Friday, December 12, 2003

Holiday Haiku

Enemy of the day: The pudgy businessman in the next seat of the train. He took out a raggedy Kleenex, blew/picked his nose, then rolled it under the seat in front of him.

I’ve been working Rockefeller Center Holiday Tourist Haiku recently. Damn, these people are annoying. Here's a sampling:

Radio City?
You’re standing right under it.
You dumb-ass tourist.

"Please hold the subway!"
Yes it goes to Thirty-Fourth Street
Now get on or off.

Escalator’s dead
Four hundred ninety steps up
I hate Herald Square

I love a parade!
Millions of volunteers out
Your red jackets suck

Tall escalator
You just made it to the top!
Now just stand around

Counterfeit watches
Bought from a fake wheelchair guy
Worst Christmas EVER

Because of the storm
All PM trains are cancelled
Thanks for riding us!

A.M. New York

Okay, I’m getting yelled at for not keeping this updated….

They introduced a new newspaper a few weeks ago – A.M. New York. It’s free, it’s completely devoid of content, and it’s hawked by a bevy of no-doubt well-recompensed annoyances outside Penn Station. There’s really no reason whatsoever to read this thing, but it doesn’t stop them from trying.

The great thing, though, is that they’re obviously not allowed to leave until they give away all of their papers. In the beginning, they were “selling” it with calls like “Top news story! Top news story!” That wasn’t working when you could buy Newsday for a quarter next to them. So they cleverly switched tactics to “Free news! Don’t cost you nothing! Free news!” Of course, this begged the question of what value it had. So today, there’s a driving rainstorm. Combining the value proposition of freeness with the tactile honesty of print, several A.M. New York vendors have adopted a new pitch: “A.M. New York! You can use it to keep dry! You don’t got an umbrella!”

Saturday, November 15, 2003


Remarkably, I was able to get the ReplayTV working on the first shot, with a new 160 GB drive. It's a slightly annoying process that involves downloading a drive image from an unofficial site, patching the new drive with that image, then connecting the drive to the ReplayTV box. Then you plug it back in, give it a factory reset, and start from scratch. But it's working, and it's not skipping and freezing anymore. I feel so ept.

I spent a bit of time relaxing at King Kullen, "America's First Supermarket." I like King Kullen for two reasons. First, they mist the red peppers every five minutes so that you don't notice that the stems are rotting out. While they mist, they play a few notes of "Singin' In The Rain," presumably to hide the fact that it looks like someone tap danced on the tomato three-packs. The second thing I like is the expanded ethnic food aisle, featuring products from some unnamed Eastern European country. There's nothing I enjoy more to start my day off than clownberries in heavy syrup!

I got email from Sylvia, my train friend. She'd been talking about company layoffs for a few weeks, and they finally did it to her. It sucks.

Friday, November 14, 2003


The ReplayTV is dying. It's very nearly dead. It's constantly rebooting itself, the shows are stuttering, and it's acting like something with a busted hard drive acts. I can't even pull shows off of it anymore. So like any self-styled geek, I did the only thing possible. I took it upstairs and disassembled it.

A ReplayTV is pretty simple, actually. A couple of wires and circuits, and standard hard drives. This one was a model 4160, with two 80 GB hard drives. I figured I might have to do a disk check on them or replace them, so I took the drives out of the Replay, opened up my desktop machine, attached the first Replay drive to the HD ribbon, and yes! I snapped one of the connector pins on the drive, completely destroying it.

Well, there's still one more to try. I plugged it into the PC, and yes! Nothing came up on it. I've managed to destroy two 80 GB drives in five minutes. I'M NOT A HARDWARE PERSON. I read up on ways to upgrade your Replay, and I've decided that the only solution is to put in a new 160 GB drive.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Heat's Off! Part II

The heat's off again. The house is about 50 degrees, and you've heard the rest of the story. There's a bit of water that's as warm as 70; I actually take a 45 second shower. The rats are huddled outside on the deck, rubbing their paws together for warmth as they surround a teeny-tiny little garbage can with a fire in it.

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Heat's Off!

The heat's off. The house is about 50 degrees, and the thermostats are turned up to 80 or so. As everyone knows, turning the thermostat way up high makes really, really hot air blow out and increases the temperature a lot more quickly. Set it at 78, 78 degree heat blows out. Set it to 140, 140 degree heat blows out and the house is warm again in five minutes.

I went downstairs and pressed the big red "Do not press this button" button on the furnace. It went on for a few seconds, then cut out again. Time to call Frank Brothers. Frank Brothers showed up and figured out the technical problem - they didn't deliver the oil in time! So "Frank" went out and got a little pitcher of oil to top up the house. That lasted for, oh, a few hours.

Saturday, November 8, 2003


Newsday had the worst lede ever today: "When Saturday night's moon hits your eye, the big pizza pie may take on the hue of tomato paste during a total lunar eclipse visible throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and western Asia."

Morning Squirts game on Staten Island. The less said about that area, the better.

I just discovered USSearch, and it's sort of disturbing. It has public records on everyone in the United States. Search for your name and you'll probably see your age and every town you've ever lived in. It even has a listing of all my arrests for solicita...uh...moving violations. Yes, that's right. Moving violations.

Friday, November 7, 2003

Cynicor Tourist Challenge

I've just discovered that Cordelia's favorite NFL teams are the Broncos and the Colts. If there were teams called Mares, Geldings, or Suffolk Punches, I get the feeling they'd be on the list too.

New Cynicor Game: The Manhattan Tourist Challenge. Grab a friend after the Rock Center tree goes up, go to lunch in the area, and see who can act the most like an annoying tourist. Suggested head starts: A voluminous Old Navy bag that has nothing in it but a 12-pack of travel tissues that you bought from Duane Reade for 5c off. A jacket from the Des Plaines High School marching band. And make sure to call it Avenue of the Americas, not Sixth Avenue.

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Go rat go!

Longest damn day of my life. After repeated rodent problems, the exterminator was called back. This time they didn't send over the guy who said that mice have cartilage instead of bones, but the guy who did come over said "mice ain't doin' this." He left behind some rat traps. Shortly thereafter, they started to snap shut every few minutes. It sounded like a day-late celebration of Guy Fawkes Day.


Big rat.

Little rat.

White rat. Brown rat.

Go rats go! "Now do you like my hat?"

"No. You're filthy vermin that ate about two pounds of my dried fruit. I want to snap your neck and get your family out of my walls before you chew up any more of my satellite cables and give my dogs the plague."

Rats sorted out, I packed my son in the car for his hockey practice. It was pissing rain. My headlights didn't seem to be working well. My wipers didn't seem to be working well. Then as I was tooling up the Sagtikos, my radio reset itself. Uh oh - this is what happened two weeks ago. I got this FIXED. This time the car died within about two miles of driving. I barely made it over to the grassy side of the rain-slicked highway. Dead. Unbelievable. I called AAA, they took only an hour to show up, and I sent it back over to King Bear to fix what I thought was the same problem. Although it turned out not to be - the tow driver pointed out the shredded alternator belt hanging out from under the car!

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Here Comes the Flood


I wanted to send "Here Comes The Flood" to some people who were in Los Angeles with me, but the copy I ripped has those horrible digital skips. And I can't find the CD anywhere - the case is empty. I can't even find the MP3 online, either legally or illegally. (Thanks to Brett Sommers for coming to the rescue and supplying me with her own rip.)

Back home, Bertie keeps staring under the TV, and I'm hearing some scratching noises behind the baseboard. I think we've found our mice. So I look under the TV, and there's suddenly a hole in the wall that looks just like a classic cartoon mousehole. Time to call the exterminator.

Monday, November 3, 2003

Ottawa matinee

Brian Randell has just written to inform me that this is NOT his homepage, this is. Apologies to the real Brian Randell. Apologies to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne for any inconvenience this may have caused.

The Islanders had a near-perfect game against the Ottawa Senators tonight. 6-3 win, breaking a home losing streak that went back to 1996. The Islanders are now 3-3-0-1 against the Sens in their last seven games, playoffs included.

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Cynicor HubbyHelmet

Great satellite image (heat-enhanced) of the fires around Los Angeles this week. (Not great as in "cool", because over a dozen people have died. Well, yeah. Great as in "cool". Except for everyone who died.)

The oddest Halloween treat was the old lady down the block who gives each kid a fun-size Snickers and a tennis ball. Because even more than candy, what kids like on Halloween is a nice game of fetch.

Great new idea to bring marriages closer together. All wives love to nag, and all husbands love to sit around watching football. With the new Cynicor HubbyHelmet, you can bring these interests together! We supply a custom-made, full-sized football helmet with your husband's name on it. Every time he does a chore that you're nagging him to do, he gets a gold star (supplied)! In no time, your couch potato spouse will be on the house's all-star ballot, and you'll both have fun doing it!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Happy Halloween!

I’ve spent the afternoon passing out cigarettes to children who’ve come by to trick or treat. I know what you’re thinking – “that’s really expensive!” But it’s okay. How can I say no? I love those damn kids.

I dug out last year’s Halloween light-up pumpkin head from the garage. The eyes no longer lit up. Really, that’s not the performance I expect from Golden Power brand AA batteries after just a year in a pumpkin head. I should’ve looked at the note on the label: “Warning: Batteries may leak or explode if placed in electronic devices.”

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Escape from L.A.

I was just sick of Los Angeles when I woke up, even though the smoke layer cleared a bit for the first time. I headed to LAX at 9 AM, hoping to bump myself up from the 3 PM flight I’d scheduled. There were sixty people on line at the check-out, so I did the right thing. I walked over to the nearly empty first-class line and said that I was sent over because the chattel line was too long. Quite the timesaver! They popped me onto the 10 AM flight without a change fee, and they upgraded me using the flight coupons in my account as well. Bingo! Business class, here I come.

I even set a new record for a cross-country flight. My previous mark was 75 new emails, but today I wrote 125. My inbox is officially clean! I had 65 new messages waiting when I got back in, though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Amoeba Records!

