Saturday, January 04, 2003

The politically correct John Madden
When he referred to Melissa Stark's possible transformation into a "snowperson", I think Al and I initially failed to get his meaning. Is "snowman" the last vestige of universally gender-specific noun usage?
Okay, this is worth breaking a non-posting vow over...
The condensed, fanfic version of Two Towers...

(ObFootball: Vick is exceeding expectations. At least the third straight week of Green Bay being not at all impressive, going back to a lackluster shutdown of Buffalo. Sounds as though the Colts didn't even bother showing up.)
Jhai vs. Slashdot
Here's an article that I urge you to read, so much so that it will be my only post today. (On second or third reading it's unnecessarily whiny but I imagine it's the sort of thing one writes when one is too angry to stay silent.)

(Bear in mind that there are NFL playoff games today. And no, I'm not necessarily going to a sports bar or anything: Unclear at this point what I'll do or where I'll watch. Maybe just sit in here cleaning my room. In any case, this article moved me enough to spare you from another football avalanche.)

Essentially there are two points, of which the second matters more to me (so scroll down a bit if you're apathetic about Slashdot):
First, the quality of commentary at Slashdot has declined significantly. Mind, I never put much stock in the comments there or the people making them. As the article puts it: there are still people posting useful and interesting comments, and they're utterly and completely lost among the utter crap that floods the site. That's been true for awhile, even if you read only the comments modded up to 5.

Part of it is human nature: People with the lack-of-inhibition necessary to speak in public tend to vastly overrate the importance of what they have to say.

Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) took the ball and ran with it, speculating about the future of online communities in general (like weblogs). My opinion is either libertarian or anti-monopoly or both. Usenet was doomed in the long run because there's only one of it and also because it's ridiculously expensive. If you wanted something remotely resembling Usenet, you had to go there, where everyone else already was, especially the free riders just flaming and pr0n-spamming and so on. And cross-posting. Talk about your unintended consequences: It's the ability to cross-post that made Usenet unreadable. But weblogs and Yahoo! groups (or whoever your preferred provider is, though Yahoo! seems to be the market leader) fill exactly the niches that people want to be filled, because people go and fill them. There's no worries about following the right protocol for newgroup (or rmgroup) because if I want to start a weblog or a club, nobody's stopping me.

Of course it's going to be harder for people to find those niches but I think over time they do. If you do quiz bowl, you hear at tournaments about the Yahoo! Group or the Maize Pages. If you're interested in world events, there's a reasonable progression from Slate to Mickey Kaus, to Instapundt, to the people whom Reynolds links to, to the people they link to. (Or you could go from whoever sent you to me, to me, to whoever I link to. Same deal.)

Unlike the case with one central repository, the productive niche-occupiers will find the sites that share their interests faster than any Internet vandals can mess anything up. Well, for a site like Instapundit (he rarely if ever enables comments) the only way to take it down would be a Denial of Service or some other attack on the Internet--the back end rather than the content. I suppose some people post nasty/bigoted things to Little Green Footballs but Charles Johnson can moderate them a bit and even if he didn't, if there were a dozen sites like it, I don't think anyone would have time to flood all dozen of them.

(One cool thing about on-line communities being more distributed is that now nobody can bitch about moderation. Since Usenet belonged to everyone, there were philosophical issues with anyone having the gumption to step up and moderate on behalf of us all. But I effectively "own" this site, as long as I don't disobey any of Blogger's terms of service. Other bloggers--Jane Galt and Cut on the Bias come to mind--have modded when they had to.)

The second point (I hate it when there's an inverse relation between importance and word rate) is just how good an idea the Jhai PC project is. The author does a much better job of explaining why than I could:
The Jhai PC is a visionary idea. Will it improve the quality of life for the people served by the product? Maybe, maybe not. It sure seems to me that enabling people to communicate with friends and relatives across the world for the first time would be a nice benefit for the people in those villages. Allowing them to negotiate business transactions with people a few villages away without walking there to do it might be nice as well. Nicer than having a meal to eat? Probably not, but I doubt that the people who posted on Slashdot have a better sense of the needs of Laotians than the people in the Jhai Foundation working on the project. And the thing about it is, if this proof of concept works, then who knows what it could lead to? Wouldn't it be amazing if we could get real first person reporting from areas of war and strife thanks to these computers? The idea of an internet connected PC that can operate almost completely off the grid holds great promise, and someone has to get it out there to see where it leads.

Actually, I can add in one point: In the long run, a project like this (if it works) will do a much better job of feeding people than direct food aid would have. It's like the "give a man to fish" versus "teach him to fish" cliche brought out to a whole new level.

The Jhai Foundation is building a nascent export economy by selling coffee grown in Laos. Apparently the coffee is very good. What if the coffee farmers in Laos use the Jhai PC to further improve the scale of their agriculture by communicating amongst themselves and learning more about coffee cultivation via the Web, thus making it possible to raise the standard of living significantly in rural Laos in general? Maybe that's a crazy idea. But maybe it will work.

Of course, there's a huge reason why this all appeals to the right-libertarian in me:
If you don't admire the project or aren't interested, then don't donate any money. It really is that amazingly simple. The Jhai PC folks aren't asking to raise your taxes, or asking for a government grant, or saying that their idea is the end all and be all of anything. The proposition here is to provide pedal-powered PCs that might provide some benefit to some people in Laos. It's an experiment, and people are donating their own time and money to make it a reality.
(emphasis added)

Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. It's intriguing enough for me to back. This is the kind of thing you should give money to instead of your alma mater (if your alma mater is so rich that it ought to be ashamed to be begging for money). That or the Heifer Project. I love the Heifer Project; I haven't given to them in way too long. Once I'm working full-time again and my hypothetical tithe quotient is higher...

Friday, January 03, 2003

Major News Web Sites
Top story on Google as of just now: France seeks Ivory Coast deal.
One of the top links referred to the Buckeyes having a 14-7 lead.

Top story on CNN: The van Dam killer's sentencing.
Top right: "Buckeyes Champions"

Top story on Yahoo!: Bush says U.S. ready for war if needed.
Top sports headline: Ohio State wins Fiesta Bowl in 2OT, 31-24
Best college football game ever?
Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town
and everybody else, tries to put my sloopy down
Sloopy I don't care, what your daddy do
Cuz you know sloopy, girl, I'm in love with you

--The McCoys
(But then, the first hit on this google search is this instrumental version.)

It's easy to throw superlatives around and overrate the here and now but how does tonight's game stack up historically? What can compare to it?

One team has a big, tough, smart(?) Midwestern quarterback who keeps getting hit hard but getting back up. The other team has two superstars (and two sons of NFL greats!) but one blows out a knee and the other hurts his shoulder.

Buckeyes had just a three point lead but seemed in control -- until that punt return.

In overtime, three fourth down plays could have ended the game but didn't. (One fourth down play could have ended the game and did.)

My parents began the day in Tulsa (seeing old friends) but got to Chicago a couple hours before kickoff.
What do you think a game clock would taste like?
Probably nothing at all like chicken. Must be pretty chewy though. Keep chewing, chewing...

(No, not a gamecock, a game clock)
Joe Theisman, call your office
You don't often hear a color analyst say "oh, my lord" about a play, even one that results in an injury. That looks like no ordinary knee injury though.

In other TV channel flipping news, when did Desmond Mason become unstoppable? When you flip past a Seattle Supersonics game you expect to see Gary Payton carrying the team, not the small forward. As an Oklahoma State fan Mason's performance makes me happy. I might become interested in the NBA again, this time backing the Sonics.
NFL 2002 team-by-team scheduling quirks
(If you've figured out how I spent my time this week, I don't want to hear a word of it. Surely you've done something at least as inane.)

Arizona: Starting the season Road-Road, Home-Home is marginally interesting but consecutive weeks pair up nicely after that, with only one two-host streak after that.

Atlanta: Early-season stretch of Home/Home/BYE/Home but three straight road games late in the year. (They won the first two but a loss at Tampa Bay was the start of a mini-skid.)

Baltimore: Early-season stretch of Home/BYE/Home/Road/Road/Home/Home but trade home & road games after that.

Buffalo: This is equisite! Home, Road-Road, Home-Home, Road-Road, Home-Home, BYE, Road-Road, before finally alternating in December.

Carolina: Yet another team with the bye wedged between two home games. Must be nice to have that long stretch of non-travel.

Anyway you get the point. You'd think that if the NFL schedule were put together by either a supercomputer or an obsessive-compulsive borderline autistic (or both), then the weeks surrounding every team's bye would look like either (Home, Road, BYE, Home, Road) or (Road, Home, BYE, Road, Home). But you'd be wrong.

Parting short, just because it blew Kubi's mind as of a week or two ago: The Eagles (scroll down) began 2002 with two road games and ended 2002 with two road games. In between they had a stretch that included six homes, two roads, and a BYE.
Sometimes I feel compunction about the crap I lay on you here
But then I read sports columns with sentences like, "So what does this have to do with the NFL? I have no idea. By the way, I'm drunk again."

I'm guessing in the 2003 NFL season, the Jets-at-Raiders and Patriots-at-Broncos games won't be the same week. But things would work out so conveniently that way, if want to be as formuliac/efficient as possible. Just have the Jets-Raiders game be on a Monday night and then as a bonus, that week SF can host an AFC team or visit a west coast rival.

