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.