Saturday, January 25, 2003

Retiring the Tag Line
This phrase -- there is a certain amount of notoriety that goes along with getting shot by your dog -- was a quote from a story last fall about a guy on a hunting trip whose dog inadvertently shot him by stepping on a rifle that lay on the ground.

Now here's a guy whose dog shot him but who deserved everything he got. May he rot. And rather than be associated with that guy, I'll take down the tag line.
Mail call
Noticed a letter just now, addressed to me, from a most intriguing return address. Suddenly Silent All These Years is stuck in my head. Well, silent all these months. Don't want to give you the wrong impression. More, perhaps, once I open it.

UPDATE: Eh. It said about what you'd think it would say. Sorry it's been so long and so on.
Outrages of the day, international and domestic
International: U.N. inspectors send dissident to near-certain death. The hell with them. Time for war now. The non-Saddam portion of Iraq will be deeply grateful by a couple months later. (Many eastern European countries are so happy to be no-longer-Communist that they're actually our best potential wartime allies behind Australia & Britain. They recognize murderous tyranny when they see it.)

Domestic: These guys did the right thing and get no credit. Meanwhile, they seem to be evidence that Charlton Heston was right about what would have stopped Columbine.
One of the best things about PuTTY...
...the SSH program, that is (for non-geeky people reading this, it's a program that lets you log on securely to some Internet domain, in particular a Unix box).

Since it color-codes things so conveniently, I'm now even more secure in the claim that (flamebait?) vi is significantly better than emacs (but that flamewar was run into the ground many many years ago), as Unix text editors go. Your mileage may vary of course. And on Windows-based systems it's difficult to beat UltraEdit or even something as simple as NotePad.

(MS Word is decent if you care deeply about the look and feel of your output. Since my writing is primarily on-line I usually don't. Contrary to, say, Laurence Simon -- he has an advice guide somewhere -- I type all my blog posts directly in the browser window. That explains most of the typography. I do write trivia questions in MS Word, set to 10-point Courier New with six-inch margins to emulate, vaguely, the Unix environment where I first gained an intuitive sense of question length. If you have about 75 characters per line then you want your tossups to end no later than the sixth line, especially for timed play.)
Couple of related aural thoughts
I now know that Craig and I sharply disagree about Third Eye Blind, among other bands.

Apparently one of my purposes in life is to mock both his taste in music and Chad's taste in music without mercy. Apparently one of the purposes in life of Chad's taste in music is to make Craig's taste in music not seem so bad. Either that or the other way around.

Now if you'll excuse me I have a White Stripes song stuck in my head.

Friday, January 24, 2003

As soon as I mail this generic application and deposit check
I'll have two months' use (first and last rent) of this particular house already paid for. In a way that's earth-shattering to think about. I suppose by March 31 I'd need to come up with some more scratch.

From overheard conversations from last night, Chris clearly has more money saved up than I do. (He told Scott his approximate account balance.) Or rather, he's more liquid than I am: By personality I suspect I invested a fair bit more than he did. Funny that he was the one worried about committing to a full year somewhere. It's possible I'm in denial about just how much water I'm about to tread.

Then again I remember barely making ends meet in 1999 of all years, back when everyone else had noticed this little Internet boom thingy and gone to make theirs, all while I stayed up all night and took home a pittance for the greater good of correct baseball statistics and pithy recaps. Yeah, sure I was pursuing a dream. Nonetheless, in hindsight it's just galling, both for the money I missed out on and the additional several months' experience to put on a resume.
We've established (on comments widgets elsewhere) that I don't watch American Idol. Instead I must ask: What on Earth was up with last night's Will & Grace? I didn't watch it but roommates did and the little ballad number near the end of the show caught my attention all the way from the master bedroom, and not in a good way either.

Nothing in the plot of the show could have possibly justified such an assault on the ears. I suspect that the surrounding plot is even worse than I make it out to be, since it looked as though the title characters were about to have a Moment together.

(Have I ever told you the "But Corey!" story? It involves people none of you know unless you were in the Harvard Band -- in which case say hi or something so that I start thinking of you as part of the known audience instead of not knowing about you. In any case, in the ten seconds of the show that I watched I got to paraphrase the punch line of that story -- "But Will! You're gay!" Unfortunately my roommates had no way of getting the reference, nor did I take time out to explain it to them.)

No good ever comes out of a show's attempt to advance its Ueberplot by having earth-shattering things happen to its main characters. Frazier? Great early on but I stopped watching long before Niles and Daphne went from sexual tension for comic relief to actually together. Most Cheers episodes are well worth watching in syndication but anything with Sam and Rebecca or Frazier and Diane or a love triangle involving any three of the four usualy isn't.

Notice how nothing earth-shattering happens to Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, or Maggie Simpson. Sure, minor characters have life-changing experiences: Apu with the octuplets, or Skinner-and-Krabapple getting it on. But there are no real running plot lines with Our Favorite Family. (The closest I can think of is how a casual fan would think of Bart as the stereotypical rowdy boy, when in fact his foppish qualities are extremely underrated. I love it when he sings showtunes with Sideshow Bob or anything else similarly fancy.)
What would come in handy:

1. A dictation-to-Blogger interface.
1a. A dictation-to-Yahoo! Mail interface.

2. In-car wireless connection. (My cellphone might be enough there, if its operating system supported the dictation interface.)

I drive a lot, probably much more than had occurred to you, even before moving to Concord. (Oddly enough it seems to make the new location less of a marginal inconvenience than you'd think, given that my destinations are all over the Bay Area.) A lot of this is by choice/pleasure; still, think how much more productive I'd be.
Got a call from an old co-worker today
Thanks to my saving his phone number, when he called my cell I saw the Fain in the caller ID.

