Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year (Almost)

2007 is just around the corner. Have a Happy New Year! I've been working on my 2006 movie and book recap. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas, to you and to all!
The presents are set for that early wake up call.

It's all quiet now in my house.
My kid is asleep, she's as still as a mouse.

Ocean's Eleven is on the TV,
and I'm still parked in front of my PC.

Peace to everyone, this wonderful night,
Let's be filled with cheer by morning's light!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Person of the Year

Wow. Never thought I'd be part of Time's "Person of the Year". *grin* Now if I could only get paid to write my own BLOG, then I'll have something to celebrate about.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Better Half

My wife has resumed blogging about her knitting. Check it out, and drop a comment. She'll be surprised!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Toll of Being a Fan

I woke up this morning after a fitful night of sleep. I dreamt that the New England Revolution had lost the MLS Cup final, and their coach, Steve Nicol, was asking me what happened. Apparently, I had somehow made my way to the pitch, and (mis)guided the team to a terrible loss. I woke up agitated, and upset.

The game didn't start until 3:30PM, and throughout the day (a rainy day here in New England), the Sunday sports focus was on the Jets/Patriots game (which I didn't watch). The MLS Cup, the championship of American soccer, was a footnote. It felt like I was the only one who had access to some important secret.

The game started lopsided. The Houston Dynamo took shot after shot on the New England Revolution goal. New England looked ineffective. But somehow, after the twentieth minute, the Revs began to pass better. They started to look good. The Revs began to carry the play. I started to get hopeful. At the half, the game scoreless, I was feeling somewhat confident about us scoring. But alas, the second half was scoreless too. Both teams had chances; both teams began to falter to fatigue.

The MLS has a thirty minute "non-golden goal" overtime. By now it's supper time, and I had a fitful dinner while watching the match. I had to break away to clear the table, and help Mia get ready for bed. When I got back to the game, both teams had scored (Taylor Twellman for the Revs, Brian Ching for the Dynamo), but the match was headed into the penalty kick phase. If I had ulcers, they would have started acting up then.

Ultimately, the Revolution lost. Our goalie, Matt Reis, made a save, but we missed twice. The announcers said to give New England credit, but I was a flustered sore loser. I wanted to cry. I didn't want credit. I wanted an MLS Cup victory.

It takes a toll when your team is almost good enough. Climbing the mountain is hard every year, especially when you don't make it all the way to top. I know I'll be able to get past this game, but right now my heart is still heavy; I'm still filled with a mild despair. But I know that each of these championship losses is going to make that first championship taste that much sweeter.

Congratulations, Dynamo! Go Revs!

Saturday, November 4, 2006

The Big Games

Tomorrow, the New England Revolution will be playing the D.C. United (at D.C.) in the Eastern Conference final of the MLS. The New England team has been a regular presence in the playoffs, but the team has not broken through to a championship. A win tomorrow will put New England in the final for the second time in as many seasons. The game will be broadcast at 4PM on ESPN2. Go Revs!

The other big game tomorrow is probably more familiar to the rest of the nation. The New England Patriots will be facing the undefeated Indianapolis Colts at Foxboro, in Week 9 of the NFL. The Colts have always found ways to lose against the Patriots, and I relish the thought of another New England victory. This game will be broadcast at 8PM on NBC. Go Pats!

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Book A Week?

Scott Smith of Minnesota is reading one book a week this year. In this his 42nd week, he's tackling Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Yes, I have this book, gathering dust on my bookshelf. Mr. Smith is going to try to read it in a week. Hats off!

I'll be watching how he does at the end of the year. So far, I've only read six books this year. Ugh. Let's see if I can rally in these last few months.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Baseball Predictions

I'm still reeling from the Yankees early exit! In the ALCS, I like the Detroit Tigers over the Oakland A's, but in truth, I could root for either team.

