Tuesday, December 31, 2002

It's 3 PM on New Year's Eve. I've been enjoying the top 40 classical countdown on wqxr.com all morning, including Mahler's Fifth Symphony, among the other highlights. It's quite a hit parade over there. It continues until midnight tonight, then resumes again tomorrow at 9 AM. I'll probably skip tomorrow's performances in favor of televised gridiron contests, however.

Liz and I spent a relaxing week in Mississippi, visiting her family and friends. We found out that her parents have substitute grandchildren: they know another couple that has two young girls, whom they babysit and lavish attention on, so it looks like we're off the hook for a while, which is fine with us. I also got to meet and spend time with Liz's high school and summer theater camp friends, all of whom I'd known only via e-mail until last week. And I got to see The Two Towers and Star Trek: Nemesis again. Nemesis wasn't any better on the second viewing, but it wasn't any worse. I enjoyed TTT even more the second time. I approached it as a war movie, along the lines of the great black & white WWII epics of the 1940s and 1950s, and that made it even more impressive than before. I agree with some of the critics who say that Peter Jackson has sacrificed the hobbits' stories for the sake of the Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli plotline, but who can blame him? A three-hour characters study of the hobbits would be mildly interesting but audiences want to see the depiction of the Helm's Deep battle, and on that score, Jackson does not disappoint. Even knowing what happens to the Elves durign the battle doesn't detract from the thrill of seeing them when they arrive at the fortress in their armor and marching in formation. The battles of the Pelennor Fields and the Black Gate in ROTK should be unbelieveable, if Helm's Deep is any indication.

In case this is my last entry for 2002, have a happy New Year. See you on the other side in 2003.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Yesterday was my birthday. I’m 29, so I’ve only got one more year in which I can identify myself as in my twenties. After this, I’m well on my way to being a dull old fogey. Let the thrill-ride begin.

I’m well past the age at which birthdays are a day-long celebration of myself. So instead of Liz and I having dinner alone together, we had a free meal courtesy of her office Christmas party. I was certain her coworkers would serenade me with “Happy Birthday,” but thankfully, they held back. One of them noticed the horrified look on my face when the party next to us sang it for someone in their group and I thought it was for me. I don’t mind so much when my family does it for me, but I’ve always despised a large group of friends (or in this case, relative strangers) sing “Happy Birthday” to me. What am I supposed to do while they sing? Who or what do I look at? Is it acceptable for me to stare at my plate and wait for it to be over? It’s a little better if there’s a cake with lit candles in front of me; at least then I can watch the flames and think of a wish.

Earlier in the day, at lunch with my colleagues, I started feeling introspective and brought up childhood, comparing my years of teasing and torment at the hands of other students with the experiences one of my work friends had. Then, to make matters worse, for some reason I brought up the girl I dated briefly in high school. I was trying to make some point about how it would have been impossible for me to be attractive to anyone for dating purposes until I learned how to react maturely to the taunts and jabs from the other students. And I was trying to show how I thought this girl was out of my league, until she somehow became interested in me at the same time I was interested in her. (Believe me, those who knew me in high school will attest that I was no one’s prize catch, so for anyone to want to date me, let alone this girl, was quite an achievement for me.) Instead, by sharing this pointless story with my coworkers, I ended up looking foolish. Who talks about their love life at work, especially stories from high school? I was definitely feeling reflective, but I didn’t have to share that much.

The biggest problem with my birthday this time around is my current obsession with age, aging, and the passage of time. I’m having trouble articulating just why I’m always thinking about how old people are, or when events happened, or how different events affect someone at a particular age. But I’m particularly bothered by my own aging process. Frequently, I wish I could pause time, savoring not just a moment, but days and weeks of experiences. I’m really enjoying this particular time in my life: great job, wonderful wife, enough disposable income to enjoy Manhattan’s restaurants and bars, the freedom to work late, stay out late, or stay up late playing computer games if I want. I know that all of this is going to change in the next few years, with kids, a mortgage, and life in the suburbs ahead. I know that I’m not always going to be as physically fit as I am now, that my body will eventually start breaking down no matter how much I exercise or what I eat. I don’t want these things to happen. I want to enjoy this life as long as possible. But I can’t pause time and just live forever in my late twenties. So for me to have a birthday now, and with a milestone one coming in the next year, put me into a most unusual mood yesterday.

I read somewhere recently that a person always needs to have a challenge ahead of them, a project or something to work on, lest they become complacent and stop growing intellectually. I need a new challenge in my life. Maybe that’s my resolution for 2003: to find something with which to challenge myself. Can that be a resolution, or is the challenge itself a resolution?

Thursday, December 19, 2002

It's really late, and I need to get up for work tomorrow. But I wanted to write my first impressions of The Two Towers while they're fresh in my mind. Spoilers abound, so don't read on unless you don't care about that sort of thing.

It's a great movie, at least the equal of the first one, and sometimes better. They've taken a lot of liberties with the text this time around: Faramir intends to take the Ring to Gondor, and only changes his mind when he sees Frodo's temptation to use it himself. Elrond and Arwen appear and talk about how she should leave Middle-Earth and Aragorn. Merry and Pippin have to show the Ents the destruction of the trees at Isengard before they decide to attack. I'm sure there are more. But those are all OK with me, though I thought Faramir was a more upstanding character in the book than he was in the movie. Merry and Pippin don't have much to do in the book, so letting them show the Ents the way gives them some depth. And there has to be a little romantic and dramatic tension in the love story.

Helm's Deep was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas all get the chance to show their skills in battle. The Ents attacking Isengard was good, but I missed the horns and drums that Tolkien mentions repeatedly when describing the Ents' language and battle songs. Gollum was fantastic. I hope he does get some Oscar consideration, because his performance is probably the best acting job in the movie. I hated him and loved him at the same time, which is just how the character is supposed to make you feel.

The movie has no beginning and doesn't have much of an ending. It throws you right into the story and leaves you anticipating the ending. I can't wait to see The Return of the King next year. I'd go get in line now, if it weren't so cold and late.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I'll probably make this into a bio of some kind later, but for now, I'll just post it as a regular blog entry. Yesterday, a friend sent me one of those questionnaires that asks for all sorts of innocuous information as a way for a large group of people to get to know each other, or, in this case, to know each other better. Here are my responses written yesterday afternoon.

1. What time is it? 3:33 PM
2. What color pants are you wearing right now? Gray.
3. What are you listening to right now? WQXR.com - classical music radio
4. How is the weather right now? Colder than a witch's teat.
5. Name as it appears on your birth certificate? Philip Edward Catelinet. Note the rare spelling of Philip with one L.
6. Nickname(s): Phil, Philly Beef 'n Cheese (not used for many years)
7. Parents' names: Barry and Rebecca.
8. Number of candles that appeared on your last birthday cake: 28.
9. Date that you regularly blow them out: December 20.
10. What are the last four digits of your phone number? Which phone? I'll pick one. 9313.
11. Last person you talked to on the phone? Someone from work.
12. What is the last thing you ate? Turkey sandwich, pretzels, Snapple iced tea.
13. Pets: three cats
14. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Purple
15. Hair color: Brown.
16. Eye Color: I liked Jess's answer, but I'll just say brown.
17. Tattoos: none.
18. Piercings: none.
19. What's the first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Legs.
20. Do you like the person that sent you this? yes.
21. Favorite colors: Blue and purple.
22. Hometown: Johnstown, PA. Near Pittsburgh.
23. Current Residence: Manhattan.
24. Favorite food: I'll eat anything. Pizza, or a chicken parm hero.
25. Been to Africa? Not so far.
26. Been toilet papering? No, but I do have an ill-gotten STOP sign.
27. Loved somebody so much it made you cry? More than once.
28. Been in a car accident? One. I totaled the other car.
29. Croutons or Bacon Bits? Croutons.
30. Current car you drive? The NYC Subway.
31. Do you wear contacts? Yes.
32. Favorite month? December.
33. Best job you ever had? the one I'm in now. It leaves me with the free time to answer silly questionnaires.
34. Do the dishes right away or leave them in the sink? Leave them. I cook, my wife does the dishes.
35. Summer or winter? Winter. My wardrobe is better suited to cold temperatures.
36. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
37. Favorite Movie(s): Almost Famous, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars
38. Favorite Holiday: the ones when I get a day off. There's nothing like a three-day weekend.
39. Favorite day of the week: Friday.
40. Favorite word or phrase: I say "absolutely" a lot lately, as an affirmative response to a question. I don't know why.
41. Favorite toothpaste: Mentadent
42. Favorite Restaurant: Virgil's BBQ in Times Square
43. Favorite Flowers: what guy has a flower preference?
44. Favorite Drink: Coffee, diet Vanilla Coke.
45. Your favorite alcoholic drink? Maker's Mark bourbon. Thanks, James.
46. How do you eat an Oreo? The way it comes out of the package.
47. Favorite sports to watch: Football.
48. Preferred type of ice cream: Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie.
49. Favorite Sesame Street Character: Oscar the Grouch.
50. The last book you read? "The Two Towers" to refresh my memory. The last great book was "The Brothers Karamazov" earlier this fall.
51. Favorite fast food restaurant: McDonald's.
52. When was your last hospital visit? When I was three, someone kicked me off the slide in nursery school, I hit my head, and needed stitches.
53. What color is your bedroom carpet? hardwood floors.
54. How many times did you fail your driver's test? One. Don't hit the curb when you're parallel parking.
55. Where do you plan to go, or did go on your honeymoon? Memphis, TN, for a few days, then Ireland a year later for a real vacation.
56. Who is the last person you got e-mail from before this? My father, about his side business providing video services to hospitals.
57. Do you want your friends to write back? Go ahead.
58. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? No, not even a parking ticket.
59. Which single store would you choose to max out your credit card? Amazon.com. J&R in Manhattan, if I can't shop online.
60. What do you do most often when you are bored? Play computer games.
61. Name the friend that lives farthest away from you: My friend Carol, who lives in Chicago.
62. Most annoying thing people ask you: "How do I get to [fill in the location]?" Why do I look like someone you'd want to ask for directions?
63. Where do you currently work? Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, & Hamilton (law firm, but I'm not a lawyer)
64. Who will respond the quickest to this e-mail? no idea; I don't recognize most of the e-mail addresses on here.
65. Who is the person you sent this to that is least likely to respond? Kristen Chapman, but I removed her address so as not to annoy her further.
66. Favorite all time TV shows: "The Simpsons," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Monty Python's Flying Circus"
67. Last person(s) you went out to dinner with: my wife, Liz, and two of our friends, to a Mexican restaurant.
68. What's in your CD player right now? nothing, but I've got Brahms symphonies on my desk.
69. What's the next CD you're going to get? Audioslave.
I'm counting down the hours until tonight's showing of The Two Towers at the Loews 34th St. here in Manhattan. I'm not a "puddle" of giddy anticipation, as I thought I might be by now, but I'm too excited to express myself eloquently. My biggest fear is that I won't be interested in watching my DVD of the first movie after seeing the new one tonight. I've barely scratched the surface of the extras on the four-disc set. I'll try to post my review of TTT tomorrow, or late tonight if I'm still coherent when I get home in the wee hours.

