Sunday, March 28, 2004

Beagle vs. Beagle

Coming next Sunday on the Discovery Channel – it’s “Animal Faceoff: Beagle vs. Beagle.” Watch in awe as computer simulations of two beagles fight ferociously over a grain of rice pilaf that fell off a plate as it was being scraped into the trash. Who will be the victor? Who will slink off to lick his wounds because it kinda tastes good? Find out next Sunday, only Discovery!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Just for fun, I used to see whether I could fly directly from JFK to Glasgow, Scotland. I knew that there were direct flights from Newark to Glasgow, but didn’t think that any carrier served GLA from JFK. Flightlookup dutifully poked around and found this super combination:

Continental 6925 JFK 12:00 noon – Detroit (DTW) 2:06 PM
Continental 3446 DTW 3:05 PM – EWR 4:49 PM (on a regional jet)
Continental 16 EWR 8:25 PM – GLA 8:00 AM
So if I fly from JFK to Detroit, then back to Newark, taking an additional 8½ hours, I’m able to avoid the drive to New Jersey. Now THAT’S an algorithm that makes sense!

Friday, March 26, 2004

The long flight home

I staggered into SFO well in advance of my 8 AM flight home. Knowing that breakfast on the plane would somehow involve a circle of turkey Canadian bacon, I decided to grab a bite to eat in the terminal. And what did I see before my homesick eyes? Noah’s New York Bagels.

I’m a bagel snob. Seattleites are coffee snobs. Texans are BBQ snobs. I’m a bagel snob. I’ve had the best – Murray’s Bagels in NYC. I’ve had the worst – Lender’s frozen. And now I had my first chance to sample Noah’s REAL New York bagels right there in SFO! With excitement in my heart, I stepped up to the counter...

Look, I can’t even fake it. I knew from the start that these bagels were going to be crappy. I won’t pretend otherwise – there was no bagel boiler there. I didn’t even see a bagel steamer. Bagels MUST be boiled before baking. It gives them that chewy texture inside and crispy shell. I expect that Noah’s bagels were parbaked before shipping. It also didn’t help that the Real New York street sign above the concession showed us at the corner of Delancey St. and Shittybagel Blvd. But I wasn’t about to try the turkey Canadian bacon, so I got my standard poppy with cream cheese.

Surprisingly, it was crappy. There was no segue between the bagel’s core and its crust. None. It was like a piece of bread with the crust cut off. It wasn’t very toasty at all, and it certainly wasn’t worthy of the fine bakeries along Shittybagel Blvd. in Lower Manhattan. New York bagels my ass.

You know what really instills a sense of calm on a flight? Well, I’m going to tell you. United calls my group number to board the flight home. I get on, head down to my seat (576C – it’s a widebody), and all alone in the back row, three guys are sitting there. They were clearly boarded first. The guy in the middle looked like Jeff Leonard, and he was wearing a hooded SF Giants sweatshirt. His hands were hidden inside his I looked back, and he glared angrily back at me. The two men who flanked him were chatting a bit too cheerily on their cell phones.

So we’ve got prisoner transport, and we’ve got what turned out to be a violently bumpy flight for most of the trip. The movie was “School of Rock.” My Archos ran out of batteries after about 30 minutes. The guy next to me had elbows and knew how to use them. The flight attendants were scolding people who got up to use the can. The lunch consisted of a box with chips, a pinky-sized Toblerone, a packlet of raisins, and some “genuine cheez” crackers. Now THAT’S good eatin’. I nearly broke into the emergency box of honey-oat bars they kept in the overhead storage “for use when the delay is longer than two hours.”

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Geary liquors

It turns out that the Clift doesn’t have its own ATM on premises. When you ask for one, they’ll direct you to a liquor store a bit further down on Geary. (It’s called a liquor store, but it sells liquor AND fresh fruit. Just in case you want to drink Crown Royal from a hollowed-out apple.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

On my way to SFO

I left the Residence Inn early for my flight to San Francisco. I had an extra can of Diet Cherry Coke (which seems to be available only in Redmond) rattling around in the back of the car. However, I reached to pick it up and it was feather-light. Somehow, it had received several pinhole pricks in it, and the entire contents of the can had escaped onto the rear seat carpeted mat of the Chevy Classic.

