Friday, June 30, 2006

Time to pick a new horse

So I'm sitting downstairs this morning, in my underwear, doing my morning check of e-mail and some daily websites when the phone rings. I figure it has to be work calling with some kind of problem, but no it's my dad. He says I think I'm going to go with Levi Leipheimer, which seems kind of weird since he didn't even pick him as first among the Americans, and then he says "You're still going with Ullrich right?" "Yeah." "No matter what?" At this point I start getting suspicious, particularly since I already know that Ullrich has been mentioned as one of the people with possible connections to Operación Puerto the big Spanish doping probe. Sure enough not only Ullrich, but Basso and Mancebo have been ejected.

In addition to all this the entire Astaná-Würth team is also under suspicion, and although they were recently given the go ahead to race I have a hard time imagining that now that Basso and Ullrich are out that Astaná-Würth will stay in. This will mean that Vinokourov would also be out. If that happened it would mean that out of last years top five finishers everyone (other than Lance who retired) has been kicked out of the race because of doping... I wonder if the tour (other than tours after the world wars) has ever started without any of the top five finishers from the year before?

So of course now I have to pick a new horse... I'm thinking Levi Leipheimer. He finished 6th last year, and now that the five people who finished above him are gone, I guess he's now the man. Plus he has the advantage of being american. One thing that's interesting to notice that if we eliminate the top five from last year and consider 6-8 as the podium we would have a time cut of only 34 seconds between 1st and 3rd place. Now that's what I would call an exciting Tour. And now that I've had the chance to think about it, while I'm greatly distressed by the doping and the accusations, I think that overall, from the standpoint of making the tour more exciting, it's going to end up being a positive thing. Don't get me wrong it's obviously a bad thing for the sport as a whole, but I think it makes the whole event more interesting.

Oh, and Germany won

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Still tired

Last night was another late night. Not as bad as the night before, but I will say that I'm desperately looking forward to sleeping in or taking a nap on Saturday (possibly both). My friend from Moscow was in town and he wanted to get together and play some Champions. I'll spare you the gruesome details of what all exactly is involved in playing this horribly complicated system, but it was still a lot of fun.

He was available Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Since Monday was a family get-together and Tuesday was Soccer and a Track Meet I decided to do it on Wednesday, not realizing (or perhaps not remembering) that my wife had a get together at our house that same night. Fortunately my wife was very understanding (above and beyond the call) and me and my friends took the downstairs while my wife took the upstairs. So everything ended up working out okay.

In any event as usual I'm looking forward to the weekend. So far there's nothing scheduled, which may be the nicest part of all. I'd like to take Monday off and make it a four day weekend, but I think I already figured out that if I want to take off time for reunion and GenCon that I can't take any additional time off between now and then.

There are never enough days off

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns

I'm quite tired today. For reasons that I'm still a little unclear on I decided to go to the the premiere showing of Superman Returns yesterday. It started at 10 pm, which wasn't too bad, but it's also 154 minutes long, so by the time I got to bed it was after 1 am. Also since it was kind of a last minute decision our seats weren't all that great, but they weren't as bad as I feared either. A few points about the show:

1- Jimmy Olsen was great.
2- Routh nailed the Clark Kent side of the role
3- Spacey was good, but he didn't steal the show (primarily because he had Posey around)
4- Whatever flaws it might have, I can't imagine that a movie created by McG, Ratner or even (perhaps especially) Burton would have been anywhere near as good
5- Poor James Marsden, it looks like he might end up permenantly typecast as the guy who's always the second choice
6- It was clearly better than X3
7- The epilogue did drag a little bit
8- The threat was a little weak

I'd give it 9 out of 10.

Super tired

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It goes

Ghana lost to Brazil, and with that the last time I really wanted to do well is out. It's somewhat interesting to note that I really wanted Brazil to get beat when the tournament first started, but now, because of how ugly all the other soccer has been and how beautiful the Brazils have been playing I think I might be changing my mind and want them to take it all. I also have a great deal of sympathy of the neurotic English fans, so I wouldn't mind seeing them go all the way either, but mostly I'm just using it to pass the time until the Tour starts.

