Monday, December 31, 2001


Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2001


Tonight, outside of Shanghai Village, where I was picking up Chinese food take out, a couple asked me how to get from there to Boston Harbor.

I sighed, explaining to the couple that Boston is quite a ways from here (ten miles). I sent them straight down Massachusetts Avenue, which (if you follow it carefully from Arlington) will take you through Cambridge, into Harvard Square, then eventually past MIT over the Charles River. "After you cross the river, ask for directions again." They thanked me, and went on their way.

Earlier in the afternoon, Jenn's aunt and family came to visit and of course they asked for some pointers for how to get from my house to the local mall. They at least had a map, so I could direct them a little better than the couple outside the restaurant.

I am now wondering, as I write this, whether the couple managed to get to Boston Harbor. Boston is a mean little city for city driving.

Friday, December 28, 2001


I was glad to find yesterday's link to the point about happiness.

When I got my pay check a few weeks ago, attached to it was a note from the president, urging us to stay upbeat during this slight downturn in the market. On the back of the note were the words about being happy now. I subscribe to this thought, but I need to keep reminding myself of this because it's difficult to actually be happy. It's an elusive feeling.

I often think back to my glory days of my school days and ponder the happiness I felt then. I think I'll be doing the same thing when I'm sixty years old, looking back on today and deciding "Boy! I was sure happy back then."

I think the happiness that is suggested by the link is not the pollyanna happiness of fools. It's instead a reminder that life is meant to be difficult. Be happy for the present, for the now. Be happy we're on the journey. And that's not a bad reminder.

Thursday, December 27, 2001


There is no way to Happiness. Happiness is the way.


I replaced the CPU fan in my computer. Actually, I went the computer store and had a sales person help me with picking out the right fan. The technician pulled out my motherboard, and unhooked the fan from the CPU.

The new fan is so quiet, I almost couldn't believe it was working. The person who rang up the sale ($7.35) walked over to my machine and attached it for me. I booted it up right there to see it in action.

Now that's service! (I did pull apart the machine with my own screwdriver once I got there, to make it easier for them to help.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Jesus' Birthday

The gifts have been opened and sampled. I have enjoyed the bounty of today's special meal. I relish the idea that I have a few more days off from work. Yet the big memory for me is going to mass in the morning with Jenn and Mia, my baby daughter.

At mass, I am reminded that this day is about Jesus, about God becoming flesh through His birth. It's an important reminder.

Too often, I find myself more and more consumed with the traditional concerns of the holiday season: the cards, the gifts, the tree, the decorations. Those end up becoming the obligations of the season, and I grow weary of it.

It's His birthday today. Let's enjoy that.

Monday, December 24, 2001


Whew! I spent forty minutes trying to "win" the Solitaire game on my PC. I finally got a deck that let me finish. Should I try again? Why not! I'm waiting for Santa...


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2001

The Golf Channel

Horrors! I've lost The Golf Channel in a recent cable listings change. Instead, I now get MSNBC. The golf station is now a 'premium' channel, which I can probably get a la carte, or as part of some other package (on par with ESPNews and CNNSI).

On the side of cable operators, it makes sense to make this change now (in the middle of New England's winter, with no golf in sight for another three months). But I will surely miss it during the heart of the PGA Tour golf season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Country Music

I listened to country music during my drive home from work tonight. My boss suggested it, and I took him up on it. Every once in a while, I'll listen to the country station for a few days at a time. It had been a while since I did that.

WKLB was doing the "Top Five at Five" and I liked every one of the songs they played. The songs were:
  1. Riding with Private Malone (David Ball)

    This was a tear-jerker of a song, involving the owner of a classic car and the gentle ghost who rides in it.

  2. I Don't Have to Be Me (Until Monday) (Steve Azar)

    A very jaunty song about a man who takes Friday off and hits the open road.

  3. I'm Tryin' (Trace Adkins)

    A very sad song about how all the singer can do is try, despite everything going against him.

  4. I Wanna Talk About Me (Toby Keith)

    My favorite: a country "rap" about how the singer wants to talk about himself instead of just listening to his girlfriend.

  5. The Long Goodbye (Brooks and Dunn)

    I didn't hear much of this song, as I was pulling into my driveway, but it was sad. Chances are, I'll hear it tomorrow.
In college, I DJ'd at an alternative music station, and I asked someone there what constitutes 'alternative'. He said that alternative music was music that was different from what you listen to. If you listen to rap, then listen to rock. If you listen to rock, then listen to classical. Tonight, country was my alternative music. And it was good!

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Brad Pitt

I take some solace that I am younger than Brad Pitt. He turned 38 today.

I first really noticed Brad in the movie Fight Club. He played his character with such enthusiasm that I took an instant liking to Brad Pitt. When I read that James Gandolfini (who plays Tony of the Sopranos) liked Pitt in Kalifornia, I made it a point to rent it. Brad Pitt was just as crazy in that movie as well ("Reebs. That's beers backwards.")

Yes, he's a "handsome man" (and nothing is wrong with that), but as an actor, he's taken on some non-handsome roles. For some reason, that's quite appealing to me. My favorite Pitt performance is in Twelve Monkeys. It's a Bruce Willis movie, but Pitt stole the scenes with his over-the-top performance as a lunatic.

The good news: the is up for sale. The bad news: The present owner is selling it for $950. C'mon!

Wet and Snowy

A wet, snowy day. The snow flakes were heavy with precipitation. Driving home was an exercise in caution.

Thursday, December 13, 2001


According to Google Groups, my earliest post to USENET was August 26, 1992. It was a posting for a new roommate. Sheesh!

Here's my announcement of my Tiger Woods web page (October 1996).

I can't hardly sleep now. Here's a post on the closing of the Tasty restaurant in Harvard Square (November 1997).

And finally, a post on Wade Boggs, after the Yankees won the World Series in 1996. I actually saved a copy of this post on my ISP. Maybe I can delete it now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001


I think I could see myself riding around in that new invention by Dean Kamen. I remember reading an article about his earlier invention, the iBOT, a self-balancing mobility system for the handicap. Disabled people who have tried this machine wept for joy because they found themselves climbing stairs, and "standing up" at eye-level to those standing around them, all things they couldn't do with conventional wheel chairs.

Of course, the Segway probably can't beat a bicycle for the most common forms of tooling around.

Monday, December 10, 2001

The First Picture for this Blog

The last entry featured the first image interspersed in this BLOG.

A Picture of Snow

I took a picture of the snow that fell on Sunday. The previous night, the news said up to two inches, maybe even four. It was more like eight, where I live. I spent about an hour shoveling, going slowly so as not to hurt my back. It was that nice "soft" snow, easily packed into snow balls, but also easy to move around with a shovel. As I write this, most of the snow has melted nicely, but winter seems to have officially arrived here in New England.

Saturday, December 8, 2001

The Cross Atlantic Report

While reading Evhead's BLOG, I found a link for The Cross Atlantic Report, a "pictures and movie diary" of some folks living in New York City and Europe (Paris, Brussels). In their nicely designed web photo album, I chanced upon this classic photo of the Twin Towers.

I felt instantly wistful.

The First Snow

First snow has arrived. According to the news, the accumulation will only be one or two inches. When I had my car at the tire place, I put on snow tires, so I feel prepared for winter driving. It's amazing to think that a few days ago, it was almost 70 degrees.

Friday, December 7, 2001

Out of Sight

Blork (Ed) liked Out of Sight. :-)

Christmas Shopping

I have done virtually all of my Christmas holiday shopping on-line. This is sure taking the stress and strain away from the usual holiday rush. Jenn's been to the mall once. I hope that I don't even have to step into the mall until January (although we do plan to take Mia over to see Santa).

Thursday, December 6, 2001

Almost A Year Old

Last night, I updated my archive index. In a few short months, this BLOG itself will be a year old.

Also in a few short months, Mia will celebrate her first birthday. I've been writing a BLOG titled Mia's First Year, and as the name implies, I'll be ending that BLOG after her birthday. She'll make many appearances in this journal.

Wednesday, December 5, 2001


Several dozen, if not several hundred BLOGs are created daily with Blogger, and other tools. Every once in a while, I poke through what's new, and what's changed. I have a list of BLOGs that I visit semi-regularly, but most of my BLOG surfing is limited to short visits from the what's updated page.

I chanced upon Blork Blog, a lively journal of a Canadian with very varied interests. He has a lovely series of pictures from his office window, which he took over the span of a month. His BLOG is almost one year old. He has an engaging writing style.

I think you can get to know someone through their BLOG. Surely not everything, but certainly one's tastes, ones sensibilities. Sort of like book authors, actors, or news anchors, or newspaper columnists: we think we know them because we see their work, and from that, we extrapolate a little on "who they are". BLOGs are public expressions of ourselves.

I point to Blork's BLOG because I read two items that he wrote about Jennifer Lopez (1) (2). I share his admiration for J Lo. This connection makes me hope he's seen Out of Sight.

