Saturday, January 18, 2003

Best Rumsfeld Ever
I love Saturday Night Live when my guys are in the White House. And when it rings true. Ever seen him (the real him) give a press conference?

These boots are made for walkin'...
The day Steve Mariucci lost his head coaching position, I posted a lot about the Red Sox but none about the 49ers because I honestly hadn't heard the news until I left home. (That day I read Baseball Primer but forgot to click to

Now here's a baseball discussion thread, of all things, about it.

I think, contrary to both the columnist and the first poster, that Bay Area sports fans are radically different from their East Coast counterparts. Here, a coach/manager is fired and most people express sorrow to see him go, rather than people constantly calling for the current head honcho to be canned.

Perversely, I think this climate actually gives teams free rein to make seemingly unpopular moves. There's little or nothing a franchise could do here (short of relocating to elsewhere) that would cause an all-out media crucifixion. Rather, instead of incentive to avoid unpopular moves, teams here have extreme but indirect pressure to make moves that work.

Specifically, beneath the veneer of being a cheerful, amiable fan is the reality of being a fair weather fan. Red Sox fans may curse or gnash their teeth when things go wrong but they won't stop going to games (unless priced out) and won't stop caring. Fans around here, without even realizing what they're doing, will stop caring when a team doesn't do well. That apathy hits owners in their pocketbooks.
The Truest Dilbert I've seen in a long time...
...about projects outside your scope.
Fun with dimensions
The room I lived in before this one (which Kubi lived in before I lived in it):
10-and-a-half feet by 12 feet.

This room:
Main rectangle is 16 by 13; there's also 6 by 3 of wasted-space corridor between the door and where it opens up. The bathroom door is off that corridor. There's also a woefully underutilized private porch.

I don't want to know what the dimensions were of the "room" I spent a year in downstairs. My mom probably still knows its exact dimensions, plus the exact dimensions of the Somerville place I spent a few months in. Maybe if I'm really lucky when I talk to her tomorrow she'll even know the dimensions of my studio on Bay State Road. The floor space there was just absurd. I miss that place.

UPDATE: That math doesn't look right. If the "wasted space" is 3 in the north-south direction and the main body is 16 in the north-south direction then my old room should be 13 in that direction, not 12. But then again the "wasted space" was more like 3'2" and main body more like 15'8". There's an astounding 5 inches of thickness between the one wall of my old bedroom and the hallway wall on the other side. That leaves one inch worth of me screwing things up.

Make sure I bring Scott's tape measure to Concord next time I go there.
What am I missing?
I'm going to call my sister and my parents Sunday morning. I'm going to play D&D Sunday afternoon and go out on a "date" Sunday evening. Somewhere around there I'll, barring unforeseen objections, call my new roommates to say yes. This is where you come in: What am I missing? Why is this too good to be true? Please comment if you think of anything. I'll start the ball rolling:

1. The obvious -- it's so far from San Francisco.

The places compared to which it's terrible are the Sunset and Palo Alto. Here's the commute to San Jose, actually comparable to getting there from SF. (I guess 680 is likely to have more traffic than 280.) Here's seeing my friends on the Stanford campus -- 20 minutes further than it is from this place.

Here's Mike, David and Paul from there versus Mike, David, and Paul from here.

MapQuest claims I'm adding two miles but saving one minute. Point of fact, MQ directions always vastly underestimate city time (because they can't account for congestion) and overestimate highway time (because they can't account for speeding maniacs). On the way back from Concord I compared the time to get to the 51st & MLK exit to the time I usually get coming from here. Seems to me I saved five minutes, and that's with a tie-up by the Caldecott Tunnel, albeit not nearly as bad as it looked.

Concord to (either downtown SF or San Jose) isn't worse than one of those places to the other, so I'm not screwing myself in the worst case so much as losing out on a possible best case. *shrug* I live in my car anyway.

2. The dog.

He's a nice dog, though. Less ideal (in my opinion) than having a cat but happier than having no pets at all.

3. Say goodbye to the ocean and hello to triple-digit summer temperatures.

Rebuttal: $487.50 Ocean Beach is way cool and the cooling effect is welcome but I'm not paying $300 a month for it.

4. The laundry situation: I think this house includes free use of washer and dryer (or very nominal add-on to rent) but obviously I'll double-check before committing.

5. What if the DSL turns out to be a pain in the butt to set up? This in particular I should really research the hell out of. Trust me, I will.

6. Maybe the roommates differ from my Platonic ideal of a roommate. It's not like I can play Settlers of Catan with them (then again, maybe I can, only one way to find out) or have the kind of deep conversations with them Chris and Scott have with each other. But if I really valued those deep conversations then I'd join in with Chris and Scott instead of being in my room so much. And if I really valued playing strategy games specifically with my roommates, I'd play them with my roommates more and drive all the way to Berkeley less.

One was much more impressed than she should have been that I went to Harvard. "We have a prodigy on our hands!" (Roll eyes, on a bad day maybe the index-finger-in-the-mouth gag sign.) Yeah, it's theoretically possible I could become totally sick of them for being too normal and not geeky enough for me. C'est la vie. Would build character and make me less of a f*ckwit snob. On the plus side maybe they have good taste in alcohol.

7. What if the one who occasionally has her boyfriend over actually has him over every night and they have really really loud sex? This is always possible, with any couples situation. Somehow I don't think this is the reason the rent is so low there.

(They asked me vague questions about my life. I volunteered that I've been unattached since September [sic], but that my social life was probably about what you'd expect for a 20-something. Here's where you fake-cough and call B.S. Then again here's where it's good to be unattractive on the surface. If they called B.S. to themselves, in which direction would they think I was fudging? Would a guy like me really try to downplay whatever action he was getting instead of the other way around?)

8. The woman I meet tomorrow -- who lives in or near San Jose -- could turn out to be quite a catch. Could. I guess I won't actually cancel my Monday appointments yet, even though I should ASAP (obviously before Monday).
The SiliPalace situation
When I called my roommates to report on how great a find I'd been to in Concord, I discovered two things about our landlady:

1. She'd been under the impression that our lease ran through the end of February anyway, not the end of January. (If memory serves, this ambiguity also came up at the start of this lease. Chris and Scott and I all thought we had an extremely good case that we were committed only through January, but in a context where it helps them -- Scott at least -- to be locked through February, maybe her opinion turns out to be fortunate.)

2. After that she was willing to do month-to-month at $3,000, a concession resulting in part from the limit I'd imposed on my share of the rent.

Had my house-hunting experience been exactly what it was up to the last place I saw, but not including that place, I'd be extremely excited about staying in the SiliPalace and also vaguely peeved that Scott's kvetching about his commute would likely cause us to have to move sooner or later.

Instead, thanks in part to my knowing that Scott wants to move -- and probably will, once he has all of February to agonize over the decision and such -- I'll walk away from the month-to-month offer, knowing that $485 for that place is a hell of a lot better for my situation than $1,000 for this place. (Yeah, it'd be well under $1,000 if/when we found our fourth roommate. But really, we just wouldn't have. I know better.) Knowing that, as far as I can tell, I seem to be getting in on a great deal. Most importantly, knowing that -- with February covered -- I'm not stranding Scott or Chris.

In theory it sucks to pay for two places for all of February; but I won't have to be at the $485 place very long to more than make up for the $485 portion of my February rents. Barring brainstormed objections, I'll call them soon and ask to get set up for an official move-in date of February 1. (And unoffical move-in date of whenever people are free that month to help me haul stuff.)
Saturday Housing Report, Part II
1:10 p.m.
This one I was "only" 10 minutes late to; for an Open House, that's nothing. It was my ace in the hole when this whole saga began: It's extremely close to Mike and Paul and David and also the stated bedroom dimensions compare extremely favorably to the location and the rent. ($775 for a 17x13 master bedroom; $700 for a 13x13 non-master bedroom.) Last but not least, the woman who placed the ad had written it extremely creatively.

I expected the major downside to be parking. At times it's very hard to find a spot in Berkeley, especially near University & MLK. This time I found a spot right away (albeit in a 24-minute zone). Had to pee at the gas station a half-block away, because apparently the tea had that effect. (It made me extremely irritable on the entire drive from Sunset to Berkeley. Did I mention just how cumulatively crappy my driving was today? Much moreso than any other day, I'm shocked I didn't hurt anyone, self especially, with today's excuse for driving.) I mean this was to the point of crossing and uncrossing my legs and trying not to do a dance while I talked the guy behind the bullet-proof glass into slipping me the key.

