Wednesday, March 30, 2005

R.I.P. Johnny

The great Johnny Cochran, well known in American pop crime culture for defending O.J. Simpson, died yesterday.

I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, "Good riddance."

But I want to just say this: the man was hired to do a job, and he did it well. He did it better than everybody else. Normally, Americans get jazzed about that kind of individual, one who does their job so well and so audaciously that the world stands up and takes notice.

Our legal system is set up so that even if you're guilty (and this is not implying O.J. was.. I wasn't there and I wasn't at the trial either), you are entitled to the best defense your money can buy. And Johnny was worth every penny.

So before we play taps for another lawyer laid to rest, just remember: If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Magic of NYC

My magical day in New York city actually began at 4 AM, when I was still awake and shaking with something that may or may not be the flu. For the twentieth time I glanced at the clock, knowing that in three hours I had to get on a train to head into the city for work.

I pondered calling out sick... after all, I was sweating and shaking uncontrollably, my throat was on fire, and I was coughing like it was going out of style... but I thought to myself, "Man up you wimp, and get your sorry ass into work. People are expecting you in New York today and you have to be there."

So I get up, grab a shower, and try to keep my balance as I go through my morning routine dizzy from lack of sleep and rampaging germs. In an effort to sustain myself throughout the day, I figure going to pick up some DayQuil might be a good idea... but the ten minutes it takes to do that makes me five minutes late for my train, and I'm forced to wait in the Wilmington train station for an hour for the next ride.

No worries, I think to myself. My meetings are in the afternoon anyway.

When I arrive in NYC, it is absolutely pouring down rain. This would only make sense because I forgot to bring an umbrella.

After a quick cab ride I'm at work, where I am promptly informed that one of the guys I dragged my disease-ridden carcass in there to see is not in today... he's called out sick.

In an attempt to put a positive spin on things, I say to myself, "Oh well, now you can go home earlier." So I do... and it is raining even harder than before. I COULD walk to the subway... it's not far... but I'd like to avoid getting wet and making myself even sicker, so I step up to hail a cab... and promptly get utterly soaked by a passing car striking a puddle.

Of course, at that point I simply took the subway. It wasn't like I could possibly get any wetter.

At least no one wanted to sit next to my shivering, hacking, dripping person when I finally got on the train home.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

March Madness

I spent Friday night glued to the television set, watching Villanova play a game I didn't think they were capable of playing against heavily favored North Carolina. In the end, a horrific traveling call snatched any chance of a Villanova win out from under them, but I had to take a step back for a moment and remember that before tipoff I predicted that Nova would be down 20 by halftime. The fact that they were in the game at all, without their best player, was nothing short of remarkable.

Of course, all anybody wants to talk about now is the traveling call, and that's too bad. It's also too bad that the Villanova students present at the game decided to hurl objects onto the court after the final horn sounded. Maybe one day the student body at my alma mater will realize that this just looks like a bunch of suburban white kids throwing a temper tantrum and will show a little class in the future... but hey, that wasn't exactly the student body's modus operandi when I was there, so I'm not going to get my hopes up.

On the bright side, a tough loss like that means that the juniors on the team who may have been toying with the idea of going to the NBA will be much more likely to come back for their senior year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Matrix Online

It's weird that I'm posting something about the release of "The Matrix Online" for a couple of reasons:

1) I'm not really that big of a fan of the Matrix movies, particularly the ill advised sequels
2) I've never played any MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games for the uninitiated) because I have yet to see one that I'd personally be willing to pay a monthly fee to play

But the way the developers of the Matrix Online ended the beta test is just too cool not to catch your attention.. characters from the movies showed up in the game and made impassioned speeches to the players, saying that there was about to be a reboot, Agents showed up and hunted down certain players, the world's sky turned a weird red with all these eyeballs in it... and then a "fire virus" spread through the player base, immolating many of them. The whole thing ended with the "reboot", in which all of the surviving players imploded.

I mean, if that's the kind of cool stuff going on in the beta, the actual game has got to be pretty sweet, right? Screenshots and a video of a player getting crushed like a beer can here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Untold Stories

I actually did some writing tonight for the first time in probably 9 months or so.

There was a time when I was convinced I was going to write for a living. That was before I found out just how ridiculously hard it is to discipline yourself to do it.. even at my most prolific late in college, I STILL couldn't get myself to sit still and just write EVERY DAY the way you need to if you really want to call yourself a writer. People claim that they're going to "get serious about their writing" the same way they claim that they're going to start going to the gym on a regular basis.. they think they mean it, but very few are ever going to make or take the time for it.