I had a revelation today. Two weeks ago, I read about a place called Amoeba Records. They have branches in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Hollywood. Today I went for the first time. I’m in love. It’s like Johnny’s Records in Darien, expanded to the size of Virgin Megastore.

All the CDs seem to be about $12 (instead of the $18 that Virgin often wants). There are used copies of everything for $5. They have a huge selection of DVDs upstairs, including an import section. They have a separate section for STEVE COOGAN DVDs. STEVE COOGAN! I got seven CDs for $65, plus British DVDs of “Brass Eye” and “Cruise of the Gods”. Finally, a reason to like L.A. If you’re ever in town and need to kill some time, go to Amoeba. It’s the best store I have been to in my life EVER.

I took my booty (and the CDs I bought) back to the Omni for a quick ripping session and a listen to the Isles-Pens game. After a stirring comeback (and a first listen to the CD by The Datsuns), I took myself down to the CoDe Magazine/Wintellect party. It was quite nice, although I was getting a little hungry and took a plate for the carvery prematurely. Once you’re holding a plate, what can you do? I stood there trying to figure out the etiquette. I couldn’t put it back because I’d fingerprinted it. I didn’t want to put it down because it would be a waste of a clean plate. I ended up standing there, looking like a tool with a plate, for about 15 minutes waiting for the r. beef to be carved up.

I was accosted by Brian Randell, who reminded me to keep adding entries to the blog because he always reads them. Since he’s the only one, I might just rededicate it to him as our personal dialog. A magical dialog, devoid of proper RSS feeds.

All the great Wintellect guys were there, including John Robbins and Jeff Richter. The Junkies showed up for the the carvery, Code Project was there to talk politics. Everyone at CoDe Magazine is really friendly too, and they’re dedicated to what they do. If you subscribe to only two magazines this year, make them the second one.

After the party wound down, I ended up back at The Standard with the Junkies, trying to get to the rooftop bar. Unfortunately, it was closed for a private Fashion Week event. I forget who had the idea of putting our Universal Studios party wristbands on and giving it a shot, but somehow it worked. The guy working the escalator let us all right up and into the elevator. We made it into the party for a minute (some longer than others), until the bouncer got wise to us and booted us. Perhaps it was the hag-faced former models announcing in stage whispers that we had the wrong bracelets. We’ll never be sure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

PDC party day

Today was the biggest day of the show for us. As we do at most of these big shows, we held an interesting focus group with readers. We always get great feedback about things we haven’t thought about, and we often improve the magazine based on what readers tell us. (Any other suggestions for the magazine, drop us a line.)

After doing the show floor for much of the afternoon (again at the two booths), I headed back to my room at the Omni and freshened up. At the PDC two years ago, we stayed at the Westin Bonaventure. That place was a dump. The elevators induced vertigo. They left room service trays in the hallway overnight. There were hookers in the hotel bar – and not the classy Julia Roberts kind, either. The ones here looked like Diana Ross female impersonators. I knew it was time to go home when I used the restroom in the lobby, looked down at the finely polished floors, and saw a reflection of a hotel worker in a stall, wiping himself. There’s just no excuse for my just having recounted that incident except to point out that the Omni is a nice quiet place to stay on business.

Anyway, after a few minutes back in my hotel room, listening to Isles-Devils on streaming audio (thanks,!), I headed over to the VIP party for PDC sponsors at CafĂ© Pinot. There was an interesting and eclectic group of sponsors this year, including Oracle and IBM. We magazine folk mingled for a bit, then hopped in a cab for our party. Great cab, too – we should’ve paid the extra $5 to get the shocks and struts turned on. After collecting our missing spinal discs, we headed into the party (which was well hidden behind a nondescript door on Vine Street in Hollywood).

The party was somewhat more subdued than many of our recent shindigs. We (me, Kerry, some of the Junkies) had a bit of fondue, sat around in the make-out lounge upstairs, and chatted about the world for a while. A few of our favorite authors (Matt Pietrek, John Robbins) came by for a while. Things wound down after midnight, and as we walked out to the street, the bar manager locked the door behind us. We (Michele, Kerry, Karen, Matt) packed into Kerry’s rental and I drove us back to town. (I get to drive because I’m a lightweight who doesn’t drink. Everyone else seemed to regret the choice.) Once again, we ended up at The Standard.

When you’re an old guy, it starts to feel weird knowing that you’ve just stayed up until you normally arise. (2:30 AM PST, 5:30 AM EST) The bars in Los Angeles close down for some weird reason at 2 AM. How is it going to become a world-class city if it shuts down so early? Even the Fashion Weekers were looking for minibars.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Report from PDC

This is the day! I'm sitting in a keynote right now, and Bill Gates is introducing Longhorn to the attendees. (Longhorn is the next version of Windows, if you haven't heard. It's pretty amazing - new graphics system, new file system, managed code model.) We're the only magazine at the show with Longhorn and Yukon articles. YES! WE'RE THE BEST! If you want to read all about Longhorn, check out our new Developer's Center. Almost makes it worth it to brave the choking air filled with the remnants of people's homes.

The atmosphere here is so nasty right now. It’s over 90 degrees, the city is covered with a silty layer of yellow smoke, and worst of all, it’s Los Angeles. Check out the sunrise!

After a couple of hours of keynotes (and an unusually humorous video featuring Mark Andreesen, P. Diddy, Bill Clinton, and a cast of dozens), I spent a few minutes on the show floor. The MSDN booth was a bit understaffed because the fires had delayed flights, so I answered a couple of softball questions. In my opinion, MSDN had the best giveaways at the show – a great metal lunchbox with a long-sleeve t-shirt inside. To add a touch of excitement, every 50th lunchbox had a severed human hand nestled in it.

MobilePlanet had a special show offer for Pocket PCs. I honed in on an iPaq h2210. I can’t find this unit for less than $340 anywhere online, but it was $199 at the show. And they had them in stock! It was an amazing deal.

So I spent the afternoon talking to companies about their products, hanging out at the MSDN and CMP booths talking to readers, and then playing with my new iPaq. It’s so cool – you can use it as a universal remote control and it’s actually strong enough to work. The battery comes out now, so the thing doesn’t just die like it used to on iPaqs. It’s got an SDIO slot and a CF slot both built in. Just great.

There was a good party at The Standard, a hotel that’s so intensely annoying that you want to slap the crap out of it. It’s also Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles (specifically, in The Standard). You also want to slap the crap out of that, to be honest. Band on the Runtime played the party, and I got to see a bunch of tres important people enjoying cheap snacks. (In no particular order, Steven Smith, Shawn Nandi, Betsy Aoki, Laura Johns, Kevin Ledley, some of the DotNetJunkies, Chris, David, and Bianca from CodeProject, a few thousand other Microsoft people, and a bunch of waitresses dressed in crappy 1970s athletic outfits. How “hip”.)

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Welcome to Hell - L.A.

I flew out to Los Angeles this morning for the PDC. As I left, the region was experiencing quite a few fires out in the Ontario area, where I'd flown out of just a week before. Unlike that flight, however, this one was quite pleasant. There were a few families with children seated near me, but everyone was being nice, friendly, and chatty with one another.

When we were about an hour from LAX, the pilot let us know that the San Diego tracon, the ATC site that tracks where planes are in the air, had been evacuated because of new fires and that Southern California was pretty much closed down. We were pushing through anyway. As we were on our final approach, you could see about a dozen fires on either side of the plane, huge plumes of smoke rizing up into the general yellow haze. The cabin started to smell like fire, and not just because I was flying on American this time. Somehow, we managed to make it in half an hour early.

It was 95 degrees, with an orange-yellow hazy sky and a choking aroma of forest fire hanging in the air. Just add the palm trees and Los Angeles looked like a report from Iraq during the war. I find it interesting that California elects the Terminator, and a couple of weeks later Los Angeles looks like it's been nuked.

When I got to the hotel, I found out that dozens and dozens of flights had been cancelled already, with more to come. The conference floor was almost deserted when I went over to register. A couple thousand attendees were delayed in arriving for at least a day, and it seemed like flights from Seattle were hit the worst.

Kerry (our publisher) and I went to Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills for dinner. I got a bit turned around while driving out there, and ended up in the ass end of Rodeo Drive in South Central, trying to scoot around drug deals and cops and some really unpleasant-looking hookers who were just looking for a ride back to the Westin Bonaventure.

The dining crowd at Mr. Chow was separated into two groups - wannabe celebs and other wannabe celebs. Fred Durst was there with some non-Limp band. Bill Maher walked in with some arm candy, about 6" taller than he was (she was 5'4"). There was a man talking to a PI who looked like he REALLY needed the job. There was a porn baron with his lovely family. There was a table of elderly screenwriters. The food was pretty good too. Next time I make sweet and sour sauce, I need to remember to put white wine in it.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Dead alternator

As is the fashion these days, I got up at 5:30 AM to get Julian to his 7:15 AM game - this one was way the heck over in Nesconset. Actually, I got up at 4:00 AM and couldn't get back to sleep, so I was feeling pretty fresh. I rounded up the usual suspect, hopped in the car, and took off.

Halfway there, the radio clicked off. That's never a good sign. Then the headlights started to dim. I turned off everything I didn't need - the fan, the radio, the purple neon strip around the bumpers. We managed to glide into the Sports Plus lot, but I figured I might have to call for help on the way back.

The game was nice and relaxing. Julian was a +5 in an 11-6 win, despite touching the puck once. Like most other rinks, Sports Plus was far superior to Dix Hills. By the end of the game, the sun was up and the car had warmed up just a bit. We got in, crossed our fingers, and it started okay. It was trying to go home to die. Which it did, as soon as I pulled it into our driveway. AAA was soon by to retrieve it and send it on its way.

The Rebels had a second game at Nassau Coliseum in the afternoon, versus a team from New Jersey. About a month ago, their Webmaster, Tara, dropped me a line. It turns out that she's a distant cousin who found this site while searching for news about her father. It was another good game - Julian's team won 6-0, although he got dumped on his butt by a kid who was about twice his size.

