Monday, June 16, 2008

It's late, but we had a call for me to talk about my father.

Two moments:
Many years ago before YouTube, or any of the internet's repositories, my father went looking for a tape. A very specific tape. See It Now, March 19, 1954. So he consulted catalogs, checked archives, and finally ended up calling up CBS Television, and got them to give him an copy of their archive footage. And he showed that to me on one night when I was back from college, and I guess it's been an influence ever since. For my dad it was formative as he watched it live, and watched his father broken from being spellbound. This showed him how the powerful can be taken down, armed with facts and logic and without hate or lies. For me, it's always been the sanitizing power of sunshine, give people have enough information, they get an accurate picture, and they make the right decisions.

This past Sunday, we got to sit and talk about my work. He's always had a passing interest in my work with NAQT because of the similarities between the quizbowl situation, and the minicomputer industry back in the early '80s. In '83 he was selling minicomputers and memory boards (10 grand a Megabyte!) to industrial plants, for a company that held 80% of that market. But that company had made a lot of mistakes, they had alienated a lot of their customers and employees, and they believed themselves invincible. So my dad got together with a few other people, and put together a technological improvement to their model, and he started a company. Over three years they took a prototype to production, and it ended up in utility plants, factories, and (in his proudest moment) JPL, where it processed the signal from the Voyager probes (even at this distance, they're still sending signal through). He spent a week in the crawl spaces of JPL pulling cable to connect it all up. And after three years where his opposition was arrogant enough to put its clients up for the taking, then worried enough to lie and spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about him and his products, then paranoid enough to bury their statements, and incompetent enough to let their 80% market dominance become his company's 80% market dominance, he sold his company back to them, and watched as the increase in processor speed obliterated the market for minicomputers.

So he's always seen the similarities between NAQT and his situation back then, and now that we find ourselves at the end of the road for one of our competitors, he could see the similarities. He sat there on Father's Day and having heard of all the changes and who was gunning for us and how they had burned their own reputations while trying to burn ours, and who we could still help, he just smiled, which is rare enough for him, and he said, “I think you should keep at it.” And he 's right, the situation may have changed, but if we're going to hook this up truly for everyone, there's still some cables to pull.

At the end of the day, we end up being our father's sons. And I am not descended from fearful men.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's entirely possible the years of Pirate baseball have damaged my ability to watch other forms of baseball. I got to watch nine innings of purely ordinary incompetence, this weekend, a 12-8 game where the starter managed to go five innings, giving up 7 runs on four hits, four walks, 2 hit batsmen, a passed ball, and a balk. The home team falls behind on a grand slam only to gut it out to pull ahead and win. To top the excitement off, the mascot dance-off was punctuated with a marriage proposal.

And with all of this action in a 12-8 game, I nearly fell asleep. Apparently I now need the incredible craziness of Pirate inexplicability to really enjoy it. "Yes this sucks, but that guy might beanball his third baseman at any moment."

In other news, I would like to note that television has finally caught up with the notion of "I'll Eat That," my theater of cruelty gameshow. And I think that by adding the notion of gyroscopic exercise equipment, they may have actually surpassed it with Hurl. Not that I really want to watch it, but I know exactly the people that will. And with this, we move one step closer to Running Man.