When I got into the place I saw the good news and the bad news. First the good: The master really is 17x13, and that really does look as huge as it is. The guy who showed me the place was a very nice, very earnest, well-spoken, good-looking alterna-university archetype. (Reminded me deeply of a cross between two guys I knew at Harvard.) He was very matter-of-fact and efficient (especially compared to the previous place), put up-front that they're giving the rooms to first-come, first-served.

The downside: He would not actually be living with me, at least not if both rooms were claimed. The woman who placed the ad wouldn't be living with me either. (I inferred that she and he were dating.) Rather, I'd be living with whoever else took a room and with two already-signed-up roommates who weren't around. Note that this was architecturally a 3BR and that one of the already-moved-in-roommates would be living in the living room, with a curtain separating him from what was left of the common area. I'd have probably gotten along with both these roommates, and in the worst-case house rules still prohibited smoking indoors, but why take that chance if you don't have to?

Verdict: Almost the opposite of my "replacement-level" feeling about Walnut Creek. Part of me wanted to take this place on the spot; part of me thought through precisely why taking that place could have been a staggering mistake. When looking at places it's probably a good idea to make as fervent a case as you can against a given place. If there are reasons why it might suck, listen to your misgivings.

2 p.m.
Hey, I finally got to one on time. On the way up to Concord I saw what looked like a massive inbound traffic jam (outbound had the middle lanes of the Caldecott Tunnel) and thought to myself, Yeah right, like I'm really going to move out here; well, this could be short...

Followed the directions to 680, the Monument Boulevard exit, Oak Grove Road, Pear Street, Willy, and then the cul-de-sac on which this house lay. Mint-green exterior, impossible to miss. On my way into the house I noticed a United We Stand poster in the garage and also noticed that the woman who answered the door had on a t-shirt with somebody's fire department's logo. Two very good signs.

First impression at the front door was a dog growling at me. Seemed like a bad sign at the time: Cats and dogs never dislike me when they meet me. What on Earth did this dog know that others didn't? (Come to think of it he probably sensed the cats from 90 minutes earlier.) The two roommates--both women in their early 20s, both either Hispanic or South Asian or multi-racial but just more-or-less Californian--both spoke very sternly to Sammy for being momentarily such a bad dog. They apologized about Sammy growling, when I almost felt the apology should go the other way, that I'd failed the initial Sammy test.

He turned out to be a very nice, sweet, agreeable pup (kind of big but still less than a year old and smaller, or at least far better-behaved, than the two dogs in the El Cerrito place), especially when his masters told him I was a friend. He let me pet him and appreciated my attention.

They had cable in the living room (very nice TV actually), two utilitarian green couches that almost matched the house's exterior. Small but functional kitchen. I only saw one bedroom, the open one, but they said it was 13x10 and that looked about right. A little small compared to the master bedroom I'm typing this from but probably plenty of room for my stuff, especially with a twin bed. Bathroom also small-but-function, the one I'd be sharing with one of them. Modest backyard accessible from the kitchen.

They told me that the one house next door had a man who was never home and that the house on the other side of them had Hispanic kids who played outside the way kids play but weren't unruly.

The ladies themselves were polite, moderately attractive (the one in the master bedroom has a boyfriend who stays the night now and then), drink now and then but don't have wild parties. Both work full-time and one is also a part-time student. The place seemed reasonable, like what a realtor might call "cozy" but in a good way. No DSL, but see below about how I've come to terms with just doing my own $40/month SBC/Yahoo! route.

Still, the combination of distance-from-San Francisco with lack of opulence struck me, and also reminded me that I'd never written down what the rent was. So I asked them to remind me. $487.50. Whoa. Why had I responded to a $487 ad? I wondered to myself, given that the first N ads I'd responded to were all $700-$800 range. The answer, of course, was just in case it turned out to be as good a value as this one was.

I told them, truthfully, that I'd promised my current roommates not to commit to anything but that aside from that promise I'd have committed on the spot. I told them the situation about Scott possibly being stranded; they were sympathetic. They'll look forward to hearing from me, and as you'll see in my next post(s) (which you've already read if you're going from top to bottom), it seems pretty likely at this point that I'll cancel my Monday appointments and ask these ladies when I can move in.
Saturday Housing Report, Part I
10:15 a.m.
I was 15 minutes late to the first showing but realized on the road that I'd be late (and in fact timed my how late am I? estimate surprisingly well). Called them at 9:58 to leave a message. Not a bad place. Smaller bedroom than I would have hoped for a Walnut Creek place at that rent level. Two-story condo, which implies more space but also plausibly a pain in the butt to get furniture raised up the stairs. Roommates would be two generic 30-something women. This place almost defined "replacement level" for me: That is, I'd be content to live there but it had no specific appeal to me, albeit no specific red flags.

11:45 a.m.
Fifteen minutes late for the second time in a row. This time, ironically, I'd thought I was running early. Really really needed to pee (running theme of the day) and so stopped at Stonestown Galleria(!) to use the food court restroom. (Extreme contrast between the (lack of crowds) at 11:20 on a Saturday morning in mid-January versus 11:20 on a Saturday morning in mid-December.) My ordering from the Korean place probably made me 15 minutes late instead of five. This stupid lake running just north of Sloat, between about 20th and about 30th Avenues, also threw my route for an extreme loop.

The guy called me right as I was pulling into a parking spot. Embarrassed the hell out of me because for some reason I thought this one was an Open House rather than a specific appointment. (They'd mentioned showing the place from 11:30 to 3; I'd gotten the wrong impression, when it turned out they were having people in one at a time.)

This showing was unique in that instead of walking me around the house first, they had me take a seat first to do interview questions disguised as smalltalk. [Season] and [Striped Mammal] are a married couple. She is a dead ringer for bizarro-world Rachel, where by Rachel I mean someone I knew at Harvard and by bizarro-world I just mean that this one works with babies for a living and isn't married to a man 15 years older than her. (She had a fancy name for what she does for a living; I heard it and immediately parsed it as "fancy term for midwife, in a world that by now probably sees 'midwife' as inappropriate language.)

I saw all three of their cats and made small-talk in their parlor, decorated exactly the way that people who listen to a lot of NPR would decorate their parlor. (This isn't pejorative; rather it's an archetype that you either completely understand or just have no clue about. Trust me that, at least in my experience, the archetype really is that detailed.) They had ambient music (vaguely jazz) playing softly on some fancy speakers. They showed me all around, the upstairs, the spacious back yard, the downstairs where their tenant has a breathtakingly large basement room (and, yes, DSL).

This was also, I think, the highest rent of any place I've looked at.

If I wasn't in a rush (I wasn't quite), they wanted me to stay for tea and more polite conversation, more about what I was looking for in a room and what they were looking for in a tenant. They turned out to be occasionally-420-friendly (secretly, this floored me) but trying to screen out abusers of it. They mentioned how they have friends -- diverse friends -- over for dinner once or twice a week. Most importantly, they made a point of how they want to live with some who tolerates diversity, and alternative lifestyles.

I nodded and smiled. Surely I do in fact tolerate diversity and alternative lifestyles. But stop and wonder (and comment, if you have insight!), what precisely did they mean by this?!

After all, this is San Francisco. It's 2003, not 1988. If what they meant was "well, some of our friends are black and some of them are even gay," hell, I'd be shocked that they'd feel the need to even say that.

Maybe what they meant was, "we like to have play-parties now and then. Don't get all squicked when the swapping starts and someone breaks out the toys." I'd have actually been more-than-fine with that too. Some day I'll go to a play party; if it's in my own home whether I like it or not, what better excuse woudl there be? Partly because I would been fine with it either way, I didn't want to ask "what exactly do you mean by alternative lifestyles?" But it did occur to me that there's a HUGE difference between the two extremes of what they had in mind.

There's an outside chance this was a meaningless, bullshit phrase, whose real intent is to convey, We like to pat ourselves on the back about how tolerant and diverse we are. Indulge us; perhaps you also would like to pat your own back.

There's also an outside chance that what they really meant was, "We take it as a matter of gospel that all Republicans are evil troglodytes, Bush is raping the environment, etc., and we hope you feel that way too and appreciate that all our friends also feel that way." This would be the exact opposite of both diversity and tolerance (and even, relative to San Francisco, "alternate" anything); I really don't want to put those particular words into these particular people's mouths, though I swear up and down I've met other people here who are exactly like that.

