October 2005 Archives

my trip to nascar


I went home to the Far East for a weekend back in June. My aunt's retirement party was Saturday night, and my cousin’s daughter was being baptized on Sunday. However, our plans changed on Saturday night when my dad learned that we could get free tickets to the next day's NASCAR event at Sears Point. Dad isn't particularly a NASCAR fan, but he has gone to a few motorcycle races in the past few years. I don't think I've even seen a NASCAR race on television before. Nevertheless, we were both curious enough about the world of NASCAR to accept the free tickets, plus baptisms are pretty boring.


There was an immediate wardrobe problem before we even got going. I had packed my clothes thinking I would be visiting a church the next day, not an enormous racetrack in Sonoma. Clearly, my yellow button-down shirt and khaki pants was unacceptable, so Dad offered to lend me some clothes. He had a pair of shorts, but told me he didn't have any NASCAR-specific attire, "like a Hooters t-shirt."

I laughed, but then realized, thanks to a gift from sister-abroad Molly, I actually did have a Hooters t-shirt, direct from Santiago, Chile. Wearing a shirt advertising the Hooters in Santiago, Chile, sends a certain message: I enjoy international travel, and tits. I added a mesh hat commemorating the 49ers triumph in Super Bowl XXIX, and we were ready to go.

The Journey

We left the house at 7 AM for the race, which didn't begin until 12:30. Our first stop was at Safeway, to buy donuts and sandwiches. The clerk asked where we were going, and when we told her Sears Point, she shook her head, knowing the traffic we were sure to be facing. "I saw some other people headed out there, loading up on beer, but that was over an hour ago," she said. Yes, even a completely disinterested party - one who appeared to actively dislike NASCAR, in fact - knew we were leaving too late.

Our own high-powered vehicle was an early-90's Acura Integra, formerly Molly's college car. Having observed both my dad and Molly behind the wheel of that car, I can identify the main difference in their driving styles: Molly refuses to put the car in first gear, while Dad refuses to leave it.

Dad and I decided to root for Jimmie Johnson, no relation to the former football coach, since we got our tickets from one of his sponsors. His teammate Jeff Gordon figured to be the crowd favorite, since he is a local guy and wins at Sears Point fairly often. We would soon learn not to underestimate the incredible popularity of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I asked my dad to refer to me as "Little K" for the remainder of the day, but he refused.

Once we merged onto 121, the expected traffic jam appeared. As we slowed the Acura to a crawl, a motorcyclist with "John 3:16" on the back of his helmet passed us on the shoulder. KFOG was the only radio station coming in, and so every driver that left his or her Tobey Keith CDs at home was listening to the same station. This was especially entertaining because KFOG was doing their "KGAY" format, in honor of Gay Pride Weekend. Upbeat 80's dance music provided the soundtrack as our cars crept toward the racetrack.

Would Gay Pride be factor in the race? Would Jeff Gordon, driving the rainbow car, have an advantage? Something told me they weren't going to mention Pride at the event.

Announcer: We'd like to take a moment, before I introduce the race's Grand Marshal, Larry the Cable Guy, to acknowledge the struggles of our homosexual brothers and sisters. We stand with --
Crowd: BOOOO!
Announcer: -- against prejudice, and unfair --
Larry: Git 'er done!
Crowd: YAAAY!

Just as we got within sight of the racetrack, the engine began to overheat, and we were forced to make a pit stop at the side of the road. To Dad's credit, Molly would have just kept driving. One popular feature of a NASCAR race is that fans can use their radios to listen in on conversations between each driver and his pit crew. If Dad and I had radios, fans could have overheard this kind of scintillating strategy talk:

Dad: Looks like there's still coolant.
Me: Yep.
Dad: You have no idea how an engine works, do you Sean?
Me: No, I do not.
Dad: Is there a rag to wipe off this grease?
Me: Molly has an old shirt in the backseat.
Dad: Give it to me.

That conversation would have been followed by five minutes of spitting and wiping sounds. Sorry, Molly.

Upon our restart, we ended up behind a car sporting an Earnhardt, Jr. license plate holder. The Acura wasn't doing a lot better, but Dad had developed a strategy of turning off the car while we were stopped, and relying on frequent restarts. This strategy kept the engine from getting into the red zone, much like how the 49ers' strategy of handing off to Kevan Barlow twenty times a game keeps their offense from getting into the red zone.

The Event

The Acura reached the parking lot unscathed. We got out fast, just in case the car exploded. Already there was a marked increase in: Winnebagos, country music, goatees, pickup trucks, and Port-o-Lets. Not as well-represented: Anti-war bumper stickers, teeth. On the long walk to the gates, the people behind us talked about peeing for a solid ten minutes. Dad wondered if he should have just peed on the radiator to cool it off. "Not one of these people would have judged you for it," I replied.

