Blog Bursts from the ArticulateBabble
Just Some Blog Posts from 2002
CHESTNUTS ROASTING OVER AN OPEN FIRE
December 31, 2002
The holidays were pretty good to me this year. Got to spend some time with my family, and get some time off of work. Friends conspiring to make me go out has forced my sleep schedule to be completely off, and thus some errands I wanted to run (such as taking my car into the shop) have not yet been run. Oh well.
It’s been nice to have some time off of work. I haven’t even been programming in my spare time, which is a bad habit of mine when I get time off.
I have been playing a lot of guitar. I go through moods. Sometimes I hardly pick it up except for band practices, but recently I’ve been playing every day quite a bit. Came up with a couple song ideas, one of which may be good enough to make the cut of introducing to the rest of the band. We’ll see.
Bowling should start up in a couple weeks. I’ve never been much of a bowler but have to admit I had fun in the league last year, even if I do suck at bowling.
You’ll also notice I finally got around to adding search capabilities to the site - it’s not very fancy but seems to work decently.
November 30, 2002
Vegas update - coming live from my hotel room in Caesar’s Palace.
The last time I was in Vegas was a while ago, so things have changed from what I remember. The layout of the Strip is much more like a theme park than it used to be, pedestrian traffic is routed in such a way as to maximize the amount of money you spend. Everything in Vegas was always about finding new and interesting ways of taking your money, but now it seems like they’ve put some social engineers in charge of the layout or something, because its just that much more effective.
Yesterday, I was up for twenty four hours straight. The flight was uneventful, first class was nice (my first time), but I would definately never go for first class if I had to pay for it. There’s more leg room, the movies and booze are free, and you get cheesecake. That’s about it.
So we arrived in Vegas at around 3 PM, checked into the hotel while still at the airport, and proceeded to gamble pretty much immediately after arriving. My first Craps experience was bad. I lost $100 in 10 minutes.
Actually, for about the first 16 hours or so the tables were not kind. Two recent trends in Vegas blackjack have me at a disadvantage - 1) continuous shuffle machines and 2) single-deck blackjack where blackjack only pays 6-5. They are everywhere. Trying to find a “normal” 6-8 deck blackjack table where dealers stand on all 17s is very difficult.
Anyway, things picked up during the late night gambling session at around 2 AM. The Paris craps table was very generous.
Much more to tell, too little time to tell it. Some short takes: 1) not remembering to bring comfortable walking shoes was a big mistake, 2) the cocktail waitress’ outfits at Mandalay Bay are outrageous, but not in a bad way, and 3) while I can play Craps and win, I still don’t understand a damn thing that’s going on in that game.
I’ve also finally figured out what the attraction of slots are - when you’ve had a bad run at the tables, its nice to play something cheap!
WAS THERE A FULL MOON FRIDAY?
August 19, 2002
One other thing I forgot to mention about friday night:
Steve had hailed a cab to get to my place, where me and ben were already holding the fort. He held the cab outside and called, and we came out to get in the cab and head for the first destination of the night.
I trailed a little behind because I was having difficulty locking my door (and I hadn’t even had a drink yet — I’m just naturally uncoordinating methinks). When I got to the cab, I got in the back seat, and noticed that all three of us had piled in the back seat. A little unusual - I mean, it appeared the front seat was open.
In any case, we’re driving along, and all of the sudden this not-unattractive female head pops up in the passenger seat. “That’s odd,” I think, “I don’t remember Steve mentioning he was bringing a female friend along.” Yes, that was my first thought - stupid, I know, because I mean, where the hell was her head?
Anyway, after getting rid of that theory, I realized it must be the cabbie’s girlfriend or something. So we drove merrily along - wait a second,where the hell was her head?
After we got out of the cab,I got some more info from ben.
“Yeah, I was going to go in the front, but I saw feet and decided against it.”
“When I got in the cab, her head was in the dude’s lap, ” added Steve, “and I swear I heard a belt rustling or something when I got in.”
So at this point, real or imagined, we decided the cab driver had, up to the point of Steve hailing the cab, gotten a blowjob from his girl riding shotgun.
I definately thought it was odd. Strange. And then I shrugged it off.
I think my theory about this whole thing goes as such - if the dude has a girlfriend who’ll blow him on the job, more power to him. It’s not like they were doing it while we were in the cab, which I’m pretty sure would have breached Mayor Daley’s Cab Passenger’s Bill of Rights — I think its right below the expected rates for a trip to O’Hare. I honestly think there isn’t a man on this earth who wouldn’t mind a blowjob at work, so maybe the cabbie’s story will act as a shining beacon that even for a Chicago cab driver, it is possible. Amen.
WORTH WRITING HOME ABOUT
August 19, 2002
Yesterday, I had a burger. It was very good.
Your Loving Son,
August 17, 2002
Until now, I’ve been hesitant to add blogs to my Other Babble section unless I had actually met the person in actual, real world life. I’m changing that policy today - now I will also add blogs that were kind enough to link to mine, whether or not I’ve ever met the person. Seems only fair.
Went out last night with ben and steve. The evening ended in Marie’s Riptide Lounge. While we were there, there was a group of irish women who had a friend who really needed to go home. She was very close to passing out. We were talking to them, but at some point, we said “You really need to take your friend home.”
