In which sometimes I worry that I might be a hypochondriac.

Have I tried to post an entry from within Linux before? I can’t remember. I’m going to try it now. My browser, Opera is choking on some of the code, though: instead of having a huge area in which to type, I’ve got a tiny little box. We’ll see if it works.

The 2001 Hugo Award nominations have been announced. Maybe they were announced a while ago. I don’t know. I just found them, though, and the nominations for best novel are:

  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • Calculating God by Robert Sawyer
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod

Sometimes I worry that I have some creeping fatal disease. I’m not a hyponchondriac or anything (well, I don’t think I am, anyhow), but sometimes I worry that I have a Brain Cloud or something similar.

For example: last night Kris and I ate exactly the same thing for dinner. (Actually, I had two Burgerville cheeseburgers and she only had one Burgerville cheeseburger.) Yet, I ended up with intense stomach cramps. I ended up squirting like a goose. She got to relax and watch the Mariners move to 22-6.

This morning, I woke up with a black tongue. That’s right. I said a black fucking tongue. What in the hell is that? My mouth was all pasty and my saliva was black and my entire tongue was black. Holy cats! (A web search reveals this is a potential side-effect of taking Pepto-Bismol type products, so it’s likely nothing.)

Sometimes I worry.

So, I redid my mix. It’s much better now, has more cohesion, and is fun to listen to. Here’s how it ended up:

  1. The Boy Who Giggled So Sweet (Emiliana Torrini)
  2. Central Reservation (Beth Orton)
  3. No Angel (Dido)
  4. Sweet Jane (Cowboy Junkies)
  5. Babylon (David Gray)
  6. Alison (Everything But the Girl)
  7. The Girl From Ipanema (Bebel Gilberto)
  8. Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps (Doris Day)
  9. One (Aimee Mann)
  10. Why (Gus Gus w/Emiliana Torrini)
  11. Life in Mono (Mono)
  12. Sleep the Clock Around (Belle and Sebastian)
  13. Unemployed in Summertime (Emiliana Torrini)
  14. Mr. Zebra (Tori Amos)
  15. Nothing is Good Enough (Aimee Mann)
  16. There’s Too Much Love (Belle and Sebastian)
  17. Mad About You (Hooverphonic)
  18. She Cries Your Name (Beth Orton)
  19. Woman’s Realm (Belle and Sebastian)
  20. Tonight and the Rest of My Life (Nina Gordon)

I like it.

For whatever reason, I’ve always had an aversion to doctors. I can be so miserable that I can barely function and still I’ll be reluctant to schedule an appointment. However, the swelling in my abdomen and the soreness in my shoulder have gone on long enough to concern even me. I’ve made an appointment for next Friday at 2:30. I hope I live that long.

With Kris going on a business trip to Virginia, I’m going to have about ten days to myself. With some of that time, I’m going to be playing Diablo II. I’m going to be testing the water with a hardcore character or two. I like the idea of having death be final. Novel for a video game, eh?

I just played a little with a Paladin. I got careless and died on the Stony Field. That’s right, the Stony Field. sigh That’s what happens when you wander a third level character into a spot designed for sixth level characters and then you encounter a lightning-enchanted boss while surrounded by Fallen. (I’ll be this makes no sense to people who have never played the game.)

I’ve discovered (or re-discovered) a couple of cool things about the game. Chief among these is that it is compatible with my Sound Blaster Live‘s environmental audio effects, meaning that I get surround-sound from my speakers. Coolness. For some reason, the environmental effects were switched off (maybe they are in the default install?) and so I wasn’t getting the full glory. Now I have birds and crickets and monsters emitting noises from all four corners of the screen.

I only discovered this when I turned the game’s music off so that I could listen to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. When I was making daily sales calls, I listened to classical music almost exclusively. Tonight I realized that I haven’t really listened to classical music in almost five years, despite having a small collection of it. Guess what? Time to change that. I enjoy it, and was even learning something about various styles and composers before I stopped listening. I’m going to make an effort to listen again.

