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log entries
March 2002


 

Friday, 1 March 2002, 7:30 pm

The big story today seems to be that David Letterman, frustrated and annoyed with CBS, will not renew his contract with the network, and that ABC is willing to go so far as to jettison Nightline to lure him into their camp.

I wish to hell I had something like ABC willing to lure me away. Every day I get more frustrated and annoyed with 42nd and Treadmill, and I don't even have a contract. (In this state, they can sack you for inserting a nickel into the slot of your penny loafers.) And it's not like I make unreasonable demands or anything, either. Then again, contrary to company practice, I am a rational person: if someone tells me at quarter to three that a project requiring nine hours of work from me is in its last stages and will be done shortly, I assume they mean something before six o'clock.

Of course, there could be another factor besides corporate ineptitude and/or thoughtlessness. It wasn't that long ago that someone finished up twenty years at the place and was duly paid the oft-promised five-figure bonus. I wouldn't put it past these people to try to weed out the ten-year-and-over crowd before they're in a position to collect themselves.

Saturday, 2 March 2002, 6:00 pm

Critics of this log, and their name is legion — our thanks to Paul and Wendy Legion, for their unwavering support all these years — point out that entirely too much space is spent on the following subjects:

Today, I go for the hat trick.

You'll remember that yesterday, a project that I was expecting to begin around three o'clock was delayed until six, for reasons known but to God and El Jefe (who undoubtedly will complain about the billing). Mindful that a cold front was on the way, and unwilling to work until three in the morning anyway, I chose to ditch said project after Phase One and drove home, figuring I could make up some of it this weekend after the storm passed.

Unfortunately, Old Man Winter, up in his Fortress of Obstreperousness, went into one of his sporadic "It's spring when I say it's spring, and not one second sooner" snits, so the cold front showed up a few hours early, and the storm took its sweet time and then some; instead of rain changing to flurries, we got rain changing to freezing rain mixing with sleet and then to snow, rather a lot of it at that, and all of this nasty stuff blowing at 45 mph against my bedroom window. (Mental note: Next time, pick a place with a master bedroom that isn't at the north end of the building.) The gravel-against-glass cacophony continued until four in the morning, and I didn't get a minute of sleep the whole time. I probably should have stayed at work.

Typically, my work day starts at 6:45 am. Not this time. I managed to drag myself out of bed around a quarter to nine, and the snow was still whipping itself into some frigid froth, so it was noon before I got the glacial residue off my car and wheeled off to 42nd and Treadmill.

It was on the return home, which included a side trip to the supermarket, where things got out of hand. Oklahoma City had already plowed the main roads — as far as the city limits. Beyond that point, east-west streets weren't too bad, but north-south streets were somewhere between barely passable and hopeless, varying literally block by block. And then, rocketing up over a hill at 25 mph or so, I encountered an ad hoc meeting of the Anti-Destination League.

The ringleader, evidently, was a twerp in a Ford pickup who was trying his damnedest to stay just barely in front of the pair of snowplows in the slow lane. (Why two? So far as I can determine, the first loosens up the snow and the second hurls it into your driveway.) Plows being approximately 1.2 lanes wide, I didn't have a whole lot of room to maneuver, and at some point, the driver in the left lane in front of me, who so far had been making reasonable progress, apparently decided, "Hey, if he can go 12 mph, why can't I?" So with these two nimrods playing low-speed chicken, I'm trying to stay out of the backwash from Plow #1 without having Plow #2 chop off my fenders, and of course there is lots of traffic coming the other way, so drifting left is out of the question. This went on for the longest mile I've ever driven, through a four-way intersection and over a bridge barely wide enough for two vehicles when it's clear. By the time the truck turned off, every cell in my body was screaming.

Oh, and it's supposed to get down to about 9 tonight, and the small-craft warnings are still out. This wind is serious. And the squirrels will be unhappy, not just because they're freezing their nuts off, but because I was out of bread and therefore had no bread crumbs to spread over the snow cover, and they probably will not be mollified with filberts and Chex Mix.