Monday, December 16, 2002

No strike yet: the two sides are still talking. My office holiday party is on, so I'll be enjoying the libations and victuals this evening.

I came across the following in a strike-related news story on 1010 WINS:

Some New Yorkers said they altered their travel plans in preparation for a strike.
Michael Recca, an investment banker from Westchester County, said he parked his car at Grand Central Terminal on Sunday so that he could drive from midtown to his Wall Street job. He was unhappy that he had to ride the Metro-North train into Manhattan Monday morning.
"This is for the public," Recca said.

Indeed, the trains are for the public. I bet he hated having to ride in with the riff-raff, or the rabble, or the commoners. I'll add him to the list of people who don't get any sympathy from me. It would probably take less time for this guy to ride Metro-North to Grand Central and then take the 6 train to Wall Street than it does to drive in from Westchester each day. If I lived in the suburbs, I'd take that in a heartbeat over driving in each day. But I guess if you can't show off your Benz or Lexus or Rolls, then you don't get the joy of showing off how much better you are than the rest of the people who live and work here. Thanks for your insight, jackass.
I got to see Star Trek: Nemesis one day early, on Thursday night at a special screening for Network Associates employees and clients (of which my employer is one). I thought it was a good movie, with great special effects and action sequences. It's a rehash of the Wrath of Khan plot, this time with Picard facing himself as an adversary. It's not as good as First Contact, but it's better than the two-hour episode Insurrection. I'm not sure this movie saves the Trek franchise, but if it's the last voyage of the Next Generation crew, it's a good ride. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it again in two weeks when we're in Mississippi. With movies like this (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc., my old favorites) I need two or three viewings to make a decent evaluation.

Right now New York City is anxiously awaiting word of a transit strike for tomorrow. As with all labor negotiations, both sides waited until the last minute to start talking seriously about the issues, forcing the rest of us to sweat it out. Neither side in this dispute gets much sympathy from me. I'm a lifelong Democrat, traditionally the party of labor, but I've never been a fan of unions. I endured three school strikes when I was growing up, the last one during my senior year, which postponed graduation until June 30 and disrupted classes all year long. After that, I lost all respect for unions. A transit strike in New York would be beyond devastating. Aside from the problems it would cause for residents, it would be a shattering blow to tourism and businesses. I can walk to work, but what about the family of four who came to New York to see the sights at Christmastime? How are they expected to get around? What about the ambulances and fire trucks? What about food deliveries to groceries and restaurants? It would be a complete mess, and it would do irreparable economic damage to a city that's already in the red. I hope that when I wake up later this morning, both sides will have found something they can agree on and keep this city moving. Plus, my office's Christmas party would go on as scheduled. (I'm allowed to have a selfish reason to oppose a strike, right?)

Thursday, December 12, 2002

In a story that will surprise no one, Guns N' Roses has canceled the rest of its US tour. Ten years ago, this would have crushed me, but now I just have to laugh at it. I still love Gn'R's old albums, and I've recently gained a new appreciate of Appetite for Destruction. I even saw the band on its 1992 tour with Metallica, and it remains one of the greatest live shows I've ever seen. But I never had any interest in seeing the band that Conan O'Brien refers to as "Fatty Magoo and the Guys Who Aren't Slash." Ever since Axl Rose fired the rest of the band in 1994 (or thereabouts), I've given up hope that anything resembling the old sound would ever come out of his studio. And that was borne out by the new band's performance at the MTV VMAs in August. Seeing Axl and some nameless weirdos playing my old favorite songs confirmed that the old Gn'R is long, long gone. Although I have hope for the new album that may be forthcoming from the rest of the original group. I heard some of the album that Slash put out in 1995, and it wasn't too bad, so maybe this new effort will bring back some fond memories of my late teens.

I spent Wednesday traveling around the New York City area with my father, assisting him with his side business of providing educational video programming to hospitals. The work we were doing (installing/replacing laserdisc players with DVD players) wasn't that interesting, but we did have some fun trying to find the hospitals. We took private taxis to all our appointments, and while some of them knew where to go, one driver in particular had no idea where our Bronx hospital was. Dad and I had each been there before, so we had a vague idea where it was. But the cabbie had no clue, and even when I told him we were going in the wrong direction, he didn't turn around. Twice we drove out of our way on a congested Cross Bronx Expressway, and if I never see that road again.... I had my new iPaq handheld and a wireless Internet connection, so I kept trying to look up directions to the hospital, but every time I entered our current location, we'd pull away before I could get the directions from Mapquest. Finally, we asked a gas station attendant where to go, and while we waited, I got the right directions. With the attendant's help, and my online searching, we finally found our way. The next cab ride was less of a puzzle since the driver knew just where to go, but he was talkative and shared far too many details of his life story as he drove us from the Bronx to upper Manhattan. We heard all about his son who was born out of wedlock, his daughter who he abandoned at the age of two because of his drinking problems, his subsequent attempts to rekindle the relationship with his now-grown daughter and her family, and his uncle (wait, it's now his uncle-in-law; I'm still trying to figure out how that works) who's a doctor but can't afford to retire. I'm glad I had the chance to spend time with my father, but I could do without all the cab rides. Along those lines, we took him on the subway later that night, and it was the first time he'd been on the NYC subway in almost 40 years. He was on some of the "redbird" cars when they were new!

Monday, December 09, 2002

I spent this past weekend in Pittsburgh, at the Steelers-Texans game. Photos of the game are available at my photos page. The game was terrible, but I had a good time. I got to enjoy a Primanti Bros. sandwich, which has meat, cheese, french fries, and cole slaw, all between two slices of white bread. It's a heart attack in your hand! And I got to see Myron Cope up close, though I didn't get to meet him. But it was worth sticking around after a dismal game in cold weather to see a local broadcasting legend in person.

On Saturday night my mother and I went to the Pittsburgh Symphony concert at Heinz Hall, and it was like a trip back in time for me. I hadn't been to a concert there in 10 years, but the place hadn't changed. It's just as elegant and opulent as I remembered. The orchestra was, as always, the best I've ever heard. The brass section in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique was crisp and clear, and the percussion rumbled and crashed with precision. And I always love watching the string sections' bows moving in unison, everyone playing the notes with the exact same touch and motion. It made me want to go home and practice.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Once again, too long between entries. We had a quiet, uneventful Thanksgiving in the city.

Thanks to Chad Pennington's performance against the Raiders on Monday night, I snuck into the playoffs in my fantasy football league. I'm still not sure how that happened. Even if I don't win another game this season, I'd consider my efforts a success, and I've learned a lot for next year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

My archive seems to have been screwed up somehow. I still have all the files in my FTP directory, so I haven't lost any data, but none of them have an .html extension, and the Blogger javascript seems to be working against me. For now, if you want to see a previous post, e-mail me and I'll send you the file.
Now for the political stuff.

I saw this story in the Washington Post this morning. I guess I haven't been following the debate about the idea of a commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks. Is this really necessary? What are we going to learn from this commission that hasn't already been published, discussed, or otherwise disseminated to the Bush administration and the general public? We know all about how the CIA and FBI sat on terrorist threats and warnings, how lapses in air security going back years allowed the terrorists to carry deadly weapons onto planes, and how previous administrations' policies towards earlier terrorist acts probably encouraged al Qaeda to try this one. The terrorist network responsible for 9/11 is still functioning, though the Bush administration continues to clamor for war against Iraq, so far not directly linked to al Qaeda. I don't suppose Henry Kissinger is going to come back to Bush and tell him 18 months from now that war with Iraq is a waste of time? Certainly not if the commission's report comes back in the summer of 2004, in the middle of Bush's re-election campaign.