In the NLCS, I like the New York Mets over the St. Louis Cardinals. As I write this, Detroit is up 3 to 0 in Game 1.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ze Frank

Oh man, the show with zefrank is some of the funniest stuff I've seen on the Internet. Be sure to check out the popular shows, but I'm busting a gut just going through his archive. Awesome, racers!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

And the Rockets Red Glare

The national anthem of the United States was conceived on this day in 1814. Francis Scott Key's lyrics were originally a poem. The song was declared our anthem in 1931.

I love this song, quite possibly because I associate it with sports, and high patriotism. When I'm listening to it, I'm usually watching the World Series, or the Super Bowl, or the Olympics. When the song is sung right, it can make me feel chills. When the song is sung really right, it can make me cry. The song is dynamic, emotional, and evocative. I'm proud that it's America's anthem.

When I learned that today was the anniversary of the creation of this song, I read what Wiki had to say about the song. In the article, it stated that "Whitney Houston's rendition at Super Bowl XXV is often considered one of the best performances of the song." Really?

I managed to find a WAV recording of this version on the Web, but I was also quite surprised to see a complete video of this rendition on YouTube. Searching for the national anthem on YouTube produced a long list of fascinating variations. Here are four that strike the right notes to me. Enjoy!

Steven Tyler (World Series, 2004) - The front man for Aerosmith kicks out a version during Game 1 of my favorite World Series (at Fenway Park, Boston). He does it without instruments, and his unique voice and style shine through. A super delivery.

Destiny's Child (NBA All-Star Game, 2006) - Houston natives Destiny's Child perform a harmonized version of the anthem, and it's wonderful. Lots of texture in this variation. These three women add a touch of sex appeal to this song, and it works.

Marvin Gaye (NBA All-Star Game, 1983) - NPR reported that Marvin Gaye took the anthem to a new level in 1983. And when you watch it, you will agree. This is a quiet, instrospective arrangement. Fantastic.

Whitney Houston (Super Bowl, 1991) - Wiki was right. This is the definitive cut of the song. On the biggest stage, at the biggest game, Whitney delivers. She belts each high note out of Tampa Stadium. She's accompanied by the Florida Orchestra (conducted by Jahja Ling), but it does not overwhelm the power of her beautiful voice, singing this beautiful song. It's perfect.

Monday, September 4, 2006


On my way out of the house to pick up some take-out, my mother grabbed my arm, and offered to pay for it. She handed me her credit card.

Me: "What?"
Mom: "They'll take it."
Me: "I don't know, Mom."
Mom: "It's OK." And then she also gave me $40 in cash. "Just in case."

As I was leaving my house, I showed this loot to my wife. She shrugged, and said, "Try it. They probably won't even look at the credit card."

And she was right. At the restaurant, I handed my Mom's credit card. The charge went through. And when it came time to sign, I hesitated for a step, then signed my name. My name!

Tonight, while reading a humorous article on Zug (courtesy of Find the Boots), I stumbled upon Zug's hilarious "pranks" involving credit card signatures. It's a very funny article, and I'm now ready to borrow my wife's credit card when the mood strikes (just kidding!).

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Final Four

In the 2006 FIBA World Championships, the final four teams have been determined.

The United States versus Greece. Argentina versus Spain.

The US must play well just to even get into the final. And whoever wins Argentina versus Spain could very well be win the final gold. We'll see. The US game is in the middle of the night. I won't be up watching. But it'll be the first score I look for in the morning. See the comments for the update.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Quest for Gold

The United States basketball team is in the 2006 FIBA World Championship. And yes, we're gunning for gold.

The last FIBA championship was 2002, held in Indianapolis. Yugoslavia beat Argentina for the gold medal, with the US finishing sixth in the tournament. Sixth!

This year, the US coach is Mike Krzyzewski, the highly successful coach for the Duke University men's basketball team. Our players include LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. The US beat Puerto Rico yesterday, and will face China tomorrow. The championships are being held in Japan, so you'll have to get up early to watch them.

