Very Sorry

Success! Already people are taking up the catchphrase that I suggested earlier. M’ris was even clever enough to chop off the first four syllables, leaving it at just “Moussaoui”. Not bad, although it’s still kind of long and hard to spell. Why couldn’t he have been named something simple, like Jones? Or Smith? Or Lindh? Oh, well. M’ris also has some helpful suggestions for a gender-neutral version of “mistress”. So far we have “lover” (which fails to convey that one party is married), “partner” (gender-neutral, but not sexual-orientation-neutral), “paramour” (too musty), and “love-monkey” (tee-hee! But no).

Recently I read a column by conservativish Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly where he up and apologized for not being very nice in his columns. And here it is, not even Yom Kippur. Well, I think this is a capital idea. Like Kelly, I am also ashamed of some of the not-particularly-nice things I’ve said on this site, and I so will attempt to make up for this with…

An Apology

  • On July 15, 2002, I referred to our steel tariffs as “lame” and our farm bill as “even lamer”. These were rash words. I understand now that the tiny number of voters in key swing states who benefit from these policies are clearly worthy of this sort of personalized attention from the Bush administration, and the rest of us should be a little more gracious about the whole thing.

  • On June 15, 2002, I called the NY Times “clueless” for not keeping permanent links to their articles on the web. Honestly, who am I to criticize their Internet strategy? I’m sure they thought about their website design very carefully, and no doubt they know a hell of a lot more than boring old Jakob Nielsen and Tim Berners-Lee do on the subject.

  • On June 3, 2002, I approvingly quoted David Coursey regarding Napster’s demise, when he cited the event as “proof of a loving higher power that smites evildoers.” I also sneered at Rage Against the Machine for the same reason — for marketing themselves as revolutionaries while in reality just being exemplars of the same-old-same-old. In retrospect, this was an unfair assessment. After all, Napster and Rage Against the Machine are both against the RIAA, which makes them automatically worthy of our sympathy and support.

  • On May 8, 2002, I called the Cato Institute “insufferable”, in retaliation for their reference to Californians as being “dim-bulbs” and “whiners”. This sort of tit-for-tat namecalling is uncalled for and, as good old Ben, Bryan, and Brendan would be quick to point out, degrades the level of our national discourse.

  • On April 17, 2002, I accused morning DJ Don Bleu of being “deeply cynical”. This in turn was cynical of me. On the same day, I called conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage a “frothing right-wing nutcase”… but I also said that he seems to care about what he’s doing, so I think that one’s a wash.

  • On March 10, 2002, I complained that Outlook Express 6 could not export its emails to a file. This was a false charge — you can retrieve your mailboxes as files if you’re willing to familiarize yourself with the internals of Outlook Express and dig around in the depths of the Windows 2000 filesystem. You can even convert your emails to non-Microsoft formats, if you’re willing to scour the web for various cryptic open source tools. So sorry, Microsoft, my mistake.

  • Waaay back in February, I implied that Chairman of the SEC Harvey Pitt was unsuited for his position because he had been the chief lobbyist for the accounting industry and had been directly responsible for halting former chairman Arthur Levitt’s attempts to protect investors. I did not mean to impugn Pitt’s ethics or integrity. Moreover, now that the danger is clear I have no doubt he’s doing a bang-up job to restore public faith in our capital markets.

  • Six months ago, I had some unkind things to say about the Republican candidates for governor and their failure to provide us with an alternative and coherent energy plan. In fact, in light of their attacks on Davis on this topic, I believe I called them all “pathetic.” Clearly I spoke too soon — Bill Simon’s website, once bereft of energy policy information, now has something to say on the matter. Strangely, the outline of his plan (invest in solar/geothermal/wind, renegotiate energy contracts, fund energy research at California universities) sounds suspiciously like what the Democrats (and even the Green Party) are saying. But hey, if you can be flexible enough to satisfy your right-wing primary voters in the spring and the more left-wing general election voters in the summer… well, more power to you.