In addition to picking Ullrich as the man to take it all (or place really high) I am also going to predict the order I think the top Americans will finish in (relative to one another):

1- Levi Leipheimer
2- George Hincapie
3- Floyd Landis
4- David Zabriskie
5- Bobby Julich

Speaking of predictions I went to lunch with my brother-in-law and he decided to go out on a limb and make some predictions. His first was that someone who has moved once a year for the last 17 years will move again in the next five years. He then went on to predict that someone we know who is in their 30s will live at least another 5 years, and finally, as his coup de grace, he predicted that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will not remain married till "death do them part". As you can imagine him I complimented him on the guts he displayed in making such risky and improbable predictions. Now we'll have to see if the couragous predictions of this maverick prognostigator actually come to pass.

I'll predict that someone from Europe or South Africa will win the World Cup

Monday, June 26, 2006

I hate the 1st day back at work after a vacation

So I have returned. While it's very nice to be reunited with the wife and kids, going back to work and the mountain of e-mail and the problems that happened while I was gone is not especially enjoyable. The vacation was very enjoyable. I got the experience Catholicism in a way I never had before and I got to watch the world cup. It was nice. I stayed in the priory while I was there, so I got a really intimate view of that lifestyle. And although the celibacy, and living on $75 a month are big turn-offs, overall I was kind of jealous. This lasted until I had to sit through the liturgy, but that's another story.

I also finally got around to watching X3. I feel like it is in every way a worthy addition to the trilogy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is not to say that I didn't have a few complaints, they're pretty small complaints, but I do have space to fill so I'll tell you what they are. I thought the direction was choppier than in the first two, the movie as a whole didn't flow as smoothly, and neither did some of the shots. Also, and this is what I sensed in the trailers, the dialogue wasn't quite as crisp as the first two. But as I said these are minor complaints...

As far as sports goes, the Tour starts Saturday, which is good, because I'm not sure I want to follow the World Cup any longer. Sunday's game between the Netherlands and Portugal was a farce, the referree had lost all control of the game, and ended up giving a world cup record 4 red cards. And then this morning a ref gives Italy a penalty kick in the 94th minute? Just let it go to overtime and let the game be decided there. When you give a penalty kick in the 94th minute then it's not the play or the players who are deciding the game it's the ref. Now I confess I didn't see the penalty, but unless there were actual martial arts involved I really don't like the idea of a 94th minute penalty kick.

Players win games, coaches lose games, and refs ruin games

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

Well I'm leaving this afternoon to head to Oakland to visit my old college friend (and frequent blog commentor) Ed. He's studying to become a Dominican Priest and he takes his Solemn Vows on Saturday. In the half dozen or so years he's been there I've never been to visit, so I thought this was a good an excuse as any. Besides the actual vows on Saturday there's not much actually scheduled, which is my idea of an ideal vacation.

I think I'll watch a few World Cup games (Catholics are generally pretty big soccer fans). I might also try to finally catch X3 or maybe some other movie. And of course I figure at minimum I'd try and get in at least one good fresh seafood meal, and maybe a couple of seistas. Like I said an ideal vacation. And it's actually cooler there than it is here...

In any case that means that there probably won't be an entry on Thursday or Friday, but who knows maybe I'll post something while I watch Ghana beat the US. Speaking of soccer, we got the kids all set up last night, and by some miracle I didn't end up having to coach one of the teams. I guess some parents experience even more guilt than I do. The set up they have is really cool, they have a different color jersey for each team, which come with shorts and matching socks. You should see it on my youngest. I think the jersey comes down past her knees, and the shorts basically go to her ankles, but she looks very, very cute.

Yes, I think I did jinx the Mavs

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

As you may have figured out I enjoy I wouldn't say that I enjoy all of it, in fact some of the regular features drive me nuts, but I find that there's quite frequently a gem in the rough (and I love Christopher Hitchens). Well it's their 10th anniversary and in addition to the sort of self-congragulatory crap you might expect, they also took the opportunity to give four of their critics space on Slate to say why they hate Slate.