Sunday, 3 March 2002, 5:10 pm

"Happy Together". Just the very mention of it makes your flesh crawl, doesn't it? The single most overplayed record from the Sixties, a song so wretched it spawned a remake by Tony Orlando and Dawn, who had the audacity to fuse it with Del Shannon's "Runaway", a tune that you can escape only by turning off the radio entirely. That the Turtles, one of our most prodigiously brilliant (if consistently inconsistent) bands, should score their only Number One (for three weeks!) with this piece of doggerel in the window, demonstrates as clearly as the Book of Job that God has a warped sense of humor.

And yet there is something besides bubblegum and "ba-ba-ba-ba" that brings us back, and it's given away right in the opening verse. "Imagine me and you. I do." That's precisely what he's doing — imagining — because he knows he would never, ever have the nerve to say these things out loud, let alone to the object of his forlorn affections. And he'd go on imagining it all the way through the fade, except that the Real World has this tendency to intrude on even the most intense of dreams. "So happy together," he's repeating to infinity and beyond, and then something (or, I'd be willing to bet, someone) interrupts, and caught with his defenses down, he has no choice but to fall back on conversational cliché: "How is the weather?" Everybody assumes this is a throwaway line, but it's the key to the whole song. And by the time he's regained enough composure to drift back into dreamland, the background singers and the brass have taken over, and the fantasy grinds to a cold, cold halt.

Well, okay, maybe the Turtles didn't quite sound like they meant it that way. And I expect someone will read this and scream "Projection!" But composers Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon were eminently capable of hiding subtext like this in the most innocent of corners (cf. "She's My Girl"), and absent any disagreement from either The Phlorescent Leech or Eddie, this is my interpretation and I'm sticking with it.

And how is the weather? Seven degrees Fahrenheit this morning, lowest of the season. So far.

Monday, 4 March 2002, 7:25 pm

Before there was Britney or Christina or Mandy, there were Tiff and Deb.

Tiffany Darwish and Deborah Gibson, in their late-Eighties heyday, were seemingly always bracketed together, like Wayne and Shuster or Abercrombie and Fitch. The estimable Dan Tobias, in fact, ran an echomail discussion devoted to them both, though clearly he was more of a Tiff fan. (And he still is; he runs the Tiffany fan site at tiffany.org.) And they did have some things in common: they were about the same age (Debbie was a year older), and they sang mostly upbeat tunes to a largely teenage audience. But their differences were, and are, substantial. Deb wrote most of her own stuff. Tiff arguably had the better voice. Tiff subsequently got married; Deb remains single. And while both of them at one time or another had discussions with Playboy, so far only Tiffany has actually appeared in the magazine. And I do mean "appeared"; we're talking a ten-page pictorial in the April issue.

I'm not quite sure why Tiff decided to take this particular step. While doffing one's duds can be considered a career move, I'm inclined to believe it's probably more effective for actors than for singers. (You writing this down, Britney?) There's a lot to be said for reminding the public that you're Still Out There, and certainly the Bunny Empire knows how to work the hype machine. But for some reason, this particular set of pictures didn't move me the way the more-Photoshopped-but-what-the-hell shots of Belinda Carlisle did last year. And goodness knows, there's always time for Deb to change her mind.

Tuesday, 5 March 2002, 5:45 pm

The word for today is WIBNI, which is an acronym for "Wouldn't It Be Nice If...." Brian Wilson, of course, turned this notion into a work of art; 42nd and Treadmill, on the other hand, uses it to manufacture farce.

Every couple of months or so, an edict is handed down from on high that is so preposterous, so absolutely devoid of sense, that it's all I can do to keep from laughing even as my workload increases. Last year they came up with the idea of soliciting donations for a perfunctory youth-outreach program. Most of our customers, contemplating the amount of money they fork over to us, assume we're rolling in dough and don't need to grovel like this. The costs have been minimal so far — about 200 sheets of paper wasted — but the jar remains empty. This year's model is a courtesy book for the mucky-mucks of the Governing Body, most of whom so far have found it not only useless but actually counterproductive. I suggested (through channels, of course) that I run this stuff off and immediately toss it into the recycled-paper bin, thereby eliminating the middleman, though I suspect the suggestion is not likely to go anywhere. At least they didn't expect any cash return out of it, though the paper wastage is now closing in on 20,000 sheets, none of which we will be able to foist off as promotional material that we can bill to some sponsor or other. I shudder to think what they'll come up with next.