He might move to Santa Monica to work for the company that bought my old company's intellectual property. He's somewhat interested, should that happen, in keeping the door open for me or Chris or whoever to work there or at least do knowledge transfer. I'm not optimistic about that working out for various reasons:

1. I'm not keen on moving to L.A., though I'd happily visit there often.

2. When Chris and I did the preliminary knowledge transfer (for which, as far as I can tell, we were never paid nor expected to be paid, beyond the free pizza), I think we came off as buffoons. Chris, it turns out, was violently ill all weekend. (It's unclear what the cause-and-effect was there.) I may have been sick too and not realized it. I do know I came to that meeting in an extremely foul mood and despite my best efforts to be polite it probably affected my demeanor. I was, to put it bluntly, way too preoccupied with my I despise meetings mode and wondering about payment to actually make a good impression that would have been useful in the long run.

3. The part of the technology that they're most interested in -- the map room and such -- is the part I did the least amount of work with. Therefore, even having the product team lead(s) swear by me and clamor for me might not do much good in getting a VP of Engineering to look favorably on me.

Ah, the plight of a blunt, occasionally curmudgeonly, unemployed geek.

Some interesting impressions lately on the fields of work that may or may not be right for me in the medium-to-long term:
The Greg Maddux arbitration brief contest should have been right up my alley. It's baseball and legal analysis. I'm astonishingly unenthused by it. I can't even explain why it hasn't moved me the way you'd think it would.

Despite that, law without baseball, as comes up in many posts here, has made for fascinating reading.

Computer geekery is hit-or-miss: I've reacted negatively (more to the point, conspicuously non-positively) to nearly every tech job posting I've seen lately. On the other hand, getting back into behind-the-scenes NAQT development has been quite appealing. On the third hand, I do really obtuse things that drive home the fact that programming still isn't anywhere near second-nature to me.

(Well, the programming part is fine. It's just the random sysadmin stuff that throws me for a loop. I did successfully download PuTTY -- best free SSH program ever -- but that's really not saying much.)
My favorite weblog run by a law professor
Granting that InstaPundit is a fine news source, I've become quite partial to The Volokh Conspiracy.

Eugene Volokh is a fine writer, with a gentle wit and a good conscience.

(In the last link he's working to correct the record on an apparent Cynthia McKinney misquote. Don't know if M.S. is still out there reading but from his and my past conversations about "gotcha!" stories that turned out to be fake, he'd appreciate it.)

He's also very generous in his guest-authorship policies, which leads to even more insightful legal analysis.
Cutting through the fog
I used to love David Nieporent's writing when he posted regularly to or Baseball Primer.

As a current events blogger if anything he's even better.
If I could do all my baseball simulation hobbying over again...
...first several things I'd do different would be in simbase. Of those, #1 on the list would be to draft/name/create fewer humans player and more miscellaneous mammals. My favorite players by far have turned out to be the beasts of burden:

(Note to anyone who's never followed a simbase link before: Games are far higher-scoring than in Major League Baseball. In the current season, actually the most pitcher-friendly of the past several, the league is hitting .266/.355/.466 and pitching to a 5.19 ERA. Also, player ages are out of whack: A typical rookie is 20, while retirement typically happens after age 29; the youngest and oldest possible players are 18 and 31.)

Babe the Blue Ox has a fabulous career ahead of him. I only even drafted him (actually traded to get the pick where I took him) to give the team a complement to Paul Bunyan. (A name like Bunyan has to go to a pure power hitter. I didn't expect to get such a thing in the y17 draft but the picks before mine went strangely. Oddly enough Bunyan has disappointed so far, especially compared to the player I would have drafted had Bunyan not slipped to me -- the eventual Michael J. Fox.

I love the Ox but he might not even be my favorite of my own players. Tough call between him and Wishbone (one of the horses from the Rawhide TV series). I want Wishbone to succeed because his "college stats" were so poorly regarded.

Then there's Shiva, my all-time favorite of the really really good simbase players. True, he's not an animal, he's merely the Destroyer God. Can't go wrong with a .469 career on-base percentage. Check out his record-setting y13, when he missed big chunks of the season to injury but still barely got enough plate appearances to make his record-setting rate stats (.456 average and .588 OBP) official.

Now that I think of it, from the statistical record I imagine the best comparison to the simbase skill level (and especially the variance in player performance) is some college baseball conference.
Question for anyone who reads Baseball Primer
What's up with the Paul Kilgus guy? Was there some thread I missed?

(If you know baseball but don't know Primer, some guy keeps posting as Paul Kilgus. Not actually trying to be confused with him, that I know of, but just trying to run a meme into the ground. It's actually worse than the worn-out homophobic Mike Piazza jokes.
"Don't try anything funny"
Albanian comedian tells jokes to avert highway robbery.

(via Amish Tech Support)
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!
("I see linebackers blitz...")

A quote from The Guardian, via OpinionJournal's Best of the Web:
Every major national sporting event is in some sense a reflection of the country's character, but there is nothing quite so in-your-face about it as the Super Bowl, the apogee of Americanism. Part of this is very obvious indeed: there is the obsession with both violence and money, and the exploitative eroticism represented by the cheerleaders.

This by one Matthew Engel, the same Matthew Engel who once decided to get a sense of U.S. foreign policy by going to an Olive Garden in Alabama. This column gave rise to the best rebuttal I've ever seen.
"History" versus "Social Studies"
Not sure where you come down on this debate but my position is pretty clear: Go with the real content over the window dressing.