It's this sort of thing which keeps me coming back. Anyone who has the sense of humor and the guts to give people room to tell them why they suck is okay in my book. Of the four I think I like the one by Jonah Goldberg the best, but they're all worth reading (here and here) with the possible exception of David Talbot's whiney piece about how superficial journalism is. A condition he ends up blaming on the Bush administration... *sigh*

Tonight is the kick-off meeting for the kids soccer teams. Last time we heard none of their teams had coaches. Assuming I just had to stand around at games I was going to attend already I might consider volunteering to be one of the coaches, but hopefully they will have found someone already. I've never coached soccer and it's been 20 years since I've played it, and finally I'm certain that 3, 5 or 7 year old soccer bears little if any resemblence to the (world cup) soccer I see on TV. I'll let you know what happens.

Have I reached that time in my life already?

Monday, June 19, 2006


I watched a significant amount of sports over the weekend, certainly way above average, particularly considering that the Tour hasn't even started yet (though my man Ullrich won the Tour of Switzerland, so I think I have my horse). The Ghana game was beautiful and even though it means that they would have to beat the US, I think I would like to see Ghana advance. The US vs. Italy game was ugly and overall kind of a disappointment. The American commentator I was listening to, seemed to thing that the two red cards America received were completely out of line, but much of the international press I read after the game seemed to think that it was all our fault the game got ugly. I wonder if that's some sort of reflection of the current geo-political situation...

On Sunday it was the Korea vs. France game and the NBA Finals. Any illusion that the America-Italy game had set some kind of standard for ugliness was quicky dispelled by the ugliness that was the NBA game (which may back up the international press laying the blame on America), but I'll get to that in a minute. The Korea-France game was interesting. I have a good friend who's Korean, so I wanted them to win, a tie was almost as good. Of course by rights France should have won, they put a ball into the goal late in the first half that was deflected by the Korean goalie, but replays clearly show that the goalie deflected it after it had already crossed the line, but that's the way it goes I suppose, for whatever reason most sports and I suppose most people had decided against instant replays. Which brings us to the basketball game.

If my man Wil's Dallas team wasn't in the finals I wouldn't be watching them, but I am. Of course that doesn't stop me from playing World of Warcraft at the same time, as a result I wasn't following the game as closely as some, but I did see the end. The foul that put Miami in the lead that wasn't a foul, and the time out that was never requested. It was ugly, as in someone should be put into jail ugly, criminally ugly if you will.

Ugly, but not criminally so

Friday, June 16, 2006

Boy I really stepped in it

As I was writing my blog yesterday I thought about mentioning the Family Campaign which I'll be running tonight, but I felt that I had insufficient time to truly capture the magic of the Family Campaign. So, I confess I decided to just pass over it without comment. As you can probably see from the comments, that turned out to be a bad decision. First for any who were wondering, yes the food is better at the Family Campaign, primarily because it's generally home-cooked.

I also should mention the long-suffering patience of the members of the family campaign. Periodically I will decide that I want to restart the campaign, becuase I have a new idea I want to try or some new thing I want to do, and without exception they always say, "Sure. No problem." This is not to say they don't give me a hard time about it every time it happens, but they're still remarkably resiliant. In fact tonights session will probably be the penultimate one (or possibly the antepenultimate) because I once again plan on restarting. I've been enchanted by the Dungeon Adventure Paths. As I've mentioned I'm running the second one with my friends and the third one is coming out in September, and it just sounds so cool, that I can't help but run it as well.

In any case I offer my apologies to any who might have felt slighted, especially my wife, and may I say that I'm really looking forward to dinner tonight.

Suitably repentant

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Short on time

The day kind of got away from me, so rather than the extensive entry of yesterday (with attached custom programming no less, though evidently still pretty bad) you're getting a much abbreviated entry. I had a big deadline tomorrow, but I managed to get it extended to Monday. What this mostly means is that my weekend is shot. Oh well it's not as if I had anything really exciting planned anyway.