Dane’s worried that the swelling in my abdomen might be appendicitis. I’m pretty sure it’s not. Don’t worry, Dane. The swelling is just below my ribs, which I believe is way too high for the appendix. I do have a doctor’s appointment, though, and I’ll have Pam (who is a doctor, though actually a pathologist so maybe that isn’t much help) look at it tomorrow to see if she thinks it needs immediate attention. I’m positive it’s fine, though, and is just some minor thing that may need treatment to go away.

Back to Diablo II.

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Mediocrity

In which I am NOT impressed by David Eggers.

Kris and I spent the weekend at Eagle Crest, a resort near Bend. We rented a house with other members of the MNF Investments group and we ended up with ten adults and one infant together for three days. Fun was had by all.

I’m pushing myself too hard on the exercise front, though. I am fat, old, and out-of-shape. For some reason, though, I am not taking these factors into account. As a result, I am in tremendous pain. Last Saturday I had my bicycle crash at the high school. I still have bruises and swelling from that almost ten days later. During the middle of last week I undertook two rides that would have been moderately difficult even if I were skinny, young, and in-shape. These rides drained my thighs. On Friday, our first full day at Eagle Crest, I rode fifteen hilly miles, played two hours of racquetball, and went on a walk. I played another hour of racquetball and played some baseball on Saturday. Now my entire body aches.

My right shoulder, which had been feeling somewhat better, is once again a source of intense pain. While playing racquetball, I twisted my right knee so that now any non-standard use of it sends bolts of pain up my body. My elbows are sore. My ankles are very sore from so much thudding around during racquetball.

I don’t mean to complain. I had tremendous fun. It’s just that I need to take it easy, to ease into this program of fitness.

On a side note: despite the fact that I did so much exercise and was careful about what I ate this weekend, I’m heavier than when I left. sigh I’m attempting to focus on making a life-style change that will lead to better fitness and lighter weights, so this lack of weight loss ought not matter. But, it’s difficult to do things differently than I always have, and I’ve always focused on weight-loss as an indication that I’m exercising and eating well.

While on vacation, I was able to finish Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. This book is a memoir of sorts, written by a young man about my age, relating the story of his parents’ deaths and his subsequent life, which largely consists of raising his younger brother. It is a very witty book at times (I laughed out loud in several places). It is very self-conscious, though, with copious annotations in an included appendix; with a very large dedication/preface filled with information similar to that found in the appendix; and with self-analysis and soliloquies throughout.

The book is neither heartbreaking nor genius. It is, however, mostly well-written and mostly entertaining. The book’s glaring flaw (to my mind) is the author himself, and the manner in which he imposes himself upon the narrative. The first hundred pages or so are very good: well-written and engrossing. After this point, though, Egger’s voice literally begins to intrude upon the page. The narrative becomes less first-person memoir and more self-conscious journal (oh hey! just like this!). I wouldn’t mind reading this kind of thing on-line, but it doesn’t work well as a book.

Eggers sees his life as tragic, as if it were somehow both more important and more grief-filled than other people’s lives. His parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other, and this fact makes Eggers feel marked, annointed, set apart.

I think that Eggers is just like everybody else, though. All of our lives are filled with tragedy, touched by bizarre coincidences (right, Jennifer?). Where Eggers differs, though, is in his paranoia, his delusions of grandeur.

Don’t get me wrong — I liked the book. I think that Eggers would likely be a close friend if I knew him. It’s just that his “look how special I am” attitude grew stale after, oh, the preface. I look forward to seeing more mature work from Eggers’ pen.


On 30 April 2004 (11:43 AM),
mart said:

JD: if you’re ever ready to give eggers a second chance, his second book “you shall know our velocity” is excellent. i never read aHWoSG though.

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16.9 Miles

In which I have a lovely bike ride.

16.90 miles 1:05:49 (15.40 mph) 33.4 max 24 deg celsius

An amazing ride!

I didn’t set any kind of speed record, but that wasn’t my goal. This early in the season, in the kind of shape that I’m in, I wanted to complete a ride of moderate length comfotably (and enjoyably). I exceeded these goals in every respect.

My speed was not half-bad for my current fitness level. Better, I was never exhausted or frustrated or in pain during the entire ride. I took it easy. I’m a competitive person and too often I compete with myself. I force myself to go faster faster faster when there is really no need. When bicycling for fitness one only needs to maintain a comfortable aerobic pace. I did that today.