You didn't need to know any of that.
The Amish Tech Support Blog-a-Day Tour
Here's an excellent idea that I want all of you (at least, those who have weblogs) to take part in.

I think of all the people whose blogs I read because I know them personally (rather than because I found them on-line), Craig's would be by far the most interesting as guest-hosted by Laurence Simon. He'd probably introduce some contest, like a cross between the 128-song contest and the Dead Pool.

Then again, Mike's (this Mike) would be the most interesting if Simon wanted to imitate/mock the real blogger's prose.
Great moments in Sharia
Apparently in Dubai it's a crime to be gang-raped. (That is, they arrested the survivor rather than the gang.)
Andrew Sullivan seems to have permalinks now
He eviscerates Paul Krugman (justifiably) and exposes the incompetent DC police.

He also likes John Edwards (but hates focus-grouped ElectionSpeak) and gushes about getting his "first pay check" out of the proceeds of his Pledge Week. (He raised over $80,000 in one week. Apparently some of it goes to the people around him who understand the technical side of his site. Whoever it is, he's grossly overpaying them for the product he gets.)
Hit and Run
Lots of good links from the Reason folk today.

Between this story (New York firemen now passe) and this post (wonders whether an attempt to bring wireless service to Laos will raise as much money as this gal did), sometimes I hate the Beautiful People.

More out of print music will be available to soon but the RIAA doesn't want any of it to enter the recording industry even if it already has. (That's why I should have become a lawyer: The more people stand up to the RIAA the better.)

The clone is probably a hoax. Will people remember that it turned out to be probably-a-hoax or will they just remember oh my gosh they cloned a baby, now I have to say something stupid about it? Probably the latter; I think people still think Osama is alive because they remember the latest tape without remembering (or ever hearing) that it turned out to be probably-a-hoax. If people were better at remembering (or figuring out for themselves) that shams were shams, this site wouldn't be as useful.

Diane Freese on Tech Central Station makes fun of the anti-cheeseburger, formerly anti-tobacco lawyers, pointing out the correlation between stopping smoking and gaining weight. (Smoking raises your metabolism.)
If you blame the tobacco companies for killing smokers then can you blame the lawyers for killing people who overate because they didn't change their diets to adjust for not smoking?

Couldn't they just mandate safety locks? -- Jesse Walker, on the City of New York's plan to ban toy guns.

George Carlin didn't write most of the stuff attributed to him on the Internet. But he did write many things attributed to Mike Barnicle.

Moment of Zen: I still remember the column that got Barnicle's ass fired because the very day it came out I read it and fumed because I recognized half the one-liners he ripped from George Carlin. Had weblogs been around back then...

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Media Bias
I'll report, you decide (so to speak).

Where by "report" I mean I'll send you this link. (Read the comments as well as the post.) Fairly interesting, representative content.

So from my second-hand observations of my parents' channel-flipping, I saw little to no difference in how FOX, CNN, or MSNBC reported straight news stories. Obviously there's a difference in prime time lineup between (Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity), (Chris Matthews and Phil Donahue), and (Larry King and Connie Chung), but I think all six of them are known quantities. Media bias isn't about editorial page bean-counting. (If it were, William Safire would look awfully lonely stacked up against Dowd, Rich, and the rest of the NYT gang.) Rather, it's about how people who filter the news actually do the filtering, and some of their unexamined assumptions about what makes a story.

(N.B. Those TV pairings aren't quite accurate; I went with the names you're most likely to know. The best prime time talking-head show I saw while at my parents' was Kudlow & Kramer, featuring a right-leaning economist and a center-left commonsense layman. It was on CNBC and focused nearly as much on business as on straight-up politics.)

Does anybody who reads this blog closely follow the Sunday morning shows? Is there really a discernible view-based difference between (say) how Tony Snow runs his show and how Tim Russert runs his? The closest thing I have to an industry source saw Tony Snow on TV once, many years ago when I flipped through channels after crashing for the night. Instead of identifying him as a conservative, her first impression was that he was more blow-dried hair than substance. I'd heard him on the radio enough time not to have nearly the same take on him. I mentioned to her something about how he'd previously been a Detroit News columnist and so not your average TV foof.
U.S. Overseas Propaganda
That last post reminded of something I thought of in Chicago and never blogged.

Now and then people will argue about what content should be on Voice of America or whatever else we direct at a worldwide audience. There was the whole issue of the ads where Muslims explain to other Muslims how open and accepting Americans are, those same ads that certain ingrate governments who should be thankful for every cent of foreign aid they get refused to run. There's mild controversy (you could find it on Instapundit somewhere, maybe two weeks back) about how we used to make the case for freedom but now just play a bunch of Britney Spears songs.

In my opinion, easily the best indirect propaganda we have would just be, say, a typical NFL broadcast. The action on the field would get people around the world excited about Bret Favre or whoever the same way they got into Michael Jordan. Better yet, the commercials... where to begin?

The car commercials show just how opulent we are, though maybe that's a double-edged message.
The beer commercials... yes, alcohol is a sin in many cultures, but they're damned funny and sometimes show a peculiarly American spirit.

The crowning glory would be the ads for the Marines. Nobody would even think about messing with them.
Best current events post so far this year
A few days ago someone proposed, bar none, the worst idea to come out of Congress in decades. (I'm dead serious about that; it sounds like hyperbole but it isn't.) You've probably already read or heard about it. I was a bit slow on the uptake myself.

Just go read this. Or read these excerpts...

The U.S. military is not your daycare center. We're not here to correct mommy and daddy's errors or make your son a better man. We're here to defend the Constitution and we employ whatever tools necessary to ensure the success of our mandate. The values the military attempts to instill in its members are those that have traditionally proven to be successful in providing a disciplined and orderly force capable of success in battle. Any secondary benefits these values provide to society at large are irrelevant. Our job is not to crank out patriotic young Americans to make America better. Our job is to crank out soldiers who will fight, kill and win against a hostile adversary.

- and -

Right now, we have the most powerful military force this world has ever seen and it's manned solely by volunteers. That's a powerful idea and it's something Americans can be proud of. Nearly every other nation on this planet depends on conscripts and their militaries are naturally weak and ineffective. We have volunteers. We want to be here. An all-volunter force is more motivated, professional and dedicated to mission accomplishment than a bunch of conscripts forced to be there.

It's easy to claim that people enlist for lack of other options. For some soldiers it may even be true. That makes it no less of a slap in the face. These people made a choice -- a sacrifice too. I'm deeply thankful that they made that choice; trying to force it on other people just destroys what they've accomplished.

(You might remember a year and change ago I was working towards a goal of joining the military myself. The way things looked right after September 11 I thought they might need people like me. On further review I'm pretty sure they don't. Not to put too fine a point on it but I'm too fat and too ponderous. They shut their mouths, roll up their sleeves, and do a damned fine job, orders of magnitude better -- and nobler -- than anything else in the history of the world. There's no way to thank them enough but that doesn't stop politicians who don't understand from trying to sabotage it all.)
Piano Riffs
Now getting heavy radio play here is a new Coldplay song with a great piano riff. I think it's "Clocks." Even if I'm not sure of the title (fortunately there's a Coldplay fan among the regulars here), I know for certain I could play that riff on a piano if one were in front of me.

Of whatever talents I have, perfect pitch is almost the one I'd be most loathe to give up. It beats the ability to spew words out at an alarming pace; it probably beats the ability to ace standardized tests; maybe if my math weren't so rusty it would beat math. (By that I mean the stuff math majors do in college or grad school, not the stuff that everyone else is actually referring to when they say they hate math.)

It's also completely god-given talent, one almost impossible for someone who doesn't have to replicate even if they bust tail trying to build an ear.

On the flip side, having it made me all cocky in that music theory class I failed. I was too stubborn to work at the piano technique drills, much less write counterpoint the way Bach would have written it as opposed to the fancy Schubert/Cobain type chord sequences.
On Keltner, big consulting firms, and on-line dating
(Had enough of the mind-numbing football overanalysis or ponderous narrative? Lucky you: Now you get two of my most substantive (if I do say so myself) posts in a really long time, back to back. Both this one and the one below were written mainly in my head while running afternoon errands.)

A week ago in a simbase-related discussion thread, Joon became the first diehard baseball fan I've ever seen to suggest that the Keltner List (first seen here) really isn't all that useful. Quoting without his permission (though I doubt he'd mind):

it's very subjective and also doesn't really provide standards for what kind of grade on the list constitutes a hall of famer. also, several of the questions ("do the player's numbers meet HoF standards?") are also totally ill-defined... there are zillions of numbers, enough to prove any point you want to make. i guess what all this means, maybe, is that worthiness for the hall of fame is something each voter has to decide for himself, which we already knew anyway.

(Paul and Joon made some good points disagreeing with each other but you get the general idea.)

The Keltner List is a tool; a framework. Anytime you have to analyze something that seems too big to break down, some organizing principles are highly useful. (Imagine you wanted to get a computer to evaluate Hall of Fame chances, but in such a way that you were building a substantive argument rather than making a brute-force prediction. You'd need to know the right questions to ask before you got to the point of assigning values to answers.)

