Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Shattered Glass

Shattered Glass is the twelfth movie I've seen in the theater this year.

The movie is about the young (median age: 26) journalists and editors at The New Republic. One of the journalists, Stephen Glass, spent most of his career at the political magazine fabricating stories. One of the editors, Charles Lane, discovers this and deals with the consequences.

This is a simple story, but it's told so very well. It's also a kind of 'genre' movie: the journalistic drama. I'll admit that I'm drawn to journalistic dramas. My two favorites: All the President's Men and The Insider. Shattered Glass actually makes a brief reference to the first one.

Since "Shattered Glass" is based on fact, it was up to writer/director Billy Ray to compress and composite the characters and events to make a dramatic picture. He did this superbly. He somehow made the work of writers and editors very dramatic.

The acting is straightforward but the casting was perfect. Juxtaposing the dashing Hank Azaria, who plays Michael Kelly, the editor who gets fired for defending his writers with Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Charles Lane, as the stiff, unpopular successor sets up the office politics brilliantly. Hayden Christensen plays the story fabricator. As the movie develops, his character becomes more and more desperate and the audience along with the editors begin to doubt even the memories that the film presents as his own.

This is a terrific movie, and it honors the genre of journalistic dramas.

Thursday, December 25, 2003


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Magic Season

It's that magical season again, a time of gift giving and gift receiving.

As I get older, the two-sided coin of gift giving and receiving has become more and more worn. It's hard to find the shiny spots anymore. Somewhere along the way, giving gifts has become a chore (or at best, another item on my to-do list). And receiving gifts hasn't gotten any easier.

My wife and I have developed a highly sensible approach for the holiday season. We simply tell each other what we'd like. This starts as early as Labor Day. By the time I buy gifts, which I now do almost exclusively on-line, it's a matter of crossing items off a very detailed list (often with catalog and item numbers). We rarely surprise one another nowadays and this makes me wistful.

I like to think I'm a very gracious gift receiver, but somewhere along the line, I started making enough money to buy myself my own gifts. If I find myself wanting a music CD, or a book, or a new computer part, I buy it. I don't wait for a holiday, or my birthday, or my anniversary.

At work, a bunch of us were grousing about how competitive gift giving can become. The secret Santas. The price limits. Who gave what to whom. Gifts become a measure of the giver and the recipient. "Oh, he can afford to give that. Oh, he deserved that; he's out of work." Instead of sentiment, it's judgment.

Since we have a daughter, Jenn and I have returned to simpler emotions regarding the holidays. Mia's at an age where handing her packing tape is a cause for high celebration, and we can't wait for her to open the myriad of gifts that we bought her. In her squeals of delight, in her simple eagerness to tear away the wrapping paper, I remember that gifts symbolize love and generosity. "I'm thinking of you." "I love you."

I think receivers and givers should remember that this magical season.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Down Entry

I'm down a bit. I had a transaction go "bad" on eBay (I'll write more about this later). I had to leave work "a little later than usual", which always irks me as it disrupts my commuting routine. And to top it all off, I actually wanted to do some work from home but my PC at work seems to be flaking (I connect to my work PC via TightVNC over SSH).

I'm also down because I spoke with a former co-worker this afternoon, and we were reminiscing about our high-tech careers. As we were going over where we were and where we wanted to go, I was sensing that he made some good decisions career-wise and that perhaps I haven't.

It's always important to look up beyond the trees to see what forest you're in. Are you in a good situation? Does it fit in with your values, your vision of yourself? Do you have a vision of yourself? For me, I have values, I have a vision. Today, career-wise, I wonder if I'm in the best situation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003


Folks who visited my last picture album probably noticed that I didn't make the HTML pages myself. Instead, I used some shareware called JAlbum. I like this software. It automatically generates the thumbnails, creates the slides, and also creates the navigation between the individual slides. You already have to know HTML, and some basic CSS.

I wrote my own little Perl program to create the web pages over at the Mia Picture Site. But my program never created thumbnails, and my program didn't do the image manipulation (mostly size reduction). I originally wanted to tackle these problems, but I never got around to learning how to use GD, never mind trying to integrate it with my Perl program.

There's a fine line between "doing it yourself" and "building on the work of others." Since I know how to write computer programs, almost every problem that I look at involves me writing a program. We need to organize all these music CDs. "I'll write a program." We need to figure out how many colors to put on this quilt. "I'll write a program." It's the adage "If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Well, David Ekholm (the author of JAlbum) used his hammer, and used it very well. I'm glad he's sharing the fruits of labor. I have given up trying to write my own program to make picture albums. The amount of pride I had to swallow was very small. Instead, I'll take pride in the albums themselves.

Monday, December 8, 2003


Kudos to my newspaper delivery man. He didn't deliver anything over the long snow storm this weekend, but this morning, there was a fresh copy of the Sunday Boston Globe, and the Sunday New York Times. His "tip envelope" is on our side table at home. This deserves a nice tip!

Sunday, December 7, 2003


I made a small album of pictures that I took when I went outside to shovel. The plow didn't arrive until 7PM tonight. I missed my newspapers. I missed church. I missed take-out.

At least I got some exercise.

Saturday, December 6, 2003


I tried shoveling in the early evening. Unfortunately, snow continued to fall, covering up my efforts. We'll probably get outside as a group tomorrow (Jenn, Mia, and I). We'll try to tackle the shoveling together. The key is to get a break in the snowfall, but that probably won't happen until after lunch on Sunday.


New England's first Nor'easter of the season is upon us. We live in Arlington, indicated by the red star. All the white stuff on the map is snow. It's been snowing steadily, at times furiously. The shoveling looks formidable. Our street is impassable, but we won't be venturing into our cars, except to grab shovels. No take-out today, it seems.

The snow is predicted to last until noon Sunday. It's a hunkering down time. It's winter time (two weeks ahead of winter's official start day).

Monday, December 1, 2003

DNS Woes

According to the Tripod "Alerts" page (off their Help page), the servers that host my BLOG are undergoing an IP address change, which necessitated a DNS change. The exact wording:
The IP addresses of all Tripod servers has changed causing some users who are attempting to access or edit their Tripod sites to see an old version of their site...
This is the exact problem I'm seeing. Whenever I access my book mark for this page, I do not see my latest entries.

Changing a record on the Domain Name Server involves updating a few records, and then letting the change propagate throughout the Internet. Apparently, the propagation can take a long time. Folks on the Tripod message boards (Tripod Club) are complaining about this very behavior.

For those of you reading this at http://members.tripod.com/rick_umali/rickblog/blogger.html, consider yourselves fortunate. Your ISP is properly updated with respect to the new Tripod servers. Some of you are accessing this via http://rick_umali.tripod.com/rickblog/blogger.html. For some reason, this URL allows me to view the correct content.

Either way, the estimated time to have the DNS records propagated is December 3.