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.