Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Watching Ellie

I really enjoyed Watching Ellie, a new television series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The show started with a potentially weak gag (running late, Julia's character, Ellie, finds that water is overflowing from her toilet tank), but the show used this device to introduce some funny characters. The show also had a timer, set at the lower-left corner of the television picture, faint, but noticeable. The timer emphasized the 'real time' nature of the show, and it was somewhat disconcerting. The timer started at 21 minutes, and ticked down to 00:00, like watching some sporting event.

The last time I watched something in "real time" was the movie Timecode. And that movie featured four simultaneous screens, each quite watchable. When I saw the first edit in Watching Ellie, I thought "how could this be realtime if there's editing?" But by the end of the show, you really felt late when Ellie finally arrives on stage at the end of the episode, knowing all she went through in the past twenty minutes.

I'm trying to think of a 20 minute block out of my life that would be worthy of television dramatization. I thinking the moments before my wedding (I smoke a cigarette while my brother Ron and great friend (and usher) James try to get to the church in a car that's running out of gas; we eventually stop at a gas station). I'm thinking the ten minutes before and the ten minutes after Mia was born. I'm thinking the twenty minutes I interviewed with the president of the first company I worked for after college.

It will be a challenge for Watching Ellie to match the perfect pacing of their premiere episode. I think it will also be hard to figure out moments in Ellie's life that are suited for a real-time presentation. Good scripts and good editing can help, but for how long?

Monday, February 25, 2002

Paul Kariya and Canadian Gold

I'll admit it. I rooted for the Canadian hockey team for Sunday's Olympic gold medal match against the United States. The Canadian's won 5-2.

I rooted for Canada for one reason: Paul Kariya. This stellar hockey star is plying his trade for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. It's not clear to me that he'll win a Stanley Cup with this team. I like to think that the Olympic Gold Medal would be a cherished hockey victory for him. During the telecast, the announcers said that Kariya was the fateful last shooter in the penalty shoot-out between Canada and Sweden in 1994. For the record, he was stopped (by goalie Tommy Salo).

I watched Paul Kariya way back in his college hockey days (early 1990s), playing for the University of Maine. One night, at Northeastern's Matthew's Arena, I watched as he buzzed up and down the ice with frightening ease. His slapper was hard and fast, and it was easy to see that he would be an NHL player. Alas, the Ducks haven't amounted to anything, but Paul is loyal (or biding his time). I'm glad he won with Canada at the Olympics.

Thursday, February 21, 2002


I've gone back to using a UNIX tool to read e-mail, the Mutt e-mail program. Mutt has been fun to learn so far, and I'm enjoying its sparseness.

I was using Microsoft Outlook 97, but for a number of reasons, it's just too bulky. While I was learning a lot cool features, I wasn't using it nearly to its potential. Plus, I was getting scared of viruses, and becoming annoyed that my e-mail was downloaded to my home machine, and not on my ISP, which I can access from work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002


A few weeks ago, in some freshly done laundry, I found sock that was missing its pair. Nothing unusual: a dark blue sock. I kept it on the top of my sock drawer.

Today, when I put on my dark blue shirt, I felt something in the sleeve: the missing sock! I love little miracles like this. I think I'll wear this pair of socks tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2002


The article on job loss I last posted a few days ago was obtained from SlashDot, the famous collaborative BLOG for techies. A wide-ranging discussion ensued about the article, basically veering between two extreme thoughts: "it's terrible that good people are out of work" and "it's good that bad people (i.e. incompetent) are not in the work force".

Layoffs do not "slash incompetents from the payroll" nor does it "resurrect a company's competitiveness". Layoffs are a 'tool' used by management to minimize cost in the face of reduced earnings. It's the cruelest tool that a company can use, because the resources being reduced are people.

As such, good workers and bad workers stay and leave during tough times. I'm one of those 'good workers' who happened to volunteer to be laid off. But as a former manager, I've also looked at a list of employees, and announced to a cabal of managers who I thought was 'worth keeping', and who was not.

Good and bad workers do co-exist, even in these recessionary times. However, before the onslaught of layoffs, both of these workers were safe in their jobs. Maybe bad workers were not as productive as good workers, but they provided some contribution, some value, even if it was only to perform some specialized task. Before the popularity of layoffs, there were places in most companies for people like this. Just as there are always places in most companies for the tireless over-achiever.

The bigger a company gets, the more work it has to do, and the more workers it needs. Clearly, not everyone in the world is an over-achiever. Managers have to hire some 'middle-of-the-road' talent to get the work done. These people punch their clock, doing just what is expected, no more, no less. There's a quiet honor about that. Their style balances a company out. In my experience, these people often take on the grunt work; they implement the procedures, and take instruction well. Bad workers? Not necessarily. Incompetent? To whom?

I don't doubt that the recession has startled people into a heightened sense of motivation. And clearly job losses throughout the industry have forced people to take on more work. Are the people who remain going to be thought of as incompetent when they can't be as productive as they used to be, because they are doing more? And just how often does a company have to contract before those who remain fall below the 'worth keeping' line?

I'm pining for a time that probably doesn't exist anymore, but that everyone wishes would return: the time of the safe job. A time when workers were given an opportunity to add value. A time when workers were united by common company goals, and not fear of being slashed.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Collecting Bodies

I read an incredibly gruesome story in today's New York Times. Seems that a crematory in Noble, Georgia wasn't actually cremating bodies. Instead, it was simply collecting and piling up the bodies next to the buiding, and potentially the adjoining lake. Dead people were strewn around in the most casual manner, in work sheds, often piled one on top of the other. Authorities say there could be as many as 200 bodies.

Georgia's medical examiner, a person who's been around dead people, has said "I wish we had a good explanation for this, but we don't." The crematory worked primarily with funeral homes, so end-customers didn't deal with this facility.

