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.