In this superb movie, Stephen Soderbergh employs a very stylish look and feel to a good-girl falls for bad-guy movie. J Lo gives as fine a performance in this movie as Jodie Foster did in Silence of the Lambs, that's how much I enjoyed her acting.

Of course, I know that J Lo is not Karen Sisco. I also don't know whether Blork would even like this movie. But thanks to his BLOG, I'm thinking he just might.

Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Sleep More?

With the end of the year fast approaching, I often try to assess what happened in the past year, and somehow tentatively set resolutions/goals for the next year. I think one thing I'm going to try to do next year is get more sleep. And one step towards that goal is to record when I sleep and when I wake. My brother has dutifully recorded his own sleeping habits, and I take inspiration there.

I also wonder why I find it so difficult to go to bed before midnight. I like watching movies at night. I also watch plenty of television. Tonight, after watching the Bruins game, I read a little bit, then spent a few minutes replying to an e-mail. Next thing you know, it's almost midnight. I should really be getting more sleep. (Jenn and Mia are in bed way before I go to bed.)

I blame my cable modem. The huge problem: the Internet is always "on". It's always available. Instead of getting ready to sleep, I end up doing "one more thing", like surfing EBay, or perusing SlashDot. I find that the computer keeps me up: it's incessant buzz, the bright screen, the endless links.

Maybe my New Year's resolution should be to taper off my after-work pre-sleep computer usage. Maybe one or two evenings a week, I can simply forgo the computer before sleeping? Maybe.

Sunday, December 2, 2001

The World Cup

The World Cup (of football; soccer to us Americans) starts next year in May, but the excitement for me begins today. The countries have been selected into groups. The United States will be playing in Group D with Portugal, Poland, and Korea (the host, along with Japan).

There is no true world championship like FIFA's World Cup. 192 countries entered the World Cup qualifying tournaments, which span two years. Of these counties, 32 "won" a place in the World Cup final tournament. Truly a world event.

In 1994, when the United States hosted this tournament, Jenn and I went to the semi-final match played between Spain and Italy in Foxboro Stadium. I spent the most money I ever spent on a live sporting event, but it was worth every dollar. Even on the way to the stadium, cars raced past us, honking, lights blinking, displaying Italian or Spanish flags. The crowd was the most electric, eclectic, energetic bunch of non-English speaking sports fans. My wife swooned over Roberto Baggio's thrilling goal (after which he blew a kiss to our side of the stadium). I was thrilled to be in such a frenzied crowd. (Italy went on to win the match, but lose to Brazil in the final.)

We're counting down the days to the World Cup in Japan/Korea. First match: May 31, 2002!

Saturday, December 1, 2001

A Rough Friday

Rough Friday. I caused a blowout of my passenger side front tire after hitting a curb, not even one mile from work. A moment's distraction (and yes, I was distracted with my cell phone), and there I was in a parking lot, eyeing a flat tire. Thankfully, I've changed the tires of my car once before, but after a few minutes of effort, I could not work off the lug nuts. I called AAA.

Since I called for flat tire assistance, the help arrived in a van. The burly gentleman revved up a generator, and applied his air impact wrench to the lugs. No go. He was as surprised as I was.

After a few minutes of trying, he says I'm going to need a tow. And just like that my Friday evening was toasted. I got home a little after 8PM, after dumping my car off at a near-by tire place, the same place that repaired my driver-side rear tire.

The walk home (about a mile) brought on a healthy dose of shin splints.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Adding a Second Drive

Tonight, I opened up my old computer, and yanked the 4.3 Gig hard drive out of it. My intention is to put it into my current system, as a second drive. 4.3 Gig is not a lot these days, but I figure it will be a good exercise trying to add a second drive to my system. It's good for software guys like me to play around with hardware.

(Obligatory geek moment: after spending minutes inside the chassis of my PC, I succeeded in removing the drive from its bay. As I turned the small device in my hand, it turned out to be my floppy drive. Sigh.)

Sunday, November 25, 2001

What I'm Thankful For

I spent the past few days trying to think the few things I must really be thankful for, besides my wife, baby, and immediate family.

I found inspiration in Dave Winer's essay on how to begin the "thanking" process, and the key is to focus on why you're thankful. With that in mind, it actually reveals many of the things we would overlook.

So, without any order:

  • Ofoto - With the birth of Mia, sending pictures and prints has been added to my job description. Ofoto make the process quite easy and painless. The prints are super, and really complement my digital camera.
  • Blogger - I'd pay a modest fee to keep up the service which generates the pages that you're reading and I'm writing. For someone like me with a creative 'bent', a BLOG is a perfect outlet, and Blogger allows me to concentrate on the content, and not the publishing.
  • My New Job - I've been with Mercury almost six months, and I've had a super experience so far. Aside from the technical challenge that makes the work rewarding, the job itself is quite family "friendly". I can leave work by 5PM virtually every night. I have full telecommuting capabilities (although I've only had to take advantage of that once). And the work is the kind that I can leave at work (i.e. I am not 'on call'). The new job makes it possible for me to be the kind of father and husband that I want to be.
  • Radio Headphones - I bought a a pair for my Dad, and I own a pair for myself. When I watch television or movies at night, I plug these headphones in, and I can watch from the comfort of the sofa without waking anyone up.
  • Caller ID - Sorry if you never reach us, but we don't answer the phone unless the caller id shows a number we already know. With caller id, we pretty much turn the ringer off, thus eliminating the stress of the evening telemarketing phone call.
  • Day Care - Jenn and I have grown to love the routine we've developed with Mia. Jenn is at home with Mia three days a week, then sends her to day care for two days. I then 'take over' on the weekends. Day care is an easy one to be thankful for, primarily because it allows Jenn the ability to work part time, and (I'm sure of this) keeps her sane. Mia gets a healthy dosage of social training too.

    There's a lot more, I'm sure, but let me sign off with these. I hope it gets you thinking too. Thanksgiving is once a year, but every day we should be able to say "Thank goodness" for something, right?
  • Thursday, November 22, 2001


    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Monday, November 19, 2001

    Howard Stern

    On Friday, I listened once again to Howard Stern during my morning commute. I had been listening to Howard Stern pretty regularly since September 11. So far, I've listened to him interviewing a "hot" intern (with Gary saying that she's going to have to work, and not "hang out"), previewing songs from the September 11 tragedy, railing on Robin and her appearance on Who Wants to be Millionaire, and musing on his divorce and and his children. He has interviewed Jason Alexander, Kid Rock, and the women who interviewed O.J. Simpson under the guise of "good father".

    It's odd becoming such a recent fan to Howard Stern. When he came to New York City (1983), I was in high school, and I definitely heard the buzz on him. I remember my younger brother being an early fan. But I definitely missed out on the early Howard Stern scene.

    Fast forward to 1991, and I chanced upon his book Private Parts at a used book store. I buy it. To my amazement, I found myself enjoying his book. My overall impression: it was more revealing than I expected it to be, and his introspection made him seem more 'real'. He was also very appreciative of his wife, Allison, which somehow muted his on-air antics.

    Fast forward to last Friday: I finally watched Private Parts, the movie. This is a very funny movie. His self-portrayal from geeky college kid to self-realized-though-misunderstood radio celebrity is wonderful. You do find yourself applauding and smiling and rooting for Howard at every turn.

    The movie also demonstrate Howard's loyalty, not just to his wife, but to Robin Quivers and Fred Norris, early side kicks that helped Howard in the early years. You also saw Baba Booey ("they want you take your top off"), Stuttering John, and Jackie the Jokeman Martling. When I think of all the 'extreme' TV today, I can only imagine that the producers of those shows were saying "make it like Howard Stern".

    After watching the movie, I tuned into Howard Stern on E! TV. Who do I see on the screen? Robin Quivers, Fred Norris, Jackie the Jokeman, Baba Booey, and of course, Howard. The same core people putting out raunchy fun since 1983.

    If longevity is an indicator, Howard may very well be "the real deal", and his brand of humor has kept up with the times perfectly. In my one Friday with Howard Stern (the radio show, the movie, then on E! TV), I realized that this is one serious talent who's paid some serious dues, someone who is working hard to offend people in as broad and as funny a manner as possible, because he realizes that this insures him the broadest audience possible.

    Monday, November 12, 2001

    How Time Devalues Things

    I had a row of video tapes next to my living room chair, which I finally put away today. Mia is starting to crawl, and she can get to this area easily enough. Plus we have company coming in December.

    But the real reason I put these tapes into a box and sent it downstairs to my basement is that I am no longer interested in what's on these tapes. Among the tapes were an Elvis concert, 405: The Movie, some eight-hour tapes with entire seasons of the Sopranos and Sportsnight, a box-set of A Year in Provence, and a documentary on the World Poker Championships.

    Amazing, how time devalues certain things. Clearly, at an earlier point in time, these things were pertinent, and meaningful (they were stacked next to my seat!). Now, nothing.