The response? “OK, thanks.” and then they went about flirting with some guy in his 40’s with a receding hairline, leaving their friend alone, pretty much passed out sitting at a table.
Some friends. Yeah, it’s a drag when someone you are with can’t hold their liqour or really didn’t know when to stop, but that’s no excuse for just leaving them in the corner while you have fun.
Between those three and the group of Stepford People we had on the other side of us, it was a weird nite. There was this group dudes and chicks celebrating one of their members’ recent engagement. They all looked the same. Not Dolly-the-cloned-sheep kind of same, more the walk-alike,dress-alike,talk-alike variety. It kind of freaked me out.
I just remembered that earlier at The Map Room, there was the Hawaiian shirt brigade! About five dudes all wearing Hawaiian shirts playing pool. Now I enjoy a good Hawaiian shirt as much as the next guy, but there is something unsettling about five aged frat boys wearing Hawaiian shirts, playing pool, and being obnoxiously loud.
RITES AND RITUALS
August 13, 2002
I lost the bid on e-bay for the microphone. It goes for about $200 new. I was willing to bid up to $125 for a slightly used one. Someone bid $127. I’m not going to up my bid, because once you put in shipping + whatever fees for the money order, you might as well buy one new.
On my drive to work today, I was making a left turn onto Damen. A funeral procession went by, so it took me a while to make that turn. I’m sitting there in the car, and what struck me is how we’ve adapted rites from the past to the modern age. I’m no funeral scholar, but I’ll wager my movie-influenced knowledge of historical funeral processions isn’t that far off the mark. So what used to be people parading down main street with a casket carried by a horse-drawn cart is now a parade of automobiles trailing a hearse. I will wager that once we all get ourflying cars we were promised, we’ll slap funeral stickers on those babies and fly the casket around the world a few times before comitting it to the ground or cremating it.
In any case, one of the things about a funeral procession is you don’t break it. You don’t make a left turn through it, you don’t turn into one, you just let it go by. It’s even part of the law of the land.
So I was a little taken aback when one of the Jeep Grand Subdivisions in the procession did the “I’m going to stop and let you turn” thing. I thought it was disrespectful to the dead - and I’m generally not a religious or superstitious person, and heck, I don’t even know who died. I refused to take his offer and let the whole procession by, and instead pulled a quick turn in front of one of those dump trucks that likes to drive by my apartment and shake the whole thing. Some people.
GET YOUR EBAY O
August 11, 2002
New Get Your War On!<
In other news, I bid on a microphone on ebay. I’ve never successfully won a bid on there. I’m not the e-bay junkie type.
My problem with ebay is it takes so god damn long! I’m an American. I want instant gratification. You mean I have to wait two days to find out if I bought this damn thing? I have trouble waiting two minutes. I’m the dumbass that buys stuff off of Amazon and ships it next day because I just can’t wait that extra day!
Speaking of Amazon, recently ordered a bunch of books. The one I’m reading now is Modern Recording Techniques. It is a pretty cool book, it strikes a nice balance between “this is what’d you’d do if you had all the money in the world and could build the perfect studio” and “this is what’d you’d do if you are like 99.999% of the people out there recording and really shouldn’t be spending much money on it because your music probably sucks anyway.” Or something like that.
YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?
August 06, 2002
Have you tried to order a sandwich at a fast food joint without getting fries lately?
Wait. Back up.
I am rapidly approaching what we in the biz call “crunch mode”. I’m not there yet. If I were to claim to be in crunch mode, people I know in the industry would mock me. “Dude, you’re only working 12 hour days? Quit your whinin’!” I am approaching it. I am working 12 hour days more often than not, and I’ve already started working a weekend here or there.
I can see the spectre of true crunch mode (15 hour days, 7 days a week, joy) around the corner - I’m simultaneously maintaining old code I didn’t write for a project that will ship before Christmas, and rewriting it for other projects to use in the future. So basically, I have two deadlines to hit.
Needless to say, when I’m getting out of work lately, healthy food is not the first thing on my mind. So that’s why I pulled into the drive through of the local McD’s at 10 PM.
Lately I realized that the only reason I eat the fries that come with your typical value meal is because its the path of least resistance. I don’t really want the fries. I’m just eating them because they are there. So as lip service to eating better, I’m trying not to order fries. And that brings us back to the top…
So have you tried ordering a sandwich at a fast food joint without getting fries lately?
I tried this in the drive through. A brief, mostly accurate transcript of the proceedings:
Cashier: Welcome to McDonalds. Would you like to try our new McBeef on a Stick? Me: I’d like a quarter pounder with cheese, and a medium coke. Cashier: You’d like a number 4? Me: No, just the sandwich. And a medium coke. Cashier: something something something pull around please.
Thinking I had set things straight, I pulled around, paid, and got the food. And I knew. I fucking knew. The second I got the bag - there were fucking fries in there! I could smell it.
I looked in, and lo and behold, there are fries in the bag. By this time, I’ve lost all resistance. Fine. I’ll go with the flow. I pulled out of the McD’s parking lot.
I hate throwing away perfectly good food. But god damnit, I didn’t want those fucking fries…
August 04, 2002
Ugh. I’m in that stage of a cold where I feel well enough to go out and about, but I know better than to do so because I’m not 100% yet. So I’m going stir crazy.
