Sunday, December 25, 2005


Peace, everyone. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


I have 88 photos uploaded on Flickr, the popular "photo sharing" service that was recently purchased by Yahoo!. I modified my BLOG template to show off three pictures at random on the left-hand side of this page. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope to see some of your photos on Flickr.

Friday, December 23, 2005

My Life. My Card.

American Express has been running an ad campaign called "My life. My card.", and it's in the style of those quick-quiz profiles. I first saw this ad a few weeks ago in my Sports Illustrated. I've always been fond of these of these little snap-shot portraits. In the style of these ads, here's me:

childhood ambition: to become a writer
fondest memory: trip to Paris with my wife
soundtrack: theme to Star Wars
retreat: uncrowded movie theater
wildest dream: to publish a book
proudest moment: hearing my daughter say "thank you", "please", and "I love you"
biggest challenge: getting the next job
alarm clock: lately, my Palm Pilot (6:20AM)
perfect day: a round of golf
first job: computer operator
indulgence: taking the long way while running an errand
last purchase: take-out pizza for me and my wife
favorite movie: one of them is Cinema Paradiso
inspiration: people figuring things out

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Strike

I had been working on a long blog about the strike by the Transit Workers Union in New York City, when I learned this afternoon that an agreement had been reached, and the strike would be stopped. So much for topical blogging on my part. However, Tom Evslin wrote a strong piece that has aspects of my position on pensions, which was a major sticking point in this strike. I hope the spotlight stays on pensions even though the strike has ended.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Wow, what a dense movie this was!

I saw this tonight and wasn't prepared for the movie to finish the way that it did. There was a slight buzz when the credits started to roll. I characterize it as the sound of an audience scratching their heads. My immediate reaction was "is that it!?" I wanted the director, Stephen Gaghan, to step in front of the screen and ask us if we had any questions. Still, the main characters in this movie (played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Jeffrey Wright) had somewhat recognizable character arcs. But I still won't fully understand Clooney's entire story without a second viewing.

The movie has been compared to "Traffic", the Steven Soderbergh movie about drugs. Mr. Gaghan was the screen writer for that movie, but I felt that "Traffic" is the more accessible of the two. Still, I recommend "Syriana".

(The final frames of the credits point to a website about our dependency on oil.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Grass is Always Greener

I don't remember when it started, but over the past few years I have been assembling a list of non-computer jobs that I wish I could do. I still love working on computers; don't get me wrong. But I do often think about working in one of these completely different jobs. Here are some of those jobs that I would love to be good at:

Limousine Driver - Yes, that's right. Limo driver. I've often pondered life as a professional driver. I like the idea of reading the newspaper in an idling Crown Victoria, waiting for some big shot to get to the airport, or downtown, or wherever. I like the idea of driving without having a destination. Driving for the sake of driving. I feel I would astonish passengers by my smooth driving skills, and savvy road knowledge.

When I lived in Pasadena back in college, one of my favorite things to do was drive to Los Angeles Airport. I loved volunteering to take people there, whether to pick them up or drop them off. There are dozens of ways to get to LAX, and I must have tried them all. I thought "wouldn't it be cool if I could do this all day?"

Repair Man - Some of the most pleasant conversations I've had as a homeowner were with the repair men (all men so far) that have come to our house. I do very little hands-on repair, so we pay a good amount for plumbing repair, oil burner repair, even simple appliance repair. Everyone who's been here were pleasant, and very competent.

This is a job that's close to home. My Dad was an electrical technician (and now an electrical inspector), and my father-in-law is very handy man around the house. Once, my father-in-law repaired a circuit in our breaker panel, and my Dad "inspected" the work he did ("he did a nice job"). I'm always amazed that my Dad knows exactly what wires to touch and not to touch.

Session Musician - Yes, I'm still playing guitar, but no one is going to be paying me to play anytime soon. But I enjoy fantasizing about it. And when I think about jobs in music, I always think about being a session musician. I don't need to be Eric Clapton; I want to be the guy who can play an Eric Clapton solo.

Many years ago I spent a few minutes chatting with one of my roommate's friends. He was strumming an electric guitar, and he was telling me that he wished he could play music full time. I asked him what he was playing right then, and he said he was practicing some progressions. He then played a few phrases so fluidly and easily that I was astonished he wasn't a full-time musician already. Now I know that being able to play and being able to play professionally are two different things, but I still remember thinking "I want to do that!"

Thursday, December 1, 2005

It's December

In New England, where I live, December is the return to cold, and while it's been relatively mild the past few days, this weekend may not break 40 degrees. I haven't worn my heavy coat yet, nor have I had to use my ice scraper, but I have definitely turned on the seat warmers in my car.

I also get wistful at this time of the year. I get to thinking about all the things I haven't done. Where has the year gone? Have I squandered it? December adds weight to these questions, so I constantly have to remind myself of all the things I have done. Still, December marks the high season for these feelings.

I have to wait for January before I can get back to my usual optimistic self.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Galaxy 1, Revs 0 (OT)

The Revolution lost the title match to the Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-0, in overtime.

This was a tough loss. I'm very disappointed. I'm slightly heartened by the fact that this loss may give the team a new resolve into next season, but that's next season. Tough loss!

Monday, November 7, 2005

Go Revs! (Part Two)

The New England Revolution made it to the MLS Cup. They will be playing the Los Angeles Galaxy. The game will be played this Sunday, and I'm counting the days. C'mon Revs!

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Go Revs!

Tomorrow, the New England Revolution take on the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference match. They will play in the Revolution's home field, Foxboro. If the Revs win tomorrow afternoon, they'll advance to the MLS Cup final, to face the winner of the Western Conference match.

The Revs have been flying under the New England's sports radar for many months now, despite their successful and entertaining style of play. And with the Patriots taking on the Colts on Monday Night Football at Foxboro, I wouldn't be surprised if the Revs continue to lay low in sports consciousness. But I'm aware of them. And I'm anxious. Go Revs!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Music for a Deserted Island

Over the past few days, my wife has been selling off our CD collection.

Have you ever pondered a variation of this question: If you had to be stuck on a deserted island, what five CDs would you bring with you? To some extent, we went through that exercise. While we let go about two or three hundred CDs, we allowed ourselves to keep a few of our favorites. Here are some of the ones I kept.