    So now these tapes are in my basement, where they'll stay hidden for many months, until I decide to finally refinish the basement. Will I ever throw these tapes away? I always feel bad because I spent so much time recording these things. I also think of the money I spent to acquire these tapes. For now, it's enough for the tapes to be out of sight.

    What to Log on my Blog?

    Reader, I often stare at the blank "sheet" before me, wondering what to "log" on my BLOG.

    What do I want to write? Every other day, I take a pass. I don't need to write. Some nights, I'm compelled to write. I have taken to keeping a file on topics I might address in this space. I've clipped some articles, and annotated them, with the idea that my "take" on that piece will appear here.

    I'm paying closer attention to the columnists of my weekend newspapers. Frank Rich in the New York Times, Sam Allis in the Boston Globe. The sports columnists (Ryan, Shaunessy, Edes, DuPont). The auto columnists (Royal Ford, Bill Griffith). Of course, Dave Barry. Many others. Their job is writing. They write very regularly, for very public consumption. Are they like me, or am I like them? Or am I being silly trying to compare?

    I know that writing is hard. And I don't even write a lot in this space. A few hundred words every other day. Sometimes not even that. But this BLOG is giving me practice, and practice makes the writing a little easier.

    I wanted to write tonight about the movies I watched this weekend, but what came out was this. Maybe next time, I'll go on about the movies. Tonight, it's enough for me to write this.

    Friday, November 9, 2001

    Internet Cachet

    Over the next few days, I'm going to be sending out a mass e-mail to those folks in my e-mail address book: my e-mail address is changing. My current e-mail address of is being changed to (you can uncapitalize the "T" and "W" of TheWorld).

    I've had as my personal e-mail address since December of 1994. At the time, I had wanted to change jobs, and I felt that I needed a different e-mail address on my resume. Finally, I wanted a close-to-permanent home for my personal e-mail. I didn't want to ask people to remember my work e-mail address: just remember my personal e-mail account.

    In the early 1990s, Barry Shein's Software Tool and Die (the "std" of was the only company offering public access UNIX accounts. And since I did everything with UNIX, it felt natural to sign up with The World as my Internet Service Provider (ISP).

    I always felt that had a certain Internet cachet. It's an old ISP. Certain Internet legends used it as their e-mail address. If and AOL were the fancy new ways to get on the Internet, World was the tony, sedate neighborhood full of Internet old-timers.

    Times change though: "std" is too closely associated with "sexually transmitted diseases" (and who is impressed by 'software tool and 'die' anymore?). Plus two "dots" (world-dot-std-dot-com) is no longer vogue. "" felt creaky. Enter "". The times have caught up with my e-mail address. It's time to get with it.

    Note: You can keep in your address book. AFAIK, this will continue to be active.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2001

    Phil Agre's Annoyances

    I just finished skimming through Phil Agre's essay, Minor Annoyances and What They Teach Us. I've been enjoying his writing for a few months now, and this one takes the cake. A fantastic "rant" on a lot of things. Please enjoy it!

    Days of Heaven

    I actually watched a DVD tonight: Days of Heaven. For the past few nights, my television viewing has been largely sports.

    Tonight's movie was a true cinematic film. The photography of this movie was brilliant. And the story was an intuitive one (two men love the same woman; trouble ensues). There were lots of scenes that were carried by gorgeous pictures and sound. Some of the lines were mumbled, or drowned out by the scenery. A gorgeous movie. One that truly would have popped to life on a real movie screen.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2001




    So the graduations hang on the wall
    But they never really helped us at all
    No they never taught us what was real
    Iron and coke
    And chromium steel
    And we're waiting here in Allentown

    (Billy Joel)

    Billy Joel

    A few weekends ago, I had to drive Jenn's car, and she had a new CD on the passenger seat: Essential Billy Joel. Disc 1 was in the CD player. It has 18 tracks, including Captain Jack, The Entertainer, Say Goodbye to Hollywood, and Allentown. You could say I was transported back in time: each song brought back memories of the 80s, when everyone seemed to be listening to his stuff.

    Of course, driving to work one day, I heard Allentown on a "morning drive-time" show, and Only the Good Die Young on a "commercial-free ten-in-a-row" set on the way home.

    Billy Joel's music being fresh to me again, it brought to mind an episode of the Sopranos, in which young Christopher tries his hand at bank-rolling a music act, but the band is woefully inadequate in the studio. In a memorable line for me, the studio engineer chastises the group: "Where are the choruses? That's how you build a great song: great choruses."

    Every one of the songs on that Billy Joel CD had an achingly familiar, even instinctive chorus. You knew what the words were, so ingrained are they in your cultural consciousness.

    But even more hard-hitting are his lyrics, which seemed so trite back then (we repeated them so), but seem so pertinent now. From Say Goodbye to Hollywood, he wrote "Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again." These lines didn't mean anything to me when I was growing up in Jersey City, but after saying good-bye ("au revoir") to California, New York, and New Jersey, his words make sense.

    Monday, November 5, 2001

    Diamondbacks Win World Series

    Game 7 of the World Series was exactly as billed: a taut match-up between 20-game winners Curt Schilling (Diamondbacks) and Roger Clemens (Yankees).

    It turned out to be a perfect series ending game, with the Diamondbacks taking a page out of the Yankees playbook by manufacturing a bottom of the ninth inning rally that wrestled the chapionship away from New York for the first time in three years.

    As a baseball fan (albeit a mild one), this will probably be the World Series that I'll remember the most. I won't soon forget how New York battled back to tie the series after they were down two games (miraculous homers by Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, Scott Brosius, and super timely hitting by Alfonso Soriano). I won't forget Byung-Hyun Kim's despondent body language after he gives up a homer to blow Game 5.

    As a baseball fan rooting for Arizona this series, tonight's victory was quite fitting and satisfying.

    Sunday, November 4, 2001

    Curb Your Enthusiasm

    One of my favorite shows this season is Curb Your Enthusiasm, the darkly funny show about Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld. I am coming to this show in its second season. I generally enjoy TV shows about TV (I liked Sportsnight, for example), but I think what I enjoy about this show is getting a feel for the roots of Seinfeld.

    Prior to Larry David, I was a huge fan of The Larry Sanders Show, a marvelous "dark humor" comedy about a talk show host played by Garry Shandling. There's too much in the show that cause me to break out in laughter, and almost all of it is Rated R. Thank goodness I can catch reruns.

    If you can bear to watch these two shows, I think you get my comedic sensibilities.

    Friday, November 2, 2001

    Staying in Touch Online

    My brother Ron and I have been "chatting" using AOL Instant Messenger. He and I have gone from relatively little contact with one another, to daily contact with one another.

    A quick hello, a quick comment, or a "have a good night" are all that we typically share. We're logged in at work, so we can't carry on full blown conversations. But it's fun having Ron on-line to share things with.

    A unique form of closeness, courtesy of the Internet.

    Thursday, November 1, 2001


    Halloween came and went. Is it me, or is there something silly about children knocking on doors and asking for 'treats'? Still, Jenn and I dutifully prepared our pumpkin head of goodies: Reese's Peanut-Butter Cups and Twix. Baby Mia did not go out next year, but our neighbor suggested that next year we might all be walking together. Next year! It's hard to think that far ahead with Mia.

    Game 4 of the World Series

    Tonight, I took in Game 4 of the World Series on television, with the ESPN Radio announcers on my stereo. Then I went upstairs and took in the game using ESPN Gamecast on the Internet. As soon as Tino Martinez hit his game tying home run (to my chagrin and utter astonishment), I went back downstairs and flicked on the TV, with plenty of time to watch Derek Jeter hit his game winning homer.

    It's a three-game series now: best two-out-of-three.

    Sunday, October 28, 2001

    The Diamondbacks

    The Arizona Diamondbacks now holds a two game lead over the vaunted New York Yankees. Yes, I'm rooting for the Diamondbacks.

    It was odd watching game one because my Dad was here, and he was sporting a New York Yankees cap (with a very small and tasteful firefighter's pin). So while I he lamented at how badly the Yanks played on Saturday, I was secretly enjoying myself.

    Tonight, in complete privacy, I relished the Matt Williams three-run homer that put the game out of reach for the struggling Yanks.

    Thursday, October 25, 2001


    I finally went through all the pay-stubs from my first job (a little over eighty stubs), entering the salary changes in an Excel spreadsheet. For the entire year of 1992, I didn't get a raise. But in 1992, I was probably having so much fun, it didn't matter. There's no way this could happen to me today, which has to be some commentary on 'growing up', or 'learning priorities', or something like that. I'll try to make a connection back to this later.


    In 1999, Cameron Barrett wrote that he got tired of posting to his BLOG every day. He wrote "CamWorld is an experiment in self-expression." Prior to this realization, his earlier web pages were short riffs on interesting links that he found, or were mailed to him. Now, his posts are more 'meaty', more thoughtful. His rant (and change) in 1999 mirrors closely my own approach to this BLOG.

    I am using this corner of the web to post my thoughts, to express myself. To write. To convey. To essay.

    Antrax Fear

    Regarding the current news around Anthrax.