  • In December 2001, I gloated over Enron’s ignominious begging of the California Department of Water and Power for electricity. It’s never nice to kick someone when they’re down… and since Enron’s corporate crew clearly had a deep respect for the needs of their fellow citizens, I can hardly fail to afford them the same courtesy.

  • Finally, in November 2001, I made fun of Jonathan Franzen for his churlish behavior regarding Oprah’s book club and his pretentious claims to membership in the “high-art literary tradition.”

    Come to think of it, I’m not sorry about that last one at all.


Spent the entire day helping poker buddy Jay move. Jay is moving into the apartments off of 101 and Lawrence. You know, those apartments. Apartments for the mistresses of corporate vice presidents, as opposed to regular folk like you and me. Apparently the rental market is bad enough that they’ve decided to let the riff-raff in. [Pre-emptive note to Mom: my usage of the term “mistresses” is not meant to imply that all Silicon Valley corporate vice presidents are male and heterosexual. I just couldn’t think of the male equivalent of “mistress”. Gigolo? Boy-toy?]

Anyway, Jan was there too, along with a couple of Jay’s other friends. (Jay has other friends beyond the poker circle? What the hell??) They were nice guys, though. One of them didn’t even mind when I scratched his Eclipse (while taking out some of Jay’s stuff from my adjacent car). “Don’t worry about it,” Conroy said. “It’s already pretty dinged up.” Now that’s the spirit. Live and let live, I say. It turns out Conroy had introduced Jay to his current girlfriend, and sport that he is, he offered to help me out too. “I know this really nice Korean girl…” he began. I demurred, telling him that I wanted to “marinate in my newfound singlehood” for a while. “What is that crap all about?” shouted Jay and Jan. I don’t know, really. It just kind of slipped out. “Marinate”? Sheesh.

Midway through the move, Jan asked me, “So are you going to put any of this in your journal?” I told him of course not — that there was nothing particularly interesting or funny about this particular move. However, on reflection I did learn a couple of things about moving today. And damnit, if this journal can’t be fun or interesting, it can at least be educational.

Evan’s First Postulate of Moving

A successful move requires N-1 handcarts or dollys, where N is the number of people working on the move.

Evan’s Second Postulate of Moving

The probability of the UHaul breaking down is proportional to the number of people working on the move and inversely proportional to the square of the time remaining before you have to return the vehicle and retrieve your car from the soon-to-be-locked parking lot.

Jay graciously took me out to dinner after we finished the move (everyone else went home to their wives and fiancees). We went to a Thai place on Castro Street. The place was mostly empty, so the proprietor put us at the window seat. Ordinarily I think of the “window seat” people as being the most photogenic couple in the restaurant… and sad to say, I think in this case we were it. Interestingly, midway through the meal a flower salesguy wandered by, caught our attention through the window, and proffered his wares to us. We politely and casually refused. And this in the not-particularly-hip-or-urban environment of downtown Mountain View. You’ve got to love the Bay Area.

Calm and Reasonable

Well, my plan to learn Spanish instead of listening to those old sourpusses at NPR has hit a snag. The tapes I bought don’t stand all by themselves. They’re just pronunciation tapes — they don’t teach vocabulary or basic phrases. You’re supposed to read the book that comes with them. That’s all fine, but now I’m stuck listening to the news again.

Not that NPR news can’t be funny, in a subtle sort of way. For example, yesterday, one of the the correspondents was reporting on the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. If you’ve been following the case at all, you’ve probably heard about the strange outbursts and bizarre behavior of the man on trial. Recently, it’s been, “What’s he going to plea?” First it was innocent. Then it was guilty. Then it innocent on some charges, guilty on a few others. Now I think it’s back to innocent again. Anyway, where was I? So the main anchorperson asked the correspondent how Moussaoui was comporting himself on that particular day. The correspondent replied glibly, “Actually, today he’s been very calm and reasonable, by Zacarias Moussaoui standards.”