The flip side of this is that people often become too blinded/enslaved by a tool, to the point that they apply it mechanically without understanding why it is the appropriate tool. This article about dating embodies everything that's wrong with people who gratuitously pigeonhole things. (It also reads exactly like the crap you might find on

The four sample categories it gives are Active; Quiet Intellectual; Executive; and Outdoors. Now I think you need a disturbing amount of self-unawareness to not know how well any of these apply to you. On the other hand, I'd be even more disturbed by the lack of depth of character of anyone who feel too strongly into one of these pigeonholes at the expense of another. (They're even defined terribly; don't you think "Active" and "Outdoors" have serious overlap?)

Active doesn't fit me: I do have "boundless energy" but extreme sports are not my preference. It's true that "no doorman has ever kept [me] behind the velvet rope" but that's not really me being active so much as me lacking compunction and being really good at acting as though I belong places, at least when they're places worth enough to me that I want to belong there.

Quiet Intellectual is also out: Even though I do "prefer a good book to a loud club" (note that I want to start liking loud clubs and might actually acquire a taste for them), I'm not at all a fan of "good, heated debate," nor do I have the unique combination of pretention and unoriginality to have a personality-defining "admiration for Einstein and Warhol."

As for Executive, the English language isn't strong enough to reflect my scorn for the (anonymous) writer's characterization of this archetype. Someday I want to enjoy the finer things in life, but as direct sources of pleasure rather than status symbols. Someday I'll turn into my parents, who spent decades pinching pennies in order to afford college tuition and then have enough left over to start traveling to amazing places once the time and money were right.

Outdoors... why do I bother? You get the point already that this was filler content, boilerplate, tossed off by somebody who should have more of a sense of shame than to write that. (In fairness I'd probably write something like that with no shame at all, for the right kind of money.)

Anyhow, here's a case where broad archetypes are worse than useless. Instead, ask yourself what things do you like to do and find people who like the same things. I want someone who will go to A's games with me, for example, or motivate me to go walk around Angel Island by keeping me company there. Or place some of the same games I like to play. A poker player is one thing. A trivia buff is one thing. But imagine a chess player (say, 1700 rating or above) who's also female, of-age, and reasonably pretty. I'd completely swoon, as would a horde of other guys far geekier than me.

Hmm. So it turns out I can write myself into fatigue. (God only knows what trying to read this whole blog would be like. Even though I want you to read even the things not directly up your alley, there's so much specialized-geek content here, like the football stuff or computer industry stuff, that you'd better scroll now and then for your own good.) That means no profound insights on big consulting firms after all.

In short, my biggest fear associated with working for a certain type of company is that I'd be insufficiently willing to follow some of the more elaborate tool/framework based protocols. I'd claim I didn't want to be a slave to mechanical analysis, but someone else would point out that I just didn't give the tools enough credit and that, anyway, I should master the analysis within the framework before claiming to be wise enough to know when to ignore it.

(Is this really true about the rules in life? In chess, for example, do you really need to ingrain a rule like "develop knights before bishops" before your positional understanding is sophisticated enough that you understand when to ignore such a rule? I imagine it's different from situation to situation. As seen by a writer/producer of verbal diarrhea, maybe the best comparison is to rules of English grammar. I have no point here, just an open-ended question.)
Today is my parents' wedding anniversary
If the world marked milestones in binary then last year's would have been a big round number. (Hey cool: My first change-of-year induced one-off error of 2003!)

They seem to be happily married. Apparently that means they beat the odds. Obviously I'm not privy to the most picayune details of how they get along but it looks as though they know each other really well, understand their likes and differences, and give each other space. It sounds trite but it's true.

I can talk about them individually, though. My favorite memory involving my dad was a week in Warsaw in the summer of 1996. (He'd been there on business for a couple years; he flew home regularly and my mom also visited him there a fair amount.) He had sublet an efficiency apartment and kept it in meticulous shape. When he went to work I'd have the day to myself, walking around the Old Town, but when he came home we'd get dinner and do something fun.

One night the company (either Amoco or BP or maybe some Polish entity they worked with -- essentially it was cleaning up the environmental mess the Communist regime had left behind) sponsored a dinner party and presented an award to him: A vintage sword, with some military history significance. I forget the exact story behind the sword but it wasn't the choice of gift so much as the occasion for the gift. Everyone he worked with liked and respected him.

These people had the kind of business relationship where it's not too hard to figure out who's where on the pecking order, yet the respect my dad had went well beyond his title/position. It seemed as though this sprung from his treating everyone else well; the Polish natives especially liked him. (He did learn some day-to-day living Polish that he may have forgotten by now.) Long story short, it was an occasion where I was proud to be Lyle's son, the flip side of all those times he was proud to be Matt's dad.

After that it's going to sound like a big comedown when I mention how I thought of my mom today while cleaning out the cat box. Scooping stuff out from litter is obscure, thankless, and sometimes smells ghastly but she's been doing that for years longer than I've been on this Earth. She's been a cat owner continuously almost as long as she's been married. (Harold [sic] entered their lives in 1970 and lived until 1985, just long enough to be Freddie's mother for Freddie's whole life. A month or two after Harold and Freddie passed on, we got Fluffy at the vet. In between, my sister's cat very briefly had the house to herself.) She's never let a cat litter stay soiled.

When I was home last week, one night I was on the computer (blogging, probably) and she came in the room to start to tell me a story about my cousins' Christmas. This grew into talking about how she went to Texas and took care of the three-year-old while my aunt and uncle were on vacation. At first I was put out to be interrupted but in the grand scheme of things would you rather blog or talk to your mother? It became a really nice conversation.

Her favorite thing about my cousin was how well-behaved he was. Taking after his parents, she used the "time out" system but only ever had to do it twice: Once was when they went to the park so he could swing and he took his hands off the chains despite her warning him not to. She just picked him up and took him home, no need to nag or yell; he understood that they were going home because he'd disobeyed and life went on. It was so easy; she mentioned wishing she knew when Sarah and I were little what she knows now. I imagine it goes both ways, where the kid has to start out reasonably well-behaved.

Beyond being a homemaker/mother (some day grandmother?) she did nearly all of the money managing and most of the worrying -- this is what happens when you marry a stubborn, absent-minded optimist who'd just as soon that you take care of life's minutae.

Ten years ago she saw George W. Bush on a plane flight. (This came up while we watched an MSNBC profile on him.) She was returning from a PTA convention in San Diego. He was on a Dallas-to-Tulsa flight. Since this came when he was managing partner of the Rangers, it probably had to do with the Drillers (a Double-A minor league affiliate). She wanted to greet him but left him alone because he was engrossed in paperwork.

Teaching was her vocation before I was born; in tough economic times in the mid-80s she worked as a tax preparer but once things improved her big thing was PTA. She kept promising herself not to get sucked in further but people convinced her to take on more and more work until finally she had some major leadership role at the state (Oklahoma) level. To put it politely, public schools in that state needed a lot of help; she and her friends did what they could.

These days she plays bridge with these ladies she's befriended in Illinois, goes on a occasional cruise with my dad and family friends, and describes her life as one big vacation. You could say she lives very harmoniously: She goes with the flow better than nearly anyone I know, though admittedly she agonizes over the small stuff exactly the way I do.

She's informed enough and opinionated enough to make a really good writer. If she had a weblog it would be almost exactly like Joanne Jacobs's (similar spot on the political spectrum, focus on education issues, and sense of humor), though with some Chicago flavor. Another strong similarity would be with Lileks, for the occasional laser-targeted screed but also the strong dose of general wonderment at how good life is.
But are they a vegetable? And will the state of California give me unemployment benefits in the form of ketchup?
According to the NY Times, food stamps are not welfare. Mickey Kaus is all over it.

In other news, we've always been at war with Eurasia.
Have you ever seen Susan MacDougall and Yossarran in the same room?
She was willing to go to jail rather than testify because she was afraid that people wouldn't believe her when she said she knew nothing; that she might be convicted of perjury; and that she might end up in jail. Worse yet, that then she wouldn't get discharged because obviously claiming to be too crazy to fly is a uniquely sane thing to do.

UPDATE: Yeah, yeah, the penalty for perjury might be stiffer than the time she spent on the contempt of court. Still, the probability of conviction is so low (it's lower if she's actually telling the truth than if she's lying, for obvious reason) that the argument doesn't wash, unless she's just breathtakingly irrational. Which of course she isn't: The time she spent in jail had massive PR value for her and her cronies. Apparently she has a book out now.

(The jailbird-turned-superstar connection is much more obvious now that Chicago is out in theaters.)
Real Time Stock Quotes
I got this spam today. Maybe you did too:
Do you offer real time stock market data to your subscribers? Example: Live quotes, Live charts, Live news, Level II etc..? Thanks,

Starting today I will in fact offer real time stock quotes:
Everything is up, or down, or unchanged. You should, like, buy stuff.

(Confidential to "Pauline": No, I don't want a Russian mail order bride but thanks for asking.)

Every non-spam e-mail in my Yahoo! box today was a mass-forwarded "top 11" list making fun of John Ashcroft or Katherine Harris or whoever the sore losers have their panties in a bunch about lately.

UPDATE: Of 131 "Bulk Mail" messages collected in the past five days or so, all 131 were blatant spam that didn't need opening. I did almost open the message from Female Enterpreneur Magazine with the subject "New Magazine and Web Site!"