Dad and I both brought books, thinking we'd have a lot of pre-race downtime, but we kept them in our backpacks, so as not to alarm other spectators with signs of dangerous book-learnin'.

At a NASCAR event, it is difficult not to adopt fan mannerisms. Fifty yards into the gates, I was already tugging my cap in greeting to other Jimmie Johnson fans. Fifty yards further, I was taking my cap off and smoothing my hair back, along with the cap tug. Two hundred yards in, I had signed up to participate in a reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas.

The Race

Exceeding my wildest expectations, Larry the Cable Guy opened the race by saying, "Gentleman, git 'er done and start your engines!"

It didn't take long before I was hopelessly lost, trying to follow the race. I don't know the rules of how and when you can take a pit stop, or when you're allowed to pass, or what happens when there's a caution flag, so as far as I could tell, everyone was just driving in formation. To compound my confusion, Jeff Gordon made a late pit stop on the fifteenth lap, and the announcer referred to him as the "lucky dog". Even now, I don't exactly know what that term means, but it didn't stop me from referring to random drivers as "lucky" and "unlucky" dogs for the remainder of the afternoon.

My shirt was a big hit with other spectators. A Sears Point employee even stopped me to ask about it.

Female employee: Hooters, Santiago, Chile. I've always wanted to go there. I hear it's nice.
Me: My sister is in Santiago right now. She really likes it.
Female employee: No, I meant Hooters.

Jimmie Johnson disappeared into the pits quite early in the race. We sat in his sponsor section, stocked with food and Bloody Marys on demand, with a group of fans that were quickly slowly turning their interest to the promotional t-shirts and hats. One fan informed me that JJ was suffering from "tranny issues", which are nothing like Dave Stewart's, or even Eddie Murphy's tranny issues. Johnson was out of the race within about fifteen laps, taking more pit stops than a chalupa chef with IBS. Dad and I decided to root for Jeff Gordon, as a representative of Johnson's race team and also the Union.

The remainder of the race was unexciting, as a large number of crashes caused the last half of the race to run almost entirely under caution flags. This served as a preview of what our drive home would be like. Jeff Gordon was not a factor, and NASCAR bad boy Tony Stewart ended up winning.

Homeward Bound

We left early to beat the traffic. Unfortunately, we didn't leave early enough, as we had misjudged the length of the race. This confusion came from the track's distance being measured in kilometers, and our own shoddy mathematical reasoning. It was during a discussion about metric conversions that I realized how foolish I'd been to think that books would mark us as nerds, rather than our personalities.

The Acura's heater ran constantly, to pre-empt overheating, which made the drive literally hellish, especially since many parts of Vallejo smell like burning hair. It was a sleepy, half-drunken kind of scene, since every car on the road was coming from an afternoon of wine-tasting, or eight hours of drinking Coors Light in the sun. We may have been the two most sober men on the road.

Me: Do you think the NASCAR event helps the wineries?
Dad: I'm not sure if this is a wine-tasting crowd, Sean.
Me: Does Franzia have a vineyard around here?

In the end, NASCAR wasn't the best spectator sport, but it did let me spend a nice day with my dad. Really, our day embodied a lot of what NASCAR is all about: Family. Car trouble. Inadequate education. Distrust and fear of people that are different from you. And Larry the Cable Guy. Get 'er done, Sears Point!

*(11/2)Edited to correct the spelling of LTCG's signature phrase.

this guy i know

During the middle of the ninth inning of Sunday’s Game 2 of the World Series, I got a phone call from former roommate Mike B. "I was watching the game, and when This Guy I Know got that hit, I thought of your sister, Molly", he said.

I did too. "This Guy I Know" is professional hitter Jose Vizcaino, who had a pinch-hit, game-tying single in the top of the ninth for the Astros. He played shortstop for the Giants in 1997, the heyday of Molly's nicknaming era. Baseball history is full of nicknames based on a player's style of play, hometown, or personal appearance. There’s the "Sultan of Swat", Babe Ruth. Hank Aaron was "Hammerin' Hank". Mickey Mantle came from Commerce, Oklahoma, so he was the "Commerce Comet". Big-nosed Ernie Lombardi was "Schnozz".

Molly's nicknames followed no such logical patterns. Rather, she invented nicknames based on immediate word association. A name could remind her of a movie or a phrase, but usually she just seized on some other similar word. J.T. Snow was "Snowy River". Shawn Estes was "Estates". Often, the nicknames were literary or musical. Outfielder Stan Javier was "Javert". Charlie Hayes was "Purple Haze". Molly also demonstrated her mastery of the Spanish language by dubbing Wilson Delgado, "Skinny", and Pedro Feliz, "Happy Peter".