But wait! There's more hockey! We went home, then headed back to the Coliseum again for Islanders-Penguins. It wasn't close. Pittsburgh might be the worst NHL team I've ever seen, and I'm an Islanders fan. They couldn't handle the puck, they couldn't keep the Isles from rushing the zone, and they started a lot of fights and lost them all, then got additional penalties. The final was 7-2 Islanders, and it wasn't even that close. Mario Lemieux isn't going to make it past Christmas.

And of course, the best news of all - the Yankees lost!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Two towers of fire

How lame is it that one of the two towers of fire is broken for the Islanders team intro?

Friday, October 17, 2003

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I nearly got into a fight on the flight home. My seat was on the aisle in the exit row. They closed the door, and I had one of about four empty seats next to me. But then a late straggler, a slightly flabby middle-aged gentleman, decided that he wanted to switch off his middle seat, said something to the flight attendant, then walked over and sat next to me. He was an elbower. He began claiming his territory by shoving my arm off the armrest, then applied constant hard pressure to my arm and ribs with his arm, which was already draped over the armrest onto my seat. I'd already taken melatonin and dramamine, I've got earplugs, headphones, an eyemask, and a blanket in or on me - I was just trying to go to sleep. After a couple of minutes he announced "Guy, I don't have any problem sharing the armrest, but c'mon." I said that obviously he DID have a problem sharing the armrest, because he's shoved my arm off it. Then I cover myself back up for napping, but the brief exchange gave King Ahole the opportunity to encroach even further into my seat. The petty stupidity continued for another couple of minutes, until he's elbowing my ribs as hard as he can. I was restraining the urge to haul off and slug him, because I didn't feel like getting arrested when we landed.

Instead, I rang the call button. The attendant came over to see what's up. I explained that unfortunately, my neighbor was elbowing me hard, shoving me, and trying to create an altercation while I was lying there, trying to sleep. He give what I assume was his patented King Ahole chortle and announced that "he's just trying to watch TV and change the channels" and that I was blocking him. But he did it in his joyless laughing voice that was supposed to get people around him laughing at me. The attendant found another seat, further back but on the aisle, and said that we need to not be sitting next to each other. King Ahole just sat there for a minute with the "I'm not budging" body language, and suggested that I get up and move. I finally announced that I'm not moving, that I have a boarding pass for the exit row, and that he can't produce a boarding pass for the seat he's in so he'd better just move. He grumbled that "this is where they told me to sit," then got up eeeeextra slowly, glared at me, and moved.

No further trouble, but I kept wondering whether he'd confront me at the luggage claim. I was running through what I'd do if he tried to menace me, deciding to say something like "I'm sorry you were uncomfortable on the flight" and then ignoring him. However, his type wasn't actually going to do something in public. Problem solved.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Connections Q&A panel

I finally slept a bit late (8 AM), then struggled mightily to get awake. For some reason, it takes about six hours to pack everything to go, but I crammed it all into three bags, tossed it all in the car, and checked out. I also got to serve on the conference's Q&A panel. About ten of us sat up on stage, answering questions from the 200 or so punters in the crowd. Almost all the questions were SQL-related. I didn't answer any of them. However, I was watching the Yanks-Sox score, and when I relayed the final score (9-6 Boston) to Carl Franklin for announcement, just about the entire crowd let off a cheer. Face it, Yankees fans - everyone hates your team.

I had a great farewell dinner at Azur, an onsite restaurant that's part of the Le Bernardin empire. I then headed off for the Ontario Airport, another beautiful drive. Driving back through the windmill farm at night was an experience. You just see a few lights until you actually look over at the windmills. Then, you see a freaky strobe pattern that goes from tower to tower, like you're driving through the Matrix's proving grounds. The drive takes you through town after town, all surprisingly large. Why does Redlands need 63,000 people?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

My superior presentation

I feel a bit better this morning, because I've had five hours of sleep instead of the normal four. I also discovered a great 80s station in the Palm Springs area. Who would ever have thought that I could hear The The blaring over FM radio again? I cruised around for a few minutes with one of the saleschimps, then headed back to the La Quinta (translation: "the the Quinta") to freshen up for my big presentation.

One thing you might not know about these conferences is that the presenters are just normal people who've taken the initiative to learn a bit about a topic and can discuss it in public. A lot of the time we'll be putting the slides and samples together until the last minute, and we all worry that the sessions are going to go well. In my case, I worry a whole lot because, let's face it, I'm crap at presentations. As the tedious saying goes, I have strong oral skills but I don't speak well.

I spent a few minutes alone in the speakers' lounge to collect my thoughts and test my samples a final time. Last time out, my presentation went reasonably well because I rehearsed it in front of my office and walked through the bugs. This time, I didn't really have a chance to do so and I kept finding places where I repeated information a couple of times. My program itself was cool. It lets the user choose any county in the United States, downloads detailed GIS info from the Census Department site, unzips it, and DTSs the data into SQL Server. The second half lets the user choose any county from the catalog, plots it onto a bitmap in memory, then returns it via ASP.NET.

In the speaker lounge, I gave it a dry run. I chose Cook County, Illinois, and downloaded it. It's a huge file, and for some reason it jammed up in the sample. Bad data or something, explosion, program crash, the works. I tried a couple of other counties and they worked fine, so I figured I'd just keep my fingers crossed. 2 PM approached and I was ready to go.

I got up on stage and was pleased to see that about 40 people had trickled in. My talk started out okay. I explained the basis behind my program, started to walk through the concepts, and ten minutes was already gone. Then things started to go bad. As I got into my slides, I realized that I had so many printed notes that they were rendered in six point type. Unreadable. I had a fancy setup that allowed me to have my slides on one machine, my code on another. I kept forgetting to switch between them, so I'd be walking through code as the slide was on the screen. People started leaving - not sneaking out, but waiting until I was looking right at them. I wasn't panicking, but I knew it wasn't going well.

But then I got to my demo. This would be really cool - it's worked for months, right? I asked the remaining crowdlet to call out a county name. Anywhere in the country! Well? Anyone? Finally! A voice called out "Cook County, Illinois." Well, shit. Unfortunately, Centre County, Pennsylvania would be substituting for Cook County in today's presentation. I ran the demo, downloaded Centre County using the asynchronous download pattern, and blam! The program crashed. Not the normal exception-in-the-debugger crash, but a "do you want to report your lousy program to Microsoft?" crash. First time it's EVER done this. I was able to calm the code down by the end, but my fragile confidence was shattered, perhaps forever.

I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing my troubles away, then hit the late-nite party scene. I hung out at Robert Green's palatial casita for a while, talking about the Visual Basic user community and other party topics, then filtered across the pathway to Matt Nunn's room again.

Monday, October 13, 2003

La Quinta

One day to my presentation, and I'm back in a "maybe I should've rehearsed" panic. Thanks to my East Coastery, I wake up at about 6 AM with a shrieking headache and toss and turn for a few hours, trying to get back to sleep. That doesn't work, so I get up and take a photo of the sunrise from my window and headache around for a bit. I'm feeling so sluggish that I miss the keynote.

The conference is at La Quinta Resort. There are a billion pools and spas, and the walkways are lined with citrus trees. We're invited to grab fruit right off the tree and try them, but when I actually do this they're either unripe or rotten inside. Come to think of it, I don't know whether the guy who told us to do so actually worked for the resort.

I still have vague ideas that I'm going to drag someone to the Palm Springs tramway. Again, everyone says no. And the tramway says no too - a cable frayed and stranded a car in midair. Instead, I take a quick run over to Trader Joe's, which is far better stocked in California than back home. I want to do all my shopping here. They have almond meal in big bags! Why can't our Trader Joe's have almond meal in big bags?

I managed to snap my Ray-Bans while on the plane, so I've had to purchase some ugly, off-the-rack replacements at the resort. I'm still tired as heck, although I hide it well by lying in the 100 degree desert sun for a couple of hours. Then, off to dinner at a charming little Palm Desert establishment called Ruth's Chris. They evidently serve some sort of steak product and have 13,200 branches in the United States. Who knew??

After a 40 lb. petite filet, I drop off the lightweights from CMP at 10 PM or so, I go over to David Lazar's party for a couple of hours. I'm trying to keep things light because I have my big presentation tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Josh's Whiny Schedule

Hour 0: Day Two of Josh's Whiny Schedule started right on time at 4:32 AM. That's when I woke up and had the "if you doze back off now, you'll never get up at 5 AM" realization.

Hour 2: Getting up early and driving to Great Neck was HARD. Painful hard. The rink up there is quite nice, however. It's properly heated, the ice looks good, and the concession stand is actually open for a 7 AM game. It has banners up to honor the rink regulars who lost their lives on 9/11. The Rebels won 7-3, as well.

Hour 6: I'm in a car on the way to JFK for my flight. It's 10:30 AM and I woke up SIX F$*%# HOURS AGO. I'm exhausted, but I figure that I'll sleep a bit on the plane, what with my seat upgrade. (Left over from the blackout flight.)

Hour 10: Travel Hint: If American Airlines ever offers you vegetable pasta, they mean spinach/feta borselli from Monterey Pasta Company, the same brand that they sell at Costco. Take it over what the attendant offers as "Caribbean-rubbed steak, whatever that means - I've never tried it." I had a bag of Tate's along for the ride, but they seem to have disappeared on the x-ray belt somehow. Very suspicious.

Hour 14: The plane got in at about 3 PM PDT. John Wayne Airport is pretty easy to get out of - just walk across the street and into your car. Two minutes later, you're on the open road. The ugly, ugly open road. The drive from Anaheim to Palm Springs is just breathtaking. 120 miles of manufactured homes and car dealerships. I took a few voice notes on the way, but why bother?

