivalry Weekend. The Game. The Big Game (that's the one people care about in these parts). All these other games.

I should get out my trumpet and see if I can still play it, give it whatever routine maintenance it needs.

I should find out what alumni stuff is happening here.

I should call Kevin.

Harvard's football team is actually really good lately. With that in mind the Penn game should matter more than this one, sort of like how Red Sox fans of the late 1980s ought to have cared more about Toronto than about the Yankees. (Did you? I wasn't around for it.)

My old co-worker Trina was telling me about all the Big Game Week activities at Berkeley (or Cal, since we're talking about its athletic essence). I saw a t-shirt Monday night that said something like Fock Stanfurd.

In other news, Go Buckeyes. Yes, even though the state of Ohio has it in for this guy. My parents are from Ohio. Sometimes I just assume everybody's parents are from Ohio. Actually, in Tulsa, their circle of friends was mainly married couples from Big Ten states other than Michigan. (Not explicitly defined that way but somehow Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio all got represented with no Wolverine/Spartan contingent.) The husbands all studied geology, or something similar, then moved to Tulsa because petroleum geology was a booming industry as of 1974 or so. (Gasoline price shocks will have that effect.)
Big time sensuality
Lileks is a must-read, on Victoria's Secret et al.

Speaking of Lileks, from his "Back Fence" column of a couple weeks ago, this one reminds me of Chad for some reason:
The only time my milk tastes funny is when it's trending towards chunkified. Note to Land O'Lakes: Please develop some sort of printing technique that ages the picture of the LOL lass, so I can tell at a glance whether the milk has gone over the hill. We could even have a little slogan to remind us:

If comely she be, the milk is for ye.

If crone-wise she's headed, the milk shall be fetid.
Who is the most obscure Senator?
Here's the roll call vote on homeland security. Murkowski didn't vote because he's about to become governor and may have already stepped down from the Senate. Eight Democrats and one spineless dude (more about him elsewhere) voted against.

So we have a list of 100 Senators here; I wonder who gets the least name recognition?
I'll suggest that anyone who was just re-elected still has post-election coverage going for him or her. Also, you know the ones from Alaska and Hawaii, just because you do. You know you do.

Some obscurity candidates:
Jon Kyl (R-AZ) -- Arizona has two GOP senators: John McCain, and that other guy.

Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) -- the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate. (Looks pretty young too.) I'm surprised to have forgotten her, since a couple years ago I made a point of knowing who every female senator was.

Tom Carper (D-DE) -- did he replace Pete DuPont at some point?

Mike Crapo (R-ID) gives you a handy pronunciation guide [CRAY-poh]

Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is one of two Democrats to represent North Dakota in the Senate. I'm agog that the Dakotas are 4-0 Democrat, given how they trend in presidential elections.

Craig Thomas (R-WY) is now Wyoming's senior senator. Its junior, Mike Enzi, is arguably the most obscure senator to be reelected this year.

Arbitrarily I'll claim that Carper is the most obscure of the six.
This is what I'd call a rant.
Or a good-old-fashioned flame. She might have a point about that particular sticker but bumper stickers in general -- sometimes I'm mystified by what will set people off, and just how much it will anger them.
Darwin Award: Honorable Mention
I'm actually kind of disappointed that this guy survived. I'll second what she said about it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Stealing an Idea from A to Z
From Nate via Craig. Now my list. It's surprisingly recent and almost all baseball/football. My breadth and depth of fandom is shot.

A is for Bobby Abreu
At least in the top five among baseball's most underrated players. Born exactly one year earlier than me.

B is for Barry Bonds
The greatest hitter of my generation. In 20 years the people who loathe him now will revere him.

C is for Will Clark.
Or Chris Chelios or Anson Carter. Surprisingly weak letter. As soon as I post this I'll realize who I'm completely forgetting. Maybe I'm "supposed" to say Orlando Cepeda or Roger Clemens but it wouldn't be honest to. I do know that Rocky Colavito was my mom's favorite, growing up in Ohio, until the Indians foolishly traded him.

D is for Terrell Davis
TD. Wish it hadn't ended so suddenly. (Tough misses: Ted Drury and/or Ted Donato. Harvard hockey really should be in here somewhere. Or Stacey Dales to improve the gender ratio.)

E is for John Elway
Carried his team on his back to two Super Bowls, then got to two more (with rings!) once he had help.

F is for Marshall Faulk
Marshall, Marshall, Marshall... greater impact on my net worth than any player I can think of. If you're ever going to put up consecutive four-touchdown games, might as well do it in the fantasy football playoff stretch.