Eric Clapton: Unplugged. I had already been a fan of Clapton for years prior to this CD, but this one was one of his great commercial successes. It's full of super music. This album reinvigorated my adoration for this great guitarist. An acoustic set of songs, Clapton introduces "Tears in Heaven" and his super remake of "Layla". He won an armful of Grammies for this album, and it's totally deserving. Clapton has been rocking for several decades, and I had CDs and tapes from his early stuff, and I have some of his newer stuff, but this one was the keeper Clapton disc.

Master of Puppets. When I watched Metallica: Some Kind of Monster in 2004, I began a journey into heavy metal that I'm still on. I knew I would need to keep Metallica's Master of Puppets, one of their signature albums. If your ears are virgin to heavy metal, then allow me to suggest this one disc to deflower them. This is an aggressive and "heavy" album. The guitar solos from Kirk Hammett are killer. James Hetfield spits out the vocals, like he's priming for a fight. The driving bass and drums are fast. This album is still thrilling to listen to (every song rocks), and it has to stay in my CD case.

Dire Straits. I can easily recall the single light, and how it played in the darkened dorm room, when I first heard "Brothers in Arms", Dire Straits very popular album (released 1985). The song was "Your Latest Trick". I was a college freshman. And the cool sexy saxophone that starts that song was my introduction to this band. Of course, "Brothers" was a best seller. It had the very popular songs "Walk of Life", and "Money for Nothing". But I bought that album for "Your Latest Trick." Somehow, I don't remember when, or how, I came to listen to Dire Straits' first self-titled album (released 1978). This album was full of the atmosphere from that one song, that one night back in college. Mysterious. Funky. Cool electric guitar. Everyone will remember "Sultans of Swing" from this album, but check out "Six Blade Knife". Awesome stuff. I love this disc. Couldn't let it go.

The Blueprint. After I watched 8 Mile, featuring the rapper Eminem, I went back on a rap groove for many months. I listened to a bunch of artists: old Notorious B.I.G., classic Puff Daddy, new Missy Elliott, old and new Snoop Dogg. And the one disc that remains entrenched in my mind from those months of listening is Jay-Z's "The Blueprint". The CD is in the style of combat rap. Jay-Z is constantly rapping that he's the real deal, and all the other rappers out there are just players. With this album's musicality, you get the sense that he's at the top of this game. Your head will be bobbing and nodding with this CD. Every song is different: fast, medium, and slow beats; light, heavy, and dense rap lyrics. "I sell ice in the winter; I sell fire in hell; I am a hustler baby, I sell water to a well." Yeah, it's a keeper.

Red Hot & Blue. I had originally put this Cole Porter tribute CD in the "to go" bin. On the morning that Jenn was putting the CDs on the Internet, she IM'd me, saying that this one had to be keeper: It had our wedding song on it (Sinéad O'Connor's version of "You Do Something to Me")! The night I went through the boxes of CDs for my keepers, I saw this one and winced. This is a great album (Tom Waits' "It's All Right With Me" and Annie Lennox's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" are superb), but I was keeping a bunch of CDs already. I figured that maybe for some anniversary, I could buy it again for her. So I put it in the "to go" bin. And Jenn saved it, thankfully. This is one of the few albums that Jenn and I agreed together to keep.

These aren't the only CDs I kept of course. I have another Metallica CD ("St. Anger"). I have "The Eminem Show". And yes, I have "Brothers in Arms." But I also kept my cousin's college acapella band CD (Juxtaposition's "Assume the Position"). I kept my youngest brother's "Reasons for War" (from his band The Paragraphs). I kept an Elvis CD ("Suspicious Minds"). And I still had a stash of CDs that were "hidden" from this process because they were in the CD case for my car. I'll have to blog about those twenty or so CDs someday. Those are all great CDs for a deserted island too.

Congratulations White Sox

The White Sox swept the Houston Astros in four games to win the World Series. Second City no more!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Go White Sox!

For the record, I'm rooting for the Chicago White Sox over the Houston Astros in this year's World Series.

Monday, October 17, 2005

My First Cell Phone Picture

My brother Ron asked me if I had taken pictures with the new cell phone. Yes, I have. Here's the first picture I took with the phone (my daughter Mia).

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yet Another Cell Phone

My old phone finally stopped working. A few days ago, it wasn't able to pick up the network. I could dial, but I was answered by fast busy signals.

I walked into the local cell phone store near the mall where I work, and asked if they could fix my old phone. They took one look at it, smiled, and said "it's time for a new one."

So today, I bought another phone, a Samsung SCH-A850. And just like the last time I bought a cell phone, I'm marveling at all the features. It's got crazy ring tones. It's got a little bitty camera. And it's a "clam-shell", so now I feel as hip as my wife, who has always insisted on having as high-end a phone as possible (her SGH-P400 has a swivel camera, and a rotating face display).

My only complaint so far: No games were installed. I guess I'll have to download them.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Red Sox Done

White Sox 5, Red Sox 3.

And just the like, the Red Sox were swept in the American League Division Series, 3-0. The White Sox will go against either the New York Yankees or the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels (their series is tied at 1-1).

I had lunch a few days ago with a great Red Sox friend. Boston had just lost the first game of the ALDS to Chicago. We both shared the sentiment that last year's World Series victory gave us the ability to take this in stride. There's a comfort in knowing that nothing that happens this year can take away what happened last year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Red Sox 4, White Sox 5

David Wells pitched 6 2/3 innings, but gave up five runs. The winning pitcher, Mark Buehrle, went 7 innings. He gave up 4 early runs, but settled down after the third inning.

It's a short series. If we lose the next one, we're done. At least the next game is at Fenway.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Red Sox 2, White Sox 14

Well. All I have to say is that David Wells is pitching tomorrow.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Red Sox Are In

Now that the Red Sox are in the American League Division Series playoffs against the Chicago White Sox, I can rest easy until the games start (on Tuesday).

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Red Sox Lose

I was taken by surprise when the Yankees were deemed the winner of the American League East, after they beat the Red Sox this afternoon.

If the Red Sox win tomorrow, the Red Sox and the Yankees would have the exact same record this season. However, after their win today, the Yankees now have a better season record against the Sox, and this season record gives them their pennant.

AP writer Jimmy Golen wrote: "Through a quirk in baseball's rules, the Yankees (95-66) won the division because of Cleveland's loss to Chicago in the AL Central. The loss by the Indians (93-68) eliminated the possibility of a three-way tie -- and an unprecedented two-game, three-team tiebreaker -- and gave New York the East by virtue of their 10-8 record against Boston (94-67)."