I'm ashamed to admit that my junior high -- rather, my middle school -- had not only "Social Studies" as a substitute for History but also "Communication Skills" as a substitute for English. Comm. Skills was easily the most useless class I ever had.
Marv Levy, right or wrong
Old age hasn't treated the former Bills' head coach well; I've found his columns mostly incoherent. All the same he makes two points here that more people need to make:

1. Bill Callahan (Oakland Raiders coach) is deeply underrated.

2. Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay running back) is not a fullback. Or, as Levy puts it, Alstott can run the tough yards like a fullback, but he's not a fullback. Specifically, he can neither catch nor block. The Raiders have a short-yardage guy who can "run the tough yards" -- Zach Crockett (in any given season compare his # of touchdowns to his rushes and yards) -- but nobody calls him a fullback. They call Jon Ritchie a fullback because he does catch and block.
Three Very Simple Commands
tomcat4 start
tomcat4 stop

All pretty trivial syntax (at least the first two are), except earlier this evening when I kept trying to mangle the first two with dots and/or slashes. That's when you know you've gone too long between geeking.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Super Bowl
Somebody local either invite me to your Super Bowl festivities or convince me to host some.
"The One Where Ross Was Caught Selling Dope"
Most patently wrongheaded comment I've seen on IMDB in awhile: According to someone, "25th Hour is a version of 'Friends' as 'Friends' could hardly understand [sic]."
Does this mean Mike Shanahan finally got the quarter-million he was owed?
Biggest bullshit sentence I've seen on the ESPN front page in quite awhile:
"[Al Davis] may be one of those guys you love to hate, but the man in black treats his people right."

Yeah, sure, he treats his people right. Like Shanahan. Or the city of Oakland. He's a rat bastard, always was, and always will be. Seeing sentences like that makes it a lot harder to root for the Raiders this weekend, which I still can't believe I'll be doing. Also, so help me, I am never again giving that franchise my money as long as that man is in charge and still successfully snow-jobbing anyone in the media.

(Earlier this week I meant to rant on the false parallel in one of ESPN's caricature cartoons, where they showed the Super Bowl as Davis vs. Gruden. Is Bill Callahann still just chopped liver? For his sake I hope the NFL's most underrated coach gets a ring, though his part in coming up with the game plan will probably still be underappreciated. The Davis-Gruden comparison also slights the Glazer Brothers, who instead of being evil owners are just mostly incompetent.)
Why We Know Iraq is Lying
A must-read article here, making the sort of point that seems obvious once you see it but that hadn't occurred to me until now.

Also, meaning no disrespect to Dick Cheney, I must say this here is my real vice president.
I just found out -- through e-mail of all venues -- that Ivan Rodriguez is a now a Marlin. Too lazy to find a link but I bet it's on ESPN.

As much as I like Pudge, I'm apoplectic about this signing. It's arguably one of the worst jobs a team has ever done at assessing its own internal options. Florida already had not one but TWO catchers who arguably deserved everyday starting jobs. I guess now Mike Redmond has been typecast as a backup catcher (I think he's good enough to start; maybe he's just a rich man's Gregg Zaun) but for heaven's sake, there are very few young Triple-A catchers as good as Ramon Castro, especially now that Ben Petrick is a converted outfielder.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Easily the most poorly-run franchise in baseball, excluding the collusionary joke that is the Expos' current "ownership." I will not argue about this, not even with Royals fans or Tigers fans. The Marlins are just blindingly stupid.
More on how I first met Sammy
(much of this repeats stuff from an entry many posts below here)

When I came to the door he growled at me in a way no other animal has growled at me. One of my random points of pride is that furry mammals almost always like me. My new roommates (I believe it's Lena and Yolanda, and before long I'll know exactly which is which) were very apologetic about Sammy's behavior. It might have helped my cause that I told them not to be sorry, that Sammy almost certainly knew what he was doing, and that if anything they (or I) should wonder what bad things he saw in me that other animals hadn't seen.

(In hindsight, it's probably just that I was 90 minutes removed from a three-cat household.)

Before long, partly following the lead of his masters ("mistresses"?), he decided he'd give me a fair shot. He let me pet him for a long time while he was preoccupied with his bone-shaped chewtoy.

Meanwhile, there's an ad hoc realtor visit (one broker, one potential buyer) coming up in 45 minutes. I understand completely why this happens and why it must happen but I still deeply resent it. Even if our landlady gave us month-to-month at absurdly favorable terms, there's no way we could convince her not to sell, especially since the top floor will sit empty from February 1 onward no matter what we did. (I guess if we agreed to month-to-month, our landlady could solicit short-term tenants for the top floor; in this market all I could think to say is good luck.) As long as the place is unsold, I see no reason for realtor visits not to be a regular thing; but then once the place is sold, I see no reason for the new owner to let stand any sweetheart deal our landlady gave us.

Having typed that last paragraph, I'm now far more secure that moving to Concord is right than I'd been at any point since when I made the phone call to accept the offer.
Fog vs. Dog
It's incredibly foggy in these parts today, both in the Sunset and the Richmond. You know it's foggy when you can't see Ocean Beach (much less the ocean itself) from Great Highway, nor the traffic lights until you're within 100 feet of them. Fog should be an example of one of those bad things that turn into good things, in that other people hate it but I don't. I don't mind the fog here, nor the temperature being consistently 15 degrees cooler here than ten miles east of here. On the other hand, moving to a sunnier, balmier place is probably good for the soul.