G is for Rusty Greer
Maybe he'd still have a career if he hadn't spent his best years running into walls but he hit .300, got on base, delivered walk-off home runs at a pace far beyond any Ranger contemporary, and even made the diving catch that preserved the last non-Yankee perfect game. (Tough miss: Mark Grace.)

H is for Mia Hamm
This would feel more genuine if I actually knew more women's soccer players by name but she's the household name and she has the looks and personality for it. (Tough miss: Torii Hunter.)

I is for Ichiro
This says much more about the letter "I" than about Ichiro.

J is for Randy Johnson
Maybe I'll change this. I and J were my last two letters to decide on something.

K is for Ryan Klesko
Big oaf who can hit. Surprisingly good baserunner.

L is for Steve Largent
This is hometown pride, pure and simple.

M is for Mark Mulder
Lefty with command and poise.

N is for Robb Nen
And the smoke on the water. (Tough miss: Nomar. Yes, I'd file him under 'N'; he's third at best among the G's.)

O is for Troy O'Leary
Before his production fell off a cliff, he had some big hits for the Sox. If nothing else, remember his three-run shot in the 11-8 game. That and Pedro's six innings of no-hit relief.

P is for Rafael Palmeiro
He gave me a baseball once.

Q is for Dan Quisenberry
Rest his soul. Thanks to my aversion to the obvious answer, I did just now get to learn about Stephane Quintal. I wonder how many readers knew who he was and took for granted that I also would.

R is for Kirk Rueter
The next Tommy John. (Tough miss: Bryant Reeves -- he really really fizzled in the pros but I root for his old team to this day, franchise relocation and all. I'm a charter Grizzlies fan, so help me.)

S is for Sammy Sosa
He was a scrawny little kid back at Double-A Tulsa. (Tough miss: John Starks -- speaking of Tulsa...)

T is for Miguel Tejada
TEJADA!!!

U is for Brian Urlacher
He even sounds like a linebacker.

V is for Michael Vick
All right, I'm on the bandwagon. Dan Reeves gets to coach yet another phenom QB. This one's a lefty.

W is for Ted Williams
He needs no introduction.

X is for David X-stein
Yes it's a gimmick but he plays the game right and Dan Duquette was a moron for letting him go. The scouts never believed it but he always had the minor league numbers.

Y is for Yaz
The quintessential Red Sox player of yesteryear.

Z is for Barry Zito
Somewhere, every lefthanded hitter's knees buckle.
The Umbrage Industry
Fascinating article here.

Overlooked reason why I'm not a lawyer: In the summer following one's first year, it is virtually impossible to get a paying internship -- and surprisingly difficult to get an unpaid one -- in anything other than "public interest" law.

The problem with this field, and the reason why I put it in scare-quotes, is that the vast majority of internships in "public interest" law are with groups very much like the ones described in that article. I don't consider them to be in the public interest at all; in fact, I think they do a lot of damage to that interest.

But that's just me. One day in April (1997), I went to see the Red Sox, bought the unofficial program outside the stadium, and saw an ad offering the opportunity to track the minor league progress of hot prospects like Brian Rose and Carl Pavano. It was a baseball job, and it even paid. The fact that work took place overnight? No big deal. So began my brief, happy career as a statistician. That career itself probably had a lot to do with my not being a lawyer.
moo II: boogaloo
Jesse Walker weighs in on being so rich we talk to our cows. He also creates a mental image I'll have a very hard time getting rid of.
Blogs versus Bulletin Boards
Don't get me wrong. I'm perhaps the person least likely to complain abut Usenet descending into total irrelevance. To me it's really cool that "posting space" (kind of a variation on hosting space) is freely available and so we have, in effect, infinite private property rather than the common.

On the other hand, on the common people had conversations instead of monologues. I wonder how much that difference contributes to more navel-gazing in weblog posts, and how much the navel-gazing contributes to what I see as the decline of pithy responses -- of worthy .sig file / quote list fodder.

That's also something that bothers me about "Fisking." (If you don't know the reference, click on one of the political-type weblogs I link to, then randomly choose someone whom that weblogger links to, and so on; you'll run into the term before long. It comes from the name of a columnist who was mugged and beaten in Pakistan, then had the temerity to write about how, due to America's shortcomings, he as a Westerner somehow deserved to be beaten.) It's really no different from what one would see on Usenet ten years ago. Well, actually, it happened a lot more on Usenet, including many things that were far better and some that were far worse.

In any case, now and then I'm tempted to go back to reading this one closed news server. The idea is that I'd read more and write less. The problem is that community wouldn't include a lot of my favorite audience. Also, I'm too old really to fit in on a forum meant for Harvard undergraduates.