    I'm not sure if statistics are kept on this, but I doubt many Americans receive enough personal mail to warrant fear. Most mail we receive at home are catalogs, and form letters from solicitors, credit card companies, and other advertising. With the first Anthrax exposure and death in Florida, I think everyone by now is checking for a valid return address. (Note to you letter writers: add a return address!) If ever a terrorist or terrorist group figured out how to distribute Anthrax into the big solicitor mailings, then I'd be worried.

    Television news and our leaders say don't live in fear, yet the one thing we keep telecasting and reporting on is fear.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2001


    As I write this, I'm logged into, watching the mission control room of the Mars Odyssey space craft. The space craft is in the midst of a very tricky procedure: it's trying to become the first artificial satellite of Mars. I've been reading about this story in the newspapers for the past few days. As a college co-op, I worked at JPL (Pasadena, California), home of Odyssey mission control.

    I'm now watching people on the screen hugging each other, as the space craft reacquired planet earth (acquisition of signal) after going 'behind the planet' for almost ten minutes. This is a big success, but still the first steps.

    The verification of 'planetary orbit' won't take place for another three hours or so. I'll be asleep. But it's thrilling to report this news. The work of Mars Odyssey is testament to the collective will of mankind. Some facts:

  • Odyssey traveled 286 million miles over six months to get to Mars

  • Communication with Odyssey takes place over microwaves, taking nine minutes to reach Earth

  • The goal of Odyssey is to study the planet (i.e. find potential water)

    Past missions to Mars have usually met failure: 65% of the past 30 space craft sent to mars have failed, including two drastic failures in 1999. But the deputy project manager at JPL, Roger Gibbs, said these failures invigorated JPL to perform unprecented testing and fault analysis. And here we are.

    I read an editorial today about a Baltimore Oriole who was blown off its southern migration: it ended up in Ireland. Bird watchers there were amazed. Sometimes it takes pure chance to reach an incredible distance. And other times, it takes many years of testing and analysis.
  • Monday, October 22, 2001


    Last Sunday, the NY Times ran an article in the Business section about language translators. Language translators were in the news because firms that hire translators are looking for people who could read and write Arabic, as well as the languages in and around Afghanistan (Pashto, Dari, Uzbek). Apparently contractors who can do language translation can charge between $150-$220 per 1000 words.

    When I was growing up, I relished the idea of mastering French so well that I could pass for a native. In high school, the teacher who taught French spoke Spanish, Italian, German, and could read and write Latin. I would learn Latin, but I would fall in love with French.

    I studied French all through college, and two of my colleagues spent time in France studying computers and living and breathing French. One of my best roommates was French.

    It was with great happiness that Jenn and I finally managed to visit Paris in 2000. I knew that I could have picked up French if I stayed there even a few weeks (we were there only ten days). By the last day of my stay, I was able to blurt out some French cordials, and ask decent questions (even though I didn't necessarily understand the responses).

    Becoming a French student was definitely a road not taken. But something I would pursue if I couldn't fail.

    Yankees 3, Mariners 1

    Yankees 3 Mariners 1.

    I rooted for Seattle. Yes, I stood up and raised my arms when Bret Boone hit his solo homer. And yes, I slumped with dejection as Mariano Rivera needed only three pitches to kill off Seattle's top-of-the-ninth order. When rookie Alfonso Soriano hit his two-run game-winning homer, I thought: maybe I better read up on the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    I'll have more to write about baseball and these playoffs; you'll understand that as a Red Sox fan, a Yankee win is simply a frustrating way to end the evening.


    Cindy Curling wrote a super article on Weblogs, of which what you're reading is an example of. She categorizes the different kinds of BLOGs, their history, as well as the services that provide BLOGing "platforms".

    She also provided a lot of cool links to some "old" BLOGs, including CamWorld (by Cameron Barrett) and Noise (by Doug Kaye).

    Wednesday, October 17, 2001

    Winter's Coming

    Sun is starting to set earlier, and rise later. I'm beginning to look forward to turning the clocks back.

    I'm starting to wear a jacket to work, since breaking 70 degrees is starting to become an event in New England.

    Leaves have amassed on my yard.

    I turn the seat warmer on in my car. Winter's coming.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2001

    Learning Through Failure

    I'm looking at my last entry (10/12/2001), and the question "What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?"

    Is there such a thing as failure? If we attempt, and do not succeed, but we learn from the attempt, is this a failure? Maybe that's the word we use. But it's how we react to the 'failure', to the results of the attempt, that sets us apart from other people, isn't it?

    I read the autobiography of Thomas J. Watson, the CEO of IBM during the 60s. He wrote a story of a how a director made a critical mistake, costing IBM some huge amount of money: $60 million. The director came to Mr. Watson hat in hand, and (I'm paraphrasing) "I suppose you want my resignation?" Mr. Watson said "Are you kidding? We just spent $60 million to train you!"

    I don't remember the details, but the gist is there: we can only learn through failure, and it is only by doing do we achieve failure. It is only by doing do we put ourselves in the position to fail or succeed.

    So the question is very liberating: What do you really want to do?

    Friday, October 12, 2001

    Doing Without Failing

    What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?

    Coach Bruce Arena asked this question to the U.S. Men's National soccer team before their must-win match against Jamaica. Yes, they won 2-1, with Joe-Max Moore (formerly of the New England Revolution) scoring both goals.

    What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?

    Since I've read this question, my mind's been clamoring for an answer. I don't have one yet; could there even be one definitive answer? Such a compelling question!

    Coach Arena used this question to excite and motivate his team. "What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?" Fantastic motivator. Superb response.

    Thursday, October 11, 2001

    Gas Mileage

    I've been tracking the gas mileage of my car. Such a simple thing really. My Dad used to have a little notebook where he entered the odometer reading, and the gas that he purchased. I picked up the habit, but never did anything with the data since it was on paper. (I often wonder if Dad did anything with his data.)

    So now I have an Excel spreadsheet which calculates days and mileage between fill-ups (it's at 27MPG). In addition, it records which gas station I used, and how much I spent per fill-up, per gallon.

    What is the biggest thing this exercise has taught me (besides stop using paper to record mileage)?

    I now understand how much gas I have left whenever the gas light turns on. This light appears whenever the fuel tank is 'low'. The Audi A4 that I drive (1.8T FWD) has a 16.4 gallon fuel tank, and the most I have ever filled up my car is 14.4 gallons. The light seems to come on whenever I have two gallons left, and that gives me a little over fifty miles before I need to get gas again.

    Sunday, October 7, 2001

    While I Was Gone

    I read Sue Miller's While I Was Gone. I remember leafing through this book, and thinking "I should read a female author soon. I haven't read any this year." Of course, as I look through my records, I find that I've already read two books by women this year: Five Finger Discount, by Helene Stapinski, and Fifty Days of Solitude, by Susan Grumbach.

    This is work of fantastic fiction. Ms. Miller has tremendous prose, creating a heightened mood. It was a book I felt. At the end of the book was a bonus of sorts: a question and answer section with the author. I'm a huge fan of DVD commentaries, and reading the author discussing her book was quite satisfying.

    Mikal Gilmore

    File this under the serendipity column: HBO has produced a movie about Mikal Gilmore, Gary Gilmore's brother (of The Executioner's Song). Yes, I plan to watch it.

    My Flat Tire

    On Friday, just after I pulled out of my driveway, I discovered that my driver side rear wheel had a flat. Jenn and Mia were headed for day-care, so they saw my predicament; I, however, was on my own to change this flat.

    Changing the tire on my car proved to be very different from my old car. Instead of unthreading nuts from bolts, I unthreaded the bolt itself. The toolkit and jack had precise images describing what to do. It was fairly pleasant.

    While rolling the flat tire into my trunk, I found that a huge staple had punctured the tread. Clearly this was the source of the flat. When I got the tire repaired the next day, it only cost me $20.

    I kept thinking throughout that hurried morning: There's no better place to change a flat tire than in one's own driveway.

    Thursday, October 4, 2001

    Retiring Bourque's Number

    I watched parts of the Boston Bruins season opener. Boston won 4 to 2 over the Anaheim Might Ducks. Samsonov and Kariya (two players I like to watch) scored. Before the game, Ray Bourque's number was retired. He gave a wonderful speech of gratitude, and my favorite part was hearing him speak his (clearly) native Canadian French: "Merci, Montreal!"

    Wednesday, October 3, 2001

    Concerned About Evil

    I had lunch today with Mike Huben, a former work colleague. He and I hashed out the issues regarding Osama bin Laden, and the events of September 11. He told me "what we should do in the Arab third-world": implement a Marshall Plan. Mike's idea is a way to cut off terrorism at the root: by providing funding to create secular schools so that children aren't left destitute, and susceptible to being funneled into radical fundamentalist groups like Al Qaeda. Just like the United States funded work, housing, and food for Europe after World War II, we could "prop" up the Arab third-world's children, and give them real choices.