Friday, August 11, 2006

World Trade Center

I saw World Trade Center, Oliver Stone's movie about 9/11. As reported by other critics, Oliver Stone does not use the events in this movie to jump on a soap-box. Instead, he takes a straightforward look at one of the remarkable survival stories of that grim and fateful day.

It is the story of John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, two Port Authority policemen who went into the World Trade Center that morning, aiming to help. Instead, they were crushed underneath the rubble when the towers collapsed. This first part of the movie takes place quickly.

The long middle of the movie takes us underneath the rubble, alongside these two average men, suffering above average pain. These scenes are dark (literally; the frames are mostly unlit), and close. As a viewer, you wanted to get out too.

The long middle also takes us into the worried families of these men (both are married with children). The actresses who play their wives convey the strength, the fear and the doubt that they certainly had to have, especially on that terrible day. In many ways, this was the more compelling story. We knew and the trapped policemen knew where they were: these women didn't.

The movie takes us from unknowing to knowing, from fear to joy. The dramatic finish is something Hollywood wouldn't dare write (a former Marine drives in from Connecticut, makes his way to Ground Zero, and begins calling out for survivors). But we accept it, with tears in our eyes, because it is what really happened that day.

The movie is a 'rescue' story. Rescues happen on all the time. But on 9/11, from the rubble of the fallen towers, there were only a few dozen 'survivors'. This is a great movie about two of those survivors and their rescuers.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Tour de Farce

I held my breath waiting for the results of Floyd Landis' second blood test this weekend. On Saturday, I exhaled a disgusted breath. The second tests came to the same conclusion. Floyd Landis was 'doped up' during the Tour de France.

In sports, unlike the movies, or novels, letting yourself believe is a truly vulnerable act. If you let yourself believe in some sporting event, in some sporting hero, in some sporting result, and then you find out that what you've opened your heart to was actually tainted in some way, it's like a sucker punch.

Landis took away all the positive feelings from his 2006 Tour de France "victory". Yes, he'll appeal. Perhaps he may be redeemed. But two lab results are in, and it's devasting news for those of us who wanted to believe in a great event, in a new great hero, in a wildly spectacular result.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Floyd Landis and Le Tour

I'm sure it's a fantasy for most boys with cycling dreams, the big cycling dreams that encompass the biggest bicycle race there is, the Tour de France. As a kid, you'll put yourself in the toughest situation: You're down by a big margin with one last mountain stage to go. You and your team decide to go for broke, to ride with audacity. You decide to attack from the start, to try to cut that deficit by winning the stage, and perhaps win the yellow jersey. And in your dreams, you'll come out on top. In your dreams.

It's a child's dream because in the modern Tour such comebacks are unheard of. When a yellow jersey leader is ahead by seven minutes, as Oscar Pereiro (Spain) was at the start of Stage 17, teamwork and convention suggest that he would hold that lead to the finish. An attacker hoping to indulge in this child's dream couldn't possibly expect to maintain the pace needed to stay ahead of the peloton.

But somehow, Floyd Landis (United States) was able to fulfill this childhood fantasy. He rode the race of his life, winning Stage 17 (his first stage win ever), and seating himself in third place, a mere thirty seconds behind the leader, the presumably startled Oscar Pereiro. When I watched the recaps of Stage 16, the announcers had written off Landis. Landis was done. It was finished. He might gain time in the time trial (Stage 19), but it would be too much to expect him back in contention.

Except Landis expected more. He dominated the stage, setting an unmatchable pace in the high heat. He attacked early. He chased a breakaway, then became the breakaway leader himself. In the broadcast, the announcers kept expecting a response from the chasing peloton, but the response would come too late.

Experts were stumbling over the superlatives, trying to describe this stage win. "Best stage that I have ever followed." "...I am wracking my brain thinking what I can compare it to." "...the greatest single day ride in the history of the Tour..." When a childhood fantasy comes true, when it happens right before our eyes, it's hard to come up with the words.

In the end, the unassuming Floyd Landis was quoted: "I was going to make whoever wins this Tour deserve it." That person might be him.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Forza Italia!