Later in the season, when I’ve dropped twenty pounds and developed some leg muscles, I can attempt to kill myself by setting speed records. I don’t know why I do that to myself, but there’s no stopping it. I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed my ride today, though. Maybe I should take a lesson from that.

Why did I enjoy my ride today?

The weather conditions were perfect: sunny, but not blazing, and about 75 degrees fahrenheit with variable breezes. Light traffic. The birds were out and singing. The fields were newly plowed and the lawns newly mowed. The dogs were out but too lazy to give chase; they like the sun, too. I prepped for the ride properly (eating at the right times and drinking a liter of water in the two hours before starting). My mental attitude stayed positive throughout.

This is all important early in the season. Now is when it’s difficult for me to maintain commitment, yet now is when I need commitment. If I begin to slack on my rides during the last of April and the whole of May, then no real riding will get done during the summer. However, if I establish a pattern of riding for pleasure, I’ll be ready to ride every morning.

Hell! I want to go attack the Central Point hill right now! I want to add another ten miles, taking on the biggest ugliest hill around Canby!

I’m not going to, though. I’m likely to injure myself and/or cause myself to rationalize away riding tomorrow. That’d be a shame.

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Virtual Baseball League

In which I get all obsessive about a trade I made in my computer baseball simulation league.

Several years ago, I joined a “virtual” baseball league. The commissioner, John Boardman, gathered a group of thirty or so owners from around the Internet. Using Sierra‘s Front Page Sports Baseball, the league drafted teams comprising players who were rated in ceratin ability areas, in the fashion of a role-playing game. A batter would be rated for hitting ability, for example, and speed and fielding ability and arm strength. A pitcher would have a rating for each of the pitches he throws.

I was a member of the league for three seasons and my team enjoyed moderate success. It was always in playoff contention, though the Canby Cougars only made it to the postseason once.

A couple of years ago, when I began my computer programming kick, I dropped the league. This spring, I rejoined. I’ve been having fun with the Virtual Baseball League 2 for the past three months.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, my team has been doing very well. I inherited a team with good players, but I’ve done a fine job managing them, too. As a result, my team sits tied for first in its division midway through the season. I just glanced through the team-by-team stats page — my team is near the top in both pitching and hitting.

Yet, what did I do today? I traded my best pitcher, a damn fine young catcher, and my first-round draft pick for a slightly-lesser catcher (better offensively, worse defensively) and an awesome right-fielder.

I have a sick feeling in my gut.

I just cannot evaluate baseball trades properly. The difference in value between pitching and hitting often bites me in the ass. Now, I can pull of fantastic trades in the fantasy football league I run. Nearly every trade I do there turns to gold. But, I know that league inside-and-out, too, having run it for thirteen years.

This baseball league is different. The games are simulated on the commissioner’s computer and, while the results are mostly realistic, it’s difficult to get a grasp on how things work exactly. Is a pitcher with a high arm strength always better? Should I take this hitter with high contact-hititng and low power, or should I take this hitter with high power-hitting and low speed?

I think that the heart of the trade I made today was fine. I went wrong when I failed to evaluate the pitcher properly. I don’t have a suitable replacement, so 25% of my games (I use a four-man rotation) are now much more likely to be lost than they were previously. Yes, it is helpful to have Reggie Sanders as my right-fielder now; his defense is superlative and he’s an offensive threat.

But I’ve now tried to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place. I’ve also squandered a significant part of my ability to rebuild in the off-season. I’m losing a huge chunk of my team to free-agency this year, and every draft pick is precious, especially the early ones. I’m not going to get to draft until the end of the second round now, which means that the top fifty players will be gone before I get to pick one.

The good thing about this is: I think I’m good at evaluating talent in this league, and may be able to slowly rebuild from this debacle.

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Lord of the Thing

In which there’s a Lord of the Rings movie in production, and I’m worried that it’s not going to be very good.

Y’know, I just can’t get a handle on this whole Lord of the Rings movie thing.

When I first heard about the project, I was skeptical that it could ever be pulled off. The first news and images from the production only served to confirm my fears. Then, when the teaser trailer was released and more production information began to filter onto the internet, I actually found myself excited to see the movies.