On a personal note, lately I've found that assigning blame for misfortunes at work is a waste of time. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to know who made a mistake when you're trying to fix a problem, but in most cases it seems that people are more interested in finding out who did what than they are in fixing the problem and/or making sure it doesn't happen again. I'd rather work toward prevention than punishment when I have the chance. Applying that philosophy to the 9/11 commission, it doesn't seem that important to know that Agent X of the FBI didn't pass along the flight school inquiries, or that immigration officer Steve approved the visa applications of the hijackers. I hope that the commission spends more time investigating why these issues led to the attacks than it does finding out who was ultimately responsible. You can fire people or charge them with crimes, but if you don't close the loopholes or change the policies that allowed people to circumvent the rules, bad things willl happen again.
I'm not sure whether I love or hate the day before Thanksgiving. it's one of those few workdays during the year when there's not much actual work to do, since most people have already left for the long weekend. On the other hand, since so many people are gone already, there are only a handful of us tech support types around to do the work that comes up. So on a day when I should be stress-free and bored, instead I'm swamped because so many people have left things for me to do. But this only happens two or three times a year, and always during the holidays. I'm hardly ever around on Christmas Eve, but New Year's Eve is usually dead in terms of people. And I usually end up fending off a few minor crises at those times. I'm a hardy soul; I think I can manage.

I've signed up for a free trial of Netflix, partially out of curiosity but also to help out the good folks at Penny Arcade. I just got my first three movies today. Initially I had them sent to my office, thinking that they'd come in bulky boxes that wouldn't fit in my home mailbox. To my surprise, they come in flexible red paper envelopes, with the return mailer inside. No DVD boxes to be found; apparently, if you want to see the original packaging, you're better off renting from Blockbuster. The packaging also explains why multi-DVD sets are rented one disc at a time: there isn't room in the mailer for more than one disc. Anyway, now we've got some movies to check out this weekend, and I've got a long list of things on tap that Netflix will send me when we return these. It's not that we live so far from a Blockbuster, but it is on the other side of the Village, it's not convenient to either of our work commutes, and we've been burned by the late fees a few times. It's not even an easy thing for me to ride over there on my bike: with all the one-way streets in New York, I have to go several blocks out of my way to avoid riding against traffic. Compare this with $20 a month, and all I have to do is drop movies in the mailbox when I'm done with them. It's hard to beat that.

Monday, November 25, 2002

There's an interview with Ellen Feiss over at Brown U.'s web site. Here it is. I'm not a fan of hers, but I never link to anything on the Internet, and this was mildly amusing, especially the editor's comment again about Janie Porche. I find her ad particularly annoying, possibly for her hand gestures and enthusiasm about “saving Christmas.” Ye gods. It's great that she got the pictures into her PowerBook; I'm so happy for her. Now they've got one of these ads with Yo-Yo Ma, the world-famous cellist. This whole series of ads isn't quite as bad as the fellows at Penny-Arcade would have us believe, but I tend to agree with their sentiments.

I've been using Red Hat Linux on my laptop and a PC at my office for a few weeks now. I'd like to say that the experience has convinced me to give up Windows for good, but that's just not the case. Aside from the gaming (most of my newer games don't have Linux versions, so I'd have to run utilities like Wine to try to get them to work, which is way too much trouble), the desktop manager is so much like Windows that it's just as easy to use Windows as Linux. That's not a dig, really. I like the KDE interface, but when it's easier to boot to Windows to watch a DVD, check my office e-mail, or dial into my office network (the VPN dialer doesn't come in a Linux flavor), it's just easier to use Windows. I do appreciate the ability to compile programs on my own, and tweaking them is easier in Linux than Windows has ever been. I guess it comes down to this: most computing pundits predict one of two things for Linux: that it will gain ground on the server OS side, or that it will gain acceptance as a desktop replacement for Windows. So far, I'd have to come down on the server OS side of things. Windows is so entrenched in so many companies and homes that it would be financially and logistically impossible for businesses to switch from Windows to Linux (or to Mac, for that matter). No matter how many improvements and bundled programs Linux developers throw into their distributions, Windows will still be the dominant OS. Small companies might be able to start up with Linux everywhere (if you don't have much money, you can't beat a free OS), and maybe the odd school with older hardware, but for the most part, Windows has won the desktop OS battle.

However, on the server side, there are plenty of reasons to look at alternatives to Windows NT/2000/.Net. A virus or trojan on your desktops can be difficult to eliminate, but for most businesses, as long as your servers are up, you can still conduct your day-to-day transactions. But a virus outbreak on your servers can be catastrophic. I only have to remind people at my office of “Code Red Tuesday,” when a trojan brought down all of our servers (and some of our PCs, but that's a different matter). After that day, my boss suggested that we might be able to make better use of non-Microsoft OS choices on the server side whenever possible. So far, we've deployed one Linux web server instead of a Windows one. Considering that I've spent a lot more time with Linux lately than when we first rolled out this server, I'd feel more comfortable recommending this option in the future. And there's always NetWare, my old favorite.

OK, I'm done ranting now. I did write this whole blog entry in Linux, using OpenOffice and KDE. But I'm going to need to boot to Windows to post it; the Javascript controls in Blogger seem happier in Windows and IE than in Mozilla under Linux. And as it has turned out, the only things I lost in the Linux-to-Windows transition were the hyperlinks, which were easy to redo. Still, the whole thing would have been done faster had I just used Windows after all. Am I proving anything? Maybe. Am I rambling? Definitely. Signing off now....

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

As usual, I had all sorts of thoughts over the weekend, but didn't bother to go online to post them. Liz and I saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Friday night, with an enthusiastic crowd of Potter fanatics. Luckily, none of them were in full wizard or Quidditch costumes. The movie itself is much better than the first one: scarier, funnier, more exciting, better effects, and so on. The Quidditch match was particularly good, and I'm not the first person who thought it reminiscent of the speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi. It's a long wait until the next movie comes out, so I'll have to be satisfied in the meantime with LOTR. That's not a bad thing.

I've been getting more and more into this whole Linux thing. I've installed Red Hat Linux 8 on a desktop PC at work and now on my laptop (dual-boot with Windows XP), so I can take it home with me. I've even recompiled the kernel to enable NTFS support, so I can mount the XP partition and access my MP3s and other files in Linux. I wish I had more ways to use Linux, instead of just as a substitute to Windows. It's great, and I enjoy having the chance to "roll my own" programs and setup, but Windows does so much out of the box, while Linux needs to be configured, that it can be a pain sometimes. It's definitely an OS for geeks, even with RH 8's ease of installation and Windows-like interface. At least I'm learning a new skill set that might come in handy someday. If enough of us get behind the idea, we could migrate some of the more exposed web and e-mail servers here at the office to Linux. That would certainly give me a chance to apply what I've learned so far.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

My Attack of the Clones and Fellowship of the Ring DVDs arrived yesterday. I've only watched a few scenes of each so far, but I like what I've seen. The AOTC transfer is unbelievably clear on my PC monitor at home, and the audio in the headphones was almost as good as it was in the theater. I almost hate to watch either movie on my TV and old, non-surround-sound stereo system, but that can't be helped right now. Liz wants to see Yoda go all saber-wacky at the end of AOTC, and I won't disappoint her. The FOTR DVD set has so many extras that I can't imagine ever watching all of them. It has four commentary tracks! I can see listening to the ones with the director and the cast, but the producers and crew don't interest me as much. You might be asking why I bought this version of the movie, since I could have had the theatrical version three months ago. It's because of the 30 minutes of new footage, which I reviewed earlier this week. That alone makes this set worth buying, and unless Peter Jackson unearthes some Tom Bombadil footage for an ultra-special extra-extended edition, it's the last one I'll buy. And only 34 days until TTT opens...

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Oh boy, I forgot I haven't posted anything since last Thursday. Philly was a decent trip. Smith and Wollensky makes a good steak, but Morton's of Chicago is much better, IMHO. I had the $10 carrot cake for dessert, and it was 7 inches tall and 4 wide. I ate two inches off the bottom and took the rest home to share with Liz, who is a carrot cake fiend.

I listened to the Steelers-Falcons game on the Internet radio on Sunday. I guess it was a great game, but the tie was just disappointing. If you're going to play a game, you need to have a winner and a loser at the end. I'd feel better if the Steelers had fought back from a 17-point deficit, but since they're the ones who blew the lead, it's almost as bad as a loss. At least the Falcons are an NFC team, so this game shouldn't count against the Steelers in AFC playoff positioning.

I got spanked in fantasy football this weekend. My team sucks, no matter what I might have said previously. Daunte Culpepper is out as my QB, Trent Green is in. It's not much of an improvement, but I can't do anything about that now.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

I'm in Philadelphia today, at my office's disaster planning/recovery site. I'm missing my usual Thursday workout, but I get dinner at Smith and Wollensky for my troubles. And I can always work out tomorrow. Too bad I don't have friends in the Philly area anymore; I could have brought them along.

On Tuesday night, James and I attended a free screening of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring in glorious digital format. Moviefone selected me as one of the lucky winners of a pass for two to attend the screening at the Loews Theater on 34th Street. I posted a review of the film on theonering.net, so go there if you'd like to see what I had to say. It's not my best work, but so far I'm the only one who reviewed the NYC show. I'll have this version on DVD next week so I can enjoy it again and again (and subject Liz to it again and again).

Monday, November 04, 2002

Liz and I saw Red Dragon this weekend. It was much better than Hannibal, not quite as good as Silence of the Lambs. Ralph Fiennes doesn't seem to have any body issues; he's been nude or mostly nude in several movies now and he appears quite comfortable with himself. Ed Norton was great, but he'll always have the problem that he looks too young to be playing experienced, older characters. I haven't read the book, but Will Graham seems like he should be a grizzled, older FBI veteran, not quite as old as Harvey Keitel, but older than Ed Norton's early thirties. It was odd hearing stories about old cases coming from a guy who looks barely old enough to shave. Still, Norton is a great actor, and I found his performance, like the others, engrossing and believeable. Anthony Hopkins was great one last time as Lecter, but I don't blame him for saying that he wants to do something else now. Three times to the well for one character is enough for just about anyone, especially with an Oscar winner for the same role in another movie.