Hour 16: The first interesting stretch on the drive was right before Palm Springs, where the Windmill Farm stretched out on both sides of I-10. Four thousand windmills, churning away enough power for the Palm Springs area. I think they'd need to build a farm the size of Kansas to do the entire country, but I'm willing to make that sacrifice. I got to La Quinta and stopped for supplies. The Ralph's supermarket had striking workers in front of it. So I went across the street to Von's, which had...striking workers in front of it. I later found out that the other shopping choice was Trader Joe's. Yes!

Hour 18: All my expected contacts blew me off, so I worked the show floor for a little bit. Then I stood there at the MSDN booth until 10 PM, trying to look official. No one had questions about the magazine, sadly enough.

Hour 21: Matt Nunn came by and invited us to his room for drinks. I fell in with the dangerous crowd. I left at 1:30 AM.

Hour 24: The La Quinta Resort is REALLY dark at 1:30 AM. It took me 15 minutes to find my car, assaulted on all sides by sprinklers. I finally collapsed in bed at 2 AM.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Through masterful trickery (pretending to be asleep in a chair), I skipped Julian's afternoon game. (The Rebels lost the morning game 6-4, despite a fast start.) However, I made it into the city to see Eddie. He was good and just OK.

I think that the second half of his show was definitely funnier. He did funny bits on horse whisperers, Edith Hamilton, and dentists. The first half was plagued by a technical problem - three punters in the next row kept emitting cackle-shriek-laughs at everything he said, even the lame stuff. After the intermission, they had sobered up nicely and were able to tone it down a bit for the big finale. "IT STINGS LIKE 400 BEES!"

Got home at about 11:45 PM. Time to wake up at 5 AM tomorrow morning!

Friday, October 10, 2003

The Longest Day

Okay, I think I'm in under the wire with code after all. I deleted an unused control from a form and everything broke, until I realized that it was used for...well, nothing. But it was used. You ever have one of those controls?

I've got a grueling schedule the next two days. Tomorrow, Julian has a 7:30 AM hockey game. Then a 3:30 PM hockey game. Then Eddie Izzard is appearing in Manhattan at 8:00 PM. Then on Sunday, another hockey game at 7:00 AM in Great Neck. Then a noon flight to Anaheim, and a two hour drive from there to Palm Springs. ETA: 5:45 PM PDT. The schedule is also known as "the latest thing that Josh has found to whine about." Thanks to Microsoft's new travel policies, I'll be making that drive in a 1978 Fiat Strada with one wiper and a driver-side door that has to be held closed by looping the seat belt around the window roller-downer handle. Because it's $1.50 cheaper than Hertz.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Fixing code for the presentation

There's nothing better than opening night of the NHL. So why did the crappy Islanders have to ruin it by losing 6-1? They gave up five goals before Julian's hockey practice was over. They fell apart like an IKEA bookshelf.

There's no movement on the "fixing code for the presentation" front. Edina is, however, still in full hack mode. I'm officially out of time as of tomorrow night. In celebration, I'm doing my best to eat an entire Entenmann's french butter crumb cake using only a butter knife and two fingers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Hoary cress

Fourpeat! Edina has managed to nudge open a closet sliding door and pudding up the slider tracks. I've just had it.

I also have the head cold that's been raging through the house. The symptoms are not being able to concentrate at work well enough to do anything but watch Alan Partridge videos online. The Cynicor empire is about to nail one of its biggest acquisitions yet. I'm in discussions with the guy who runs the Lee & Herring Fist of Fun site to help host some of their audio/visual archives of past shows. Now that BBC America and PBS have made many Britcoms popular here in the States, L&H is a good name to throw off and test us Yanks' Brit knowledge. No one here has heard of them, even though their show TMWRNJ was pretty amusing, if somewhat cress-oriented at times. 'Course, it's all hoary cress once I've finished with it. (They're 20% funnier because I'm the only American who has ever heard of them.)

Screw it, I'm just never going to get that presentation code working. Maybe I'll hide in the hot tub for an hour, breathing through a Krazy Straw until my session is over.

Monday, October 6, 2003

Woodland friends

Good morning! Edina's nailed it again. Three for three. Thanks, Scheissehund!

I cruised up to Trader Joe's yesterday and bought a nice big bag of snacks. Dried cherries, dried tangerines, mint chocolate UFOs, dried ginger, you name it (as long as "it" is three types of dried fruit and some chocolate). I left it in a shopping bag so that I could take it to work this morning. When I woke up, I found an empty bag of dried tangerines, an empty bag of UFOs, and an empty bag of dried ginger. My woodland friends had somehow gotten into the house and eaten over a pound of food overnight. I've decided that we either have 400 mice or eight raccoons. Either way, I'm not pleased.

I called Suburban Pest Control. Their schtick is that they have a termite-sniffing beagle, Seemor. I forgot it was Yom Kippur, but I found out that Seemor (last name Schwartzbaum) was taking the day off for atonement. I can only imagine what he could've sniffed out at our place. Suburban's theory is that mice are getting in under the front door, because "they have cartilage, not bones." Surprisingly, that wasn't Seemor's opinion, it was a human's.

One of the things that was missing from the Coliseum was our old friend Jill Nicolini. For those of you who don't know the whole sordid story, Jill is a local Long Island "personality". She's had various gigs around town, including posing in Playboy and being the Coliseum hostess. That job entailed dressing in a body suit or similar garb and walking through the stands with a microphone, announcing the Lucky Puck Shuffle during TV timeouts. Jill was a fixture at Isles games. Then one day, she was gone without a trace. Rumors flew. Was she okay? Did her job on Metro Weather finally crush her will to live? Our minds were soon put at ease when she appeared as a contestant in the Fox springtime sleazefest "Married By America". The object of that show was to get married. The highlight was a trip to Farmingville to meet Jill's parents. They must've called central casting for a prototypical Long Island goombah, because her dad was amazing. I spend all this time talking up Long Island to everyone I know, and with a single appearance on TV, this guy ruins all my hard work. He could've at least put a shirt on!

So anyway, both finalist couples backed out at the last minute, leading to cynical thoughts that the show was actually just being used as a showcase for four aspiring actors. Back at the Coliseum was replaced as hostess by Firedancer Dina. Dina's distinguishing characteristic is that her breasts are at least 16" too big for her body. During appearances, she has to wear at least one article of clothing made out of lead so that she doesn't just float off. It's the most incredible piece of fake bodywork I've seen since the guy who decided to become a lizard.

Anyway, back to Jill, she just got a gig modeling for Rubies costumes. Say what you want, that gig on Fox sure led her to bigger and better things.

Sunday, October 5, 2003

I'm Alan Partridge

On the heels of a highly successful Saturday, Edina managed to funk up the office and bathroom a second time. The dewy morning light made clear the extent of the damage, as wisps of smoke highlighted the still smoldering piles of crap that were artfully hidden around the rooms.

Since there was no Squirts game today (outside of finding where Edina had left hers), I took the kids to the Islanders Open Practice and Funfest at the Coliseum. A lot of people showed up, buoyed by the team's 7-0-0 preseason record (no one else went undefeated) and the fact that it was free. I brought along my trusty camera, and got a lot of good player and Ice Girl photos. Peca Czerkawski Kvasha Martinek Niinimaa Scatchard Scatchard Yashin Team Icegirl Icegirl

In the afternoon, I belatedly discovered BitTorrent. What a great world we live in! BitTorrent is distributed file sharing software. One person seeds a file, and others start to download it. As more people download, the software distributes the load so that they download parts from each other. The more people getting a file, the faster the downloading goes. Yes, I suppose it can be used for copyrighted material. But on the other hand, I despaired of ever getting my hands on a copy of "I'm Still Alan Partridge" until I found it (and more) here. I don't believe in stealing, and I will certainly be purchasing a copy of the PAL video or DVD as soon as it becomes available. But it's available to me NOW, so I stole it.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Yeah, I skipped a week. So sue me. I've got a presentation in Palm Springs in one week, and I'm making no headway in polishing up the code.
To the left is Edina. Dear, sweet Edina. Edina who craps in the bedroom in the middle of the night.

I hauled myself out of bed early for Julian's first league game. It's important to be as quiet as possible when you get up at 5:30 AM, because you don't want to wake up the rest of the house. So I tiptoed into the bathroom to rinse, and landed barefoot in a beagle pile. Thanks, Edina. Really appreciate it. Dummy.

The game itself was notable for the first appearance of Loudmouth Dad, who had two kids playing for the opposition. He started the day by climbing on the glass and yelling at the ref that our goalie was suspiciously kicking the net out of position. He then turned to one of us and explained that it just seemed strange that every time the goalie had pressure, the net moved. So she said that the goalie was her son, and that he doesn't do that, and Loudmouth backtracked to say that it only SEEMED like he was. Gotcha.

After he was told to stop hanging on the glass and bothering the refs, he paced up and down for much of the game, his piercing voice shouting encouragement in that way that said "if your team loses, you're going to be finding another ride home." Their team went up 2-0, but only had ten skaters so they got tired at the end. As the Rebels tied the game, Loudmouth went out to the rink lobby for a refreshingly illegal Marlboro. He then came back sans ski cap, and started standing with our group of parents again. Until one of us looked at him and said "What are you doing back here?" The Rebels pulled the game out, 3-2, and we were relieved to find that he hadn't put a telephone pole through any of our windshields.

Lo and behold, I found an ad in Newsday for the night's exhibition game (Isles vs. Devils) and a promise of cheap seats available through, Ticketmaster, or at the box office. I tried, but no luck. They told me that the game was not currently on sale. So I called Ticketmaster. They gave me a helpful nugget - I would be on hold for about six minutes. 27 minutes later, a human picked up. And then put me back on hold before I could say no. It turned out that the ad was lying - to get tickets you had to go to the box office. However, they would be kind enough to let me try six free issues of Sports Illustrated, which .