It's why, even though I may not like authors like John Grisham or Tom Clancy, I still have immense respect for anyone who has the discipline to sit down and write a book from beginning to end. Anyone who thinks writing isn't hard work should try to make a living off of it for a year; I guarantee that would change their attitude pretty quickly.

Helpful Remarks in the Workplace

Let me preface this by saying that I like my job. I really do. I don't mind the fact that occasionally I have to deal with office politics, managerial doublespeak, and the tech holy wars of Microsoft vs. The World on a daily basis. But this past week I've heard a couple of conversations that are just so dumb that I have to share them.

Conversation #1: Status Update
Moderator: "I see that this project's status has been changed from 'In Progress' to 'Deferred'. What's the reason for this change?"
Helpful Person: "We're moving it to a later date."
Moderator: "Excellent."

Next time I mark a project as "Cancelled", I'll make sure to report the reason as "No longer doing it."

Conversation #2: Requesting Access
Guy Who Needs Login: "I need access to this database so I can troubleshoot something."
Helpful Person: "Other people have confirmed that they have access to that database, so we know IT'S not the problem."

This is like saying:
"I need a dollar for a soda."
"Other people have soda, so we know that soda isn't the problem."

Weekend in Review

It was another busy weekend that started off with the dreaded Manayunk Sport and Social football game early Saturday afternoon. It actually turned out to be an unbelievably good time, which made me feel pretty silly for being so worried about it. We lost 14-6, but everybody on the team is really cool and we all got together after the game to consume our free beer... and then consume a couple more. Granted, I'm so sore this morning from running around on Saturday that I can barely walk, but it was fun and now I'm actually looking forward to playing again.

Saturday night the girlfriend and I also went to the Sixers game, which wasn't nearly as fun. I'm not a real big fan of the NBA. I respect the fact that the players really are just THAT good on offense, so sometimes it only LOOKS like people aren't playing defense.. but that being the case, the pace of the game just really isn't the type of basketball I like to watch. I like college basketball a lot better. Oh yeah, and the Sixers lost (despite Allen Iverson dropping 30 with a broken thumb), putting them 2 games out of a playoff spot right now.

Sunday at noon was the Soul game. FINALLY they won, getting off of their 4 game losing streak. This game was also historic because it was the first time in a Soul uniform that Tony Graziani played an entire game without turning the ball over. Huzzah! They play a pair of teams they can beat the next two weeks, so I'm hopeful they can get back to .500.

Finally, since the Villanova game started at 2:15 and I was still at the Soul game, I went to a friend's house afterwards who had Tivo. It was fun because it really was like watching the game live since none of us knew the final score. Not a bad showing at all from the old school... now they face the nigh impossible task of beating North Carolina next Friday, but I think Bucknell proved last weekend that anything can happen.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Steroid Hearings: Best Reality TV Ever

Maybe it's because I love baseball so much, but the Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball were some of the most riveting television I have ever seen.

Some random thoughts on what happened during the course of the day:

1) Rafael Palmeiro is a guy I would never accuse of doing steroids. That doesn't mean I believe or don't believe he ever did, but did you see the look of intensity he gave that committee when he pointed his finger at them and said he never juiced? He looked like he was going to tear off someone's head of they told him otherwise, and I like mine attached to my neck.

2) You now have to officially suspect Mark McGwire. No more letting him off the hook just because he's retired. No more letting him off the hook just because we like him better than Barry Bonds. After essentially pleading the fifth (not to mention coming close to tears), it would no longer be fair NOT to talk about McGwire whenever you talk badly about Bonds. I don't think it's fair to talk about either one of them right now when we really don't know anything for sure, but I DO know it isn't fair to pile speculation on Bonds while giving McGwire a pass.

3) Despite the fact that the committee really let him have it, Bud Selig actually came off pretty well to me. He looked befuddled and tired up there, but that's certainly understandable. You have to remember that baseball wouldn't have a policy AT ALL if not for Selig... even if it is a joke.

4) Manfred and Fehr, the two people MOST involved in drafting the steroids policy, came away from this looking worse than anyone, but for very different reasons. Manfred looked bad because: a) he looked incompetent due to the fact that baseball announced in January that it had a policy and they still had only submitted a working draft to the committee (which included errors), and b) he lost his cool (over and over again). But I think Fehr was the least sympathetic of the entire bunch because he couldn't answer a SINGLE QUESTION directly... which should come as no surprise since the players association's union leaders are, in my opinion, more to blame for this disaster than anyone else.