    (I worried to Mike whether this would involve puppet goverments, exactly the kinds of things that got America into trouble before. And he agreed that this is one of the problems with Arab countries: it's hard to find good non-religious goverment infrastructure in place to receive this plan.)

    When I brought up my thoughts on trying to 'negotiate' with Al Qaeda, trying to understand their hatred towards us, he asked me plainly: Could the United States have negotiated with Timothy McVeigh?

    There is evil in the world, evil people, people that cannot be rational, people who cannot and will not and do not see 'our side'. Diplomacy with these people is impossible. All we can do is mitigate the effects of these people. And perhaps put in place systems that prevent evil from growing within people.

    As a fan of Stephen Covey and Phil McGraw, I know that the only person I can change is me. But I also know as a new parent that the one person I can most influence is my baby. And by extension, the best thing we as a nation can do is raise good children.

    I like to think people can change. But I doubt Osama bin Laden will be turning over a new leaf anytime soon. He's committed to perpetrating these vicious acts, so that he can influence and gain followers. We didn't seek to change Mr. McVeigh. We executed him. But we can change our kids. And this seems to me to get at the core problem.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2001


    I watched Scrubs tonight, and it was really funny.

    Sunday, September 30, 2001


    Buried in all our news about our war with Osama bin Laden was the horrific piece about a lone gunman who rampaged into an assembly meeting in Zug, Switzerland. He blasted away with a pistol, and other assault weapons, killing at least 14 people, injuring others, and then killing himself. Stunning.

    Also reported in the Boston Globe, but not really 'mainstream' news: there are too many blood donors, but the Red Cross is taking advantage of eager donors to stock pile blood.

    And again: there are too many funerals and wakes as a result of the terrorist attacks; Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and others in the fire department cannot attend all the ceremonies for all the men. Giuliani commented he rarely failed to attend the wake/funeral of a civial employee, and has asked the public to attend.

    Review: The Executioner's Song

    Gary Gilmore committed two murders in Utah in 1976. He was sentenced to the death penalty, but threw the state of Utah and the nation into turmoil when he decided not to appeal his sentence.

    Norman Mailer won the 1980 Pulizter Prize in Fiction for The Executioner's Song. When I bought this book in June, I was eager to start reading it. He was 'a great author' I had wanted to read, especially Of a Fire on the Moon, which he wrote about the Apollo Space Missions.

    It's an awe-inspiring book. 1000 pages devoted to Gary Gilmore, his crime, his trial, and his punishment. Along the way, Mr. Mailer paints portraits of Gilmore's family, the lawyers, judges, prison wardens, and media 'hounds' who would seek to profit from the 'rights' to Gilmore's story.

    I didn't know Gary Gilmore was a real person. The Pulitzer Prize category this book won was 'fiction', but I didn't know that either. The book felt like fiction, a very rich fiction. However, as the details of the trial emerged, I began to realize this was based on very real events. About a month into the book, I avoided entering 'Gary Gilmore' into Google, because I was afraid to find out 'how it ended'.

    After finishing this book, I'm surprised there was no mention of him during the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

    If you don't want to know what happened, stop reading now!

    The Gary Gilmore Memorial Society took pictures of themselves in the manner in which the execution took place.

    Has Gary Gilmore's death stopped any murders? Has Gary's nearly perpetual incarceration throughout his young adulthood contributed to his murderous acts? Why do some women find themselves attracted to such a flawed person?

    I wonder about these questions, as they seem to be the major themes in his book. However, there are many alleys into which Mailer ventures.

    I found myself marveling at the 'system' of appeals, and the role of lawyers and judges, con-men, and informants. I learned about how only a few people really get to the heart of a story, and that 'the rest of the media' fight over the same piece of news. I read the life of the victims, and found out that they were good people, good Mormons, who probably didn't deserve this death. And I read about the executioners, and what exactly did they do after the sentence.

    On Amazon, one reviewer claimed that they read it twice. I'm not sure if I could. Another reader claimed that they would never part with it. Definitely.

    Saturday, September 29, 2001

    Finishing The Executioner's Song

    I just finished reading The Executioner's Song, the story of Gary Gilmore.

    I'll have more to say about this later, but I must announce it was the longest book I've read in quite some time (it's 1054 pages), and it was exhausting!

    The Dot-Com Hey Days

    Today I received the shareholders document describing the merger between divine and Open Market. By October 19, if everything is done right, my old company will be 'something else'.

    When I worked at Open Market, I had these crazy dreams that it would grow to be an Oracle, or an SAP. I was at Open Market when it went public, and it is still the headiest day I've ever experienced as a 'working person'. In the span of a day, I had a six-figure net worth. Many that day became millionaires. The sky was the limit, I thought deliriously.

    But as the years wore on from that bright day, I started hoping we could be a division of an IBM, or some other such company.

    As it is, the rise, and peak, and subsequent descent of Open Market would be mirrored across the nation as Internet companies shot for the moon, then crashed on the return trip. Po Bronson, a savvy author who exemplified those ecstatic times wrote an apology to all his readers who followed him into the boom, only to go bust.

    One of the things on my mantle at home is a glass cube containing a miniature copy of the Open Market initial public offering document. You could almost read the text on the fanned out pages, and I often wondered what would happen if I broke open the glass.

    From the safety of my new job, I can look back on Open Market with a little more composure. I learned a lot there. And my stock options, whose value varied dramatically, allowed Jenn and I to get into a good house, get a nice car, pay down our credit cards. It was a good trip. I wish we didn't have to land.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2001

    9/11 Receding

    Since the tragedy, I've been in a funk entertainment-wise. Strangely, I've been drawn to stories about the cataloging of body parts. I've been listening to Howard Stern. I haven't watched a single DVD.

    I spend the evenings reading e-mail, and plowing through Executioner's Song. I'm now towards the end of this book, and it is taking on the somber details of how a single man gets executed. And I have Dead Man Walking on my NetFlix DVD rental queue. Morbid.

    I'm slowly getting out of the funk, though. I did tune into The Ellen Show. I am anxiously awaiting the start of the NHL season.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2001

    Picking Up Where I Left Off

    I picked up Executioner's Song again. I'm closing in on the finish of this 1000+ page book.

    Sunday, September 23, 2001

    My First Boss

    This past weekend, I ran into Pete Winston, the president of ICS, the company I worked for immediately after college.

    Pete interviewed me all those many years ago, when I was a young buck finishing up college. I spent a wonderful four years at ICS, watching the company grow from 40 to 100 people. The first week I was there, we moved from tight attic-space to a spacious floor in a brand new building near the heart of MIT. There was a feeling of opportunity and excitement that prevailed those first few months I was there.

    At ICS, I was given every opportunity to flourish and grow. I worked on C and UNIX programs (eventually shipping code that facilitated software installation from a CD-ROM). I worked on technical training (hitting San Jose and Dallas seemingly every month for almost a year). I learned about technical sales, and technical marketing. I knew everyone at the company, and for a while, it was my social structure. I met a lot of good people there. It was the perfect place for a new graduate.

    Pete and I chatted about a few people, and traded views on the hi-tech economy. We caught up with where things were. It's amazing how quickly you can 'catch up'.

    As I write this, I'm now remembering the one thing I wanted to say after we parted: Thanks for taking a chance and hiring me all those years ago!

    Wednesday, September 19, 2001

    The Optimal Way

    About a month ago, I posted some thoughts on why I'm trying to learn more about MS Office. Today, someone forwarded an article to me which contained these two paragraphs:

    "In this study of how non-technical people use computers, they observed that people don't read manuals. And once they figure out how to achieve something, they will not change their protocol even if doing things a different way is quicker.

    "It's paradoxical because people would save time if they learned how to use computers in an optimal way. But most computer users are laboring under this paradox right now."

    This is why I'm learning about MS Office. Whenever I use it, I half worry that there's a faster way, a more productive way, a more efficient way to do what I'm doing. Early on in my job, I spent time converting a report from a database program into something I can read in Excel. I executed numerous Excel menu items to make the report look good. Well, I have to do this conversion every week. Instead of doing the same steps over again, I pulled out an Excel macro to slurp up the report from a text file, auto-format and auto-filter, and save the file with a new name. Instead of spending five minutes every week, I now do this same task in ten seconds.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2001

    9/11 Receding

    I sent e-mail to the various folks I know who work/live in New York City. All are well and safe. I also heard (through another mailing list) from an ex-colleague who took photos of the burning towers. Sigh. One week ago I was transfixed in front of the television, mesmerized by the unspeakable disaster. Today, I feel a little bit 'recovered', a little bit ready for the next step.

    I'm glad the U.S. is being so deliberate with its 'planning'. I also think the language of 'war' is being 'toned down' a bit: we're in a conflict, a battle.

    A lot of what I've been reading on the web comes from Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater mailing list. On his digest page, look for the links "attack", and feast on what the World Wide Web has to offer in terms of background information.


    I think there is now some 'relief' from the onslaught of television images concerning the terrorist attacks. Last night, I saw commercials on network television.