I wish the Sox had won it today. There's now only one more day in the regular season. If the Red Sox can beat the Yankees tomorrow, the Sox make the playoffs as a Wild Card. I'm dying over here!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Red Sox Win

The Red Sox beat the Yankees, 5-3 tonight at Fenway Park. Both teams are headed into the final weekend of the regular season tied for first place. (Both teams have 96 wins, 66 losses.) It's another high drama weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yankees Winning / Sox Losing

I'm right now watching the Red Sox give up the lead in a game they really need to win. It looked like batting practice for Tampa Bay out there!

With the Red Sox lead in the American League East down to half a game over the Yankees, the last week and a half of the regular season looks to be another nail-biter. I can't believe it!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Planes Operation

While watching the documentary Inside 9/11 a few days ago, I was struck at how precise and deliberate the terrorists were in their planning of the attack. They had been planning this for over two years! And for the last year, the pilots were here in the United States, no doubt hating every minute of it.

Osama bin Laden and his "team" called this mission "The Planes Operation." Al Qaeda drew their crew of "muscle hijackers" from their "Department of Martyrs", men who were predisposed to becoming martyrs for their radical cause. And when Mohammed Atta relayed the day he decided to attack, he used this code: "Two sticks. A dash. A cake, with a stick down." 9-11.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

The Boys are Back

Tonight, the United States mens soccer team qualified for next year's World Cup in Germany. They beat the team from Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, OH.

The United States have qualified for the World Cup the last five tournaments. It's going to be an exciting summer next year!

Friday, September 2, 2005


The first and last time I visited New Orleans was December of 1991.

I was there on a week-long business trip. I didn't travel with any co-workers, so I roamed the city alone after my day's work.

I had one of the "Best Meals of My Life" in New Orleans, a heaping serving of Crawfish Etouffee from K-Paul's. It was the first time I had this Cajun recipe, and it was a revelation. I was astounded by the spices, the texture and size of the crawfish. The meal was served on a generous bed of white rice. It was a taste sensation. I often think about this particular meal. I've had other versions of this, but so far nothing compares.

That week, I noted in my diary that I ate at the Palace Café twice, but nothing sticks out as a food memory.

On my last night there, I visited the famed Preservation Hall, a small music hall which features New Orleans jazz musicians, playing New Orleans jazz. The focus at the hall was the music. There were no chairs to sit on, just the floor. No food or beverages were served. Just music.

I remember how bright, sharp and sudden the music seemed to be in that very small room. It was magical, listening to the five musicians (a lot of brass, some strings, a piano) weave their gorgeous sound. The music struck me with its intimacy, its "nearness". As the horn hit some particularly aggressive notes, I remember thinking "he's going to knock us out with that sound!" I haven't experienced live music like that since.

It makes me sad that these places were part of Katrina's devastation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We're Not Frozen

Apparently, the instant text message sent from the crashing plane was a hoax.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

We're Frozen

In the passenger plane crash in Greece a few days ago, one passenger managed to send this text message: "The pilots have turned blue. Farewell cousin - we're frozen."

Chills down my spine. Hairs raised on my neck. I close my eyes, and shake my head, trying to get rid of the feeling of dread and sadness, reminding myself that I'm alive.

I think about that text message. I think about the sender of that message. I think about who received it. Did that person know?

As I write this, another plane has crashed in Venezuela. And both of these follow the missed runway incident at Pearson Airport in Toronto.

With a recent job change requiring more business travel, I'm on airplanes a lot more these days. All these recent incidents give me pause.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tax Free Weekend

Massachusetts just had a "tax free weekend." Shoppers throughout the state could make purchases on most items and not pay the 5% state sales tax.

I bought a cordless mouse, and I like it. Where has this little device been all my life? A few months ago, at a big meeting I was at, a consultant pulled out his laptop and then pulled out a little mouse without wires. He attached a transmitter device to his laptop's USB port, and all of a sudden he had a nifty little mouse. And just a few weeks ago, someone was telling me how his daughter would take the wireless mouse from his home desktop computer and hide it among her toys. I was thinking about these stories during the Saturday of "tax free weekend", and realized I knew what I wanted to buy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Safe Landing

The shuttle did land safely in California yesterday. I listened to the arrival on NPR, and was struck by how quickly it reached the ground once it entered Earth's atmosphere. I was anticipating a thirty minute descent, and it was more like ten minutes.

The radio commentator said that while the shuttle acts like a glider near the landing, it actually falls like a very heavy brick. With wings.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Hoping for a Safe Return II

The shuttle didn't land today. NASA postponed the landing due to "unstable" weather. Shouldn't they worry about re-entry first, and then worry about the weather at the landing site? I thought the shuttle could land on any runway?

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Hoping for a Safe Return

I'm hoping for a safe return of the space shuttle tomorrow morning. In various news reports, I learned that it could arrive in Florida as early as 5AM. So when I get up, I am expecting news of a safe and normal landing.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


My brother Ron has been writing a BLOG about his new car, a MINI Cooper. I've been reading his writings, and it's entertaining. Ron liberally sprinkles in MINI Cooper jargon (his car color is "HB") and other car care factoids (he used ClayBar on some dirt a few months ago). It's fun figuring out what he's talking about. One of the things that I learned is that owners of MINI Coopers get free car washes for life. Now that is going to generate some brand loyalty!

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

You Can Play Guitar!

Six months ago, I bought a guitar and a DVD set called "You Can Play Guitar!" from Homespun Tapes. And almost every night since then I've been playing the guitar, going over the different exercises and songs from the DVD. It has been a rewarding way to learn!

I stopped watching the DVDs a few months ago, concentrating on the finger picking exercises from memory. On these DVDs, Happy Traum performs two songs called "The Fox" and "Shenandoah" that seemed outrageously difficult when I first watched them, but now I'm able to play both songs without too much problem.

I've cut MP3s of me playing these two songs in case you want to listen:

The Fox - 387K (24 seconds)
Shenandoah - 745K (46 seconds)

It's time to climb up the learning (playing?) curve some more. I just bought Easy Steps to Guitar Finger Picking. Let's see what I'll be able to play in December!

Saturday, July 2, 2005

The Longest Match

Wimbledon had an historic tennis match this morning.

Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport battled one another in the longest ladies final in Wimbledon history. As I played with my daughter in our yard, I stepped into the house to check the progress of the tennis match. I was rooting for Venus. My wife thought Venus had been eliminted in an earlier round. She was surprised to see her in the final!

After Davenport's first set win, I thought "Oh well. Better luck next time Venus!" Then as the second set progressed, and Venus began to turn up the heat, I got drawn back into the match. When she won the tie breaker to extend the match to a third set, I jumped up. Venus and Davenport are going to a third set! This was exciting!

There were some strange moments during this match. Davenport ranted to the umpire over a blown call (Davenport is typically silent during a match). Venus doing "shadow strokes" to warm up on the sideline, as Davenport received off-court medical attention for her back.

There were some incredible rallies, including a 25 stroke epic that ended with a Venus point, both competitors doubled over with exhaustion. There were spectacular passing shots. It was scintillating tennis for the spectator!

Venus somehow battled back from a Davenport championship point, but Davenport never gave up. I felt that it was anyone's match to win. But when Venus poured in the unanswered points after coming back from the jaws of defeat, I felt she could do it.

Venus beat Davenport, 4-6, 7-6, 9-7, and I was glad to have watched it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

He Changed the World

Picture of Jack Kilby with NotebookWhat I like about the story behind the invention of the integrated circuit (IC) is that Jack Kilby did it as a first-year employee at Texas Instruments (TI), during a two-week period in the Summer when most of the company took vacation. Since he was new at TI, he couldn't take vacation! Alone with his thoughts, pondering the impracticalness (physically and financially) of mass producing miniature circuits, he began to sketch out the ideas that led to the integrated circuit. When his boss, Willis Adcock, returned from vacation, he asked Jack to "prove it." So Jack built these early ICs. And a year later, TI announced that they had a "significant development."

Slowly, but surely, the entire world shifted with this development. Integrated circuits (better known as microchips) allowed all electronics to shrink dramatically. Nearly every miniature medical device uses an IC. They're inside virtually every electronic device. And microchips eventually led to general computers. (Robert Noyce, a co-founder of Intel, is credited with inventing the IC in parallel with Jack Kilby.)

Jack built the IC in 1958. He died two days ago at the age of 82.

Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Go Daddy

Last Saturday, I took Mia to the park. Some boys were playing basketball, and while Mia went up and down the slide, I cast a look at those boys. All tough. Slam dunking the eight foot rim. I was a boy once, but sometimes it's so hard to remember. I used to spend whole days playing, pausing only to eat.

"Look at me!" Mia will yell. I'll turn to her. She's walking up the slide. Did I ever do that? Now she comes back down. Over and over again. My mind hovers between distraction and attentiveness.

"Let's run, Daddy!" And there she goes, running to the other slide, across the empty parking lot. "You'll never catch me, Daddy!" she shouts.

I slow jog after her, saying the lines that she knows I will say. "I will catch you, Mia!" She laughs and runs. I will catch you.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Les Paul and Tom Dowd

I've been on a little musical voyage the past few days, and I've now come full circle. On June 8, I logged onto the computer that hosts this BLOG. I have it configured to announce that day's highlights in history. One of the entries was:

06/09 Les Paul (Lester Polfus) is born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, 1915

I know who Les Paul is. He's one of the inventors of the electric guitar. Fascinated that it was his birthday, I googled his name, and read some more about him. One crazy tid-bit: In order to prove which solid-body material had the better sound (wood or metal), he once mounted a guitar string to a steel railroad tie! He eventually produced and sold his invention through Gibson. ("It's terribly popular," he says.)

I searched the New York Times website, to see if there were any freebie articles about him. I didn't find much in the search results, but what caught my eye was this headline: Movie Review: In a World of Singers, an Unsung Hero. The review was for a documentary by Mark Moorman called Tom Dowd and the Language of Music. Tom Dowd was a recording engineer and producer at Atlantic Records, and he was involved in music since the 40s. He's recorded John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Ornette Coleman, Cream, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, and Eric Clapton. What caught my eye in particular was that Tom Dowd mixed Layla, one of Clapton's definitive songs.

Without hesitating, I bought the DVD. And during the two days before it arrived, I listened to my CD of Layla (and Other Assorted Love Songs). I hadn't listened to Layla in all her glory in quite some time, although I do catch it on the radio now and then. Layla is a love song that Clapton wrote for Pattie Harrison, whom he was in love with. At the time, she was still married to George Harrison (yes, of the Beatles).

The documentary is a splendid treatment of Tom Dowd's life. It's a grand celebration of his work as a recording engineer, the kind of person no one ever considers when listening to a record. After watching this DVD, and listening to the other musicians praise Tom's work, I learned how important a role it is. It's a marvelous documentary about a marvelous man. During the film, Tom sat in front of a control board with the Layla tracks, and he separated the aching guitar riffs of Clapton and Duane Allman. "Those are notes that aren't on the guitar!" he exclaimed. "It's in the tips of their fingers!"

Tom Dowd's life intersected with Les Paul's. Both had an interest in doing multi-track recordings, and Les Paul pioneered this field. Tom had heard Les Paul's recordings, and wanted to know how that sound was created. When he learned that Les Paul used a multi-track tape player, Tom got one for Atlantic Records. Tom said that Les Paul was mixing his own stuff in his own home-grown studio much like what kids are doing today. Except that Les Paul did it all with tape machines back in the 50s.

There was extra footage of Les Paul on the DVD. It showed him in a workshop, filled with boxes and equipment. On camera, he described his early experiments with the electric guitar, and then proceeded to display his "guitar on a railroad tie." To think that he still has this device after all these years! Off camera could be heard the high praise "Sir, you are the man."

Les Paul was born June 9 and he is still very much alive, making music at the age of 90.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Flag Day

I'm wearing a United States flag pin today. I wore this pin a few weeks ago, at a celebration of someone at my office becoming a US Citizen. I wonder if he remembered today's somewhat obscure and quiet holiday.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Detroit versus San Antonio

The NBA Finals sort of snuck up on me. I've got it on TV now and with six minutes remaining, the score is Detroit 57, San Antonio 71. Since both these teams have won the championship recently, I find it hard to figure out who to root for. I guess Detroit (I rooted for them last year). I hope I haven't jinxed anything!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Pomp and Circumstance

It's that time of year again, when a fresh crop of graduates hits the streets. Are you a graduate this year? Then listen up.