I'll be rooting for the Italian side in this Sunday's World Cup final.

I love listening to the play call on Fabio Grasso's goal (for the Italians against Germany in the semi-final). The Italians have won the World Cup in 1934, 1938, and 1982. I remember the 1982 win, and the goal getter for the Azzurri that year: Paolo Rossi.

Their opponents are the esteemed French, who won the World Cup for the first time in 1998. They are led by the nimble Zinedine Zidane. When his game is on, he's the picture of perfect ball control.

Forza Italia!

Monday, June 26, 2006

United 93

I watched United 93 over the weekend. The movie is extraordinary. (For those in the Boston area, it's playing at the Studio Cinema in Belmont.)

The terrible day of September 11, 2001 is well scrutinized. Of the four hijacked planes that day, only three reached their targets. The fourth was United Flight 93, headed from Newark to San Francisco. The Al Qaeda terrorists had successfully hijacked the plane, but they were then attacked by a brave group of passengers. The hijackers crashed the plane into a field in Pennsylvania.

Everyone knows the ending, but not everyone can remember the beginning. The opening sequences of the movie reveal a routine Tuesday. Newark Airport fills up with passengers and crew, rushing through security, rushing to make the gate. The offices of the air traffic controllers and military personnel are having a standard weekday morning. The non-chalance of everybody that morning is striking. Things would soon change for the worse.

The unusual flight paths of American Airlines 11 and United Airlines 175 catch the attention of air traffic controllers. AA 11 rammed into the North Tower first. Then there is a mesmerizing scene of traffic controllers in Newark swiveling their heads, following the too low, too fast flight of 175. One has a phone pressed to his ear. "I'll call you back," he says, as the rest of the team stare grimly at the smoking towers.

All this is in the movie. The pace quickens by cutting back and forth between the military response and the air traffic controller response. Keeping the focus on these two groups better reminds the viewer how little anyone knew what was happening. There was so much confusion that day, and the movie shows good people trying to do the right thing with so little information. When I saw Ben Sliney (the manager of the FAA) make the decision to ground all planes, I let out a big sigh.

When the movie focuses on the United 93, the passengers are introduced simply. Business travelers. Vacationers. Young. Old. The hijackers are drawn simply too. They are nervous, fidgety even. There are no names over their images as these people are seen on the screen. They are strangers to one another, just like on any other airplane ride.

United Flight 93 was delayed by nearly forty-five minutes. This enables the passengers to learn about the terrorist plot during their furtive calls to home during the hijacking. They begin to piece together the totality of that day. They realize that they are about to become victims. They learn that they are going to die. Unless they do something about it.

From the moment the hijackers take over the cockpit, to the courageous attempt by the passengers to overwhelm the hijackers and take control of the plane, I kept thinking: what would I have done? What could I have done? The depictions of the various passengers reaching their loved ones back home was heartbreaking. The actions taken by the passengers to try to take back the plane was rousing. The movie kept you gripped entirely in its present moment, and I kept thinking "this can't be happening."

The ending of the movie was quick, and startling. I was still gripping the arms rests when the end titles began to appear. I was still waiting in vain for the nose of the plane to lift up as I settled into the credits.

The bar for movies about the events of 9/11 has been set very high by United 93's director, Paul Greengrass. This is a movie that you shouldn't miss.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Black Stars

The World Cup match between Ghana and the Czech Republic was a thriller. A goal was scored within two minutes of the opening whistle. I was in the kitchen, but my wife's exclamation, and the muted shouting from our TV, told me that Ghana scored. Ghana is ranked 50th in the FIFA World Ranking, and the Czechs are 2nd. How could they have scored?

I parked in front of the TV, riveted by the exciting play from "the Black Stars", the team from Africa. They lost to Italy in their opening match, but somehow Ghana seemed determined against the Czechs, who walloped the USA in their opening group match.