I got spanked in fantasy football this weekend, in possibly my worst showing ever. No one on my team scored a touchdown, and the only player that scored in double figures was the Steelers defense. I'll just write off the week and try to find enough points to win next weekend. At least the Steelers beat the Browns again. That makes them 4-0 in the division and 5-3 overall. If nothing else, they should win the division and get a decent seed in the playoffs now.

I need to remember to write things here when I think of them, not three days later. I had some other things to write about, but now I can't remember them.

Friday, November 01, 2002

A few thoughts while I was watching the Halloween parade from an extremely crowded streetcorner outside my apartment:

First of all, I'm getting too old for this shit. After an hour standing in the crowd, my back was starting to hurt and I was just anxious for the whole ordeal to be over so I could go back inside. And getting pressed into total strangers isn't much fun anymore, if it ever was.

I don't think that walking down the street pretending to use a cell phone or wearing a FedEx envelope on your head constitutes a costume.

I nearly saw two punks come to blows less than two feet from me. One guy with a skateboard in his hand had a problem with another guy and they shouted at each other for a few minutes before enough people came between them to keep them apart. But for a few minutes, I was trying to figure out where to go in case they started punching each other, since the crowd was too thick to make a quick getaway. There were plenty of cops nearby, but they were on the other side of wooden and metal barriers, and I'm sure they wouldn't have been able to get near a fight if one broke out. At least not before someone got seriously hurt.

I guess I missed most of the good floats and costumes. I came inside just after the parade started so I could eat dinner, then went back out about 30 minutes later. By the time I got back outside, the parade had devolved into thousands of people in costume walking up Sixth Avenue. I could do that if I wanted, but I don't need to see other people doing it. I tried to get some pictures but none of them are clear enough to keep.

The whole problem I have with the parade is that if it were in another neighborhood, I'd avoid it entirely. I have little desire to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day or the St. Patrick's Day parades, but since this one is right outside my door, I feel an obligation to watch it in person. Next year, if we're living elsewhere, there's virtually no chance I'll subject myself to this punishment again. Geez, now I'm avoiding large crowds. I'm turning into my father.

Monday, October 28, 2002

I wrote this blog entry on the train last night, in an attempt to justify bringing my laptop on this trip. I guess it worked as planned.

I spent the whole weekend at my dad’s house, except for sleeping at my brother’s apartment. My grandmother was in town from England along with my cousin, and this was my only chance to visit with them. She’s 90, and while she’s in great health and spirits, there’s no telling how many more visits there will be. It was also a chance for me to see my parents and my brother, none of whom I see as often as I like. So I didn’t get out and see any new movies or enjoy the cultural highlights of the Washington, DC suburbs. My brother earned his private pilot’s license on Sunday, after a little more than two years of flying lessons. Mazel tov!

On the other hand, I did explore my brother’s small book collection and pick up some ideas of things to read in the future. In particular, I borrowed from him a book entitled The Price of Admiralty, by John Keegan. In college, my brother took a class on the history of modern warfare, and he kept all the books. He had two other Keegan books, one on land warfare and one on the leadership styles of Alexander the Great, Wellington, and Hitler, among others. While that one really tempted me, the one I took instead is all about sea warfare, starting with Trafalgar and progressing through Jutland, Midway, and the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII. I’ve always had an interest in naval battles (they’re one of my favorite parts of Empire Earth) and I’m hoping I can learn some strategies from the masters that will help me defeat the computer. And if I like this one, I can always borrow the others later on.

One tidbit about my fantasy life in the navy: my online handle for many years has been “Admiral” in a variety of forms, usually in computer games. Except for Star Wars games, where I’m Cathol Lyn-Ayt, Jedi padawan (the name came from a SW RPG that I played with some friends a few years ago), or in Battlefield 1942, where I’m Bobby Shaftoe (a character in Neal Stephenson’s novel Cryptonomicon. The other night, while playing, another player msg’ed me and said he was Goto Dengo, which gave me a laugh. (That’s another character from the same book. I love geek humor.)

Friday, October 25, 2002

I'm going out of town again this weekend, back to Washington, DC to see my family. Unfortunately I'm taking the train, which was the subject of an FBI terrorism warning yesterday. They catch the sniper, eliminating one source of anxiety for me, but now I have to worry about someone blowing up the train or a bridge while I'm on it.

Things here have been fairly mundane lately. I just haven't had much to say. Maybe I'll come up with something fantastic while I'm on the train.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Just in case anyone is paying attention: I'm still alive. Nothing new or exciting happening this week. Liz has been out of town all week, so I haven't seen any new movies or done anything out of the usual. I did see Insomnia at a friend's house on Saturday night; it's a good movie. My fantasy football team lost this weekend, and I had the lowest point total in the league for the week. I get some players back from injury and byes this week, so my prospects should improve a little.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Quick fantasy football update: I'm on a three-game winning streak, during which I've beaten two previously undefeated teams. I'm due for a letdown, though. And I can't find anyone who needs one of my spare quarterbacks. Maybe I can trade one of them after this weekend's games. Who wants either of the Trents, Dilfer or Green?

I had dinner with Rudy Giuliani last night. Not just the two of us, of course, but a large group of Novell networking professionals and the former mayor. OK, he wasn't at my table, and the extent of my interaction with him was the five seconds when I shook his hand and we had our picture taken together. But it was still cool. Our local Novell sales rep invited me to this dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel where Giuliani was scheduled to speak. I had a few free drinks and canapes, then waited in line to get my picture taken with the mayor. He had on a ton of makeup and reminded me of the wax figures I've seen at Madame Tussaud's, except he was moving. I didn't even get to say my name to him, just a quick "nice to meet you" to which he said "thanks for coming." I'm not even sure I looked at the camera. I'll have the picture in a week or so, and we'll see if it's worthy of putting up in my cubicle or if it's going in the trash. I ran into a few old friends in the consulting business that I'd worked with while I was at Proskauer two years ago. Dinner was prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, and greens, but I was starting to think they weren't serving anything other than salad when Rudy got up to speak right after they served the salad. 45 minutes and a glass of wine later, Rudy finished up (an interesting speech about his principles of leadership) and they brought out the main course. Dessert was a fruit tart served with cinnamon ice cream. On the way out, everyone got a free copy of Giuliani's new book, the aptly named Leadership. Normally I'd pass up that kind of book, but it was free and it actually looks intriguing, so I'll read it eventually.

I had something to rant about earlier, but now I forget what it was. Damn.

Liz leaves for Anaheim tomorrow morning, so I'm on my own for the weekend and most of next week. Due to unfortunate (for me) scheduling, most of my New York friends are out of town for the weekend as well, so I'll have to find my own fun. I think I'll devote Sunday afternoon to seven glorious hours of football, followed by the Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Other than that, maybe I'll find a movie Liz doesn't want to see, and I can always use the free time to watch DVDs that I haven't seen lately, like the Star Trek: TMP disc that I need to watch again with the visual commentary. The biggest problem for me will be deciding what to eat for dinner. Unless I have a craving for something, I can't ever make up my mind about take-out or carry-out meals. I wander my neighborhood checking out my usual restaurants, considering and rejecting different cuisines, until it's 9 PM and I just pick whatever place I'm closest to at the time. I need to make a list of restaurants I haven't been to lately and just work my way through. I'll probably cook once or twice, but it's just too much trouble to cook for one, and too tempting to make more than I should eat. I'm surprised that I'm more concerned about what I'll eat than I am about entertaining myself. I know I'll be sitting at home on both Friday and Saturday nights, and while that thought should depress me, it doesn't. It's the eating alone that makes me feel a little sad. What does that say about the importance of mealtimes to my psyche?

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Photos from the Gala have been added to my Yahoo! Photos page in the GTA Gala folder. At the size Yahoo! uses, you can't see the red-eye effects. I thought my camera had red-eye reduction, but it never seems to work. Maybe it's because I'm usually taking pictures in a darkened room? Anyway, enjoy.

Monday, October 14, 2002

This past weekend Liz and I were in Washington, DC for a reunion/anniversary celebration of Georgetown theatre. We had a great time catching up with old friends, making some new ones, and enjoying way too much alcohol. I haven't felt the glorious pain of a hangover for a few months, at least. We also got to see the first show of Mask & Bauble's new season, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin). While it's not quite the same caliber of performance as the shows I'm used to seeing here in New York, it was well done.

Someone on the Georgetown alumni e-mail list sent this article to the list this morning. I think the most appropriate comment about it is that the Jesuits make bad businessmen. Perhaps the recent choice of a lifelong Georgetown administrator and layperson as the University president will lead to better business deals for the school.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

I did purchase Battlefield 1942 on Friday, and I've spent my gaming hours since then exploring the virtual battlefields of the game. One of my favorite sites is Midway island, which is a mostly aerial and naval combat environment. I've gotten the most fun out of spawning on the submarine and trying to sink enemy carriers and battleships with it. I haven't had any luck so far, but driving the sub reminds me of one of my favorite games from my early computer experience on my Commodore 64. I had hours of fun playing a game called Silent Service where you commanded a US sub in the Pacific during WWII, and you had to sink enemy merchant ships while avoiding depth-charge-wielding destroyers and battleships. The sub in BF1942 is similar, but easier to jump in and operate. I also love flying the planes, but I'm not good at bombing things yet. Basically, the game is a great time, and like most games with me, hard for me to tear myself away to go to bed. My only complaint is that the game sucks up unbelievable amounts of virtual memory, so I really need more RAM to get it to run faster. And a better video card. Obviously, I have my holiday shopping cut out for me.