I’ve been cooped up in my apartment the entire weekend. I’ve made a grand total of two trips outside, one to Walgreens and the other to 7-11. When I get sick, I’m not the type to be in denial about it - I coop up, drink a ton of fluids, and try to just endure it. This policy has worked out well enough that most of my colds are of the 48 hour variety. I’m right on schedule - I probably won’t even need Nyquil tonight.
Still, if I were to go out tonight, I would probably regret it tomorrow.
Yet I am stir crazy.
There’s the rub.
August 03, 2002
Last night, as I was preparing for bed, I went for the Nyquil bottle in my medicine cabinet. The cold was in full force, my sinuses were threatening to burst, and I knew sleep was going to be a battle.
Earlier in the day, the bottle had looked deceptively full. But twas not the case!
Only a smidgeon was left. Not enough to fill the little plastic shot glass quarter way even.
Desparate, I tried to suck every last drop out of that bottle.
What’s the number for Nyquil anonymous?
I HAF A CODE
August 02, 2002
Even in my over-the-counter-cold-mediciny state, I had enough presence of mind to make the banner bitmap rotate randomly. Hit refresh a bunch of times to see it in action.
Once Mike whips up some new taglines, every trip to articulate.babble will be a brand new adventure!
In other news, looks like Katherine Harris, (now former) Florida Secretary of State, didn’t quite understand election law. This is ashock. Really.
Posted by vince at 10:03 PM \Comments (2) TB
July 31, 2002
I went to the International Game Developers Association’s Chicago chapter gathering last night. There was a decent turnout - maybe 20 people (Chicago is not exactly a hotbed of game development these days). The gathering is basically a bunch of geeks who make video games get together and talk shop.
The pleasant surprise - someone sponsored the event. Discreet picked up the bar tab and food tab from 7:00 pm until 9:30. Nothing warms a game developer’s heart like free beer. They gave a somewhat interesting presentation on 3D Studio Max 5, and gave away some stuff - I ended up winning a T-Shirt. Woot.
Now this bar, Ivan’s (at Ashland and Roscoe), had the best cheeseburgers I have tasted in a while. As Steve put it - “These were so good you could tell the difference between fries that were near the burger and those that were not.” It was that good. Trust me.
July 29, 2002
Beer school was a good time, although not because of the beers - for some reason, they decided to break out the old man beers for this one. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the list:
Falstaff Old man beer.
Pearl Old man beer from Texas.
Lone Star PURE. TEXAN. CRAP
Shiner Blonde Actually not that bad.
National Bohemian hey used to serve this crap at CMU frat parties. Shudder.
Genesee Cream Ale By this time I was getting drunk, and didn’t quite mind that none of the beers really had any taste<
Stoney’s Beer Now brewed by Iron City. Guilt by association
Augustiner Lager Really drunk at this point
Stegmaier 1857 Just because it has a pre-prohibition history, doesn’t make it good.
Yuengling Black and Tan
Now I have to admit, Yuengling’s normal lager is pretty good if you don’t want a heavy beer. But their Black and Tan - it has about as much taste and body as Miller Lite. Something is wrong with that
Bonus beer: Shiner Bock I have to admit, at this point, I wasn’t really tasting much of anything, anyway
This is for Jen, who I met at beer school. She didn’t take kindly to me tossing a cigarette butt on the ground, implying that by doing so I was killing birds or deforesting South America or some such thing. I’d like to say I after reading this web site that I am a reformed man, but we all know that’s not true.
Excellent - the episode of The Simpsons where Bart sells his soul is on.
“Ah! Natural light! Get it off me! Get it off me!” - Barney
“This place smells like tinkle.” - Dr. Hibbard’s kid
The only reason I would get a TiVo is to use it as a personal on-demand Simpsons machine.
OW MY FREAKIN EYES
July 27, 2002
I slept with my contacts in last night. This is not something I usually do. I’d like to say it was because a beautiful supermodel tired me out, or I was wiped out from partying all night long, but the simple truth is I was just tired — I plopped on my bed at about 11 PM thinking “I’ll just rest my eyes for a second” and next thing I knew it was 8:30 in the morning. Guess I’m getting old…
New Get Your War On…
Beer School tonight. What’s Beer School? Not really sure myself, I just know it involves tasting a lot of beers, it’s my first time. More on this later…
If you haven’t seen this, you should watch it. Funny stuff.
Last weekend I wrote a new song for the band. Well, just the music to a new song - no lyrics as of yet. I’ve only written the lyrics for a few songs, and those just end up being about heartbreak, or as I often put it, “bitch done me wrong” songs. It’s not that I’m walking around with a broken heart all the time, or maybe I am and don’t realize it, but when I venture away from the topic I just end up with stuff that sounds cheezy. Maybe I’ll just steal some of Mike’s lyrics.
Anyway, here’s a typical example of the creative process on a new song. I fuck around on the guitar for an hour, a day, weeks, whatever, until I hit upon some riff or chord progression or hook or something I like. This particular song (so new it’s just called “new” right now) came about in a weekend.
Where does this riff/hook come from? I’ve been asked this (not often). I do not know. The ether maybe. Sometimes there is a definite influence to the song - I can tell the main rhythm for the verse came out of all the listening to The Hives I’ve been doing as of late. But the chord progression itself and the chorus were something that came out of that bag of neurons somewhere in my brain responsible for that stuff. The Muse center maybe. Who knows?
