Saturday, March 31, 2001

My Daughter's Here

Jenn and I are now proud parents to a little baby girl: Mia Magdalena Umali. She was born at 10:40AM, on Wednesday, March 28, 2001. She was 6 pounds, and 13.3 ounces. She was 20 inches.

Monday, March 26, 2001

The Oscars

Last night, I watched the Academy Awards. For the past several years, I haven't felt any real compulsion to watch this, mostly because my wife and I have somehow dropped the habit of going to movies regularly.

This year, however, my wife and I have watched three of the Best Picture nominees. I watched Traffic, Jenn watched Erin Brockovich, and we both watched Gladiator (on DVD).

So needless to say, we were both pumped to watch the show. We watched E! TV's pre-show coverage with Joan and Melissa Rivers. We watched ABC's pre-show. Finally, we tuned in to Steve Martin's monologue, and the first two hours of the show.

We didn't stay until midnight, so in the end, we read about the winners in the next day's paper.

I think the Academy Awards are one of the last places on TV where you actually feel great anticipation. I'm talking about the kind of anticipation you felt before your mid-term and final grades were announced, whether you got into a particular college, or whether you passed a big test. I was fervently rooting for Benicio Del Toro, who captured my imagination in The Usual Suspects. He was favored, but there were some compelling nominees (including Jeff Bridges, and Albert Finney). When the announcer said "and the winner is..." I had to hold my breath. When Benicio won, I was so relieved, I marveled at the feeling.

Unlike sports, which builds up over a few hours (I had to wait until this afternoon to find out if Tiger Woods would win The Players Championship), the Academy Awards had many moments with heightened breath-holding. Maybe I'll have to tune into the Emmys to feel this again.

Friday, March 23, 2001

Medical Insurance

As I alluded to earlier, I am leaving my job. Technically, I am being laid off. I'll be receiving severance pay for 11 weeks. Yesterday, I had a meeting with Human Resources, and I learned about COBRA. I was also encouraged to file for unemployment (no, I don't have a job yet).

Probably the most astounding thing I learned from Human Resources is just how expensive medical insurance is. The insurance for just Jenn and myself is almost $500 per month! With a baby, that tally goes to almost $900 per month. It was an eye-opening sum for me.

I occasionally entertain the notion of working 'for myself' as an independent contractor, but the cost of just health insurance is daunting. While a lot can change, I suspect I'll be a 'regular' corporate guy in my next job.

Thursday, March 22, 2001

The Long Rain

When I was a boy, I read Ray Bradbury's "The Long Rain". I can't recall the details of the plot, except for the one overriding presence of rain.

Today reminded me of that story. When I left work yesterday, it was raining. When I went to bed last night (almost 1AM), it was raining. When I got up this morning, it was raining. It was raining to beat the band. It was raining cats and dogs. Right as rain. When it rains it pours. And I was all wet.

Just twelve days ago I was shoveling a big pile of snow as high as my shoulders. That snow has all but disappeared.

The traffic was better with snow. Snow melts gradually. In my morning commute, my normal twelve minute ride was turned into fifty minutes, as I double backed to avoid flash floods, and water logged street corners. I actually saw a tiny car submerged up to the tops of its windows. It was trying to get to the drive-thru of a bank (at Four Corners in Woburn near McDonalds).

Driving to work in my wife's Forester, I listened to Bare Naked Ladies' "Brian Wilson". The opening lyrics: "Drove downtown in the rain...". Indeed.

The rain started tapering off by noon. The forecast called for some snow by midnight.

Sunday, March 18, 2001

A Visit to the RMV

Yesterday, I had to renew my driver's license.

My visit to the Watertown Registry of Motor Vehicles was quite efficient. Tucked inside the Watertown Mall, I got on the end of the line with about thirty people ahead of me at 8:25AM. The Watertown registry opened promptly at 8:30AM, and the proceeded to process all of us on line very quickly.

A 'dispatcher' person listened to each of us, and directed us appropriately. It seemed as if she never had to spend more than a few seconds with each person, so the line went very fast.

Of course, I had to wait to someone to process my renewal. This turned out to be fairly pleasant. The waiting room featured a public announcement system whereby they call your ticket (mine was B210). There was no need to keep an eye on the "who's next" board. When it was my turn, I was processed very courteously and efficiently. I was out of there by 9:15AM.

I had read an article a few weeks ago in the Boston Globe about how well the RMV is working these days. Their web site is very useful. According to the article, the RMV updates the site frequently, to keep it current, and their recent ability to handle certain transations over the Web have made actual visits to the RMV more smooth.

It's rare to praise bureaucracy, but in this one encounter, the RMV worked very well.