Old, boring and getting more sedentary by the day

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Productive but not focused

First off, in the interest of full disclosure, I should start off by saying that I should have been doing something else with my time, but intead of doing all the important urgent things on my plate I decided to do an unimportant, vaguely urgent fun thing. This is also the point where, in the interest of full disclosure, I tell you that the rest of this entry is going to be about gaming, all normal warnings apply (keep away from small children, nursing mothers, and maniac-depressives).

With that out of the way I put together a Dreamblade Generator last night. The big $20,000 Dreamblade Premiere tournament will be in a "sealed" tournament, which means you get a starter composed of 1 rare, 3 uncommons and 12 commons (16 total) and a booster consisting of 1 rare, 2 uncommons and 4 commons (7 total). From these 23 randomly selected miniatures you have to craft the best 16 miniature warband you can, and that's what you compete with. Well in order to practice for this it would be ideal to have something that would generate a virtual starter and a virtual booster, so that's what I did. While I was at it I also added the option for it to display all of the figures.

As it turns out it was more difficult than I expected. For one thing sorting on the sealed turns out ot be kind of complicated and still isn't implemented, I may have to write my own bubble sort... Secondly as it turns out you can't just craft a virtual bag of all the miniatures of a certain rarity and draw out of it. For one thing no duplicates are allowed, for another, apparently behind the scenes there are slots, to guarantee an fairly even spread of spawn costs. Obviously it would suck if all your commons had a spawn cost of 9. So I implemented that as well. In any case, there you have it.

Not quite ready for prime-time

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

We're Saved

The wife arrived home around 9:15 last night, when I had last checked on the kids at 9:00 they were all awake, but by 9:15 all but the oldest (who went to bed at 9:00) were asleep, but we decided to wake them up. It's safe to say that they were much more excited to see their mother than they are to see me when I get home from a big trip. I'll try not to take it personally. Now that things have returned to normal I'm going to try and be more productive. We'll see how that goes...

35 years of sloth

Monday, June 12, 2006

Almost over

The wife gets home tonight, and I'm pretty excited. The weekend has certainly been a trial. If I were to use a metaphor it's like trying to play doubles tennis without a partner (against a doubles opponent). I think over the last 11 years my wife and I have developed a pretty good system. I'm not entirely sure of all the details I'm sure that she would tell you that it involves her doing most of the work with the kids and me stepping in occasionally to yell at them. Which is probably pretty accurate.

This weekend it seemed like there was a lot of little interruptions. On top of which the youngest was quite emotional all weekend. She kept asking me when mommy was going to be home. When I would tell her a couple of days she didn't like that at all. Also the oldest had some weird cough, which would only manifest late a night. She could go the whole day without coughing, and then suddenly start hacking away every 2 seconds sometime around 1 am. The weirdness of it almost makes me thinkg that she was forcing herself to cough. Perhaps a tickle in the back of her throat she was trying to get rid of. When the coughing woke me up last night I tried to get back to sleep, but it was just too loud and too frequent, so I got her a glass of water, and tried to calm her down. That seemed to work a little bit, though I'm still not sure what was causing her to cough.

Interestingly though, the most frustrating episode of the weekend did not involve the kids at all (perhaps peripherally). I took them to Wendy's on Saturday night and we were getting some kids meals. My kids wanted all sorts of different stuff, one wanted 2% milk, two wanted chocalate, some wanted oranges some wanted fries, etc. So I pull up to the drive through and start reading my order. I've just barely stared when the drive through person says something. But I have no idea what. So I repeat myself, she says something else, still no idea what. I tell her I have no idea what she's saying, more garbled speech. I swear she made the teacher on Peanuts seem coherent. At a certain point I just decided to ignore the sounds coming from the other side of the speaker and press on. Once I had said everything I drove up to the window. Fortunately the manager was there. He apologized and asked me for my order. Fortunately I had it written down, so I handed him the piece of paper. Two minutes, and a hundred button presses later he had changed what was in the register, to what I had actually said. I really seriously considered driving away.

In sports news: Holland won, USA lost, and all of the African teams which have played so far have lost as well. Dallas did win however in a pretty convincing fashion. You'd have to be a hardcore fan to start talking about a sweep at this point, but I think it's going to be ridiculously difficult for Miami to come back and win at this point.