I think that would make a good general catchphrase. “How’d you like the movie?” “Well, the plot made a lot of sense, by Zacarias Moussaoui standards.” “How’s traffic going to be this weekend heading down to the Gilroy garlic festival?” “Oh, by Zacarias Moussaoui standards, it’ll be smooth sailing.”

From the That word… I do not think it means what you think it means department: I ran across an interesting UPI article on the economics of spam. Here’s a fun quote:

According to the Direct Marketing Association’s guidelines, quoted by PC World, not responding to an unsolicited e-mail amounts to “opting-in” – a marketing strategy known as “opting out.” Most experts, though, strongly urge spam victims not to respond to spammers, lest their e-mail address is confirmed.

Hmmm, someone seems to have reversed the definitions of “opt-in” and “opt-out”. Here’s another stunner:

Spammers, it emerges, have their own organizations. NOIC – the National Organization of Internet Commerce – threatened to post on its Web site the e-mail addresses of millions of AOL members. AOL has aggressive anti-spamming policies. “AOL is blocking bulk e-mail because it wants the advertising revenues for itself (by selling pop-up ads)” the president of NOIC, Damien Melle, complained to CNET.

Or possibly AOL is anti-bulk email because their paying customers are screaming for them to do something about it. (Not that the spammers should complain so much… I haven’t heard that AOL’s filters are all that effective anyway, but hey.) Fortunately, NOIC is almost certainly too chickenshit to try anything like that — AOL would immediately take them to the cleaners. (Yay for big corporate legal teams!)

Still, this is the caliber of people we’re dealing with. If you don’t reply to our emails, you’ve “opted in”. If you don’t let us spam you, we’ll post your personal info in public. Cripes, how do these people sleep at night? No, no, don’t tell me… no doubt it’s “on top of a big pile of money, with many beautiful ladies.” Bleah.

Pizza Olympics

I have, or rather, had, leftover pizza in my fridge. Leftover pizza makes me think that things are all right with the world. After all, you never know when those thugs from the Bachelor’s Union (Local 237) are going to kick down my door and do a surprise inspection. “Stained carpets? Check. Mismatched flatware? Check. No vegetables in the vegetable drawer? Check. Hey, waitasecond… no beer in the fridge… no big screen TV… no surround-sound stereo system… Youze got anything you want to explain to us, Mister Goer?”

Anyway, the pizza was from Don Amici’s, recommended by my cousin Michael. Don Amici’s is not bad, but it’s no Stuft Pizza. Ah, Stuft Pizza. I worked there for a couple of years in high school with my old friends Eric and Jason. The best part was that I learned how to throw the pizzas. This was the high-status job, not for rookies. First you bussed. Then you decorated pizzas (added toppings). Then you worked the oven. And then you got to throw. Unless you were a girl, of course. Then you skipped directly to Stage 2 and stayed there. Blatantly sexist, I know. The only exception was the owner’s cousin, Zelia. She was allowed to throw because although she was only four-foot-nine, she had the Strength of the Undead. We had a love-hate relationship, Zelia and I.

Where was I? Pizza-throwing. Now, when you see the old Italian guys in the movies throwing pizzas (usually while singing O Sole Mio or some such), you’re seeing The Basic Throw. Pizza goes up. Pizza spins lazily in the air. Pizza falls. Catch, repeat. Basically, this is the throw for little kids, cripples, invalids, and movie actors dressed to look like old Italian guys. Any pizza thrower worth his or her salt has mastered the continual throw, where you use both hands to rapidly spin the pizza like a turntable. Not only does this look cooler, but it flattens the dough much faster to boot. One you’ve mastered that throw, you work on the one-handed continual throw. After that, the off-hand one-handed continual throw. And after that… the pinnacle of pizzeria puissance, the mighty Double. Two pizzas spinning continuously, one with each hand. I never figured out how to do it. I was able to do both of the continual throws, but never at the same time. A few more months at the pizza place, and I would have had it, I think. Maybe I woulda hit the big time. The Pizza Olympics. Hey, I was just a crazy mixed-up kid with a head full of dreams, you know? But instead I went off to college and studied far less practical things. And that, as they say, was that.

