Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Cross fingers folks. The freshmen are coming.

I'm feeling good right now. The EF Contact list (link on the left side) currently is sitting at 474 collected names. What that means is that we're going to shatter 500, and 600+ is well in reach. For those of you who have been passing the information on to high school seniors, it's much appreciated. The really heartening thing is how I'm also getting to see new teams that are going to form next year. Students are interested in playing and organizing teams. I did send out a preliminary list to teams at about 150 people, I'll try and do that before HSNCT, but please understand if I get overloaded and can't do it until after.
Youngstown! I hear your call! Of course, I'm not affiliated with a film, but you know, we can make that work for us.
(Thanks to Joe for pointing out this opportunity.)


I couldn't have planned this better. This email hit my inbox this morning
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2004 11:54 AM
To: Pittsburgh Regional Champion (E-mail)
Subject: Film Searching for Locations

To All Tourist and Promotion Agencies:

The Pittsburgh Film Office is working with Dreamworks Pictures as they scout locations for an upcoming, large-scale science fiction film to shoot this fall. They are searching for a large subterranean space in which to build portions of an underground city. The space should be constructed of concrete.

Water storage tanks seem to work for this concept. They have tall ceilings and columns throughout.

Decommissioned military bases may have areas of interest. Missile silos? Perhaps a large food storage facility?

The space can be above ground as long as it is built out of concrete and can be made to look as if it is subterranean. They may also consider an open air reservoir if it has interesting structures in it.

Please let us know if you have any leads regarding any of the above suggested location needs. We know of the closed Nike Missile Sites in the area and are trying to find some contacts for these closed military bases.
We look forward to hearing your suggestions. As always, digital photos you may have on hand are always welcomed.

Thank you very much for time and assistance.


Jessica Conner
Information Specialist
Pittsburgh Film Office

It's kind of like being Chuck Woolery setting up a love connection...only with explosives.

I'll be back in TNT....

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Yet another sign I'm that, at heart, I'm a very bad person. With very, very bad taste (kinda mediciney)

I read the first paragraph of 10pointsthis article, and all I could think about was how the phrasing was suspiciously similar to new milder citrus Listerine.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Yahoo! News - Pa. Lawmakers Debate State Soil

Nothing I can say here, except that Yes, these are my people.

Key quote: "But Bruce P. Willman, president of the soil association, said that having a state soil would bolster Pennsylvania's credibility when it hosts the 18th World Congress of Soil Science in Philadelphia in 2006."

The last thing your state wants is no cred with the soil scientists.
Two things of mixed value:

1. Joe once pointed out the fact that In-n-Out Burger gives you the salt packet for your fries separately. Well, Wendy's has been doing this as well, though I think they just cut back on the total salt, and then offer you a kicker if you want it. I'm perfectly fine with that notion. I don't need the total amount of salt I probably get with other fries, and I kind like the low-salt flavor.
What I don't like is the fact that they just sort of throw the salt packets in the take out bag, which leads to unintentional comedy like yesterday. I was coming back through Bridgeville, having picked up a meal, and naturally, I start doing the sideways fry grab. (You know this motion, it should be an exercise, because that's the only way that sequence of muscles gets utilized.) Well, I think you can see the setup, I grab a bunch of fries, insert in mouth, bite down, and get a blast of pure salt to the tongue. Let me tell you, had I wrecked the car, I think a liability case would have been mine.

2. I'm so glad this was a prank. While I can recognize the humor in this easily (especially the little touches, like picket signs entirely in binary, and the fact that I may have a new deathmatch notion: ROBOTS VS BADGERS, WHO WILL WIN?), I'm hard pressed to come up with a future more frightening to me than the notion of Robots having a labor union. It's an interesting point on my political character that I'm less frightened of the concept of SkyNet creating the T-1000, than creating Hoffabot-5000. (Whether Hoffabot will be armed with a Norma Ray, I leave as an exercise for the reader.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I am an idiot. I am a very big idiot.

I'd like to apologize, I didn't think it out when I heard it, and apparently I confused the two stories. Dammit.

No excuse for that, none at all.

Monday, May 17, 2004

You're gonna need a quality shoe...

Saturday I got out of the house and on the road, I drove up to help out at the tournament at Solon, near Cleveland. (My thanks to them for inviting me, and getting to meet all the teams I hadn't before.) On the way back, I decided to stop off at the Grove City Outlet Mall, because I have a wedding to attend in a couple weeks, and I was down to my last pair of shoes. Keep in mind, this is where my amazing levels of cheapness come in. I'm only going there because one time, seven years ago, my father managed to stumble across $15 dress shoes at a similar outlet mall, and has since seen that as his gold standard for frugality. (Incidentally my dad would kick major butt on the Price is Right playing "Now or Then", if he doesn't involuntarily jerk, it's "Then." Some people in my family have "fraught sense", my dad has "December 1972 Consumer Price Index sense." It's a superpower, but the Hall of Justice won't return your calls.) So I'm following this near genetic drive, like a salmon going upstream to spawn, and I go forth into outlet mall. I'm already slightly unbalanced at this point, this IS foreign territory for me, after all; but we're also getting occasional rain bursts and cold fronts attacking at my sinuses, so I'm more off than usual. I really don't want to be there, but I need to be there. I duck into the first store showing men's shoes, and go directly to the two racks of clearance. Find eights, bang! One pair. They fit, look decent, no tassels, no ornamentation. 89 dollars, marked down to 49, then they've got everything here marked off another 40%. $29.