Apparently, the owners of the crematory couldn't/didn't fix their incinerator. It makes you scratch your head, that's for sure. I know there's dark humor at work in this situation, and Stephen King must be absorbing this news with great interest. It's the most stunning news item I've read in quite some time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002


The Golf Channel has returned to my home. (OK, I ante'd up the extra fee.)

Monday, February 11, 2002

The Unemployed

I continue to count myself among the fortunately employed, especially after articles like this one, reporting on former high-powered, high-tech employees working in the Post Office, or at a coffee shop. I know of at least four people who haven't been employed for practically months. It's discouraging.

I've been trying to help where I can, posting my company's open job reqs to alumni e-mail lists. But so far, no bites from my company on the many good people that I know. For those folks still looking to get hired back into high-tech, I suppose it's just a matter of hunkering down. But it's an overall discouraging feeling.

Sunday, February 10, 2002

I'm Not Tiger

My e-mail receives its share of SPAM. I suppose it's no more than the average e-mail user. However, because I created and update the sparse Unofficial Tiger Woods Home Page, I get my share of strange requests.

First, I am not Tiger Woods. If I were, would I even have time to write an FAQ on Tiger? As it is, I barely have enough time to update the FAQ. Still, it's amusing receiving e-mail from people who think they are corresponding with Tiger Woods. I can't imagine the mail the real Tiger gets, but I think I add to it because I often redirect these people to Tiger's agent, the International Management Group (in Ohio).

Second, I'm not Tiger's agent. Nor can I fulfill any requests for Tiger's autograph, time, books, or videos. Again, a canned e-mail reply sends them to Tiger's agent. I did save the old correspondence I had with someone who needed autographed Tiger Woods photos. I sent her to IMG. Two months later, she wrote thanking me for the accurate address.

Finally: I don't know everything about Tiger Woods. Just last month, someone asked me if Tiger could bench 300 pounds (I believe he could, based on what a few uncorroborated statements from a columnist at CNN/SI's Golfonline). I have been asked what kind of Nike shoes does he wear, what kind of golf balls does he use, what kind of irons, and does he have a girl friend. A lot of these questions can be answered by carefully reading articles about Tiger in the mainstream press (Sports Illustrated, New York Times) and golf publications (Tiger 'writes' for Golf Digest).

If this is a taste of a celebrity, then maybe I'll just remain anonymous for now.

Thursday, February 7, 2002

Sports Topics

So many topics swirling in my head, and they all seem to have to do with sports: John Valentin, with Jersey City origins, is "sort of" reunited with Mo Vaughn when Valentin signed a minor-league contract with the Mets. The Sacramento Kings are the best team I've seen play against the Celtics. Joe Thornton should really be on Canada's Olympic ice hockey team. Tiger Woods is playing at Torrey Pines this week, home to the Buick Invitational. I scored my first birdie at Torrey Pines. I'll be rooting for Michelle Kwan to win a figure skating gold medal. Magic Johnson said he saw a tremendous goal by soccer great Zinedine Zidane (who plays for Real Madrid), and Magic is quoted as saying "He's just as good as me and Michael Jordan put together." I'm still looking for this goal myself.

Monday, February 4, 2002

Patriots Win Superbowl

I was originally going to write that trying to win a Super Bowl with defense has to be the hardest thing to do. It demands concentration, dedication, a commitment to the play, to the position, to the coverage. I felt that the Patriots were starting to lose the defensive edge, especially when the vaunted Rams tied up the score 17-17 with less than two minutes to play. I was going to write that you win by the sword, you die by the sword: all the Patriots had was defense. They needed offense.

And then Tom Brady strings together a bunch of passes starting from the Patriots' 17-yard line, driving forward to allow Adam Vinatieri to kick in the winning field goal. Pure hurry-up offense. And the result is a pure feeling: a home-town champion! Reset the clock, New England! We are the champions! We are the Super Bowl champs!

Oh what a feeling...!

Saturday, February 2, 2002


It's cold. Brrrrrr...

Friday, February 1, 2002

Nervous Sports Fever

Only a few more days until the Super Bowl. I'm nervous.

Since I moved to Boston in 1991, I have only celebrated a few national championships won by home teams (mostly in college ice hockey, Boston University being a perennial favorite). The Red Sox are a source of constant frustration. The Celtics are continually rebuilding (although I'm enjoying Paul Pierce/Antoine Walker/Kenny Anderson). The Bruins keep getting eliminated by stronger rivals in the playoffs. This leaves the Patriots. I already mentioned their last losing appearance in the Super Bowl (1996).

Who were my teams before Boston? In truth, I rooted for "no teams". As a kid growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, I had plenty of opportunity to become a fan of the Yankees, Mets, Jets, Giants, Nets, Knicks, Rangers, Devils or Islanders. But I was quite ignorant of pro sports growing up. I played sports with the kids around the block, but I didn't know players, or teams, or standings. At college, I started becoming more attuned to following sports. Maybe because I had more time. Maybe because my college friends came from such different places, I could see their passion when, say, the Minnesota Twins won the World Series. Maybe because I slowly lost the interest and/or the physical ability to play sports that I started to enjoy watching them.

After graduating, and moving to Boston, I decided that I would be a Boston sports fan. I learned teams. I learned players and coaches names. I learned standings. I learned some history. I have attended Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox games (alas, no Patriots games). As the years have gone by, I slowly realized how tough the road is that I've chosen. I actually pegged the Bruins to be the team most likely to win a championship in my lifetime. My old childhood friends, fans of the Jets, the Yankees, the Mets have heaped the usual derision on me.

But here are the New England Patriots, giving me new life, new hope, new excitement, in the biggest of all sports championships. And I'm nervous.


Happy birthday to my wife. I love her very much.