At the end of a long nightmare

Friday, June 09, 2006

My wife left me

Well my wife and two of her siblings (along with a brother-in-law) left on a trip this morning to go visit a third sibling in California. So I'm flying solo until Monday night. I'm going to be running a big zone defense, which will consist of me hiding in my office trying to get some work done, all the while praying that the damage to the rest of the house will not be too severe.

I would tell you what my project is for the weekend, but it's super secret. I would give you the old line "I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you." But in addition to being a cliche it's not true, I could neither be 100% sure that I knew who all had read the blog, nor 100% sure that I had eliminated them all, so I'd probably have to kill myself, and wouldn't that be ackward, if the wife came home and the kids had been unsupervised for several days. Boy would she be mad, and I don't for a second think that the minor inconvience of me being dead would slow her down at all.

I talk a lot about cycling, but I also quite enjoy soccer. The World Cup started today in Germany. At the moment I'm rooting for teams in this order: 1- The Netherlands, 2- The US, 3- Any team from Africa. I have turned back on my expanded cable so that I could watch the Tour, with the secondary purpose of watching the World Cup, but apparently I'm not the only one, so there's nearly a two week wait for service. Oh well so I'll miss the first few group matches. I can always have a friend DVR it if there's something I'm particularly interested in seeing. Oh and I guess as long as I'm on the subject of sports I should mention that Dallas won. *weakly* Go Mavs...

I'm quite continental in my tastes

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ross' Corollary to Pascal's Wager

Blogger was down again, so this got posted late.

Today on the way to get some lunch the subject of religion came up, and with it the concept of Pascal's Wager. For those unfamiliar with the wager I'll try and quickly summarize it. Assume that there is a non-zero chance that God exists. Now further assume that if God does exist and we do what he says that our reward will be infinite happiness over an infinite time. Once we've established these conditions then any finite "bet" we make is work it if the possible payout is infinite. Of course the bet we make is our life, and actually not merely that, it's the manner in which we live our life, which frankly is not a bad way to live even if there was no God.

There are of course various criticisms of Pascal's Wager, most of which have zero bearing on someone who isn't a "strong atheist". There are also criticisms around it's assumption of a Christian God, but for most people at least in the West this is not a big issue either, in fact once you assume a Christian God the question transforms from whether you should make a bet, into which religion you should place your bet on, and that's where Ross' Corollary comes in. Ross' Corollary to Pascal's Wager goes something like this: "Having chosen to wager you should place your bet with a religion which claims to be 'the only true church'."

My reasoning is as follows. Let's imagine two churches. Church A claims to be the only true church, while Church B claims that anyone who accepts Jesus will be saved. If Church A is correct only those that belong to it will gain the full benefits, but if Church B is correct then both the members of Church A and B will saved. So if A gives you all the benefits of A and B, why would anyone join B? I think it's because in general "type A" churches are significantly more strict than "type B" churches, plus most people have not put the amount of thought into the question that I have. But the moral is that if you've got what it takes then "type A" is your huckleberry.

Unknotting thorny philosophical issues since April 2003

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blogger down again

Blogger was down again all day, at least this time they had a notice up letting you know that they were aware of the problem. I was all prepared to write a long an involved post about cold fusion, but I've got a bunch of stuff to do before I go to bed so you'll have to be content with a link to a 1998 Wired Article. What's depressing about this article is that it was clear even in 1998, that there was something to cold fusion, and yet in the 8 years since very little, if any, additional forward progress has been made.

Cold Fusion Evangelist

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Low energy productivity

As long-time readers of my blog (a statement recognizably oxymoronic only after a little bit of thought) may know I'm a lukewarm disciple of David Allen's Getting Things Done. One of the pieces of convetional wisdom he disputes is prioritizing your tasks. Rather than prioritizing tasks he prefers to contextualize them. What tasks can you accomplish in the time available? with the tools at hand? at your current energy level? Once you've answered these questions if there is more than one task that meets the criteria then you can start prioritizing.