AND STILL, I double clutch. Worse than that, I find myself putting them down, walking out, and taking a walk. I already know I'm not going to top that for cheapness, but I start doing Monk things. You know the "ehhhh, but maybe..." I end up at the kitchenware store ransacking their free samples of Wasabi and Chipotle and Ted and Alice dip. I'm not a well man. One part of my brain is screaming "you idiot, your prayers to St. Hubbins have been answered, and here you are acting like Mario Cuomo. Snap out of it."

So eventually, I do snap out of it. Takes me one minute thirty seconds to find the shoes, and forty more to convince myself to go for it. I am Mackey Sasser with a Visa card. And then comes the punchline to this tale. As I go to pick up the shoes, I notice that two boxes over are the same shoes, different color, same deal.

Pretty much any joke about Buridan's Ass should go here.
I saw the headline on fark: Indoor football team decides to use fireworks in enclosed arena. Hilarity ensues, and was shocked, shocked I say to find out this DIDN'T involve our favorite minor league (though it did apparently involve the most dangerous combination in modern sports, the combination of owner/league founder/marketing department.) No, this involved the IFL (intense football league), which appears to be confined to Texas.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Four observations from the Pittsburgh media, retold in the style of the SuperMillionaire phone game.

Rank the following observed statements from the past 48 hours, in order of ludicrousness, starting with the least.

1. Plaxico Burress skipping out on Steelers mini-camp on grounds that it was unfair of the team to hold it then, and then stating that if the Steelers don't understand it, "That's why I'm Plaxico."

2. Fox 53's sweeps tie-in to their programming Tuesday night: "And after 24, follow along as we spend 24 hours in the life of a Pittsburgh zookeeper."

3. On air announcer for ESPNRadio: "And as the league is looking to expand, if the attendance is good for the [exhibition WNBA] game between the Shock and the Lynx, Pittsburgh could be placed high on the list of expansion cities."

4. Subject line in an email from, announcing a game between Altoona and Erie to be played in Pittsburgh: "Minor League action comes to PNC Park."


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Kevin pointed out this article to me, suggesting it go up for fraughtwatch. I'm inclined to agree. After, all, it involves:

Tampa, a city not known for mass transit.
Florida hockey fans, already a walking contradiction.
The NHL, a sport that may not have a 2004-05 season, meaning these people are popping down a lot of money for "free beer". Not to mention that this is just the publicity the sport doesn't need. You know those drunk and rowdy fans who ruin it for you? NOW THEY'RE HERE EVERY GAME!

Anybody want to play over/under on DUI arrests attributed to this, should this go through?

Yeah, we'll put it under watch. But Low, since I don't think this will actually happen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

All during tonight's discussions of "What's Eating Raul?" the commentators kept making the point that, since the Pirates put Mondesi on the restricted list(or suspended, they never seemed to be able to pick which was the right term), his roster status has been frozen, his salary has been frozen, his X has been frozen. At this point I'm starting to wonder if there's some kind of carbonite facility down in Santo Domingo, or if ALCOR's busily at work.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Honestly, did someone curse us? Did we pick up some bad booty? Monkey's Paw? Betwixt Derek Bell and Raul Mondesi's latest, one has to wonder. So now we actually do have 2/3 of our outfield for Pirates of the Caribbean. Derek's in Tampa Bay, the actual bay, while Raul's going to be in the Dominican Republic.

I guess I look at this as a minor defeat for the circuit, that this has proven necessary.

Ultimately I see the next battle in quiz bowl not in terms of victory for one format over another, but a battle between two viewpoints, one of which I may be the most orthodox proponent of. I hold the following to be the truth: That ideally, the goals of quiz bowl should be to unify under a common set of beliefs. Note that these are fairly simple beliefs that go right across the traditional format partisanship:
1. Playing the game is inherently a good thing. The game
itself has value.
2. Playing more of the game is better.
3. The more people playing the better, regardless of what particular flavor of quiz bowl they are playing. The people themselves playing bring value to the game.

I hold these as principles that integrate people into the circuit, and integrate the various factions into the circuit. (As a result I'd call this viewpoint integrationist, if we're looking for labels.)