This particular song started out as a somewhat moody ballad, but I didn’t like it in that form - I’ve been coming up with too many moody ballads lately and I’m sick of it. I wanted something that rocks a little bit. It wasn’t till I “borrowed” a rhythm very similar to a Hives song that I came up with the overall structure I wanted.
When I got to that point, I recorded it on my PC. I used Cool Edit 2000 with the four track extension - some people swear by SoundForge, but I’ve found CoolEdit to be so infinitely faster than SoundForge that it’s not even a comparison, particularly with very large audio files (i.e. 40 minutes or so). I came up with a drum beat in FruityLoops - usually its just a 4/4 click track to help me keep tempo, but this time I actually came up with a beat. FruityLoops is OK for making scratch drum tracks, but I’ve never been a big fan of synthesized drums for anything real. I like coming up with the drum track to give the drummer in the band an idea of the feel I’m going for, and plus it reminds me of my old Amiga Mod days.
Once the click/drum track was in place, I recorded the guitar parts. We’ve got the two guitar attack going, and most songs I usually write both parts. At that point I’m usually done - I’ve done enough to give the other people in the band a feel for the song. This particular song, I had a bass line for the chorus in mind, so I recoreded that too (on the guitar).
One thing about writing bass lines on guitar - you have to be very careful. It’s very easy to come up with something that’s easy to play on guitar but nigh impossible on the bass.
Once I have the song recorded, I listen to it. A lot. I’d like to think its mainly self-criticism, and some changes to the song do result, but at a certain point I think it stops being editing and starts being narcissism. Hey, just like this blog!
FAITH AND TRUTH
July 25, 2002
“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Office Politics”
Interesting bar conversation with Steve, a co-worker today, about office politics. We collectively hit upon a realization that we called Faith and Truth.
First, a definition of politics:
4. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power: Partisan politics is often an obstruction to good government. Office politics are often debilitating and counterproductive.
Posit: Every office has politics. The difference is in degree.
The problem with office politics is if you play political games, you have already lost. To (mis)quote WarGames - “Strange game. The only way to win is not to play.”
If you approach office politics aware of political games and strategies, and actually try to play a political game, more often then not, you will lose. If you were that gifted at politics, you would be in office. You do not need plans within plans. This is not fucking Dune, it’s a corporation.
The keys to office politics, me and Steve decided, is to be non-political. Do not take actions out of political motives in the office. The path to this enlightment is one of Faith and Truth. Now, Steve and I both work in an engineering field, but I think these philosophies can apply to any field.
Let us start with Truth. Truth is simply calling it as you see it. When you know that something should be done a certain way, say so. Do not worry about political consequences. If you hear someone in a meeting say something you know is wrong, say so. Be blunt if you have to, but always be as respectful as possible. Point out the Truth when you see it - when you know it is true. Truth is not your opinion. Truth is backed up by evidence and experience. Truth is not a preference. Truth can not be rationally argued against.
Part of Truth is admitting your own mistakes. Do so gladly and openly. Embrace your mistakes - it is the only way to learn.
“But what if no one listens?”
This is where the second part comes in - Faith. Faith that people want to do the best work possible. Faith that Truth will eventually prevail. You may have dark days, where it seems no one listens, but eventually, you must believe that Truth will conquer all. If month after month, year after year, no one in your company listens to Truth, have Faith that either the company will go out of business because of it or that this is not the company for you.
Most of all, have Faith in Truth.
This probably sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo. But in my corporate experience, I’ve found that when I’ve said what I think, even stepping on some toes, good things have happened. Eventually, people listen. If they don’t, they remember you pointing out mistakes that could have been prevented. In my last job, I rose to a position of influence just by doing what I thought was right - not by kissing ass, and not without ruffling some feathers.
Saying something and being able to deliver are the keys to respect. People, I believe in my heart, respect someone who is straightforward, says what they think, and will tackle anyone’s bullshit.
Maybe I am an idealist, a dreamer, or the worst insult, naive. I accept that. But I have faith that honesty truly is the best policy.
WHAT WE THINK OF AMERICA
July 23, 2002
Granta: Granta 77: What We Think of America
The September 11 attacks on the US provoked shock and pity in the rest of the world, but mingled with the sympathy was something harsher: anti-Americanism. It wasn’t confined to the West Bank or Kabul. It could be heard in English country pubs, in the bars of Paris and Rome, the tea stalls of New Delhi. ‘Hubris’ was the general idea: in one opinion poll, two-thirds of the respondents outside the US agreed to the proposition that it was ‘good that Americans now know what it’s like to be vulnerable’.
Is the US really so disliked? If so, why? In this issue twenty-four writers drawn from many countries describe the part America has played in their lives—for better or worse—and deliver their estimate of the good and the bad it has done as the world’s supreme political, military, economic and cultural power.
Twenty-four foreign authors essays about America. Interesting reading.
TOO FUCKING HOT
July 21, 2002
It is too fucking hot. Current conditions are 95 degrees and it’s only 2:40 pm. Right now I’m basking in my central air conditioned apartment.
Earlier, I was getting my hair cut at a big chain haircut place - I am one of those freaks who has a really hard time paying more than ten dollars for a haircut. I’m in there waiting for my turn to go through the haircut assembly line.