Friday, March 16, 2001

Skimming Headlines

Yesterday, I read in the Boston Globe that someone donated $360 million to my college, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. On the school website, it's touted as the largest gift ever to any public or private university in the United States. Two things that I'd like to point out.
  • I'm not the anonymous donor.
  • I only encountered this news via the newspaper.
Despite the prevalent use of the Internet for news and information, nothing beats reading the headlines of a major United States newspaper. I was quite specific about just reading the headlines. I don't read the newspaper with any sort of depth. In fact, there are days where I can only skim the headlines on the first pages of each section.

But when I do look at the newspaper, I see stuff like this news about my alma mater. It reminds me of why we have newspaper editors, and writers. These people are making decisions about what would be interesting to the public at large. And I'm glad.

I believe that with the Internet, it's too easy to focus on 'your speciality'. We dive deep, but forget breadth. We lose touch with what else is going on. We're not as 'informed'.

I know I could do more. I could listen to NPR. I could subscribe to more newspapers. I could be a regular TV news viewer. I don't these things. There are too many things. Which is why I like to skim the newspaper headlines to see just what else is going on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2001


Today, I spent almost $200 on a visit by a plumber. We had a leaky toilet, and while I was able to diagnose the problem, I just didn't know when I could actually do the repair work. Now this is our bathroom in the main bedroom, and with my pregnant wife needing these facilities, I was hard-pressed to fix this leak. (We have other bathrooms, so it wasn't 'an emergency'.)

Enter the time value of money. Sure, the plumber took less than an hour to make the assessment and repair. But he was able to do this while I was at work, and well before I could devote the time to fix it. (Wouldn't you know that the leak started on Sunday night.) The plumber saved me a trip to Home Depot. The plumber saved me from the labor of this repair. The plumber saved me from pulling my hair out if I would have screwed up. In other words, $200 is not that bad to spend for the peace of mind.

Of course, I had $200 to spend. And I'm grateful for it. I suppose if I weren't financially capable, I would have tackled this on my own, but please. I saved myself the time and effort, and that costs money.

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Still At Work

OK. Still at work. As I mentioned earlier, I have packed a good number of files, and sent them home. I'm spending bits and pieces of today socking away 'worthy emails' from the past few years. Using Outlook, I can sort by person, and then scanning the subjects, I can decide if I want to keep the email. It's odd to want to keep all these emails, but like I said, I need something to do when I leave here.

Monday, March 12, 2001

Subversive Post

OK, so I'm at work now. I thought I'd be a little subversive and post from my office. I don't want to go into the details, but I am leaving my current employer at the end of this month, or sooner (depending on when my wife goes into labor with our first child). Yesterday (Sunday), I spent a few hours packing up my personal effects (books, trinkets, framed photos, files). I also spent time archiving my email, with the thought that I'd go through them for cool contact information, and what not.

I took home two moving crates of stuff. Among the mess: old college transcripts; certificates of 'attendance' (to technology training, etc.); old 'clothing' that I've stashed in my desk (a nod to Working Girl). Amazing old stuff. And I'll have plenty of time to catalog these when I finally leave.

Saturday, March 10, 2001

Omega Race

I am obsessed with a game called Omega Race. I play it using MAME32, a coin-op video game emulator. It's a pure shoot 'em up, and the way it gets my adrenaline pumping, it's sort of like a high. I seethe with harsh feelings when I play badly. I feel cocky satisfaction when I play well. I used to spend tens of dollars every month in quarters playing video games when I was a kid. Now I can play most of those games for free.

I plan to post up a web page on my Omega Race obsession. MAME32 lets me 'record' games, so you too (if you have MAME32 and Omega Race) can watch some of my exciting video-gaming.

All This Snow

Just spent the past hour shoveling all this snow that's fallen on my property during Nor'easter March 2001. Today wasn't as bad as it was a few days ago, when I spent nearly two hours shoveling extremely heavy snow.

I used to say that shoveling snow builds character. Forget that. I have enough character.

I do enjoy the feeling I have after shoveling snow. It's like a workout. I get home, and even though my chest is heaving with exertion, I have a super feeling of accomplishment.

I don't have a tremendous area to shovel. But I also don't have a snow blower either. My neighbors have been kind enough to offer me theirs, every once in a while. More often than not, though, my three shovels are enough to get the job done. (I have a long bladed shovel for moving large amounts off the beginning part of my driveway, a straight shovel, and a 'bent' shovel for reducing back strain.)

The Very First Post

It's late. Funny, I could probably start every entry with that. So just assume it, OK? Or look at the time when I post. You'll be able to tell if it's late or not.