Instead, feel free to comment. (Aside: Does the breadth of material here inhibit commenting? Maybe the supply of commenters and comments is finite and the number of posts depresses the comment-to-post ratio.) Somewhere around here I saw a comment responding to another commenter; that made my day.
"you posted copyrighted information!"
This story is pretty funny. I got it from the FC Sporadic mailing list. Since the idea behind the list is to remind people to go to Fucked Company, you should probably go click around there if you read this.

Oh, and I x'd out phone number from the message. Not that you guys would do anything with it but the rest of the FC Sporadic audience has probably done enough with it already.

Hi,

Today's is a long sporadic but it's a good one. I think. Or it sucks, I dunno, but I had fun writing it.

When was the last time you were picked on by a bully? Heckled?

I thought I was done with that shit after that dude Roberto who used to beat me up in sixth grade wound up in jail for dropping a rock onto a moving car from an overpass.

But no, it happened again yesterday. This jock guy was picking on me like I was twelve. Specifically, it was Jason Wolfe, CEO of MyCoupons.com/DirectResponse.com.

What I'm about to tell you is the true, accurate, non-embellished story. In case you don't believe me, I encourage and implore you to ask Mr. Wolfe yourself for his side of the story. He can be reached at jason@directresponse.com, or more conveniently on his cell phone at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

...think he needs some magazine subscriptions? i've just finished signing him up for the Marines... Semper Fi, Jason!

Anyway, here's what happened. I was here in NYC speaking at this online marketing tradeshow called AdTech. Specifically, I was helping out my friends at ClickSquad.com with their presentation.

So Andy from ClickSquad does his shtick, selling his wares in front of the full crowd of about 50 people in the conference section of the tradeshow floor. He then introduces me, as I'm supposed to talk and give examples from my book about companies that squandered money on failed marketing ideas.

As soon as Andy introduces me, this meathead-looking dude standing to the side wearing a green monogrammed polo shirt starts to "boo" me. I notice that he's standing next to two or three other frat boys, all wearing the same green shirt. The normal people in the room are politely applauding my introduction, and this guy is booing.

So I walk up with a copy of my book in hand. I open with, "hey look, the green shirts are booing me. They must be in my book!"

Everyone laughs. Except this idiot in the green shirt. "It's all lies!" he shouts. "EVERYTHING YOU WRITE ABOUT, IT'S ALL MADE-UP LIES!" At this point, random people around the tradeshow are wondering what the hell is happening and a large crowd starts to form around the speaking area, around the filled seats.

"LIES!! STORIES!!" he shouts like he has Turrets or something.

"He's right," I say to the crowd. "Everything on my website and in my book, I made it all up."

Figuring that would shut him up, I continued as planned. I'm introducing myself to the audience for a minute or two - he starts back up, heckling.

"IT'S BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT ALL THESE COMPANIES WENT OUT OF BUSINESS!!!"

"What?" I asked.

He repeats his claim, yelling even louder. At this point, everyone in the tradeshow has moved over to the speaking area, a few hundred onlookers. The green-shirted asshole moves really close to me, separated only by the velvet ropes around the podium.

"I'd love to take credit for the downfall of all these dot-com companies," I said. "I really would. But I think it has more to do with superbowl ads, $800 chairs, $1 million launch parties, and more generally, the fact that most of the companies in my book went out of business because they didn't make enough money."

I go on to give examples of companies going out of business that were clearly "my fault". For example, Pets.com and their multi-million-dollar superbowl ads. Furniture.com spending more money to ship items than they were making from them. DigiScents spending $20 million so you could *smell* websites. Hell, I'd like to take personal credit for Enron and Worldcom while we're at it.

You get the point, and so did the audience. Mister green-shirt's face is turning purple, clearly realizing that he's waged a losing battle. Guys like Mr. Wolfe aren't exactly known for their intellectual prowess or debating expertise, if ya know what I mean...

You have to realize, at this point I had no idea who this freak was or what his problem was. At one point I thought maybe he was mentally handicapped so I felt bad arguing with him in front of all these people. So I continue with the presentation.

Thirty-seconds later, "YOU POSTED COPYWRITED INFORMATION ABOUT MY COMPANY!!!" he screams loudly.

"You have a company?" I asked, figuring he has an ice cream route or something.
"I'm the founder and CEO of MyCoupons.com!" he exclaimed proudly, like the fat kid who finished all his pie.

Ah ha! This guy is a bitter CEO of a fucked dot-com! An actual dot-com CEO! This weirdo actually runs a business! I dunno, I might be going out on a limb here but I'm gonna have to say that it's PEOPLE LIKE HIM who drive their companies into the ground -- I just stand around and watch like everyone else. I was flabbergasted.

