Thursday, September 30, 2004

Well, it's done. MLB's slow strangulation of the Expos is complete.

At this point I have to hope that they go with either the Nationals or Senators. Its not a slight to the name the Grays, I just know that the moment they name the team that, Darth Selig's goons will apply the history eraser button, and the actual facts of the Homestead Grays will be purged as inconvenient to the marketing narrative. I like to think the Pirates have done an excellent job honoring both their local teams, the Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. But I have to figure that come next year, the left field entrance at PNC will have significant changes to it, and not for the better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I'm apparently not the only one in the family with powers. My mother seems to have the ability to bring destruction wherever she leaves. I phrase that specifically that way, because nothing bad happens until after she leaves. It used to be a one-year to 18-month delay, the key data points on this being our family trip to Alaska, one year before the Exxon Valdez, visiting Yellowstone about 16 months before the nearly the entire park got burnt off, and her trip to Myrtle Beach being one year before the condo she was staying in getting flattened by a hurricane. Why do I mention this? I think the time delay is shrinking. In the past 72 hours:

-- They announced that Mount Saint Helens has been having tremors. She bought me a T-shirt from their trip there after the wedding.
-- An earthquake struck the middle of California, where she drove past before the wedding.
-- Hurricane Jeanne rolled up the coast, just after she left my aunt's in the Carolinas.

And what happened while she was out of town? Ivan rolled through here.

We'll try and keep her immobilized, but no promises.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Why I really am a bad role model, Part XXXIX

After the team made the motel Friday night, they mentioned that they were going to have an impromptu Russ Meyer film festival in tribute to the man. I responded that the proper honor to such a fallen homie was to drop on the ground some of the contents of a 40D.

Friday, September 24, 2004

There's apparently a word for it:
Marmotomancy - Divination by groundhog

While reading Honest Wagner, I stumbled across this site, and found the word marmotomancy, which frankly is an awesome word. If I ever decide to try to customize out my own version of Nethack, marmotomancers are coming in as a low-level monster. It then occurred to me that there might be one thing that unifies Pennsylvania, the Groundhog. Even the PA Lottery, which can't do anything right in their ads, notices this, with their ads featuring Gus the second-most-famous groundhog in Pennsylvania. For some reason I then turned my thoughts to the notion that their should have been a military unit from Pennsylvania nicknamed the Groundhogs. Not sure why my brain made this leap, but it seemed cool. Some sort of marines, or mechanical infantry with the logo of a groundhog at the wheel, with the slogan "Drivin' Angry". So I did a search for "groundhog army" and found this on one link, which makes me feel a little better. Then I saw this. I don't feel so good about it now.

While Joe and Matt have pointed out the coolness of the Ambition de-motivation poster, I have to say that if I had to take a sentence to describe the good and bad sides of NAQT, this one could probably be true in all interpretations.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Dead Milkmen Taught us:
Bitchin' Camaro, Bitchin' Camaro
I ran over my neighbors
Bitchin' Camaro, Bitchin' Camaro
Now it's in all the papers.

Apparently one of his neighbors was a tank. Ladies and Gentlemen, the most amazing thing I can link to in quite a while:
David Koresh's Camaro up for auction
via autoblog

Monday, September 20, 2004

Uncollated thoughts of my weekend.

Friday night my office closed up an hour early due to the remnants of Ivan, which tells you enough about the storm that I was about 800 miles inland from its arrival. While driving home the biggest problem I had was that the creek had taken over one lane on Washington Pike, and was working its way over to the other, so I figured I was going to be okay, though I did start to get worried when I noticed that they had fenced off about 10 parking spaces in my lot because the ground beneath had given way earlier in the week. Living on the third floor also helps.

My parents had decided this was the weekend to visit my aunt in the Carolinas, so I needed to check in with my aunt who lives adjacent to my parents. Not that their houses were in any danger, they're up on the hill, worst case would be a tree falling down. The only tree that came down landed on the driveway, so that was good. However I found out that Houston, PA was getting whacked six ways from Sunday. Given they had already wrecked most of the downtown to put in a wider intersection, I figure there's going to be a sinkhole there next week.