Yahoo! spam detection has yet to get a false-positive (that I know of). It seems to catch about 90% of the spam, more than enough for me not to be bothered.
More about the broadcasters than you ever wanted to know
(2002 NFL/TV procrastination kick going, please bear with me.)

Many season ago when the Patriots were awful, Boston-area fans would complain about getting Beasley Reece week after week after week. The flip side to this is that I'm sure he complained about getting the Patriots week after week after week.

If you were Don Criqui or Steve Tasker, here's what your 2002 schedule looked like, by NFL week:
1. San Diego at Cincinnati*
2. Jacksonville at Kansas City
3. San Diego at Arizona
4. Houston at Philadelphia
5. Cincy at Indy
6. Buffalo at Houston
7. (idle)
8. Tennessee at Cincinnati
9. Cincinnati at Houston
10. Houston at Tennessee
11. Jacksonville at Houston
12. Jacksonville at Dallas
13. Baltimore at Cincinnati
14. Cleveland at Jacksonville
15. Jacksonville at Cincinnati
16. Houston at Washington
17. Cincinnati at Buffalo

*- actually Criqui and Solomon Wilcots. With Enberg out doing tennis, CBS only did five games. Ian Eagle got to borrow Dan Dierdorf and shunted Wilcots down to the sixth string.

That would be enough to make me stop being a football fan. (NOTE: By the power of Google, USA Today, and a site called "fantasy shark," I now have this list for all 12 primary broadcast pairs. You don't want to know. Or if you really do want to know I could send a spreadsheet to you.)

More useless 2002 CBS/FOX NFL broadcaster trivia... (ESPN/ABC is less interesting: Duh, every Sunday night game got Mike Patrick et al and every Monday night got Michaels/Madden.)

Of 18 games done by Gumbel/Simms (17 weeks plus Thanksgiving), six were AFC East division rivalries; five were AFC East vs. AFC West. Two were AFC West division rivalries (SD at OAK and DEN at OAK); three were AFC West at NFC West (DEN at SF; OAK at STL; KC at SF). The changes of pace were both in the same weekend -- NE at DET and TEN at NYG. In other words, CBS's #1 broadcast crew covered exactly one AFC South team -- and zero AFC North teams -- in 17 weeks.

The new Buck/Aikman/Collinsworth team did four Rams games in five weeks, all during St. Louis's 0-5 stretch. (The Rams' other game was a Monday nighter.) Then Buck got three weeks away from the NFL (baseball's post-season will do that), during which FOX broadcast teams got a mild upheaval. Aikman and Collinsworth latched onto Dick Stockton, who booted Moose Johnston down to Kenny Albert. Anyhow, Buck's last game before the baseball haitus was St. Louis at San Francisco. His first game after the World Series was SF at Oakland. By that point he probably knew all the best Bay Area restaurants.

B/A/C ended up doing both Lions-Packers matchups. (The one at Lambeau makes no sense at all to me; the one in Detroit was the debut of the new stadium.) Other weeks, Detroit fans weren't so lucky. Dan Miller and Mark Carrier got to call two TV games all year, both of them Lions road games. In the final week of the season, Drew Goodman and Sean Jones got Minnesota at Detroit -- think of it as the broadcast booth equivalent of a September callup.

For gits and shiggles, Pat Summerall and Brian Baldinger's 2002 schedule, and the real reason the Cowboys offense became just the insomnia cure I need now:
1. Arizona at Washington
2. Chicago at Atlanta
3. Dallas at Philadelphia
4. Carolina at Green Bay
5. NY Giants at Dallas
6. Carolina at Dallas
7. Dallas at Arizona
8. Seattle at Dallas
9. Dallas at Detroit
10. Washington at Jacksonville
11. Dallas at Indy
12. Detroit at Chicago
13. Seattle at SF
14. SF at Dallas
15. Dallas at NY Giants
16. Chicago at Carolina
17. Dallas at Washington

If you care, the 12 regular broadcast teams (plus extras for those weeks when you need them), in roughly descending order of the quality of games assigned to them by the network:
1. Greg Gumbel & Phil Simms
2. Dick Enberg & Dan Dierdorf
3. Kevin Harlan & Randy Cross
4. Gus Johnson & Brent Jones
5. Ian Eagle & Solomon Wilcots
6. Don Criqui & Steve Tasker
7. (Craig Bolerjack or Don Macatee) and Craig James (seven games, three of them Bengals)
8. Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman (Bengals-Browns once, Titans-Ravens once)

1. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, & Cris Collinsworth
2. Dick Stockton & Daryl Johnston
3. Kenny Albert & Tim Green (in Week 17 Albert & Green did that Atlanta-Cleveland game while Pat Summerrall joined all the other fossils at DAL-WAS)
4. Pat Summerall & Brian Baldinger
5. Sam Rosen & Bill Maas
6. Curt Menefee & Tim Ryan (low seniority means you get to see Arizona five times in a season)
7. Ron Pitts and a cast of thousands (sometimes Marv Levy, sometimes a random dude) (seven games including ATL, NO, DET, and SEA twice each)
8. those guys who did the Lions (four games, see above)
9. Scott Graham and Sean Jones (so this one week FOX had eight games AND Buck had baseball duties; Graham and Jones got Seahawks-Rams)

Sign of just how shocking the Rams' collapse was, St. Louis broadcast teams by week:
1. Buck et al
2. Buck et al
3. MNF: Michaels/Madden
4. Buck et al
5. Buck et al
6. Gumbel/Simms [almost ironic that the stream of who-dats comes right after the Rams' most impressive win of the year, with Warner out and so on]
7. Scott Graham and Sean Jones
8. BYE
9. Curt Menefee & Tim Ryan
10. Gus Johnson & Brent Jones
11. MNF: Michaels/Madden
12. Stockton & Moose
13. Buck et al
14. Sam Rosen & Bill Maas
15. SNF: Mike Patrick et al
16. Kenny Albert & Tim Green
17. MNF: Michaels/Madden
Thanksgiving Day 2003
(Last of three straight NFL/TV schedule-geeky posts.)

If traditions continue then Detroit and Dallas will host Thanksgiving games again. If TV traditions continue then Detroit's will be versus an NFC opponent and Dallas's versus an AFC. (The networks take turns between Detroit and Dallas.)

The Cowboys have two AFC home games in 2003, versus Buffalo and (wait for it...) Miami.

So what do you think, another Dolphins-Cowboys Thanksgiving Day matchup? Do those two teams ever face each other not on Turkey Day?
Early vs. Late vs. Prime Time: Home Games 2002
(Again, on the schedule that's still up on USA Today. Game times may have changed in mid-stream.)

You'd care about this if you had season tickets for your local team. It's also sort of a gauge of how relevant the TV networks thought your team would be.

Teams with the most "early" home games (1 p.m. Sunday, or the earliest Thursday/Saturday game): Buffalo, Kansas City, and Carolina all 8-for-8
Teams with the fewest "early" home games: Denver, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Arizona Seattle with none each (duh!)
Excluding far-west teams: St. Louis and Tampa Bay 3 each, NY Jets and NY Giants 4 each

Teams with the most "late" home games (4:05/4:15 or thereabouts): San Diego and Arizona 8-for-8 as the canonically irrelevant West Coast teams
Excluding far-west teams: NY Jets, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay 3 each
Fewest "late" home games; Buffalo, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina 0 each.
Random eastern/central teams host random late games every season or so, even Cincinnati (vs. Tampa Bay) or Cleveland (vs. Houston).

Teams with the most prime time home games: Denver and St. Louis, 3 each.
Fewest: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Diego, Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona 0 each.
(The Colts did play three prime time games, all on the road.)
NFL/TV Schedule Geekery
(You really don't care about this post, unless you do. If you have any doubt, just scroll down.)
USA Today still has the original 2002 NFL schedule here.

Random TV notes:
The most broadcast teams either CBS or FOX ever needed on a Sunday afternoon was eight. That happened four times: FOX Week 1, CBS Week 2, FOX Week 7, and CBS week 12. Both of the times FOX needed eight booths, CBS only needed five. (Week 1 there was the special Thursday night game; Week 7 there was no ESPN Sunday night game because of Game 1 of the World Series, but there were four teams with byes.) Curiously, in Week 12 CBS needed eight booths despite FOX having the doubleheader. (CBS games were TEN@BAL, JAX@DAL, SD@MIA, CLE@NO, BUF@NYJ, and CIN@PIT early; OAK@ARI & KC@SEA late.) I'm mildly curious about the mysterious "8th string broadcasters" from each network.

There were seven weekends on which each network carried exactly a half-dozen Sunday games: Weeks 3-5 and 8-10 (all during the 4-teams-a-week bye period) and Week 13 (two games on Thanksgiving). Typically that was four early and two late apiece, as if to confuse you about which network had a doubleheader and which was just showing the "regional action" options.