For someone who's vaguely manic-depressive (isn't everyone these days?) like myself this wisdom about contextualizing your tasks is very valuable particularly when I consider the context of energy level. I often times will have one or two big things that I need to get done, and I'll be so fixated on those things that I won't consider doing anything else, even when my energy level is too low to tackle these big projects. What results is that I do nothing, or nothing productive at least. Now if the big things were the only things I had to worry about then I guess this wouldn't be all that bad, but like everyone else there are also countless little things I need to do.

So that's one of the things I'm trying to train myself to do, when my energy level is low to pick something that still needs to be done, but which doesn't require much energy, frequently the reason these things haven't been done already is because they were low priority, but by cleaning these things out of your list you free up focus for the things which do really have a high priority. Anyway that's my lecture for today, I imagine that it was of benefit only to me (and even that is debatable).

What a beastly time to be in the doldrums

Monday, June 05, 2006 issues

Apparently has been having problems since Friday, so when I went to post my blog during lunch the site was unavailable. I thought I'd check before I left to go home and it appears that the problems have been (temporarily at least) resolved. When this same thing happened on Friday the site was available when I started writing, but unavailable when I went to post, so I had to wait several hours to finally get the post up. Lest that happen again I figure I'll end here (record intact) I will end with a link though to a story about a rat invasion of India which occurs every 50 years and last time caused political upheaval.

Glad I'm not in India

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hoping that the weekend will heal us

So the first kid to get sick was the number two son. He started throwing up on Monday night, but as I recall by the morning he had stopped and by the evening he was basically firing on all cylinders. Well last night he started in again, which needless to say was alarming, and I hate to think what it might presage. I'm used to having kids get sick, for us both to be miserable for a little while, but then when it's over it's over and we both breathe a sigh of relief, but this relapsing after a couple of days has really made me question my view of the universe.

As I may have mentioned I didn't escape entirely unscathed, and the gruesome details of the depths of my illness are better left unchronicled, but the good news is that I appear to have finally recovered, at least from the illness, the constant sleep interruptions have left me quite tired and I feel a real need for some recreation. I had hoped to get some on Memorial day, but I started on a big side project then and it basically ended up taking every evening through Wednesday and then last night was the annual husband invitational at the wife's bookclub. So I'm hoping that I might squeeze in some recreation over the weekend. I'm scheduled to play D&D again. We play once a month, so last week was our May get together and this week will be the June gathering. It will be nice to play back to back, keeping the flow and the energy going is a lot easier if you can easily picture what happened last.

The bookclub was interesting. About half of the people that the book was essentially saccharin tripe, while the other half felt that it was a revelatory experience on the order of Saul's experience on the road to Damascus. You might ask which half I was in, and I'm going to cop out by saying neither. I thought as a self-help book for "maximizers" the people he identified as being particularly overwhelmed by the multiplication of choice, it worked out really well, but as a prescription for everything that ails America I think it over-reached. In paticular I thought it displayed a certain amount of hubris to label one of the sections "Why We Suffer" as if it was some metaphysical rumination on the nature of pain.

I know why I suffer

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lance Armstrong and the Tour

As was noted in yesterday's comments, Lance Armstrong was cleared of doping during the 1999 tour. In fact the Dutch investigators recommended looking into possible legal and ethical violations by the World Anti-Doping Agency. There's been so much bad doping news out of cycling recently (for example Manalo Saiz the current manager of Liberty-Seguros and the former manager of ONCE, being arrested) that it's nice to see some good news for a change.

I am particularly worried about possible damage to the Tour (though there has already been some). I've been looking forward to the first Tour without Lance since at least 2003 if not earlier, and I would hate to see it marred by this crap. Fortunately there hasn't been even a hint of suspicion around the two leading contenders, Ullrich and Basso. Hopefully it will stay that way.

Of the two leaders I'm going to have to go with Ullrich, he got a late start to his preperation, but this tour was made for him (two time trials and a hard third week) and I really think Basso and CSC (which was pointed out in this great interview with Levi Leipheimer) have spent too much energy winning the Giro (Tour of Italy). Basso's stated goal for the year is to win both the Giro and the Tour, a noble ambition, but I would have focused on just winning the tour, then I would have tried to do both.

The excitement is palpable