I've installed Red Hat Linux 8.0 on one of my spare PCs at work. I'm really impressed with this release. The installation is easier than in the past, and the interface is so similar to Windows that if it weren't for the missing Windows-only software that I use for work, I'd swear I'm working in Windows. There are some minor annoyances, like getting Java apps to run in Mozilla, but otherwise it's a great OS. If only I had the spare hardware to try it on a laptop and see how the wireless networking fares. That's the mark of a true geek: taking a Linux laptop on the road. Of course, the best part about Linux is that it's free, if you have the fast pipe to download it. I'd tell you where, but my loyal reader probably already knows where to find it.

Friday, October 04, 2002

I've been writing here for a few months now, and it's fairly boring stuff, I admit. I don't link to many sites or express controversial viewpoints, so I'm not surprised that I haven't attracted much attention with this blog. That's OK by me. But today I feel like stirring the waters a little.

One of my wife's best friends is a playwright here in New York. She's written several one-act and ten-minute plays and had them produced at various New York drama festivals as well as elsewhere in the US. Last night, she had one of her short plays produced as part of the 2002 Chip Deffaa Invitational Theatre Festival. Her play was well done and extremely entertaining; I'd seen it several times before but I think this may be the best production of it yet. Unfortunately, her play was third on the program, and before hers, I had to sit through one of the worst pieces of theater I've ever seen (and with the many drama festivals I've attended, I've seen some bad things). The first play on the program was something called "Three Clowns on a Journey," which for me too closely resembled Samuel Beckett's masterpiece Waiting for Godot. If you read the play (found here) it almost (to me, anyway) reads like a cheap imitation of Godot. On his web site, the playwright describes his work as an absurdist piece he wrote in 1968, when he was in a graduate theater program. Maybe it played better 34 years ago, or maybe better actors would have made it watchable, but last night it brought the entire event to a crawl. No one in the audience seemed interested, the house had no energy at all, and I thought I was going to fall asleep. If it had gone on five minutes longer, I was ready to pull out my Palm and start playing games, breach of etiquette be damned. When it was finally over, there was a long pause before the applause started. Liz and I both wondered if anyone was actually going to clap for this waste of time. Mercifully, the audience did, the actors came out for bows, and it was over.

Usually, in situations like that, where I have such a strong negative reaction to something, I'm afraid to share my opinion, fearing that I'm the only one who didn't like it and that I'll be branded a Philistine. Luckily for me, Liz agreed with me that this play was a complete waste of time and energy. Our playwright friend said that she was thinking of asking the producers to change the order of the program, to move this show away from the beginning of the evening, where it's just bringing the whole event down. The other three plays in the first half of the show (we left at intermission), including our friend's, were engaging and entertaining, and the first one just didn't work at the beginning.

Anyway, I've gone on about this long enough.

I've agonized for a few days about my next computer game purchase. While the Empire Earth expansion pack keeps me entertained, I like to balance my strategy gaming with some good old-fashioned ultraviolence, first-person shooter style. I played the demo of Battlefield 1942 for a few weeks and decided to buy it when the full version came out. But the Unreal Tournament 2003 demo came out a few weeks ago and the resulting hype had me thinking I should get that instead. I played the original UT for most of 2000, only stopping when my old PC's hard drive got corrupted and couldn't read the game files anymore. But the UT2003 demo made the game seem just like the original version, only with better graphics and a new gameplay mode, the football-style "Bombing Run," which was the only part of the demo I found worth playing. On the other hand, BF1942 is team-based, set in WWII, and lets you drive vehicles as well as run around on foot shooting things. I'm drawn more to the original concept of BF1942, rather than UT2003 mostly rehashing the last version of the game. But UT2003 is going to be more popular over the long run, given the draw the previous version had. (This is the argument I've been having with myself for the past few days.) This afternoon, I bought BF1942, figuring that I'll get UT2003 at holiday time. If I'm right, by December there will be a huge UT2003 community up and running, and BF1942's hard-core players will still be out there. So tonight I'll be busy fragging the smacktards online again. And in a few short weeks, I'll frag them again in UT2003.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

More Linux learning today. I figured out how to run telnetd so I don't have to sit at the server console to configure the box. I'm actually getting into this Linux thing again. I'd love to download RedHat Linux 8.0, but I can't get to any of the mirror sites to get the ISO files. Eventually...

Last night I downloaded a bunch of Uriah Heep songs, trying to find the one that Drake and Zeke have been playing as a joke. All the songs I got were good, but not the right one, so in desperation I e-mailed them. They read my e-mail on the air, and the song is in fact "Bird of Prey." As soon as I get home, I'm pulling that one down. It has a cool operatic-style opening, then the lead singer comes in and hits this off-key high note. It's really cheesy in a Black Sabbath-Judas Priest-vein, so I can't wait to hear the whole thing.

Somehow, someway, I won my fantasy football matchup this week to even my record at 2-2. I've still got a crappy team, but at least they managed to win by a point and change. I don't know if I can pull off another win this week, but I'm not playing as good a team, so there's hope.

Friday, September 27, 2002

This week I've been forced to become an expert on Redhat Linux. On Wednesday afternoon, a Linux server I set up a year ago got the Slapper worm, and brought down our Internet e-mail (since the Linux server and Internet e-mail systems were on the same data circuit, and the worm traffic overwhelmed the circuit). I spent most of Thursday reinstalling Linux and configuring the server. Today I downloaded new versions of server components and figured out how to compile them so I could install them. It turns out that you have to install the compiler program first, before you can compile. Seems simple enough, except that the installation file for one component is dependent on three other components, which are in turn dependent on two others. It took me three or four hours to get everything compiled and installed, and then I still had to copy files to the right places to make everything work. But so far, so good. I still don't like the OS that much, since it has all sorts of quirks that predate DOS and arcane commands that require years of study to master. There's a Unix guru here who's been helping me, and his ability to remember and execute these long commands in the terminal still astounds me. Any time I have to deal with anything Unix-related, I think of this guy. Our Unix admin isn't much like him, but he does have an attitude.

I've always known that I suck at sports. I've never been able to play anything involving a ball well enough to avoid the barbs and jibes of my opponents, teammates, and friends. I could throw a decent spiral in my youth, though only 20 yards or so. I can't play any baseball-related sport to save my life, and if my life were involved in the contest, it would be easier for me to submit to whatever grisly death was in store for me and save my tormentors some time. I'm a little better at video game sports, but other than minor victories over the computer, I can't remember a single game where I defeated a human opponent. Sometimes I was able to keep the score close, but I think I lost nearly all the time. Now, it turns out I suck at fantasy football. I can't even succeed at a completely fake sport only tangentially related to an actual contest. Nearly everyone on my team is underachieving this season, so while prior to the season you might have thought I'd have a decent shot at competing, over the first three weeks of the season I've got one of the worst teams in our league. I can attribute most of my team's shortcomings to the disappointing play of my quarterback, Daunte Culpepper. The experts predicted he'd be one of the top five fantasy football QBs this season, but so far, he's kept pace with Trent Dilfer and Mark Brunell (my backups), two guys who no one listed as must-have players. I gave up Priest Holmes to get Culpepper, and this trade will come back to haunt me personally this weekend, as I face the team to whom I traded Holmes. I also gave up Peyton Manning to get Holmes, and while at first that seemed like a decent move, the longer Culpepper goes without finding his rhythm, the better Manning looks. I have one decent receiver (Derrick Mason), one good RB (Charlie Garner), an excellent kicker in Olindo Mare, and Jeremy Shockey at TE. Everyone else on my roster could be traded without much pain or consequence. I'm hoping to score enough points this weekend to contend, then maybe swing a trade with someone else for a better QB or WR. Or both. One more bad week and it's basically all over for me. The most frustrating thing about the game is that it's all guesswork. I can look at the stats and see how well someone played last season, or last week, but my game is dependent on how each guy performs on Sunday (or Monday), and there's no guarantee that anyone's stellar performance last week will repeat this week against a different team. I guess that's why you play the game. I'd have won my matchup last week if Isaac Bruce had somehow been injured before he took the field, but once he caught a pass, he earned a point for my opponent, who beat me by just a few points. Maybe I'll get lucky this week and someone will kneecap Priest Holmes before kickoff, and poison Ricky Williams's pregame meal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

For those keeping track of my gaming habits, I bought Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest on Saturday, and I've been playing random maps with it since then. The new space age is fun, though it shares many of the gameplay traits of sea warfare in the game. I haven't played with any of the new units, but I have tried a few of the civilization improvements. The United States civ gets a market building (which everyone in the Age of Empires series gets) but in EE I've learned to play without the balancing effect of the market, so it's not as necessary. I'm still planning to buy Battlefield 1942, perhaps as soon as this week. I'm trying to strike a balance between when I think the servers will be filled with lamewads shooting teammates and when the game will no longer be popular. I also tried the demo of No One Lives Forever 2, and while I'm impressed with the graphics (there's a water effect that is so good, it's unbelievable), the gameplay and story seem like it's just a sequel to the original NOLF. I suppose that's the point, but I don't need to invest in the full game right away. I waited over a year to get the first game, and I think I can wait on this one too. Especially since I'll probably want a faster video card to play it anyway, and I'm not getting one for a few months.