5) Finally, Representative Waxman looks like some kind of rodent with glasses. And this guy lives in California? Don't you think it's ironic that he's sitting on a committee for investigating steroids when his own governor juiced?

I figured this whole thing would be a waste of time (and it probably still is), but somebody did make an excellent point I hadn't considered before: does it make any sense that baseball has a zero tolerance policy against gambling (something that is legal in certain places in America) while having a "5 strikes and maybe you're out" policy against an illegal substance, the distribution of which is a federal offense?

Mike Greenwell

A lot of you are probably looking at the subject line and thinking: "Who?"

Mike Greenwell was the man who finished second in the American League MVP voting in 1988... behind Jose Canseco.

Greenwell had a dream year with the Red Sox, but he hit far fewer home runs than Canseco (22 to Jose's 42).. not to mention the fact that he didn't use steroids.

Incidentally, there are two other admitted steroid users who have won the MVP award: Ken Caminiti in 1996, and Jason Giambi in 2000.. but you've probably heard of the guys that finished behind them: Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas, respectively.

Greenwell is now in real estate (you can read all about his story here), but still feels that not using steroids may have cost him millions of dollars.

And today Big Mac, the man who many believe saved baseball with his run at Maris' record, took the fifth when asked directly if he used steroids while doing everything he could not to cry.

But hey, baseball may be in bad shape... but at least it's still not hockey.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Sporting Nerd

In case you can't tell, I like sports.

However, I've never been particularly good at them. I played a little baseball in high school, but that was something that sort of happened by accident: a friend gave me his glove to fill in for him as I wandered by fly ball practice (I'm not sure what he was doing exactly), and when the coach huddled up the team I was left with no choice but to run in with everyone else. Naturally the coach looked at me and said, "Who the heck are you?" Next thing I knew I was on the team, which carried with it the obvious advantage of getting out of class early for road games, along with a letter in baseball that drove the chicks wild. Or at least it would have if I knew any.

Anyway, I haven't played an organized sport in about a decade. My girlfriend talked me into joining this co-ed recreational football league (Manayunk Sport and Social) with a random conglomerate of people that she knows (our team name is "One Hot Mess").

Since I got talked into it, all the old anxieties that come along with being a physically inept dork that I thought I had gotten over years ago have come back to bite me in the arse again. I mean seriously... I'm 26 years old. I'm supposed to be comfortable with myself. How is it, then, that I'm so nervous about making an idiot of myself on the football field this Saturday and many Saturdays after that?

Let's face it: a career in computer programming is not exactly very good preparation for a season of football. I've been running every couple of days for the last month and a half since I got talked into this in a desperate attempt to prepare myself (which in and of itself is a comical sight... I sort of look like Little Mac from Mike Tyson's Punch Out running around with my warmup pants and my hoodie), but a few weeks of running isn't going to repair the damage done by years of Dungeons and Dragons, video games, and coding.

Don't get me wrong. It's not like I'm a fat slob or anything (yet), but I'm not exactly going to look like T.O. out there either.

Some of you might be thinking: "Come on, Yeager... what's the worst that can happen?"

If this is what you're thinking, than you were obviously never a nerd. I'll tell you what the worst that can happen is: all the girls on the team are going to laugh at me, my girlfriend is going to run off with the hot jock, and I'll have nothing but the warm glow of the computer screen and this blog to comfort me (sob).

Monday, March 14, 2005

Tony Graziani Interception Tracker

In a grim parody of the Tony Graziani "Touchdown Tracker" on the Philadelphia Soul homepage, one enterprising Philly fan has proven, once again, that there are some people in this city who can still take a good joke. Soul fans need a chuckle after the 52-26 drubbing on Friday night in San Jose. The best thing to be said for last weekend's game is that virtually no one saw it.

Go Nova

All season I've been surprised by how good Villanova (my old college) has been, and last night they landed a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, they're in what looks to be the toughest bracket of the tournament.

Here's hoping they do well. I may not have liked going to school there much, but every game they win makes my degree more valuable.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Those Wacky Sith Lords

In a soon to be aired 60 Minutes interview, George Lucas says that Star Wars III, Revenge of the Sith, is not for kids. In fact, he anticipates a PG-13 rating for this film, the last in what has been an underwhelming set of Star Wars prequels.

Hopefully, by eliminating the "kid-friendliness", Lucas will also eliminate the copious amount of "suck" that has been prevalent in these prequels. However, since Lucas is still the director on this one, I'm not particularly hopeful...