So anyway.

"You posted copywrited information on your website!" he yelled again, making sure the crowd could hear him. Apparently he didn't realize that everyone thought he was nuts.

The first thing that popped into my mind - in the microphone for all to hear, "Bet I made more money from your copywrited information than you did..!"

That was a proud moment in my pathetic little life.

Editors note: Later that day when I got home I checked FC to see what "copywrited information" I posted. I posted a note that he sent to all MyCoupons users notifying them about impending lawsuits and the company's financial problems. It wasn't even an internal memo, it WAS intended for distribution.

Anyway, getting back to the story… I ignored his stare-down and finished my presentation.

Presentation over, audience loudly applauding me, Mr. Wolfe looking like a dumbass.

As soon as I walk off the stage, he gets all huffy in my face. Flashbacks of sixth grade, I'm actually kinda nervous, thinking this nut-job might actually hit me. Then again, my apartment needs new floors and I could use the money so I'm kinda hoping he's gonna take a swing.

At this point I'm supposed to walk back to the ClickSquad booth and sign books. There's a huge crowd of people following me and this pinhead -- who's in my face. His face is turning purple and I can't make out what he's babbling about but he's doing that thing where he's talking and spit is coming out of his mouth. It was kinda gross so I said to him, "Your breath smells. Could you stop talking to me?" in my best I'm-not-twelve-anymore-you-fuckface delivery.

I turn around to sign a book or something. He whips around and gets in my face yelling, "WHAT'D YOU SAY!??! WHAT'D YOU SAY?!?! WHAT'D YOU SAY!?!!". Serious flashbacks to sixth grade here, remember the guy who used to say "You gotta staring problem??!" It was like that.

"I said your breath stinks. Invest in a fucking toothbrush," I replied. I had a stern facade but I spot his clenched fist and inside I can feel this dude about to deck me.

Suddenly the other green-shirts appeared out of nowhere and forcefully pulled him away before he could pummel me.

The moral of the story? There is none. I'm just a big pussy.

So that's all.. thanks for reading. There are some pretty juicy "fucks" and memos this week too, some of the highlights are below.

Rock on, just trying to help,
pud

Random Blog Quotes
I made it onto this page but I have mixed emotions about it. Back in the day (mid to late 1990s) you'd routinely see .sig file quotes much better than any of the most recent entries there, including my own. Don't get me wrong, it's a very interesting service -- nice to see what other people are saying -- but it's unclear what the criteria are.

This blog, for example, is routinely far-better written than anything else out there; many others are just crap, mainly because they're for an intended audience and the people to whom it's crap aren't the intended audience.
Neat things are afoot over at Yahoo! Personals
(I've already given -- and will probably continue to give -- running commentary on Yahoo! Personals on a different blog)

I'm in the middle of taking a survey (usually I ignore those but today just felt like taking it) wherein they ask, among other things:
(paraphrasing)

Would I be interested in participating in a get-togethers with singles of similar interests, age, and lifestyle?

Would I be interested in participating in community volunteer programs with singles with similar interests, age, and lifestyle?

Bringing a group together is a neat idea because setting something up like that -- and inviting enough people -- is a huge transaction cost that, by scale, Yahoo! could do better than I could.

The community service idea is even better -- it has a "why didn't someone think of that?" element to it. Huge synergy here: People looking for a mate might also be looking for a place to belong.

On the contrarian side: Now I can find out in person that N women think I should be taller and thinner, rather than inferring it from the specs on the "About My Match" side of their ad.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

moo
Quote of the Day:
This weekend the LA Times Mag had an article about The Guru of Happy Cows, Bill Niman of the Niman ranch. Why are his cows so happy, you ask, as they await their day in the slaughterhouse? Well, besides getting to roam around acres of luscious grass, THE COWHANDS CONVERSE WITH THEM. Yes, that's right, they chat up the future Filet Mignon of Chez Panisse and the other trendy restaurants that stock Nimans.

Part of the reason big chefs like Nimans meat is that he doesn't use antibiotics, which makes their uppity customers happy. I'm pretty ignorant on that issue and don't really care one way or another. I'm just glad the cows get talked to. (Though if that isn't shining evidence of so-called runaway capitalism, I don't know what is. We're so rich we talk to our cows! Bitchin.)

--Sara Rimensnyder
I'll link to that
Sometimes you get to see a future star take a step up. Like Sammy Sosa legging out an inside-the-park home run (actually I think they scored it a double and an error) in his Double-A debut, Opening Day 1989. Or this column.

