Monday, July 31, 2023

From the Archives - Bits & Bobs Volume VIII


This is the eighth installment in the “From the Archives – Bits & Bobs” series. Volume I is here, Volume II is here, Volume III is here, Volume IV is here, Volume V is here, Volume VI is here, and Volume VII is here. (The different volumes have nothing to do with one another.)

As with the last installment, these are taken from emails, back when I archived them as simple text files so that one day, when I was a celebrity blogger, I could mine them for tasty nuggets that would thrill my readers without requiring me to write anything new. How prescient, since the Internet was just getting started and blogs were not yet a thing…

March 14, 1995

The [HP] Vectra [computer] is still down at work. I found the setup disks and ran setup to check the CMOS settings. They were all okay; I don’t know what the problem is. I called tech support and when they heard what year the computer was, they said, “Oh, you’ll have to get in touch with our HP Classics department. The only problem is, the old geezers we’ve got down there can’t always hear the phone ringing.” Actually, I made that last part up. But there really is an HP Classics department, and they really don’t answer their phone.

May 10, 1995

I was in the company president’s office the other day having a big important one-on-one meeting, and the phone rang. The big boss got embroiled in a conversation, and you know, I’ve always really hated that. Am I just supposed to sit there in his office, contentedly watching him as he talks and as he twirls his hair around his finger in little curlicues that eventually match the phone cord, which is all twisted from his endless pacing? No way could I do that. But could I just leave? No—any motion towards the door and the boss is frantically gesturing for me to stay. What do I do? So I idly picked up three company-logo-embossed golf balls off of his desk and began juggling. And, sure enough, I dropped one, and it began rolling across the floor, and just when I was on my hands and knees retrieving it (in my $500 suit, of course) the boss got off the phone. I casually put the golf balls back on his desk and we continued our conversation. He didn’t seem fazed, so I guess he’s used to my behavior—and that can’t be a good sign. Will I ever grow up? It reminds me of how you got in trouble for your rubber-band fights at your first job out of college. You’ve really been an inspiration to me, you know.

January 6, 1996

I got a voicemail from my old boss, from [the job I’d quit about a month before]. He said the Vectra, which is the shared hallway computer, had crashed, and he had no idea what to do. They’re in a panic because it’s the only computer with CompuServe access. I had to laugh. I’d been warning people for months that the computer was showing signs of a bad CMOS battery and that its days were numbered. I even put a sign on it saying “Don’t turn me off or I’ll die.” Well, they should have listened. Asking for help now is like saying, “Well, the house burned to the ground. The fire department just finishing hosing things down. Did you say something a while back about smoke detectors?”

January 28, 1996

[To my brother Geoff] … I’ve been thinking lately about our Murray Street Station [San Luis Obispo] days. I still have that original microwave oven, and even one of those big plastic lidded pitchers we used to keep the refried beans in. Remember that awful Thanksgiving dinner at Sizzler? Man, those were the days. Remember all the Canadian-bacon-and-pineapple pizzas K— [the bike shop owner] used to buy us? And how great it was to get free pizza, but how sick we were of that variety? Like, it would be petty and annoying to complain, and yet we’d like pepperoni and mushroom so much better? I actually oddly miss those factory days, too. Sure, the work wasn’t so fun but I became fond of our routine, like how we’d stop at that grocery store (what was it called? Willie Bros, yeah, that’s it) and get Snickers bars to console ourselves because of the brutal cold wind facing us all the way home, every night? And how we used to rent videos at that one place 24/7 because the clerk was so fly? And the Lady Lee Deluxe Chocolate Fudge Brownie Supreme ice cream we’d split, just sawing the half-gallon carton down the middle? And all that cake? And our pushup and sit-up regimen, that made you so buff but never did anything for me? Man, I kinda miss those days.

February 9, 1996

Please retransmit your last email, with the attached article, in some other form than MIME (whatever that is), if possible. Or maybe you could use OCR to convert the article to plain ASCII text? Hmmm . . . I’m not sure Apple computers do ASCII. Or, you could fax the article to my computer, except I have no idea how to set it up to receive faxes, nor do I want to leave it turned on all the time. Then there’s the problem of screwing something up so that the fax answers the regular phone and deafens the hapless caller with its shrieking session-handshake protocol. (My modem came with voice-mail software, too, but I don’t think I want to mess with that, either.) Basically, I’ve got more computing power than a third world country, and no desire to use most of it.

April 24, 1996

We were in L.A. last weekend for a book festival, and Ray Bradbury and Geoffrey Wolff were both speaking. The lines for both were quite long and we worried we wouldn’t get in to either one. Wolff’s seminar, called “Memoirs,” seemed like the slightly less popular one and I thought I might have a better chance of getting into that, but it would mean giving up my spot in the Bradbury line. When I complained about my dilemma, one of the other people waiting in the line said, “Yeah, that’s a tough decision: you’ve gotta choose between the past and the future!”

I was doing my Marin Headlands loop today and I caught up to a pretty fit looking mountain biker. I passed him, and he immediately passed me back, and started hammering. I sat, bored, on his wheel for a while (it was pretty steep so I wasn’t getting too much benefit from drafting) and eventually I decided he was going too slow, and I passed him again. Well, this incited him further, and he took the lead again and started really jamming. Well, woe be to me, he simply rode me off his wheel. On a damn mountain bike! Knobby tires and everything! Man, that was humbling. I just couldn’t keep up. He took some time out of me, too, and finished the climb well ahead. Well, I was encumbered further by a couple of cars on the descent that followed, but on the next climb I blew by him. I was going so hard he couldn’t even get my wheel. I continued to hammer and basically never saw him again. I know they say he who laughs last laughs best, but still . . . he who is laughed at is still laughed at. Man.

