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.

Carroll O'Connor

With the recent death of Carroll O'Connor, the actor who portrayed Archie Bunker, TV Land broadcast forty-eight hours of All in the Family this past weekend.

I didn't watch this show when I was growing up, but I know that it brought my parents much laughter. At the time of the show's run (1971-1979), I wasn't even a teen-ager, and besides, All in the Family seemed to be full of 'adult' humor. By the time I got to college, Archie Bunker was just so much trivia.

But a few months ago, TV Land ran an all-weekend marathon of All in the Family. Jenn tuned in, and we watched almost twenty episodes. I was amazed at the marvelously current, and direct humor on the show. I was also touched by the poignant episodes, most especially the one in which Archie has to say good-bye to Mike, Gloria, and Joey, because they were moving to California. There is one moment in this episode in which Edith comes from the kitchen, and sees Archie wiping away tears. She doubles back into the kitchen, then calls out to Archie "I'm bringing you a beer! Here I come!". Archie has collected himself, but still can't bear to look at Edith. "Here's your beer, Archie." "Just leave it there, Edith". They then turn inward, realizing just how much they're going to miss their daugther, son-in-law, and grand-son.

I saw this episode again tonight, and damn if I didn't start crying. Would I have gotten this at ten years old? Maybe. But I definitely 'get it' now. Good-bye Carroll O'Connor.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Start the Commotion

I subscribe to EditorsNet, an online magazine and a free daily e-mail newsletter on the world of film and television editors.

I bring it up because I read an article about Steve Prestemon, the editor for two thirty-second television commercials that have stuck themselves in my head.

The commercials are car commercials for Mitsubishi. The Eclipse commercial features a bunch of youthful people driving around, singing to a song which ends with a clip "Wind it up baby!" The Gallant commercial features a mellow tune, sung by passengers and drivers. It starts "I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger."

I was drawn to these commercials, and I've always wondered about the songs. Well, the article lists them as "Start the Commotion" (Eclipse), by The Wiseguys, and "Ooh La La" (Gallant), by The Faces. Yes, I downloaded the songs with Napster.

Like all good commercials, the song is catchy, and so is the mood. The combination of images and music puts you in 'a certain place' for less than one minute, and I'm fascinated by the process of how these are mixed together.

Wednesday, June 20, 2001


I read an article this morning about an abandoned boy who ended up living in a cave with wild dogs. Unbelieveable. Axel, the boy's name, lived with these dogs for two years, subsisting on a bitch's milk and scraps of scavenged food. I'm stunned that such a situation even exists.

Ellen Degeneres did a comedy riff on a woman being raised by wolves, who would end up having to call the 800 number printed on the shampoo bottle. Axel was five when he was abandoned by his parents, and he escaped from his foster care situation.


My new job features coffee served by the Keurig Premium Coffee System. Insert the K-Cup, and out comes fresh coffee. I so enjoy this device!

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

My Commute

Work was good! There's so much to talk about: the new technology, the people, my return to working in a cube (I had an office in my last year at my previous job).

The biggest thing to comment on for now is my commute. Jenn and I were blessed with really short commutes. It only takes her ten minutes to get to her office. It used to take me fifteen minutes to get to my office.

Today, it takes about thirty minutes to the trip. I now spend time on Route 3, a stretch of road that eventually takes drivers into New Hampshire, cutting through Lowell. My trip total is about seventeen miles, according to Yahoo! Maps.

Route 3 is a set of two two-lane roads, running North/South. Thankfully, I travel against traffic: In the morning, when traffic is backed up going South towards Boston, I'm racing North, towards Chelmsford. In the evening, when traffic is backed up going North to the various bedroom communities along Route 3, I'm racing South, towards Burlington/Lexington (and eventually to Arlington).

The Route 3 Improvement Project proposes to 'widen' the lanes, so I'll get to witness the progress of adding two full lanes to a heavily trafficked road.

Sunday, June 17, 2001

Father's Day Bag

Tomorrow, I start a new job. My wife got me a new bag for Father's Day, and I'm feeling like it's the first day of school. I can't wait to start, however. It's been two and a half months since I've been away from work, and I'm eager to get back into it.