On board the plane, I sat next to a girl who was a Singaporean college student who lived in Seattle. She asked me about which major she should pursue, and some other standard college-person-talking-to-Microsoft-guy questions. It was about halfway into the flight when I realized something was wrong. She asked whether I thought aliens were real. Because a friend of hers told her that Colin Powell was an alien. I told her that if anyone was an alien, it was Rumsfeld.

Then a few minutes later, she asked me if I ever felt like I was sad or had no emotions at all for no reason. I KNEW I should’ve just put the headphones on when the flight started.

I made the excellent choice of the Clift hotel, which has that “I’m self-consciously post-modern” feel to it. For some reason, the new thing in hotels is really creepily low levels of lighting in hallways. The Clift’s elevators are nearly unlit, but they’re designed (as is much of the hotel) with colorful Lucite paneling. So it’s dark, but also orange.

VSLive was nice and crowded this year – big exhibitor floor, big attendance, some excitement. It was good to see the industry feeling stronger, even if it WAS three shows in one.

Oh! Chinese food alert. I had dinner with Michele and David of CMP at Brandy Ho’s. You haven’t lived until you’ve had their Spicy Beef with Green Onions in Wine Sauce. It’s got the Cynicor money back guarantee – if you’re not satisfied, I guarantee you’ll wish you had your money back.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A day in Redmond

Another day of meetings, and a second day lunching at Typhoon in Redmond Town Center. My plan is simple – all Thai food in Seattle, followed by all Chinese food in San Francisco.

I was fortunate enough to sit in on an MSDN Online content group meeting. Unfortunately, the proceedings were repeatedly disrupted by Chris Sells’s scuffles with Duncan Mackensie, so I missed 2/3 of what was going on – including my mini-presentation.

I walked past Ed Kaim’s office on campus, and was shocked to see a sign from the former Republic LIRR station. It turns out that Ed went to Polytechnic, but that no one else had ever figured out what was going on with the sign. LONG ISLAND RULES!!

After my last meeting of the day, I headed up to Evergreen Medical Center to see Meryl Stillman, who has been fighting cancer and who ended up in intensive care a week ago. She was in good spirits – at least as good as you can be when you’re hooked up with a bag of fiber drink and on oxygen mask.

Several years ago, Microsoft started withholding New York City tax from my paycheck. I tried in vain to explain to the payroll specialist that I lived on Long Island, not NYC. The response I kept getting was “but you live in New York, right?” Meryl was the only person who had the clue that New York was both a city and a state.

Monday, March 22, 2004

GO to the Barking Dog in Ballard!

This was a beautiful day in Seattle, which means that it was sunny for a while before raining. I took about 20 meetings on campus, sucking down Diet Cherry Cokes, until 5 PM. Then I headed up to Ballard to visit the Barking Dog Alehouse. If you are ever in the Seattle area, make a special trip. The food is amazing, especially if you like Scotch eggs or Vietnamese sandwiches.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

A genuine American hero

Microsoft Travel has a great new feature for users. All you do is book a flight with them, and they will let you choose your seat, print it on the itinerary, and best of all, when you get to JFK Delta will have no record of your seat choice. Brilliant. Unfortunately, I wasn’t flying American this time, so I couldn’t blame the normal AAholes.

I managed to wheedle my way to a seat anyway, and started up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. We talked a bit about outsourcing and he grilled me on the magazine’s business model. He said that he was a former senior VP of the US Chamber of Commerce, and that he worked for Boeing. Later, I looked him (Craig Johnstone) up online and it turns out that he was what I would consider an American hero. In 1975, he launched and funded a rescue mission to rescue Americans from Vietnam.

For the first time, I rented from National at Sea-Tac. They have an interesting deal going on. If you’re an Emerald Club member (which I found out I was, even though I’m not a Friend of Judy), they just tell you to go pick any car off the lot. And oh, the choices! I never knew that so many companies made the same damn car. I got a Chevy Classic which started to emit the pungent aroma of fried chicken and cigars about five minutes after I hit I-405.