These are different from "Bermanisms”, the nicknames created by ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman. Berman's names were puns on athletes' names, generally trying to be funny pop culture references. My sister wasn't really trying to be funny, except maybe with "Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout" Ellis Burks.

Sometimes, Molly’s nicknames sounded very well thought-out and accurate, however unintentional. Brent Mayne was "Lion", and he did have a big, fluffy, mane-like hairstyle. One might think of Marvin "Barnyard" Benard's filthy batting helmet, or how his uniform often got dirty when he'd dive for a routine fly ball he had misjudged. I have a feeling Molly didn't consider those things. "Barnyard" was just the most similar noun to Benard she could think of.

My favorite nicknames were the really inexplicable ones. Barry Bonds was called "Baby Huckles", which was a combination of his two earlier nicknames, "Baby Bonds" (because he's a whiner) and "Huckle Barry" (because of, um, huckleberries). Molly called Robb Nen "Chicken", which she explained as such: "Nen-Hen. Hen-Chicken. Get it?" Even though his last name is pronounced the same as "Miller", Bill Mueller still got the Ben-Stein-in-economics-class treatment, known in our house as "Muuuueller? Muuuueller? Anyone?" And in 1998, when Jeff Kent's hair was dyed the exact same color that Jennifer Lopez promoted in a L'Oreal commercial, Molly decided he would forever be known as "Feria".

All of this is just background for Mr. Vizcaino. If you say it just right, "Viz-KAI-ee-no" does sound a lot like "This Guy I Know". In Game Three, Vizcaino drew a clutch pinch-walk in the 13th inning, and I tried to explain his nickname to my roommate.

"Wait, isn't Vizcaino on the White Sox?", she queried.

I hadn’t realized the implications of this, but the White Sox do have a pitcher named Luis Vizcaino. Since my sister is in Chile and presumably unable to watch these telecasts and give nicknames, I have taken it upon myself to dub the Chicago pitcher, "This Other Guy I Know". I think she'd approve.

The Wedding Guest

PRIEST: If anyone here knows why these two people should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.

(Silence. DOUG EDDINGS remains seated.)

PRIEST: I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.

(Bride and groom kiss. "Wedding March" plays. Bride and groom exit. Wedding guests pile into cars and drive to the wedding reception. DOUG EDDINGS sits alone in the church.)

DOUG EDDINGS: Wait! He doesn't love her!


DOUG EDDINGS: I'll take "Bad Umpiring" for $800, Alex.

ALEX TREBEK: The answer is: "In Game 5 of 1997's National League Championship Series, this home plate umpire's strike zone was nearly as large as his gut."

(DOUG EDDINGS buzzes in, clutching the buzzer and pumping his fist.)


DOUG EDDINGS: Alex, I didn't buzz in. That was my signal that I heard and understood the question. I've been signaling like that the whole game.

ALEX: Judges? (Three beeps)

The Garage

(DOUG EDDINGS is crouched behind his workbench, wearing safety goggles and a chest protector. The garage door opens and MRS. DOUG EDDINGS enters.)

MRS. DOUG EDDINGS: Honey, I'm home. (MRS. DOUG EDDINGS looks around at messy floor, strewn with chalk, dirt, and bags of resin.) I thought I asked you to sweep the garage this afternoon.

DOUG EDDINGS: I did sweep the garage.

MRS. DOUG EDDINGS: No, you didn't. Look at this mess. You never even touched the dirt.

DOUG EDDINGS: Yes I did touch the dirt! The mess has clearly changed direction!

MRS. DOUG EDDINGS: If you think that lame excuse is going to help you get to first base with me, think again, buster.


BILLY: Uno! You forgot to say it, Uncle Doug! Draw two!

DOUG EDDINGS: No! No! The rules clearly state that a player is allowed to non-verbally indicate he has only one card remaining! So, it's my turn, and I'm playing a Reverse, and I win!

BILLY: That's not fair! You're a cheater!

DOUG EDDINGS: Oh yeah, well, YOU'RE OUTTA HERE, Billy! (DOUG EDDINGS ejects Billy from the living room.)

Las Vegas Sports Book

DOUG EDDINGS: I'd like to wager $50,000 on the Chicago White Sox to win the World Series.

on correspondence with prisoners


A great majority of our clients here at the law office are incarcerated. So, the majority of the letters we receive come from prison. In my two years of reading prisoner mail, I have noticed a few recurring trends.