Congratulations you grads. Today's your day. You made it through four, or five, or six years of college, and by tonight, you'll have a diploma, or as my wife calls it "a fancy receipt." It should be a happy occasion for you. It was for me!

Much has been made of the college education. It seems an irrefutable fact that having one is essential to "making it" in this country. I want to remind you all that it's still possible to get one of these pieces of paper, and still not "make it". There are scores of unhappy, overeducated people working at jobs below their "diploma." How do you know you won't be one of them? Here's some hints:

1) Only you know what makes you happy. Not your spouse. Not your family. Not your closest friend. Only you. The more you know what makes you happy, the better off you'll be. Whenever you look at the successful people of our times, you find that they often started with something they were happy with. Are you doing that?

2) Passion is underrated. People hear passion, and think about that strong love/lust that they feel in the beginning of a relationship with someone. But I want you to consider its other definition: boundless enthusiasm. You know that feeling you get in the morning, just as you're waking up, when you remember that you were going to do "something", and that something made you excited? You couldn't wait to get up and get at it? That's passion. Do you have it for what you've just studied?

3) You only have a limited time. The life expectancy of the modern American is towards the 80s. That gives you sixty years. I'm down to my last forty. This is either a lot of time, or it's too little time. No matter how you slice it, it's the only time we've got. Think about the first two questions in light of this.

4) You're not done learning. You're never done learning. Did you think that by earning this diploma you're finally able to lean back and say "I'm done with learning?" And I'm not talking about book learning. I'm talking about learning about people, about yourself. I'm talking about learning what's current, what's next, and what's on the horizon. If there's one thing a diploma proves (almost): it proves you can learn. Will you keep doing it?

The diploma you'll be looking at tonight is one measure of accomplishment. It's a stepping stone. But that's all it is. And it's not the only stepping stone. Don't delude yourself into thinking that this paper entitles you to anything. Don't believe the hype that a diploma will give you security. It doesn't.

The longer I think about it, the more I recognize how close to the truth my wife is: a diploma is sometimes nothing more than a receipt. Build your life answering the questions above. If you're like me, twenty years from now, you may not even remember where your diploma is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Other Side of Midnight

The Revenge of the Sith opens tomorrow. Tonight, I've been watching the excellent documentary that came with my Star Wars Trilogy DVD.

When the first Star Wars (Episode IV) came out in May 25, 1977, the Wednesday before Memorial Day, it only opened in 37 theaters. 37! The studio, 20th Century Fox, made a bargain with theater owners. Apparently, theater owners were very eager to exhibit another 20th Century Fox movie that week, titled The Other Side of Midnight. The studio made a bargain with some of those theaters: if you show "The Other Side of Midnight", you have to show Star Wars too.

Tomorrow, Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith, is opening in 3661 theaters. I have no plans to ever see "The Other Side of Midnight", a movie based on a Sidney Sheldon novel, but I am planning to see George Lucas' final film in his culture-altering saga.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Tiger's Cut Streak Ends

Tiger Woods missed the cut yesterday.

The typical professional golf tournament is played over four rounds of golf, spread over four days. The first two rounds are played with a full field players, each posting scores against the golf course's par (usually 72). At the end of these two rounds, players at the bottom half of the scoring "miss the cut". When a player misses the cut, they do not play the last two rounds ("they miss the weekend") and they do not earn any prize money.

Tiger Woods doesn't need any more prize money. He makes more money off the course through endorsements. It's clear to even casual fans that Tiger's motivation does not come from money.

He last missed a cut in 1998. 1998! He has made the cut in 142 events prior to this week's event. Before this weekend, his closest rival in "cuts made" was Ernie Els, who has 20. Tiger has only ever missed the cut three times since he became a professional golfer in 1996. The last record holder was Byron Nelson at 113 cuts made. Tiger broke that mark in 2003.

"Days when you don't have it, you don't mail it in," Tiger said. "You give it everything you've got."

Records were made to be broken. But this record of Tiger's will probably stand the test of time, like all the other unapproachable records (Joe DiMaggio's hit streak, Eric Heiden's five gold medals). Tiger's streak represents an unparalleled competitive consistency, which is fitting for one of the greatest competitors of our time.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Mother's Day

At one mass on Mother's Day at St. James (where I used to go to church), the celebrant invited all the mothers to stand up to receive a special blessing. I was in the pews, and when the women stood up, I glanced all around the church. It struck me the women who were standing, and the women who were sitting. "Why was she sitting? I thought she was a mom." "I didn't know she had children?" These questions filled my head. How deeply personal it is to become a mother!

In the first five years of our marriage, I remember how often Jenn and I were asked when we were going to start having children. Jokingly of course. But Jenn has made me realize how incredibly personal that kind of question is, even in jest. Maybe it would have been better for the priest just to have announced a special blessing for the mothers, without making them stand up. Perhaps.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Random Thoughts

My brother pointed me to Darth Vader's BLOG. It is very funny! I wonder if Han Solo has a BLOG?

Danielle Aimee, whom I've posted about already [1] [2], shot 8-over 79 in the first round of her first LPGA event, the Michelob Ultra Open. The leaders Silvia Cavalleri and Catrin Nilsmark are both at 4-under 67. It's a tough start for Dani, but when I look at her score card, I see that she really had a tough front nine, then settled down on the back nine. She scored a birdie on the par-3 13th. That had to be a good boost!

I did finish The Boys of Winter last month. I'm ready for the movie now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Big Break III: Congrats Danielle

Danielle won the Big Break III. I was rooting for her, and she managed to win! Congrats and good luck!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Big Break III

Tomorrow night is the Big Break III's final episode. This reality television show on The Golf Channel started with ten women, each hoping to win the ultimate prize: chances to play on the LPGA tour. The ten contestants have been whittled down to two finalists: Pamela Crikelair and Danielle Aimee. Their final will be match play golf.

No one on The Golf Channel's Discussion Board can quite believe how caught up we all have become in the fates of these ladies. The two ladies are very different from one another, on and off the golf course. Pam is a relative beginner with some excellent raw golf talent. Dani has played professionally in the lower tours. Heated discussions have broken out as the Pam and Dani camps have tried to defend their choices. I'm rooting for Dani, but more importantly, I'm rooting for a good match. It should be fun!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Slow Reader

My reading life has taken a detour since a job change (same company, new location) put me into a forty minute car commute. Now, instead of a forty-five minute bus and train commute, during which I plowed through the books, I now have a bunch of books languishing on my mantle. I read them, but in small bites only (a few pages a day). So what's on the mantle?