Today's match was a great game to watch. Wave after wave of pressure from Ghana. A missed penalty kick by Ghana. An ejection for the Czechs. And finally, with moments to go before full time, a second goal from the unheralded team. The Czech looked despondent. Ghana looked like spoilers. And this Thursday, the US plays this ascendant team.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Team USA

The 2006 World Cup starts this week, and once again I will be glued to my high-definition enabled television.

The United States, playing in Group E with Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic, start matches on June 12. By some reports, this is "the group of death", the term given to the first round group of closely matched teams. The US squad will have a successful World Cup if it can get out of this group alive, and while I'm hopeful for this outcome, it just doesn't feel realistic. I hope I'm wrong, but if I'm betting, I'm picking Czech Republic and Italy to advance.

I hope to be eating these words. C'mon, Arena! Prove me wrong!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bob Dylan

Today is Bob Dylan's 65th birthday.

My favorite song of his is "Shooting Star", from the album Oh Mercy. I heard it for the first time a few years ago while listening to "The Coffeehouse", a mellow morning radio show from WERS. The song is romantic, but also very sad. I liked it immediately, and I was surprised it was a Dylan tune. I listened to the song a few times again today. Very nice! Happy Birthday, Bob.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rooting Interests

With the return of Stanely Cup ice hockey, and the apparent rise of LeBron James, I'm quite engaged in this month's batch of playoff series. Here are my rooting interests:

Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, I'm on the LeBron band wagon. Witness and all that. I think the Cavs have a tough road ahead of them in tomorrow's Game 7 at Detroit. But I'm hoping to catch some of it, to see if I really am witnessing the rise of an NBA great.

Los Angeles Clippers. The other basketball team in Los Angeles. I like the storyline of the long suffering franchise suddenly catching some good luck. (The Lakers loss to Phoenix meant LA would have to wait another year for a Freeway series.)

Buffalo Sabres. Any team with Chris Drury is worth rooting for. Plus they have Mike Grier, a fellow former Boston University standout.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Paul Kariya isn't there anymore, but Teemu Selanne is. Teemu's having a resurgent season. Go Ducks!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

5 and 4

Ashley Prange won the Golf Channel's "Big Break V"! In match play, she beat Jeanne Cho by the score of 5 and 4.

All of Jeanne's great shots and lag putts seemed to be for par or bogey to halve the hole. Ashley played very steadily, not making any mistakes. In the end, Ashley couldn't believe she had a simple two-putt to win the thing. Jeanne couldn't believe the match slipped away as quickly as it did.

Congrats to Ashley! Well wishes to Jeanne and the other competitors.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Big Break: Ashley v. Jeanne

In Big Break V (a reality golf show on The Golf Channel), the final two contestants (whittled down from eleven contestants over the past three months) will be facing one another in match play tomorrow night (9PM EDT). I know that this is a recorded television show, and that there's much creative editing, but I believe The Golf Channel has a terrific match in the final pairing between Ashley Prange and Jeanne Cho.

On the show, Ashley is loose, often irreverent, and very vocal about her capabilities. I get the sense that Ashley knows how to relax and have a party. Jeanne seems very much the opposite: reserved, very 'internal'. I can almost feel her 'strict Asian upbringing'. But both are pretty fierce competitors. Both have really good golf skills.

I'm rooting for Jeanne, but I'm wishing both of them luck!

Wednesday, May 3, 2006


My youngest brother Renato just bought a house.

My younger brother Ron posted some nice pictures from the 2006 New York International Auto Show. He also wrote about it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Off the Hook

America has voted, presumably, for The Next Food Network Star (the polling closed on Thursday; I missed placing my vote).

Guy Fieri ("Off the Hook") is my choice. I'm so glad he's one of the two finalists.

Reggie Southerland ("Simply Spectacular") is my wife's choice.

I've posted before about Guy, and as I watched the last few episodes, I'm convinced he's the real deal. For his sample pilot, he made Tequila Turkey Fettuccine and Breathmint Pie, and I wanted to eat both those dishes (and I already had dinner!). That's when I know a TV chef is reaching me...when I want to eat what they're making.