Since CBS gets games where the road team is AFC and FOX gets games where the road team is NFC (is there really anyone who didn't know that who'd still be bothering to read this?), controlling factors on games-per-network-per-week are the kind of games ESPN/ABC siphoned off and the number of non-conference games each direction. Biggest non-conference extremes:
Week 1 = 5 NFC-road, 1 AFC-road
Week 17 = 4 NFC-road, 0 AFC-road
Weeks 10, 12, and 16 = 4 AFC-road, 2 NFC-road
Weeks 2 & 9 = 3 AFC-road, 1 NFC-road
Week 3 = 2 AFC-road, 0 NFC-road
Week 14 = 3 NFC-road, 1 AFC-road

You'd think each bye week would feature two bye teams per conference, or just four bye teams from the same division (as of the mid-1990s it was byes by division, which almost dictated that ABC/ESPN get games with a road team from the non-bye conference). Actually, four weeks in a row the bye-split was 3-1.

Late games: There were always at least three games listed on the schedule as 4:05 or 4:15 Eastern. (The off-doubleheader network games starting at 4:05, the doubleheader-network games at 4:15 to leave more time for early games to end.) That includes at least two games a week listed for the doubleheader-network.

Exactly twice there were no 4:05 games: Week 6, FOX eschewed 4:05 games in favor of baseball playoff coverage. Week 1, CBS eschewed 4:05 games in favor of U.S Open tennis. Given the NFL rule that you can't broadcast a game opposite a sold-out home game, those two weeks might have left some local CBS/FOX affiliates without any Sunday NFL game at all.

Some of this might just be crap since I see at least one case of a game with a different actual start time than listed on USA Today: Green Bay at Tampa Bay, Week 12, was late rather than early. (The scedule lists NY Giants at Houston and St. Louis at Washington as 4:15. I know the Giants-Texans was late but did Rams-Skins get moved to early in a swap with the battle of the bays? Any other games moved that you know of?)

Nine times a team that played on Monday night, played on Sunday night the following week. Is this just ABC using the exposure to cross-promote for ESPN?

Known regional conflicts:
Obviously the NY Jets and NY Giants were never home on the same day. Weeks 4 and 16 they were both on the road; Week 17 they were at home on consecutive days (yay Saturday game); each team was at home on the other team's bye week.

With two non-conference home games apiece, each team had four games slated for the other team's usual broadcast network. Having the same network with them both creates problems since, to show both games in the local market, you'd need one early and one late and for it to be on that network's doubleheader week. More trouble than it's worth; best solved by judicious use of byes and prime time (ABC/ESPN).

Minnesota at NY Jets: Week 7, same week as Giants' bye
Jacksonville at NY Giants: Week 9, Sunday night/ESPN
Tennessee at NY Giants: Week 13, same week as Jets Monday night game at Oakland
Green Bay at NY Jets: Week 17, same week as Saturday Giants' game

If you're scoring at home, they each got eight early-afternoon games (of which one NYG was Saturday); five late-afternoon games; and three prime time (ABC/ESPN).

For TV purposes you want San Francisco and Oakland always to play at different times, yet neither of them can have an early-slot home game (10 a.m. local time). That creates problems with both non-conference home games and Mountain/Pacific road games (at ARI, at SD, at SEA, or at DEN), though you can solve those problems with judicious prime time and bye usage.

Seattle at Oakland (non-conference home): Week 1, same week as SF Thursday prime time game
Denver at San Francisco (non-conference home): Week 2, same week as Oakland Sunday night game
San Francisco at Seattle (west coast road): Week 6, but on a Monday night
San Francisco at Oakland (non-conference home): Week 9, problem solves itself
Kansas City at San Francisco (non-conference home): Week 10, same week as Oakland at Denver (west coast road) Monday night
San Francisco at San Diego (west coast road): Week 11, same week as Oakland Sunday night game
Oakland at Arizona (west coast road): Week 12, same week as San Francisco Monday night game
Oakland at San Diego (west coast road): Week 14, same week as SF road game -- previous week both were at home, with OAK Monday night
San Francisco at Arizona (west coast road): Week 16, played on a Saturday

You can see why the Oakland-Denver matchup gets pushed to Monday night so much and why nearly any {New York vs. Bay Area} game will end up on ABC/ESPN. (Unless it's a playoff game: Funny that NYG at SF is definite and NYJ at OAK is imminent.)

Regional conflicts I'd wondered about:
Baltimore and Washington can play at the same time (and do, in those two weeks that lack a 4:05 game and also Weeks 11 & 15 for no apparent reason), since they have separate sets of local affiliates. In practice it looks like the NFL avoids having them both on the same network in the same week or having them both at home on the same day (Week 8 -- but one is prime time; Week 12; Week 14). That means fiddling with the non-conference home games again.

Tampa Bay at Baltimore: Week 2, same as Washington Monday night home game
Indianapolis at Washington: Week 8, Sunday night, Baltimore at home earlier in the day
New Orleans at Baltimore: Week 14, but no fiddling -- not even a lucky break for FOX since it's not a FOX doubleheader week
Houston at Washington: Week 16, but no fiddling -- lucky break for the local CBS?

Looks like no effort made to balance times or non-conference home games for PHI/PIT. For example, Week 4, Houston at Philadelphia same time as Cleveland at Pittsburgh, both AFC/CBS. Cincinnati and Cleveland routinely play at the same time and are in the same conference.

I'd always wondered whether they balance the Florida teams at all (they're involved in late games more often than one would predict) but it looks like that's not the case.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Text and Plain Meaning
Interesting post here about a really strongly-worded judicial opinion.

Purely on the outcome I have no stake in this -- if anything my gut instinct would be not to ban interspousal wiretapping -- but as legal process goes I think any time a statute is that clear and precise, judges have no business over-interpreting it.

The amusing thing about this aspect of the law is that I'm sure neither of the Glanzers (the actual parties of the latest case) really care about the process issue that I care about. I imagine when the husband wiretapped his wife, he probably wasn't aware of Simpson vs. Simpson. (Or maybe he was. Maybe he actually relied on it. That would be pretty shocking.) Real human beings with a real, practical case/conflict. Always the best source for really interesting theoretical dilemmas.

(Last night at a party I met a woman who was curious about my background for some reason. One of the hosts had told her about my going to law school; maybe she's thinking of doing so herself. She took issue with my reasons not to end up practicing law, or had trouble squaring them with why I went to law school in the first place. I do miss law but then I also miss math.)
The bottom of the barrel
As Chris and I walked out of Chicago we saw a movie poster for Mike Myers starring in The Cat in The Hat. Chris's summation of how wrong that is:

Why don't we just unearth Theodore Geisel's skull and defecate in it?
Trailers of the Apocalypse
Chicago was okay but so help me, I seriously doubt I'll set foot in a movie theater for several months. Without further ado, the five previews:

Le Divorce: Based on a book. The ugliest actresses I've ever seen play women who discover that French guys are like totally romantic.

Anger Management: A sadistic flight crew railroads Adam Sandler into a trumped-up air rage incident. The titular rehabilitation is at the hands of an even more sadistic Jack Nicholson, playing the kind of character he used to play before his transformation (As Good As It Gets was the turning point, About Schmidt the destination) into an elder statesman.

I see just two possible reasons to watch this: Either you so like the old-school Jack Nicholson persona that you want to see him ham it up into self-parody, or you so loathe the stereotypical Adam Sandler character that you see this as payback. Thing is, from the trailers, Sandler doesn't play either a knucklehead (Billy Madison) or an underrated sweet guy (The Wedding Singer); he's just there, the generically innocent man who gets fucked with.

Bringing Down the House: Steve Martin is a WASP lawyer asshole and Queen Latifah is the soul sister who shows him that ethnic stereotypes are just as banal as Hollywood typecasting.

Duplex: Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore in yet another let's fuck with innocent people movie. I barely tolerate that archetype when it's high drama (The Shawshank Redemption or the Book of Job); I loathe it as so-called comedy. Dental torture would be preferable to sitting through a film like this.

A View from the Top: I thought the one saving grace of Anger Management was that it's exceedingly unlikely to become an in-flight movie. So here comes a You go, girl! self-esteem comedy about a small-town woman's dream of becoming a stewardess. I'd claim this won't be an in-flight movie either but you know it will just to make my head explode. Mike Myers has an unfunny cameo (at least the trailer scene was unfunny). Beyond that, we have a series of star talent that gives me progressively more of the creeps:

Gwyneth Paltrow is canonically overrated. At least she's branched out from the heaving-breasted heroine of English literature remakes but she's still Gwyneth. (Awhile ago somebody wrote about how neither chicks nor studio execs understood why guys love Cameron Diaz and don't like Gwyneth. It was probably Bill Simmons.)

Christina Applegate hasn't been the same since Jesse bombed.

Kelly Preston married John Travolta. One or both of them will someday pay the price for inflicting scientology on Hollywood. She's also at least as responsible as Kevin Costner for ruining For The Love of the Game. She's also the best reason I have for still never seeing Jerry Maguire.

Neither Rob Lowe nor Candice Bergen -- Candice Bergen -- needs any introduction.
Spontaneously I went with Chris to see it. (The movie, not the musical or the city.) It was okay; I'm heartened that everyone sang their own parts. Not great, certainly no characters I could root for, but in a musical maybe you're not supposed to.

When I was a kid I went to Great Expectations camp (summer day-camp for gifted kids). We had all these songs, all of them (it turns out) ripped off from old-fashioned pop culture, including a variant of All That Jazz. The only line I remember from our version was "grab your Thinking Cap and put it on."