Tuesday, 5 March 2002, 7:20 pm

Oh, this is rich. Someone pretending to be "Microsoft Corporation Security Center" emailed me a 168k executable file, claiming that it was a security patch for Windows and/or Internet Explorer, even going so far as to name it "Q216309.exe", suggesting that it might have something to do with a Knowledge Base article. And he (I assume it's a he; I can't imagine a female being this clueless) had the temerity to address it to "Microsoft Customer" at <customer@yourdomain.com>, which is idiotic, since Microsoft knows my email address and sends me actual mail occasionally. (Yes, children, I am one of those weird people with legally acquired, registered software.)

Anyway, this shouldn't surprise anyone: Microsoft has never heard of Q216309. Besides which, they've never emailed me any patches or upgrades for anything since DOS 3.3, fercryingoutloud; why would they start now? I probably should pose this question to <adk63@adelphia.net>, which address is hiding (and not too well, obviously) on the Return-Path line of the offending email. Doesn't mean he sent it, necessarily, but I have to figure that if the spoof fails on the big stuff, it's probably failing on the minor details as well.

Wednesday, 6 March 2002, 7:10 pm

There was some yammering on All Things Considered this afternoon about how horrible it is that the United States of America, with less than five percent of the population of the planet, somehow manages to use up a quarter of the oil. My first thought was, "Well, cripes, everything here is five times farther away," but I doubted that this argument would play well in Manhattan or D.C. On the other hand, people in Manhattan think cars come in one color — yellow — and are driven by refugees from the Punjab, so it's at least possible that their automotive viewpoints are somewhat skewed, and God only knows what (if anything) they're thinking in the District of Columbia.

One thing they're definitely not contemplating is increasing the gas tax. Democrats resist this sort of thing because they're worried about negative feedback from inner-city dwellers with '75 Buicks; Republicans — well, gee whiz, Bucky, it's a tax increase! But US consumption levels aren't going to decrease in any significant way unless the price of the stuff goes up, way up, and most OPEC nations at the moment seem too hard up for hard cash to cut production levels substantially. In the meantime, being the sensible soul I am, I am going to drive about 5000 miles this summer, burning up 200 gallons of gas in the process, and NPR be damned.

Thursday, 7 March 2002, 6:40 pm

Way back in mid-November, I carped about America Online and their Online Rebate site; at the time, I was miffed that despite having purchased the item in question from AOL's ShopDirect and having followed AOL's rebate procedures precisely, I got back, instead of a check, a curt little note to the effect that I had submitted the wrong proof-of-purchase goody. Well, okay, this isn't precisely what the manufacturer requires from people who bought it in the store, but dammit, if AOL is going to screw around with manufacturers' rebate procedures, then AOL ought to be responsible for paying those rebates.

Today, however many weeks later, here comes an AOL check for fifteen bucks. No apology or anything, but I figure that if there had been, the total value received was still fifteen bucks.

I don't claim to know a whole lot about backhoes, but I can't think of any good reason to run them in the dead of night; you never know what you might dig up. Which explains how last night Bubba's Bar-B-Q and Backhoe (not its real name, and I don't much care to know what it is), while excavating a path for a sewer line next street over, cut the water line that serves this entire block, just in time for family baths and such. Just on the basis of sheer thoughtlessness, this should qualify Bubba for the next available managerial position at 42nd and Treadmill.

Friday, 8 March 2002, 6:20 pm

Megan McArdle, exposing the fundamental flaw in the Social Security system:

"[A]ny amount of money given to the government generates a significantly lower return than capital privately invested, unless that private investment is Webvan."

It's official: K mart will close up shop in Central Oklahoma. Expect the lines at Target (pronounced "tahr-ZHAY") and Le Mart du Wal to get longer.

And go see Bitter Hag's new design. It is downright spiffy.

Saturday, 9 March 2002, 6:45 pm

Those of you who think I am prone to excessive levels of self-abnegation are invited to visit Juan Gato's Bucket o'Rants, described by the presumably-pseudonymous Gato himself as a "bunch of crap from a moron." It is, of course, no such thing, or at least less such than what you're reading now.

Car and Driver's subhead on a piece about a new Audi with the Multitronic continuously-variable transmission: "No shift, Sherlock."