Good luck to both contestants this Sunday!

Friday, April 7, 2006


I wish I could remember my life when I was born. When I was a baby. My little daughter begins a lot of her sentences with "When I was a baby...", I did this, I did that. "When I was a baby, Mommy cuddled me." "When I was a baby, you carried me to my crib."

I'm far from those memories now. "When I was a baby, I was in the Philippines." "When I was a baby, my parents took pictures of me."

I was born 38 years ago, as of yesterday.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Another Campaign

Red Sox versus Rangers, Opening Day
Hello baseball! The Red Sox start their 2006 season in Texas, with Curt Schilling on the mound.

As I write this, it's scoreless.

The Red Sox won, 7-2.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Next Food Network Star

I predict that "The Next Food Network Star" will be Guy Fieri. He's got it all: cooking chops, restaurant experience (he's a restaurant owner), a bust-through-the-TV personality, and a healthy confidence about what he wants to say.

I wish the Food Network would open up a bulletin board so I can vent about the show with other fans!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Was it a Dream...

...or did I really see Tony Soprano get shot?

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Springsteen Does Folk Music

On the Bruce Springsteen website, a new album was announced: "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions." On this album, Bruce Springsteen will pay homage to some traditional songs, including "Shenandoah", "Jesse James", and "John Henry." I find these songs particularly fascinating because I've been learning to play these songs on the guitar, and I'm looking forward to hearing The Boss' interpretation of these songs.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Manny Makes it to Camp

And Red Sox Nation breathes a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Melting Italian Ice

Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio are the Italian 2006 Olympic ice dancing team (the Italians fielded two teams). They held first place going into the original dance competition on Sunday. On that skate, however, Maurizio fell while holding Barbara during their last required lift. The fall effectively removed them from medal contention.

Ice skaters fall. That happens all the time. But the stare-down that Barbara gave to Maurizio after they finished is one that will long live in Olympic ice dancing lore.

She glared at him as they stood on center ice. If they were hockey players, they would have already thrown off their gloves and started circling one another, ready to throw blows.

Maurizio knew (had to know!) that Barbara's accusing look was justified. It was as if she was daring him to try to make a case for himself. The sadness and anger and frustration were thoroughly apparent on Barbara's face and body language.

The Olympic spectating world seemed to focus on them during last night's final ice dancing program, the free skate. Dozens of camera shots showed the pair at odds with one another. They clearly hadn't resolved anything. Their every movement conveyed that chilly atmosphere a home has when the parents are fighting. They had their backs to one another. They avoided any eye-contact. Their mouths were grimly shut. Any couple in any kind of long-term relationship can relate to this.

They skated a splendid free skate, much to my relief. They didn't medal, but during their program they became more assured, warmer, and more emotional. Smiles crept to their once-taut faces. They finished with a well-skated routine, and that routine brought a catharsis to their very public dispute. It brought relief and tears. And it brought hugs and kisses from Barbara and Maurizio to one another. "Passion lives here," declares the banners of these Olympics. Yes, it does.

They finished sixth in the ice dancing competition, but they will be be among the first things I will remember about the 2006 Torino Olympics.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Favorite Figure Skating Performances

With the Winter Olympic Games underway in Torino, Italy, I'm sure I'll be catching my share of figure skating. Over the past few days, I've tried to recollect my favorite performances from this sport, and there are only four that have lodged themselves into my memory. In order of brilliance:

4. Brian Boitano's exhibition performance to the song "Un Amor" (Gypsy Kings). After he won the Olympic gold medal in 1988, he seemed to be everywhere. And one afternoon, while watching some random ice skating exhibition, he performed his routine in an outdoor rink. This performance I remember more for the music, but Boitano's athelticism was in full display. One of the great figure skaters of our generation.

3. Torvill and Dean's Olympic gold medal dance to "Bolero" (1984). Is there anything that matches this? I saw a replay of this a few years ago, and it is still positively stunning. Perhaps because ice dancing is focused on dancing versus pairs which has its focus on jumps and other athletic elements, the timelessness of their performance has not waned.

