Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pillagers Win!

NEW YORK -- The Yorkville Pillagers won the 2004 championship of the Five Guys From A House fantasy football league last night. Led by Peyton Manning, the scrappy squad of running backs-by-committee and free agent wide receiver pickups defeated the 49sters by a final score of 88.03-86.61. Going into the playoffs, Yorkville had a four-game winning streak. A 10-4 regular-season record gave the Pillagers the second seed, and in their first playoff game they defeated the Voracious Vegans 86-74 with big days from Detroit WR Roy Williams and Oakland WR Jerry Porter. In the championship game, Brett Favre's 3 touchdowns and 385 yards passing staked the 49sters to an early 31-point lead, but the Pillagers stormed back with 18 points from Steve Christie and a late 20 points from Manning. New England WR Deion Branch and Buffalo rookie Shaud Williams added 11.6 and 10.6 points, respectively. But the outcome of the game was in doubt until the announcement Monday evening that 49sters and Philadelphia RB Brian Westbrook was inactive for the Monday night game vs. St. Louis. Without the opportunity to pick up any more points from Westbrook, the game was over for the 49sters and the Pillagers' victory, though narrow, was assured. The win set off a minor celebration of cheering and dancing at the team's headquarters on Manhattan's
Upper East Side. This is the first championship in the team's three-year history. The Pillagers played their first season in Greenwich Village before moving to Yorkville in 2003.

I've been playing fantasy football for three years, and I didn't ever expect to win a title, let alone in my third year. I have Peyton Manning and his touchdown-filled season to thank for my success; without him, I'd have been relegated to another middling finish out of the playoff hunt. I really enjoyed this season, and not just because I won the whole thing. In past years I micromanaged my teams all year: scouring many websites for advice and player rankings, looking for any edge I could find, trading players with fellow league owners out of desperation. This year I only made a few trades and kept most of my players all season. I only micromanaged the team in the playoffs when it really mattered. Since we don't run a "keepers" league, I won't know until next season's draft whether I get Manning again, and even if I do, there's no guarantee that he'll have as good a season as he had this year. In any case, I need to do a better job of acquiring top-tier running backs; without one, I had to rely on Manning for the bulk of my points and hope that my committee RBs and WRs could make up the rest. The strategy worked this year, but in past years it's been a struggle. But right now I'm going to sit back and enjoy the championship.

[Cue Queen's "We Are The Champions"]

Thursday, December 23, 2004

New pictures of Hunter are available

I just uploaded some pictures we took last Wednesday of Todd, Kitten, and Hunter, just before their move to Pittsburgh. I'm especially fond of the last one, where I'm holding Hunter and he looks scared to death that I'm either going to run off with him or drop him. Just hit up the photos link on the right side of the page. You know the one.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Best birthday ever? Could be

Ten years ago, on December 20, 1994, I had what might have been my worst birthday ever. I was a junior at Georgetown, finished with finals, just hanging around campus waiting to go home for the holidays. I was in a terrible frame of mind due to a bad breakup a few weeks earlier. I spent part of the day in my living room, making a mix tape of bitter, angry songs that expressed my thoughts on love at the time (it sucks!) and kept me in a foul mood. Liz (who was not my girlfriend yet) had planned to spend the evening bar hopping with me, but her parents had arrived that day to take her back to Starkville so the four of us just had dinner before they left later that night. Instead of spending my 21st birthday enjoying a drink at a bar with my friends, I bought a six-pack at a deli, drank it at home with a friend, then tried to get into a strip club. The club would have let me in, but my friend had no ID, so we went to 7-11 and then back home. If that wasn't my worst birthday ever, it's in the top three. The other chief contender is the one when I was a kid and my mom got me a Snoopy trash can for a birthday present.

Today was a much better birthday than 10 years ago. I took the day off, woke up at my usual time and enjoyed my usual morning shows over a leisurely breakfast. I spent the late morning watching some of the special features on my Return of the King EE DVD, including the documentaries on the music, the horses, and Cameron Duncan, a young New Zealand filmmaker who spent time with the cast and crew of the films while dying of cancer. Getting those out of the way leaves only five hours or so of other features to watch (not to mention the hours of extras that I haven't yet watched on the first two EE DVDs, or the four commentary tracks for each film).

After lunch I moved into the office and watched the entire extended edition of ROTK on my computer, so as not to compromise the picture resolution by watching it on my crappy old TV. I took a short break between the two discs to run out for coffee and groceries, but otherwise spent about four hours sitting in a darkened office, wearing headphones for top-quality sound, enjoying the Best Picture of 2004. As ROTK was the best of the trilogy, I think the ROTK EE is the best of the three extended editions. The added material is as seamless as it could be, and I have only the slightest complaints about the way one or two scenes were incorporated. Most of the time I couldn't even remember what I'd seen in the theater and what I was watching for the first time this afternoon. And it never fails: I got misty-eyed just before the Ride of the Rohirrim and at the end when all of Gondor bows to the four hobbits.