The Know-It-All is my bathroom book. In the morning, I'll take a seat (ahem) and I will read an entry or two from A.J. Jacobs' lively book. He's read the entire Britannica, and each 'entry' in his book is a summation of an entry in that famed encyclopedia. The book also serves as a memoir of sorts, and I am enjoying his witty takes on life.

The Brothers Karamazov is a book I had started just as I was getting the job transfer. However, the impetus for reading this book was planted way back in high school when I finally finished Crime and Punishment. The mood of Dostoevsky's masterpiece put me in such a reading trance that I didn't want to rush it. Even though my English class 'finished' the book (I must have skimmed it), I kept reading it right into summer vacation. I knew I wanted another experience like that. Fast forward almost twenty years later, and I'm reading this fascinating novel about "the brothers." And it's just as mesmerizing.

All Souls is a book that my wife finished earlier in the year, and she said "You've got to read this!" I read a few pages, got hooked, and am now scrambling to find time for it. It's Michael MacDonald's memoir of his Irish family living in "Southie" (a neighborhood in Boston) during the tumultuous 1970s. The forced busing conflict brought segregation to the forefront of his consciousness. He also tackles the rise of crime and drug use in his neighborhood. It's so far a great book about the inner city.

All of these books are taking a back-seat to The Boys of Winter, a stirring recollection of the 1980 United States men's hockey team and their "miracle on ice" at the Lake Placid Olympics. I received this as a birthday gift (thanks Mom) and it's a super work. I can still recall the rousing patriotism I felt when our team beat the Russians. But to this day, I had never read more than a few articles about that victory. This book dissects the Russian-United States game, much like my other favorite "single game" books, Nine Innings and Forty-Eight Minutes. This is a splendid book so far.

I don't mind reading slowly. But I hope by the end of the month I can report on finishing at least one of these books.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Taxes Made Easy

For almost ten years, we have paid a local accountant, Marie Kirchberger, to prepare our taxes. We pay in the hundreds of the dollars, but it's easily the best money we've ever spent. Every year around February, all we do is send her an envelope full of W-2s, 1099s, and other tax papers. By the end of March, she sends us an envelope containing completed federal and state tax forms. We don't even meet with her anymore, although we did those first few years. We correspond by phone and e-mail.

I used to feel that I had to do my own taxes. The first few tax seasons after college, I spent hours reading those big tax preparation guides. My eyes would always glaze over: standard deductions, alternative minimum tax, interest from savings versus investments. Figuring out these terms, and then figuring out the appropriate numbers for these terms always put me in an agitated state.

Jenn and I decided to get an accountant the first year after we moved into our house (1997). We didn't want to mess up our mortgage deductions. We went to Marie on a referral, and we've been with her ever since. And even though we've become more comfortable figuring out our own deductions, we're even more comfortable having her prepare the papers.

The crux of the matter is the the time value of money (or in this case, the money value of time). I guess I could buy tax preparation software, fire it up, enter the numbers, double check the figures, and then print out the forms (or file it electronically), but how many hours is that? How many moments will I have second-guessing myself? And isn't Project Greenlight on television tonight?

The amount of time I spent thinking about my taxes this year is about an hour. Certainly not more than an hour. Most of it was spent collecting stray tax papers (we get more organized about it every year) and tallying up checks we've made to charities.

On the eve of the nation's filing date, taxes are the furthest thing from my mind (except, of course, for this BLOG entry). Our forms were sent almost a month ago. I'm grateful for Marie, and that I can afford her fees. It's totally worth it. Thanks, Marie!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

One Week Into My New Year

This day last week was my birthday. Thirty-seven. Thirty-seven!

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Requiescat in Pace

Pope John Paul II has been referred to as a 'politician' in some of the broadcasts that I watched over the weekend. I disagree completely. The Pope is unlike any politician the world has ever known. Pope John Paul II has never wavered from the principles of his platform, a life-based platform that causes many American Catholics to treat Catholicism as a buffet: only take the parts you like.

I recognize in myself the way that I have casually treated my faith. When I started college, I drifted away from accepted church teachings. After a childhood of regular mass attendance, I attended church irregularly in college. I didn't see anything fundamentally wrong with birth control, premarital sex, a woman's right to choose, married priests, swearing, or same-sex marriage. I returned to regular mass attendance after getting married (1995) but since my church closed last Fall, my attendance has gone way down. I don't know whether my absence is more political protest or whether I was just "tired of the message."

The Pope of the Catholic Church since I was ten years old has never wavered from this message, the "Good News" of Jesus Christ, the message of life. His steadfastness comforted me. I reach for my faith because it is the only thing that I have ever known to "believe." I was raised a Catholic and I continue to declare myself a Catholic. I may be skeptical about my faith. I may be critical about my faith. I may be sullen about my faith. But I don't deny my faith.

This weekend begins a mourning period the world over. There are complex and well described rituals that must be followed in the coming days to handle the pope's funeral, the mourning, and, inevitably, the selection of a new pope. As a critical and curious Catholic, the rituals remind me of the man-made 'construction' of my faith. But the rituals will also allow me and the rest of the world to celebrate the life of a man who believed in Jesus Christ's message completely and utterly.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mia!

Mia, my daughter, turned four today. All she knows is that there's lots of cake, presents and people saying Happy Birthday to her. She thinks Mom is 'five years old' and Dad is 'six'. She can say that she's not a baby, but she can still cry like one. Life with her has become 'routine', but when I let myself, I easily feel amazed that she is in my life.

Happy Birthday, Little Girl.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Counting Up the Words

I spent a few hours tinkering with TokeParser, a Perl module that parses HTML files. I wrote a small program to count every word in my old BLOG. Here are the top ten words:
     1  3400 the
2 2518 I
3 1848 to
4 1806 a
5 1430 of
6 1349 and
7 967 in
8 802 was
9 701 my
10 699 that
So. I wrote 'the' 3400 times, and I wrote 'I' 2518 times.

I think I read somewhere that the most frequent word in any memoir or diary is "I". me appears in my list as the 30th word. I'll post the full list and program in a few days so that you too (with a little help from Perl) can count up the words in your web pages.