The real star of course is the subject of the column, not its author, but you get the idea. It's not a thesis I've seen anywhere else even though it really should be.
Am I the only person whose literary inspirations keep going batsh*t?
To be honest, Alan Keyes was already off the deep end before I knew of him, amazingly good speeches aside.

But this... it's painful to see a good man just fall apart like that. Although in fairness, it's been months since Keillor was even my favorite Minnesota writer.
If I just quit this blog today
If you never saw another post again, it's only because this article shamed me.
Godwin's Law 1, Harley Sorenson 0
Public service announcement for any journalists or aspiring journalists in the audience: Should you ever cross over to the op-ed section never ever ever began a column with a lead this asinine. More on that column elsewhere.
Should this really have been a mistrial?
(Warning: The last few paragraphs of the link are actually pretty gruesome.)

A random person in a courthouse hallway yells out, "he's guilty!"

It's a little out of the ordinary but it's not something you couldn't conceive of happening. (Am I the only person who'd be tempted to do that myself?) Heaven forbid a jury actually hear some random person's statement of belief. "Hmm, someone out there thinks the defendant is guilty. And I bet someone else out there thinks the defendant is innocent."

What gets me:
Warren's attorney, Dennis Kelly of Mineola, said the outburst caused irreparable damage to his client's case and he didn't believe Warren could have received a fair trial.

How weak can your case possibly be? "Uh oh, they heard someone say he's guilty. The whole case is ruined!"

In fact, I'd suggest that the last few paragraphs of the article do far more damage to the client's case (if any potential juror reads that far) then the outburst itself. In this forum -- a newspaper story repeating what the prosecution claims -- I have no way to evaluate the truth value, but it's one of those if that's true, lock 'em up and throw away the key moments of outrage that shouldn't affect the truth evaluation process but you know it always does.

(One of the Federal Rules of Evidence, I want to say 403, deals with evidence whose inflammatory value exceeds its probative value.)
"The passengers were not happy."
Here's a guy who should never get another driving job.
More questions about 8 Mile
Actually I can't post them without spoilers. I can post this one though:

Do Detroit's trailer park residents really speak in a Mississippi twang and listen to Southern rock?

For a movie about a musical genre that's about vocabulary and word play, 8 Mile does weird things with dialect. Even outside of the movie Emimem does weird things with dialect. Sometimes he slips into this all-schwa dialect (for example: the "one more time" in the middle of each chorus of "Cleaning Out My Closet") that I can't really place anywhere. Actually I've heard it before, from another white guy who liked rap music.

Come to think of it, he spends a lot of the movie not speaking -- pensive, or sullen, take your pick. Between that and the camera angles, my best guess is that the intended effect is that the audience experience the movie in first-person rather than third-person.
Baseball research that's actually interesting
Racial breakdown of hit-by-pitch stats here.

Copying and pasting from what I just posted:
I actually do have a top-of-the-head theory to explain these trends: "Scrappy" hitters.

In a given year, who would you say was the "scrappiest" hitter in the league? (That is, player least afraid to get his uniform dirty and most eager to "take one for the team.")

In recent years, the archetypes have been players like Craig Biggio and David Eckstein. I suspect (but lack the data) that a fair number of the "body armor" types are white, undersized, "lunchpail" players. Rusty Greer for that matter.

In the years where HBP happened more often to black players, the archetypical "scrappy" player would be Joe Morgan, if not Jackie Robinson.

It's folly to generalize from a single player, much less assume that a player singlehandedly skews the stats. (This is why I always winced whenever people tried to use Coors Field as a total explanation for recent home run explosions.) But it's at least a start. Is it possible that players who used Robinson as a role model (you can think of reasons why more blacks than whites would do this) actively played like him? Analogously, is it possible that Biggio has inspired Eckstein et al to be protogees?

I'm not sure how you'd research this but it's one lead I'd consider going after.
And the Oscar for skank goes to...
The thing that struck me the most about 8 Mile was the behavior of the women in it. That's only the second time a movie has made an impression on me for that particular reason, the other one being the recent Ocean's Eleven.

(Well think about it -- if you've seen Ocean's Eleven, that is -- could she be any more of a gold-digger?)

That and a very savvy casting/writing decision: You'll notice that Eminem made sure he had someone in his posse even whiter than himself.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Worst. Quiz. Ever.
Obviously the writers of this quiz ignored my clear tendency to be Otto, choosing to assign far less importance to my love of "the music that rocked a generation" and far more to my geekiness and lust for Seven-of-Nine. I am insulted to be associated with such an anti-social, fat boor.

And I can't even imitate him correctly.
The two greatest Monday Night Football games in teams-owned-by-me history
I have neither a unified year-by-year naming scheme nor a third memorable moment.