I saw a woman cross Lincoln with a big dog on a leash. Doggy! There are at least two people who read this blog who like dogs much more than I do but Sammy is still a selling point for the new place. Truth be told, I'm a cat person who sometimes also claims to be a dog person even though nobody is really both. Still, I do like dogs, at least if they're not the tiny yippy ones. Sammy is almost certainly a chocolate lab (hat tip to Coen -- he definitely has a lab-type personality, though the only labs I'd been in contact with until meeting Sammy were black labs), big enough to be the kind I like but not so big that having him inside seems wrong.

(I looked at -- and for many reasons rejected -- a place where not one but two German shepherds roamed through the house: There just wasn't enough space there to get away with a two-dog household.)

The best way to guarantee I'll get a job offer soon is if, once I move there, I start walking Sammy during the day and he and I both get used to the routine. Then, only then, would fate offer me office work again, just to screw me out of quality time with the new dog.
Another time-delay mini-thought
Going back to Tuesday afternoon: The Discovery Channel store at Stonestown Galleria does not have dice. It does, however, have "The World's Smallest Personal Massager." Hmm, personal massager. At least it wasn't a Harry Potter broom.

Also at the Galleria: A new storefront whose title is Day-By-Day Calendar. The entire inventory consists of calendars. (I double-checked my watch to confirm it was already mid-January.) All currently sell for $3. I imagine in two weeks that same storefront will be a Valentine emporium.
Dear "Life In These United States"
(True story: Wasn't worth blogging until the Reader's Digest angle came up.)

My friends and I gathered for poker the other night. Because there were so many of us, we needed to bring a temporary table to the gathering. Late at night we put the two tables together. On one hand, nobody at the temporary table had good cards. After nobody at that table called the initial bet, my friend Paul quipped, "Well, it is the folding table."
"Despite our best efforts, we are still experiencing shortages of marijuana."
It's one thing for a San Francisco DJ to mock Reagan, quite another for his listeners to turn out to be such idiots. Let's see... it's a Guess-the-Year puzzle, with references to Beverly Hills Cop, some mass-shooting at a McDonalds, and Reagan seeming disoriented in a presidential debate. Multiple choice puzzle: 1984, 1985, or 1986?

Gee, which one of those was an election year?

"Uh, 1985?"

No shortages of marijuana here.
My technically-correct haiku
Every week or so, Craig uses haiku for the comments on his 192-song tournament. Those haiku have the same problem as the Tuesday Morning Quarterback haiku: A pedant will point out just how improper most of them are. Quoting from Paul... actually there's no good excerpt, just go read his rant.

In any case, the points he makes (first, that haiku should feature a seasonal word; second, that so many people sacrifice any sense of artistry when they cram their words into 5-7-5; I'd add a third part, that the last line should contain some sort of surprising or witty twist, though that's not something Paul mentioned) make me especially proud of the haiku I sent to Craig on Tuesday. Due to a copy-and-paste mishap, I didn't actually save all four for posterity, but the one Craig chose to publish is easily the best of the four:

(Background: For Folk Implosion's "Natural One," Craig asked: Do you remember / That '95 movie Kids? / Good! Neither do I? As someone who did remember the movie...)

Summer in New York
Telly takes some maidenheads
Tests reveal disease

Now just watch my memory be wrong and the movie actually be set in mid-winter or something.
Rocking the Suburbs
My biggest accomplishment from the afternoon was driving from this place to my new place and then back to Berkeley.

Left here around 3:00. From there to the cul-de-sac where the new place is (didn't even stop the car, it was just a drive, not a visit) was an hour and twenty minutes, more than half of which was just getting onto the Bay Bridge. (Rain may have been a factor even though it was just a drizzle.)

Tooled around Concord for almost half an hour. Ate a late-afternoon meal at Subway -- when life gives you strip malls, make footlong BMT's. (Is it still a strip mall if it's two-dimensional rather than one? Albertson's was the anchor tenant, which means I finally have a place to redeem those free 2-liter coupons from when A's pitchers strike out least eight batters.)

At the height of the 5:00 rush, in the rain, it's still just 35 minutes from that strip mall to Mike/Paul/David's place in Berkeley. Actually half an hour to a stoplight on MLK that I know from plenty of experience to be five minutes away. I turned at that light and detoured over to Emeryville for some pinball.

Granted, that portion was in the reverse-commute direction. Nonetheless I had delays just before the Caldecott Tunnel (four lanes merge into two) and going from 24 to 580 when I overshot my exit.

Rush hour puzzler: As of 5:00, it looks as though there's a major backup going eastbound through the Caldecott Tunnel, even though no lanes are actually merging. The only conceivable reason even for lane changes is if idiots took the middle tunnel despite having to exit for Orinda soon. Or maybe does the 24-to-680 split really result in that many miles worth of backup? Exactly one member of the known audience has dealt with this sort of commute, Walnut Creek being almost as far as Concord. A little help here?

Pinball: On six plays for $2.00, won two free games, though both required greed (i.e. spending a credit for an extra ball) to pass the 182-million mark. So I came out ahead two balls. Also I'll point out -- protest? -- that this machine is currently brutal. For example, instead of the rocket (from a Red/Orange/Yellow "skill shot" on the initial launch) consistingly giving you a Hitchhiker, about half the time the ball misfires, hits a bumper, and then (let's say a third of those times) just drains. Not fair, also not good for return business.