I think I'm far more dead-set against the place now than I was when I left. As of when I left, my dominant impression was "hey, nice kitties," combined with unexpected willies at the idea of living with a husband-and-wife team. (Surely I'd felt no such willies when I responded to their ad in the first place.)
Another spin on the nudie protestors
Courtesy of Laurence Simon, better known for Amish Tech Support.

I used to think I had great comic strip ideas. Now that this tool is at my fingertips, I don't have a damn thing. It's like when I had the baseball column but literally ran out of things to say, only different in that the well ran dry before I began drilling.

Now this weblog, on the other hand, is unlikely to run out of material.
Housing in San Francisco: Saturday Extravaganza
I have five appointments to keep on Saturday (one is a "date"), and (according to MapQuest) 129 minutes of driving between them. (As with the post below, I fed MapQuest approximate addresses instead of actual, to preserve everyone's privacy.)

Saturday, 10 a.m.
Somewhere in Walnut Creek is a 3BR occupied by two women who had started to despair of finding a third roommate. (Walnut Creek is off the beaten path relative to other Craig's List Bay Area "roommate wanted" ads.) For $650 it's unclear what to expect in Walnut Creek, though I'm assuming the money goes farther out there. I'll find out tomorrow how close it is to the highway, how much of a pain the drive is, whether going there would be effectively writing off the South Bay for employment/dating purposes. It's 39 minutes (allegedly) from my place to this one.

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Then practically back home (39 minutes on the road), for an open house in the Sunset. The information I have jotted down is way too sparse, and the woman who wrote back to me crossed up my system of informative subject lines by changing the subject line on me. At this point I don't even know the rent. It better not be one of those realtors trying to fill an empty place again.

Saturday, 1 p.m.
Onto Berkeley (MapQuest claims 25 minutes, totally oblivious to Saturday traffic) and the place closest to Mike, Paul, and David of my current leads. I know not only the dimensions of the open rooms here (13x13 and 17x13) but also the prices ($700 and $775). The ratio there seems almost too good to be true, again like the SFSU situation, except that this time I'll be sure to get confirmation that this isn't some Berkeley students only deal.

Saturday, 2 p.m.
Up to Concord (26-minute drive) and a 3BR in a mint chip green house. This would be with two women, students (at least that's what I wrote down), one of whom sounded very nice on the phone. The downside to this phone-only stuff (other than making it less likely that the person calling has DSL) is that I lose the context of seeing the ad I'd responded to. For example, at this instant I have no idea what the rent was other than that it was vaguely in the range I was looking at.

Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Enough of this housing stuff. At this point, after yet another "39 minute" drive, I get to have coffee with a 21-year-old, Ukranian-born student who likes anime and is seeking intelligent men (if I remember her ad correctly). She wanted to meet somewhere on Geary and I remember having had coffee with my friend Cindy at a large, you can't miss it sort of place on Geary, either between 25th & 26th or 26th & 27th (either way, south side of the street). I'd feel better about it if I'd remembered the name of the place to tell her but she has my cell # and, as mentioned above, it's a you can't miss it sized place.
Housing in San Francisco: Through Friday
(By the way, it's been pointed out to me that through SBC/Yahoo!, you can get DSL very conveniently for about $40 a month. As heavily as they promote it I feel sheepish not to have thought of this.)

Just to recap, my apartment visits from Wednesday night through tonight:
(Addresses obfuscated to preserve everyone's privacy)

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Two-bedroom on Van Ness between Union and Green: For $750 I would share a 2BR, in an apartment building, with Angela, 30ish(?), a former dot-com marketer who just started a new job this week. Both bedrooms are right off the apartment door, with a living room, kitchen, and bathroom (off the kitchen) just inside. Small apartment, upscale/seedy neighborhood (not Tenderloin-dangerous but certainly not bucolic), close to a lot of things--particular nightclubs, say--that others value more highly than I do. Iffy parking, bad highway access. Only saving grace is Angela (cool, easygoing person rather than romantic attachment -- note that for a roommate you probably actually don't want to be attracted to her, for obvious reasons). Apparently she gets a great deal via rent control and yet this looks like the worst value for me.

Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.
Four-bedroom house (at least the first floor of it) at 21st & Bryant. Run-down but reasonably safe neighborhood, three blocks south of where I used to work and three blocks west of the Hentzels: For $685 I would room with two gals and a guy. The first two work in publishing and biotech; the third is a teacher. He made only a cameo appearance and seemed shy. The women seem like intelligent, outgoing, artsy, mid-20s types. No DSL but a nice back yard. Bedroom larger than the previous place but still a little small. Nice bay window though. Coincidentally the last place I saw in urban SF. As of when I talked to my sister Thursday night, Sarah suggested this should be my first choice. Mediocre luxury-to-price ratio but great highway access. Probably the best location for minimizing my total commute to places I'd want to go.

Thursday, 4 p.m.
Two-bedroom suite in ParkMerced, a tallish (say 10-floor?) building on/near the SFSU campus. Despite the gorgeous views of the city, spacious setting, and superb highway location, I've ruled it out for two reasons:

1. Potential roommate has somewhat of an English barrier.
2. Partly because of the barrier, I'm still not convinced that this isn't dedicated student housing. Don't want to be all set to move and then find out I'm not allowed.

The rent was either $700 or $750 if I remember right.

Thursday, 6 p.m.
Completely empty 3BR in the Outermost Sunset, the closest approximation to where I live now. Space is comparable to what this place would be like without its basement. Actually the master there is almost certainly smaller than the master here. $750 for a regular room, $900 for a master. The good news is that one wouldn't be charged more than that, even if the place isn't full for awhile. The bad news is the whole series of open houses while the realtor plays yenta, trying to work with you to find roommates. When I move to my new place I don't want to have more open houses to deal with.

Two things soured me right as I entered this place: First, the people who live on the first floor are total stoner slackers who's "Dude!" friends were showing up to visit them right as I came for the open house. Second, when I did ring the doorbell for the upstairs portion, the woman who greeted me wasn't a potential roommate but rather a realtor, dressed like a realtor and in the process of showing me an empty, unfurnished, wooden void. Yeah, I could still do this one if I decided I love the ocean too much to part with it. Unlikely.

Friday, 5:30 p.m.
3BR house in El Cerrito, towards the bottom of a steep and scenic hill. I got there half an hour early and walked up the hill. Great view! The defining features of this place:
1. $500 a month.
2. The lady who sublets this place (I can't tell whether she rents or owns) has two large dogs who roam free in the house. On balance I like this; interesting to get used to.

She's a character, I guess. From New Jersey. House rules were not only no drugs (pretty standard) but also no alcohol in the house. Fair enough. Not a huge sacrifice for me. She also wanted references from me. Mild faux pas here: I've forgotten everyone's phone number because I have all the phone numbers I need on my cell phone and I'd left that in the car.

Friday, 7 p.m.
At 17th & Judah is a 4BR, one floor of a house, renting at $650 for the available room. Large bedroom and cheaper than either of the places I saw Wednesday. Very cool set of roommates: Two gals and a guy, with DSL (only hooked up to one computer for now), and cable TV, in a snug but well-furnished living room with The Simpsons coming on in syndication when I got there.

I wanted to take this place on the spot but of course, like people offering a sweet deal and knowing they're offering a sweet deal, this household was just meeting everyone, deciding who to call back for a "second interview" next week and going from there. I hope they like me but I fear I came across as way too geeky. Still, my first choice of the half-dozen visits through that point.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Tell a friend about this weblog
Recently there was a PBS segment on weblogs, featuring this lovely and talented person. (I haven't seen the show but I've read her site daily and seen her picture somewhere or other.) She has advice on how to start your on weblog, given that many many people watched that show and asked her.

I think I have most of those steps down, including more content than you can shake a stick at. The publicity thing... I'm ambivalent about how much to promote this thing. I don't like being a publicity whore even when I end up being one. Better put, I don't like trying to be one. It's this inherent shyness that will leave me jobless for longer than I need to be and also leave fewer people reading this than could have.

So instead of my spamming all the famous people, I'll rely on you to share this with whoever. The biggest reason why this would fail is that a vast majority of you know me personally, from pretty much the same activities, and so you have this common set of friends. Tell a friend who probably wouldn't have heard about this site from any of the other readers.
Journalists and Comedians
""I'd be happy with a comedian, just not a comedian who poses as a journalist."
--a student at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism on why Chris Rock would be a good commencement speaker but not Michael Moore

(from InstaPundit)
Your highest priority always turns out to be something you wouldn't have thought of until midway through the process
What I thought my priorities were for finding a new place to live:

1. Good ratio of cost to space. I neither need a gargantuan amount of space nor have to pinch every last penny but if I'm middle-of-the-road on both counts, might as well maximize value.