Now, though, with the pictures and information that Ain’t It Cool News has been providing the last few days, I’m becoming even more skeptical than I was before. Lurtz? Lurtz? Who the hell is Lurtz?

Peter Jackson, in whom I had tremendous faith, is beginning to worry me. This is just going to be some convoluted cheap-ass production with stuff changed around and mangled and added in order to play to that portion of the audience which is unfamiliar with the book. It’s going to be crap.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, looks fantastic.

(On a side note: Why the hell can’t Ain’t It Cool News do something about its layou? It is easily the ugliest major site on the web (well, of those that I view regularly, anyhow). It has the poorest code, the sloppiest layout — it’s just all-around painful to look at.)

Dane writes that:

  1. “Lurtz is the name of the orc in Saruman’s service who is responsible for actually killing Boromir at Amon-hen (”, and
  2. “I’ve never understood the need to criticize a creative work when it’s not done yet. In under a year you will be able to see the final product. Second guessing the changes Jackson is going to make aren’t really fair without taking the whole final product into account.”

To which I can reply that I both do and do not see his point.

On the one hand, it is silly to judge a creative work before it is finished. Take Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, for example. How many people, like me, were completely blown away by the first trailer? The second trailer wasn’t quite as good, but still promised an amazing film. Based on that, and other information I had gleaned, I was expecting an outstanding movie. Instead I got something on par with Return of the Jedi. Sure it had some fun scenes (opening scene, underwater city, pod race, senate meeting, light saber battle), but these were outnumbered by the lame-ass (lame-ass being a technical term, of course) things in the movie (Jar-Jar, Jedi council, Jar-Jar, midichlorians, Jar-Jar, space battles, Jar-Jar, Coruscant exterior shots, Jar-Jar, C3PO, Jar-Jar, plot points that made no sense, Jar-Jar, and Jar-Jar for example).

On the other hand, is judging an unfinished creative work any different than judging it based on incomplete information? Is my premonition that the Lord of the Rings movie isn’t going to be very good any different than my premonition that the movie Joe Dirt isn’t going to be very good? No. They are the same thing. I’m basing these premonitions on the information I have available and my past experience. And what do you know? — these are generally a good guide. I don’t need to see any more to know that Lurtz is going to be Beastmaster-esque. And deep down Dane knows I’m right.

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Sam the Shih Tzu

In which a little dog chases my bike for half a mile.

The ride home on Tuesday the 20th was interesting.

About a mile into the ride, I passed a house and a little Shih Tzu came charging out at me. It was more comic than anything, of course, so I laughed and kept riding. I came to a stop at the highway a half-mile down the road, and what should go charging past me but the same Shih Tzu! Holy cats!

I’m not sure how it avoided being hit, but it did, and I was able to get traffic stopped so that I could retrieve it and carry it back to its owners. I learned that its name is Sam, so I’ll be able to call it by name in the future.

I rode to work yesterday too, but not today. My legs are tired and need a break, so I’m giving it to them. I’m on pace for a 50 mile week, which I consider good.

Actually, I dug back through my copious biking stats and discovered that when I was riding so much in 1998, I was averaging about 50 miles a week, too. So, I’m off to a good start for the year. I wish that I was actually losing weight, too, but I’m not. Maybe I really do need to be tracking calories in order to lose weight, regardless of whether I’m exercising. I’ve never been able to lose weight without calorie tracking. I just eat too much if I don’t.

I’ve also begun remodeling the Custom Box Service web site. There aren’t any actual changes posted yet, but I’ve begun to generate content, which is actually the most time-consuming portion of the task.

I’d like to construct a couple of PHP scripts to facilitate quotation requests and the like, but I lack the required PHP skills. I can modify scripts, but not create them from scratch. I may have the company buy me a book so that I can teach myself to do this, but it’s a low priority. Right now I need to get the web site up and operational.

I continue to be frustrated by my Computer Resources partners, but in a sort of turnabout, I think I’m beginning to frustrate them, too.

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Biking Statistics

In which I keep detailed statistics about my bike rides.

It wasn’t wet this morning, but sure was cold. It froze last night and the chill was still very much in the air as I left the house at 6:15.