Best was Marshall Faulk's four-touchdown game (2000, Rams-Bucs) to ice the only FFL championship I've ever had.

Runner up was an improbable comeback, making up some double-digit number of points in the fourth-quarter alone of a rain-drenched 1999 Broncos-Jaguars game in which I benefitted from the services of Olandis Gary, Fred Taylor, and Byron Chamberlain.

Best game I was ever part of was a 121 to 18.5 victory (winning margin was 102.5 points; opponent had six players take 0's), where Faulk, Ricky Williams, and Rod Smith each had an individual point total greater than or equal to the other team's. This in a league/year where the typical point total was low-60's:

Cade McNown 9.5 QB .5 Mark Brunell
Ricky Williams 20.5 RB 0 James Stewart
Marshall Faulk 23.5 RB .5 Rickey Watters
Isaac Bruce 4 WR 1 Mushin Muhammed
Rod Smith 18.5 WR 2 Terry Glenn
Tony Gonzalez 8 TE 0 Christian Fauria
Ryan Longwell 7 K 0 Jason Hanson
Courtney Brown 8.5 DL 0 Robert Porcher
Takeo Spikes 8 LB 0 Stephen Boyd
Ashley Ambrose 6 DB 8.5 Charles Woodson
Chris Gardocki 7.5 P 6 Darren Bennett
The three greatest Monday Night Football plays in Tonganoxie Kings history
(In honor of Kings' owner Kubicek, who keeps calling me with football-related stuff)

3. ("The only negative one"): 2000, Raiders vs. Broncos. Tim Brown's touchdown pass briefly puts Oakland ahead and permanently puts Tonganoxie behind. The Bronco fan in the room quietly mutters, too much time! The guy whose opponent just pulled out the win swears out loud.

2. 2002, Eagles-Giants. My own feeble attempt at a comeback is thwarted by the long touchdown run that Tonganoxie's owner now refers to as Donavan McNabb's "f*ck-you" to both the Giants and The Bruce.

1. 2001, Rams-Saints. The playoff-deciding game for the team that would ultimately win a title. Kurt Warner almost singlehandedly leads Tonganoxie's opponent to an improbable comeback, only for Willie Jackson's TD catch to ice the game.
What dogs would ask the Almighty
Yet another e-mail forward...

Dear God ... Why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever,smell one
another? Where are their priorities?

Dear God ... When we get to Heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it
the same old story?

Dear God ... Excuse me, but why are there cars named after the jaguar,
the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray & the rabbit, but not one
named for a dog? How often do you see a cougar riding around? We dogs love a
nice ride! Would it be so hard to rename the Chrysler Eagle the Chrysler
Beagle?

Dear God ... If a dog barks his head off in the forest, & no human hears
him, is he still a bad dog?

Dear God ... If we come back as humans, is that good or bad?

Dear God ... More meatballs & less spaghetti, please?

Dear God ... When we get to the Pearly Gates, do we have to shake hands
to get in?

Dear God ... Are there dogs on other planets or are we alone? I have
been howling at the moon & stars for a long time, but all I ever hear back is
theschnauzer across the street!

Dear God ... Are there mailmen in Heaven? If there are, will I have to
apologize?

Dear God .... We dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand
signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent ID's, electromagnetic
energy fields & Frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

Dear God ... May I have my testicles back?
Thoughts on ESPN
1. Did anyone else have a lot of trouble loading their main page today? It looked as though their stylesheet was busted, or some server that had their stylesheet had crashed.

2. Selig approves Hampton-to-Braves deal. Did MLB become a fantasy league when I wasn't looking? The headline reminds me of some rinky-dink league where one owner makes a dump trade (or a dumb trade) and half the rest of the league squeals in protest about the guy who benefitted from it.

3. Cooch/golf alert: this story still self-perpetuates. (My view? Best expressed on my political blog, but instead read this post from one of the most commonsensical female pundits I know.)
Mildly humbling correction
Last post about bygone quiz greatness, I promise!

Some people (this is my fault because I used to brag about it) have heard "A jogger here..." as my personal "best buzz ever." (1995 CBCI NCT, end-of-half buzz, on a game eventually won by five points.)

To be honest, even though the buzz happened there, the reader did get out the words "would have the stamina" before I was recognized. This actually affected my answer, since I'd planned to say Central Park instead of the right answer.

Retroactively applying NAQT zen: Had this been power-tossup format, this buzz would probably still be for power, since I think you'd have to be really really stingy to put the mark before "stamina."

My actual (IMHO) best buzz ever actually came at a Berkeley tournament that I really didn't have any business playing in. (They teamed me with a couple of Stanford people; it's plausible that my presence helped make scheduling easier, or at least made Stanford more willing to split its teams just so.)