The Sum of All Fears

I finished The Sum of All Fears today. This is a Tom Clancy book about terrorists trying to build a nuclear bomb. It was a long book (900+ pages) but a real page-turner. I was engrossed from the first few chapters, right up until the incredible finish. I couldn't read the book fast enough.

This was the kind of book that I took with me everywhere. I read bits of it waiting on line at the post office, sitting in traffic, or during television commercial breaks.

The book had a realism that kept me on my toes. When I read an article about the real director of central intelligence, George Tenet, I half expected to see plot lines from this novel. A review I read echoed the same sentiment.

This is a super fun book, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 15, 2001


I wear Fitover Sunglasses. I must admit that these look a bit 'unconventional' (they're huge!) but they work great! The weather remained hot, and the sun was blinding, but thanks to these Fitovers, I'm in the shade.

Thursday, June 14, 2001


Today was hot. Hot weather. I often claim that summer is my favorite season, but on days like this, I feel I need to move summer down a notch. Someone said that winter is better because you can always put on clothes when you're cold, until you get warm. With summer, you'll always be hot, no matter how many clothes you take off.

It was 80 degrees on Paul Fox's real-time temperature monitor, but it felt like 90.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Golf Reunion

I played golf today and ended up with a reunion of former work colleagues.

I left the house after Mia's morning feeding. By 6:50AM, I went into the pro shop at the Woburn Country Club and asked if I could play nine holes as a single. Normally, I would have joined another group, but a league was teeing off in five minutes. I decided to try another course.

I went to my old stand-by, Pine Meadows Golf Course. This is a nine-hole course (like the Woburn Country Club). I paid the fee, and was asked to join three older gentlemen. As my group was getting ready to tee off, three guys from my last job happened to be walking past the first tee. The starter suggested I join them, since it was clear I knew who these guys were.

So just like that, I left the three older gentlemen, and joined my former work colleagues: Tim Besser, Bill O'Keefe, and John Perakis.

Golf is a sport best enjoyed with happy company. These guys were happy. Despite a work day, they wanted to squeeze in nine holes before the 9AM. I had played with a few of them before. The comraderie of golf can't be overstated. There was no discouraging remarks. Instead, the banter was self-deprecating, and above all, encouraging. Golf talk isn't trash talk.

And the course was an old buddy too. All of us had memories of certain birdies, pars, bogeys, snow men, and "other" scores as we marched through each of the familiar holes. I can walk this course in my head.

I played OK, but the surprise reunion made up for my ugly score.

Sunday, June 10, 2001

Bourque's Cup

Ray Bourque has finally touched the Stanley Cup. He and the Colorado Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils in an epic seven game series, that had me emotionally spent by the end of it.

I told my wife when the Stanley Cup finals started, that I would emotionally invest myself in rooting for the Avalanche, for Ray Bourque. I told her that she could for the Avalanche for Chris Drury, a fellow BU alumnus.

For me, I spent a heady seven nights watching this on TV. There were games where I was glued to the television. There were games where I could only watch it cowered behind the computer, watching web updates to a mute scoreboard.

When the Avalanche went down 3-2 in the series, I was thrust into a despair I hadn't felt in a long time. When the Avalanche tied it up 3-3 in New Jersey, I moved about in trepidation for forty-eight hours, until game 7. Everything I did on Saturday seemed frought with Stanley Cup significance: should I wear a certain shirt? which TV should I watch the Cup? should I have a take-out lunch in addition to dinner? should I shave?

Saturday seemed filled with other great sports. I rejoiced when Jennifer Capriati won the French Open in an epic third set, but I feared that her good fortune would 'cancel out' an Avalanche win. I enjoyed the quick two goal lead by the New England Revolution, but I couldn't bear to think that the sporting gods would deny me an Avalanche victory so that my local soccer team could win one at home. I hid all this from Jenn as best I could, but in the early evening, I told her that I was a big mess waiting for this game to begin.

And when the game finally started, and the Avalanche kept pulling ahead, I frequently changed the channel, not daring to believe that a victory was possible. But with five minutes to play, I could barely sit down. After the game, I was so keyed up, I stayed awake flipping through the local news and Ray Bourque led every local telecast.

