Monday, March 25, 2002

The Long Bet

David Winer and Martin Nisenholtz placed a long bet to see which will be more relevant in 2007: web logs or The New York Times. Good arguments both ways, but I'll put my money on The New York Times.

(Of particular interest to my house-hold: long bet #8.)

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Big Watches

The Times ran a neat article about a new trend: big watches. It seems that superstars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have a taste for "big watches", watches that are larger than 40 millimeters in diameter. The article spoke about watches as being one of the few pieces of jewelry that a man will wear on a regular basis. Hence, a "big" watch, like those made by Panerai are in vogue. It says you have "big" style.

The watch I desire the most is by Jaeger-LeCoultre. It's an art-deco masterpiece called the Reverso. Right after that model is the exquisite Master Perpetual. Both are analog, and both are north of the $10,000 price range. I tried a Reverso in a jewelry store, and Jenn and I marvelled at its elegant beauty (and she owns a gorgeous Raymond-Weil).

Surprisingly, since the start of my present job (June 2001), I haven't worn my watch (your run-of-the-mill Swiss Army). I've always associated my watch fetish with my own climb up the corporate ladder. The higher up I go, the more demands on my time, the more I'll want a good looking watch. Since it's not clear I'm anywhere near the ladder anymore, I don't need a watch to remember when to be somewhere. I just glance at my computer's clock.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Buzzy's Roast Beef

A local eatery is shutting down in Boston: Buzzy's Roast Beef. I never ate there, but I wish I had.

This is a total dive. Set near the Charles Street/Mass General Hospital T Stop, and a busy traffic circle, the restaurant seemed to have the night-owl hours I loved when I was single. It's a place of some "ill repute", some concerning food, some concerning questionable clientele. In 1996, Russell Frye bought the place, and refurbished it somewhat. I remember thinking "I better get over there, before it closes like The Tasty in Harvard Square."

But life is such that the closest things to us are often the things we take for granted the most. I never expected Buzzy's to close, just like I never expected The Tasty to close, or the old Boston Garden, or Fenway Park. (Actually, Fenway is thriving under the new ownership, but you never know.)

I read in an article a few months back that you "belong to a place" when you have witnessed a change in that place. "That hairdresser used to be a tanning salon." or "That sign didn't exist until the tourists started coming here." In a way, this is why my childhood home of Jersey City scares me so much: there's so much change I haven't witnessed, I'm almost disoriented.

Tom Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again, but sometimes home changes out from under you. Make sure to visit!

Monday, March 11, 2002

My Neighbor Died

One of my neighbors died over the weekend. Jenn and I heard the news this morning. His obituary was in the newspaper today.

I spent a bit of time trying to recall the last time I saw Steve, the last time I spoke with him. He and his wife have lived on our street for a long time. They were here when we moved to Arlington in March 1997. I always found him, his wife Diane, and their young son Kobi to be very nice.

I last saw him walking his dog in the early morning. A few weeks ago? I was on my way to work; I waved from inside the car. Did he wave back? Maybe. In the warmer weather, we would stop to chat, him from the street, me from the car.

There's a common lament that we don't get to know our neighbors. I feel that now.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

The Boston Catholic Crisis

There is a fierce outcry in Boston over the actions of Cardinal Bernard Law, and his handling of priests accused of sexually abusing children at their parishes. In particular, the flashpoint of this crisis is John Geoghan, a former parish priest who has molested up to a hundred children. Maybe more. Cardinal Law, with full knowledge of Geoghan's pedophilia, moved him to other parishes.

The media loves this story: there are clear victims and clear "villains".

I feel tremendous ambivalence.

Geoghan, and other priests who have now come forward, men who have vowed to be celibate, to represent Christ on earth, they have used their power to partake in a perversion. But is this a story because these men were priests? What about people who are pedophiles who are not priests? The ones propositioning children in AOL chat rooms? The ones peddling child pornography? Are they less wrong? How about those that view these materials? Don't they deserve the microscope of media attention?

Cardinal Law, as an administrator, has made a critical mistake in thinking that Fr. Geoghan could simply be "moved" away from the problem. Cardinal Law has put his hat in his hand, and asked for forgiveness. He is backing up his words by putting into place a task force that will seek policies so abuse like this won't happen again. He is trying to affect change. I am encouraged by this action, and I do not feel he should step down.

We are all weak. We are all sinners. Out of this whole mess, this is one of the lessons that I'm most sure of.

I won't learn anything fundamentally new from the trial of Geoghan. I won't learn anything from new allegations of abuse from victims, or new admissions of guilt from priests. The sin/crime is the same. Only the details are different. My reaction is the same as when I first heard of these events: weary shock, weary sadness.

What do the abusers want? Understanding. Forgiveness. Perhaps help. Do they know that what they do is aberrant?

What do the victims want? Retribution. An erasing of a memory that can never be forgotten. Perhaps they want to forgive. Perhaps they want to make the priesthood contrite.

There are plenty of lawyers involved now, for both sides. Instead of the language of forgiveness, of healing, of faith and prayer, there is the language of secret testimonies, of settlements, of challenging statute of limitations. My Mom often says "man proposes; God disposes." We're proposing now: we're proposing in our courts how to exact a justice that won't ever be enough. We're proposing how to fix a priesthood that is meant to represent Christ.

I will try to pray for these people: for the victims and for the abusers, caught in an awful cycle of sin then revelation. Caught in the media glare.

Thursday, March 7, 2002

One Year of Blogging

On March 10, 2002, it will be one year since I started writing this BLOG.

Saturday, March 2, 2002

Gordon Matthews

The inventor of modern voice mail died yesterday. His name was Gordon Matthews. He was 65.

One day, while standing in the rain near a dumpster, he noticed a huge pile of those pink "While You Were Out" slips. He thought "What if we didn't need those slips of paper anymore?"

He built prototypes, and eventually filed the patent (4,371,752) that was the birth of the modern voice mail era. His first systems were bought by 3M. Other companies soon followed. The company he founded to build and sell voice mail systems would eventually earn millions of dollars in royalties on this technology.

I am not a heavy voice mail user now. As it is, I only receive one or two messages a week. At my last job, however, I was a voice mail geek. I changed my greeting every day: "Today is Friday, March 1. You have reached Rick Umali." The five to ten people who left voice mail for me would know I was in. One of my colleagues configured his voice mail box to send a message to his pager, so he knew whenever a voice mail message arrived for him. Despite my dearth of incoming messages, I couldn't imagine working in an office without voice mail.

Gordon Matthews changed the way businesses work. RIP.