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Good Cause

My friend made me aware of this sadistically brilliant website in which you can save this adorable rabbit from consumption:

There are places in this world where PEOPLE are ransomed for less than this.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A New Compy?

I'm buying a co-worker's old computer on the cheap next week. It's a P4, 1.7 Ghz with a 40G hard drive and a pretty nice video card in it.. there are obviously much faster computers around nowadays, but this thing will still be twice as fast as my current home PC.. plus I'll finally have a computer at home with disk space on par with my iPod (syncing at home is currently not even an option).

But I'm really jazzed about this because with 2 PCs, I'll finally have a "sandbox" computer I can mess with. If anybody knows of good Linux builds for first-timers, let me know.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

'Roids Redux

"If I can't go out there and somebody pays $60 for a ticket, and I'm not in the lineup, who's getting cheated? Not me. There are far worse things like cocaine, heroin and those types of things."

One of many quotables from the latest Barry Bonds interview a few days ago. Is it just me, or does this sound an awful lot like the Pete Rose gambling defense? You know, the one that goes something like "serial killers are worse than I am so I should be off the hook"...

Philly Soul - Week 6

I really like the sport of Arena Football. There are a lot of blatantly obvious things about it that differ from the NFL, but the more I watch it the more I get a feel for the nuances that truly make the AFL its own sport... for one thing, the scoring pace makes it much more akin to basketball in terms of clock management, turnover management, etc.

Because I like the AFL, I really want to see the Philadelphia Soul do well. But it's going to be very difficult to keep people interested if they keep losing games to teams from rival cities like Dallas and New York.

Last week, after going up 14-0 in the first quarter, the New York Dragons did EVERYTHING they could to give the game away to Philly.. but every time they'd make a mistake, the Soul would make one even worse. The entire game for me could be summarized by one series late in the game: the Soul had the chance to take the lead for the first time after a huge defensive stop. Graziani throws a pass to a wide open Marcus Knight in the end zone... who drops it. Graziani promptly fumbles the snap on the next play.

Incidentally, Graziani hasn't played a full game yet in a Soul uniform without committing a turnover (although he didn't throw an interception for the first time this season).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Crack Horse

On Saturday night I got together with some friends at the ol' Dave & Buster's. Typically, the girlfriend and I play the "Jurassic Park" shooter game and then we sort of wander around and play random stuff until we get tired and go home.

This time, though, on a whim I decided to try the Sega "Derby Owner's Club", which is this huge horse racing simulation game where you raise a horse, train it, and race it. It's been around for a while, but it looked so big and intimidating (and dumb) that I never tried it.

So I sit down and put my money in, pick a stallion and a mare, and next thing I know I've got my horse, which I named "I Eat Children". Then you pick one method of training out of a list of 8, feed your horse a food out of a list of varying size, and then race the horse against computer opponents and the other people sitting around you.

I didn't get up for a loooong time. The worst part was, everybody I came with joined me. Before I knew it, our social outing had turned into a pixelated horse racing contest. "I Eat Children", incidentally, managed to win one of the 8 races.. very exciting stuff. You even get a card with your horse's information on it so that you can reload it when you come back. The potential for future money wasted is staggering.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sir Bill?

"Sir" Bill Gates? Not quite, but as close as an American can come. Microsoft Bill was given an honorary knighthood by the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace yesterday. You can't call him "Sir" because he's not British... instead he is "Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire".

Seems only appropriate that the man behind the most bloated operated system in creation now also has an unnecessarily long title to go with it.

Apparently you can shorten that mess to "Bill Gates KBE"... kind of like how you can shorten the other mess to simply "Windows XP".

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Strange Days

I finally got the last of my CDs loaded onto my iPod a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've basically hit "Shuffle Songs" the vast majority of the time I listen to it.

With somewhere in the realm of 1600 songs currently on there, I hear something I haven't heard in awhile every day. Some songs I haven't heard in YEARS since I haven't played the CD in so long, and they make me wonder what kind of wacky place my head was in when I was a teenager. I mean, I listen to wide array of music; anything from the harsher tones of Tool and Isis to the more mellow sounds of Sigur Ros and Guided By Voices (pre-Rick Okasic) is cool with me, but some of the stuff I used to listen to on a regular basis when I was 16 sounds really distressing to me now.

As an example, I can remember my two absolute favorite bands when I was a teenager were Therapy? (the question mark is not a typo) and Ministry. Therapy? was/is this hard Irish band that sang a lot of songs about breaking things and hurting people, while Ministry was just loud and difficult to understand and had charming album titles like "The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste" and "The Land of Rape and Honey".