I am relieved to be writing these words as a common sports fan. The team I rooted for won, and that's a very satisfying feeling.

Thursday, June 7, 2001

Televised Sports Angles: Updated

I spent a few minutes editing my last entry on watching sports live versus on television. I think it's a little better now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Televised Sports Angles

John McEnroe spoke with President Bill Clinton after the French Open live telecast, and asked him "what should tennis do to become a more popular sport?"

Mr. Clinton gave what I felt was a thoughtful answer. He said that "like tennis and ice hockey, television producers should strive to make the telecasts look as if you were there." Mr. Clinton went on to say that both tennis and ice hockey were unique in that television cannot properly convey the true speed and action of the sport, no matter how good the camera operators are.

As I thought about it more, I think television enhances every sport, with the replays, and unique camera angles. This year's Stanley Cup finals introduced sychronized cameras to provide the ability to rotate around a replay, allowing for better angles.

'Continuous flow' sports, sports with little or no interruption, like ice hockey and tennis, are better 'live', when you can properly take in all the action. I spent many college ice hockey games watching just one player skate their shift. Soccer fits into this 'continuous flow' sports category as well. These games are just better 'live' because you choose the action you want to watch, plus you can watch all the action.

Another sport that television doesn't properly do justice for is golf. Television 'flattens' the course, and you rarely get a feel for the undulation of a green or fairway. But the worst part is that the flight of the ball is hidden. TV has to follow the ball using a close-up or tight shot, because a golf ball quickly disappears on the television screen if you stay focused with the golfer. When you watch golf 'live', you can see just how far away the 'target' is, in relation to the golfer. Morever, you can often follow the flight of the ball. Seeing a struck golf ball fly towards sky has to be one of the best sights in sports.

The best television angle I can remember in golf was the 1999 Ryder Cup, held at the Country Club (Brookline, MA). The players were teeing off a par-three, and the camera was somehow placed at the same level as the tee. The lens captured the arc of the ball, as it shot straight up and curved onto the tricky green. As all the players lined up to take this shot, you could see that each player produced similar ball flights, a testament to their talent.

Limitations such as these won't stop me from watching sports on television. But having attended a number of sporting events 'live' makes me realize that television provides only the limited view of the camera.

Lawn Patch

I laid down some lawn patch this morning. I felt like a landscaper, raking, digging, and watering. The product should produce grass in a matter of ten days, provided a water it twice a day. I should pull out the digital camera and take pictures of this progress.

Tuesday, June 5, 2001

My Wife and EBay

My wife has been selling stuff on EBay. I thought I was the heavy duty EBay user in the house, buying video stuff and computer parts but Jenn has surpassed my experiences. She has received modest checks for old maternity clothes, and makes extensive use of PayPal for online payment. In one afternoon, she became adept at taking digital photos, adjusting and cropping them, and uploading them. I can see how someone with an attic (or in her case, a closet) full of old stuff can clear it out for some money using EBay. Amazing.

Fruit for Work

This morning, I received a fruit basket from the company that just hired me. Jenn and I were amazed at this lovely gesture. The basket was from Winston Flowers, and the oranges that were included in the basket were excellent!

Monday, June 4, 2001

Job Offer

With great relief, I signed and mailed a job offer letter today. I'll post more details later, as I learned a great deal about job hunting with this recent job search. I start on June 18.

Saturday, June 2, 2001

My Second Birdie

Jenn, Mia, and I have been on a brief vacation, at Jenn's mother's home. While I was there, I played golf. Jenn's step-father is a member of the Elmcrest Country Club, a private 18-hole golf course.

I'm not a good golfer yet. I am more of a golf driving range rat. I'm more comfortable hitting buckets of balls, than subjecting myself to the real test of an actual golf course. I played miserably over the past few days. But I did hit only the second birdie of my life, on the par-3 6th hole. I hit a 6-iron as purely as I've hit one, and it landed six feet from the pin. I sank the putt, and was thankful I had a witness.

My other golf accomplishment: I kept the same ball for almost thirteen holes. I promptly lost three others after that first lost ball.