1) Improvisation: Envelopes and writing paper are often at a premium on the inside, so we will get correspondence on all different kinds of paper - paper torn from legal pads, scraps of other paper, or even the back of informational legal materials on Three Strikes, or Understanding Your Appeal. The creativity shown in finding writing materials pales in comparison to what we see in the elaborate folding of these letters. It's not origami, since convicted felons rarely attempt animal shapes, but it compares favorably to the note-folding I saw in high school.

2) Blessings from God: A surprising percentage of our letters don't ask for anything of us. Nearly all ask God to bless us. There are many missives that do nothing more than thank us for our help, or wish us well. It is a little bit heartbreaking to read a letter of that nature, and then look up the client's record to find that they're serving a life sentence, and that our efforts haven't reduced their time at all. Of course, their faith in God hasn't been shaken by the sentence, so their attorney has probably let them down less than He has.

3) Unintentional irony: Prisoners' letters are often filled with phrases that have been placed in quotation marks for no apparent reason. A message might read, "I am writing to request 'legal assistance' for my appeal. I have been 'unjustly' convicted due to the 'conspiracy' of the judge, the district attorney, and the public defenders office. If there is 'any way' you can help me, I would 'greatly appreciate' the 'assistance'."

These letters read like they've been run through The Sarcasterizer (unfortunately, now offline). It's as if these prisoners are incarcerated hipsters, too jaded and cool to get their sentences reversed, but going along with the appeals process just for the ironic value. They might be onto something. Roughly 80% all criminal cases that go to trial result in a conviction, a figure that jumps to almost 90% for indigent defendants, and only about 5% of criminal appeals are successful. California's criminal justice system: So bad, it's good.

blatant self-promotion

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Much as I do most evenings, I will be spending Friday, October 21st sharing personal anecdotes and amusing observations with an unamused audience. The difference is that this particular evening, I will be holding a microphone, and the audience members will neither be trying to watch a televised sporting event, nor be a cat.

That's right, the comedic stylings of Sean Keane are returning to 50 Mason in San Francisco for the funniest ten minutes you're going to see from Sean Keane this month, unless I have to explain my educational career to someone or fall down an extremely tall hill. I am part of a lineup of seven comedians, headlined by the very funny Nico Santos, taking place at 8 PM. The show costs $10, which is only $1.43 per comic, and there is no drink minimum. 50 Mason sells assorted non-alcoholic beverages, and I have heard from past audience members that there is an extrenely convenient liquor store nearby, not that I nor 50 Mason endorse the smuggling of alcohol.

So, check out the show. If you're lucky, or possibly extremely unlucky, I might even do choreography. The official promotional announcement is after the jump:



Gene and I are both active conversationalists, and we're also often struck by the same thing someone says. So, we often get into a situation where we both begin to talk at nearly the exact same time. Now, both of us try to react in as polite a manner as possible, but that doesn't exactly solve the problem. I will wait for him to talk, while he waits for me to talk, and then we'll both say, "Go ahead" at the same time, and then there's another pause, and it's just terrible.

So, Gene hit upon a solution to the problem. There is a protocol called CSMA/CD, which stands for Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection. CSMA/CD comes into play when devices try to use the same data channel at the same time. When such a collision occurs, they choose a random interval to wait (which uses the Truncated Binary Exponential Backoff Algorithm, before trying to connect again. Gene saw an analogue to our own conversational collisions, and decided that CSMA/CD could be a solution to our problems.

Whenever we began talking a the same time, instead of apologizing to each other for interrupting, we would simply say, "CSMA/CD", and each of us would then wait a few seconds to begin speaking again. If we re-interrupted each other, it was "CSMA/CD" again, and a longer wait. With CSMA/CD on our side, awkward conversational moments would be a thing of the past, and smooth conversational data transfer would be the order of the day. That is, until we first tried it.

Gene and I were both at a party. Probably Gene was probably explaining something, and I was telling a story about a precocious child with a speech impediment. Nurse V said something, and Gene and I both replied at the same time.

"You know..." said Gene.

"That reminds me of..." I said.

We paused, pointed at one another, and said, "CSMA/CD!" But before we could wait the designated random interval, another guest wondered what the hell we were doing. We answered simultaneously.

"Do you know how a computer network...>" began Gene.

"Well, CSMA/CD is an acronym for..." I started.

We paused.

"Go ahead," we both said. We paused again. "CSMA..." we began, and then faltered. Gene and I looked at one another, then turned and walked out of the room in opposite directions.