And speaking of things automotive, Sandy, my daily driver for the last seventeen months, has now reached 10k miles, although I must report that there is nothing particularly inspiring about watching an LCD odometer roll over to 10,240.

Sunday, 10 March 2002, 12:35 pm

"The media, which comprise the only intense constituency for campaign finance reform, advocate expanded government regulation of all political advocacy except that done by the media."

So declares George F. Will in The Washington Post. Not that said media (to include, notes Will, The Washington Post) have any problems selling space for said political advocacy, mind you; they just want to make sure their bread gets buttered on both sides, that they can pretend to be Above The Fray while they pocket the loot from attack ads. (Muchas gracias: Glenn Reynolds.)

Elsewhere in BlogLand, Sgt. Stryker is wondering if he's doing a good job with his Daily Briefing:

"I look at some of the things I've written in the past that at their very best rise only to above-average mediocrity. The rest I just cringe at. I tend to be a bit harder on myself than most, but when I read my stuff, I wonder if I'm really getting better at it or if I'm just treading water."

If it's any consolation, Sarge, most of us suffer from this same worry, no matter how long we've been pounding away at the keys. I've written well over a hundred thousand words for this site, and quite a few of them seem cringeworthy. And anyway, blogging, like any useful writing (as distinguished from, say, puff pieces for People), is more about content than about style; what you write is far more valuable to the community than how you phrase it. (What I write, of course, isn't valuable to anyone, but that's another issue.)

Monday, 11 March 2002, 5:30 pm

It is, of course, Six Months Later.

Has life changed that much? Mine hasn't, really. Okay, the government wants to control my PC, but then so does Disney. I haven't flown anywhere in about a year, but preflight security was somewhere between a nuisance and a joke even then.

I have, however, learned one thing. With apologies to MasterCard:

"There are some things that reason can solve. For everything else, there is ass-kicking."

Considering where I've worked for the last decade, you've got to wonder why it took me so long to catch on.

Tuesday, 12 March 2002, 6:55 pm

I have no command of Swedish — I won't even order meatballs or Volvo parts — but I am reasonably certain that this article does not describe a new Britney Spears "Recycle Pepsi" promotion.

And I'm beginning to think I've earned dinner at Milliways; the only reason I don't routinely do six impossible things before breakfast is simply that I usually, for lack of time, skip breakfast. If I had any active brain cells, of course, I would declare myself unable to do impossible things, which might reduce the number of requests for same by, oh, five or six percent. Or it might not. Today I had ten or eleven hours of printing to squeeze into an eight-hour day (over and above the usual server tending and other folderol), and The Powers That Be decided that somehow I could fit an emergency six-hour print job into the schedule. I got it done, after a fashion, and I will be rewarded for this good deed by some other asinine request in the very near future. Count on it.

And who the bloody hell is Ernest P. Maletto? Every twelve hours, it seems, this character sends me spam about some screensaver that is supposed to "melt the heart" of my Valentine. Hey, Ernie: It's March. Valentine's Day is forty-eight weeks away. Get a real job and get out of my goddamn mailbox, willya?

Wednesday, 13 March 2002, 6:25 pm

The Andrea Yates jury has decided that neither belonging to one of the woollier Christian sects nor living in Greater Houston meets the Texas standard for legal insanity, which demonstrates how tough that standard really is.

One of the neater things about Microsoft's Hotmail service is that it can be accessed through Microsoft's porous-but-spiffy Outlook Express mail client. Unfortunately, it's impossible to put incoming Hotmail through Outlook Express filters, which is a shame, since one particularly annoying smut vendor is apparently spamming every single Hotmail account in alphabetical order on a regular basis. Generally, their spam gives a URL from netmails.com, whose Terms of Service declare:

"Netmails.com does NOT ALLOW ANY WAREZ, ADULT, HACKING, or anyother material deemed illegal within Canada."

(Insert Canadian joke here)

Of course, the weasels can probably create new accounts as fast as Netmails.com can delete them.