On the plus side, San Francisco (my new favorite NFL Blitz 2000 team: sorry, I just can't buy Bubby Brister as my bigshot QB) beat Philadelphia, 28-27, with Jerry Rice scoring the go-ahead TD as time expired. Final drive: two plays, 65 yards, 12 seconds. I'm actually less proud of the TD pass than of Rice jumping out of bounds with the clock still at 0:01.

Bottom line, getting back to my thoughts on the new place: I again feel much better about the idea that I'm getting a uniquely good deal. I spotted at least two things that would depress the value of this house to people who aren't me:
1. The backyard looks tiny. Given where the house lies on the cul-de-sac and how close Pear Street (the parallel street a block away) runs past it, this must be by far the smallest back yard of any house on the cul-de-sac. Not good if you have kids.

2. The house is a particular shade of green that almost singlehandedly illustrates everything that was wrong with the 1970s. It's, in my opinion, memorably ugly. Objectively, that is. The hideous hue has actually grown on me, the way you'd come to dote on your very special child if it turned out he had to ride the short bus every day. Next time I'm by there I'll bring my digital camera.
$19.30 down the drain...
...or 386 poker chips, depending on which metric you prefer. I like to just think of them as chips, since in theory the conversion rate shouldn't affect your strategy.

Tonight I played like crap and generally failed to have luck on my side. It's now clear to me who the biggest marks are (other than myself) from the Berkeley math folk; tonight we split into two tables but none of my best sources of winnings were at my table.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Midday radio hosts who personify California
Hilary (no individual pages for on-air talent? what a spartan website!) has one of the best archetypical California accent I've ever heard. It's not obvious that a "California accent" even exists until you hear someone like her.

Also in that timeslot, Ally (when did disk jockeys start going by one name?) sounds very Californian but dry, laid-back (cynical?) instead of perky.
Morning shock jocks and word-of-mouth marketing
Someone just called the all-request lunch hour gushing about how she was a new listener who had come over because of the morning team, wondering whether this station (or the morning guys themselves) still had any connection to the station they'd previously been at. Um, well, no. The DJ asked her to tell all her friends about The Bone.

As morning shock jocks go, these guys aren't terrible. They still do the crank-call thing and the show off your breasts once a week thing that they stole from elsewhere (now they call it Ta Ta Tuesday) but their worst offense is not actually playing music. And really, in the mornings, who does play music?

I was all set to start listening to more of their old station (whose signal I can't get from my room even though it's loud and clear in my car) but then that station had to go hire this guy. Months ago he'd been fired over some tasteless joke -- completely forget what it was except that it made it all the way to Obscure Store. It's not that he's offensive, rather that he's actually not funny.

Not that I'm ever awake for radio morning shows (when I've had full-time work, it's been a small victory to be in the car in time to catch the Rush's opening segment) but if I am, I like chatty and (unaffectedly) funny, a little over the edge but not the formulaic over-the-top stuff. The Bone's morning show used to be good for this; now I wonder where some of the crew went.

Oh, on the opposite extreme from the shock jocks, here's an example of the kind of program that's way too cheesy and too mainstream for me (too much celebrity gossip and so on). (For you Bostonians, it's probably comparable to these guys.) That kind of morning team always reminds me of being in the orthodontist office waiting room (or worse yet, in the chair), since there was a radio station that I heard at that office and only at that office.

Combining what I like in radio music to what I tolerate in a morning show, we might be down to one show I can listen to. Well, maybe two, subject to slight reception problems even in my car.
A letter from a farmer, now at Parris Island
(The only worthwhile e-mail forward I got today but this one made reading them all worthwhile.)

Dear Ma & Pa;

Am well. Hope you are. Tell brother Walt & Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt & Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, they git warm water.

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc..., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt & Elmer you can always sit between two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

We go on "route" marches, which the Platoon Seargent says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat.

The Seargent is like a schoolteacher. He nags some. The Capt. is like the school board. Majors & Colonels just ride around & frown. They don't bother you none. This next will kill Walt & Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk and don't move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Be sure to tell Walt & Elmer to hurry & join before other fellers get into this setup & come stampeding in.

Your loving son, Jed

P.S. Speaking of shooting, enclosed is $200 towards a new barn, roof and & ma's teeth. The city boys shoot craps, but not very good.
Two great James Lileks quotes from two completely different venues
The second one especially appeals to me since my last employer had a store-management tool, a couple of whose features relied heavily on data keyed by purchaser ZIP code.

On the world view of Cold War opponents, circa 1980s:
If we all agreed to have 27,293 missiles apiece, and we swapped ballet companies once a year, everything would be fine. For us, anyway. For those living on the other side of the wall, well, they had our warmest personal regards and best wishes. We had our system; they had theirs. Which is like saying we fed our dogs, and they beat them and put them in kennels, but since we both have dogs we must celebrate our common bond.
--from The Bleat

On his nefarious plan to defeat retail data miners:
If we all give the Epping[, North Dakota] ZIP code to the stores that ask for our demographic info, the companies will conclude that there are not only thousands of people in Epping, but that they all drive elsewhere to shop. You, there, reading this column in Atlanta: 58843! Our Canadian friends: 58843! When this ZIP code starts showing up all over the country, retailers will conclude that Epping is ripe for a store, and they'll all build an outlet in the great beyond that is Outer North Dakota. Yes, I will show up and cut the ribbon on opening day.
--from Backfence (his Star-Tribune column)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