2. Extremely flexible on location. The silver lining to not knowing where I'll work: I'm not married to the city of SF or East Bay or South Bay. Obviously I can't commit to moving way north or south or east (though maybe the Walnut Creek commute is better than I thnk).

3. Because the places I want to go a lot are reasonably spread out (in no particular order: 2706 MLK, Berkeley; Raines housing, on the Stanford campus; Oakland Coliseum; Pacific Bell Park; either Ocean Beach or somewhere similarly oceanic-but-not-trendy; maybe the home turf of anyone I end up dating, with possibilities currently in SF, Berkeley, and San Jose), no one location is nearly as important as being close to a highway.

4. Roommates who aren't partying every night, who don't have sleazebag friends who crash on their couches for days on end. Basically someone even remotely compatible with me, who won't mind that I'm relatively quiet--aside from the typing--and friendly but not gung-ho about spending hours a day in the common spaces. So far so good with regard to everyone I've met. (There've been some ads that just screamed out not-my-match.)

5. Pet-friendly atmosphere nice but not required. In practice it looks as though everyone who already has a cat is saying "no (more) cats," because heaven forbid their kitties learn to socialize.

Throw that all out the window, because my new #1 priority, based on person after person not having it:
Digital subscriber line (or any analogous high-speed Internet connection)

These potential roommates just aren't geeky enough for me. Silly Luddites...
Least Auspicious Beginning to a Chain Letter
"Dr. Phil gave this test to Oprah..."

That'll lead to a quick Delete. Same guy (never sends me real e-mail, always forwards) sent me the "detective story" where the old ladies sneak into this Diamondbacks game with a bottle of Jack Daniels.

I'm dead certain the punchline has to do with it being the bottom of the fifth and the bags loaded and so on. Didn't read far enough to confirm this.
Winning the unwinnable flamewar
There are (at least) two topics that, it's tempting to claim, can't be argued productively in an on-line discussion.

One is abortion, and yet here's a post that led to some reasonably productive commentary. (And, based on her updates, probably a lot of hate mail.)

The other is the Middle East situation, and yet here's the best pro-Israel position statement I've ever seen on-line.

(You probably know this already but I'm both outspokenly pro-life and outspokenly pro-Israel. (Funny combination for a non-fundamentalist Protestant...) That gives me two distinct topics about which the bumper stickers around here can induce violent nausea. I guess a bumper sticker is by definition vapid, but you really should see some of these. One day, after I start bothering to write down specific phrases, I'll do the word-by-word takedown they richly deserve.)
Yes, in fact, this is permanent (or will turn out to be)
I definitely saw this coming. Any self-aware cat lover who was following the saga would have seen it coming.

Hmm... now he can make economy size kung pao kitty!
Sports column line of the day
"[Oakland right guard Frank] Middleton allegedly hides a playbook, water bottle and portable CD player under his right breast."
--Jason Whitlock, ESPN Page 2. I think I actually heard a few seconds of Whitlock on the radio once, riding with Chad to the Kansas City airport.

Speaking of very large football players, 25th Hour had a celebrity cameo. Well, more than a cameo. I really want to give you a spoiler but I won't. Anyway, I didn't recognize him at the time, instead did a double-take when I saw the IMDB cast list.
Navy & Marines
Some inspiring streaming video here via InstaPundit.
25th Hour
Pretty good. I could have done without the last five minutes.

(Then again, without the last five seconds I would have ended up fulminating against it as one of the worst crimes against cinematic humanity, the same way I did with Castaway. Both movies have a similar problem in that there's absolutely no reasonable way to end either of them.)

Someone did a great job of makeup for Anna Paquin because the character looks as though she's wearing makeup to cover acne. (Where in real life I'm almost dead certain the actress doesn't have acne.) She just looks very much like a teenaged girl. Rumor has it Brittany Murphy had been originally cast for that part. That would have worked because she'd have just come across as a ho instead of a genuine teenaged girl acting ho-like.
Fire on Valencia
Driving back home just now I was on the long stretch of highway that winds its way down to Fell Street and noticed very large fire on the roof of a building. (The highway is high enough off the ground that from that angle, under normal circumstances you look down on those rooftops.)

This was not just a smoke-rising but a big orange ball of heat. Several seconds later it occurred to me to call 911, and also to attempt to locate this intersection in case the dispatcher asked me.

It had never occurred to me that calling 911 from a cell phone might be usual. The number rang four times. Then I got a recorded message saying, almost verbatim, You have reached 911. All our operators are busy. Never a good sign. When I did reach a dispatcher, I started to tell her about seeing a fire just west of downtown and she had to ask what city I was in. She tried to transfer me to the San Francisco Fire Department. After a few rings I heard her voice again, Nobody's answering but they've already gotten the call.

Not sure how she knew they'd already gotten the call but as I tried to drive towards the smoke at least two firetrucks passed me. Siren... pull over. Wait. Drive again. Another siren... pull over. Wait. Drive again.

I actually saw the police squad car backing into an intersection to set up part of the road block.

Correction: Based on this map, I'd say the building was between Clinton Park and Brosnan Street. Don't you hate it when people name their alleys?

Thursday, January 16, 2003

What's the crappiest movie to which you would nonetheless accept an invitation?
I'm about to go see 25th Hour despite being convinced it will suck. Back on New Year's Day I watched no bowl games because Chris took me to see Chicago, to which I had about the same reaction.

Sometimes low expectations work out though. (This time the companion is David, one of the world's biggest Anna Paquin fans.)

The thing is, a movie has to be really really bad for me to flat-out turn down a movie invitation, at least if my schedule is remotely compatible.

(And yet I see shockingly few movies. That shows you how rarely people specifically invite me.)
A bilingual op-ed on economic systems and death camps
Come here because I agree with the pro-capitalist sentiment but stay because seeing the English and French side-by-side captivates you.
Woo! I'll be a dollar-sixty richer soon!
Surely this will let me buy a cup of coffee somewhere.

Time for a semi-regular (actually occasional at best) feature: How are Matt's stocks doing?

Overall I see a sea of red ink in my portfolio with two high achievers doublehandedly giving me a net positive. (Specifically, if I remember correctly what I paid for PYPL, I'm up almost exactly 5%, with most of my purchases coming about 11 months ago.)

e*Trade claims that I'm up 475.21% on my EBAY but that's only because eBay's purchase of PYPL screwed up the way e*Trade computes my basis. (Independent of each other, I'd owned both EBAY and PYPL. Now it's all one slightly-bigger holding.)

I have a non-messed-up 67.06% gain on AMZN, bought the day they announced their first profit ever. My other net-positive stock is BUD: Enough people drink watery beer to yield a steady 11.92% uptick. (But over 24 months, not 11.)

My biggest loser by percentage is still ORCL -- damn thing tanked right after I bought it -- but even more surprising is that TOM is worth barely half what it had been when I bought it. (Thesis: Post-September 11, more people would buy designer clothing with red, white, and blue patterns. Conclusion: Not quite.)

Going by dollars lost, ORCL barely edges out both KKD (mmm... hot, sugary, inflated P/E ratio!) and GE.

"Buy something dependable," she said. "Balance your high-risk stocks with a huge company that won't ever go backrupt," she said. Granting that my portfolio is still way too Internet-heavy, that's still the last time I listen to company-specific investment advice from my mom. Throw in a screw-you to Jack Welch as well.

Then again, the most any one stock has lost me so far is still less than $200.
Not skanky but probably not a good fit for me...
Read this one with me in mind and chuckle a bit. (They probably won't take it down.)
Skankiest ad ever?
Must read it to believe it. (Bear in mind this is under "Rooms & Shares," not "Personals" or some random misc. category.)

Here: I don't think this one will last very long before someone takes it down. Reprinting in full...

Share and care relationship, roommate and low rent all in one. Together, let's fight Bay Area rents and ever-rising cost of everything else. Good guy, 60, seeks to meet and get acquainted with a very attractive, easygoing, unselfish, kind, non-smoking, trim lady, 18-60, and then team up to share emotions, experiences and expenses in tiny San Mateo in-law unit for now. Age unimportant, but compatibility and integrity very important. Prefer Latina or Asian lady, but will meet all. Also open to relocation, starting small business together, etc.
Quote of the Day
"Sometimes he let his alligator mouth override his hummingbird ass."