I've decided that when I finally get a widescreen, high-definition TV and surround sound audio system, I will inaugurate my new home theater system with a day-long screening of the entire extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy. I figure I'll need about 14 hours for the whole megillah, factoring in bathroom and snack breaks. Maybe that will be how I celebrate my 35th birthday?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friends moving away

We have been friends with Todd and Kitten (whose real name is Elizabeth but Liz and I know her by her nickname) for many years. I met Kitten when she came to Georgetown on her spring break from Oberlin to visit Liz, who has known her since middle school in Mississippi. Despite not knowing Kitten at all save for a blurry picture Liz kept in her dorm room, I had to pick her up at Union Station since Liz was at the opera when her train arrived. I met Todd a few years later when they had moved to New York for Kitten's graduate studies at Columbia and we came to NY on our spring break. We visited them here at least once a year before we moved here in 1999. Over the years, we have shared countless movies, plays (mostly off-off-off-Broadway), dinners, birthdays, holidays, and sad days. Liz acknowledges that their presence helped keep us here; without them, we might well have packed it in and moved elsewhere after a year. I could share many stories about good times with them, but there are too many worthy ones to include here. Suffice it to say that they are among our closest friends.

Good times can't last forever though (yet another corollary of the "we can't have fun every night" rule) and after the birth of their son Hunter this past May, they decided that it was time to move on. Todd found a great new job in Pittsburgh (which is much closer to his family in Ohio) and they're moving to the north side near PNC Park. We're sad to see them go, but it's a fantastic opportunity for them. We wish them the best of luck in their new surroundings.

And their move gives us a great reason to go to Pittsburgh next spring and take in a Pirates game.

Strange week

It's been a weird week for me. I've felt out of sorts for the past few days, like I'm coming down with something but without the physical effects of a cold or the flu. I'm not sick, so I'm going to blame external forces.

Monday night was my firm's annual holiday party, held once again in the conference rooms in our building. Liz and I worked it like a machine: first the raw bar room, then the Caribbean food, then the hot food in the cafeteria, then the cheese room, and finally dessert in the cafeteria again. I enjoyed it but for the first time didn't really mind leaving around 9 PM instead of sticking around later to see how drunk my co-workers could get. I must be getting older.

Tuesday saw the release of The Return of the King extended edition on DVD. As with the first two EEs, so far I've only watched bits and pieces of the movie and extras just to see what's there, but I'm impressed once again with what Peter Jackson and his team can do. I'll watch the whole 4+ hours no later than Monday, when I'm taking the day off for my birthday.

On Wednesday night, we had dinner with our friends Todd and Kitten and their son Hunter for the last time in New York. They are moving to Pittsburgh this afternoon. I think they deserve their own post, so more on them later.

Last night was the "Apprentice" finale. I don't pay much attention to the show, but Liz watches it, so I had to watch some of it, mostly the live half of last night's edition. It was just over-the-top ridiculous. I didn't know that many screaming Trump fans existed in New York. And how is it that all the women on both editions of the show could dress so awfully? No one, with the exception of Jen the finalist, had on anything acceptable. Amy from season 1 wore some kind of pink satin suit with fringes on the sleeves. Someone from this season had on a black jacket with gold trim. Jen C. from season 2 had on a pink pinstripe suit. And Omarosa wore what looked like a gray mens' tuxedo jacket with tails over a short skirt with her stomach partially exposed. Just terrible.

Finally, today I had to say my goodbyes to Todd, Kitten, and Hunter, and now I'm listening to Drake and Zeke's final show on Rock 103 in Memphis. I know it's strange that for the past six years I've spent my afternoons listening to the Internet broadcast of an afternoon drive-time show from Memphis, but these two guys have seen me through good times and bad and helped to liven up my day. I first discovered their show when I passed through Memphis on my way to Starkville in May 1998 to get married. When I got back to DC I started listening to their show over the Internet and it quickly became a regular part of my day. As a sometime e-mail contributor to their show I was first "Phil from DC" and later "Phil from New York." I have stopped co-workers in mid-sentence to listen to their "Bad Baby Name of the Day" feature. After 9/11 I e-mailed them to let them know I was OK, as I'd previously told them that I worked near the WTC. They made me laugh when I worked at a crappy job here in New York, indirectly keeping my spirits up. They aren't going away forever, just leaving Rock 103 for parts as yet unknown, possibly a morning show, and I'm hoping that they will pop up on the Internet again soon. My afternoons won't be the same without them.

"Liberry" blog makes the news in NZ

A New Zealand newspaper published an article about blogs a few weeks ago, and my friend Eric's "Tales from the 'Liberry'" blog made the sidebar under "International Blogs" alongside such luminaries as Talking Points Memo, Andrew Sullivan, and Wonkette. Congratulations, Eric!