In opposition to this viewpoint, I place a large number of views on format, organization, and other issues that are bound by a common view, that X is not a part of quizbowl. Now that X can basically be defined by any element of quizbowl. Examples have included the existence of trash categories, the use of a clock, chemical elements, variable valued bonuses, geography questions, current events, general knowledge, academic clues in trash questions, fine arts, graduate students, theology, teams which only play once a year. The common thread is that in all of these, the espouser of the notion makes a bright line division: this is in, that is out. (If I were to be a total jerk, I'd try sticking the label of segregationist with this viewpoint, but separatist would be equally fine. They both convey the spirit, but I don't want to tag the opposition with the obvious connotations.) It isn't necessarily tied to a format.

The fundamental problem is that all separatist decisions end up dividing the circuit into "us" and "them". While that's a reasonable division for political purposes, it's not one that works long term, because as the number of bright line divisions increase, the number of people who become "them" also increases. And where political rationality, or pragmatism may work in real life, allowing things to smoothed over, there's no stake large enough in quiz bowl to create a benefit worth making compromise. As a result, there are great fights, initated on the purpose of improvement, which only result in division, segmentation, and multiple disjoint circuits. I fear that some would look upon that as ideal, not realizing no faction of the circuit is strong enough, or numerous enough, to survive on its own. And in fact, typically, when one side tries to build a wall around everything that's not 'their own", they only serve to wall themselves off. CBI tightens up on grad students, ACF begins to gain traction. ACF tightens up on trash, TRASH becomes a viable entity.

That's why I'm approaching upcoming events with a little trepidation. The notion of "another forum" feels like a separatist notion to me, after all, the circuit tends to regulate and temper its own viewpoints best when everyone has the same information, and people can be seen either as fools or sages by statements seen by all, and another forum just means that more people won't have the time or inclination to sift through it. However, I can't deny its necessity. The calm of low traffic is the offspring of us driving people away, and what has seemed as public agreement is nothing but an unrepresented majority feeling silenced and being silenced. I can't say that another forum will prevent that, but it has a better shot of doing it than the status quo.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Continuing on in the bathroom reading, I just finished the chapter on Thomas Midgley, who if there was a mad genius hall of fame, he might just make first ballot. Notable highlights from the book:
--Once removed metal shrapnel from his eye, by washing his eye in mercury (formed amalgams and dissolved, don't try this at home.)
--Conducted intense research into the improvement of the spitball.
--Invented a use for tetraethyl lead as a gasoline additive (pretty much allowing the auto industry to exist, and to a certain degree win World War II's air war by allowing for cheap high octane airplane fuel.)
--Proceeded to solve the problem of modern refrigeration by noting the potential of CFC's, and solving the problem in roughly one afternoon. (this double duty probably making responsible for screwing up more of the environment than any man in history, but in both cases, one can say that the environmental damage of the previous solutions were worse.)
--Claimed to have invented the screwdriver (not the tool, the beverage.)

Not bad, for a MechE from Cornell. Not bad at all.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Okay, nice enough show, can you stop telling me about it now?

I ended up watching the last episode of Friends. Note that this is a major step for me, as this was also the first time I've ever actually watched the show. (Given I have spent 12 years with practice being Thursday night, save nine months and summers, this shouldn't surprise.) Whereas previously I had only thought of the characters as annoying with no correlation to my life, now I have the impression of them as annoying and maudlin. I guess that's an improvement, as now they have two dimensions of characterization, though I concede that's purely the result of it being the natural suckiness of any planned last show. I'll even concede that my entire viewpoint is skewed by years of people telling me "You don't watch Friends?" and then looking at me like they suddenly realized I was Peter Lorre in M.
Clearing out the box

I missed posting it on the right day, but 10points this article gives you a quick guide to Cinco de Mayo.

A lowbrow food, ramen noodles attempts to go highbrow; and a highbrow food, foie gras, attempts to stay legal.

The Brits give us the 50 key moments of pop music (30pointstheir list is a little more interesting than the standard one of these because of its blatant Anglocentrism), while 50pointsthis article gives us the 30 worst songs from Texas (I like this list a little more than the Blender worst 50, because it's got a better theme running through it. For my Lone Star readers: Don't look at this as Texas bashing, after all, I can't even come up with 30 Pennsylvania songs, bad or good. Also, an article this snarky would make writing a question from it trivial. Just credit your source and Ctrl-X, Ctrl-V your way to a healthy bonus.)

There's nothing simpler in question writing than stumbling across a news article about something that everybody knows (and I mean that as something that everybody knows, not "every quiz bowler knows", or the more commonly found "every quiz bowler better than me knows"). Here's three examples.
10pointsThe Silk Road
10pointsThe Three Musketeers
10pointsMona Lisa

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Today, I had the fallout of the latest security policy at work. I had to change my password so that it included any three of the following.
lowercase letters
capital letters

I understand this as a natural consequence of it being easier to hack/crack/hijack people's computers today (witness this article on which passwords shouldn't be used,) but I can't shake the feeling that, when I'm forced to translate my password in L33tsp33k, the terrorists have won.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Those with a better grasp of the language than me: Is there a diminutive form of the word "schism"? Because I really would like that better than what I have been using for this local story: "Tom Clancy's Splinter Church"