All of the sudden a fire truck and an ambulance show up. One of the EMS dudes walks in and talks to one of the customers, who apparently had called them because there was a bum lying on the sidewalk outside the shop, semi-passed out. They tended to the guy and took him away to the drunk tank or somewhere cooler I assume.
Here’s the thing - I saw the bum out there before. Someone had stopped their car and handed the guy a dollar, and he could barely crawl over to get it. He was probably drunk off his ass, but as the guy who called EMS pointed out - if he passed out on the sidewalk in the sun in 95 degree heat he would probably end up dead.
What troubles me is I didn’t even make that connection - its like once my brain made the determination that the guy was a bum it turned off all processing. Only one guy out of the twelve or so people waiting there had the presense of mind to call EMS. Otherwise it’s very possible that man could have died of heat stroke.
Reflecting on it, I think its part of the price you pay living in a big city. It’s not that I don’t care - once I heard the customer’s explanation for why he called EMS, it made complete sense to me and made me grateful that he did it, and concerned about the man outside’s well-being.
The problem is, when you live in a big city, you sort of learn to subconciously tune stuff out. Part of it is if you took personal note of every person on the street’s plight, you’d go insane. So you ignore it - and I don’t mean the concious kind of ignoring, like you do when you’re at a party and someone is boring the hell out of you. I mean you just don’t see these things - you see them, but they don’t register. It helps you keep your sanity, but the cost is a little bit of your humanity, I think.
The book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion talks more about this sort of phenomena, if you are interested. Things like people in a crowded street hearing a woman screaming for help, but no one calling 911.
July 20, 2002
Saw Attack of the Clones today. Hadn’t seen it yet. I don’t feel like I missed much waiting this long. Sure, seeing Yoda fight was cool, but the rest of the movie was just slow and uninteresting for the most part. And is it me, or was there not much of a plot?
July 17, 2002
In other news, I spent two hours changing my license plates on my car this weekend. Illinois decided to change its plate design, and I have to say, it does look better, but I want to find the fucking genius engineer who decided to use a metal bolt & nut (i.e. prone to rusting) going into a plastic holder (i.e. prone to breaking under high stress, like from a screwdriver trying to remove said bolt & nut) to attach the plate to the car. The back plate was bad enough, but the front plate is now a Frankenstein’s monster of jerry rigged engineering.
PC LOAD LETTER? WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?
July 10, 2002
WSJ.com - Media & Marketing
How did a Swingline Stapler change from humble office product to hot personal accessory? First it got a coat of red paint. Then it went Hollywood.
A candy-apple red Swingline stapler plays a prominent role in “Office Space,” a dark, low-profile 1999 comedy about a fictitious Texas software company and the everyday weirdos who work there. One is Milton, who devotes his workdays to guarding his red Swingline against pilfering by covetous co-workers. He eventually has his revenge against the smug boss who takes it away, by setting the office on fire.
Awesome. Fucking awesome.
PEANUTS AND CRACKERJACK
July 10, 2002
Salon.com News | Baseball ruins everything it touches
Remember the scene in the movie “Chinatown” where the coroner says to Jack Nicholson, “The water commissioner drowns in the middle of a drought! Only in L.A.!” That’s baseball 2002. Only this messed-up ex-national pastime could manage to take its premier fan event, the first genuinely exciting All-Star Game in years, played in perfect weather, in a domed stadium, in the commissioner’s hometown, and have to abandon it after just two “extra innings,” without an outcome. Like “Chinatown,” or any other film or work of fiction, sports requires the suspension of disbelief. A baseball game, at its essence, means nothing. You have to convince spectators that it’s important, and you do this by determining, if at all possible, a winner and a loser.
I have to say, I was bummed out that they called the game. I thought they should have at least put a couple position players out there pitching a couple innings. I bet it wouldn’t have been tied after that.
To me, personally, the cries of “Let Them Play” were more about the impending baseball strike than the particular circumstances of the All-Star Game. I’ve been a baseball fan most of my years, but my heart broke during the 1994 strike, because I have the misfortune of being a Chicago White Sox fan. It is misfortune because I get the double endemnity of a) being a Chicago sports fan, because any Chicago team is doomed unless they have Michael Jordan or Refridgerator Perry playing for them, and b) I root for the baseball team in Chicago without the best ballpark in the country, if not the world.
Anyway, ‘94 is when the Sox were going to go all the way. They were unstoppable. The World Series was their oyster for the taking. And then the strike happened.
I didn’t watch baseball for quite a few years after that. It took Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire’s was-it-steroids-or-baseball-genius-or-both home run race to get me interested in the sport again. Then the 2000 Sox gave me hope, dashed it, and since then its been lackluster years on both sides of town.
Another strike and I may be off baseball for good. The main reason - I agree with the owners. Yes, they are money-grubbing bastards who are lying about losing money, but baseball needs revenue sharing and payroll “taxes”. I am sick of seeing the Yankees win. I hate the Yankees. Give some one else from the AL a shot already.
July 09, 2002
Computer programming involves a lot of waiting. Right now I’m tracking down a bug, trying to see if it’s something I caused or something that was there before. The only way to do that is to let the game play itself for a while. So I’ve got some time on my hands.