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Tuba Christmas

On Sunday afternoon, between brunch with friends and the Steelers-Jets game, I went to Rockefeller Center for Tuba Christmas, an annual concert of Christmas carols performed by several hundred tubas and euphoniums (euphonia?). When I arrived at Rock Center at 3:15 PM, the crowd there to see the tree was already so large that I settled for a spot on 49th St. instead of in the plaza itself. I had a partially obscured view of the stage set up at one end of the ice rink, with a tree and giant toy soldier in my line of sight. But I was able to see row after row of Sousaphones file onto the stage, followed by many tubas and finally at least a hundred euphoniums on the ice rink itself. According to the emcee, who I could barely hear because of the speaker placement, the group had performers from as far away as Los Angeles and Germany, and ranged in ages from 10 to 80. They played for about 30-35 minutes, during which we heard many traditional carols and a few more classical pieces. My father had attended a Tuba Christmas at the Kennedy Center several years ago, and he told me at the time that it was the strangest thing to hear all those low instruments together. In most of the carol arrangements, the euphoniums played the melody while the tubas and Sousaphones harmonized. But I had to smile every time the tubas got the melody. I've never heard anything quite like all those tubas playing the melody of "Jingle Bells," just to cite one example. Despite the crush of the crowd and an icy wind in my face, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am already looking forward to next year's concert.

I'm also preparing to announce my plans for "Viola Arbor Day."

Friday, December 10, 2004

my week in Microsoft training

I've been in a week-long training class in midtown Manhattan for Microsoft Active Directory. I didn't ask to go to training for AD; my boss signed me up for the class along with another Novell network analyst from our firm. All week, my colleague and I have joked/kidded/cursed from the back of the classroom at how everything Active Directory can do can be done quicker, easier, and better with Novell's eDirectory (formerly Novell Directory Services).

[GEEK TALK ALERT] Novell's directory system for network management came out about ten years ago, while AD debuted with Windows 2000 just four years ago. While Novell refined and expanded the scope of its product, Microsoft let its Windows NT domain system languish for years until they had no choice but to come up with a directory system of their own. For those of you who are not network techs, the basic problem with AD is that it is a massive hack to combine the administration of many systems into one big system. And it's far more complicated to deploy and maintain than a comparable management structure from Novell.

[RESUME NORMAL RANT] Aside from the class subject matter, I'm annoyed by plenty of other things this week. The instructor gets distracted and frequently veers off topic onto weird tangents. For example, on Wednesday he talked about the process of upgrading a Windows server from one version to another. He said that in terms of the power of the new OS versus the old, it was like when Bruce Banner became the Hulk. Then he asked why Bruce Banner didn't want to become the Hulk permanently, and I guess the class took up the topic. I went outside to check my e-mail (no Internet access in the classroom, more on that in a minute) and when I came back, the instructor was praising the "Blade" movie trilogy and proudly stating that his six-year-old son recites lines from the movies and has twice dressed up as the character for Halloween. He compared another aspect of the Microsoft networking system to changing planes when flying, and that led to a discussion of travel arrangements to Caribbean nations. It's not bad enough that most of the class material pertains to network problems that I will never see. I have to endure these oddball topics as well.

The other big problem with the training center (Learning Tree at the CBS Building on 52nd St.) is that the classrooms don't have any Internet access. I have been to four different training centers in Manhattan, run by four different companies. The previous three all had some form of Internet access, via the classroom computers or a wireless network for student laptops. I still have a job to do while I'm in training, and while classroom Internet access can be a major distraction, it has been invaluable for me to be able to manage my network and still participate in the class. Learning Tree has no Internet access in the classrooms and only a handful of Internet kiosks in the reception area, all of which are occupied during breaks. Thank God for my Blackberry, or I'd have a complete breakdown with no e-mail either. When I had to leave class early on Tuesday to go downtown to fix a problem at the office (incidentally, one that could not have been fixed remotely via a classroom Internet connection), I considered it a blessing. Learning Tree must have some kind of deal with my IT department, because lately all the training classes have been there. I'll have to find some other place for my next class, because I feel lost and scared without my precious Internet. Friday is the last day, and it will be shortened by a dentist appointment first thing in the morning and an early conclusion in the afternoon. By 4 PM I'll be surfing happily at home or at a Starbucks somewhere, glad to be away from AD hell.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

iPods in school

Manhattan's private Brearley School has instituted an iPod requirement for its language classes. Since the school already uses Macs for classwork, it seems the iPod was the logical choice of hardware for the students to use. Still, like Gothamist, I got along OK with crappy cassette tapes and headphones in high school, and I think part of a language curriculum should be that you have to look like a dork while learning. On the other hand, most of these kids probably had iPods already, and the rest were able to get them at a discount or rent them from the school. I'm not a big iPod fan, but I am the happy owner of a competitor's hard-drive-based music player, and I think it's a good thing that portable hard drives are making inroads in education. First Duke University issues them to freshmen, and now this. I predict that within five years children will be issued 5 TB (terabyte=1000 gigabytes) hard-drive devices that will store music, movies, schoolwork, and a complete copy of their DNA for use in cloning purposes. I'm sure it will still be an iPod: let's face it: even I will admit that Apple, and not another company, will provide these devices for years to come.

I need to go home now. The paint fumes in this office are clearly affecting my judgment. Check back later tonight or tomorrow for a post on what I've been doing all week.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Horns

The expression "throw up the horns" that I used the other day in reference to the VH1 metal countdown refers to this Penny-Arcade
comic from a few months back. And if you like that particular comic, during this holiday season you can show off your faith in both Jesus and Penny-Arcade by wearing the t-shirt.

I just felt like sharing.