Thursday, 14 March 2002, 5:15 pm

We tip the old fedora today to Grist Magazine, an e-zine put out by Earth Day Network, for dope-slapping some clueless spammers. This particular pack of miscreants, including the following Reply-To addresses:

<norbertguidrey494@snowboarding.com>
<maribelstejskal3165@snowboarding.com>
<bobettestruthers4008@snowboarding.com>
(Snowboarding.com, incidentally, has nothing to do with these people)
<winstonesterling4988@swirve.com>

heisted one of Grist's site graphics to jazz up their pitiful little pitch. Grist found out — the spammers linked directly to Grist's site, thereby stealing bandwidth as well — and decided to strike back: they replaced the graphic with a big red "This Is Spam!" which appears right near the top of the offending messages. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of parasites.

On Salon.com this week, the lovely and talented Megan McArdle has an incisive report on Netscape's suit against Microsoft, and why Netscape deserves to lose. And I suspect anyone who has ever wrestled with what passes for CSS support in Navigator 4.x will be happy to see exactly that.

Friday, 15 March 2002, 6:00 pm

Okay, maybe it did drop 50 degrees from yesterday afternoon to this morning (well, 49, actually), but I don't care. Nor does it matter that sunrise and sunset are still only 11:55 apart. As far as I'm concerned, it's spring, and though they couldn't care less what I think about the matter, the cottonwood trees are already sprouting that weird mutant dental floss that ends up all over the parking lot.

Happy birthday, Tim. You're not getting older, you're getting...uh...what exactly is it you're getting these days?

And the construction crew has packed up and moved on. Now all that remains is to see what sort of horrible antisocial (or excessively social) creatures eventually move in upstairs.

Saturday, 16 March 2002, 1:15 pm

I actually voted for Harry Browne in the last presidential election, but that was obviously before he came up with this. Okay, our foreign policy has ranged from dubious to deleterious for some time now, but I refuse to buy into Browne's we-had-it-coming premise. To quote Dan "Tom Tomorrow" Perkins:

"To be honest with you, I'm not interested in debating this one. The world turned upside down the morning that vile cloud of ash rose in the wake of the twin towers and three thousand people whose only crime was making it to work on time that day were callously executed, and anyone who argues otherwise is just playing semantic games."

And before you ask, I did not write this letter to Heather "Rabbit" Havrilesky. For one thing, I don't sleep during the day.

Sunday, 17 March 2002, 11:55 am

Tim O'Reilly, publisher of multitudes of computer books, has examined the pending legislation to require copy protection in computer hardware, and he finds it "extremely ill-conceived". He's been down similar roads before, and this is what happened:

"[C]opy protection was widely explored by software companies in the 1980's, and what they learned was that consumers avoided copy-protected products. Consumer behavior gave marketplace advantage to companies that didn't use copy protection, and after a relatively short time, the industry got over its fears and got back to offering products that people were glad to pay for."

You got that, Hollywood? Your business model does not depend on getting ironclad anti-piracy measures passed by a technologically-incompetent Congress. Your business model depends on Not Producing Crap. Look into it.

The Harry Browne piece linked here yesterday drew some serious criticism. Andrea Harris characterized it as "scabrous drooling", and my brother weighed in with a suggestion applying equally to Browne and to his equine mode of transport, upon which I need not elaborate. I have to wonder if maybe what happened to Browne is what happens to anyone who becomes more interested in ideology than in reality.

On a happier note, courtesy of Shannon "Bitter Girl" Okey, the Top 11 Things You Don't Want to Hear from Technical Support:

11. "...that's right, not even MacGyver could fix it."
10. "So, what are you wearing?"
  9. "Duuuuuuude! Bummer!"
  8. "Looks like you're gonna need some new dilithium crystals, Cap'n."
  7. "Press 1 for support, press 2 if you're with 60 Minutes, press 3 if you're with the FTC."
  6. "We can fix this, but you're gonna need a butter knife, a roll of duct tape and a car battery."
  5. "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
  4. "In layman's terms, we call that the Hindenburg Effect."
  3. "Hold on a second... Mom! Timmy's hitting me!"
  2. "Okay, now turn to page 523 in your copy of Dianetics."
  1. "Please hold for Mr. Gates's attorney."

Monday, 18 March 2002, 5:20 pm

About two and a half years ago, I explained why I wasn't renewing my subscription to The Magazine Formerly Known As Stereo Review. To my surprise, they haven't given up; today's mail brought a solicitation for Sound & Vision at the implausible price of $7.00 for ten issues. "No dice," said I, and out it goes.