For some reason, I got a room at the Residence Inn. It’s got a little fireplace with Duraflame, a kitchen, and 4000 light switches you have to find before you can turn everything off. I hit the wrong switch in the kitchen and the trash compactor nearly took my hand off. The stove is nice, in case I need to whip up some skillet potatoes during the week ahead.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Snowbound at the Bay Shore station

The snow looked nice for a while. It was sort of flurrying down as we watched from the cozy environs of our palatial offices. I packed up as always, went outside, and was greeted by a combination of sharp little sleet needles and snow that thudded like rain. Oh well, I'd get home and cozy up in front of a fire or something.

The train pulled into Bay Shore right on time, 5:50 PM. I walked over to my car, started it up, and hopped back out to scrape the ice off. I got that nagging realization right then that I'd somehow locked myself out of the car, which was ridiculous, because...uh...the door won't open. None of the doors will open. The car's running, the lights are on, my bag's inside, my key's inside, and I can't get in. No one's at home because of the kid's hockey practice. The wind is gusting to 30 MPH, and the little pellets of ice are stinging my face. I can't go home to get a key because I can't get in the house. I don't want to leave my car sitting there running with the keys in it. There's no one who can help. I go into the shelter at the station (it's open air, just a roof and a wall) and call AAA.

After waiting for the next available operator in their call center somewhere up in Saugerties, I finally get an operator. I explain what's going on, and they ask me for a number where I can be reached. I completely blank out on my cell phone number. "Wait...I know the 631 part..." I end up giving them some number that's probably connected to a beauty parlor in Brentwood. Then I go back to standing in the shelter area.

The shelter area is quite nice. I shared the space with one guy who was drinking tallboys, one guy who kept following me around, one guy who was smoking, and one guy, complete with huge beard and limp, who kept coming up to me and asking if I could loan him a cigarette. WHen I said that no, why would anyone smoke, he asked the drinking guy and the stalker and the other smoker, and they all ignored him. Then he went up to a waiting car and asked if the driver had a cigarette he could borrow. She quickly rolled up the window. Then he went over to my running car and looked in the window to find out if he could borrow a cigarette. Since no one was in the car, he just stared forlornly into the driver's window to see if there was something he could steal.

At 7:25, the tow driver finally showed up with two wedges and a coat hanger, and tried in vain to open the door for almost 15 minutes. The sleet was stinging, the wind was howling, and the driver was swearing. He wiggled the wire, worked it up and down, tried to unhook everything on the door panel, until finally he popped open one of the rear windows. My hands were so numb that I could barely open the door by then. I'm such an idiot.

Monday, March 15, 2004

John Kerry, a TOTAL monster

Leather jackets with excessive fringe. Is there any better way of saying "I will have a cigarette lit before I even get both feet off the train?"

The Bush campaign has just unveiled an ad called "100 Days." It claims that Kerry would raise taxes, weaken the Patriot Act, and "delay defending America until the United Nations approved." Wait a minute - Kerry would restore fiscal solvency to the country, start restoring the Constitution, and not launch unilateral wars based on falsehoods? Is there anything that monster WOULDN'T do????

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Boot test cadavers

I was reading the New York Times online just now, discussing how a company that handled donated cadavers from Tulane ended up selling them to the Army, which then used them by blowing them up to test Army boots! You think you're doing some good, maybe helping discover a cure for whatever foul disease took your life, and you end up getting scooped up from a land mine field by Gomer. Not a great way to go.

Anyway, the reason I brought this up was because of the ad that accompanied it. The Times was running an ad for Endless Pools. This is a great idea for those without much space - it's a small box of water that you tether yourself into and pretend you're swimming. You could also leash yourself to your bathtub spigot, but that might be too complex. The picture on the click-through ad made it look even more appealing. The poor guy looks like he's being ripped limb-from-limb by an Endless Pool gone awry! I'm wondering whether the Endless Pool corporation actually bought a cadaver from Tulane to test the strength of their tethers or something, because this does not look good for the poor guy.

"Help me I don't wanna die like this!!"