Grody to the Max

Today I bought some Spanish language tapes. I plan to listen to them in my car instead of NPR. Let’s face it, NPR is pretty darn repetitive and depressing these days. Crooked CEOs here, crazy murderers there. Maybe if I drop out of the media cycle for a while, things will pick up. Maybe when I come back, there will be peace and prosperity for all. Either that, or I’ll be reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original Spanish. One must make the best of things.

And speaking of making the best of things, maybe I’ll at least learn not to buy Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon. It was on sale at Safeway, and it’s pretty grody-to-the-max, as we used to say in the 80s. (Actually I didn’t used to say, but I’m sure somebody in the San Fernando Valley did.) I kind of like the Woodbridge white wines, though. Maybe that’s because whenever I think of Woodbridge, I get a mental image of Sam extending a glass to me with a smarmy grin on his face, saying, “Would you like some?” just like the guy in the commercial. At least it’s OK for drinking while journal-writing and refurbishing Mom’s website. And I also now know not to inflict this wine on Significant Others. It’s not like I’m picky in that regard… I’ve served $1.99 Trader Joe’s wine to Significant Others without a whit of shame. Well, maybe one or two whits. But that’s all.

Of course, if I had given up on NPR today, I would have missed out on this radio essay by Mikel Jolet (RealAudio clip). Jolet is a writer who’s exactly my age. It’s a fun little piece, and the end is the real kicker. (For the record, I own a few polo shirts… but I have never owned a pair of Dockers, and the khakis I do own are rarely well-creased.)

Finally, a funny thing happened at work today. A German colleague sent me a work-related email, but at the bottom he appended the question, “So what’s the deal with the Americans and the ICC?” The question kind of took me by surprise — Stefan and I usually don’t talk politics, and so I got the feeling he was planning on posing this question to any random Real Live American he could get ahold of. And since the tourists don’t exactly flock to Langen, Germany (read: Milpitas with crappy weather), he figured I was his best bet.

I deduce from this that the Europeans are pretty mad about us and our lame behavior concerning the ICC — more so about this than our lame steel tariffs or our even lamer farm bill or even our supremely, penultimately lame missile defense system. But as a patriotic American, it is my duty to support and defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… right? So I told Stefan that hey, look, we got talked down from permanent immunity to one year’s immunity. And furthermore, the Brits are asking for seven years’ immunity and the French are asking for thirteen. In other words, don’t be mad at us — go yell at the French.

If that’s not a quintessentially American response, I don’t know what is.


An addendum to the previous entry: I had referred to my pseudo-nephew Evan as “energetic and very drooly”. Mom writes to remind me that “Just so you know, drooliness, well, spitting up more than drooliness, was one of your salient characteristics throughout most of your 1st yr.” Point taken. That and crankiness, of course. How little things have changed.

My dial-up ISP, Bowienet, had always given me a headache. I stuck with them for years, over the strenuous objections of Pat and Sam (who cleverly and subversively dubbed them “Slowienet”). I finally got fed up last week with their latest fiasco and switched to cable modem. I don’t care so much about the extra speed, but I like the fact that the connection is always on and people can call me at home when I’m connected. (Mom at least should be happy.) The “always on” thing freaks me out a bit though, so I configured the built-in OSX firewall. (The default firewall configuration is just to let everything through, which, in my primitive understanding of network security, is not good.) Also, the cable outlet is pretty darn far away from where I want the computer to be. Good thing I’ve got lots of CAT-5 cable just lying around. Knew it would come in handy some day.

As an added bonus, I’m also switching my local phone service to AT&T through the cable. I’ve been waiting for this moment for nearly three years. Pac Bell earned my ire by charging me for DSL that I didn’t have and never asked for. It took half a year to straighten things out. Then they did it again for another six months. Not to mention all sorts of minor irritations, like losing phone service because of faulty street wiring. (I took a look for myself — the sheaths had mostly rotted away.) And the lying. Let’s not forget the lying. The customer service people are wonderfully polite… but the lying — that really hurt. If you can’t trust a faceless representative from a giant corporation, who can you trust? Pat told me he’s surprised I’ve let this fester so long. I understand the Talmud advises us not to hold a grudge for longer than 24 hours, but I think the rabbis were talking about people, not companies. Besides, revenge is a dish best served cold.