June 18, 1996

With regard to your inquiry about bike frame geometry, I doubt there’s anything shallow about your Guerciotti’s head tube angle. My Guerciotti is the same model and only like a year older, and its head angle is like 74 degrees! Yours might be a bit more shallow than mine because it’s a smaller frame, and because you have a smaller penis than I do, but still, I’d expect it to be at least 73 degrees. In any case, this should have almost nothing to do with the way the bike climbs. What do you mean, the front wheel is “slow to move”? As far as I know, the only motion you want is for it to roll. And if it’s rolling too slowly, I would think that’s a fitness problem on your part. (The only other time I’ve heard somebody complain of something like this was when I sold my wife’s would-be-ex-stepmother-in-law a Bianchi and she said it handled “like a cow” when she got out of the saddle. We isolated the problem: low pressure in the front tire.) Anyhow, my Team Miyatas, all three of them, had shallow (73 degree) head angles and they seemed to climb just fine. Actually, they climbed like shit because they were heavy, but I had no problem per se with getting the front wheel to rotate.

June 30, 1996


HERTOGENBOSCH, THE NETHERLANDS: American television audiences received a long-overdue treat today: Geoff Albert, one of the finest looking young individuals the free world has ever produced, graced the airwaves with several seconds of his normally elusive presence.

The footage occurred during routine coverage of the Tour de France bicycle race on ESPN, an American sports network. No sooner had Stage One coverage of the race begun than the camera panned over Albert—not just his face, but his entire body as well. The camera, held by a motorcycle-mounted cameraman, was giving a racer’s-eye view of the course, and thousands of screaming, hand-waving fans struggled to get into the picture. However, when the motorcycle approached Albert, it found him strangely aloof from the rest of the crowd—somehow closer to the road, and totally unobstructed. In the nonchalant style of someone accustomed to the spotlight, Albert made no move to draw the cameraman’s attention. He simply stood there, hands thrust in his back pockets, Pentax camera hanging around his neck … the very image of nonchalance. As the motorcycle passed him, his eyes tracked the camera. As an estimated 1 billion people watch Tour de France coverage worldwide, and the footage is the same across TV networks, so it is expected that millions of female viewers were instantly, and irrevocably, smitten. Also likely is that many millions of men grumbled enviously. One thing is certain: for those fleeting moments, nobody was thinking about the bicycle race.

Why Albert was so calm and unimpressed by his moment of glory is simple to understand: he is no stranger to celebrity, and would consider this episode more of a gift to viewers than to himself. Less easy to understand is why Albert commanded such a large spectating area in the otherwise totally packed sidelines. His twin brother Bryan, an expert on such matters, speculates that “Geoff probably forgot to wear his deodorant today.” Such an oversight is not hard to imagine; after all, both of the Albert twins have earned quite a reputation over the years for their casual approach to hygiene.

Network spokesmen predict that those precious few moments of footage will boost ESPN’s ratings and help secure many more years of cycling coverage on the network. Meanwhile, journalists everywhere are speculating that this year’s coverage is well on the way to winning numerous awards for its shrewd camera work.

Albert was unavailable for comment. And, with the Tour moving to Belgium tomorrow, it is unlikely that viewers will be given an encore. With three more weeks of racing ahead, it’s entirely possible that the racers, not this sole spectator, will begin to command the attention of sports aficionados. But for today, Geoff’s televised moment is the hottest news in cycling.

August 24, 1996

Wow, I just figured out how to hook the CD-ROM in my computer into my normal stereo. It works great—so it looks like I bought those new computer speakers for nothing. Oh well. Now I can play CDs, which I never could before. Only problem is, I only own two CDs and they were both freebies E— got from her work. I guess I can check out CDs from the library and tape them. (Of course I could buy some, but E— and I are trying to save up for a house, which is no easy thing to buy around here.)

December 17, 1996

At our company holiday party we had a “white elephant” gift exchange whereby you wrap up something that you don’t want, that somebody gave you as a gift, or that you can’t believe you ever bought, and you bring it in and put it on a table. Then everybody draws a number and the person with #1 chooses first. Now, #2 gets to either choose a gift or take #1’s gift instead (meaning that #1 gets to choose again). I brought this large cheese holder, ceramic, that’s basically a plate with a 4-inch tall cylindrical cover that goes over it, so you can store cheese at room temperature. It said “CHEESE” on it. E—’s mom gave it to us and E— never did like it. The person who got it, our receptionist, was totally stoked, I could tell. (She said later she was in total suspense the whole evening, hoping that nobody would take it away from her.) I stole our other receptionist’s Martinelli’s sparkling cider. The look on her face was one of absolute shock and unbridled grief. She was devastated. (It was one of the first gift takeovers of the day.) I felt so bad, I decided I’d offer to trade her later. She ended up with a pair of Christmas mugs, one shaped like a reindeer head and the other like a Frosty the Snowman head. They were just too hideous and she looked crestfallen all over again. I told her, “Look, I’m not willing to trade gifts, but I would like to just give you my Martinelli’s. The look on your face ... it was like I ran over your dog.” She insisted that I keep the cider; then, minutes later, the director of the entire western region (who got a Mag-lite, the lucky guy) reappeared after a brief absence: he’d gone out and bought the receptionist a replacement bottle of cider. Disaster narrowly averted. I hope my hostile takeover wasn’t career-limiting.

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