    Friday, September 14, 2001

    Asking Questions About 9/11

    Television is overflowing with news about the terrorist attack. It's almost suffocating.

    Over the past few days, I have read print and online newspapers, visited chat rooms, read online essays, and listened to talk radio.

    Like many, I mourn for the lives lost that Tuesday. Like many, I veer between shock, anger, hatred, and exhaustion. Like many, I have only a few degrees of separation from these terrorist acts.

    The overwhelming sentiment for a concerted military retaliation strikes me at once desireable, and at once deplorable. Perhaps there's no room for diplomacy anymore. Maybe the perpetrators of these heinous acts deserve the full might of our sword. I don't know.

    I do know this. These terrorists acted this way because of some tremendous hatred towards us. I think one question that needs to be explored is why? Why are they compelled to act this way?

    Please don't think for a moment that I'll protest a military strike; I'll probably be among those cheering. But I do believe our leaders should strive to understand their underlying hatred. Is it territory? Is it religous belief? What is their fundamental disagreement with us? What drives their hatred, and can that be assuaged somehow?

    Only a small minority feel the need to ask these questions. I believe these are important questions because only a small minority of people are driven to such fanatical acts. If we are truly to prevent such an act from occurring again, the first step is to ask what gives rise to this fanaticism?

    WTC: Picture Essay

    I liked Grace Suh's picture essay of the World Trade Center. She has another picture essay of the terrible Tuesday.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2001

    WTC, b. 1973

    Correction made to my 9/11/2001 entry: the World Trade Center's Twin Tower's were completed in 1973, when I was five years old.

    The 9/11 Planes

    I found (through Red Rock Eater News) an animated picture that depicts the flight paths of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2001


    I can't help but be shocked and saddened by the incredible news in New York City:


    In one of the most audacious attacks ever against the United States, terrorists crashed two
    airliners into the World Trade Center in a deadly series of blows Tuesday that brought down the
    twin 110-story towers.
    As a boy growing up across the river in Jersey City, I watched the World Trade Center rise up in the very early 70s (it was completed in 1973, when I was five). As a young man, I visited it numerous times. When I dated my wife, I took her to the observation deck. Now, it is simply not there anymore.

    Monday, September 10, 2001

    Lost Cell Phone

    Last Friday, I had somehow misplaced my cell phone. I noticed this around 10AM at work. I quickly went to my car to look for it: not there.

    At first, I felt mild frustration. Could I have been so flaky? I carry the thing in my pocket 80% of the time. I felt a little 'unprepared' without it. How would Jenn be able to reach me? On the way home from work that Friday, I called in our usual pizza order at a pay phone.

    I harbored a sobering thought: I'm slowly becoming an addled old man.

    Jenn snapped me out of it. Take action! Think and traceback your steps! I applied my brain to the missing phone. When and where did I have it last? (Thursday night, I brought it in the house.) Can I 'call the phone'? (No, I remember I turned it off as soon as I got in the house.)

    I actually started getting into the frame of mind of purchasing a new phone, and for a moment, this kept me from sinking too deeply into despair. People lose cell phones; I'm not the first one to do so, and I won't be the last one to do so.

    My parents were up during this weekend, and my mother said "You can't find it if you're looking too hard for it. You'll find it only when you aren't looking for it." Thanks, Mom.

    Despite her wisdom, I kept up my search. How could I have lost it? I don't remember actually loosing it. I simply laid it down somewhere; it must have gotten pushed aside. I upended a bag full of newspapers to be recycled (I recall the phone sitting near my pile of newspapers). I scanned my shelves (I might just put it down somewhere close).

    Sunday arrived. Jenn suggested take out. Once again, I stepped outside without a phone. I almost asked for Jenn's cell phone (which she's never lost). This time, I had a fleeting thought: I walked out of the house with my phone Friday morning. It must be in my car! And yes, even though I searched under the seats, this time I got down on my knees, and squinted.

    And yes, it was indeed, under the passenger seat, tucked between the rail for adjusting the seat, and some electronics. With a flourish, I showed it to Jenn, who lovingly rolled her eyes.

    I put the phone in my pocket.

    Friday, September 7, 2001

    Rising Jobless Rate


    The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report that the unemployment rate hit 4.9%. According to the Associated Press, "The increase in the monthly jobless rate was the biggest in six years."

    And on that mailing list populated by ex-employees of my last job, someone announced that his job was just eliminated.




    I received an e-mail from a mailing list populated by ex-employees of my last job. IBM is hiring technical sales engineers. After I muttered "Where were you four months ago?", I then read a headline on Yahoo! stating Jobs Picture Weak, but Worst May Be Over.


    Wednesday, September 5, 2001

    Mia and I

    A few days ago, Jenn captured a fun photo of Mia and I. Even though it's out of focus, Mia's happy face is very clear, and it's one of my favorite photos of me and my daughter.

    Tuesday, September 4, 2001

    Laying Off People

    Today, Hewlett-Packard announced it was buying Compaq. Up to 15000 overlapping jobs will be eliminated. I suppose we're all used to these kind of numbers by now.

    How will these 15000 jobs be eliminated? Who will these people be? I'm sure managers and employees at HP and Compaq are fretting over these very questions. In the Boston area, there is a sizeable Compaq community, because a few years ago, Compaq bought Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).

    When we had to lay off people at my last job, I was a manager involved with the actual tasks of deciding who should be let go. I didn't have to face these huge numbers. I only had to "let go" two people. However, that fateful day last October was one of the most draining days of my career.

    I still remember the "training" we middle-managers had to attend on how to perform the "task". I still have the crib sheet I used when I talked to the two people I was letting go.

    Today's merger and pending layoff news brings me back to that ugly day, although for the 15000 overlapping employees, their day of reckoning won't be for some time. But it'll get here, and we'll just take the news in stride.

    Sunday, September 2, 2001

    It's Fall

    September is here, and it was cold last night, and this morning. I wore sweatpants, and a fleece pullover. It must have been in the 50s, it felt that cold.

    September: Football. Obligatory articles about Boston college students moving back to town. Hockey camp. Shorter days. Colder days. The anticipation of Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas. The "last quarter" of the year. Months that end with "ber".

    Already the hot days are a dim memory. Already my car's heater kicks on automatically. Already we're thinking of turning up the heat a little.

    There's something about turning the calendar from August to September that makes the past year's event seem much more distant (baby, lay-off, new job). The First Day of Autumn isn't until September 22, but mentally, it's Fall to me.

    Finishing Books

    The last book I finished was in June. Since then, I've been on and off with The Executioner's Song. (This tome is a little over a thousand pages, and is itself split over two books, each with seven parts. I'm in Part Two of the Book Two.)

    Thursday, August 30, 2001

    Caller ID

    I hate hearing the phone ring. We have caller ID, so lately we've begun to not answer the phone. After a few unanswered calls, we'll check the caller ID list or the machine. Our family seems to know that this is our new practice.

    At my last job, the phone ringing could mean work intruding into an evening. Usually a telemarketer or fund-raiser will catch us when we're eating. Often I'm watching a movie, or reading. Or on the computer.

    What's amazing to me is that the phone never rings with anyone I want to speak to. When I was growing up, I picked up the phone the moment it rang. I could count on the phone ringing with a friend. Today, it's a rarity. When it's after 8PM, I typically turn the phone ringer off.

    There are days when I complain to Jenn that we shouldn't have a phone. People can communicate to me via e-mail. Or they should write me letters (although I do not write as frequently).

    Today, I had to call an old friend though. I couldn't make his daughter's first birthday party. I wanted to say well wishes for her. I wanted to hear my old friend's voice, and swap a few stories. I remember feeling hopeful as the phone rang, but instead I got the answering machine.

    I told him to send me e-mail.

    Monday, August 27, 2001


    Just finished watching Trainspotting, and was completely blown away. Even though I knew a little bit about the story, I wasn't prepared for all the horrific images. A stunning story, with lots of dark corners.

    (This is also the first movie I've watched from start to finish in one evening. That's a rarity these days!)

    Not Winning

    No, we didn't win the lottery. :-)

    Friday, August 24, 2001

    The Lottery

    The jackpot at the nearby Powerball Lottery is at a breathtaking $280 million. I live in Massachusetts, which doesn't participate in Powerball, but bordering Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire sell tickets. So Jenn's father got us tickets from Connecticut.

    Fantasizing about winning the lottery is a delicious game.

    Today, if $280 million were dropped into my lap, I'd pay off the car and the house, get a nanny, and move us to another neighborhood. I'd work part-time. I'd get into digital video and editing. I'd be buying a bigger TV, a bigger car, a bigger computer (maybe even two) and custom-fitted golf clubs. I'd increase my annual giving (always to my high school and college almae mater). I'd get my basement finished (oh wait, the bigger house will have a finished basement). My parents and brothers and close family would share this wealth. Needless to say, Jenn and Mia's future would be vastly different too.