Apparently this is Minnesota folk wisdom.

As Obscure Store put it, tragic case but quite a quote.
I think I can beat Mike Tyson
From: "Chad Kubicek"
Subject: A lower bar to cross
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2003 08:23:29 -0800

Sacramento Kings guard Jim Jackson recently got married. The bride? A PR
agent for Mike Tyson. The logical choice for best man was, of course, Mike
Major Catch-22's
Chris can't stay here another full year. He can't stay anywhere a full year without a different job situation. He wants to go to Japan soon and unless he blows it that's exactly what I see him doing. There's no good answer for how soon is soon. I'll say he's far enough away from it that we go to war with Iraq first but not so far away that the war is guaranteed to finish first.

Staying in our current place either one more month (what we want) or three more months (what our landlady has requested) would be reasonable for him. Failing either of those options I have no idea what he does come February 1.

Scott can't move somewhere on February 1. His business trips have sapped the free time necessarily to select a new place to live, to pack, or to do anything like that. Conversely, though, he can't stay put much longer; even three months may be too much. The commute is just too much, not to mention the work stress itself. If given a chance to trade places with him (to be unemployed but to have the work conditions he has) I'd honestly choose unemployment. But it's his life and his situation to deal with. Bottom line, his needs are in direct opposition to what our landlady will give us (that we know of). He can't achieve a satisfactory outcome without a concession specifically from her.

I'm extremely flexible, with one exception. I'd rather not move my stuff than move my stuff, but I'm also strongly opposed to paying on the order of $1500 to stay here rather than pay on the order of half that to live somewhere else. It seems inevitable to me that we'll move out of here at some point, therefore moving later instead of now is a wash at best. (Other than the small matter of having a home close to a job.)

The landlady suggested that if we want to pay significantly cheaper rent, we should move upstairs to the place that actually is a three-bedroom. (From her vantage point, either way she has an open space to fill between now and when she sells. I guess if the downstairs is what's open then she has a greater revenue possibility frontier.) I'd be strongly in favor of that because none of the reasons why that would be inconvenient seem to apply (to me):

Our mail would go to the same mail slot. (Because our landlady never unambiguously distinguished 1250A from 1250B, the USPS still regularly confuses my roommates with the guys upstairs. Just one key (actually, one index finger, since the lock is literally gone) opens the whole contraption, where there are (for no apparent reason) three buckets of mail. The far left one is usually 50% us, 30% the people upstairs, 20% complete junk. The middle one is usually the opposite. The far right one is usually 20%/20%/60%, partly because I think we all shunt the junk there when we sort.

People who have my home phone number would need an update but by now I think all but one of the people who call me regularly do so on my cellphone. It's entirely possible that I'd go without a land line if Chris also wanted to go without. (Scott is in a bind because he has his own separate line here.)

We'd have DSL issues but the upstairs people also have DSL. It's plausible we could somehow take over their DSL and not be stuck with a contract. Not a guarantee, but plausible.

Despite significant rent savings, Chris and Scott don't seem to see moving upstairs as an option, mainly because they own so many books.

You'll notice here, that there's almost nothing here that I prevent them from doing. (Well, except maybe signing a foolishly expensive/long lease extension and overpaying to keep an empty fourth bedroom.) On the other hand, the longer no other option works for everyone, the more likely I am to take a room with someone. Once that happens, extending our lease here goes from being really stupid but plausible to essentially out of the question, aside from the possibility of our (their?) hitting Craig's List harder than we even did before to find two roommates instead of one.

Scott's perceived inability to move by February 1 makes me look less hard for a 2BR in the East Bay than I would have, and thus harder for just a single room somewhere than I would have, and thus makes it more likely that he'd end up not having a choice.

Chris's inability to commit to a lease of any length effectively rules out every good 3BR lead I found. (As does the apparent conflict between Scott's desire for a short commute and Chris's love of Sunset neighborhoods.)

Bottom line I'm probably ditching them. (Well, we're dickering with the landlady again over what she might or might not give us again.) I wish I'd decided on this sooner. There's a lot about this process that I've come to resent. The resentment is totally unnecessary but the best way to prevent it is if I'd shown less of a conscience about just saying nothing personal, but our residential needs seem to have diverged now.
I had a sociologically remarkable experience earlier tonight
At 5:55 p.m. a complete stranger called me. She was responding to an e-mail that I had sent to her (anonymous) account; my e-mail was in response to an ad she had placed here.

By 7:30 p.m. I was in her apartment, at her invitation, chatting with her and looking the place over to determine whether I ought to move in with her. (Verdict: Probably not, because it's a little small. Specifically, I don't see where I'd put my computer.)

I will have many similar experiences between now and Monday night, some with men, some with mixed company. I'll also apparently have at least two dates, one each from people met through here and through here. Naturally I don't expect either of those to result in my having to decide whether to move in with her.

In descending order of perceived success rate so far, Matt as a roommate is in somewhat higher demand than Matt as a boyfriend (well, at least, as a person to go out with), who in turn is in significantly higher demand than Matt as an employee.

There are major questions about whether this is happening in the right order. Shouldn't I have a job before I have a place? (The better to avoid winding up with a terrible commute.) And shouldn't my dating project hold off until my eating-better-and-working-out-more project has had time to reap benefits? Aren't I totally misjudging my spot on the success cycle?

More on that to come.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

North Korean gulag
Stories like this are one reason why I'm bitterly disappointed that we'd negotiate with the people who run North Korea. Then again, I do understand the constraints we're under, the difference between dealing with a thug who already has nukes versus one who doesn't have them yet (but who would make everyone's life miserable if we got them).

Stories like this are also one reason why I have close to zero (or perhaps some arbitary negative amount of) sympathy for people who point out whatever's wrong with America, how barbaric it is that Texas carries out the death penalty the way it does or whatever. As a matter of scale, there are a lot of places in the world whose governments do things millions of times worse than anything Uncle Sam ever did. Obviously that doesn't give the U.S. carte blanche but it's something to think about any time someone, say, uses his First Amendment rights to bitch and moan and allege that he's not getting a chance to use his First Amendment rights.
Sacked for Blogging
Happened to this guy.

I have surprisingly little sympathy for him, although I do think his employers handled it terribly. The question, I suppose, is whether they knew about it. (Sounds as though one boss knew and tacitly approved, then that boss was replaced.) To the extent that time spent blogging is time spent not working, you can call it goofing off and take whatever action makes sense given the time spent.

Full disclosure: I blogged from work. A lot. Nearly always while waiting for new code to compile or a web server to restart. You've seen my posts; clearly I didn't always just stop on a dime and hit "Post & Publish" once the compilation or restart was finished. It also wasn't the sort of situation where I said, "Hey, Bryan, I've got this weblog going, hope that's all right with you." On the other hand, I'd like to think I exceeded expectations in work output; all the way up to the layoffs I was still making insanely aggressive estimates*, yet generally living up to them. On the third hand, hmm, I wonder if Les still reads this or if he was just content to send me that Doonesbury that one time, more a matter of I know Matt blogs than I actually read Matt's blog.

*- So help me, I estimate more aggressively than other software developers estimate. Or rather, I don't arbitrarily double or triple the estimate to allow for {padding, unforeseen circumstances, call it what you will}. I'll tell you exactly how soon you'd get what you want in a perfect world but also, as clearly/concisely as possible, what specific things might go wrong and why those would add a particular amount of time. Obviously you can't think of everything but you can at least show whoever's getting the deliverable that you have most of the fallbacks covered.

Most importantly, if I estimate something drastically incorrectly, I like to be able to go back and say, "this probably in particular is why the estimate turned out to be worthless," rather than having a particular padding level turn out to be too much or not enough.
More on vouchers
(In the comments widget Captain Fancy suggested hypotheticals involving vouchers for college education[1] or for TV spectrum. I meant to respond via comment but the comment got longer and longer...)

The voucher argument relies on two principles that wouldn't be true for college education or spectrum:

1. Everybody needs at least a primary education. (That's one reason why education is mandatory.) Not so true of broadcast TV.

2. In many places the education actually provided is beyond terrible. I assume this is untrue of the SUNY system, about which I've heard good things.

In the worst of those school districts, some kids' parents can afford to send them to non-sucky private schools (or those same parents can afford to move them to a different school district); the others are just stuck.

One of the best arguments against vouchers might be that a better, more universal solution is just to make those public schools themselves not suck.

