Best Geeks

best of seattle 1999
critics' choice

Best typical statement from a Microsoft millionaire

Scott Oki, after spending almost four years building a beautiful, graceful, sweeping Eastside golf course, the Golf Club at Newcastle, announced green fees at his labor of love would be $125 because “compared to resorts in Arizona and Palm Springs, we have a much better product.”

Best used-computer shop

If you’re the kind of person whose computer case is held on by all the original screws, please move on to the next capsule. You will be not only unhappy but possibly frightened at RE-PC (1565 Sixth, 623-9151). If you are, however, the kind of person who isn’t disturbed about buying a box with nothing but DOS 5.0 on it, RE-PC will be traumatic only for your credit card. The Sixth Avenue shop lies hard by the transit bus yards and has the air of a place where much of the merchandise has arrived by strange and circuitous routes—and it has, for you have entered the Computer Casbah. Treasures lie all around you: A friend of ours picked off a complete SPARCstation IPC with a 19-inch monitor, keyboard, and assorted extras for $400 (and boy, are we jealous). Whether your taste runs to the similarly high-octane or down the well-trodden PC road (or even to restoring more antique computers), you’re bound to find something you suddenly need desperately here. Best of all and all too uncommonly, the staff actually knows what they’re talking about—and will tell you honestly if they, or you, do not.

Best URL registered from Puget Sound

Are you alone in loving the alien? No one alive (no one we want to know, anyway) can abide George Lucas’ uber-annoying Jar Jar Binks, but give Auburn resident Jeremy Mueller credit for being ahead of the curve. Mueller felt the Force and had his site,, online four days before Phantom Menace opened, which not only allowed him to catch the 12:01am show at the Neptune on May 19 (Day One, if you’ve already forgotten the fuss), but gave all of us somewhere to vent our frustrations 131 minutes later. Since then he’s been deluged with international press and attention, collected over 200,000 site hits, and started auctioning off cool vanity addresses (such as “”) for charity, all with the hope that Lucas and company will see past the humor and “return to the ways of the original Lucasian Saga.” Meesa hooped, yessa!

Best search site

The butler did it. As recently as last winter we were still functioning Net adults, in control of our fact-tracking faculties. Whipping Yahoo into shape? We grew up in libraries: Taxonomy is second nature, and we might as well have the Dewey Decimal System tattooed to the inside of our eyelids. Cutting to the chase on AltaVista? Give us enough AND and NOT and NEAR operators and we could find Amelia Earhart, never mind Web Page X on Topic Y. But that’s all over now. In our dotage, we turn instead to the friendly real-language search faculties at Ask Jeeves (, exhibiting all the querulousness and vagueness we plan to exhibit when we really are old women and men. Jeeves, did AMC cancel the TV show Remember WENN? (Yes, but an enterprising fan wrote a “script” resolving the season-ending cliffhanger.) Jeeves, how are pundits Freeman Dyson and Esther Dyson related? (He’s her father.) Jeeves, does Hello Kitty have a birthday? (Yes, November 1.) The only thing Jeeves won’t tell us is how we got like this, and if we’ll ever be equal to facing down lists of 10,000-plus search results again. Now, get out of here, you rotten kids—Matlock‘s on!

Best crowd-control device for free-range weirdos

The lunatic is on the ASCII: Over the past year or so, Usenet has made a surprising comeback from the brink of spam overload and general irrelevance. One of the most appealing aspects of this renaissance is the use of newsgroups as community bulletin boards and sources of local information, something that Web sites like Sidewalk and CitySearch tried (and failed) to make obsolete. When it works, it’s a beautiful grassroots thing—and admittedly, sometimes seattle.general does work, and there are good people participating in it. So why is it home to such a lot of knee-jerk right-wingers, knee-jerk left-wingers, gun nuts, tree huggers, not-so-covert racists, and obnoxious Rain City stereotypes of every stripe? Why must every casual “gee, I’d like to move to Seattle” note bring down a hail of anti-growth (and pro-rudeness) crap from the Unwelcome Wagon? Why do three-quarters of all threads degenerate into screaming matches about gun control or abortion or other talk-radio chestnuts? Why are we still reading this thing? Look on the bright side: If they’re online, these folks aren’t wandering the streets unattended.