Now, of the guys I live with, Chris is the musical buff, the one who owns all those cast recordings. He was comparing the movie to the musical, describing the numbers that were cut. After the movie he suggested dinner at the Metreon food court. Such a gentleman. (That sounds more sarcastic than I mean it; the idea is, he had a plan and it sounded appealing. He also makes great conversation when he's in a comfort zone. In a better world his perfect match of a woman would have gone to that movie instead of me.)
Akasha has been my friend today
The kitties spent New Year's Eve alone, from about 6:45 p.m. to about 4:45 a.m. Athena greeted me as I came in the door. She was very warm -- the only place she could have gotten so toasty was atop my monitor.

Right as I was falling asleep, Akasha jumped on the bed and surveyed me, trying to figure out whether I was asleep. I was tired enough to pretend to sleep but eventually looked up at her. From that point on she was all about the petting and purring. Loud, motor-engine purring.
New England at Denver
According to this recap (impressively, still on the ESPN server), the Patriots lost 11 straight games to Denver between 1984 and 1998 inclusive. That's 11 games in 15 years. Or, including the four years after that, a 2-13 record over 15 games in 19 seasons, going on 16 games in 20 seasons.
NY Jets at Oakland
(by the way, 2003 will mark the ninth straight year of a Patriots-Broncos matchup. They were at New England in 1995, '96, '99, and 2002; at Denver in 1997, '89, '00, '01, and '03.)

Corwyn is unhappy. The 2003 NFL schedule will continue a streak of five years in a row of these games, all at the Coliseum.
(Hmm. The 2000 Jets game-by-game is like the mirror image of the 2002 Jets.)

1998: NY Jets first in AFCE, Oakland third in AFCW.
1999: NY Jets fourth in AFCE, Oakland fourth in AFCW.
2000: NY Jets third in AFCE, Oakland first in AFCW.
2001: NY Jets third in AFCE (also third of the four teams that would be in AFCE in 2002); Oakland first in AFCW
2002: NY Jets first in AFCE, Oakland first in AFCW.

If I understand how the schedule worked before 2002, then had those finishes for (say) 1999 and 2000 been reversed, both of those years would have been Oakland at NY Jets instead of the other way around. (If you were in AFCE, every year you'd have two games versus AFCW, opponents determined by standings the previous year. If AFCE1 visited AFCW1 one year (and hosted AFCW3) then the next year, AFCE1 would visit AFCW1 and host AFCW3.)

For the 2002 all four AFCE played all four AFCW but it's unclear why this game was at Oakland rather than New Jersey. Something that would have flipped, didn't flip. Maybe some pair of divisions had to come out that way, going from three divisions to four. That non-flip was bad timing for the Jets.
The Unintentional Comedy Bowl
So much to say about this game... in no particular order.

Wire services claim an enthusiastic crowd of 25,966 at Pacific Bell Park. That may have been the gate but unless the view level seats behind/above me were packed with mimes, the actual attendance couldn't have been more than half that.

Sat one section over from the Virginia Tech band, so everyone around me was rooting for them. Outwardly I did too but I wouldn't have minded a big Air Force comeback.

"I don't think we lost the football game. I think time ran out for us.''

Teams that are in trouble if it gets to a two-minute drill: At some point the Falcons were 1-for-10 passing with two interceptions. They of course got the ball on a kickoff with 4-and-a-half minutes left, down a touchdown. Thanks to some key first downs and a couple good breaks on the passing game, that turned out to be almost but not quite enough time instead of not nearly enough. They got the ball to the 10 yard line with no timeouts and enough time for one rush or three passes; they went with the passes (all playfakes rather than straight drop-back), threw two incomplete, and then the final play of the game turned into a quarterback scramble/run where too many men were between him and the goal line for him to have a chance.

(Earlier in the game Air Force had a 6-minute, 14-play, 42 yard drive that ended in a field goal.)

My section had a ridiculous usher-to-person ratio. The ushers became playful. Just before the final Air Force drive began the PA system played "Smoke on the Water." The one usher guy and I started pretending it was a Giants game with Nen to the mound. As the Falcons drive kept going it became a bases-loaded situation.

The pep band was okay. I found myself wishing it were Virginia instead. That's a band that drinks like fish, has a sense of humor, and even routinely plays Auld Lang Syne. To hear them on New Year's Eve would have been special. Instead we all did the hokey pokey at halftime.

The Tech cheerleaders weren't bad either. They wore those rain-resistant pants with midriff-baring tops.

The PA guy was NOT Renel (was I the only Giant fan deeply disappointed by this?) but whoever it was did give me a disturbing mental image on a play late in the second quarter:
"brought down by about 1100 pounds of Hokie." It's almost like a pickup line: Hey babe, you ever been brought down by about 1100 pounds of Hokie?

The first half ended at 8:59 PST. Excellent timing.
First Inane Pop Cultural Discovery of 2003
It's possible for a really annoying advertising character to become not-annoying. Of course, the latest ad he's in is annoying but somewhere along the line he gained enough depth of character to be identified with instead of loathed. Namely, the Mitsubishi radio-ad guy.

Awhile back, both Mitsubishi and McDonald's were running radio ads featuring (fictional) crank phone calls. The McDonald's were worse because the idea was to wake people up in the dead of night to tell them about McBreakfast. The Mitsubishi ones were marginally creative but still appalling.

On the subject of crank phone calls, one of the "best of" segments for my mom's favorite Chicago radio hosts featured a mysterious clip (they first found it on the Internet) of a phone conversation with a guy who sounded like a fake South Asian. The caller claims that the callee's daughter kicked his dog. The conversation ends up with the caller and the daughter trading epithets and the former's closing line, Just because I'm Paki doesn't mean I stink.

One of the WLS callers recognized it as a Jerky Boys bit but by that point people were already having fun, mainly with distinguishing real South Asian accents from fake. (Whenever Roe and Garry mention any given ethnic group, they'll get lots of calls from people of that heritage, Chicago having ample numbers of any group worth bantering about.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

(Editor's Note: This is a Classic Post, presented for your year-end amusement. It originally appeared around midnight as Saturday, August 31, became Sunday, September 1.)

17 and Counting

Random things I did on the happiest (thus far) day of my life...
(Going for the minutae here, since a coherent narrative would take too many words. Figure it out for yourself.)

Walked 25 minutes from my car to a baseball game. Walked 45 minutes from the baseball game to the car (the former involving 66th Street, the latter inadvertently involving Hegenberger).

Declared a silent death wish to, I kid you not, Li'l Bow Wow, and to the geniuses who run the Oakland Coliseum grounds for scheduling a rap concert head-to-head with an Oakland A's fireworks night.

Hit my knee on a fire hydrant. When the fact that I'd done this went unnoticed, did my best to keep it that way, played it off, and totally forgot having done so until my knee suddenly hurt three hours later.

Got a surprisingly good haircut at a place I'd never been to before, from a guy who took way too much time for my taste (and was way too conversational for my taste) but nonetheless really knew what he was doing. Listened to his story about the time he played a gig (his vocations in life are hairdressing and music -- seemed in his 50's or early 60's) at the San Francisco Airport in a lounge that had a huge computer (old-school computers having been huge) with lights that turned on-off based on which instruments played what notes.

Broke a car wash. That is to say, I was in a long line of cars at a Shell station, finally got to the front, put my three dollars in and chose "regular" wash. Pulled in on the green light that I thought was mine. Waited, waited, nothing happened. Honked, waited, honked, finally drove off in frustration.

Ate the Smothered Chicken at an Applebee's somewhere in Alameda, California.

Used both the toilet and shower in the private bathroom of the master bedroom vacated just today by my erstwhile roommate Nelson, who has moved (I wonder if he's currently en route) to London.

Listened to most of the Giants-Snakes game in my car, marveling that one team could beat Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling on consecutive days. Aside: Listening to Jon Miller in one's car by itself makes the day worth living and the Bay Bridge traffic tolerable.

Listened to the first inning-and-a-half of today's A's game in the car, much of it in a traffic jam on 880. Got to our seats, looked up at the scoreboard and boggled that the number representing the inning was a 5. (Traffic really was just that bad. Not to mention walking from the "overflow parking." Shuttle buses theoretically existed. We didn't feel like waiting for experimental confirmation.)

Saw Cory Lidle give up his first earned run of the month (on day 31 of said month) and Ricky Rincon get clobbered in relief, only for the handsome and talented Eric Chavez to save the day.

Saw a Red Sox fan (so I infer from his cap) bellow out A's suck as he vacated his seat in the 9th inning. After a predictable round of catcalls from the people around him, he tipped his cap at us and said, and I quote, bite me.

ATTENTION RED SOX FANS (since a few of you do read this): Many, if not most, of your brethren are sore losers. I predict that nothing good will come to the Boston franchise (at least not in October) unless/until this is remedied. Perhaps I am a bad winner. (Or worse yet, a fair weather fan, the evidence being my addiction to Red Sox radio broadcasts. Best defense here is that I'm still addicted to Jerry and Joe, despite no longer honestly rooting for the team whose games they call.)

Hmm, what else? Oh yeah, if you define a day by midnight-to-midnight rather than sleep schedule, then I won $30 at poker (peaked at plus-$32.50 or so), only to piss away all but $3.30 of it at the very end. During my good run, there was a hand in which the queen, nine, and eight of spades were on the board. Joon had in his hand the ace of spades and another spade. He could lose only if someone had the jack and ten of spades -- which, of course, I had.