The best response to that argument is, Okay, how are you going to accomplish that? Empirically, throwing money at the problem doesn't sove it. (Or rather, money alone doesn't solve it.) I honestly don't know what will.

At the very least, with a voucher program, some parents would be able to give their kids a better future than they currently can. (This is already happening in Milwaukee and a handful of other places.) A pro-voucher person (like me) would say that some is better than none.

An anti-voucher person would say that it's better to make everybody's public school education a little better than to have some people get a much better education and the people left behind in public schools do all the worse.

It's unclear to me which state of affairs leaves a better incentive to do what it takes to improve the schools. I happen to believe that some (though far from all) the problems result from the power of teachers' unions to prevent good teachers from being rewarded and bad ones from being shown the door.

[1] There already exists such a thing, in the form of the GI bill. Curiously, the most vehement opposition I see to school vouchers comes from diehard church-and-state separatists who see the use of vouchers for parochial education as a First Amendment violation. This is where I first saw the GI Bill invoked in voucher arguments, since returning U.S. troops could and did use their scholarships at private, religious colleges. I guess the second-most-vehement opposition comes from people who strongly believe in the theory and concept of public schools and see anything like vouchers as an indirect attack on public schools. The best response to them is that the places where vouchers would matter the most are places where the school system is already in a disarray, to put it charitably. Vouchers would be a terrible idea -- moreso a gratuitous one -- in Grosse Point, but perhaps less so in urban Detroit. Or urban Cleveland or urban Milwaukee, where they seem to work.
Oh my word that's a lot of candy
I got a package either today or yesterday. It's like Halloween taken to a whole new level.

Remind me to bring some of this if you're a local reader whom I'd plausibly visit soon.

Specifically, it's a Decade Box: All candy from the 1980s, all for taking care of two adorable little cats.
"420 Friendly"
I think I know what this means, in the context of apartment hunting.

But just to be sure: It's marijuana, right?
Pete Townsend and child porn
Some contrarian thoughts on that matter.

If this document was actually published a year ago then his defense on the child porn charges makes sense. Nonetheless, what exactly is it that he thinks the police should do? If his "I was just doing research" defense exonerates him, then who else is exonerated? And the more people get off easy, the more incentive people have (or rather, the less disincentive they have) to go find child porn, the more likely they are to pay for it, the more profitable it is for the people who provide it, and so the more likely they are to do it.

Really, of course, the people who should be castrated, locked-up-without-a-key, shot, or whatever, are the ones who directly abuse children to make this stuff. One the problem with that is that the more of those people you successfully shut down, the tighter the supply becomes, and the tighter the supply becomes, the more profitable it might be for someone (especially someone outside the jurisdiction of whoever's most successful at stopping child porn) to start doing it themselves.

(Exactly the problem we have with the drug war except that I would argue that even drug dealers aren't doing nearly as much damage as child abusers. It's a difference of several orders of magnitude.)

Still, I think even Townsend would agree (Townsend would especially agree) that the people doing this stuff to children are monsters, and they need to be stopped somehow...

More on child porn and journalism here.
This probably settles the TV question
Geographic settings, not to mention quite the quiz-bowl resource (if you trust it as a reference, which I wouldn't without secondary confirmation on any given fact).
One of these books is not like the other
...from the bookish Glenn Reynolds. You could combine the two and get something like Harry Potter and the Dormant Commerce Clause.
If you want to find an ad that's degrading to men...
Have you seen the Pepsi/Lays ad where the guys are being really uncomfortable watching a football game but then somebody scores and they all hug each other?

It took me forever to get the gist of the first part of the ad. What I saw the first N times:
1. Some guy wants potato chips but another guy glares at him for it, like he's hoarding the bag.
2. Then a different guy has a bag of chips but the guy next to him is so fat he barely has space to sit on the couch.
3. Then the touchdown.

What I realized the (N+1)st time:
1. The bag of chips is behind the fat guy, so when the guy on the end reaches for the chips he almost has to put his arm around that guy.
2. (a scene I kept missing) Two guys reach for the soda at once and their hands touch.
3. The fat guy's leg brushes against the guy-in-the-middle's leg.

Get it? These men are homophobic (in the literal sense, not the meaning you tend to think of in politics) but then when somebody scores a touchdown they're fine with invading each other's personal space after all.

I didn't like this ad because I couldn't identify with it. Maybe I just have a lot of touchy-feely guyfriends.

(I "identified" with the Catfight ad, not because I'd sit around thinking of fake ads like that but because the scene in the pool really is gratuitously sexy.)

On the other hand, in the same campaign, have you seen the ad where the little kid keeps raising his hands and saying Touchdown! His dad has a Raider jersey on and apparently the first touchdown a Raider touchdown, then the next N good plays go against the Raiders and in favor of what turns out to be the mom's favorite team.

"That's my boy!"

That ad I think anyone can identify with.
I like this ad
Apparently some people don't.

There's nothing wrong with a little eye candy but there is (in my opinion) something greatly wrong with assuming that any TV commercial somehow reflects a universal reality. Which of the statements is most ludicrous?

A. All women behave like that. (Well, obviously not, since the point of the ad is that the ad-within-an-ad is just those guys' fantasy.)

B. All people like ads like the ad-within-the-ad. (Again, obviously not: Check out how appalled the women are at the guys describing this ad-within-an-ad.)

C. All men... well, take it away image guru Laura Ries: ''It's explicit. It's degrading. It has no real message, except all men are idiots and all they think about are girls mud wrestling."

So wait... is she saying... that this ad is degrading to men, for being idiots and thinking about mud wrestling?

(Incidentally, the part in the pool is much sexier than the part in the mud.)

I hate it when people generalize from "some people do X on occasion" to "all people do X all the time."

I had an example of this but it was more than you needed to know.
Would you rather have Bill Mueller or Shea Hillenbrand?
From the same article as below, news that the Red Sox get Bill Mueller. (As best I can tell, Mueller and Millar actually pronounce their last names the same way.)

This is one of baseball's most extreme patience/bases-on-balls hitters versus one of baseball's most extreme contact hitters. It's hard to come up with a better test case for stathead dogma, especially since I think a conventional-wisdom baseball fan would look at their numbers and strongly prefer Hillenbrand.

(That's not a slight on the conventional wisdom. Anaheim took contact, speed, and extra-base power to a title. The underrated element there is the extra-base power, since you need a lot of additional bases to make giving up the extra outs a fair tradeoff. I think more people would understand that OBP is life if the stat were inverted and described as "out percentage." Remember, you only get three in an inning; don't waste 'em.)

It's mildly disheartening that instead of having a clear, concise explanation for why a player like Mueller is good/underrated, Epstein feeds the media a sports cliche: ''He's a winning baseball player." (What's disheartening is that the cliche is patently not the reason for switching from Hillenbrand to Mueller. Given the many situations where Hillenbrand has come through in the clutch -- stathead dogma here invokes luck and small sample size -- you'd think if anything Hillenbrand is the "winning baseball player.")

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Muellers on becoming parents.
The emancipation of Kevin Millar
Complain all you want about player salaries (I don't think any regular readers here actually do this) but there's something fishy about the way things used to work, as described in this article.

Name any other business where an employer can tell you, not just you're going to Japan or you're fired, but rather, you're going to Japan if you want to work in this industry at all.

Also, there's a lot of evil protected by "gentleman's agreements."
Strip Creator
Create your own webcomic.

Or just read Lawrence Simon's.
Triumph of the Will and Grace
Are they really making a miniseries about a gay Hitler?!?

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I'm sick of him too
Quoting, in hearty agreement, from Mark Coen:
I'm pretty well sickened with the creep of shamateurism in his case, from putting his games on pay per view to his mom "buying" him a Hummer. If there's any justice, he'll wind up with Cleveland or Milwaukee and never be heard from again.

You can tell it's someone I'm sick of since I go out of his way not to mention him by name. I only ever do that for people with loathesome public personas, almost always sports figures.
Thoughts from James Lileks
Very interesting Bleat today. (Actually tomorrow relative to when I post it but today relative to when you'll likely see this post.)

There's some begging-the-question on the first one, but I think in hindsight his position (and mine) will be validated. (We'll learn a lot about what's been happening in Iraq, things so horrifying that in hindsight we'll marvel that this was even a controversy.)