I think that I'm being kicked out of the tribe. Apparently I don't look Jewish, because several times in the past few months, I've been ignored by other Jews approaching strangers in public places. Here's the first story: back in June, Liz and I were in Las Vegas. On the way back, we were waiting in the airport for our flight to board. There had been a jewelry convention in town, and a number of Orthodox and Chasidic Jews were on our flight. They gathered in one corner of the terminal for evening prayers about 30 minutes before the flight boarded. A few of them were asking other male passengers waiting for the flight if they were Jewish, obviously (to me, as a Jew) because they needed at least 10 men to have a minyan (a quorum for the prayer service). But they didn't ask me to join them. The same thing happened again a few weeks ago on the street, though I can't remember the exact circumstances. It might have been around Rosh Hashanah. I probably didn't help my cause during my century ride, when I saw all the other Jews in Brooklyn on their way to the synagogue and I was out enjoying my bike ride. Or by eating delicious barbequed pork for my Rosh Hashanah meal. Finally, on Monday evening, I was on my way from my office building to the subway when I saw a pair of Chasidim standing by the entrance to the N-R-W train on Church Street. One of them had a lulav and etrog in his hands, which reminded me that it was Sukkot, the harvest festival holiday. The other guy was asking something of passersby, so I assumed it was whether they were Jewish. I'm not sure what was going on, actually. Maybe it was some sort of roundup, or they were just looking for people to whom they could wish a happy Sukkot. But again, they didn't ask me! So I can only conclude that I'm not wanted, or that my choice of a mostly secular, non-practicing Jewish lifestyle is OK with the vast majority of devout Jews out there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

I had a really bad evening last night. I went to my local Supercuts for a trim and had to wait over an hour before someone was available. If that wasn't bad enough, I had to listen to the greatest hits of Air Supply while I waited. And I was starving, having put off a snack earlier and figuring that I wouldn't have to wait long. By the time I was done, I'd heard every crappy AS song ever written, missed two TV shows I wanted to see, and still had to go to the grocery store and pick up dinner. I was in a completely foul mood for most of the evening, and only cheered up after I watched a "Simpsons" episode on DVD (the one where Mr. Burns runs for governor.) That made me feel much better.

The expansion pack for Empire Earth is out as of yesterday. For $30, I don't think I can go wrong with this one, especially since I bought the original game with a gift certificate from my employer. Battlefield 1942 is also out, but I'm restraining myself from spending money on it. I loved the demo, and honestly can't wait to try out the full game, but I'm wary of playing online with all the "smacktards" who like to shoot their own teammates for fun. That kind of garbage made the demo a waste of time on some servers, and sent me back to playing the computer in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds faster than you could say "I have a bad feeling about this." One review of the full game suggested that in a few weeks the idiots who goof off like this may have moved on to other games, and that there would be further patches that will improve gameplay, fix bugs, etc. So I'll hold off another week or two and see what happens.

Over the past year, I've realized that I've outgrown my old habit of choosing only one game to play online for months. I spent most of 1997 playing Quake, 1998 and 1999 playing Quake II, and 2000 was all about Quake III and Unreal Tournament. I played Tribes 2 all last summer, but lost interest in any kind of gaming for a few weeks after September 11. Once things settled down again, I couldn't quite find the right game. Since last fall I've been all over the RTS games I've already mentioned, and while Jedi Knight II's online play was fun, I'm getting tired of the usual capture the flag and deathmatch modes in all games. The demo of UT2003 is available now, and while it looks cool and includes an excellent new game mode called "Bombing Run" (a football-like game), it's just more of the same FPS action I've played almost to death. BF1942 is really just another version of CTF (capture and hold) but it does have driveable vehicles and flyable airplanes. But the RTS games require a bit more thought, so I've spent more time with those lately. Maybe this is one of those signs that I'm maturing.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Wow, I didn't realize I hadn't posted anything in a week. For shame....

Liz and I got the funk on Saturday night, when the Mothership landed once more at B.B. King's on 42nd Street. George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars performed to a capacity crowd, and it was great. They didn't play "Flashlight," but "One Nation" and "Atomic Dog" were highlights, and the rest of the show was fantastic. Liz couldn't believe all the line changes and different musicians they brought onstage, or how talented they all were. The guitarist who soloed on "Maggot Brain" was the equal of any premiere guitarist I've heard in concert. We'll be seeing them again when they come back to NY next year. Like the Dead, P-Funk doesn't stop touring.

On a completely different subject...

I didn't post anything related to the 9/11 anniversary mostly because I couldn't think of anything original to write. It was a difficult day for everyone, and while I was able to cope with the help of family, friends, and co-workers (and free comfort food in the cafeteria), I didn't feel like expressing myself here. My mother performed in the orchestra that was a part of the Shanksville ceremony, and that was really emotional for me to watch on TV. I'm so proud that my mother got to be a part of that, and also for the rest of the orchestra, one with which I feel a close connection, since I was also a performer in the group about ten years ago. I suppose that had I made different choices in my life, I could have been there last week.

Back to more positive matters, The Sopranos are back. I want a Silvio Dante action figure. Maybe Todd McFarlane can get on that. I bought the Reservoir Dogs DVD, and it's got an order form for action figures from that movie, so how hard would it be to license the characters from the Sopranos for figures? I'd love a Silvio figure for my desk at work, posed in front of the Bada-Bing! sign. For the moment, I'll settle for having his jutting lower lip and slicked-back hair as my Windows background. Curb Your Enthusiasm also premiered last night, and it's just as funny as the first two seasons. If you're returning to the Sopranos, but you're used to changing the channel at 10 PM, I urge you to keep that TV tuned to HBO for another half-hour. CYE is, like the Sopranos and Six Feet Under, one of the best shows on TV, and definitely one of the funniest. It's up for an Emmy next week. I doubt it will win (against Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Sex and the City, and Will and Grace) but it's my favorite of all the nominated shows.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I promised an extended version of the NYC Century, so I'd better hurry up and write it before I forget all the details I want to include.

James and I arrived at the Central Park start around 6:15 AM Sunday. I went through the express check-in line since I had my ride bib, while James went through the bib pick-up line. Having my bib saved me approximately 30 seconds, since my line fed into the end of James' line. We picked up cue sheets, Clif bars, extra water bottles, and got on our way about 6:50.

We took it easy for the first few miles, our pace partially dictated by the large crowd of riders we were in. Around 23rd St. on Fifth Avenue, I saw a taxicab pull over another car; it turns out that the taxi was actually an unmarked police car. It was a "taxicop."

In Prospect Park I accidentally ran over a squirrel who was caught in the roadway between my bike and James'. I hit him pretty hard, and I don't know if he survived. But I'll have to avoid Prospect Park now, in case the rest of the squirrels come after me. Through Brooklyn, we had little kids coming out into the street to high-five us and wish us a Happy New Year. Way to lay on the guilt for missing Rosh Hashanah services.

At the Canarsie Pier rest stop, we oiled my bike's chain, which had been making some nasty noises all morning. After that, the bike was quiet and quick, just the way I like it.

We got to the midpoint of the ride, Alley Pond Park in Queens around noon. It wasn't a bad pace for fifty miles, including rests. Two hours later, we were at Astoria Park and only 35 miles from the end. We stopped again six miles later, at a McDonald's in the Bronx, to use their bathroom and get some cheeseburgers. That might have been a problem for me, because the nine-mile stretch from the McDonald's to the next (and last) rest stop at Pelham Bay Park was the toughest of the day for me. I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I kept telling myself that I just had to get to the rest stop, then I could take as long a break as I wanted. About 4:30 PM, we pulled into the park and I collapsed for half an hour. James checked the football scores and chatted with Rob in Virginia.

At 5:10 PM I pronounced myself ready to tackle the last 20 miles, and tried to keep in mind that the distance was no longer than my usual ride up and down the Hudson River Greenway. And I had heard that most of the course in Manhattan was downhill. James pointed out that there had to be a reason why it was downhill in Manhattan. The reason was that the closer we got to the Broadway Bridge to the island, the more uphills we found. And we forgot to eat something each time we stopped for a bathroom break. After we crossed the bridge, we coasted for a while down Broadway, but then the cue sheets directed us onto a steep, 10-block-long hill that led up to the George Washington Bridge. I've never been so happy to see the traffic jam near the bridge entrance as I was on Sunday. Because it really was all downhill from there into Central Park. James let me take the lead into the park to finish my first century.

It was 7:10 PM, over 12 hours since we left the park that morning. The ride organizers were packing everything up, but we were able to get T-shirts and directions to the subway. A quick ride on the C train, and I was back in the Village, which looked just as dark at 8 PM as it had at 5:45 AM. I was exhausted, but proud of my accomplishment. And I'm really glad they only do this ride once a year. I'll need that long to convince myself to do the whole thing again. Especially that last hilly section in the Bronx. That's just sadistic torture.

Monday, September 09, 2002

My legs are tired, and I should be drinking more water, but I finished the Century yesterday, on my first attempt no less. It wasn't easy, and for a while I thought I wasn't going to make it, but James helped me pull through. He hadn't "been in the saddle" (his words) for that many miles since his last AIDS Ride in June 2001, so he wasn't sure he'd finish either. It took us a little over 12 hours with rest stops, which is much longer than I had hoped to take, but it doesn't matter. The point is that I can say that I've ridden over 100 miles in one day, and I know I could do it again.

I was too tired last night to write anything about the ride, but I'll post a longer version of the day's events later.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Quick update: This is the one Saturday night a year I got to bed extra early (before midnight!). I'm getting up at 4:30 AM and leaving the apartment an hour later to ride (hopefully, if all goes well) 100 miles around New York City. The bike is ready, I've got all my food packed and I should be rested. I'm hoping I can get some sleep even with the new girl across the hall hosting a small gathering of friends. Next Saturday night I'll make up for this one: we're going to see George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars at B.B. King's. I'll get my funk on, indeed.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Not much going on lately. My fantasy football team might be good, if I had any idea what I was doing. I'm down to one running back; apparently, I didn't realize that waiver claims take two days to process, so I might be stuck for this weekend. But I do have Daunte Culpepper and Jeremy Shockey, and maybe I'll get some points from Antwaan Randle El, even though he's not starting on Sunday. The whole fantasy football thing has been a learning experience so far, and I can only get better at it for next year. Yes, like a classic fatalist, I'm already planning for next year's team, and ready to give up on this one.