2. Torvill and Dean dance to "Cecilia" (Simon and Garfunkel). I don't remember the year, but it was an exhibition performance. I believe they were professionals already. Their work that evening was sheer joy, and I can't listen to this great song without thinking about their ice dancing.

1. Philippe Candeloro's Olympic bronze medal performance to "D'Artagnan" (Three Muskateers) (1998). I probably will break down and buy a DVD featuring this performance. Yes, there are technical elements to this routine, but it is also a feat of showmanship that brought the house down. He stages a mock sword fight that features great foot work, and that runs the length the ice rink. I don't remember the silver and gold medal performances; I only remember how great Candeloro skated.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Super Bowl Pick

The line on today's Super Bowl game is for Pittsburgh to win by 4 over Seattle. I read the New York Times piece titled "Dissecting the Line", by Levitt and Dubner over at Freakonomics. Their research suggests "betting the underdog today remains the single best bet of the year."

But Rick the Flip says you gotta go for Pittsburgh. Four points!? C'mon! I think it'll be close, but not that close.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

My Wife's Birthday

My wife's birthday is today. Hurray! Happy Birthday, Jenn.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Skip to My Lou

Last summer, I wrote that I was learning fingerpicking on the guitar using DVDs from Homespun Tapes. I've made a small recording of me playing "Skip to My Lou", a very simple song that sounds pretty interesting with the steady alternating bass beat from my thumb. This is the first song off that DVD set.

Skip to my Lou - 696K (44 seconds)

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I watched Munich yesterday. This is the latest film by Stephen Spielberg, and it has been hailed as one of his best. Unfortunately, I don't agree. Spielberg's bests include "Jaws", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Schindler's List", "Saving Private Ryan", and "Minority Report".

"Munich" felt disjointed. After a hurried opening to establish the atrocity of the Israeli team's kidnapping and massacre at the Munich Olympic games in 1972, the movie follows Israel's secret "mission" to exact revenge on the perpetrators of this crime. Many scenes follow of assassination after assassination. Killing begets more killing. Revenge begets more revenge. As the main character, Avner (played by Eric Bana), gets deeper into this "mission", he becomes disillusioned and paranoid.

It's a tough plot to "brighten". It's a bleak message. But the film seemed to be heavy handed in its delivery of this dark message. Spielberg does get his points across, but their presentation didn't seem as succinct as Tom Hanks uttering "Earn it."

I suspect that the outpouring of praise for this esteemed director has a lot to do with the subject matter (the parallels between Israel's "terrorist" retaliation and our country's own "war on terror" are plain). But as a movie, it fell short of cinematic greatness.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Your Sunday Bets

Let's pretend for a second that I know something about football (I don't). Let's next pretend that I'm called upon to "comment" on today's betting lines. Here's what I would write, under the moniker "Rick the Flip":

Pittsburgh at Denver, Denver by 3 - Denver by three!? Denver by three!? Take the Steelers! These guys are on a roll. The Steel Curtain is going to, uh, come down on these Broncos, and it's going to be a love fest for Cowher at last.

Carolina at Seattle, Seattle by 3.5 - When I saw the highlight reel of Seattle's win over Washington last week, all I kept thinking about "boy, that's some foggy stadium." Then I saw the wide shots, and Seattle's stadium is downright scary. Take Seattle. This has home field advantage written all over it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Best Movies Watched in 2005

(This is my fifth such list. I have done this for the years 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.)

I saw only thirteen movies last year, two of them in the theater. Out of this small set, I really really liked The Interpreter, the Sean Penn/Nicole Kidman movie whose plot revolves around a United Nations interpreter (played by Kidman). The director was Sydney Pollack. The movie has a languid pace, but it ratchets up the tension and suspense in logical ways. In some ways, it reminds me of Mystic River, in that it's a procedural. The movie is set in New York City, and it's photographed so well.