"Warning: Answer must be given in the form of a question." (buzz)
Useless meta-trivia
Summary of the post that I inexplicably deleted Saturday morning (not to be confused with the half-dozen or so on a different blog that I deleted out of a sense of dignity):

A question came up in passing Friday night over who is the best-ever female quiz-bowl player. That's really impossible to answer and speculation just opens a can of worms.

(The deleted post had a few paragraphs speculating anyway.)

One candidate, my sister, did very well at CBCI when she was a U. of Chicago undergrad. In 1995 (three years after we were on a high school championship team together) she and I became the first siblings (possibly the only) to play on opposite teams in a national championship match. (There should be a "quiz-bowl" modifier there but even without that modifier I wonder how rare we are.) She did very well on tossups in both matches -- top scorer on her team those games, though two superstars on that team were both surprising non-factors in both -- but the team I was on won.

In the final tossup stats I was fourth-best on my team (of four), gradually receding from Saturday morning, when in the first few rounds I did well as my teammates gradually woke up. Top scorer was one of the best players ever to pick up a buzzer, though the tossup stats were far more distributed than you'd think. (A format like CBCI, relying on quick-recall rather than depth of knowledge, in my experience neutralizes one-man teams.)

Obligatory where are they now: Jeff, last I heard, was still at Harvard but not an active quiz player. Rumor has it he'll be at a tournament this weekend that apparently I won't make after all. (Roommates turned out not to be interested in writing questions nor making the trip.) Mark is in Boston in the publishing industry. J.J. practices law, back in Ohio(?). I am in San Francisco, seeking contract work as a computer geek and contributing a whole lot of questions and (in theory) some source code to National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC.

Obligatory bragging: This team went 17-0 in a national championship round robin, the first team to go undefeated in CBCI's championship since it converted to round robin from double-elimination. I don't know if anyone has done that since then in CBCI, though I believe NAQT has had at least one undefeated team. Now that I have a quasi-professional bias, I'll try to convince you that NAQT is the one you should care about.

Or rather, I'll state that flat-out and be too lazy to justify the assertion.

Obligatory disclaimer: 17-0 requires a ton of luck. We won two five-point games when the other team ran out of time on a bonus. (Had NAQT clock rules been in effect -- that is, the reader finishes a bonus if it's in progress as time expires -- one or both would have gone the other way.) Our Saturday morning games, when the team wasn't on all cylinders yet, came against teams that finished at the bottom of the standings. We had a bye on the most egregious "upset pack" -- a round that featured some strange questions and also the two biggest upsets of the tournament. One team started out 7-0 and finished 7-8; we caught them during the 0-8 portion, after their star player had been benched (coach's decision; even though it's none of my business I'm still very unhappy about that decision). Another team's best CBCI player (hi Chad) caught food poisoning Saturday night; we played 'em, sans Kubi, Sunday morning.

Anyhow, the most useless piece of individual trivia/bragging of all: Because the other three players on that team each made subsequent trips to CBCI's national championship, I'm the only one still with a 17-0 all-time mark at that level. Feels pretty good to say that.
Write to me
There's at least one frequent reader of these blogs whose e-mail address I don't have. (Probably several, but at least one whose address I'm specifically interested in.)

If you suspect that I've forgotten how to reach you by e-mail then feel free to contact me, matt979 at yahoo or whatever the "mailto" link is on my template.

(Note to self: Remove mailto links. They seem to attract spam.)
RALLY MONKEYS TASTE LIKE CHICKEN
At least, according to the orange posterboard sign on my desk, originally acquired at the downtown big-screen viewing of Game 6.

In similar news:
I suppose it all worked out for the best. The people of Oakland can now sleep again, knowing they taught the New England Patriots a lesson about listening to a referee's decision. And the Patriots, well, they can keep wearing their rings.
--Mr. Couture, who is somewhat poorer now but on the moral high ground.
Got munchies?
Try the 420 special, but only if you're in Canton, Ohio.

"To do list" bloggage:
Do we need the case for why most drugs should be legal? It's go on the politics side but I don't know that any of the regulars there would disagree.

We probably do need the case for why the D.A.R.E. program specifically is one of the biggest boondoggles ever. Not sure which blog to file that under.

UPDATE: Sudden sympathy loss has ensued. “What happened to the First Amendment?” he asked reporters who watched him. Um, nothing. When it's your own corporate overlords who ask you to change how you advertise your/their business, they win -- you lose. First Amendment inapplicable.
A rare Luddite moment
Normally I don't knock new technology. For the most part, it's all good. But, for the love of God, who in the world thought DVD commentary tracks were a good idea?