    While fantasizing about this is fun, there is always the letdown when I realize $280 million won't fall into my lap. I need to get past the letdown (and not blow $100 on scratch tickets and the lottery), and get back to patience, savings, 401(K), IRA, being careful with the money I do earn, keeping myself 'employable' in a field that I find 'enjoyable'. These are my slow tickets to wealth. And it's a more sure bet that if everything goes well, Mia, Jenn, and I will be able to enjoy some of these things over time.

    (But if it were to happen, rest assured that I'll probably be into a new Audi A6. OK, I'll stop fantasizing now!)

    Wednesday, August 22, 2001

    Local Demolition

    In my town, they're demolishing a nearby elementary school. I get a view of their progress every morning on my way to work. It's amazing what a "new view" does to a landscape. The houses behind the school are well exposed to my view now. The construction has uprooted some of the trees, so the street seems more "open". I like it, even though I look forward to the new school they're planning to build.

    Monday, August 20, 2001

    Wash Your Car

    When you're feeling blue, go wash your car.

    I've been reading Dave's Scripting News for a few months now. He's helping me keep up to date regarding open source, and other technology news. Quite often he'll insert a note or two about his personal life, and his August 18th column ("wash your car") was something I felt like sharing.

    Sunday, August 19, 2001

    Jimy Williams

    The Boston Globe ran a a list of funny quotes from Jimy Williams, the former manager of the Boston Red Sox, who was let go last week. Every quote was funny, and most had me bursting out laughing. My two favorites (I hope the link above is still accessible):

    On where his hometown of Arroyo Grande, Calif., was located:

    "It's about 3 miles past `Resume Speed."'

    On what he would be thinking about while driving home after the team finished last season against Tampa Bay:

    "Stay in my lane."

    Thursday, August 16, 2001

    Running Linux

    I'm posting this from a Netscape browser, running on Linux. Yes, that's right. My computer is now running Linux.

    I spent the better part of the past three evenings repartitioning my hard drive, and then installing Red Hat Linux (7.1). The home computer now boots up in either Windows 98 or Linux.

    As a UNIX fan, Linux has much to offer me. Certainly it's the ideal environment for recreational programming. And I enjoy configuring and tinkering with Linux's cool features. But I'm not ready to drop Windows 98 for Linux. At least not yet.

    Monday, August 13, 2001


    Do you know what I consider a modern miracle these days? Ultra-pasteurization.

    I drink milk infrequently. But when I do, I'm always amazed that the Hood Simply Smart 1% Milk in our refrigerator is never out of date. The one in our fridge now has a spoil date of August 19, but I know it's been in our fridge since early last month. Hood introduced this milk, as near as I can tell, in 1999. Jenn must have went to a meeting (as Denis Leary might say), because we've been drinking this stuff for probably a year.

    Got milk? Yes. Fresh up to two months!

    Thursday, August 9, 2001

    Mistaken Deposit

    Today I got a note from my bank saying that I had entered $20,000 for a check I deposited into an ATM machine. The check was actually for $2000.

    This is why I like making deposits with real tellers: I'm sure that would have been caught immediately.

    Customer Service

    A few days ago, when Jenn took Mia to the doctor's, the health insurance card (HMO Blue New England (Blue Cross/Blue Shield)) didn't work.

    Today, I called Blue Cross to figure out the deal: it turns out that I was still covered under the health coverage of my previous employer! I was covered twice, which causes all sorts of problems when making claims.

    The Blue Cross customer service representative walked me through this mess, and even made an on-the-spot decision to take care of one overdue payment to the physical therapist ($500!). I then called my old job, and raised this issue with someone in human resources. I was listed as a terminated employee, but I was still receiving health insurance benefits from them! The person I spoke with took care of this (she sent to Blue Cross a Change of Enrollment form via the employer's section on the Blue Cross web page).

    I was all prepared for the bureaucracy to fail me here, but the two people who spoke with me today were courteous and very cooperative. It sure made me feel good to have all of this resolved.

    Wednesday, August 8, 2001

    Job Security

    At my company's fiscal year meeting (a company-wide affair that took place at the Sheraton in Nashua, NH), someone received a recognition award for being with the company 15 years. Amazing.

    I admit that in my life now, I would love to look back on fifteen years at one company. 15 years from now, I'll be 48, closing in on my retirement. Mia will be 15 years old. And if a company could give me that kind of employment security, I'd take it.

    Sadly, right now, I think I would be honestly surprised if I wake up on my 48th birthday, and still employed with Mercury. Instead, I'm working to stay employed from quarter to quarter, not because of any rumblings within the company, but simply because I have been "let go" once already. I'd like not to experience that again.

    Monday, August 6, 2001

    Air Conditioners

    Today, Jenn and I put up our air conditioner. Whew! This week will likely feature five straight days in the 90s. Our house doesn't have central air conditioning. Every once in a while, I entertain thoughts of living in Florida (golf all year round), but the constant heat and humidity would be a big adjustment.

    Sunday, August 5, 2001


    Over the weekend, I finally finished Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue, an epic film composed of ten one hour films, each film based (loosely) on the ten commandments. It took me nearly five months to watch all ten movies. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to 'rent' the two DVDs for all this time.

    Somehow, I lost track of the exact impulse for why I decided to watch this 'film'. I must have been looking at film recommendations ("if you liked this, then look at this..."), and saw it there. Roger Ebert lists it as a "great movie". I would agree that this is a most impressive body of work.

    Of the ten films, I enjoyed Decalogue V ("Thou shalt not kill") and VIII ("Thou shalt not bear false witness") the most.

    V was a haunting, searing look at capital punishment, and that seems to be a theme I'm exploring this year (An American Tragedy and The Executioner's Song both deal with capital punishment). Petty crimes lead up to murder, and the murder in this film is particularly brutal and random. I won't be forgetting that painful execution scene, nor the defense lawyer's own anguish ("I abhor it! I abhor it!").

    In VIII, a little Jewish girl during the World War II seeks refuge in a Christian safe-house, with the requirement that she have a Christian baptismal certificate. The girl is rebuffed by a stern woman who would not "bear false witness" by doctoring false baptismal certificates. Fast forward forty years: the little girl is now a woman, and she visits Poland to confront the stern woman (who is a professor of ethics), in a meeting of the minds that was wonderfully moving.

    The other eight stories are no less compelling. All of the stories pose questions about God's commandments, but it was not a dry catechism-like treatment. Ordinary stories were dramatically portrayed with the commandments as a backdrop. The entire work is amazing, and well worth the effort to watch.

    Thursday, August 2, 2001

    Learning My Tools

    The only New Year's resolution I'm doing well at is "learn more about Microsoft Office." I've been using Microsoft Word and Excel for many years. I take their presence for granted. In fact, I haven't once cracked open a book about Word (although I do own Word 97 for Dummies).

    Last year, I saw someone (OK, my wife!) doing a highly repetitive task in Word 97. Her task was to search for a word denoting a section, delete the next twenty lines, then reformat the remaining 'block' (something along these lines). There would be as many as thirty sections in this document. During that weekend, I copied her document, and tried to get Word to do this task for me. That weekend, I scratched the surface of Word macros.

    Fast forward to today: I subscribe to Woody's Office Watch. This e-mail newsletter is chock full of nifty behind-the-scenes stuff on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook. I try to learn a new 'feature' every time I'm in one of these Office tools.

    This is the crux of my New Year's resolution: learning my tools. Microsoft Office is a big beast. I'm on an ancient version (Office 97). But it's a beast that's worth learning, because it's ubiquitous, and it contains features that can often save you time.

    Ron's Birthday

    Yesterday was my brother Ron's birthday. He was the best man at my wedding, and he is the godfather of my daughter.

    Friday, July 27, 2001

    The Executioner's Song

    I'm presently reading The Executioner's Song, by Norman Mailer. It's a long book (over a thousand pages), and it somewhat mirrors the story line from Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy.

    Last night, I read a powerful sentence by Mailer:
    The violence of Portland licked right up to the edge of the store and left a spew like that yellow foam on city beaches where old rubber dries out with jellyfish and whiskey bottles and the dead squid.
    What an amazing sentence! Such imagery! You feel the words when they're strung together so superbly.

    How did I chance to be reading this? A few months ago, I read an article about Louis Menand, who recently wrote The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. Mr. Menand was asked what his favorite books were, and one of them was The Executioner's Song. He had high enthusiasm for this book, and I made a mental note to pick this up as soon as I could. I have not been disappointed so far, and I don't anticipate being disappointed.

    I once thought it'd be an interesting exercise to describe the various threads between the ten books I've read so far this year, but the leading spark has been, more often than not, whimsy. Still, it delights me when whimsy leads me to text like I've read in Mailer's book. I'm savoring every bit of it.

    Monday, July 23, 2001

    Concord and Merrimack

    A few weeks ago, the Boston Globe ran an article on Henry David Thoreau, the famous recluse/philosopher who wrote Walden. The article was about how people misunderstood Thoreau's writings. I read articles like this, and it makes me want to hole up in a library for a week reading Thoreau. What is there to misunderstand? What was his main message?