Mike posted a link to someone bemoaning the nature of popular culture. The basic point that I got out of it was stuff isn’t cool when a lot of people like it.
My response: get over it. Yes, there’s a lot of crap out there that’s massively popular. There’s also a lot of good stuff too. I’ve seen many any indie band or art house film that made me want to shoot myself through the roof of the mouth. In this day and age, popularity seems to rarely correlate with quality — and that cuts both ways.
I listen to a lot of indie bands, some more known than others. I listen to major label artists too. At this point in my life, I don’t really give a rats ass whether or not I “found” them a year before anyone else, or I’m just getting on the bandwagon too. I just want to listen to good music.
Worrying about things getting too popular, or bemoaning indie bands who sell out to car companies is just a waste of time. Life is too short. Enjoy the music, tv shows, movies, whatever that you like and don’t worry about whether its cool or not.
SQUEAKY WHEEL PART II
July 08, 2002
Emboldened by my recent success of contacting the COO of AT&T Broadband to get a customer service issue resolved, I decided to invoke my Two Strike policy and contact the COO of People’s Energy regarding a customer service issue I was having.
Basically, when I signed up for gas service, they informed me that my address was listed as commercial and they needed to send some one out to read the meter and verify it was a residence. It wasn’t the first company that thought my apartment was a business - its a converted storefront, so at one time it was a business. I did find it odd that the previous tenant didn’t straighten this stuff out, but who knows, maybe he was running a business out of his home or was just paying business rates and didn’t even realize it.
Anyway, they sent the dude out June 6, he looked around, inspected some stuff, read the meter, and judged everything OK. I thought that was the end of it.
Apparently it wasn’t. I later received one voice and one written notice that they needed to read the meter. I called up People’s Gas customer service department, and they said since it was read on June 6, I didn’t need to worry about the notices. Strike One.
I came into work today and had a voice mail from Friday saying that I needed to schedule a meter reading. I again called customer service, and this time they said it didn’t matter that it was read June 6, they needed to go out again. When I asked why, the woman on the phone couldn’t tell me. I asked to speak to her supervisor, but he was busy. I left my number for the supervisor to call back, which of course never happened. Strike Two.
My Two Strikes policy (something I recently developed) is that I give customer service two chances to fix whatever issue I’m having. If they can’t, I then e-mail the COO of the company. Why bother trying to escalate through supervisors and the like when I can just get right to the top. And so far, its got a 100% success rate - the e-mail gets forwarded to some corporate lackey who holds my hand through getting the issue resolved.
I know what you are asking - how do you find out the COO’s e-mail address? It’s very simple, and just takes a little time and effort. My boss should be credited with creating this technique. Click on to read about it:
July 05, 2002
Woot! Cable modem is installed at home. Now I can update this bad boy when I have a little more time on my hands. And of course, there is the porn.
4th of July party yesterday at my neighbors. Much drunkness, fireworks, water baloons, and egg throwing. You have to be at a special point of drunkenness to throw eggs at your own garage and backyard. And no, it wasn’t me throwing eggs. But hey, it was a good time.
You know, the internet seems much better when you don’t have access to it.I guess the desire is the thing.
Yesterday I was driving through scenic Dundee, IL. I was coming back from my parents house, where we had some afternoon barbequeing, and heading toward aforementioned party. I look over to my left, and sitting in the passenger seat in the next car is someone I definately don’t want to see. I’d broken contact with this individual over six months ago, and it was odd to see her there. Makes you think - a huge metropolitan area, and what are the chances that I’m going to run into this person on the 4th of July. Small world. Too fucking small for my tastes.
SPRAYING FOR SHARKS
July 03, 2002
Wierd dream last night.
I’m in Chicago. I know its Chicago, but it doesn’t look like any particular part of Chicago. More like a very stylized hybrid of various streetcorners - what Chicago would look like if they turned it into a casino in Vegas.
There are a bunch of crowds milling around. All of the sudden, from the sky, comes a bunch of planes. Old World War I biplane, true Red Baron type of shit. The planes are farting out a somewhat dense black fog. People start running in terror every which way. I’m just watching.<
All of the sudden, with a huge “whooomph!”, this mass of material comes falling down everywhere. No one gets hurt by it for some reason.
I look down on the ground. The ground is littered with dead sharks.
Gotta lay off the crack pipe.
July 01, 2002
An interesting weekend. Went to the Cubs-Sox game Friday with my dad, it was a good game. Large crowd, lot’s of energy, come-from-behind victory, and a lot of pretty girls - everything you could ever want from a ball game.
After dinner my dad headed back to suburbia, and I ended up hanging out with my next door neighbors in there backyard/beer garden. Much beer and rejoicing.
Saturday was pretty laid back. Woke up late, got some lunch, ended up chilling for most of the day, and watched Donnie Darko. A bizarre little movie, I recommend it.
Sunday was supposed to be a trip to Guitar Center to buy a drum kit (I will save my ambivalent feelings about Guitar Center for some other entry, some other day). Bad idea. Sunday was the pride parade, and traffic was a nightmare, and the section of Halsted that Guitar Center is on was blocked off anyway. So the drum kit will have to wait. I’m eager to get it and start playing - I’ve played guitar for about 9 years and still love it, but I want to learn something new musically, and now that I have the Phat Pad I have a big basement that’s just screaming for a drum kit - plus musician neighbors who won’t mind the noise.