Could I really have been that angry back then? And if so, what the heck was I angry about?

Please understand that I'm not trying to imply that people who listen to this stuff are by necessity angry... I'm just saying that *I* was.

I wonder if people who remember childhood as an idyllic time were ever actually children...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Philadelphia Soul Head Coach Fired

I've been forgetting to mention this, but Philadelphia Soul head coach Mike Trigg got fired on Monday, a day after the Sunday debacle against Dallas that I blogged about earlier.

This concerns me for a couple of reasons:

1) This feels like a knee-jerk reaction. I know the fans were booing loud and long on Sunday, and I know that the Soul are now 2-3 after their "big" signing of Tony Graziani (big by Arena Football standards.. Graziani is the highest paid player in the AFL at $250k a year), but I think expectations were a little unreasonable for this team. They have serious problems in the middle... and when your linemen play both ways and are ineffective blockers AND pass rushers, you're giong to be in trouble.

2) Stepping up to take Trigg's job is James Fuller, the defensive coordinator. Anybody else see a problem with this? Let me help. One of the Soul's strengths last year was defense... but that has not carried over to this year. The Soul gave up 72 points last week and allowed a score EVERY TIME Dallas had the ball. And now you're promoting the guy in charge of that very defense? Odd.

3) Perhaps most importantly, Mike Trigg looked kind of like a slimmer version of Andy Reid. James Fuller (a former Eagle linebacker) looks like he still works out.

My Pet Pink Dragon

A coworker suggested a really terrific BBC podcast to me a while back called "In Our Time" (feed available here; the show also plays on NPR). It's a show that covers a lot of philosophically oriented topics, and this week's show was about alchemy.

One guy that was really into alchemy in his day was Newton, which I thought was interesting since when you think of Newton, you tend to associate him with the laws of motion and gravity and therefore some notion of rationality as well. But Newton was always a man who was concerned with the absence of spirituality in physics... a lot like Albert Einstein would be long after him.

This had me thinking about the old problem of science vs. religion.. both look for laws, but in different ways. The whole problem with religion, of course, is that the theories and laws are not testable, and therefore don't have a whole lot of logical value. To borrow an example from Carl Sagan, I could claim that there is an invisible, incorporeal pink dragon that lives in my apartment and demand that you feed it. Absurd? Prove me wrong. The fact that the notion is untestable makes it useless... whether it is "true" or not ceases to have any meaning.

There is a tendency among atheists (among whom I count myself) to become that which they despise because there is an elitist attitude that comes with the territory of being an intellectual minority: many become convinced on a fundamental level that there is no God, and that those who do believe in God are, by definition, rationally handicapped in some way.

I would argue that a fundamental disbelief in God is no better or worse than a fundamental faith in God. Newton and Einstein alone provide pretty compelling evidence that a belief in God's existence need not preclude you from possessing a rational mind. It can, however, occasionally interfere (as it did with Einstein and his erroneous opposition to quantum mechanics based in large part on the idea that God would never be so random or disorganized).

In the end, I don't find the notion of God's existence to be testable, just like my pet pink dragon. To me, the universe simply makes a lot more sense without Him/Her/It, and hence my identification as an "atheist". But to the vast majority the opposite is true, which is okay by me. Just don't cut my head off over it, and we'll get along fine.

World's Greatest Rat Killing Sim to Feature Real Pizza

Everquest II (aka Evercrack), one of the world's most popular "MMORPGs" (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), now features the "/pizza" command.

That's right. In an effort to eliminate as much actual face-to-face human contact as possible, typing the "/pizza" command within the game will pull up a web browser that takes you to the online ordering page for

Now if they can just find a way to eliminate the part where you actually have to talk to the pesky human delivery guy, we'd be all set... perhaps a USB enabled IV connected directly to your veins which triggers the release of foodstuffs when you click a button on your desktop?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Elvis vs. The Mummy

What if I told you I just finished watching a movie that featured Elvis and a black guy that thinks he's JFK teaming up to do battle with a mummy in an old folks home... and that it was actually GOOD?

Well, that's what I'm telling you. I had heard of this movie, "Bubba Ho-Tep" through word of mouth, and it's the best Bruce Campbell movie since "Army of Darkness"... in some ways, actually BETTER. Hilarious, and at times surprisingly moving, this movie is as entertaining as it sounds. Do yourself a favor and take your sense of humor out for a date with this one.