Imagine you’re living in WW2, and you learn that Glenn Miller had kiddie-diddler urges, Dick Powell is in Berlin on a fact-finding mission, Hitchcock is insisting that the Blitz could be solved with diplomacy and understanding, and the Andrews Sisters showed up for an awards banquet wearing T-shirts that criticized Lend-Lease. Hitler the Second would be running Germany today, because the beautiful people would have convinced America that scrap drives were a plot by the rubber-industrial complex.

The second one is much less controversial and involves his precocious daughter:

At one point we passed a display of popcorn implements, and Gnat said:

“Popcorn. I had at big movie.”

Processing . . . processing . . . right. She’d gone to see the Veggie Tales movie with my wife, had popcorn, and lemonade, and thrown a small sleep-deprived overstimulated toddler-fit when she ran out of lemonade.

“What movie was it?” I asked.

“Veggie tales.” She paused. “I have lemanade. Boo hoo hoo hoo.” And she did a mocking imitation of herself throwing a fit.

At two and a half, she can fake emotion and use the skill to mock herself. This is heartening and alarming, but mostly hilarious.
ScrappleFace is especially vicious today
I'm not sure which I like better, Europe Classic or the Sheryl Crow takedown.

In the interest of political (and humor-site) balance, here's The Onion on North Korea. Speaking of which, rest assured that while the city I grew up in has many excellent museums, this is not one of them.
Pop Culture Cross-Fertilization Zen
Amusingly, I don't think Andew Sullivan knows who Orson Scott Card is. Look closely: Sullivan links to this op-ed but doesn't mention Card by name, as though the identity of the author isn't noteworthy.
Erin Brockovich
Says here she's a fraud. You be the judge.

I didn't follow her case nearly as closely as I followed the Woburn case (the one that became the really bad John Travolta movie -- then again, that's redundant) but I know the Woburn one had plenty of junk science on the plaintiff's side.
"Working the game officials," and other tidbits from ESPN's Tuesday football columns
Most interesting nugget in TMQ: [Jeff] Fisher also kept his head in the game, not obsessing over the officials as Cowher did. When Albert Haynesworth was called a body slam with two minutes left, giving the Steelers that golden opportunity at the Titans' 40, Fisher did not blow his stack; he knew it was a penalty and accepted his medicine with a grimace instead of screaming at the officials. Zebras remember things like that -- that Coach A (Fisher) hasn't spent the game berating them from the sidelines while Coach B (Cowher) has. When it all comes down to a crunch moment, the officials may look more kindly on Coach A, exactly what happened in Nashville.

Working the officials (or any other potential adversary you deal with in your own life) is a lost art. I claim to be much better at this now than I would have been as recently as a few years ago. Easterbrook also shares my opinion on whether to "swallow the whistle" late in the game: At any rate, the notion that officials should ignore penalties on game-deciding plays -- essentially, that everything becomes legal when the outcome is on the line -- is what's "ludicrous."

Meanwhile, Ralph Wiley puts a title and artist to the song I heard Sunday. Yes, I was grooving to P-Funk with 50,000 other people. Or maybe I was too white-bread to truly groove.
Why I'm strongly, outspokenly in favor of voucher programs (school choice)
Two things hit me at once just now. One was an e-mail in a discussion thread over whether homeschool collectives should be able to qualify for "small school" prizes (in quiz competition). The other was this weblog post about the horrors of the D.C. school system.

Earlier in the discussion thread someone suggested that homeschool collectives don't fit the "non-selective" criterion because the cost of homeschooling (materials, expertise, opportunity cost of staying home to do it, and so on) made it selective in practice.

In a sense that's correct but it seems as people overrate this argument in one context and underrate it in another. Most of the kids in a system like D.C.'s are there for lack of other options. Their parents can't afford to send their kids to the suburbs, nor to send their kids to St. Alban's the way both Clinton and Gore did. That means the poor kids get a subpar education and the rich kids escape the cycle. Then when someone suggests a program that would give the poor kids the same options that the rich kids have, stunningly, people try to argue that this will do exactly the opposite of what it actually does.

(It's the same fallacy as the people who think that banning guns is the best way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, when instead it's the best way to make sure guns will be in the hands only of criminals.)

Getting back to the e-mail discussion thread, I also strongly suspect that there's flagrant anti-homeschool bigotry among many of the people who like to think of themselves as open-minded and tolerant. Note: I'm absolutely, positively NOT suggesting that this is true of anyone actually involved in the e-mail discussion. Nonetheless, there are people out there who think the damnedest things, in general the same people who automatically dismiss any Republican as a right-wing troll. It's how shows like this make it to the air.

For what it's worth I was not homeschooled. (Went to public schools, in a "magnet school" program involving long bus rides to schools that had been all-black in the segregation days.) I do remember in elementary school having a writing assignment about whether homeschooling would be a good or bad idea. In brainstorming for this, whichever teacher it was placed a strong emphasis on social interaction. This is a hazy memory at best but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were some mild push-polling going on here.
Last night I stayed up way too late especially given how unproductive I'd been. Woke up at 11 to Chris knocking and telling me that realtors would be here in an hour, apologizing for forgetting to mention today's 12-1:30 open house. (After today looks as though there are just two more, one each next Sunday and Tuesday.)

I dressed and got out the door just as the main guy arrived. Went to the mall (see Food Log elsewhere). Went downtown to do-it-yourself carwash (there's probably one closer than that), more to clean out the inside of my car than the outside.

Drove aimlessly around the hills of some southern San Francisco neighborhoods, as approximated by these Mapquest "driving directions" links:
Downtown to Monterrey via 280 (realized before bothering to call that the person whose place I was driving towards clearly wouldn't be home yet)
Winding through the neighborhood ("what happens if I go north?")
Here's where I got Portola and West Portal confused ("wait, this isn't north, it's east!")
Abortive attempt to go west
Winding along Gold Mine (Wheeee!)
Back downhill (are we going in circles?)
Westward ho ("okay, I know Pacheco, but why is there a fork?")
Take the right fork ("Hey, it's that other hill!")
Okay, enough fun...
And back home (actually cut through the park instead of getting straight to Lincoln via 36th, but you don't care by now)

The open house was to end at 1:30. Across the street from us parking spots would open up from Tuesday's Noon-2 p.m. cleaning. I got there just in time for that and two realtors were still occupying our driveway, chatting aimlessly over a smoke. I waited in my car, 5, 10, 20 minutes, staring daggers at them to get the hell off my driveway. (Not that I'd actually park in the driveway; it's too much of a pain to back out of.) Finally they left.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Pop Culture Brainteaser Courtesy of My Roommates
UPDATE (Tuesday 7:50 PST): Mike Burger fills in the final blanks. He made the same suggestion for Alabama that Craig & Dave did. On further review I'll take it.

Name at least one TV show (sit-com or drama) set primarily in each of the 50 U.S. states. I've sat on this for awhile. Click on the hyperlinks for javascript prompts with my answers. States not hyperlinked are ones that stumped me. Comments are welcome, especially on the states I couldn't think of but also if you want to replace a more obscure show with a better-known one, or a drama with a sit-com.

Also, even for the states that I filled in, surely it's possible to come up with one more show. Mind, this is far more useful for a state like Maine than a state like California.

UPDATE: Got e-mail from Craig on this. As of 10 p.m. PST, Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are from that e-mail. (I already had a Michigan but Craig's is the far more obvious one that I couldn't think of. New Jersey is another one that I can't believe I missed the obvious one.)

UPDATE: Craig & Dave get credit for the Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wyoming below. For various reasons I'm not going to take their choices for Alabama, Idaho, or Utah just yet, in the hopes that stronger candidates exist. See coments widget for more.

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
Worst Mondegrin Ever
It's impossible to misunderstand a song worse than completely screwing up its title/chorus.

You don't want to know what I thought "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was. Maybe I don't even know. It seemed like a cross between emanation and alien nation and big man has come. I'd vacillate between those, among other interpretations.

Clearing up mondegrins and putting titles/artists to aural memories: The secret benefit to Craig's song tournaments.

(Meanwhile, in the opposite corner from "Hey Man, Nice Shot," we have a song whose lyrics I actually knew marginally better than anyone else, despite my never watching the relevant trashy TV. Just chillin' on a Sunday morning, got my toast and my tea and I'm warming [etc.])
Ender's Peace Talks
A little treatise on international relations from the author of some pretty good fiction.

My favorite line: Dictators live in constant terror of a mob of civilians swarming through their palaces or office buildings, dragging the dictators out into the streets, and killing them.