Walkup traffic at the game was brisk, and after a 15 second wait I was able to procure seats in section 102, row F. I finally got my wish - to see the Isles beat the Devils at least once in person before I croak. They actually looked really good. The power play wasn't pathetic. DiPietro made some acrobatic saves (and his expected saves had that nice hard thud sound of puck on stick, the one you never got with Osgood). Most interestingly, the feeling of complete suffocation that you'd experience against the Devils in the past just wasn't there. I don't know how much of that was the Devils playing poorly and how much was a patient attack of the NZT, but it worked. They scored five goals and looked good doing it. Instead of dumping it in from the red line and chasing in vain as Brodeur started a rush the other direction, the Isles regularly got the puck in, kept it in, and had someone in front of the net to create 1-on-1 situations that ended up in goals.

The other interesting sign was that their new coach, Sy Sperling, really rolled lines instead of playing favorites. Cairns was out there in all situations, and he handled himself well. He might actually become more than just a hard-hitting sixth option. During a 3-on-5 situation in the third, Bergenheim was out there as the sole forward. I actually have hopes for this team again. Meanwhile, I've realized that Shawn Bates's penalty shot against Toronto, the greatest single sports moment I've ever seen live, ended up retarding the team's growth last year as he was given far too much responsibility. It looks like things are back in balance this year.

And, I must add, it seems like common sense, but if you've never been to a hockey game close-up, do it this year. It's incredible how hockey can be three completely different games. Watching it on TV is nothing like being at the arena. And sitting near the top of the arena is nothing like watching it only a few rows back. You can see what the players are saying to each other, all the jostling and shots behind the play, the little head nods telling other players to move in a particular direction, all the chatter with refs, and even see them laughing with each other. In the first period, Janne Niinimaa was backing up when one of the Devils unleashed a slapshot at him. As he wound up, you could see Niinimaa bracing for the puck's likely impact on his shins, and his face screwed up to look like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man during his last moments. It's a whole lot of fun.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Summer nears its end

I've been told by Little Drummer Boy that I don't get paid if I don't update this page more regularly, so here goes.

This summer sucked.

It rained for a month, seemed to hover around 70 degrees half the time, our pool wasn't ready until July, at which time I hurt my leg, and the sink is still not installed in the Montauk kitchen. When you find a contractor, make sure that they don't spend all their time giving quotes to the local paper complaining about people who move to the area looking for work. I'm guessing that once you go try and find someone to help you move a sink into the kitchen, no one will want to help, and it will sit in the back yard rusting for four or five months.

Today was, however, beautiful. I walked out on the jetty and took a photo of the beach in Montauk, which has never been as crowded as it was today (yet which still had lots of elbow room).

Friday, August 29, 2003

Son of Snow Globe

I took my daughter to the city to see my tiny new office, and then we hopped the Cannonball to Montauk. One of the things I love about the 7 train out to Hunters Point (or Hunterspoint, depending on whether you're grammatically correct or the LIRR) is the melting pot you always encounter en route. This trip did not disappoint me. We got off at the afterthought that is the Hunters Point subway stop, and started walking towards the exit. There's one bench halfway up the platform, usually empty. Today, we had a special guest star: Son of Snow Globe. A rather scruffy looking gent had plopped himself down in the middle seat, with several shopping bags on one side of him and a pair of white socks on the other. He was dousing his bare feet with athlete's foot powder. Not just a sprinkle between the toes, mind you, but half a container of Desenex on each. It was actually heaping up on his feet, the air was redolent of mentholated powder, and he was intently sprinkling even more on. He must've been there for hours, just grooming his packed powder. And incidents like this are why I will fight anyone who claims that the subways are unsanitary filthpots.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Shower radio

Four the fourth week in a row, I’m having a shower radio crisis.

Okay, I understand it’s a cheap shower radio. Like all shower radios, you can shake it and hear a small screw rattling around in it. It’s got a rounded bottom so you can’t actually stand it up on any surface. The tuning consists of a small dial with two settings: 530 and 1620. It takes all day to get the thing tuned to 1050 – all I know is that it’s somewhere between 530 and 1620. I hit the strongest station, 880, then go slooooowly to the next strong one, 1010. Then I have to do little microturns until I find the slight increase in static that indicates the advanced microcircuitry has locked onto 1050.

And then what happens? The “cleaning” “girl” shows up and retunes it. (“Cleaning” is in quotes because her routine consists of spraying Pet Formula Febreze on the carpets, putting a few drops of blue food coloring in the toilet, and disappearing with a Diet Sprite.) She goes into the bathroom with the bottle of blue dye, flicks the shower radio over to FM, and finds Snooze 106. The next morning, I turn the radio on and it’s giving me the opportunity to win tickets to see Tori Amos at Jones Beach. I just want to know whether I need to wear a bright yellow rain slicker in the morning; I don’t need the latest Ben Affleck news.

Oh, and the train station smells worse than San Francisco this morning. I’m beginning to think that the under-track tunnel actually secretes its own stale urine. Or maybe it’s on an ancient bat burial ground.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Dead bird

Day 2 of 3650 in the new office space. I got to the train station nice and early, and there was a single prime spot waiting for me. It seemed a bit odd, because the rest of the good lot was parked up, but I’m not choosy. So I backed in, stepped out of the car, and felt a weird squish. I half-glimpsed down and thought I’d stepped in a plastic grocery bag filled with trash or something, because the Bay Shore lot isn’t always the cleanest. Then I looked again. It was a dead bird. I’d plunked my foot down into a dead bird. Ugh.

It wasn’t one of those little sparrows, either. My estimate of the thing’s size kept increasing throughout the day – it was a crow, then a seagull, then finally an albatross. I’d ruined my car’s frame by backing over it. When I got home this afternoon, it turned out to be “probably a blue jay.” A couple of pigeons dressed as cops were just finishing drawing an outline around it in bird seed when they saw me and tried to arrest me. I managed to climb into my car and speed off, looking back only to see them both shrug and start to peck at the millet outline they’d been making.

And to top things off, a mouse chewed through the water line on the dishwasher. God, I hate vermin.

Monday, August 25, 2003

New office

Today was my first day in our exciting, “beautiful” new offices. Coincidentally, it was also the first time in almost a month that I was actually able to walk from Penn Station. (The leg is nothing but a scab now.) Now, I’m a positive guy by nature, but there are a few problems with our new space.

  • It’s not on any of the Penn Station subway lines, so I have to leave five minutes earlier to catch the same train.
  • The offices are teensy.
  • The cubicles are smaller. Just absurdly tiny (6x6), with low walls. Editors are supposed to work in this space? It’s more suitable for battery hens.
  • The carpeting is already stained from the move.
  • Half the space isn’t complete yet, so there’s all sorts of hustle and bustle going on.
  • There’s no men’s room on our side of the hallway, but two on the other side.
  • The toilets in the men’s room are about 6” off the floor.
  • There’s no soap in the men’s room.
  • Or the women’s room. So I'm told.
  • There are no down lights above the elevators on our floor yet, just holes. So the elevator sneaks up without warning – no light, no ding.
  • All the power outlets in the offices are clustered in one little block in the middle of one wall, so you can’t rearrange your furniture well.
  • The “furniture” consists of two tables, called “workspaces” by people who don’t have to work on them.
  • The “workspaces” are kidney-shaped or egg-shaped. Hey, here’s a miniscule office – how can we waste as much space as possible? Let’s use EGG-SHAPED furniture!
  • Rounded furniture means that you can’t push it up against the wall and hold power cords in place. So when I unplug my laptop, the cord falls behind the table.
  • The office has a floor-to-ceiling glass window. But most of it is frosted for “privacy,” meaning that I can’t actually shut out light, but I can’t let light in either.
  • The conference room lights turn off every three minutes if no one in the meeting is assigned to wave their arms and activate the “someone’s waving their arms in the meeting” sensor.
  • The fridges are shared with salespeople, so by noon everything that’s in there smells like sales.
  • I somehow ended up with a French phone manual. I don’t know how to redirect my calls, but I do know that le crayon est sur la table.
  • Everyone can hear everything, even with the door closed, so I can’t talk about coworkers on the phone anymore.
  • Since everyone’s so close together and looking for quiet, I can’t listen to the radio as I work anymore.
  • Which doesn’t matter anyway, because I have no reception in the new office.

On the bright side, it’s…uh…it’s…we have a good view of Radio City Music Hall out the window.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Roly-poly fish heads

One thing you never want to do when you have an upset stomach is to turn the wrong way when driving out to Montauk, and end up next to a field that's just been fertilized with decaying fish heads. That's all the advice I have today.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Chemical Ali

The good news today is that we've managed to catch one of the most evil figures in Iraq, Hassan al-Majid, aka Chemical Ali. We're still trying to figure out, however, why no one seems to have mentioned that we also killed him back in April. Looks like we're still in rerun season.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Leg update!

Leg update! I went swimming for a while, and the little scabby part of the wound started to look weird, cheese. It's really gross, and you can see it here.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

More crappy, crappy flights

I finally got back home last night after 11 PM. The second flight was, mercifully, on an MD-80, so there was no movie service. Since everything was still backed up in NYC, all the flights to LGA were late. The 4:00 flight was delayed until 6:00. The 4:30 flight was delayed until 7:20. Bizarrely, my 5:00 flight was on time. I don't understand why they don't run the schedule on a first plane in, first plane out basis, but I was told something about "equipment and crews." So swap them! I was afraid that if I asked about it too much, they actually would swap them.
The plane boarded on time, surprisingly enough. I was surrounded by 815 children. Small, small children. Two rows back, one of the small, small children started screaming uncontrollably because her mom went into the lavatory with a small, small sibling for half a minute. Mom got back, small, small child kept screaming. That set the other children in the back of the plane off, like neighborhood dogs howling at the moon.

Since this leg was scheduled to depart at 5:00 PM, it was scheduled for beverage service only. I now officially worship the Wolfgang Puck Express in O'Hare, because it saved me when we ended up sitting on the runway for two hours with a hold at LGA. I was right next to the flight attendant, and complained to her about the day I'd had. If you haven't learned this valuable lesson yet, it always helps: use the phrase "the hardest part has been keeping my cool and not taking it out on people like you and the gate attendants who have no control over the situation." Service jobs like that must be the worst thing on earth, thanks to America's "complain loudly until you get action" ethos.