By the way, the grand total number of words from my old BLOG: 73404 (over 517 entries).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bobby Short

Last month I was paying praise to the opening minutes of Woody Allen's Manhattan. Fast forward from 1979 to 1993, and Woody Allen again makes an impression on me with the movie Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Manhattan Murder Mystery's opening sequence features a New York in the evening, overhead shots capturing the brightness and vibrancy of the city below. We pan past familiar landmarks, guided by a distinctive voice performing "I Happen to Like New York" (a Cole Porter song). The shot ends with the viewer circling Madison Square Garden on a game night.

When I saw the movie with my wife many years ago, I was swept up by this song. The proud lyrics ("I like the city air, I like to drink of it") mesmerized me. It was everything I felt about New York City. I made a mental note to watch the credits. The name of the singer was easy to remember: Bobby Short.

I watched the movie a few other times, each time savoring the opening sequence. The performance isn't on a CD that I could find. I've since heard other performances of this song, but Mr. Short's is the one that I remember.

Bobby Short passed away today in New York. He was 80.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Napolean Dynamite

I watched Napolean Dynamite tonight. This is the first movie that I've watched in 2005. (The last movie I saw was Sideways on December 30, 2004.)

Uncle Rico in Napolean Dynamite asks "wouldn't it be great to go back in time, knowing what you know now?" Somehow, I don't think so. Of course, I've had failures and it would be great to go back to those moments and change what caused them. Of course, there are things I wish I could have done differently. I have regrets and I do get wistful. But dwelling on them to the point where going back in time becomes an obsession strikes me as insane.

In the movie, the lead character is constantly getting into absurd situations. He is socially inept and his lanky frame spotlights his awkwardness. But throughout the film, he's constantly wondering what he should do now.

We can't go back in time. The characters in the movie learn this (in a very comic way, I might add). The movie is a terrific reminder that living in the present is the best way to be living.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A New Look

Hey! Things look different! What's up? Why the change?

There are a few reasons.

1. I've been writing this BLOG for four years (since March 10, 2001). I've always toyed with the idea of changing the site design to something more stylish. Blogger has thoroughly modernized their templates since I last browsed their selection back in 2002. I wanted to use these newer templates. (This present style doesn't use any HTML tables!)

2. In April 2004, I decided to stop paying Tripod/Lycos, my former hosting site. With that decision came pop-up ads. I didn't mind the pop-ups, as I use Firefox to surf the Web (it blocks pop-ups). However, some have vocalized that the pop-ups were a surprise. I wanted to move to a pop-up-free host.

3. I like SDF, a public access UNIX host. Having my site here gives me the ability to interact with my BLOG's HTML pages in a programmatic manner and this excites me. (Yes, it does. For example, I can calculate my own word count and BLOG entry count, as well as test some simple HTML markup.)

OK. Back to your regular programming. Welcome to the new Rick's Ramblings. Same as the old Rick's Ramblings.

Part Two

Hello new BLOG. Same as the old BLOG.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

The Big Break III

Tonight is The Big Break III, a reality television show on The Golf Channel. On the show, ten ladies compete in various golf-related contests. At the end of every show, one woman is eliminated, until two are left. These two then play a round of match play golf for the big prize, exemptions to select LPGA golf tournaments.

My favorite to win the whole thing, Jan Dowling, is still on the show. The discussion boards about the show are filled with posters making cases for each of the remaining women. As the series progresses, the stakes keep getting higher and higher. I'm not a regular fan of reality television, but I'm a fan of this particular show. Check it out!

Monday, February 28, 2005

Blogging About Children

Ayelet Waldman decided to end her BLOG. She appeared in a late January New York Times article about parents who BLOG about their children. When I finally visited her web page, I was surprised to read "The End."

In the article, she said: "Fundamentally children resent being placed at the heart of their parents' expression, and yet I still do it." Another parental blogger, Molly Jong-Fast, said "There comes that inevitable moment when parents who write about their children need to choose between their writing and their children's privacy and honor."

These words gave me pause. I used to write an online diary about my daughter Mia. And even though I've stopped, I still regularly post pictures of Mia. Now, after reading that article, I sometimes wonder if I should stop my picture site as well. I used to joke that I'd stop posting the pictures as soon as Mia herself asked me. The punchline was that this would happen around the time she was old enough to date.

So what I think I'll do is post fewer pictures for the upcoming year. And next year, when she goes to kindergarten, maybe I'll bow out from the picture site too.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Essential Software

My wife and I just bought a new computer from Dell. It took Jenn only minutes before she asked "Where's WinZip?" Here are the programs that I downloaded so that the new computer could be as helpful as the old one.

  • WinZip

    How in the world is this not even installed with this new PC? My registration key for WinZip dates back to 1997!

  • PuTTY

    I can't compute without a good terminal client. A terminal client allows me to access my UNIX machines, where I do nearly all of my professional and recreational computing. I have a registration for SecureCRT from VanDyke Software but PuTTY is free and quite fully-featured.

  • Firefox

    What? Did you expect me to use Internet Explorer? Firefox is light and safe. It blocks pop ups. It has tabbed browsing. It has a whole bevy of cool plug-ins that make web programming much easier.

  • TightVNC

    To access our old computer to migrate files off of it, I just plugged it into our router. Then from my new PC I ran the TightVNC client to access the TightVNC server running on my old PC. This software allowed us to run our old PC without a monitor!

    I am still impressed with this technology. When I learned about it a few years ago, I thought it was amazingly cool. Now, it's not only cool, it's useful too.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was first performed on this day, February 12, 1924. I found my DVD of the Woody Allen movie Manhattan, and listened to this lovely piece of music.

I first heard Rhapsody in Blue when I was a kid. It was the signature music in those television commercials for United Airlines. When I saw Woody Allen's movie for the first time (on VHS), his use of this music to score the opening and the ending of his movie verges on sublime. The way he slowly pans through beautiful Manhattan using that clarinet "smear", and then rushes through the details of that big beautiful city with the full orchestra booming is for me one the most thrilling opening sequences in all of movies.

And Woody calls on it again at the end, Isaac and Tracy in an apartment lobby, a departure imminent. She needs to catch a plane. Full circle, don't you think?