Conversely, I imagine the U.S. to be one of the places where that sort of scenario is least likely to happen. Is there any world leader less likely to be dragged out into the streets and beaten to death than George W. Bush? There are many reasons why our country is so, well, stable. You could be pragmatic and say it's because of the Secret Service protection but there's far more to it than that.
Fun with google ad-words
Curiously, none of the sponsored links on this page have anything to do with algorithms, math, or theoretical computing.
Buck-Naked Belligerents
I won't go quite as far as Tim Blair did but after reading this article I wonder how easy it would be to get pro-war activists to strip? I'm dead certain they'd (we'd?) be, on balance, much better looking than the other side. Not that I'm in the best position to lead the way.

("All right, girls, let's hit the showers! Who's with me?" --Carrot Top to a group of soccer players in one of his collect call ads)
Two more Coliseum notes
(But only one of them is strictly football.)

I'd meant to blog both of these and forgot to the first go-round:

1. Many, many times the ref would announce before the play, #74 is reporting as an eligible receiver or #66 is reporting as an eligible receiver. I didn't remember this happening much in the Rams-Cardinals game but it did in this one. Found out afterwards that just for this game, Callahan decided to use a lot of "jumbo" formations. Every single time he did, the ref announced which lineman was uncharacteristically eligible. I wonder whether the 49er-Giant ref announced the eligible receiver(s) before that infamous field goal attempt.

2. The moment that won me over to attending Raider games (but still not actually accepting Raider fandom as an option): With 7:55 left in the fourth quarter, when Oakland lined up to kick off after a field goal, they played "Gypsy Road."

That's Cinderella, for you hair-band junkies scoring at home. I sang along, in the correct register to boot. Nobody noticed.
There are many reasons why, to this day, I have a far higher opinion of John McCain than most Republicans I know
This is one of them.

Campaign finance reform, as passed last year, was blatantly unconstitutional and terrible on principle. But boy oh boy is it an underratedly good thing for the GOP tactically.

Jane Galt has some really interesting thoughts about this and about which party is truly the party of the super-rich. As she points out:
[T]he Republican fundraising base is a lot of small donors, while the Democratic base is a devoted cadre of very high net worth people who can afford to donate very large sums to the party.

(A plurality of the bigtime rich Democrats are lawyers or entertainers.)
Given what we know now...
(The final post of this particular football flurry; also likely my last post this evening...)

Which game from the 2002 regular season is most shocking in hindsight? I say this one.

Which game from the 2002 regular season is the least shocking now relative to how shocking it was at the time? Clearly this one, unless you have a better nominee.

Which game would you most like to watch again and again and again if you were lucky enough to find somebody who taped it? My choice is clear.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

A sour note
The one thing I don't like about having all four home/well-rested/top-seeded teams win this weekend (or the analagous weekend any other year) is that it makes the wild card games all seem relatively meaningless.

Well, given how the Saturday games came out it's plausible that Cleveland could have won at Tennessee or Green Bay at Philadelphia. Today's victors, however, would have mopped the floor with either the Colts or Giants.

Sneaking in an unrelated topic: Joon suggested yesterday that Brian Griese's career may plausibly be over, his second-half collapse this year having been just that drastic. Something weird happened midway through the season, around the time of the Monday night Bronco-Raider game: The entire rest of the league figured out both Denver's offense and Denver's defense. They completely failed to adjust on either side of the ball.

On defense, Ray Rhodes came up with a scheme that turned out to be busted by Oakland's relentless short-passing game. (Not to be confused with the vertical attack the Raiders showed today, which probably pleased the hell out of old-school Commitment to Excellence diehards.) His inability to adjust for this probably explains why he resigned-before-he-could-be-fired.

I don't know that Oakland did anything new to Griese other than pressure him a lot but between that pressure, his injury up in Seattle, and the subsequent overtime losses, somewhere his confidence completely evaporated.
Notes on the NFL championship games
My head says a Raiders-Eagles Super Bowl. (Philly wins.)

My gut fears Raiders-Buccanneers just because reporters would then run the Gruden-versus-old-team angle into the ground. (Ugh.)

My Super Bowl rooting interest depends entirely on who wins the NFC championship game. (That's right, I'd root for Oakland over Tampa Bay.)

It's never a good sign when a conference championship game is a rematch of one of your very first cut-throat predictions. (Oakland crushed Tennessee, 52-25, in what was -- at least to me and at least at the time -- one of the least surprising blowouts ever. Titan injuries contributed to this but I'm still almost as shocked that Tennessee went on a run as I am that the Jets went on a run.)

The other conference championship is also a rematch, as would be exactly one of the potential Super Bowl matchups. (That's a stunning collapse by the Eagles in their season opener. I had no idea this game came out that way because I was too wrapped up in baseball to care about the NFL yet.)

Tennessee and Tampa Bay will face each other next year. Neither of the NFC finalists faced Oakland this year, nor will they face the Raiders next year. (Oakland faced NFC West opponents in 2002; NFC Central in 2003. If I'm still in the area I plan to buy Packer-Raider tickets as soon as individual games go on sale, just to see Bret Favre in person before he retires. With my luck this will be a Monday nighter and so sell out long before the rest.)

Actually, I strongly doubt Packers-Raiders would be on Monday Night given that Fox has at most two opportunities to show a 2003 Raider game and will lobby hard to keep them both. On my hypothetical NFL schedule (I overhauled the game times and prime time assignments to be more in line with TV rules; I'll post the new versions when I get around to it), it's the featured late game for a Week 16 Fox doubleheader. Meanwhile, Vikings-Raiders is Week 10(? - I'm too lazy to look it up as I type) and also projected to be the featured late game.
NFL playoff thoughts
Games so far, from most to least interesting/exciting:
1. SF over NYG
2. TEN over PIT
3. PIT over CLE
4. ATL over GB
5. PHI over ATL
6. OAK over NYJ
7. TB over SF
8. NYJ over IND

Figures I'd catch some action in person on (thus far) the least interesting full day of NFL playoff games. Random notes about the ordering: I put the Tennessee win over the Pittsburgh win because it was razor-tight all day, because it became so degenerate near the end, and because the Pittsburgh win suffers a bit from both looking like a blowout early and being upstaged by the game right after it. The top three on this list are all more interesting than any other playoff game (Super Bowls excluded) in the past decade.

I have little to say about any of this weekend's games. Everything intelligent I had to say about Steelers-Titans ended up going into quick phone calls with Chad. The only part worth repeating is just how impressed I was when Bill Cowher screamed loud enough to be heard on the referee's mike as Ron Blum (the ref) was explaining that he was too ignorant to know whether a given on-field play could be challenged.

(Least insightful talking-head analysis so far in 2003: Howie Long's entire commentary on the Cowher-Blum tiff was that Blum has been an NFL ref for 18 years and that his day job is professional golfer. He didn't even bother to explain what Cowher's objections actually were.)

Highlights of that Pittsburgh-Tennessee game, in case you completely missed it:
1. The Titans took an early 14-0 lead, with Eddie George suddenly not looking so old.
2. The Steelers scored 20 unanswered points from that moment on. During this stretch, George fumbled on a play where a helmet collision knocked him unconscious. (In fact, his body going limp caused the fumble.)
3. Cowher screamed YES IT IS! on the ref's doubting whether a call was challengeable happened on a punt return that was initially ruled a touchdown but on which the receiver had actually been knocked down (his shin was down) shortly after catching the ball.
4. Multiple lead changes late.
5. Neil O'Donnell came in for a play or two late in the game when Steve McNair hurt his hand.
6. Joe Nedney missed a potential winning field goal at the end of regulation.
7. Three consecutive plays of Nedney trying the game-winning field goal in overtime:
A. He makes it but it turns out Pittsburgh called time out just before the snap. (Leading to premature fireworks set off by a tech guy who didn't realize that the play was waved off.)
B. He shanks it but does a great acting job on a running-into-the-kicker penalty. (I agree with the NFL that this was the right call. Having said that, if you strongly believe that officials should swallow their whistles late in close games -- I happen not to believe this but many of you do -- then this would have been a reasonable, albeit technically incorrect, no-call.)
C. He makes it as Cowher tries futilely to call as last-second a timeout as possible.

The Atlanta-Philly game was tense nearly the whole way through but not interesting. Joon is a Falcon fan inasumch as he's a Michael Vick fan. Lest that sound like a bandwagon, note that his two biggest individual-player devotions (Vick and Allen Iverson) go back to each player's freshman year in college.

I saw only a couple of plays of the SF-Tampa game because it was effectively over by the time I was awake and showered.