Anyway, the calm yet annoyed voice worked, because the attendant actually offered to buy me a drink once we were in the air. WINK. She had some interesting stories about the post-9/11 atmosphere on the airlines. All kinds of stuff still gets through the gate checks. One guy walked onto a plane and started spreading cream cheese on a bagel with his box cutter! They regularly find box cutters and razors taped under seats on the planes when they do sweeps. She's had to report more than one passenger who took copious notes about the exact routines the flight attendants were performing - when they stood up, when they moved, the timing, everything. But it's her firm conviction that our air travel system is still being infiltrated and tested regularly by groups looking for weaknesses to launch another attack.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Flying back

The lack of exercise is really getting to me now. Every day starts off sluggishly. After yet another night of insufficient sleep, I got up and got packed, figuring that my chances of joining the undead would increase for each minute I spent at the hotel. I headed out nice and early, figuring I’d wait at the Admiral’s Club and get a bit of email out of the way. Nope! They printed off my ticket, and it wasn’t 4B. It wasn’t even 5B. It was back in the middle of nowhere. Okay, so what’s the problem here? The problem is that AMERICAN SUCKS. I asked if I could at least get into the Club, but they have a new policy that only actual Navy admirals traveling on a full first-class fare can use it. You need to find efficiencies where you can.

I think someone just died at the airport. They just announced "Herb Jones, you have a call on extension 911, Herb Jones."

Today’s Sky Bistro meal is a mayo-soaked napkin. The gate map for O’Hare can be found on the page of the American Way magazine that a previous traveler ripped out and took with her. Today’s flying time will be annoying, no matter how long it takes. Today’s assclown is the AAdvantage reservations call-taker who boned me with the assurances of seat 4B. Your e-ticket record locator is SUXX0R. Today’s flight represents the last of a long relationship with TWA/AA. Delta, Continental, JetBlue, and United all fly to my most common destinations. As with all major products and services, I will now get angry at one company at a time until they’re all eliminated and I have to take Greyhound across country.

Today’s in-flight movie is “The Core,” a thriller about the core. Since the protagonists are on a dangerous mission, they have to keep taking attendance to make sure that they haven’t lost anyone.

“Rugged guy!” “Here.”
“Smart guy!” “Here.”
“Black guy!” “Here.”
“Woman!” “Here.”

Friday, August 15, 2003

Stranded at Sea-Tac

The Radisson SeaTac isn’t a strip club, but it’s sort of a strip mall of a hotel. Each wing consists of a poorly lit staircase leading to a three-mile-long hallway with no signs of life beyond a couple of dinner trays languishing next to doors. My room was conveniently located next to the ice and soda machines, which comprised the full range of room amenities. I was able to sleep until 4:30 AM, when I awoke with the disorientation you can only get in an airport hotel. It was almost, but not quite, as bad as the Burlingame Hyatt. The first flight leaves SeaTac at 5:04 AM sharp, in case you were wondering.

Actually, I'm being a bit harsh to the poor Radisson. Let's see what they have to say about themselves.

Each beautiful Guest Room at Radisson Hotel Seattle comes well equipped with Data Ports and Voice Mail for those that need to stay in touch... even Coffee/Tea Makers & In-Room Movies for extra convenience. Then to better understand the meaning of ` Radisson Service `, include: USA Today, Hairdryer and Work Desk.
It's even better than it sounds, believe it or not.

I checked, and they finally had the previous night’s flight listed as cancelled. (Unlike at 11 PM the night before. Great job updating that status!) I was going to be sort of pissed if it had made it out. Then I checked my morning flight, and what do you know! It was also cancelled. I’m still awaiting the flight status email. I’m sure it’s just delayed in cyberspace.

I called American to figure out how the hell I was getting home. They put me on hold for about 45 minutes. My plan at this point was to just get to the northeast – NYC, Hartford, DC, Boston, Philly – and then get home somehow. They had one flight getting to LGA, but by the time they tried to book the first segment, it had been oversold. My original red-eye was overbooked for Friday night. The flights to Boston were overbooked, but they could send me to Dallas at 10 PM, then fly me out to Boston at 6 AM. We went through every permutation, until we finally found a Saturday morning flight to LGA ‘connecting in Chicago again.

By now I was happy to get anything out of Seattle. But it was my duty to ask about my first-class upgrade anyway, since the miles were already in play. They confirmed my upgrade seats on both legs – 4B and 4B. No problem. Next, I called the front desk to get the room for an extra day. They said that since I booked through Expedia, I’d have to go through them again if I wanted their special rate. I asked what the hotel rate was - $109, only $20 less than Expedia gave me! Thanks for all the help, everyone.

I spent a grueling day eating. Pancake Hut at 10:30. Typhoon at 12:45. Renton Choice Chinese at 7 PM. Then back to the Zombie Hotel to order my delicious brains for my getaway breakfast. One thing that Microsoft people are hardcore about is logo wear. My clothes were down to two Microsoft t-shirts I’d just purchased at the store. Everyone – everyone – saw me and said “Ran out of clothes, huh?”

I actually hadn’t run out of clothes. I sent a travel outfit down to the valet to get them cleaned same-day. The good news is that the laundry wasn’t run by zombies. No, they hired werewolves for this one, as the boxer shorts came back with that strong scent of burning rubber that only werewolves leave on elastic.

The local Seattle papers provided memorable coverage of the events back home. The P-I led with:

Largest Blackout In U.S. History

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Blackout 2003

Where to begin, really? It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Redmond. I’m cruising around, blasting KIRO out of my car radio, when I catch the tail end of something involving homeland security and a blackout. I figure they’re just talking about some new Bush scheme to scare everyone. Then they say that they’ll be talking more about the massive blackout affecting everywhere from Detroit to Hartford and up to Ontario. Not good. I’m supposed to be flying home tonight at 10:30 PM.

I drop by the Company Store to pick up a couple of t-shirts, and folks are gathered around a TV that’s showing CNN. For some reason, we no longer show MSNBC on company property. The coverage is showing massive crowds, people being led out of subways, the whole shmear. I mention that I’m from NY and have to fly home tonight, and for some reason everyone starts treating me like a visiting conqueror. Yes, I was there on 9-11. No, a lot of people had it a lot worse than me. By the time I got up to the register two minutes later, the clerk actually said “Oh, you’re the guy from New York!” The hell?

I headed over to an empty office on campus and swung into action. I called American, and they said that there was no way my flight was getting out tonight. No problem – I just changed the reservation to a direct flight on Friday morning. Unfortunately, I’d already checked out of the nice hotel. I hopped on Expedia and found a Radisson hotel a mere ¼ mile from SeaTac.

I had plenty of time to goof around now. I headed over to see Violet and Bridget. After a nice evening of kids, pizza, and CNN coverage of horrific NYC mob scenes where l should have been, I drove down to the Radisson. It’s on the beautiful International Drive near SeaTac, so named because travelers from 82 different countries have accidentally lost their passports in the filthy toilets of the local strip clubs over the years.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Flying to Seattle

Today was my happy fun flight to Seattle. I showed up nice and early to try and get a bulkhead seat, which I usually hate, because of my leg. Of course, not only was the flight full, but the passenger manifest included 82 elderly travelers with leg injuries. They managed to find me an aisle seat in row 213, giving me precious extra limping distance to the exit. To allay concerns that they're cutting service to the bone, American Airlines has set up a table outside the gate. If you sign up for an AAdvantage credit card with an APR of only 43.9, you get a free bottle of warm, potable water for the long flight ahead.

Since the flight left at noon, it was a "light snack" trip. The "light snack" consisted of a single minibag of Rold Golds. A full half ounce of pretzels? I couldn't possibly eat all that! Maybe I'll save some for later. I tried to plug in my laptop, but for some reason, the plane's DC power didn't make it all the way back to row 213. It evidently gets tired and quits around row 145.

We got into O'Hare in time, but the biggest airport on earth inexplicably had no wireless access except for the Starbucks in the food court. Following the "pretzel for lunch" paradigm, this mid-afternoon, snack-time flight featured the opportunity to grab a semi-chilled Sky Bistro bag containing four carrot sticks and a turkey sandwich. Fortunately, I'd grabbed my own sandwich from Wolfgang Puck across the way, because by the time I got on the flight, half the Bistro sandwich had soaked away into the paper wrapping, leaching away the vital turkey roll nutrients a body needs.

AA only features under-seat outlets in selected rows, which was evidently planned to maximize seat switching with confusing explanations to slack-jawed vacationers. I never before knew why the heck they needed to explain to people how to use a seat belt. The in-flight entertainment was my giving my copy of the Chicago Tribune to the woman sitting next to me, and having her stare at the front cover for two hours. About 10 hours into the flight, I realized that the one good thing about traveling on a daily dose of antibiotics is the lessened probability that you'll get the standard post-flight sinus infection.

The flight actually got in a few minutes early, but when I got to Hertz they didn't have a car for me. Some moron had made the reservation for July 11 instead of Aug 11, and even though I did the entire thing myself online, and checked the itinerary, it's all Hertz's fault somehow. Idiots. Actually, they were kind enough to dig out a Miata as a way to apologize for my stupidity, but see if I ever use them again.

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Stitches and traitorous chickens

I've been working through the new version of .TEXT for much of the day, trying to convert this to a usable RSS feed. Unfortunately, I've run into to problems. The first is NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE. If you haven't installed Windows Server 2003, just wait until your SQL Server-based Webs start returning this as a login error. There are about 1000 suggested ways to fix this, each of them not quite working. I finally got that part working (by adding the account to the list of SQL Server logins and granting it permissions on the blog database), but now I have another problem.