Three really nice things about spring rain (even though it will have driven me batty if it continues, as threatened, for another 48 hours):

And to think I thought I was suffering from brain damage.

Tuesday, 19 March 2002, 5:30 pm

You know the day is going to be bad when the Office Beauty shows up in the classic little black dress (the operative word here is "little") and the sight thereof provides no joy whatsoever. I keep telling myself I should be used to this by now, but no one listens to me.

After probably not enough procrastination, I turned in my vacation request. Exactly what I'm going to do with the days in question, I'm not sure, though it's a safe bet I'll be doing a fair amount of driving.

I've seen munged URLs before, where they've combined the four 8-bit components of the IP address into one 32-bit number, but today's spam has a new wrinkle: it's binary. No way am I going to copy all those ones and zeroes into this log, and I'm certainly not going to click on the damned thing, but it should be perfectly obvious to everybody that anyone who goes to this much trouble to obscure their origins can't be trusted with your money or mine.

Wednesday, 20 March 2002, 7:40 pm

Chicago Sun-Times and National Post columnist Mark Steyn, explaining why America's obsession with celebrities is a Good Thing:

"One of the great advantages of a celebrity culture is the way it siphons off so many of the narcissistic and dysfunctional into areas where they can do the least societal damage. Occasionally, the system goes awry and one of them winds up in a serious job (William Jefferson Clinton), but generally things work pretty well."

The thing that bugs me about McCain-Feingold is not its assumption that there is too much money (or too much of the "wrong" kind of money) in campaigns, but the notion that it will smooth over the public's belief that the Congress is owned and operated by [fill in name of Evil Lobbying Group(s)]. It will do no such thing.

Narsissy, where have you gone?

Thursday, 21 March 2002, 5:25 pm

If there's a gene for automotive customization, presumably linked through the Y chromosome, it missed me entirely. I have no custom bodywork, no elaborate decalcomania, not even a bumper sticker fercryingoutloud. I admit to having toyed briefly with the idea of a vanity plate — if you're curious, it would have been "DCXXVI" — but I opted for the greater anonymity of a generic three-letter/three-digit plate, pretty much the default here in Soonerland. And there's a reason for this: if I'm out driving, I have no urge to attract the attention of passersby, of pedestrians, and most especially of patrols. I don't think complete and utter invisibility is quite the answer, given the likelihood that people will crash into me. (Disney's early-Seventies film Now You See Him, Now You Don't, while it spends most of its special-effects budget not showing you an invisible Kurt Russell, does have an interesting scene wherein a police cruiser rear-ends a getaway car treated with the mysterious cloaking fluid.) But aside from the mundane business of not getting hit, the less notice I draw on the road, the better I like it.

And speaking of "on the road," it's time to start firming up the plans for World Tour II, which, like its predecessor, hardly qualifies as a World Tour, inasmuch as it never leaves the North American continent. But what the hell, it's a tour, and given the constricted (I almost typed "constipated", and maybe I should have) nature of the world in which I live, even a trip to Topeka has to be considered a step in the right direction.

Friday, 22 March 2002, 6:50 pm

Most readers, I expect, will scoff at the new rates approved by the Postal Rate Commission. The scoffers, however, simply don't understand the economics of the system. Consider for a moment this fairly-common example: a sale bulletin from a department store. Like many such items, it contains a notation like "Please deliver March 6-7-8". However, this notation is not machine-readable, so the Postal Service has to pay someone to watch for these bulletins, take note of the "6", "7" and "8", combine those numbers, and see that the store's announcement is properly delivered on the 21st. On every single carrier route, yet. This costs, I am willing to bet, quite a bit more than your lousy three cents.

The marketing-research firm Claritas has come up with a promotional Web page called You Are Where You Live, which classifies more or less everyone in the US into 62 (PRIZM) or 48 (MicroVision) demographic groups and lists the top five such in each ZIP code. Plugging my own ZIP into PRIZM revealed that I am surrounded by the following:

Saturday, 23 March 2002, 4:20 pm

John Scalzi hates my politics. What's more, he hates yours, too.