    So over the past few nights, I've dipped into A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. This was his first published book (1849). I have one of those 'handsome home-library three-volume set' of Thoreau's work from the Book-of-the-Month Club: Walden, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and The Maine Woods.

    The Boston Globe article said that A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is fairly impenetrable. The foreword to my edition states that reading this from cover to cover would be a tough diet.

    I would somewhat agree with both of these. He spends a good portion of the book ranting. He goes from a detailed look at the specific biology on these rivers, to a discourse on various religions. Sprinkled throughout are pithy wisdoms ("He who resorts to the easy novel, because he is languid, does no better than if he took a nap."). This was a man who thought, and then wrote it down.

    Every weekday, I go over the Concord River, on Route 3. It's a short bridge. Now I find myself looking down the river, as I pass by. It is so peaceful. And Thoreau canoed past this spot once.

    I don't necessarily plan to read all of this book, but I will be dipping into it. I need something to think about when I go over that brief bridge.

    Friday, July 20, 2001


    I spent $6 on a tee-shirt from place where Jenn and I get take-out pizza practically every Friday, Nicola Pizza House (1215 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, 781-646-6090). We've been eating pizza from here since we moved to Arlington, over four years ago.

    The owners know me by now. Nicky always gives a big hello whenever I place my usual order. I once didn't have money, and they let me get on their tab.

    At Nicola's, they also make pastries: cannoli, tiramisu, cheese cake. Sometimes, I'll splurge and grab one of these, much to the delight of Mary, the sharp-tongued matriarch who occasionally slings pizza boxes with her boys. Nicola's has also brought us great sandwiches, pasta dinners, salads, and fish and chips. Lately, we've been getting mozzarella sticks with our pizza.

    There was much kidding when I announced Jenn and I were having a baby. They thought I'd be ordering a few more pizzas every week. As it is, I can't wait to share Nicola's with Mia when she gets old enough to appreciate pizza. Anyway, I have the tee-shirt.

    Thursday, July 19, 2001

    Trip to Graceland

    I posted my trip to Graceland web page on Yahoo! a few months ago. Every once in a while, I get a note from some Internet visitor, saying the pictures were nice. Today's e-mail was from New Zealand, and the writer expressed gratitude because she said she was not likely to make a pilgrimage to Memphis.

    By the way: The final song in Cast Away? "Return to Sender", as sung by Elvis.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2001

    Casting Work Away

    I finished listening to the DVD commentary of Cast Away.

    Tom Hanks was on Sixty Minutes last December. He said something that I think about regularly: do what you love to do; that is half the battle. He said from his experience, one cannot go into film or television hoping for fame, money, or even power, as those things are often fleeting. He said go into film/television because it's something you enjoy, and you'd be doing it anyway.

    Of course his comments extend beyond Hollywood: if it's something you enjoy doing, and you'd probably be doing it anyway, then it's a likely profession/avocation/vocation.

    I ask myself often: Is this what I'd rather be doing? There are a lot of grays in my answer. It's not a resounding yes; it's not a distasteful no. And I'm sure if I ask myself this during work tomorrow, my answer would vary.

    Are we working at what we want to work on? That's a fair question.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2001

    Fondly Remembering Cycling

    The Tour de France started a few days ago. As I write this, American Lance Armstrong is 6th in the GC (for you cognoscente).

    I was a fan of bike racing so long ago, it's not even funny. Example: I had the issue of Velo News that announced Greg LeMond was going to France to ride with Bernard Hinault's Renault team. Example: I own a copy of a Bud Greenspan's documentary on Eddy Merckx, cycling legend.

    I recall being amazed at the movie Breaking Away. I read Sam Abt's Tour de France stories in the NY Times, because when I started to follow the Tour, it wasn't on network TV (today it's covered daily on The Outdoor Life Network).

    All this was in the early eighties, during my teen-age years.

    I had log books detailing all of my riding. I dreamed of becoming a racer. Despite my fervent interest in bike racing, I only competed in one race, and on that rainy day, I got a flat. It didn't stop me from attending races though, and the highlight of all this interest was watching a criterium near Central Park in New York City. Greg LeMond raced that day, and when he finished, I got his autograph.

    I trained with a pack of boys (Jose, Shawn, Dave) sharing the same innocent dreams. We rode hard and fast up and down Bayonne Park, and stalked all the bike stores, driving the owners nuts with our demands to see Campagnolo bike parts. As boys, we didn't own bike shorts, or real cycling jerseys. Whenever we saw "a real rider" wearing these clothes, we'd watch them warily, wondering just how fast could they go.

    Like most boy-hood interests, this one faded away. By the time Greg LeMond won his second Tour de France, cycling had already left my life. Sometime before college (1986), I got into an accident: I looked down to shift, and next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground, having run into the suddenly-stopped car in front of me. My bike (Panasonic DX-2000) was broken beyond repair, and on a "spare" bike, it was hard to go fast.

    Fast forward to today: I do own a dusty racing bike, bought with practically my first paycheck out of college, but I never rode with the same fervor like I did. In fact, I hardly ride at all. Golf has filled the places in my heart where bike racing used to live. I used to be able to recite the winners of the Tour de France, and the years when Merckx and Anquetil won their five Tours, but now I look that up, like everyone else.

    "On va! Allez allez!", people would write, on the roads the Tour de France riders would race over. I have gone, but I fondly remember.

    Thursday, July 5, 2001

    Paying Off My College Loan

    I received confirmation today from the lending bank that they have received my final student loan payment. My student loan towards Rensselaer is now "paid in full". I called the bank and inquired about the final payoff amount (almost $700), and wrote them a check in the middle of June.

    The loan to pay off my college education was $16,000, but thanks to simple interest (8%), I owed a total of $23,000. I started paying off this loan in August of 1991. I knew from the notes that it would take ten years. And here I am, ten years later: absolved of this almost-$200 monthly obligation.

    I can recall times I let the monthly payment 'slip' a few weeks, but I never failed to pay the full monthly amount every month. I like to think that Jenn and I were able to get a mortgage because of my dutiful payment of this loan through the years.

    Was college worth all this though? Yes. Absolutely. It's true I don't need to use physics, chemistry, or advanced calculus, but I am always learning using the methods I picked up at school. My perspective and sensibilities about technology and science were gained at Rensselaer.

    I first logged into UNIX at RPI, and I still refer to my school-aged battered copy of The UNIX Programming Environment. I wrote hard software there (a C-like interpreter, a shell). I attended a co-op at JPL, where I discovered what I could contribute as a computer professional.

    But even beyond all the 'school' stuff were the people, and experiences: learning to ice skate at the Houston Field House; being a college radio dee-jay; going to midnight movies; road trips; absurd drinking games; bonding over ice hockey, pizza, dinners, and late-night studying. Many of good friends are from RPI, class of 1990.

    College was where I tried growing up. College was where I gained some perspective. College was my launching pad.

    My student loan, pricey as it was, pales in comparison to the actual value of my collegiate experiences.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2001

    An Artifical Heart

    Today, a human heart was replaced by a fully enclosed artificial heart.

    As I read about this ground-breaking surgery, I was amazed that the doctors and engineers who built the heart don't expect the patient to last more than a month. I was also amazed that the company who built the heart is located in nearby Danvers, Massachusetts.

    The patient wishes to remain anonymous, but I frankly have a hard time believing he'll stay anonymous. If it were me, I'd be on TV as soon as reasonably possible.

    My other thought about all this: we are soon going to be able to make cyborgs: half-human, half-robot beings.

    Saturday, June 30, 2001

    Abysmally Hot

    Abysmally hot day today. Over ninety degrees! But in the late afternoon, the bright blue sky disappeared, and dark clouds thundered in. Before you knew it, a drenching rain was on hand. I drove in it to get take out, and it was a fabulously active sky: lightning, thunder, swirling clouds. It rained urgently.

    As I write this, mild conditions prevail. Tomorrow will hover around ninety degrees again. Then relief on Monday: high seventies!

    Wednesday, June 27, 2001


    My wife and I have been using Yahoo! Messenger to communicate to one another during the work day. If you are on-line and feel like sending me an instant message, download Yahoo! Messenger, and look for Yahoo! ID rick_umali.

    When I was in college, I used to chat on-line all the time using Connect, an ancient dumb-terminal chat program. Later, I was a fervent user of mIRC, which is Internet Relay Chat. My login then was bitflip. Recently, I thought about grabbing the bitflip domain name, but it was already scooped up.

    I briefly flirted with ICQ (my number is 58388303), but it always felt like a heavier application than Yahoo! Messenger. At my last job, an older version of the ICQ client wouldn't work behind the corporate firewall, but that's since been fixed.

    As if e-mail wasn't enough!

    Sunday, June 24, 2001

    Boy, The Way Glenn Miller Played

    Theme from All in the Family

    Boy, the way Glen Miller played. Songs that made the hit parade.
    Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days.
    And you know who you were then, girls were girls and men were men.
    Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
    Didn't need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight.
    Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days.