June 28, 2002
Parties Maneuver Over Risks in Growing Business Scandal
In a telling sign that White House officials feel vulnerable in the face of an aggressive Democratic effort to seek partisan advantage from the string of corporate financial scandals, administration officials said Mr. Bush was planning to deliver a major address on corporate responsibility next month.
How come when the Democrats use an issue (Enron, WorldCom) to advance their policies (more regulation of the accounting industry), it is seen by the esteemed New York Times (and this is NOT the op-ed section) to be "seeking partisan advantage", yet when the Republicans use an issue (terrorism) to advance their policies (police state), it is most definately not "seeking partisan advantage"?
I'm not saying the Democrats aren't using Enron, and WorldCom for political advantage - they would be stupid not too. I just want the NY Times and other media outlets to acknowledge that Shrub, the shadow president Karl Rove, and company are doing the same exact thing with the "war on terror".
June 28, 2002
Cable modem update: Apparently, AT&T's left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. Turns out they do offer cable modem at my place, and I am going to schedule an appointment Monday. Yay.
Band practice was OK. We agreed to change tactics for next time and really bear down on one song until it was perfect, instead of our current habits which have been to play everything one or two times. Progress with this band has been slow, but there is progress. Unfortunately, Ben, the singer, is going to be out of town for the next month, so the next few practices will be instrumentals only. Sigh.
WHOLE LOTT-A WORLDCOM
June 27, 2002
Chicago Tribune | Troubled company lobbed plenty of cash at Capitol Hill
Three years ago, when executives of WorldCom Corp., then a swaggering telecommunications giant, wanted to show their appreciation for their home-state lawmaker, Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, they did more than make a run-of-the-mill campaign contribution.Instead, they pledged $1 million to a University of Mississippi center for leadership named in his honor.
Bush has his Enron, Lott has his WorldCom.
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
June 27, 2002
Chicago Tribune | Plaintiff surprised by furor
Within hours of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision, the national media descended upon Newdow's two-story, upper-middle-class home, near a crook of the Sacramento River known as "the pocket." He was quickly forced to buy a second telephone line to his house--primarily to handle the steady influx of obscene messages and death threats that were pouring in.
"You atheist bastard," one woman said on the answering machine. The message was reviewed by a Times reporter.
"If you don't like the way this country is, take yourself and your family and get the hell out," the woman continued. She signed off: "This is from America."
Nice to see ringing examples of tolerance in America. Don't these people have better things to do?
I'm in the minority on this issue, and I know it. I'm agnostic. I think there is some sort of higher purpose and point to it all, but I'm not a fan of organized religion. I think spirtuality is a private issue.
That said, I agree with the court's decision - children in public schools should not be forced to recite a pledge with religious overtones.
ROCK AND ROLL THURSDAY
June 27, 2002
Band practice tonight! In honor of the new band, listen to songs from the old band.
So here is the latest in corporate idiocy - I have been trying, with much confusion and little success, to get both cable TV and high-speed internet at the new Phat Pad. My only cable option was pretty much AT&T.
I won't bore you with the gory details, but let's just say at some point I was so frustrated I e-mailed the COO of AT&T Broadband and bitched up a storm. Well, you know what they say about squeaky wheels. Since then things have gone more smoothly, and I'm now scheduled to get digital cable soon.
High speed internet has been another story. After being informed by DSL company after DSL company that they have no presence at the Central Office servicing my phone, I've come to the conclusion that my particular CO must be this tiny shack on the Chicago River with circa 1950s phone equipment, an old man wasted on Jim Beam, and a hamster generating power for it all.
So I asked my new corporate "handler" at AT&T if AT&T Cable Internet was available at my location. She said no.
Last night, I'm out having a few drinks with my neighbors in their beer garden-esque backyard, and I find out that one of them has AT&T cable internet! His house is literally right next to mine!
Argh! I emailed that information to my corporate handler, and we will see what happens. Stay tuned...
June 26, 2002
The games business goes through a cycle every six years or so, as one generation of consoles succeeds another (see chart 2). As new hardware emerges, it takes a year or two for software developers to hit their stride. Then a boom ensues. The market grew by 10% last year, and is expected to grow by 15-25% a year until 2006, by which time new consoles will have been launched. This cycle is inevitable, given the nature of the industry, but it does have one advantage: the games business is, in effect, isolated from the broader economic climate. The current boom has occurred despite a weakish American economy; the previous one, in 1991-93, came amid a worldwide recession. (The one area of the industry that is unaffected by the console cycle is PC games, whose sales are roughly flat at $3 billion a year.)
Looks like an exponential curve to me. Glad I work for a game company.
ONE NATION, MMMPH MMMPH
June 26, 2002
Federal Court Says Pledge of Allegiance Is Unconstitutional
For the first time ever, a federal appeals court Wednesday declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because of the words ``under God'' added by Congress in 1954.The ruling, if allowed to stand, means schoolchildren can no longer recite the pledge, at least in the nine Western states covered by the court.
Oh man, this will create quite the shit-storm!
I bet we will see:
1) Cries from the right wing that the courts are too liberal.
2) Cries from the extreme right wing that this is proof of the upcoming armageddon
3) Cries from the right wing for a constitutional amendment.
It'll be fun!