IMPORTANT: Second Thoughts
UPDATE: (Please comment anyway!) Scott and Chris were just having the conversation in the living room about what to do about our landlady and her "what would it take?" question. They mentioned a big drawback to the current setup: The landlady's attempt to sell the place means that whoever buys it could just say, "You need to leave at the end of the month." Meanwhile, Scott has argued convincingly the Concord place is still by far the correct place for me to live. He gave me this advice as a friend rather than as a potential (non)roommate. I still don't have a read on whether he'd miss me or just as soon be rid of me. It's easy for Scott to be rational about this since my moving just forces him to do something he probably should do anyway. It's a wash for him; the person who it kills is Chris, who I think would strongly prefer that Scott and I stay here after all but who is taking it all pretty stoically. If he moves to Minnesota -- or wherever -- I think I'll miss him dearly, almost to the point of crying at night. Also, if he moves anywhere other than Japan, I'll be deeply disappointed in him for not going over there, experience first-hand the culture he loves, while he still has a chance (young, not burdened by job commitments...).

Also, Allyson reassured me by phone that I seem to be doing the right thing. And, of course, both Scott and Allyson place an extremely high importance -- correctly in my opinion -- on the fact that I gave my new roommates' my word. Since it's month to month, I could back out of it if it turned out to suck, but doing so now would just be sleazy.

As much as I hate those coaches who accept one position and then back out of it at the last minute, I'm suddenly in a position of extremely nagging doubt. More to the point, I expected to feel an extreme burden lifted today, and yet the burden is still there with a vengeance. Feel free to offer advice here any time in the next 24 hours.

As you know I called my likely future roommates last night to accept an offer of $487.50, month-to-month, at the place in Concord. Things that have led me to doubt, in no particular order:

0. Staying in the SiliPalace through, say, March would cost $X (the rent I have to pay here no matter what) plus let's say $1,000. Maybe $1,050. Moving would cost $X + ($487.50 * 2) + moving expenses. It's possible that in February and/or March, Chris or I could get a job and/or Scott could change his mind about commuting.

1. When our landlady found out that we were almost certain to reject even the $3,000, month-to-month offer, she e-mailed Chris back to ask what it would take to make a deal. When Scott gets home tonight Chris plans to talk to Scott about whether it's still feasible, despite both Scott's desire to move to the East Bay and my departure leaving not one but two open rooms.

2. Meanwhile, Chris is currently in the act of applying to places in Minnesota. He said that I absolutely shouldn't factor him and Scott into my decision if I've found a great place, which in general I have. And yet... I don't think he did this on purpose but it's excellent reverse psychology. I wouldn't call it guilt so much as loyalty.

3. And yet, is the place I've found uniquely great? For example, there are some guys who have a house in Cupertino with a $650 room, guys whose hobbies include strategy games. They'd wanted me to see their house on Saturday but I was all booked up for the day. Then they didn't respond to my e-mail until today, asking if I wanted to see their place some weeknight this week. I wrote back to say I was spoken for -- the point isn't that the Cupertino place is a unique missed opportunity so much as that perhaps the Concord place isn't so unique after all.

4. New things I've found to second-guess specifically about the new place:
A. The woman in the master bedroom's boyfriend smokes, albeit outside only. Nonetheless he does smoke and he... for all I know he might unofficially live there rather than just staying over a couple nights a week.

B. Do I really want to live with a dog rather than a cat? I think either of them is still better than neither of them. Re Mark's comment several posts below, I'm not entirely sure what breed this dog is: He looks like an Irish setter only smaller and brown instead of red.

Bottom line, I've given my word on the phone (albeit not actually signed anything yet -- the landlady wants me to fill out an application, supposedly a formality, which they'll mail to me; I'm to return the application by mail along with the first/last/deposit check). Is it too late to back out, and if not, what should I consider that I haven't thought of?
Degenerate Poker Hand of the Day
(Sometimes in idle moments if a deck of cards is handy then I'll deal out seven spots and take on a temporary seven-way split personality.)

In a "follow the queens" where no queens actually came up (neither face up, nor face down) -- so effectively straight non-wild 7-card stud -- an aces-over-sixes full house (last down card was an ace) lost to four nines, with the third and fourth nine coming on the sixth and seventh cards. (Player stayed in for an outside straight.)

UPDATE: Two consecutive hi-lo five card stud games "scooped," the first with a pair of aces (beats any other pair both ways), the second with a flush.
Speaking of stuff found in the WSJ...
Am I the only self-described conservative who has a pathological hatred for a certain kind of David Brooks column?

(Note: Requires registration and not even Bud Selig seems to have you covered. But you can read it if you know my first name and last name and remember that Silicon Age used a hypen in its web domain name.)

If you don't get through the registration page or are too lazy to follow the link, he basically accuses SUV haters of being geeks to SUV drivers' jocks. Were it not for lame yuppified stereotypes he'd never be able to generate a column.
Should I start an African-American version of this weblog?
The New Jersey teachers' union has an "African-American version" of its guide for parents. That version is terser -- and uses smaller words -- than the regular version.

I think I agree with Opinion Journal (eleventh item) about this: The "African-American version" is actually much-better written, though the distinction itself is still really troubling.
Military Demographics
The U.S. casualties from a war in Iraq would be disproportionately... white?!?

According to USA Today, white military recruits are more likely than black military recruits to be in front-line combat positions. More specifically, poor, rural whites are on the front lines. You could make a case that the real skewing problem is with income level rather than race, but I'd still rebut that these people all volunteered to be where they are and God bless 'em for it.

The funny thing about the myth of disproportionately black combat deaths is that the army was segregated until just after World War II. It's not quite true irony but it might qualify as Alanis irony. Hmm, imagine a counterfactual...