Friday, August 30, 2002

There's not going to be a baseball strike. Well, whoop de freakin' doo. In the last few days I was actually rooting for a strike, just to see how upset fans could get at the players and how the game might suffer. I guess that's a bit of schadenfreude for you. Anyway, now that the two sides have reached a deal, and the game will go on, I realize something: it doesn't change anything for me. I'm still not going to pay any more attention to baseball than I do now. Which, unfortunately, is a lot more attention than I thought. You see, I went into the 2002 season pledging not to follow the Pirates too closely, or the pennant races, or the labor talks especially. What happened? I've read every article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the team, and I've followed the labor situation with a magnifying glass lately. But the fact is that no matter what kind of labor deal came out of this mess, it wouldn't make me care more or less about the game. I've never been able to play baseball on any level, I don't know the rules or the history well enough to talk about it, and I don't care to learn about any of that. I like going to the occasional big league game. Otherwise, I'm always going to be a football fan, and no matter what happens in that game, on or off the field, I'm always going to watch the Steelers on Sundays. Even if they never win the Super Bowl again in my lifetime and run off ten straight losing seasons. I should have known this all along. When I was a kid, I never fantasized about being in the Pirates lineup and hitting a home run to win the World Series, but I always wanted to be Terry Bradshaw and throw the winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

I'm a casual baseball fan, even where my team is concerned, but I will always be a fanatic about football. And that's not a bad thing at all.
Pictures from the Jamaica trip have been uploaded to my Yahoo! photos page. If you see anything you like and you want a copy in large, printable size, e-mail me and I'll send you the full-size picture(s).

Thursday, August 29, 2002

As promised, here is the full recap of our trip to Jamaica. Pictures to follow.

The Jamaica Trip

We left the apartment at 4:30 AM Monday morning, too early for civilized people to be awake. Liz had gone to bed around 11 PM the night before, but I, as usual, stayed up late playing computer games, so I only had about three hours sleep. But that’s what sleeping on the plane is for.

Airport security and check-in at JFK was easier than I thought it would be. I was astounded at the number of bags some people were bringing onto the flight. It seemed like most of the passengers were moving back to Jamaica by way of our flight. The flight itself was uneventful and almost enjoyable: we sat in the exit row so we got plenty of leg room, and ate decent food. We watched most of The Time Machine but they had to stop the movie with a few minutes left since we were about to land. So now I have to rent it to see how it ends. (Jeremy Irons needs to get a new agent. First he chews the scenery in the wretched Dungeons and Dragons movie a few years ago, and now he’s overacting again as a subterranean ruler in an inferior film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. It’s just sad to see a great actor in bad films like these.)

The Montego Bay airport in Jamaica was not what I’d describe as a modern airport; it strongly reminded me of the old terminal at Shannon, Ireland. It looks like it was built about 50 years ago and they’ve spent the intervening years fixing things and doing spot repairs. But we were through customs and immigration in a few minutes and by noon, we were on the shuttle bus to our resort, Grand Lido Negril. There were two other couples on the bus with us: one married the previous weekend, and one celebrating their 16th anniversary. Nearly everyone we met were newlyweds on their honeymoon; there were only a few couples there just for a vacation.

The bus driver stopped about 15 minutes into the ride at a convenience store and we bought a few bottles of Red Stripe to drink on the way. We made a bathroom stop an hour later (you don’t buy beer, you rent it) and the driver pulled over a few more times to get out and chat with people operating roadside shacks. Around 2 PM we pulled into the resort. Check-in took place in the piano bar (more Red Stripe) and they sent us to the buffet for lunch while our rooms were prepped. Another hour, another beer and some great food later, we were in our suite.

Putting off sleep for later, we finally got out onto the beach at 4 PM. There was a long strip of beach right outside our room that served as the main beach, and a smaller, rockier section of beach on the other side of the main resort building that was the “clothing-optional” beach. We did visit that side on two occasions, but what we opted to do about our clothing is none of your business. Suffice it to say that for the most part, the people you want to see on the nude side of the resort don’t go there (or go there and keep their clothes on); instead, the people who you’d rather leave their clothes on decide to bare all. We went for a swim in the main pool, or, rather, Liz went for a swim. I tried to swim a little, misjudged how deep the pool was, and found myself in deeper water than I liked, forcing me to struggle to the surface. After that embarrassment, I stayed in the shallow end or on a raft anytime I was in the pool. I definitely have forgotten anything I knew about swimming. Several times that afternoon we were approached by locals trying to ascertain if we were interested in buying marijuana. I guess they got the right message, though, and after Monday they didn’t bother us again.

Monday night’s dinner was at the reggae beach party, which featured a calypso steel drum band, dancers, and a fire-breather. The band was amazing to watch: legs and hands constantly in motion, some drummers playing more than one drum at a time, covering reggae tunes and pop songs. After the band finished their set, the staff held a reggae dance contest, in which Liz and I were somehow drafted to participate. Liz made a valiant effort, but against tough competition, didn’t make it out of the first round. The women’s contest went on entirely too long, with multiple rounds, while the men had to stand around and wait. Finally, it was the guys’ turn to collectively “shake it.” I busted a few of the moves in my arsenal, but held off on my signature leg grab, figuring I needed to save something for the second round. Unfortunately, I wasn’t picked to move on, so I’ll forever wonder if I could have won the contest and the prize (a bottle of rum) with my leg grab and other “Solid White Dancer” material.

Tuesday through Friday followed the same pattern for the most part. We would go to the beach in the morning and spend a few hours reading, floating in the ocean waters (clearer and warmer than any beach water I’ve ever seen, but no waves to body surf -- my only complaint), and try not to get sunburned. We would have lunch either at the buffet or from one of the outdoor bars where they served jerk chicken and beef patties. The late afternoon would find us in the pool or in the room, waiting out the rain. It rained almost every afternoon, sometimes a heavy thunderstorm, other times just a brief, cool shower. Usually we were able to go back out after the rain, at least to the pool, but sometimes it would rain so much that we’d just call an end to the beach part of our day and stay in. We had a private, outdoor Jacuzzi in our suite, so we were able to stay in the water even in a heavy rain.

On Tuesday night we had a tasty seafood dinner at one of the restaurants: I had marlin and Liz had red snapper. The food was great but the portions were entirely too small, even by our standards of fancy Manhattan dining. After dinner we went to the piano bar, where “laser karaoke” kept everyone entertained for a few hours. I was tempted, but I didn’t sing anything. Maybe on Wednesday night, I told myself.

A thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon nearly ruined our scheduled “couples” massage, which took place outdoors in a gazebo by the water. Luckily, the rain held off, so we had relaxing aromatherapy massages side by side with thunder as accompaniment. That night we had dinner at the resort’s showcase French restaurant, where we enjoyed a meal that rivals anything we’ve eaten here in New York. Liz had a chicken breast with Gruyere cheese risotto, and I had roasted stuffed quail. The signature dessert, a white chocolate piano with chocolate mousse filling, was so amazing to behold that I had to take a picture of it before we defiled it by eating it. After dinner, we went back to the karaoke/piano bar again. There wasn’t much in the song list that I knew and could sing, but they had one song I could manage. So I got up and rocked the house with my imitation of Jim Morrison by performing “LA Woman.” One guy was so impressed that he kept complimenting me on my performance whenever he saw me the rest of the time we were there. I think Liz was embarrassed, but entertained. She did get a few pictures of it, but unfortunately, we don’t have any recordings of the event.

Thursday was another relaxing day, except for both of us getting sunburned. We had dinner at the pasta restaurant (Liz ate goat cheese ravioli, I had jerk sausage in tomato sauce over penne) then went to the piano bar, where we had just missed the resident pianist’s show for the evening. Two women were there, enjoying a few drinks before they had to leave the next day, and the pianist was kind enough to play a few songs for the four of us past his usual quitting time.

We spent almost all day Friday in the pool, cooling our sunburns. It was the only day that we didn’t have any significant rain in the afternoon, so we could have gone on an afternoon cruise, but I guessed wrong on the weather (who knew?) and we just stayed in the water. That night’s dinner was a massive buffet with raw bar, and the entertainment was a four girl group from Kingston. After dinner we were back at the piano bar for a sing-along that lasted a few hours and featured many songs we’d been singing all week at karaoke, like “Mac the Knife” and “Piano Man.” (I think that “Piano Man” is required material if you’re going to work the cocktail pianist circuit anymore; they probably don’t let you in the cocktail pianists’ union if you can’t play it.)