For some reason, my NetGear router can't figure out LAN requests to my domain. When I go to from anywhere, it passes through to my Web server just fine. When I go to (or even my IP address) from the LAN side of the router, it goes to the router's Web-based interface instead of passing back through on port 80. Going to my server's internal name works fine, but only from the LAN side (naturally). NetGear won't answer me to explain this bug in their firmware, and it causes problems with software like .TEXT. I don't want to add as a local address to the host files on my LAN machines, because I travel with some of them. Anyone else have this problem? Drop me a line.

I also got my stitches out today. It was relatively quick - a seam ripper, a dab of iodine, another five days on antibiotics, and I'm good to go. They gave me Levaquin, which can cause “minor” side effects like “ruptures of the shoulder, hand, or Achilles tendon,” “phototoxicity,” “convulsions,” and most minor of all, “suicidal thoughts or acts.” I also got a new bandage for the stitch area, which managed to sneak itself down my leg by the time I hit Citarella. Deep flesh wounds look a lot better when they're displayed prominently above two feet of loose, streaming gauze in a fine foods market. But hey, Cotswold cheese.

The Amagansett Fire Department is hosting a chicken dinner in a week, and they're advertising this event with a sign that highlights a chicken on it. The bird has one “hand” on its hip, while the other one makes an "OK!" sign. THIS ISN'T CUTE. This is ghastly. He's inviting us to feast on what might be family members - siblings, children, who knows? - and all he can do is tell us that it's OK! What would compel him to sell out his own like this? What evil brainwashing cult is the Amagansett FD perpetrating?

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Dreams of parades

I don't know whether it's the antibiotics talking, but I've been having the weirdest dreams. Last night, I dreamed that I was driving to the airport, late for a plane. All of a sudden, a green light in front of me turned red and a horse-drawn carriage went slowly past me in the intersection. Then another one went by. I looked up, and - I'm not making this up - they were carrying banners saying "A Salute To Parades That Stop Traffic." Even my dreams are being sarcastic to me now. Fortunately, I've just finished my last pill (thanks to the cephalexin-snatching mice).

My leg's at the "scrape little bits of scab off it with soap and water" stage now. Last night, one area that had been hurting when I stood up suddenly switched over to itching instead. I think that means that the two sides of the leg meat have finally decided that it's okay to start growing back together.

Addendum - Strangers I hate on the train:

1. The guy who wears a see-through camouflage tank top most mornings, so you can juuust make out his dark nipples. And he spits – not outside, on the pavement, but inside the waiting room.

2. Everyone from Fire Island who takes the train on Monday mornings. Always carrying yappy little dogs on cell phones. How a Bichon can be someone’s personal trainer, I have no idea.
This list will be continued, trust me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Wake up, it's Geronimo!

The leg’s doing nicely. Thanks for asking!

But now, I’d like to complain about my cell phone. I woke up yesterday at 5 AM for my normal 90 minutes of calisthenics and pancake breakfast. I was standing in the kitchen when I heard a voice coming from the living room. No one’s up at 5 AM, so I thought it was the TV turning itself on again. When I limped in, I heard the voice more clearly. “You have an incoming call. You have an incoming call.” My cell phone’s somehow been designed to out-annoying the regular models.

So I know the call’s not for me, but I pick up anyway just to shut the voices up. The caller says “Hey! Geronimo!” I have to take messages at 5 AM for someone named Geronimo? “Naaaah, he’s not here now. This is Crazy Horse.” The phone number’s had a rich history, passing from someone named Rich to a fellow named Ed to a 19th Century Apache, then to me.

Then this morning, I realized that the phone had been vibrating its battery down all night, frantically trying to wake me from downstairs so it could deliver its new text message. It just really needed to tell me this important bulletin from the Important Enough To Bug People’s Phones Desk of MSNBC. I flip open the phone to see this vital story, and there it is:
From: 676800000000
Breaking News: Landmark decision
8:29pm 8/5/03

So we’ve just used half the phone’s battery to tell me “Landmark decision.” Great! Could you be a little less specific? Did we choose a new Pope? Did the Empire State Building decide to run for California governor? This is worse than meaningless – it’s meaninglessly annoying.

At least I’ve finally figured out how to do situps with a bad leg.

Monday, August 4, 2003

Back to work on a bad leg

Today was my long-awaited return to work, after three full days with my leg up on a cushion. I got the day off to a roaring start by waking up at 3:30 and getting out of bed at 5. This gave me plenty of time to sit in a chair before getting ready for work. After much consideration of bandages and pants styles, I chose to go with the bandaged wound and shorts. Several hours later, I took off for the familiar 7:12 train.

But first, I had to pack my bag. Normally, this is a rather elaborate affair, for I'll bring up to 50 pounds of swag on a particular day. Laptop, MP3 drive, iPaq, phone, a couple of hoagies in case the train gets stuck and my fellow passengers turn on each other in hunger. I'd also packed two small Ziplocs on Sunday night. One had some Pepto caplets and decongestants in case the medicine upset my stomach or made me start sneezing. The other contained three antibiotic capsules and nine acidophilus caplets. I'd left them on top of my bag overnight so that I wouldn't forget them. When I looked this morning, the antibiotic bag was gone. Simply gone. I reached into my laptop bag, and the miscellany bag was gnawed through, with nibbles taken out of the Pepto caplets.

Mice had found my stash.

We've had this problem before. Last time, the solution was to put the dog kibble in an anodized aluminum trashcan (which, come to think of it, is where most of the active ingredients of kibble are found in the first place). But this wasn't the first time that the mice have gone after my delicious, salty laptop bag, and this time they carried off my pills completely. No sign of the Ziploc around the chair, or under it, or anywhere mice might go to chew through three cephalexin capsules in an attempt to breed a race of disease-fighting, invulnerable supermice. With good stomachs, because they got the acidophilus too.

What's wrong with the agreement on which civilization's been based since the 1500s? If it's in the Ziploc, it's not yours, Squeaky.

So back to the train, I carried around my brand new, goofy cane. As it turned out, it became less vital as the day went on, because my leg just wasn't hurting enough to justify the plodding work involved in ostentatiously pushing off with the cane before every step. I managed to figure out a way to keep my leg up on the train, sort of, and it even let me off right in front of an escalator. For the first time in a long time, I took the subway uptown. Now I can remember why I stopped doing it a year ago - it really kind of sucks. It's hot, crowded, and angry.

The one thing that really knocked me over today was a shock discovery. The "Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80s" version of "Let Me Go" was actually a fraud. It was some weird remix that removed the "though guilty of no crimes" line at the end. I assume they only paid $5 royalties to use this discarded version instead of the real one, but true connoisseurs know the difference with their eyes closed. An outrage. Shame on you, Rhino.

Sunday, August 3, 2003

After the wound

Well, it's been three days since the Great Leg Gouge-Out Of '03. Things are healing up pretty well, considering the traumatic meat loss I endured on Thursday. I didn't get any sleep on Thursday night - it just hurt too much to doze off for more than an hour. I put a waterproof bandage on it and took a shower on Friday morning, but I almost couldn't stand on it at all. I put my leg up and decided to wait it out, but it was winning. Even after the shower, my arm still smelled like the ER's blood pressure gauge.

Finally, at about 3 PM I dozed off for a little while. When I woke up, miracle of miracles, the pain had subsided. On a 1-10 scale, it had gone from a 7 (at rest) to about a 3. Standing on it still brought it back to an 8 or a 9. Even so, as the night went on it felt better and better and I was able to watch an uninterrupted episode of Queer Eye. I managed to put in eight hours of sleep, thanks to my good friend Tylenol No. 1. Thanks Canada! Thanks Kelli!

On Saturday, my patient instructions said that I had to go to the "wound clinic" between 8 and 4. I called Good Sam and asked for the "wound clinic", and they said that the "wound clinic" was some magical codename for a second walk-in visit to the FastTrack area of the ER. I took a shower (this time, I comically covered the stitches with Saran Wrap in an apparent attempt to mimic some crap "please your man" advice from a 70s copy of Cosmo), then stumbled around for a while and finally drove back over to Good Sam. They spruced up the waiting room with a new retching woman, which I thought really showed a touch of class. I waited half an hour or so, went in to see an attendant, and got a pen line drawn on my leg to note where the nearly invisible reddish area was. Now I'm a bit worried about cellulitis, although the guy assures me that I'll be able to fly in a week.

I actually only took two ibuprofen during the whole day, and kept triple-dosing myself with acidophilus as I took the antibiotics, so my stomach didn't get ripped up. Still having problems standing for too long, at certain angles, but everything else is looking better.

So today, I decided that if I was going to work tomorrow, I'd need a cane. Not just any cane, either. A horribly cheap one from Genovese. I dressed my leg up to go out on the town and drove over to the King Kullen Plaza. For some reason, every shopping plaza is now named after one of the stores, not after any local landmark. On Long Island, there are about 40 King Kullen Plazas. In any event, my plans were dashed when, arriving at Genovese, I discovered that it had turned into an Eckerd overnight. In theory, I have nothing against Eckerd. In reality, the name conjures up long-buried memories of going to the drug store in Hallandale with my grandparents, and watching as 90-year-olds argued with the clerk over expired coupons for absorbent undergarments.

I found the cane of my dreams (although it didn't have the claw attachment at the end like some of the other ones did - that would've gotten into the $20 range), and scooped up some other essentials like Poppycock and ear plugs. Then I realized that my bandage was slipping down to my ankle - I'd taped up one end of the gauze wrap but not the other - and that I was now the guy in the drug store that everyone was staring at. There's nothing worse than being the worst-off guy at the Eckerd.

The day did have some highlights. I managed to trick Chris Sells with the old "it's looking better already!" trick by sending the most hideous wound picture I could google up. He was so perturbed that he fired off some sharp criticism of my site in his Spoutlet, and is promising never to read it again unless I actually get off my lazy and provide some simple RSS feeds on here. Don't these people know I'm supposed to be resting? I can't do RSS and keep my ankle above my heart. Soon - perhaps when I'm healed - I'll do the XML thing.