Suppose the U.S. military finally junks that stupid "don't ask, don't tell" compromise and starts to admit openly gay soldiers. Suppose over the course of two or three generations, the military becomes even more popular a place for formerly closeted gay men than (rumor has it) the Catholic priesthood is now. It's not even that implausible, for rural gays especially, to go from a place where everyone hates them for who they are (and nobody is remotely sexy) to a place where most people accept them for who they are (and many of them are not only also gay but also quite sexy).

Anyway, suppose this social transformation happened over some decades of relative peace (a little bit like 1975-2001 only without the Cold War) and then we were on the brink of war yet again. Would we hear gay activists assailing het political leaders for allegedly sending gay kids off to die? I imagine most of the people who have been agitating for gays to serve openly would still be alive and well; perhaps their heads would spin.

(Disclaimer: I have no real point here. If you think you've inferred one, you're probably wrong, but feel free to share it since it probably means you did a better job carrying through this hypo than I did.)
My new acquisition for today: A set of fantasy-gaming dice. (You know the kind: 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 2d10 (effectively 1d100 since one of them gives numbers in multiples of 10), 1d12, 1d20.) I've played Dungeons & Dragons N times in the last year-and-a-half, always bumming dice off of someone else for attack rolls and saving throws.

Just in time for the five or so sessions we'll get between now and when our DM has to move back to the East Coast to follow his adviser from Stanford to MIT. At that point, despite having banished myself to Concord, I really ought to (re)join Rob's campaign. It was boring the one time I went three years ago but that was just because I was still adjusting to living here and had other things on my mind.
When did Bil Keane get all snide?
Here's his second in a series of "Billy, age 7," ripping on other comic strips. Not sure what the fake-captioners will make of this.

Oddly enough the best fake Family Circus caption I've seen in awhile is clean:
Did somebody get the license plate of that Zamboni?

Zambonis are funny, as are colorizing mishaps.
"Daisy" becomes an Onion-style point-counterpoint
(I suppose only the second commenter is really Onion-worthy but he's the reason I've posted this.)

Have you seen the new anti-war ad? Salon got people together to comment on it.

First, it's good to see Sean Wilentz is just as morally bankrupt now as he was during the Clinton impeachment hearings. Everything he ever says reminds me of the Saturday Night Live Chris Matthews imitator who goads his guests to say ever-more-outrageously-stupid things. It's a winning formula if you want to still be a talking head. Does he actually teach anything? Is he worthy of the Princeton name? Who knows, who cares.

Then Augusten Burroughs with a must-read commentary. Even if you don't agree with him one bit, his take on the ad's production values is brilliantly acidic. "I believe it is the moral responsibility of the creatives who conceived of this commercial to kill themselves. And take the little girl with them."

On page 2, Neal Gabler... boring, even though he's right.

Vinny Warren thinks the original ad worked? In the long run, maybe, since we still remember it. (Imagine a group of 13- and 14-year-olds at a summer program, some of them precociously into politics, some of them aghast that Mike Dukakis is being done in by negative campaigning. Then, in the U.S. History since World War II class they're all there for, the "daisy" ad comes up in passing. Fifteen years later I still feel a little smug.)

His last paragraph adds more insight than really anything else said in the forum:
"It's like lighting a match and walking away. It seems more like a political ad directed at politicians. In 1964, you knew there was something you could do. You could vote for Johnson. Now -- what are we supposed to do?"

Apparently you're supposed to peace marches organized by Marxist radicals because nobody more respectable could be bothered with the logistics.

Monday, January 20, 2003

My political antipode
Rod Dreher, featured in the post just below, mentions in another Corner item: I have a few conservative friends who are passionately against the war.

By contrast, the effect of September 11 on weblogs was that I now know of a huge number of bloggers who identify as liberal but strongly support war against Saddam (and before that against the Taliban, and after that against whoever else harbors terror). Given what's going in the world, I think I identify much more with them.

So who, you ask, is my political antipode? Just running down my political positions one by one, we get something like this:
He's (it's probably still a 'he') a Rust Belt union worker, or maybe he just retired but he still centers his social life on Local ###. Spent all his life working for GM or GE or some big corporation that he's deeply resented all this time. Favors high taxes and soaking the rich to help working stiffs like him. Likes social security, wants current retirees to get a lot more out of it. Yellow-dog Democrat, loathes the Bushies and makes crude jokes about Ashcroft and so on. Very much in favor of affirmative action but deeply loathes homosexuals and anyone else who's a deviant. Thinks the drinking age should be about 30, wants a whole bunch of people thrown in jail, yet is devoutly pro-choice. (Maybe he knows some down-on-her-luck woman who needed one once.) Deathly opposed to globalization, wants all the U.S. troops to come home, starting to like Pat Buchanan more and more.
"the mainstreaming of dildo parties"
I have no idea exactly what this phrase is supposed to mean but I'm pretty sure I'm in favor of it.

Rod Dreher definitely isn't. I hadn't read National Review's The Corner in awhile but here he is being a quintessentially frumpy social conservative. He starts out with what's probably a reasonable point about teen sex but then goes off into... aw hell, I'll just cut and paste it:

Here's a bracing account of the latest thing in the sociology of high-school sex: "hooking up." Seems that the done thing now is to have lots of casual sex partners -- except it's not "sex" to these kids, because fellatio doesn't count. The sadness and degradation among these girls is incredibly depressing. The thing that caught my eye was the description of the sexually permissive and aggressive girl culture as "Ally McBeal sexuality." In other words, these girls want to explore and express their "right" to unfettered sex-on-demand, just like the TV character. What was I telling you just last week about Sex and the City, mass media, and the mainstreaming of dildo parties for middle-American women?