On Saturday, I awake to a sunny day, see that I'm in no danger, aside from the possibility of a tree falling over into my entryway on the next storm. I'll live. I'm also under a water advisory, so I decide to roll out to the local store and get some fluids, and find out how bad people are having it. It was then I found out the highway interchange flooded out, so I was feeling really lucky. Coming back to my apartment, I caught a bit of Pitt-Nebraska, including the first real sign of the scope of this thing. They took a blimp shot of just outside Heinz Field, and showed a marina floating downriver, with about 40 boats attached. Immediately, I think "Hmm. Free Marina."

Sunday morning, the radio wakes me to the story of Carnegie, PA. At about 5PM Friday, the entire emergency services staff of Carnegie gets stuck on the elevated bridge in town. About 5 minutes later, the chief of police gets a call telling him that Canonsburg Dam is about to go. Now, for those of you without a map, if Canonsburg Dam goes, and you're stuck on the elevated bridge in Carnegie, you have eight minutes to consider your future career as a marina. On the other hand, I would have approximately four minutes to consider the need to purchase an Alan Parsons Project or other form of commuter hovercraft. Luckily, it didn't go, however it's no way to start your morning.

Sunday afternoon, I saw two of the most disturbing things possible in a Steelers game. First of all was the Tommy Maddox injury, which if you saw it in real time, looked freakishly like what Willis McGahee's injury looked like if done to an elbow.You can bend the elbow one way, or the other, but not both ways in a one second period. I should apologize to Tommy, after he jammed his arm earlier on someone's helmet, and then started jawing with the guy, I said to myself: "He's not making it out of this game, he's either getting ejected or killed." I guess it's my fault. I need to learn to control these powers.
The second scariest thing I saw in this game was our fake punt formation, which looked all the world like we were put Gardocki in at slot, and Polamalu was at quarterback. Let me get this straight, we still have fifteen former quarterbacks on the team, and we're the safety?

Waking up with Burger King next to me has to be about 94-octane nightmare fuel. Comparatively, Arby's oven mitt gouging out its own eye, in an Un Rosbif Andalou moment, only 86-octane.

Late Sunday, two odd bits. First of all, Kellen Winslow blows out the equipment. Given we pretty much already decided to put him on the list, but I forgot to update, can I put him up with strikethru? I need a ruling on this. I then flip over to flooding coverage to find that the death toll is mercifully low, but the injuries are exceedingly high. And Pittsburgh's crappy demographics strike again. The chief injury: broken bones, mostly hips, caused by people slipping and falling as they shovel mud.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

For the record, despite what it says in the ad, I really don't think I want my dental hygenist to have a little captain in her.

Friday, September 10, 2004

MadCraneSkillz DemiBold 12

If I had to pick the notion of something that I'd have no shot at making money at, as a calling in life, (well, besides going full-time as a quiz bowl dilletante,) I'd have to give pause to the notion of historian of typefaces. I've had a longstanding fascination with letters, if not words, ever since I had one of the old 1984-era Macs, some people trainspot, others shout "hey, it's that guy", I sit there going "Is that Trade Gothic?" In relation to the previous post, I sometime try and figure out the age of office buildings by observing the fonts they use. But realism sets in, and I have to think it's the real life equivalent of Mad Crane Skillz (you can check the CMU lexicon for this). So if you would have told me the most pressing issue in the campaign season is the need for forensic typography, well, you can see where I was thinking I missed an opportunity in life. Being the Cyril Wecht of fonts, a talking head called upon once every 20 years... It's no Bond villain, but it's not bad.

I'm not even certain they're complete frauds at this point (I'm leaning about 65% that way, 30% there's something else going on here, some form of incompetence explaining away malice, and 5% these actually are completely true.) The interesting bit I'm seeing in this is the almost direct parallel between what I'm seeing in people in the Killian memos situation, and what went on in the pursuit of the Hitler Diaries ("Smooth, Dwight," he thinks, "antagonize your political readers on both sides, AND invoke Godwin's Law. Real smooth.") My source for this being the account Selling Hitler by Robert Harris, which is a good and surprisingly amusing history of the scam in the early '80s, whose aftermath basically torched the careers of a number of media and publishing figures in Germany. (My copy even comes with an amusing picture of British comedian Alexei Sayle in a funny moustache, as I believe it became a British TV movie.) In the German case, it was clear that the documents weren't right, but people involved desperately, irrationally wanted them to be right. The bit that topped this for me was how Konrad Kujau decided to make his forgeries extra enticing to the buyers:

As a finishing touch, he stuck some imitation metal initials in gothic script on the cover. The initials were bought by Kujau in a department store, were made of plastic in Hong Kong, and were in fact 'FH', not 'AH' as Kujau had thought. It was, like all his forgeries, slipshod and homemade. It would not have withstood an hour's expert examination.
--Selling Hitler, p. 117

Clearing out the backlog Part 3

Earlier this year, I for some reason caught a section of 60 Minutes on John Stilgoe. He's a professor at Harvard, and I really don't know how he manages to keep a position. Not that I think he's doing anything wrong, in fact he's probably doing something nobody else in academia is really doing, emphasizing observation. He got my attention with one of his easy demonstrations: Look at the logo for FedEx. Go on, I'll wait. Do you see an arrow? Do you see it now? Look between the E and the x. Now I had seen it once, a long time back, and then forgotten about it, and then I noticed it when Kinko's got bought and became a FedEx fiefdom that their new logo was a star made of three arrow points. Nice continuity on their part.
S'anyway... I decided to pick up a copy of his treatise Outside Lies Magic, which tries to emphasize observation in the context of exploring your local geography and history. If nothing else, he managed to explain one of the great mysteries of my life. When I lived with my parents there was one road to go to Washington, and that was via Meadowlands. At the end of that road, you'd come to a stop sign and state 519 was there, and if you went across that, you'd end up on Racetrack Road. But Racetrack Road and Allison Park Road didn't meet evenly, they were skew by about 15 feet. So you'd always have to make this hard chicane to go across, and usually about once a year somebody'd get their car clipped going through there. It never made any sense. But with a simple explanation of township planning, premises of equal area for lots, and the curvature of the earth, I understood why the gap was there.
If you're interested in keeping your eyes open, and being able to make connections of things beyond that that you'd find in a tossup, I'd recommend him highly.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Clearing out the backlog part 2

My LaPlaca Picks

10-Father of the Pride (NBC)
We've discussed this.
9-House (FOX)
I pulled this one because I figure it's problematic given its running against another new show, Clubhouse, which means that even if someone recommends it, they're likely to mistakenly recommend its competition.
8-Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Either this is warmed over Knots Landing, or the worst title ever. I can ruin your opinion of this show in two words: peanut butter. If you know the joke, you won't be able to watch.
It's in the third position at its time between MNF, and CSI: Honey BBQ.
6-Common Savages (ABC)
Dumb title.
5-Drew Carey's Green Screen (WB)
Okay, the one unfunny bit from Whose Line is It Anyway? and it treads frighteningly close to You're in the Picture.
4-Jonny Zero (FOX)
Friday 9pm, Fox. Stupid Title. This is like buying bonds.
3-Life As We Know It (ABC)
They're describing it as My So Called Life for teenage boys. From past experience, I doubt you can plumb any emotional depth from teenage boys, well that won't disturb the viewer.
2-Boston Legal (ABC)
Never name your show after Seafood. Already fixed but the damage is done. And James Spader's hunger for series is not yet slaked. Run away, Bill, run away!
1-Center of the Universe (ABC)
This is just because it has to die. Steinhice demands it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Clearing out the backlog part 1.

The annual draft post.

Fourteen teams, I had the 5th pick.
Round 1: Deuce McAllister
The question was simple Alexander or McAllister, those were the two left on my list. I'll probably regret it.
Round 2: Hines Ward
Last year, Brian swiped Hines directly in front of me with the first pick in the third, and I screwed up with the notion that Plex was a reasonable replacement. Maybe I got territorial, maybe not. But I wasn't about to have that happen again.
Round 3: Santana Moss
I wasn't going to get 2 of the top 20 running backs, so I concentrated on two of the top 10 wideouts.
Round 4: Duce Staley
My gut was telling me there wasn't much difference between running back 20 and 25, and that group was running out. Couple that with the possibility of the double deuce backfield, that made it easy. The only other option at this point was figure that this one of the RB's would be there in 10 picks, and take a TE. However, as I noted to Craig at the time me taking Kellen Winslow II, would have been like me running out in a thunderstorm wearing copper underwear screaming "All gods are bastards!" It went significantly beyond fraught, straight into tempting fate.
Round 5: Marc Bulger
Winslow went in the intervening picks, and the TE's were overpriced here. So the best QB available was Bulger, now to be dubbed BulgerBulgerBulgerBulger Q-B-Q-B.
Round 6: Isaac Bruce
I keep playing this game on the premise that I can sub in a strong 3rd wideout for a weak second back. This would fall under that premise. This would also fall under the by-law for this year that I get every starter I can with a long-U sound in their name. You'd think it would limit my options.
Round 7: Jeff Wilkins
You know, I'm going to end up living and dying by Mike Martz, Supergenius. This is going to suck.