Scene: Late Seventies. We're tooling down a very straight, very dull road in rural Oklahoma. Conversation has ground to a halt. What to do? Turn up the radio? No, she hates it loud. Peer down her blouse? Seat angle and fabric arrangement make this difficult, not to mention fairly unsafe. (The same, only more so, for "look up her skirt".) Finally, I glance at this Japanese simulation of a British dashboard and remark, "Why in the hell does the speedo go up to 125 miles per hour? This thing wouldn't do one-twenty-five if you pushed it off the frigging Sears Tower."

She glares — after all, she was the one who picked it out — and says, "And how do you know it wouldn't?"

I pull the stick back into fourth and push the pedal through the floorboard, and we're off: seventy-five, eighty, ninety. Back into fifth, and eventually the needle settles halfway between 100 and 105. The tach flutters just on the far side of 5000 rpm. It is about this point that it occurs to us that the road is becoming both less straight and less rural, and that we're risking a fine of about a week's pay, and I rein in our trusty steed, half grinning, half gasping for breath, mostly the same expression I tend to exhibit after sex, except that I'm not sleepy.

Around noon today, I was on that same road, with the music up loud and the passenger seat occupied by no one, and I wasn't doing anything like 102.5 mph; indeed, there were extended periods of 0 mph while the construction crews repositioned themselves. And it's a good thing that they were there, since this is one of those roads that was apparently originally paved with reclaimed emery boards and then striped randomly with "I Can't Believe It's Not Tar". Forget old memories and such: I was definitely happy to get out of that neck of the woods. The construction zone ended after about ten miles, and a few minutes later I found myself between two Chevy Suburbans, the first of which was making a move to pass up a cement truck doing a modest 58. For some reason, I decided I didn't want the second 'Burb riding me all the way to the city, so I followed the first guy into the left lane. It was only after I'd dropped back into position that I noticed the speedo needle: 94 mph. There must be something about that road.

And one more thing: Why the hell does the speedo go up to 150 miles per hour? This thing wouldn't do one-fifty if you pushed it off the frigging Sears Tower.

Sunday, 24 March 2002, 9:30 am

The Simpsons airs in Britain on BBC2, and following a long, dubious Web tradition, the Beeb is asking "Which Simpsons character are you?" I might have known:

"You are Bart. You reckon you're quite a rebel but your cause is somewhat vague. You occasionally find yourself embracing a meaningful challenge but you are just as happy with momentary menacing for the sake of sensation. Bart is your God."

In a world where the United States seems to be the last Ned Flanders in a whole world full of Homer Simpsons, I'm pleased to be able to maintain the appropriate level of Bartitude.

Back in February, I tossed out some remarks about the Usenet arrival of a new encoding/decoding technique called yEnc, which was billed as more efficient than the usual MIME or uuencoding. At the time, most users seemed to hate it because it wasn't built into their newsreaders — including mine, Agent 1.9 — which generally meant that they had to assemble the pieces in order and then run the concatenated file through a separate yEnc decoder. Not to worry, I decided; I figured if there were sufficient demand, the guys who make Agent would add yEnc facilities to version 2.0. As it turns out, I was off by 0.09; Agent 1.91, released this past week, does exactly that.

Monday, 25 March 2002, 5:20 pm

About the only upside I can see to Hewlett-Packard's merger with Compaq is the possibility that HP will be so busy trying to absorb its former rival that it won't have time to bring out two dozen almost-but-not-quite-identical DeskJets to confound the marketplace this year.

No, I didn't watch the Oscars. I'm sure they didn't miss me.

For the first time today: a baby-blue 626 in the parking lot at 42nd and Treadmill — '93 or '94, V6, 5-speed. Didn't get a look at the driver, but we can use all the Zoom Zoom we can get.

Tuesday, 26 March 2002, 5:45 pm

A factoid in Entertainment Weekly notes that Rosie, The Magazine Formerly Known As McCall's, lost a total of 37 subscribers when its guiding light, soon-to-be-departing TV host Rosie O'Donnell, went public with her lesbianism. This is simply mind-boggling: there were actually thirty-seven people who hadn't already figured this out?