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Patriots Win Superbowl

Super Bowl XXXIX was a back-and-forth affair that had me frustrated and nervous all the way to the end. My muscles were taut from playacting the runs, fakes, tackles and throws. Every snap had me holding my breath. I paced and shadow boxed after every play. The New England Patriots were seven point favorites going into tonight's game: why couldn't they make it an easy one for the fans? I'll tell you why. The Philadelphia Eagles didn't want to be walked over. They wanted to climb the mountain, and knock off the reigning champions.

Fourth quarter. Philly controlled the ball and the clock, but they were down by ten. Down after down after first down after first down, and then they finally get a touch down, cutting the lead to three. With 1:48 left in the game, Pats needed to play mistake-free. They needed to keep the ball. They needed to eat up the clock. But it was three and out, and I was back to biting my fingernails.

The punt by Josh Miller was a master stroke, pinning the Eagles to their four yard line. Three futile throws by Donovan McNabb. And on his last throw, the Patriots' Rodney Harrison intercepted the ball with nine seconds remaining! Tom Brady takes the knee and it's over.

The Patriots are the Super Bowl champions again. Again! And Again! I've had the pleasure of blogging about their two previous Super Bowl victories on this BLOG. And you know what? Winning doesn't get boring!

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Jenn's Birthday

It's my wife's birthday today. Happy Birthday, Jenn. I Love You! (It's OK to say that on a BLOG, right?)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

My Guitar

A few weeks ago, I bought a Yamaha F335 guitar. Mike, a guitar playing colleague from work, helped me choose it. It's a beginner's guitar. He and I liked the sound when we played it in the store. I have been playing it every night since I bought it.

I knew last month after Mia received her guitar that I'd eventually want one of my own. I'd often tinker with her little guitar after she went to bed, playing my simple songs, reviewing my chords.

Shortly after the holidays, I bought an instructional DVD titled You Can Play Guitar! (from Homespun Tapes). The instructor on the DVD, Happy Traum, has a very welcoming and enthusiastic teaching style. I enjoy listening to him, and watching him play. He breaks down some very tricky sounding songs into simple steps. I spent a few weeks with this DVD playing on Mia's little guitar, learning different strumming styles, finger picking, and simple chord progressions. My hands felt too big on Mia's small guitar. Hence the new Yamaha.

When I stopped playing the guitar sometime in high school, I knew that I wanted to take it up again. I guess now is the time.

Friday, January 28, 2005

A Group BLOG

Wow. I'm part of a group BLOG, my very first. I enjoy experiments like these.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I shoveled for two hours today. And my kind neighbor used his snow blower on the heaviest accumulation in my driveway. Yeah, I'm eating my words.

Friday, January 21, 2005

More Snow

Last year, it was bitter bitter cold. This year, it's just bitter. But with more snow. AccuWeather's headline for tonight is "Winter at Its Worst". "A major storm swirling out of the north-central states will disrupt the lives of millions from the Midwest to the Northeast this weekend."

I've seen estimates as high as 18" of snow. I'll believe it when I'm shoveling it. (And yes, I'll be eating these words.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Boy, does my knee hurt. The left one. I have pain when I flex it. So walking up and down the stairs tonight, I've been favoring the left leg, being all ginger with it. Even sitting stings a bit. On the floor, when I bend my leg to pull my knee up to my chin, there's a tension as press my leg closer to me, as if I'm approaching some breaking point.

I hope sleep takes care of it. Maybe I'll put a little ice on it.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

NFL Playoffs

Playoff football on my mind.

Tonight, I really felt bad for the New York Jets. A great friend of mine, not to mention nearly all of family, were hoping against hope for a win. And they almost got it too. How can you miss field goals at a time like this! Jets lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-17.

Tomorrow night, it'll be the New England Patriots versus the Indianapolis Colts. I think we all know where my rooting interests lie. This year, I'm especially fearful of the Colts because their quarterback, Peyton Manning, had such a stellar year. He was the league's MVP for crying out loud. But football is a team sport, and the Patriots have brought new meaning to team. Game on!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Best Movies Watched in 2004

I only watched 41 movies last year, four in the theater.

Out of all of these movies, I really liked Lost in Translation, the Bill Murray movie, written and directed by Sophia Coppola. Just some wonderful pacing and sentiment. I feel as if I get the Murray character. The movies captures the boredom of life, the loneliness one can feel even in a crowd, and the desire to connect, to be understood.

My other favorites from last year: Snatch, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Minority Report, Waking Life, Punch Drunk Love, and Sideways.

Some special categories:
  • Best DVD Commentaries: Comedian, The Limey

  • Favorite Male Acting: Paul Giamatti

  • Favorite Female Acting: Uma Thurman

  • Finally Glad I Watched: Narc, When We Were Kings, Paths of Glory, Donnie Darko, Solaris

  • Not So Hot: The Cooler, Heat

Saturday, January 8, 2005

Best Books Read in 2004

My Previous Best Books: 2001, 2002, 2003.

I read 32 books in 2004.

My favorite for the year was Word of Honor, by Nelson DeMille. Mr. DeMille has been writing books since 1978, but this was my first DeMille story. If they're all like this then I'm going to enjoy reading his works.

Word of Honor follows the tribulations and trials of Ben Tyson, a business executive who served in Vietnam. His good name becomes the subject of a controversial book about Vietnam, asserting that Ben Tyson's squad killed civilians in a skirmish there. The resulting publicity and military trial put him at odds with his family, his government, his community, and his own self-image. I was swept away by Ben's story, his feelings, and the way he handled himself. This is a terrific book.

I want to highlight two others from my year of serious reading. I'd consider these selections "second favorites" from 2004.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is incredible. It's a literary masterpiece. The Corrections contains such rich detail that you are completely encased in his narrative. There are some crazy happenings in this book about a dysfunctional family. Each family member goes under the microscope, and Mr. Franzen's prose renders the complexity of their thoughts. It's a fantastic book.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami was recommended by my manager, and I was so very pleased with it. It's a blend of science fiction, with a dash of psycho-analysis, all within the confines of a straight detective story. I'll point out that the book contains a map, and by the time you figure out what the map "really is", you'll be blown to bits. I love books that do that. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Resolution 2004: Only Eight

OK, I only wrote eight letters last year. Eight! My goal was fifty! The last letter that I wrote was in August. So one of my resolutions this year is to write at least eight letters. I hope the momentum of reaching my 2004 output will propel me to getting all fifty letters out.

By the way, the eighth state alphabetically? Delaware. The next state? Florida.