I suspect most of you will disagree with me when it's some highly reputed director or otherwise famous person associated with the movie. But... homemade tracks? Unless there's someone out there who's far far better at real-time MSTing than most wannabe MSTers (who are nowhere near as good as they think they are), leave it alone.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Kitties
Right here.
On test-taking
I never did get around to linking to this weblog even though it's all about a subject near and dear to my heart.

I have very strong opinions about the right way and the wrong way to give people tests. This woman also does, although she has education/training/statistical background to back it up.
I love my D&D character
Core competencies: Inflicting massive damage and absorbing massive damage. With enough Strength and enough Constitution, who needs anything more?

Plus, when you play a character who's really not the brightest bulb (nor the most charming), you can pull all sorts of crazy stunts that might be stupid but might have a method to their madness -- all of it still in character.
Joanne Jacobs omnibus
Sometimes it seems as though she saves her best material for weekends. (You can just link to her site and scroll down, to save you the trouble of following all the individual links.)

Yet another anecdote on the sad state of education these days, along with a weird idea out of Thailand.

She finds someone who wants more liberal bias now that Republicans control everything (I think I agree! -- out-front bias is significantly healthier and more honest than the people who are honestly unaware, or unwilling to admit, how their biases shape their reporting).

Which censorship/conformity story is more unsettling, this one or this one?
You know who's really pretty?
Mentioned That 70s Show about three posts down. Caught a couple syndicated reruns of it a week ago Friday. Until then, I'd never really appreciated Mila Kunis. Her character is a real piece of work but I'd just never comprehended her beauty before.

Kunis and Prepon are quite a contrast.
My memory has fooled me!
It was not on November 17, 1996, but rather November 10, 1996, that a certain quarterback had a phenomenal game out of nowhere. Or was the record for the second half of one game and first half of the next? Anyway, compare his 1996 stats to his stats in this game. Paging Mr. Kubicek, some insight from you is more than welcome.
A word on stage presence
Since I just got done writing elsewhere about someone being a bit of a drama queen, I'll point out here that Mike (our driver for this evening -- November 16, 2002) is the only person I know who actually drives with Stage Presence. He'd whine about the red lights; he'd give discourses on the traffic. His actual driving is almost exactly the same as mine but there's no way I could make it as entertaining, or as funny, as he makes it.
Well, that was fun, and perhaps also therapeutic
The gist of a brief, staticky cellphone conversation was that I'd come over to Berkeley and they'd have figured out what to do by the time I got there. The "they" turned out to be Paul, Mike, and Juliana; the "what" turned out to be mini-golf.

The four of us rode in Mike's car -- on the first leg Paul called "shotgun" shockingly quickly but the rest I took that coveted position. Something about the ride reminded me of the intro to That 70s Show except that nobody other than Mike drove, Juliana has blonde hair rather than red, and the music wasn't as upbeat. (Nice, ambient, "driving music" music, a plurality of which was Moby.)

The first place we went was closed (or just nonexistent) but we found a nice one in Castro Valley. Played the 18 holes, then refrained from the "19th hole" (impossible trick-shot ball collector) until after giving this one hole with a skee-ball-style "hole in one" bull's eye a few more cracks. (Hijinks ensued here, including balls lost in the grass that we actually spent time tracking down, perhaps shouldn't have bothered.)

In the game room, Paul and Mike danced, danced revolutionarily. (Nobody booed them; somewhere a whole coast away, Cooch bit his tongue.) Juliana and I played air hockey. Then Mike played the Monopoly pinball game; Paul, Juliana, and I did a round robin of air hockey. Paul is, like, good and stuff.

Then we came back to Berkeley and ate Indian food; I feel mild guilt about the proprietors since we were there until 20 minutes after the place closed. The food was good, even for it being my third straight Indian meal. (Should I go for four in a few hours? What is "Indian brunch" like?) Mike bummed mildly about what life will be like next year when he takes his PhD somewhere to teach and misses us.

Back at Mike and Paul's place, the four of us and David played Vinci. Mike won, barely nipping me.

(Rules variant, by Mike, that I like a lot: normal Vinci is won by either the first player to N points or the highest point-bearer if a turn ends with at least one person at >= N, N usually being 100. In closely-scored games this leads to kingmaking and people ganging up on the leader. Instead we took a shuffled 52-card deck. Any time a turn ended where someone had >= 75 points, cards would be dealt face-up (without replacing), corresponding to the numbers going up from 75 to the person-in-the-lead's score. The person in the lead won if and only if the queen of spades came up. This game I was the first to 75 -- actually 79 -- but the game ended on the turn where Mike had 90 and I had 87.)