And 2.75 cheers to the Chase Manhattan Bank, from whom I received a renewal credit card today with the usual please-call-this-800-number sticker across the front. And when I called said number, they didn't try to sell me any of the usual superfluous "services" that other card issuers push with such dire enthusiasm; it was simply "Please remove the sticker, sign the back of the card, and press 1 if you need to be connected to Customer Service." Chase gets docked a quarter-point, though, for the nasty glue on the back of that sticker — peeling was more difficult than it needed to be — and for having abandoned those nifty Tyvek sleeves that protect the card surface from all the deleterious environmental factors that bedevil my wallet.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002, 7:30 pm

Planning World Tour II (or "2002", or whatever) is going to be trickier than I had anticipated, mainly because I don't have any Events of Earth-Shattering Importance this time around. At least, I don't think I do. On the other hand, if I don't have anything on my dance card, I can pretty much fart around the whole time with no guilt.

I have, however, proposed a terminus for the West Coast and one for the East. Regrettably, I don't think I'll have the time to hit both of them. Should I head west, the last expected stop is Orinda, California, where there's a street named after me. (No, it isn't really, but what the hell.) An eastbound journey will get as far as Laconia, New Hampshire, home of an old friend, and the gateway to a lake I have no business being anywhere near.

Thursday, 28 March 2002, 5:45 pm

A world without Dudley Moore or Milton Berle or Billy Wilder is, by definition, a whole lot less interesting.

I am seldom surprised at my emotional outbursts these days, but the patterns are odder than usual: lately, adrenaline flow seems to be inversely proportional to the importance of the matter at hand. Expensive machine goes on the fritz and will require two days and $600 to fix? Shrug. Paper cut while emptying the recycle bin? Might as well be Tisha B'Av.

No sign of that baby-blue 626 since the first sighting on Monday. Oh, well....

Friday, 29 March 2002, 5:40 pm

In case you hadn't noticed, the Golden Age of computer magazines was a long time ago; it is now actually possible to store 24 issues of, say, PC World in the space that used to hold eight or nine. Is the magazine suffering? This year's renewal bonus (for a two-year subscription, mind you) was a Pocket Edition of Windows Me for Dummies, which is, at least in Microsoft's view, one whole version behind. And they threw in an America Online disk — version 6, which is, at least in AOL's view, one whole version behind. You think they'd be amused if I wrote in for help with WordStar?

Buried in this Forbes piece is the observation that men 21 to 24 years of age consume twice as much beer as any other age group. I bounced this statistic off my daughter, who falls into this age bracket, and she replied: "Duh." Hard to argue with that.

Saturday, 30 March 2002, 11:00 am

If you ask Steven Den Beste, he will tell you that Yassir Arafat's days are literally numbered:

"Arafat is isolated and surrounded, with no power and nothing but a machine gun and a cell phone to keep him company. So he's doing what any brave man would do under the circumstances: he's using the phone to bitch to the media and beg someone to come save his ass."

And Ken Layne notes that the post-Arafat era has already begun, and it won't be pretty:

"[T]hose who launch a true war against Israel will be smashed, their countries handed out like carnival prizes. The question is whether this will be done in a useful way (as it was in post-WWII Japan and Germany) or a stupid way (as happened after the fall of the Ottoman Empire). The Arab states are the fictions of cartographers, resulting in the current mess of patron states, oil colonies, phantom states like Kurdistan and only one manufactured common goal: the destruction of all Jews. Osama bin Laden and his dancing disciples of Palestine are just the ugliest, most visible manifestations."

Uh, have a happy Easter, everyone.

Saturday, 30 March 2002, 5:10 pm

Update: Mr Den Beste has rethought his prediction of Arafat's imminent death, pointing out that keeping him alive will deprive him of martyr value, no small consideration in that part of the war which deals in words.

Sunday, 31 March 2002, 3:40 pm

Thirty years ago today, I was taking an oath. I was scared to death, but I was taking it just the same:

"I, Charles G. Hill, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Okay, I gave my full middle name at the time, but otherwise, that's the way it goes. And I'd like to think I did a decent job with that "true faith and allegiance" stuff, too. America has its faults — always had, probably always will — but most of the time, our hearts are in the right place.

Sunday, 31 March 2002, 7:20 pm

Either someone has figured out how to park upstairs, or one of the birds has learned to mimic a car alarm. In whichever case, this can't be a good sign.

 


 | Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill

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