The ride to Custom Box Service is nice in the summer when the morning temperatures are right around 60 degrees, but in the winter and spring the ride can be a chore. Low temperatures are a problem, but more common is a constant rain.

I don’t generally liking in either set of conditions, but I have some new clothes that are helping. Last fall I purchased a jacket and a pair of pants that actually keep me quite warm while keeping the rain out. Because of the new clothes, I’m able to ride on days that I normally wouldn’t.

So far this month, I’ve covered 79.0 miles on my bike. This isn’t a lot to a serious biker, but to a fat middle-aged man like myself it’s quite an accomplishment. As I gradually lose weight during the spring and summer, I hope to be able to get in 300 or 400 miles per month. If I’m able to get 200 miles during March I’ll be overjoyed. The 79.0 miles so far already give my my second highest number of miles ever for March.

As with everything I do, I tend to overanalyze my biking statistics.

I keep a detailed record of the number of miles that I ride, the amount of time that it took to ride them, the temperature during the ride, and my top speed during the ride. I keep a weekly and monthly summary of these statistics, and often find myself falling into the trap of riding to achieve some statistical goal (must average 17 miles per hour today!) instead of just riding for fun.

I don’t want to stop keeping the statistics. I know myself, and if I stop keeping the stats, I’ll stop riding. The statistics keep me going. Instead, I need to find a way to de-emphasize them so that they don’t become my focus. I want the riding, and the joy of it, to be the focus.

I love being out on the bike. (Okay, the dogs suck, as do certain motorists. And the poor quality roads in this section of Clackamas County. But mostly it’s good.)

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First Post

In which I begin a weblog.

We’ll call this the first official post to my weblog. I’m using blogger to automate the process of updating this log; without it, content would become stale after this first post. There’s no guarantee that I’ll upate with any regularity, but I’ll do my best. Many people see weblogs and webjournals as narcissistic drivel. I view them as a cathartic and creative outlet for the creators, a way to keep in touch with friends and to make new ones. I don’t pretend that I’ll ever acquire regular readers, but I have an urge to write. This weblog will provide an outlet for that urge.

This afternoon was an odd mixture of tumult and silence.

Work at Custom Box Service was slow: the phones just stopped ringing, as did the fax. Jeff sent the crew home at noon, which is a nice break for them, I think. They’ve been working hard lately, and had many hour of overtime last pay period. I hope the business picks up again soon. (I’ve talked with several other people whose businesses are slow now, so I’m not too concerned that this is Custom Box specific — it’s likely an industry-wide slowness.)

Meanwhile, the Computer Resources team experienced friction. We’ve decided to throw in the towel on the computer that we’ve been trying to build. We can’t get the components to work together no matter what we try. It’s the most frustrating computer-building experience that I’ve ever had. The parts need to be returned soon, but nobody is willing to do it. Though I value Jeremy and Andrew as friends, having them as business partners is often frustrating.

Kris and I just finished watching Waiting For Guffman. It came highly recommended, and with a good pedigree (from the same people who brought us This is Spinal Tap and last year’s Best In Show.

All three movies require a certain sense of humor; they are droll and self-mocking and because they are played straight they could easily be mistaken for insipid dramas. Of the three, I like Guffman the least. It has some amusing moments but lacked any of the laugh-out-loud humor that was present in the other two movies (from Spinal Tap: the diminutive Stonehenge, the amp that goes to eleven — from Best In Show: “We have so much in common. We both like soup.”, Parker Posey’s frantic search for the stuffed bee).

I’ll spend the rest of the evening cleaning the house and installing software on this rebuilt computer (I’ve added a new motherboard and processor). I’ve been busy lately, and the house is a pig sty. There’s crap everywhere. I accumulate too much stuff, a habit that I’ll likely never cure despite the fact that I recognize it as foolish. I’d love to find somebody that could use all this crap and just donate it to them. I have scores of computer books, magazines, notebooks, and more. Many of these items are scattered over the office floor in semi-organized piles. Others are stacked in the storage shed with no organization whatsoever. For a guy who is so anal-retentive about order in certain facets of his life, I sure have cluttered surroundings.

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