(emphasis added)

Damn. Apparently if you keep me away from my old-fashioned magazines too long I totally wander off the reservation, since I really can't back Dreher one bit here. Must be those silly Reason rebels corrupting my young mind.
Pending Address Change
If you have my current mailing address, it will be good only through the end of February.

From February 1 onward you can send my mail to... come to think of it I shouldn't put my address on the Internet but if you want it, e-mail me and I'll probably give it to you.

My new home phone number is TBA (and obviously not going onto this blog); the best way to reach me by phone is and will be my cell phone, number available on request.
Scott Ritter
(It probably bodes ill that my first instinct was to post here rather than to write a current events question based on the link...)

This story deserves to be roundly mocked. Special bonus to whoever comes up with the best off-color remark incorporating both the phrase so that she could watch him perform sexual acts on himself and the concept of "weapons inspection."
Mildly amusing radio
According to the DJ, the next four songs will be by Elvis C., Elvis P., Bruce S., and Bruce H. He didn't bother to give last names for any of these artists; last names not needed.
Four different people joined me in the "oncoming traffic" column
Adam Ant vs. Hootie and the Blowfish... not an especially popular matchup in Craig's 192-song modern rock tournament.
Two unrelated observations
"When you see ten problems rolling down the road, if you don't do anything, nine of them will roll into a ditch before they get to you."
--Calvin Coolidge

(Three guesses which of the four Google hits is the page where I first saw this quote.)

I had inadvertently made two 3 p.m. appointments today. But one of them called just now asking to reschedule it for earlier -- they don't conflict after all. Why I should still be looking at places when I've seen (and liked) the Concord one and have an extra month to live here is a little bit of a mystery. I'd actually meant to cancel all of my appointments today but succeeded only at cancelling most of them.

The unrelated observation: One of my roommates is reading George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords and leaving the book open at the kitchen table. From the random paragraphs I've read it seems to be chivalric pr0n. The word "wench" comes up a lot.
Fourth Consecutive At-Least-Indirectly-Political Post
Isn't it just charming of this guy (the letter-writer, not InstaPundit) to try to speak for my whole state? He bitches and moans about people's patriotism being questioned, but wait: Might there be a cause and effect? I don't see anyone questioning Nevada's patriotism, mainly because I don't see (m)any Nevadans doing arguably unpatriotic things.

Ever notice how the best places (by weather, by scenery, and so on) tend to get ruined by at least some element of the people who gravitate there? Banana-republic governments sprout up (this counts for anything from your Willie Brown machine to your old-school Caribbean junta), the services go to pot, the people who think of themselves as normal start to leave in a huff.

If I leave San Francisco proper, there's a lot I won't miss. I can't underestimate the effect of seeing, at that Concord place, not only the old United We Stand poster on a garage wall but also the fire department t-shirt.
Baseball Prospectus: Odd Juxtaposition
Okay, they want people to pay them $40. Fair enough, I'll consider it. But wait... $40 for this horse-manure? Pass.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

War, Peace, and Negotiation
An analogy here. (Warning: Politically charged, as is the post right below this one. Skip down two posts if you feel the need.)
I'll readily admit that this is entirely anecdotal but it fits completely both my personal experience and what I've heard nearly everywhere this has come up.

It's not even a matter of what happens when that many people gather in a close space. Rather, so help me, everything I've heard suggests that left-wing protests generate significantly more littering than, say, an outdoor concert with the same number of people. (Right-wing protests seem to generate far less of it but that's total conjecture based, again, entirely on anecdotes. A sociologist could have a field day comparing the leftovers of Saturday to the leftovers of the anti-Roe march coming up sometime this week.)
Great Moments in User Interface Design
Caught on the fly...
I'm deeply, deeply ashamed at just how much this sketch amuses me. For late-show SNL fodder it's drop-dead hilarious. I'm giggling, face all red, it's classic.

(And yes, I saw all of it coming a mile away.)
The Donnas
I'm so incredibly conflicted now.

That was one of the weakest live performances I've ever seen. The vocals were thin and badly mixed. This is glaring given that it's the band's one hit to date and also exactly the sort of raw-energy song that I would have thought would be better live than canned.

Having said that... this probably tells you way more than you need to know about my degenerate tastes in celebrity women but that was, bar none, the musical-performance eye candy I've seen in my life. The lead singer is to die for, as is (to a lesser extent) the gal in the plaid skirt. Allow me to swoon.

Nobody doing music in the 1990s was that hot. (Sorry, Nina and Louise, I really did like you for your music.) Even in the go-go '80s... I never did find Joan Jett sexy. Lita Ford maybe... maybe... in that scantily dressed video, and yet leopard-skin is deeply overrated.

I can't decide whether this makes me more eager or less eager to see The Donnas live in person.
Saturday Night Live update
Forty minutes into the show and still neither Weekend Update nor The Donnas? What gives?

(Yes, today I watched mainly for the musical guest.)

Intro sketch: Excellent as I mention below.
Monologue: Lame. I missed who this guy is.
Regis: Not being a Regis watcher I missed too much inside stuff but I bet to other people this was hilarious.
Barney sketch: Not too bad. Grew on me.
The Falconer: Unspeakably bad.
"Straight Talk": Eh.
Hannibal: Went from suck to "oh my." Still, eh.

Overall verdict to this point: Rachel Dratch is a goddess but the show's still not back.