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.