June 26, 2002
I have a lot of cardboard boxes sitting on my floor in the new Phat Pad. I moved in at the beginning of June. I've got most of my old stuff unpacked, but this weekend I went to Ikea with my parents along for consultation and use of their Jeep Grand Subdivision or whatever its called.
A little about me. I don't like shopping for furniture. I don't like shopping in general. My approach is to get it over with as soon as possible - the rip-the-band-aid-off-quick philosophy. I don't spend hours agonizing over whether the wine rack matches my Pompli.
Even with this approach, I still ended up in Ikea for four hours. I bought a lot of furniture. I've assembled some, but most of it is sitting in pieces. Curse those Swedes and their cheap, cool-looking, easy-to-put-together, not-long-till-it-falls-apart furniture!
On a completely different subject, some thoughts on terrorism...
THE AMAZON.COM STRATEGY<
June 25, 2002
Microsoft takes heavy losses on the Xbox
> The costs of goods for every Xbox amount to $325, according to the source. That means that Microsoft is currently losing at least $150 on every box, and probably more due to shipping, advertising, development overhead, and return costs. Microsoft sells the box wholesale to retailers for $175. Microsoft would have to sell a lot more than three games apiece to break even.
"You're losing money on every sale", said one salesman, "How do you expect to make a profit?"
"Volume!" said the other.
June 25, 2002
Degrees of Separation (washingtonpost.com)
"This is new. We have thrown the gender switch," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "The War Against Boys." "What does it mean in the long run that we have females who are significantly more literate, significantly more educated than their male counterparts? It is likely to create a lot of social problems. This does not bode well for anyone."
I don't see the problem. After how many years of male dominance in academia, what's the big deal about women getting more degrees? This just smacks of typical right-wing hysteria (and note who the quotee works for, a right-wing think tank.)
What I want to know, if there is supposedly this glut of college-educated women out there who can't find a college educated guy, then where are they? Hiding? I'm a college educated guy, and I only occasionaly run into them.
June 25, 2002
Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock
But she and 40 other current and former Wal-Mart workers interviewed over the last four months say Wal-Mart has done just that, forcing or pressuring employees to work hours that were not recorded or paid. Federal and state laws bar employers from making hourly employees work unpaid hours. Wal-Mart's policies forbid such work. But many current and former workers and managers said an intense focus on cost cutting had created an unofficial policy that encouraged managers to request or require off-the-clock work and avoid paying overtime.
Accusations like these are at the heart of a wide-ranging legal battle between Wal-Mart and employees or former employees in 28 states. In class-action and individual lawsuits, workers assert that these practices have helped Wal-Mart undersell the competition, push up profits and become the world's largest retailer.
I'm not going to talk much about the particular practices of Wal-Mart, while I find the charges entirely plausible, that's what we have the courts for. (It also notes later in the article that Wal-Mart has already settled similar suits for $50 million).
What really interests me about this article is the trend of the class-action lawsuit replacing what traditionally was in the realm of unions. Over the last few years, I've noticed quite a few of these suits against companies such as Taco Bell, Microsoft, and Intel. Many of them have been won.
UH, IT'S JUST A STREET
June 24, 2002
Chicago Tribune | Big stretch of Wacker Drive reopens Tuesday
Joe Hutchinson, a food broker and native Chicagoan visiting from Glendale, Ariz., saw the commotion from his Holiday Inn room and came to investigate. He said he felt such civic pride as d'Escoto presented the new pavement, he nearly wept.
"I think all Chicagoans should be proud of what they're doing to help the city," said Hutchinson, 48. "So many times you see various communities deteriorate. You have to always maintain and rebuild to be a vibrant city."
I'm all for civic pride, but a public works project doesn't exactly bring me to tears. Unless I'm stuck in stop and go traffic on one of Chicago's many "Express"-ways.
June 24, 2002
Mike Kim helped me set up this "blog" thing that seems to be all the rage nowadays. Now I too can spout off my opinions and experiences to a riveted audience of 2 and 3/4 people.
The main reason I set this thing up is I don't want to work today. I came into work and instantly knew today was a wash - sometimes I just don't feel like coding. It's usually best to just goof off one day and usually the motivation comes back the next.
Last night I finished reading David Brock's Blinded by the Right. It's basically his tell-all book about how he was a hack for the extreme right wing for many years and witnessed personally the "vast right wing conspiracy" Hillary Clinton complained about. At the time all these events happened, I remember vaguely hearing about Richard Mellon Scaife, but don't remember being completely up in arms about it. Sure, I was pissed off that the Republican right was basically attempting a coup d'etat of the American government. I'm still peeved about that Supreme Court's complete sell-out of their principles in Gore v. Bush. But until I read Brock's book, I had no idea how bad the extreme right was. I highly recommend reading it. You'll probably see some factoids pulled from that work in these pages in the future.
Well as I count the minutes before its an acceptable hour for me to depart for home, let me just write this - you may have seen Mike Lee's link to our band page on his blog. Don't listen to the songs up there - those recordings are months old and represent the band in the naescent forming stages. We're better now. The reason I ask this, is if you are reading this page, you probably know me or Mike, and will be invited to a GTC show at some time in the future. I would rather not have to resort to flat-out bribery to get people to come until the second show. So until Mike updates the MP3's, don't listen!