Sugar-free Slurpees

A few months ago, 7-11 introduced sugar-free Slurpees. Perfect for people like me who are watching their waistlines, but who still want to enjoy a 32-ounce wax cup of flavor-powder-flavored slush consumed through a double-wide straw with a simulated spoon at one end. So I figured fine, I'll try the Diet Pepsi Slurpee. First of all, it doesn't smooooooth out of the nozzle. It sort of chunks out, like the difference betwen fine, powdery snow and a sleet storm. Second of all, the kid next to you is staring with that "Whaaaaa? You're not mixing the Coke with the bananaberry brain freez?" look that kids get. And third of all, it really tastes lousy. It tastes like diet-flavor-powder-flavored slush, and that all drains to the bottom of the cup after the second slurp, leaving a mound of wintry mix behind. What's become of this fine nation of ours?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Basil's Bavarian Bakery

I was unusually hungry this morning, so I picked up a pack of chocolate pecan cookies from the truck at the train station. They were made by Basil’s Bavarian Bakery, which is nestled in the heart of Bavaria – inside the Biscomerica Corporation headquarters in Rialto, California. The cookies themselves weren’t any worse than you’d expect, although it’s always good to see a warning “may contain traces of nuts” on the package of NUT cookies you’re eating.

Todd Bertuzzi has just been suspended for the rest of the season, which will cost him over half a million dollars. This comes on the heels of his press conference yesterday, where he repeatedly started crying. (Although I prefer the term “blubbering,” because it casts Canada as a land of whale-hunting primitives.)

The Bertuzzi incident proves at least one thing. As an American, I am SHOCKED at the violence that is a part of day-to-day Canadian culture, and I am worried and alarmed that we are sharing a border with such a bloodthirsty, out-of-control nation.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Bush visits Bay Shore; Edina smells

I just found out that the president will make a brief visit to Bay Shore on Thursday. This is exciting, but I can’t think of a good way to commemorate his visit without having my head cracked open by a "Free Speech Cinder Block." It’s surprisingly hard to paint “Bush sucks dick” on your own back with poster paints.

Edina the dog is close to losing out under the terms of my own personal “three strikes for pets” law. Since I carried her up the stairs to bed for a couple of nights, she now expects the royal treatment all the time. Tonight, she didn’t get it. I just didn’t feel like it – she’s heavy and she smells.

Edina gets to the top of the stairs, walks into the nearest bathroom, and craps on the floor. The ten steps obviously exhausted her digestive tract, and she just plopped one right then and there. As you know, nothin’ says lovin’ like a pile of hot dog crap on a tile floor. Tomorrow we’re going to compromise – I’m going to kick her fluffy little ass up the stairs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Mmmm. Oreos.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting there reading a story about trans-fatty acids and how bad they are for you. The article starts talking about how Oreos are the worst food on earth because they’re basically sugar lard between two cookies. The next thing you know, you’re frantically shaking the vending machine at work to get a package of Oreos out after you put in your 60c.

Last night, Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks viciously assaulted Steve Moore during a hockey game. It’s hitting all the papers today, and this can only mean one thing. For the next week, I’ll be expected to defend the sport of hockey against a number of people who have no interest in it either way but who love to cluck about it every couple of years when something happens.

Monday, March 8, 2004

Crazy Ed McMahon

I must say, now that I’ve relaxed and learned to enjoy Crazy Guy in the 53d Street E/V station, he’s starting to grow on me. Crazy Guy walks up and down the platform, rides the escalators, or just hangs out, reading the newspaper and then announcing his unique spin on the stories of the day. This analysis consists of a phrase that he barks out twice: “WOMAN NEEDS TO BE TAKEN CARE OF. WOMAN IS LIKE A BABY. WOMAN NEEDS TO BE TAKEN CARE OF. WOMAN IS LIKE A BABY.”

Crazy Guy provides sharp social commentary, but he really shines when his friend, Crazy Ed McMahon, drops by. Crazy Ed McMahon stands next to him, agreeing with each revelation as it comes out.

“Heh heh, you’re right about that!”
“Heh heh, you’re right about that!”

And who says New York is dull?

Saturday, March 6, 2004


Thanks to a contact inside the organization, we scored four free tickets to the Islanders vs. Blues tonight. This wasn’t just any old game, either. This was a game that featured, live in the Bud Light Rock Zone, none other than Tesla! And not just any Tesla, the real Tesla! I mean, how exciting can one night get?

So, a couple of observations about Tesla. They’ve aged about as well as the Go-Go’s did. Their site has the most atrocious Flash animation I’ve ever seen. And from Nassau Coliseum, they go to the Midwest and celebrate their new album by playing the East Peoria Convention Center. “I said, are you ready to haaaaaaaaaaaaaarvest!!!” Good times.