In Other News: Laura and I took a tour of SLAC yesterday. (You kind of have to be on the same wavelength to know that when you ask someone to go on a date with you to see a particle accelerator, they’ll say “yes.”) It was a lot of fun. The grad student tour guide was very enthusiastic in a geeky sort of way, and he did a great job explaining some tricky physical concepts. The labs were of course bigger than anything I remember from Santa Barbara or even Lawrence Berkeley, but just as cluttered and messy. That’s the one thing the movies get wrong. You never see concrete floors, rusting rebar, long-forgotten pallets, or twenty-year-old workstations still humming away. Still, SLAC did have a five-story shaft with a catwalk, which is kinda like the movies. All they need to do is replace our tour guide with Matt Damon, add some chrome, spotless white corridors, and blinky flashy lights, and they’d be all set.

No, I’m Not Dead

Well, it’s been a while since I made an entry. The reason for this is that I was… on vacation! Yes, I was down in Sunny Southern California for some much-needed and (I might as well be honest) company-enforced R&R. (This year I was prepared for the company’s 4th-of-July week shutdown, and I had wisely saved up enough vacation days. I’m slow, but I do learn.) I had planned to do some journal writing remotely using Eric’s computer, but Eric bought Warcraft III last week, so really who was I kidding? Not that I don’t hunger to just blog, blog, blog during my vacations just like all the other hardcore people out there. (“Hey look everybody! I’m blogging SXSW!!” Feh.)

The other reason it’s been a while is that my ISP has gone from bad to worse. But I’m not going to talk about that. The way I figure it, I could spend this entry ranting about my ISP, or I could talk about my wonderful vacation. Heck, experts predict* that at the current rate of expansion, rants about ISPs, web hosts, spam, and telephone service will constitute over 50% of Internet traffic by late 2005. So let’s not go there, okay?

Note: qualifications and even physical existence of “experts” subject to liberal interpretation.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  • Monday, July 1: Drove down to Santa Barbara. Crashed at Rachel and Ben’s. Went out to dinner in downtown Santa Barbara and had key lime pie that was not radioactive green. Played pool at Fig & Haley’s and was whipped soundly by both Ben and Rachel. Rachel didn’t even have to make fish faces to distract me like in the old days. Sad really.

    Take home lesson: I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Rachel and Ben start raising kids. “No, honey, you can’t play with those. Those are Mommy’s Warhammer 40K miniatures.”

  • Tuesday, July 2: Drove down to LA at a very leisurely pace. Stopped at Carpenteria beach to read Christina Hoff Sommers’s Who Stole Feminism? Tried to convince myself that Sommers is talking about only the most extreme elements of far-left academia, and mostly succeeded. Continued down to Culver City, visited sister Elana, brother-in-law Adiv, Adiv’s mother Judy, Adiv’s sister Julie, and Julie’s sons Toby and Evan. (Would they be my nephews-in-law? Probably not.) Toby, 3 1/2, is energetic. Evan, 1 1/2, is energetic and very drooly. Late in the evening, arrived in Venice Beach and met up with Eric and Susan.

    Take home lesson: Toby decided he needed to distinguish between me and his little brother, dubbing me “Big Giant Huge Evan.” From the mouths of babes…

  • Wednesday, July 3: Stayed home most of the day. Warcraft III was released today. Eric made a pretense of going to work, but called in “sick”, even going so far as to call Susan and me and tell us he wasn’t feeling well. Exchanged quizzical look with Susan… does he think he’s kidding us? Spent a couple of hours slaughtering evil ghouls and other undead nasties. Felt suitably righteous. In the evening, visited Jessica with Elana and Adiv. Retrieved my Thinking Physics and my Arfken & Weber Mathematical Methods for Physicists from her keeping, where they had resided for the last two years. Discovered that Jessica’s boyfriend Ashley is only 26. Wondered why he looks five years older than me, and then remembered: he’s a Ph.D physicist.