Finally, on Saturday, it was time to go. Though with the way the resort and the airline set up departures, we had about half the day at the resort to buy souvenirs, have a few more drinks, and one last meal at the buffet. The bus ride back was a little shorter this time, and more crowded. Security at the airport was much tighter than at JFK, if you can believe that. There was the initial metal detector check, which was nothing unusual, but then they searched all bags and checked all the men’s shoes at the gate. The flight had lots of small kids, and most of them seemed to be in our section near the back of the plane. Once again the food was good, but we didn’t get a movie this time, so I didn’t get to see the end of The Time Machine. Once again, customs and immigration weren’t a problem, but getting out of the terminal was. It must be a cultural thing. The flights coming into our terminal were from Jamaica (of course), Colombia, and Taiwan, and it seemed that everyone leaving the terminal had twenty family members waiting outside customs for them. There had to be at least three hundred people between customs and the exits, and they weren’t making it easy for anyone to get out. I couldn’t believe that on a Saturday night in New York, these people had nothing better to do than wait for Grandma to get off a plane. After a half-hour wait, we finally got into a taxi and we were back home by midnight. The cats were, as always, happy to see us again.
I've been sick with a cold for the past few days. It hasn't kept me from going to work, though it probably should have. I've always had a thing about missing work or school for illness, so unless I can't even get out of bed, I'm going to work. Especially this week, having just returned from vacation. If I hadn't been off all last week, I'd probably have skipped a day this week. Today might have been the best choice, since it's raining like crazy here in NYC and I got drenched coming home from the gym and again on my way to work. But I'm here in the office anyway.

I'm done with my Jamaica trip recap, but I've been busy with other things, so I haven't quite finished fine-tuning it. My home PC's hard drive was failing, so I got Dell to ship me a new one. I spent most of last evening reinstalling Windows and my applications, with surprisingly little difficulty. And the best part is that Dell sent me an 80 GB disk to replace a 60 GB disk, at no charge. Score one for me.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Liz and I have returned from Jamaica, slightly sunburned but otherwise completely and totally relaxed. This was by far the most relaxing vacation I've had since I was 14 and someone else did all the driving and paying. We didn't get out of the resort for any of the water sports, lobster pizza, or local attractions; we just stayed on the property and hung out on the beach, by the pool, or in the private jacuzzi attached to our room. And we ate well for six straight days. It's going to be difficult to go back to work and not have a drink at lunch, or have a waiter come by my desk and ask me if everything is "going great?" and then offer to get me another rum punch.

On the other hand, being out of electronic communication for six days has shown me that while it is possible for me to survive without e-mail and the web, it's like a drug when I come back. Oh, how I've missed my precious, precious DSL. I've been online for two straight hours so far, and I've got at least another hour's worth of surfing to catch up with all of last week's content on my favorite sites. I read entirely too much material online.

I took detailed notes of each day's significant events while we were away, and I'll be compiling a (hopefully) entertaining report in the next few days. It will, of course, be posted here for your perusal.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

"Did you read Kornheiser today?" Sorry, old joke. Anyway, he's got a great viewpoint on the prospect of an upcoming players' strike in baseball. I especially like the way he ends the piece. I won't spoil it for you.

At last, the players have set a strike date. If there's no deal on August 30, there won't be any games. Fine by me. If you can't live on $2 million plus a year, sure, go on strike, and see how many American workers support you. A week after that day, I'll be watching football, and I couldn't give a damn if baseball ever comes back.

Speaking of football, I'm in a fantasy football league for the first time this year. It's online, at Yahoo!, and most of the features are automated, like the draft, so I don't have to do any research or fool around with salary caps. At least, I don't think I do. It's with a bunch of my old college friends, all of whom should get the joke above. I'm sure I'll get spanked each and every week, just like I used to in Madden. One problem for me will be trades. I'm no good at suggesting them. When we used to play Monopoly, everyone else would always suggest trades and I'd react. Almost always, the deal worked out badly for me. I'm sure this thing will be more of the same, but at least it will be entertaining.

I'm getting ready to go on vacation, so I'm not sure how many more posts there will be before we leave Monday morning. Sunny Jamaica awaits us for six glorious days. We'll be back on Saturday, so I'll have plenty of material to post by then. I'm still debating about taking my laptop, not for blog updates or (God forbid) work, but for a repository for my digital photos. I think I'll just take my chances and leave the laptop at home. It's a lot of hardware to carry and risk just for the ability to save my pictures each day. Besides, how many pictures of Liz and I on the beach can I take?

Thursday, August 15, 2002

I love the New York Times Circuits section every Thursday. It's the only section of the Times that I read regularly. (I also like the Tuesday "Tunnel Vision" column about the NYC subway.) Anyway, today's story about incoming college freshmen corresponding with their new roommates over e-mail brought back some old memories, fond and not so fond.

It was ten years ago this month that I first dealt with new roommate issues, as an incoming freshman at Georgetown University. (Man, ten years -- it really makes me feel old, even at 28.) The GU housing department sent me a letter with my new roommate's information on it, as well as where we'd be living (Darnall Hall, room 117. Some things you never forget.). I clearly remember the phone call I got one August afternoon from my new roommate, one Mark Reedy of Atlanta, GA. I stood in my kitchen as we talked briefly about who we were, then spent most of the call discussing what we'd be bringing. He had a TV and a stereo, I had a computer. He also planned to bring his five-foot-long pet python, with the cliched name of Monty. On the phone, he seemed like a decent guy. We were both messy and lazy, so we figured we'd get along well.

A few weeks later, we met in person on move-in day. Again, at first meeting, my initial impression was the same as before. Of course, those of you who know me well will recall that Mark and I did not get along well at all for most of the year. My idea of messy was not making my bed and leaving everything in a pile on my desk. His idea of messy was to leave his dirty laundry in the middle of the floor for weeks at a time. The 1993 Georgetown yearbook even has a picture of our room in it, showing in full, lurid color just how nasty we kept this room. I thought I was lazy, sleeping late and rushing to my morning classes. He would sleep all day and miss most of his classes. However, the mess and the hours were the least of the problems we had. I can't go into detail about the issues we went through all year, so suffice it to say we just didn't get along. I think matters were at their worst when on nights when he would be out late partying, I'd hope that he was dead somewhere so I could live in peace. Moving out wasn't really an option; by the time things deteriorated to the point where I considered moving, the year was almost over, so I just gutted it out. My living situation improved greatly the following year, when I shared a room and later an apartment with Jonathan. While I knew a few people who got along well with their initial roommates (and continued to live together after freshman year), most of my friends fared much better when they were able to choose their roommates. For a follow-up, I could discuss all the mishegoss of my junior year, when I chose to live with three friends in an off-campus house, but later had several new housemates chosen for me through external events, but I don't have the time now, and no one would believe me anyway.

Instead, here's a list of the places I lived when I was at Georgetown, just for the hell of it:

Freshman year (1992-93): Darnall Hall, room 117. Built in the 1960s, renovated two years after I lived there. Half the people who lived on my floor were cool guys, the rest were lacrosse players and business school students who partied all the time. I was happy to get out of there.

Fall semester sophomore year (1993): Copley Hall, room 401. Built in the 1930s (I think), renovated the year after I lived there. I had a great time there because of all the fantastic people on the floor, but the rooms were crappy. Over Christmas break the shower in my room exploded and turned the room into a sauna for three days. Because of this event, Jonathan and I moved to ...

Spring semester sophomore year (1994): Village A, Apartment A205 (I think that was the number). We moved into the only available spare room on campus and lived with a junior and an exchange student. I LOVED having an on-campus apartment as a sophomore; it was a big status thing to have an apartment at that age. And it had a roof deck with a view of the Potomac and Virginia.

Junior year (1994-95): 3720 R Street. Off-campus house. I lived with some of my best friends in one of the crappiest houses in Georgetown (actually Burleith). The stories from this house would take far too long to tell here.

Senior year (1995-96): Village A, Apartment E206. Three friends and I took another roof deck apartment with a river view. We didn't have a high enough "draft" pick to get a top-floor apartment, but we had the best time living here. Definitely the best living experience of my four years at Georgetown.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Today's post will be of a personal nature. Those looking for timely musings about the downfall of society should go elsewhere.

I'm currently in the market for a new watch. The current one needs a new battery, but as you will read below, I'm considering getting a new watch instead of just replacing the battery. Since 1988, I've worn a series of digital calculator watches, and since 1990, they've been of the Casio Data Bank model. I used to use the watch to store phone numbers and the occasional anniversary, but in the past few years I've acquired cell phones that store phone numbers and PDAs which store numbers and much more. So the Data Bank on my wrist has been rendered obsolete. I do still use the world time feature, which is convenient when I'm traveling outside the Eastern time zone. I don't ever remember needing the stopwatch, and the timer is useless as well since I have a cooking timer at home. (And I can't remember the last time I needed a timer outside of making dinner.) As for the calculator, I realized a few minutes ago that at any given time I have on my person at least one device that includes a calculator (other than the watch). The two PDAs that I carry (BlackBerry and Palm Vx), as well as my Nokia cell phone, have calculators. To add to the fun, all three of these devices also include clocks. So you could say that I don't even need the watch. But since I've worn a watch since I was about six years old (or about as long as I can remember), it's too much of a habit for me to chuck the watch entirely.

The problem is deciding what watch to buy. Twelve years ago, the calculator/data bank watch was cutting-edge and extremely geeky, so of course I loved having it. Now with the proliferation of data devices (see above) it's not geeky any more, just dumb. Casio has a $200 watch that includes a compass, altimeter, and barometer, but unless I'm going to become a TV weatherman or a serious hiker, I don't need one. And not at that price, either. The new geeky watch from Casio seems to be the Wave Ceptor series, which gets its time by radio from an atomic clock in Colorado. But this model is so new that I've only seen it online, except for one style (the latest Data Bank, which I don't want anymore) at J&R downtown. I'm wary of buying a new watch online, since I won't be able to see it firsthand until after I've paid for it. I don't know much about any other manufacturers or models, excep that they can get really expensive and shiny. I'm still enamoured of digital watches, so a fashionable analog watch isn't really my thing. The more I think about this, the more likely it becomes that I'll just break down and get what I want online. After I looked at the web sites for some Manhattan department and/or watch stores, I found that most stores don't carry Casio, or a large selection of casual digital watches. Damn. Why do I always have to make things more difficult than they need to be?