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.)