"Those guys are nerds", thought everybody.

jet blue

A Scene From a Parallel Reality Where the Celebrity Passengers From Jet Blue Flight 292 Switched Places With The Heroic Passengers of United Flight 93

Jet Blue Flight 292

TIMOTHY: I’m getting worried. We keep changing directions and circling. What’s going on?

MARK: Check out Channel 7.

TIMOTHY: You mean ESPN2?

MARK: No, ESPN2 is Channel 8. Channel 7 is CNN. They’re showing our plane. The landing gear is stuck in a sideways position.

TIMOTHY: That son of a bitch landing gear! Those goddamn wheels are in league with each other.

MARK: We’ve got to do something!

TIMOTHY: You’re right. OK, here’s the plan. On my signal, we’re all going to rush the landing gear.

MARK: If the landing gear won’t let us down, we’re gonna take it down! (punches palm of his hand)

TIMOTHY: Everybody ready? 3, 2, 1. Let’s ro---wait, are they passing out chips?

MARK: Yeah. Have you had their Terra chips before?


MARK: Oh, you’ll like them. They’re blue.

TIMOTHY: Really. OK, let’s have a snack first, then roll.

(Three minutes of silent chewing)

TIMOTHY: These really are delicious. And I can’t believe they have chocolate chip biscotti!

MARK: You know, if you order a soda, they bring you the whole can, too.

United Flight 93

TUCKER WATKINS, “ONE LIFE TO LIVE”: I’m sorry, is this hijacking going to go much longer? I have an audition.

TARYN MANNING, “HUSTLE AND FLOW”: This is so boring. I thought there’d be TVs on the back of the seats.

JOANNA GOING, “INVENTING THE ABBOTTS”: No TVs? Fuck this, we’re crashing the plane into a big empty field.

TUCKER WATKINS, “ONE LIFE TO LIVE”: I can’t believe I bothered to pack a lunch for this shitty flight. (Sigh) Alright, let’s roll, I guess.

i am not an animal


I rode on Gene’s bike last weekend for the first time in quite a while. Actually, for this particular bike, it was the first time ever, although it’s the same type of bike Gene had before. I didn’t consciously note that it was a different vehicle until I typed the previous sentence, which is a little bit disturbing. Gene replaced his destroyed bike with a near-exact duplicate, kind of like in “Face/Off”, when John Travolta replaces his dead son by adopting Nicolas Cage’s kid and then no one’s sad anymore.

Thankfully, we don’t live in a world with dangerous face-switching technology, at least not yet. An attempt at such a procedure would leave our faces with horrific scars, much like a motorcycle crash, which is ironic since one of the few people I could imagine Gene trying to switch faces with is Seal.

Previously, I had used Gene’s spare helmet, which was too big for his Special Lady, but fit my head like a heavy Kevlar glove. Since then, Gene has acquired a Lady-Sized Helmet, which is even smaller. Wearing it approximates sticking my head in a vise, albeit a vise with a windscreen. To make matters worse, I am becoming convinced that my already-massive Celtic head is growing.

I've always had an unmanageably large cranium, but it's been getting worse recently. I put on a party hat a few months ago, and it only took about fifteen minutes for the elastic to snap. My Giants cap fits so tightly that I can only wear it for a few innings at a time. When I turned it inside out for a Rally Cap, I could feel brain cells begin to die, as I cut off the circulation to my skull. And any novelty hat, be it pirate-, or fireman-, or even cowboy-themed, tends to simply balance atop my head, like a yarmulke.

There are no easy answers to explain what's happening to me. Is someone covertly slipping human growth hormone into my food? Am I empathizing too much with Barry Bonds? It can't be my swelling ego, since I'm usually just ashamed of myself, particularly when I think about my freakish, gargantuan skull. I may have to buy my next Giants cap a few sizes too big, just like shoe shopping for toddlers, only with less velcro and slightly more whining. I'll adjust my lifestyle to accommodate the noggin - always sitting in the back row of movie theaters so it doesn't block anyone, buying an extra seat for it on planes, and injecting steroids directly into my neck to help prop it up. Eventually I'll have to sleep sitting up amongst a nest of pillows, like John Merrick, so that the weight of my head doesn't suffocate me during the night.

And I probably won't be able to ride on a motorcycle anymore, since if Gene stopped abruptly, my head would drill him like a wrecking ball dropped out of a blimp.

In other bike-related news, my dad has purchased a pair of riding pants. All I know about them is that they are made out of "synthetic materials". I'm a little disappointed that Dennis won't be tooling around the neighborhood in leather pants, but I appreciate his commitment to the welfare of cows. Like the Elephant Man's mom said, nothing will die.

JOHN: But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.

PAUL AND GEORGE: And you know it's gonna be...

ANDRE 3000: Alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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