Meanwhile, I passed the time by compiling my recent press appearances. I didn't even know that Newsday had printed one of the "crazy old man" letters I sent them last September. I also found some other old stories, including the fall of my distant cousin Barry Trupin, my uncle being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, and even my dermatologist being hauled off to prison for firebombing a colleague's home.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Leg Wound

Here's something you never want to do.

I was stepping off the train at Bay Shore, same as I've done every day for seven years, and I somehow caught my foot between the train and the platform. I spun around, and slammed my leg on the concrete. My laptop bag went flying, contents everywhere. I gathered everything up and looked down at my leg to see the scrape I'd gotten.

But it wasn't a scrape. It was gushing blood down my leg. And I'm not using "gushing" in a dramatic sense, either. I've never seen so much blood coming out of my body so fast. It was already starting to soak my sandal. I hobbled down the small set of stairs, rifling through my bag for a napkin or something that I could use to wipe up the cut a bit. All the people who usually stand there on the train silently next to me were asking if I was okay. I found a napkin, and started wiping my leg down a bit.

That's when I discovered that I didn't have a cut. An area about the size of a dime was chunked right out of my shin. For the first time in my life, it hit me that I'm actually made out of meat. At the same time, I realized that I was probably going to have to do something about this beyond a bandage. A guy offered to take my bag from me, but I politely waved him off and stumbled across the way to my car. Pressing tightly on my leg, in considerable, throbbing pain, I drove home. It didn't help to think that from now on, all the silent commuters I know by sight would think of me as Bleeding Idiot. I might have to take another train from now on.

I limped in, changed from my nice shirt into a crappy T, washed off the leg a bit, tossed on a pair of sandals that weren't making squishy noises from the blood on them, and drove off to Good Sam hospital. I walked in, holding a bloody paper towel to my leg. They'd stationed a semi-cop inside the door of the ER, sort of a Wal-Mart style greeter with a badge and a gun. As I hobbled in, his first words to me were "You not feeling well?" Well no, that and the fact that I can see daylight through my leg, thanks for asking! Fortunately, there weren't too many people in triage, so I was the second person they saw.

I was able to walk without additional pain, and the bleeding had abated somewhat, although I was still getting regular throbbing pain accompanied by more blood. The attendant who signed me in said that his dad did the same thing once when he gouged out his leg on a metal highway divider in the dark, then waved me over to the waiting room to sit down. The Good Sam ER waiting room is bright and cheerful, with several overhead TVs competing for your attention, a variety of delicious snack and soda machines, and a frail, young woman in a wheelchair with her head in a bucket, retching constantly. She seemed to be permanently stationed right near the door so that you had to walk past her to get in or out.

They called my name after about five minutes, and I went over to register. I had to answer most of the same questions a second time, but that gave me a chance to flip my bloody rag to the non-saturated side. I didn't feel like waiting with Lady Retchson again, so I asked if I could stand outside and use my cell phone. They said it was no problem, and that they'd call me in for the FastTrack in a few minutes. Lo and behold, a nurse actually came out to look for me in about 10 minutes, saying that they'd been calling me for a long time.

I dragged my leg back inside, and they asked me the same questions a third time. No allergies, no tetanus shot in the past ten years, yes, it happened on the train, yes, I'm an idiot, no, it hit on the concrete. The nurse swabbed out the wound, had me flex my leg a couple of times to see which way produced the coolest blood spurts, then shot my leg up to numb it. Mmmmmm. That stuff worked great. She started stitching it up, and I warned her that she'd better not make the scar spell out her initials. I was so numb that I didn't feel the stitches at all, but I got three on the inside just to tighten up the leg meat, and another six on the outside to close up the hole. Then she asked about the tetanus shot again. I told her that it probably wasn't necessary, because the platform's soaked with urine, which is sterile, but she insisted that I get one. A quick jab later, I was ready to go.

So now I have to stay off my feet for two days so that I don't pull out the stitches. I have to go back on Saturday for some sort of Wound Reunion club. And I have to pop antibiotics 28 times. The numbing stuff wore off, and every time I stand up my leg is in throbbing pain. I can't sleep. I can't get my leg wet. The only salvation is the bottle of Canadian over-the-counter Tylenol with codeine hidden away for situations like this.

But I took a cool picture of my leg. Notice how I've unnecessarily peeled off the bloody gauze and placed it just above the wound to make it look worse.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Losing 212

As if our office move isn't going to be heckish enough, we've been hit with the worst news yet. The news that every New Yorker dreads, the news that causes a horrible, hollow feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We're losing 212.

Everyone knows what 212 is. When it's in your number, it means that you're part of the most important city in the United States. It rolls off the tongue. It's the easiest number to dial on a rotary phone, which is especially handy if you're living in 1962, unencumbered by modern conveniences like push-buttons. But mostly, it's the 212 cachet that means you're "Old New York."

And what are they replacing it with in our offices? 646. What the hell is that? That could be Topeka. Or worse, Oregon. No one knows what 646 is. Our identity is threatened. And for what? Verizon has a strike looming. In order to avoid the inevitable outages that we're going to have no matter what, we're going with some other telco - Hanky Express or something. And they don't get any fancy 212 numbers, just the 646 dregs. It's just an outrage any way you slice it.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

The chlorine, it burns

After several weeks of waiting, the pool is ready again - just in time to go out to Montauk for a week. Last month, the water level started dropping precipitously in our pool. Past the skimmers, past the lights, down towards the bottom. At the same time, the filter stopped working, so in effect we had a stagnant breeding ground for West Nile-loving mosquitoes. Finally, we figured out that the only place the water could be escaping was in the drain pipe. So Gibbons came and drained the rest of the pool, patched it up, and put the hose in it. It takes only about three days to coax 24,000 gallons out of a garden hose, in case you're ever wondering.

On Saturday morning, though, the filter still didn't work. Gibbons came back to prime it this time, and we were off to the races. I thought it would be a good idea to chlorinate the water a bit, seeing as how our municipal water supply is actually 10% less chlorinated than bleach. Just my luck, the pool guys had left a container of "super-chlorinator tabs" at child-level in the cabana. I opened up the can, and the immediate chlorine gas rush from these tablets actually burned the back of my nose and throat a bit. So I stagger out of there, choking and wheezing, throat tightening up, and spend much of the rest of the day seeking proper ventilation. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. Don't inhale concentrated chlorine gas.

To top off a great day, I even got my server working again, which is how you can see this now.

For some reason the mood struck me and I did 250 situps in five groups of 50 today. It's the little things that keep me going.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Rocky Mountain High

I struggled my way into my normal seat on the 7:12 this morning. Most people were asleep or reading quietly. The guy in front of me was watching something on a portable DVD player. Normally when someone’s doing this, it’s a movie like The Matrix or Lord of the Rings or even A Clockwork Orange. Out of misplaced curiosity, I leaned forward to see what he was watching.

I mean, really. Who knew that there was a John Denver concert DVD? I’m guessing it must be some bootleg from Japan or some country where he’s popular. In any case, I just closed my eyes and took a nap. Unfortunately, that didn’t work too well either, for right about the time the train went through Hicksville, I heard a mumble in front of me. Yes, the guy was singing along to his John Denver DVD. Here I am, trying to get a nap for the long day ahead, and all I can hear is a faint rendition of “you fiiiiiill up my seeeeeenses.....” And unlike my normal trip in, where I can snag a two seater, Elbows McPoke was in the inside seat. All I can say is thank god I’m a country boy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Stealing my name on Amazon

I finally got acknowledgement from Amazon about a bizarre identity theft that someone seems to have pulled on me. A couple of months ago, I checked to see whether my 1989 book, HoopStats: The Basketball Abstract, was still out of print. Sadly, it was. But when I clicked my name, I got quite a surprise. It seems that I’ve actually written two books! The second one, “Betting to Win on Sports: Wayne Root on Risk,” had absolutely nothing to do with me, but I was listed as an author. The hell was this??

[picture temporarily removed]

This could’ve happened in more than one way. The simplest solution is that the books were printed by the same publisher within a month of each other, have similar ISBNs (0553347691 vs. 0553347896), and my name somehow got mixed up on the list. The second reason, which I prefer to believe because it’s more nefarious, is that I was the victim of reverse identity theft.

Here’s how I imagine it works. The author of the book, Wayne Root, runs a sports gambling site. My book was about sports statistics (no gambling involved). At some point, Mr. Root decided to improve the flow of visitors to his book, and maybe to his gambling site, by rigging the search on Amazon. The thousands of daily visitors looking for HoopStats would see a second book, click on it, and eventually search for his Web site and end up on it. Even if it weren’t thousands of people, two or three would be enough to pay for the free listing. He also listed his name with two spellings, just to make sure that people could find it.

So I complained to Amazon a couple of months ago. They did nothing. I checked back the other day, and my name was still up there promoting a sports gambling book. I realized that the only mail Amazon reads is the reviews that people post, because they’re making sure no one mentions a competitive Web site or problems with Amazon. So I posted a review:

SUMMARY:Why am I listed as coauthor?
REVIEW:I ran across this on Amazon, and for some reason I'm listed as a coauthor.
I most certainly did not have anything to do with this book. (If I did, I want my royalties!) The nearest I can figure, the author wanted to drive people to his seminar series by catching the few people who looked at my sports stats book and followed my author listing. My name has been domain hijacked!

I've contacted Amazon about taking my name off this, but of course they haven't done anything about it. Thanks, guys.

That worked. Within a couple of days, I received a response from Amazon.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 2:59 PM
To: Joshua Trupin
Subject: Your Inquiry

Thanks for writing to us at Your message was referred to the Book Catalog for attention.

We have entered in the changes and are pleased to report that the author correction will appear online within the next 3-4 business days.

Thanks again for taking the time to send us this information. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance -- we appreciate hearing from you!

Best regards,
Sara Jarolimek
Book Catalog Department, Inc.

The moral of the story? If you want to communicate with Amazon, leave it as a comment on a book.