    Take home lesson: The secret to eternal youth — bail from grad school, the earlier the better.

  • Thursday, July 4: All-day barbeque at Eric’s, from 10am to 11pm. Ate all sorts of meats, including real East LA carne asada. Spent a fair amount of time talking to a Swedish au pair who expressed her desire for a green card and mentioned that she really needed to find a nice, rich American man and marry him soon. Wasn’t sure if she was kidding about that last part. Decided to retreat to the safety of the living room to play Boggle. Saw Elana and Adiv, plus Byron and Karen… who are engaged! And flying off to Norway for a year to sail Viking ships. Yes, really. Party was at certain points crawling with gorgeous women, nearly all of whom were friends of one of the guests, a fairly good-looking friendly guy named Jose. (Their refrain: “Where’s Jose?” “Have you guys seen Jose?” “Why yes, I am a friend of Jose’s, how did you know?”) Also saw fireworks on the beach, but these were partially overshone by the ten-year-old boys next to us, who decided to dig a large pit and ignite all their fireworks in it at once.

    Take home lesson: There are a lot of very attractive women in LA. Not to mention Santa Barbara. I’m just sayin’.

  • Friday, July 5: Recovered from party. Read in paper that the FBI is unsure about the motives of the LAX gunman. Blinked rapidly in surprise. Briefly discussed the idea of going to law school with young lawyers Eric and Susan. Decided that this idea was pretty half-baked and that Eric and Susan are bad influences on me. Not that this disqualifies the whole thing out-of-hand. Took old college mentor, role model, and personal hero Peter Saeta out to dinner. Saeta & family had just returned from a year’s sabbatical in Paris the day before. Despite his fatigue, oldest son Brennan (11) gamely stayed up late to ask me Macintosh questions. Peter then showed me the Statistical Mechanics textbook he’s writing. He started it in March, and the first draft is almost done. And it’s pretty darn good, from the excerpt I read.

    Take home lesson: Writing a book in a workman-like manner without all the angst and fretting and writer’s block and writer’s groups and blah blah blah seems… I dunno, wrong somehow.

  • Saturday, July 6: Read paper. FBI still confused about motives of LAX gunman. Had brunch with Elana and Adiv. Adiv borrowed Thinking Physics — guess I’ll never get that book back home. Adiv strangely uninterested in Arfken & Weber, though. Headed up to Glendale with Eric and Susan to have dinner with Jason and Megan, who I hadn’t seen for about nine years. Jason tracked me down last month through the Internet. (Yay Internet!) They are married and very happy in their new house. Managed to catch them up on nine years of my life in five minutes or so. Figured that must be some sort of record.

    Take home lesson: Carignane is usually used to blend other red wines… but the pure stuff from Ridge Winery is definitely a winner.

  • Sunday, July 7:Left early. FBI still confused about motives of LAX gunman. Had a nice brunch with Jeff and Renee in Ventura. Made another leisurely drive up the coast to meet Ryan. Relaxed in some natural hot springs, then went to Taco Roco for some excellent cheap Mexican food. Bid Ryan adieu and continued north. Discovered FM 107.3, which plays “Real Rock”, not to be confused with “New Rock”, “Alternative Rock”, “Modern Rock”, or any other such namby-pamby predecessors. Despite a few unfortunate glitches in the lineup, generally found it to be superior to every rock station in the Bay Area. For example, every night at 8pm they have something called, “Mandatory Metallica”. Now this is an idea whose time has come. Unfortunately 107.3 pizzled out near King City. The next best thing in this NPR-forsaken swath of the state was a station playing Jody Watley. Rest of drive home very depressing.

    Take home lesson: You can never have too much Metallica when driving, or too little Creed under any circumstances.