Saw a really good fireworks display.

Saw a decent-looking lagoon from a balcony window.

Explained to someone the rules of Apples to Apples and the "rules" of blank white cards, both of which I was told sounded quite interesting.

Overheard two cellphone conversations in Russian. (Speaking of which, again applying the midnight-to-midnight rule, I met Igor Teper's sister. When I first arrived at poker, having stayed in my car 15 extra minutes to hear the ninth inning of this Giants game, which ended in Robb Nen striking out Matt Williams with the bases loaded and the potential winning run at second, I saw Igor and sis (out on whose name I'm blanking) sitting on a couch together; my initial very false impression was that he and she were dating. Lest you yourself get the wrong impression, this parenthetical paragraph contains the only references in this blog to Igor's sister.)

Let out loud intermittent whoops while driving back home for the night. Louder than my intermittent whoops have ever been, even by myself in the car.

Put in U2's The Joshua Tree as happy music. (How seriously bereft of happy music is my car for this to be the best I could do?) Ejected the tape during "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" as jinx-avoidance, only to hear Right Said Fred on the Star 101 one-hit wonders weekend and decide, who needs jinxes? I can flaunt them. If Pedro Martinez can challenge the ghost of Babe Ruth to a fight, then I can listen to that and even "With or Without You" and even type this paragraph.

Or perhaps coyly insist that the reason why this is the happiest day in my life is the 17 AND COUNTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh last but not least, heard someone successfully mimic the "TEJADA!" cowbell cheer with a car horn.
By the way, a note on archives
If you want to see what I wrote, say, the third full week of June, you'd use the URL:

This works on other blogger blogs (substitute the blog name for "matt979") and other weeks (substitute YYYY_MM_DD for 2002_06_16; what you choose just has to be a Sunday).

I'm not sure how to fix the "Archive" link itself but I'll whip something up someday.

Monday, December 30, 2002

2002 Navel-Gazing Extravaganza Coming Up...
It'll be over on that other blog, though. Not because of anything racy so much as because things might get tedious.

UPDATE: We're through July. My eyes are glazing over; I want a fresh start for August, because August deserves it. You could really sum up August in two sentences but I'll sleep over whether I want to do it that way.
Good Radio or Bad Radio?
Only one station in San Francisco would play "Hell's Bell's" and "One" back to back.

Towards the end of the former I started racking my brain over the other song that starts with bells (the one played at the Meadowlands this weekend and at Oakland Coliseum all the time). The instrumental. Actually the other other song that starts with bells, since it's neither "Hell's Bells" nor "For Whom The Bell Tolls." (By the way, ANY insight here is welcome.)

Wouldn't it be funny if they played that? I thought to myself. For a nanosecond I thought that's what they'd done but it was the other biggest hit from a mid-1980s Metallica album.

So that's what's good about KSJO. What's bad? They seem to have a total of three DJs, two of whom are an obnoxious morning team that I avoid. Actually, the "STAPH" pull-down menu has four options: The morning team, the chick with weird hours (had been weekend nights, maybe still weekend nights, but now spends the afternoon drive time playing -- and introducing -- clips from that morning's morning show), the guy I always hear middays and weekday afternoons, and I guy who I guess I've heard but wouldn't have remembered.

Unclear who the brains of the operation is. I can't even credit some renegade DJ with consistently playing songs that rock, since it's all probably automated (it's one of the ClearChannel stations).

UPDATE: Here's a very abbreviated KSJO playlist. It's an incomplete report: Note the absence from the playlist of any of the 70s/80s/90s type hard rock that basically defines the station. Nearly every song actually on this report sucks.

Could be worse: I voluntarily listen to a station that played that Norah Jones song 57 times in one week. Actually the top four there are a quadruple-ugh. And by comparison here's the other alternative station.

Hmm. Apparently Alice doesn't even claim to be alternative anymore. This menu lists it as Hot Adult Contemporary, same format as this previously-all-80s station.

Your typical "Hot Adult Contemporary" station calls itself a Mix, yet manages to cobble together the worst of all the sounds it covers.
Fun with unemployment
I'm a month behind on receiving my paperwork for unemployment compensation because I'm too honest and too dopey for my own good.

At the point when I finally got on the dole and got the forms to fill out, I had a temporary contract. I saw the blanks for employeer and hours worked but I missed the blanks for wages. For employer I put the company with whom I was contracting, when it turns out I was supposed to put "Self." For total wage and hourly wage, I gave the correct figures to the woman on the phone. (She asked me how much I'd made each week; I gave the amounts on the check. She asked how big an hourly wage that was. She could have just divided by five but she asked anyway.) Long story short, I exceeded my benefit amount for those weeks.

As you can see, anyone on unemployment insurance has massive disincentives to do work (or disincentives to report honestly, depending on how lucrative the work is). But that's exactly what I expected to happen, which is why I hadn't submitted that form for a couple weeks -- and then the screwup over "Employer" delayed my paperwork even further.

When she heard what the hourly wage was she asked what it is I do for a living. I wonder how many other out-of-work computer geeks run into a similar experience. Probably most of them are savvy enough not to declare their contract work.
Maoist International Movement Film Reviews
Here's an unintentional comedy treat for you.

(Note: Both this link and the one below it courtesy of Reason's Hit & Run weblog.)

Sort of on topic (but involving the Spartacists rather than MIM) I still remember how I heard about Reno's minions firebombing the Branch Davidians. It was my freshman year of college. Some Spartacist guy came around to our dorm to put up a poster announcing a protest rally. I found out from him what happened and shared his outrage. Funny that the only time I ever met a Spartacist, the biggest news of the day was an event about which he and I agreed 100%.
Trash (not the quiz-bowl kind)
This is a great cover story. It represents the best of what alternative city weeklies do. It's also the kind of thing weeklies around the country are doing. There's some great comedic investigative reporting out there but the only person who ever gets credit for it is that big fat ugly fraud of a filmmaker.
"Stop calling us violent, or else we'll kill you"
Here's the original cartoon. Here's the story about the backlash it prompted. And then the entry on Little Green Footballs where I first saw it.
Intrepid Celebrates Happy New Year
It may still be hours away on the calendar but on my car tags it's already 2003. The DMV went relatively smoothly this morning, partly because I made my appointment for Daly City instead of San Francisco. This is the one right across the street from the Krispy Kreme.
Today's Fortune (in the style of an Onion Horoscope)
Your progressive friends will come to doubt your lefty credentials when they hear you sitting in for the vacationing Rush Limbaugh.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Some photos are coming soon to this directory. I could give it an HTML index or I could let the directory listing speak for itself. The latter seems easier to maintain.

The first couple photos I'm about to put there were e-mailed to me from my parents. The next several will be from my camera.

UPDATE: The initial uploads were too big for Internet usage. At a very inconvenient time I also hit the Geocities quota (they have a hard monthly quota and also some way of extrapolating such that if you're about to be on-pace to way overshoot the quota, the site shuts down but promises to come back within an hour). Morals of the story:
1. Upgrade from Geocities. I already have a couple of other effectively free hosts that I underutilize (in fairness, underutilization is just as well compared to the alternative of abusing my friends' generosity), or I could get serious about my vanity web presence and pay for hosting. For present purposes, Geocities is fine.

2. To conserve bandwidth, don't post huge pictures.

3. To conserve your own time, filter the pictures and restrict what I put on-line to the stuff you'd actually care about.

(Go ahead and check it out anyway but be reasonable. Now that the 300K files are gone and I'm not mucking around there myself, I don't know how heavy traffic would trigger the quota. If you hit it, drop me a line. At worst I could e-mail you the relevant photos.)
Catching up on my pop culture atrocities...
On the second viewing of LOTR, there was one preview that I meant to blog about & forgot.

It's about these black thug dudes who want to pose as white trash and yet its cast includes a white trash posterboy whose music contains traces of black thug dude wannabeness.

May I present, Biker Boyz!

(I vacillate wildly on whether I like Kid Rock. He has much more musical talent than he sometimes lets on. Heaven help us all if he and Will Smith are ever in a movie together.)
Am I too white to have a right to enjoy this?
The main character of The Boondocks is, of course, a strident leftist. (Sometimes he even gets to be mocked for it.) Maybe even because of this, The Boondocks manages to have much fresher, much funnier, social commentary than anything Doonesbury has had in years.

In any case, some of the best Boondocks poke fun at deeply overrated black-culture artifacts like BET. I love it, the same way I loved Cedric's speech in The Barbershop.

Then there are days like this, which are just all-around funny.
Final Football Post of 2002
(Which means I have to sneak this poll question in: Who's the most amusing semi-obscure celebrity fan of a particular NFL team? I say Bill Amend, Foxtrot cartoonist and known (because he puts it in his strip so much) 49er junkie.)

Fate smiled on all of us for the wild card matchups. Three of them have rich history and the other one is uniquely compelling anyway. In broadcast order:

Indianapolis at NY Jets: This is the first year since before I was born that these teams weren't division rivals. Even before that, think of the Super Bowl and Joe Namath's guarantee. I'm still mildly shocked at the broadcast choices for the AFC games: This game begs to be broadcast by Simms and Gumbel rather than by Patrick, Theisman, and Maguire. At least, I have reason to assume Michaels/Madden won't get this game.