At this point Craig's connection died, and we had to scrap the rounds until three days later, when I was going to be around. The bad side of this was me being unable to panic in place during the draft, and not go snarky on everything. The good thing was me being able to map out the plan for the remaining rounds. In the intervening days, I figured out two pieces of information which allowed me to hopefully save some face. The first was finding out exactly how many of Minnesota's running backs could be relied upon early, and the second was finding out Marc Boerigter's injury was really bad, making KC wideouts an interesting choice. Not bad, of the people I targeted as "I'd really like to get them," I bagged 4 of them (rounds 8,11,12,13)

Round 8: Moe Williams
Had no problem with Moe last year, and finding he'd get a few early games without either Smith or Bennett was a real good find for me.

Round 9: Freddie Jones
Needed a TE.

Round 10: Carson Palmer
Needed a backup QB in case the Rams implode. I'll also need to get my head directly in front of the gun at that point.

Round 11: Dante Hall
I'm either going to be a mad genius for this or the village idiot. I lean towards the former for the following: He's right now the second WR for KC, and this year for the first time in our league, return TD's count for the player, not just the defense.

Round 12: Itula Mili
Standard issue second TE, I probably didn't need him, but I actually kind of like him better than Freddie Jones.

Round 13: Antwaan Randle El
See Dante Hall, I specifically put him on my grab list. See the Kick return argument, he'll also be the 3rd string QB, which tends to make me think he might get in a game at some point as a passer.

Round 14: Minnesota D
I needed a D. I saw an article last year about how one could basically pick the best matchup every week and grab a D off the waiver wire and beat over half the D's out there. I'm half-tempted to try that notion out.

Round 15: Garrison Hearst
I just said, get me another RB if I only had 3 at this point. I should have just had him take Ricky Williams (either one, maybe I could get a field bet).

So in theory, here's your 2004-05 Bridgeville Trolls
QB: BulgerBulgerBulger
RB: Deuce, Duce, with Williams in matchups
WR: Hines, SMoss, Bruce, with Hall in matchups
TE: Mili
K : Wilkins
D : Minn

I like the wideouts, and I hope that there's enough duct tape everywhere else.

Actually, looking at the list:
I might just have the "Il Duce" offense. Yeah, we're officially overthinking this.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

File this under why I loathe interleague: This article notes the likely arrangement for interleague next year, and points out that the Pirates may finally get to play the AL East formally. The kicker will be if we actually get to complete the circuit. Even at this point the Pirates have yet to play either Baltimore or the Yankees. This wouldn't annoy me so much, were it not that these are the only two teams the Pirates would want to play on historical grounds, rather than geographical. (No disrespect to Boston and Detroit folks, but reliving either the 1903 or 1909 series just isn't doing it. Not enough centenarians around here, despite our petrifying demographics, sorry.) Since 1927, the Pirates have played in four World Series, two against the Yankees (1927, 1960), two against the O's (1971, 1979). It's not that I actually expect MLB to the throw us the bone, and given it would involve a sacrifice by two of the most powerful owners in the league, I really don't expect it to happen, unless there is no choice for them. So we'll see.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

In real life, people have asked, "So Dwight, what do you actually do all day?" And my stock answer has been "I break things for money," which has the advantage of being both true and undistinguishing of my job of testing engineering software from that of a mob enforcer. Occasionally our software ends up showing up in the darnedest places, like a couple years back where our stuff was kind of key in figuring out if they could raise the Hunley. Well, our stuff's at it again, but I'm now ticked at the Canadian government. Our company's helping to back the da Vinci Project (No, we're not Golden Palace), which is a Canadian entrant in the X Prize competition. Apparently the government won't let them fly without insurance, but no insurance company has ever had to write a policy for this, and so they're all apparently overpricing. On the other hand, the jokers at the Winnipeg Sun are managing to drive the price up. Of course, on any insurance claim, they'd be coming after my company, and more specifically, my butt. Admittedly, there would be something cool about being the guy responsible for the obliteration of Saskatoon (the post here would read "Saskatoon blow'd up. My bad."), it's something the Bond villain in me would aspire to. And yes, the job description of Bond villain is also undistinguished from software testing, by my description.