Other areas:
  • Best DVD Commentary: Sideways. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church are so funny in this commentary that I listend to it multiple times. There's a combination of production reminisces, viewing reactions, and plain old good banter between the two. It's worth checking out.
  • Favorite Male Acting: Ewan McGregor (Revenge of the Sith).
  • Favorite Female Acting: Julia Roberts (Ocean's Twelve).
  • Finally Glad I Watched: Ronin. My Architect. The Polar Express.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Best Books Read in 2005

My Previous Best Books: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.

I only read twelve books in 2005. One of them was Snow Crash, by Neil Stephenson. I read this book back in its prime (early 1990s), and when I reread it in early 2005, I remember thinking "this is still hip!" This book has a great chapter one. This is a real favorite of mine.

My big book from 2005 was The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is a dense book, and it was while reading this book that I made a change in commuting habits, forgoing public transportation for the automobile (I had a job assignment that required car travel). It took me several months to get to the end of this loopy tale of woe. "The Brothers" is complex and dark. There are whole chapters that digress into the pressing issues of the time (religion versus state being one of them). The book brought to mind images of the frozen tundra, and desolate settings of the poor and destitute in Russia. All the humor in the book is dark, and sinister. I kept hearing a cackling laughter during all the parts that were funny, because it was usually at someone's grave expense. This is one of the great works, and it's worth the time to read.

Of all the books last year, I was most pleased with the last book that I read: Solo. Written by an Air Force pilot, Clyde Edgerton guides the reader through his passion for flying. He talks about each of the airplanes that he flew in Air Force training, and later in Vietnam. When he got the flying bug again, he talked about buying a smaller plane and how he ran a very informal shuttle service with it. It's clear throughout that Clyde loves flying, and I was glad he wrote about it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Last Year's Books and Movies

It was a quiet year for both reading and movie-watching. Only twelve books, and only thirteen movies. In fact, after "Revenge of the Sith", I didn't watch a movie in nearly six months!

I'll post some notables in my next entry.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Process Versus Product

Jenn's Knit Sweater
I was flipping through a new knitting book that my wife got in the mail. She wanted me to pick out some projects that she could make for me. (She had just finished a nice vest, and I liked how it turned out.)

This knitting book, by Sally Melville, was quite inviting. I skimmed the pictures, marveling that the description of the actual stitching is done in a very terse language that looks like computer code ("Yf, sl 1 p-wise, yb, k to 5 sts remaining"). In Ms. Melville's The Purl Stitch ("don't try purling until you've learned knitting," she warns), she has a "meditation" on "Process versus Product." She states clearly that the process is "knitting," and the product is the final "garment." She strongly claims that the more valuable of the two is "the process." In fact, she writes "if you ask a knitter what she loves, she often won't even mention the finished garment."

Ms. Melville then applies the Process versus Product analogy to relationships ("dating and engagement" versus "the wedding"), to child caring (quick: what's the product? what's the process?), to education, to life itself.

For me, I most savor the times in my job when I can just "try things out": compiling code and seeing if it works, trying some different command or statement to see its effect. I love the process. Same with the guitar. My favorite part of working through the guitar DVDs is making my fingers learn the song. For most songs, this is a grueling process. However, once I finish learning the song, I am eager to go through the process again.

In the end, she says "it's what we do in the time we pass that makes up a lifetime. The journey is the destination." How wonderful to be reminded of this, from such an unexpected place!

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Law and Order

Happy New Year! Today, my wife and I sat through a lot of the "Law and Order" marathon on TNT. Great episodes! We are big fans of this long-running series.

When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of "M*A*S*H", and I felt I had seen every episode of that series. Of course, I was a fan of M*A*S*H before cable and all-day marathon viewings. I probably saw only 80% of that series. Back then, however, when I caught an episode that I hadn't seen, I'd be amazed. "How did this get past me?" Nowadays, with fan websites and episode guides and entire seasons on DVD, a TV series fan can be very certain that they've seen every episode. As for "Law and Order"? I know I haven't seen every episode, not by a long shot.