Atlanta at Green Bay: Vick versus Favre. More importantly, as mentioned below, Lambeau Field in January AT NIGHT. My head still spins. The place and time have John Madden written all over them.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh: This was also an old division rivalry, in fact a much more bitter one than Jets-Colts. Both of these teams seem deeply flawed to me on offense. Since Tim Couch broke his leg, both teams will start a backup quarterback. (Sorry Dwight but every quarterback on the Steelers roster is, when it comes down to it, a backup quarterback cross-bred with a wide receiver. Maybe the WR part doesn't apply to Tommy Maddox.) Stealing a line from Bill Simmons, I can already hear the CBS guy's voiceover: Kelly Holcomb. Tommy Maddox. Browns-Steelers, on CBS. Lick it up, Phil and Greg.

NY Giants at San Francisco: Hey, remember the '80s? This game feels like a Pat Summerall game to me. Not a Madden game but a Summerall game. Of course neither of them will get it, Madden having jumped networks and Summerall having been demoted in his old age. Buck/Aikman/Goober is pretty much the best fit.
Playoff TV schedule foresight
I play this game, you know you play it too. (The football fans that is, not the people furiously scrolling down in the potentially vain hope for non-football Sunday content.) The closer you get to knowing what the wild card matchups are, before the NFL announces the game times, the more you speculate about which game will be when.

This time around we already knew the San Francisco game would be 1:30 Sunday, both because Fox told us so and because two factors mandated the date/time: The 49ers had a Monday game (and thus wouldn't go Monday-to-Saturday if avoidable) and are on the West Coast (and thus won't start at 10 a.m. local time if avoidable).

Of the other three games:
I got the time of the other NFC game right but for the wrong reason. I'd gone from assuming it would be a Saturday night game in Tampa (rather than forcing a night game on some colder climate) to knowing it would actually be Green Bay's home game, yet not adjusting for the time. Can I just say, a night game in January at Lambeau is BRUTAL.

Then I got the days backwards for the AFC games, assuming -- incorrectly! -- that CBS would pull clout to get the Jets on Sunday, up against Fox having the Giants on Sunday. After all, this will be the third week in a row that the Jets play a massively important game not on CBS (they will have gone from ESPN to FOX to ABC). Whoever runs WCBS (local New York affiliate) must surely be livid about this.

Now at this point, I'm perplexed about the Lambeau game being in prime time rather than the Meadowlands game. Help me out, TV experts in the audience: Which time slot is better for sports ratings, Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening? I guess in the evening you have the do people have social lives? factor. Not that this mattered much for the Snow Game last year.

BONUS TV FORECASTING: Assume for now that the schedule is set up so that if the home teams win next weekend (read: if the #3 teams beat the #6 teams, since for these purposes #4-#5 doesn't matter much), every wild card team has a 7-day layover instead of six days or eight. Projected matchups:

SATURDAY = NY Jets at Oakland (late afternoon), Green Bay at Tampa Bay (evening) [We already know Fox gets the late game here because of how badly they've overhyped the Prime Time edition of their pregame show.]

SUNDAY = Pittsburgh at Tennessee and San Francisco at Philadelphia. We already knew (decided a long time ago for some reason) that FOX would have the early game and CBS the late game on that Sunday. There's no West Coast factor to worry about here anyway.
Thanks for Everything! versus Thanks for Nothing!
Week 17 in the NFL could lead to a lot of Christmas card additions/subtractions. First, the teams that came through for random other teams:

Atlanta thanks Carolina -- for knocking off New Orleans so that the Falcons could back into the playoffs. Not to mention losing both of their own division contests by a combined score of 71-0.

Cleveland thanks NY Jets -- for getting them into the playoffs. The Browns needed to win and get help. They did win but almost failed to get the help they needed.

NY Jets thank New England -- the Patriots' late comeback from an 11-point deficit actually saved the Jets' season and probably inspired them to the big rout.

Philadelphia thanks NY Jets -- for beating Green Bay, so that NFC homefield advantage would go to the Vet after all, rather than to Lambeau.

NY Giants thank Atlanta -- I'd rather have to play at Candlestick in the afternoon than Lambeau at night.

Now, the uglier side of things:
New England anti-thanks Green Bay -- Favre sure is good at laying an egg at the Meadowlands. The Packers have been an excellent December team lately, so you could do much worse than having to rely on them for your playoff berth. Still, the phrase throw me a frickin' bone here comes to mind.

Miami anti-thanks Green Bay for the exact same reasons. How singular is it that two division rivials suddenly found themselves in a both-in-or-both-out situation? Usually it's exactly one team that makes it, rather than both-or-none.

NY Jets thumb their noses at both Miami and New England. That has to be the best eff-you ever, to win a late game on national TV that not only puts your own team into the playoffs but also singlehandedly knocks out both of your archrivals. I'm imagining a situation where Denver got to knock out both Oakland and Kansas City. All I can say is, schweeeeeet....

Denver anti-thanks Atlanta. Yeah, thanks a whole big bunch, Dan Reeves. I watched most of this game and it was hella frustrating. At least twice Atlanta settled for a field goal after going deep into the red zone. Two more times the Falcons got absolutely nothing: The ends of both halves. There's even some replay-related sour grapes. Dunno if you saw the pass to Alge Crumpler at the end of the first half but he clearly caught it, despite referee Grier's lack of balls ("no conclusive evidence," my foot). Then on the goal line stand at the end of the game, I wouldn't have minded some even modestly creative play calls. At the time, some other AFC teams probably cursed out the Falcons but the Broncos are the one team that really did lose a playoff berth from this game.

Tennessee anti-thanks Kansas City even though their real beef is with the weather or with the injury luck that cost the Chiefs Priest Holmes.

Green Bay anti-thanks Chicago because with Tampa Bay's victory, suddenly the Packers go from complete home field advantage to not even getting a first-round bye. To a lesser extent San Francisco anti-thanks Chicago but #3 versus #4 seed isn't nearly as big a difference as #2 versus #3.
Random musing on Akasha
(Yes, I'm thoroughly enjoying having two kitties again. Yes, I'll be heartbroken when they go home for real next week. Thanks for asking.)

If you're going to name a cat after a vampire, you'd think she'd be a bit more svelte.
Sic Transit Gloria Cutthroat
Also passing is the glory of Tampa Bay's cold weather losing streak. The Bucs are now 1-20 lifetime when gametime temperature is below 40 degrees.

The Bears failed to come through for me. Instead of Chicago I should have (could have!) taken the Vikings over Detroit in Week 17 but after Minnesota had screwed me the previous two weeks by winning, I was deeply worried about whether they'd screw me by losing.

Anyhow, an inauspicious stretch drive after starting out so well.
The Infant Avant Garde
Jesse Walker has an amazing insight here.
One cool thing about being built like a fullback
For the first time in just over a week, I just now let a cat walk on the backs of my shoulders while I was standing up (slightly hunched, obviously).
My First Dead Pool
I finally joined one. Rosters are here. I have no chance of winning because I pulled nine names out of my ass, where other people actually put some thought into their selections.

In this particular one you get points based on (100 minus the dead person's age).

It looks as though you can still enter until December 31.
Lord of the Rings Risk
In a break from the football posts, I have a new board game. I do not yet have the cats back.
Am I just wrong about the Indianapolis thing?
(Do you see why this just bugs me?)

UPDATE: Yes, I'm wrong. The relevant info is on CNNSI. Key sentence: When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2.

In other words, instead of "1. Colts have worst S.o.V. 2. Dolphins over Cleveland on common games. Therefore Miami #5, Cleveland #6, Indy out", we have

"1. Colts have worst S.o.V. 2. Dolphins over Cleveland on common games, therefore Miami #5. 3. Revert to two-team tiebreaker for #6. Indy over Cleveland head-to-head."

From ESPN's scenario page as of just before the end of the Jets game:
Indianapolis has clinched a playoff spot.

I'm still dead certain this is false. Suppose the Colts and Jets had both lost.
AFC division winners: Oakland, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, New England (the first three outright, the Patriots on division record tiebreak over Miami)

Teams tied for the wild card: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, and possibly a 9-7 AFC West team (Denver or San Diego, Denver > San Diego)
Indianapolis beat Cleveland and Denver but lost to Miami. The Browns didn't play any other team in this logjam, so no head-to-head sweep.

AFC Conference record: Browns, Colts, Dolphins would have all been 7-5. The AFC West team would have been 6-6 or 5-7, so it's dropped from the tiebreak. Of the three remaining teams, still no head-to-head sweep, still a 7-5 logjam.

There's no way those three teams have four common games. Teams that played both the Browns and Dolphins: Kansas City. Indianapolis. NY Jets. Baltimore. Of those teams, one is the Colts but none of the other three faced the Colts.

Then you get to Strength of Victory. I stand by my numbers. (It's actually the aggregate winning percentage of the teams you beat. I gave the total number of wins of the teams you beat; you have to divide that by (16 * 9) to get the winning percentage. But you get thie idea.)

I guess, if I really am wrong, the relevant question would be: Okay, smarty-pants, if the Colts were already in entering the late games, at what point did they clinch?

Answer: When the Chiefs lost Saturday, apparently.