Best geek refuge

TCP/IP, therefore I am: You were expecting maybe an offline refuge? Until your options vest and you can retire from the IS department, the place to be is Slashdot (, an online cauldron of discourse and dissent, a collaborative-journalism experiment that presents summaries and links for most of the news that’s fit to print and then encourages the readership to comment. And comment. And comment. Topics range from serious (the open-source movement, Microsoft’s legal saga, bugs, and hacks) to seriously odd (did alien beings hack the SETI site and leave a picture of TV alien Alf on the front page?). Since the readers are smart and often wildly opinionated, arguments can be both unspeakably nasty and extremely informative, sometimes simultaneously. For a perspective on the world beyond, media critic Jon Katz occasionally weighs in (and, as a non-geek, is regularly flamed). Constant reader submission of news items makes Slashdot a top-notch tech digest; the quality of conversation (both ridiculous and sublime) makes this a blessed gathering of like minds when you, the office Dilbert, need to get away from the cluelessness of your pointy-haired boss.

Best TV news

Let’s acknowledge that local TV news is pretty much the same: The substantive features that once distinguished the major stations like KIRO (news jets!), KING (gray-bearded commentators!) and KOMO (our anchor’s having a baby!) are mostly relics of the distant, intellectually superior past. Today, if it bleeds, it leads; if nothing’s bleeding, find an animal story. Or a windstorm. Or a bloody animal in a windstorm. The best would be a killer whale beached by a windstorm. Anyway, in picking the best local TV news, we are compelled to give points to style over substance—especially since the style delivering the substance is professional, fast-paced, and hip-for-TV (check out the handheld camera angles! Almost like watching Homicide!). Our nod goes to the cuties who put the Q in Q-13. Yes, KCPQ (1813 Westlake N, 674-1313,, the local Fox affiliate, has the best newscast these days, largely because of the station’s vast commitment to doing whatever it takes to put young hotties on the air. Plus they’re on at 10, a reasonable hour. While the whole new staff is chock full o’ babes (Christine Chen, Elizabeth Johnson, Kerri Kazarba), here are the important vitals on the First Stringers:

q13 reports
Dan Devone

He’s: The Sportscaster

From: Honolulu

Eats: Sushi

Has lived in: Frisco, Fresno

Has: A BA in journalism

Likes to: Surf, sip cabernet

Scott Engler

He’s: The frat boy

From: Wall Street

Where he liked: Danger

‘Cause he was: A commodities broker

Used to work for: CNN

Where you’ll see him: Airports

Leslie Miller

She’s: The imp with the bangs

From: Hamilton, Ontario

Who speaks: Fluent Canadian

But she’s more than: A pretty face

Likes to: Ski, golf, scuba dive, read

Her hobby is: “Studying trends in the broadcasting industry,” eh?

Jim Castillo

He’s: The Weatherman

From: St. Louis-Chicago

Also lived: In Philly

And: Texas

Where he: Chased tornadoes

Awards: 1999 Emmy for best weatherguy in the Northwest

Hobbies: Working out, reading, skiing, and rollerblading

Confession: Likes to watch . . . stocks

Best rumor about Bill Gates’ house

The following is a true story—as far as you know. A friend of ours, who teaches in the marine biology department of a local college, received an urgent phone call one day from the security forces at the then-uncompleted House of Gates. It seems that one of her radio-tagged fish, which was in theory swimming along minding its own business in Lake Washington, had in fact wandered into the Gates security parameter. The guards picked up the fishie’s transmitter signal on their scanner and were convinced that an agent of mayhem was making its way underwater toward Bill’s house. Courageous reconnaissance located the errant aquatic one and brought it onshore for interrogation; once it had been surmised that Poseidon’s Little Helper was not a viable threat to Bill and Melinda, our friend was called and told to come retrieve her transmitter. The fate of the finned one is unrecorded, but we’d have to say there’s something a little fishy about the whole thing.

Best mass spectrometer

With about 25 or 30 mass spectrometers in Seattle, all capable of largely the same thing and divvied up pretty evenly between the UW and local high-tech firms, picking out the best one can be daunting. (For those who’ve lost their notes from applied physics, you use a mass spectrometer to figure out exactly what something’s made of on the molecular level.) Most spectrometers were bought for between a hundred grand and a cool million, but price is no guide, just as history’s most expensive computers are no match for a cheap new iMac. No, the title has to go for more scientific—and more artistic—merits, making the neutralization-reionization mass spectrometer of Dr. Frantisek Turecek, professor of chemistry at the UW, the clear winner. Not only does it narrowly edge out the competition on its abilities—it can analyze ions and neutrals, while most machines analyze only the former—it’s also a certifiable work of art: When Dr. Scott Shaffer (who currently operates his own spectrometer for Seattle’s Cell Therapeutics) was helping put the thing together during his doctoral work, a fascinated painter friend came by to sketch it. The resulting artwork later sold in a downtown gallery for a large sum, and the painting currently resides in a flat just outside Manchester, England.

Check out the rest of the critics’ picks: bites, acts, clerks, beats, spots, and wonks. Or, go to the 1999 Best of Seattle main page.