Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Peace and prosperity to everyone in 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow Snarl

It took me nearly four hours to drive the eight miles from my office to my home, thanks to the heavy snow storm that burst onto the scene with unrelenting force. Six to seven inches where laid down in the afternoon going into the evening, and car commuters like me were bearing the brunt of it.

I thought I'd be smart and take Route 93 home because I left during the day (this highway is typically backed up in the evening commute). Of course, that quickly became an exercise in frustration since I wasn't the only person leaving to get ahead of the storm. Doubling back, I decided to take to the city streets. Up Massachusetts Avenue, the traffic was moving at a snail's pace, and I settled in for what would be a long stretch of nightmare traffic. Intricate merges became nasty merges. Traffic lights blinked with feeble authority. I saw at least one car abandoned, blocking traffic until drivers noticed that there wasn't anyone inside. Me and several other drivers were popping out during the frequent stops to brush off our windshields.

It was a tough one out there. I'm glad I'm home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Old Reading List

The National Endowment for the Arts released a study earlier in the month proclaiming that children are reading less. This study follows their 2004 study titled Reading at Risk.

Their new findings made me think about the books that took hold of me when I was in elementary school. I browsed SparkNotes to remind myself what I might have read back in the day. Part of me wishes I was blogging back in my youth, so I could dig out an actual list.

Here are the books (and specifically, the stories) that helped make me a life-long reader, the ones that gave me the first taste that reading was worth "doing for fun."

The Illustrated Man - Every geek's entry point to a reading life must begin with science fiction. I still remember that the cover of my edition featured a man sitting with his back exposed, completely covered with tattoos. The one short story I remember was "The Long Rain", which I devoured in an afternoon, amazed that something as simple as rain could be made so sinister.

Different Seasons - King's book of four short stories (one for each season) made me wish I could somehow read faster. I especially loved "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" (which is now a famous movie). The name of the town mentioned at the end of the book, Zihuatanejo, has been stuck inside my head ever since I finished it.

Catcher in the Rye - This book made me realize that a unique voice could emerge out of words, and take over my imagination. And that this voice could be (somehow!) similar to my own. I knew how Holden Caulfield sounded. I understood his sarcastic take on life. I got his humor. This book made me think that there must be other books like this.

Honorable mentions: The Little Prince, The Great Gatsby, A Clockwork Orange.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Boring, Humble Life

A few weeks ago, the Boston Globe ran a story about Tobin Kerns, a high-school aged man who was in jail for plotting to massacre his high school in Marshfield.

In the article (written by Emily Sweeney), he said "I just want to put this behind me and live a boring, humble life." That quote stuck with me for some reason. And as I went about my day, I realized why. He was hoping to live my life: boring and humble. He didn't want to be in the news, or in jail, or to associate with the people that got him into this mess. He wanted my life; my life with its boring rituals, with its humble aspirations. Mr. Kerns realized that he was in a bad situation, and all of a sudden the boring life didn't seem so bad after all. In fact, he'd love to be reading about some kid like him in the newspaper, and saying "Sheesh...glad that's not me."

Last week, Mr. Kerns was sentenced to ten months (five months already served) as an adult, in an adult jail. I'm hoping he gets his wish for that boring life when he gets out. It's not all that bad.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Yummy! A snack that combines carbonation and yogurt. My wife thinks these two elements don't go together, but I gave it a try, and it's not bad!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jenn Read Fifty Books...

...and counting. She finished her 2007 News Resolution a little over two months ahead of schedule. Typical. As for me? I've got two books that I'm sure to finish before the end of the year, which will bring my own lame total up to twelve.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Mind on Sports

I've been venting my sports thoughts over at a BLOG I started on Sporting News earlier this year. And thank goodness too, since the Red Sox are in the World Series, the Patriots look great this season, the Celtics picked up Kevin Garnett, and the Bruins look pretty lively. But you can't also forget the New England Revolution, the local college teams (Boston College, Boston University, and sometimes Harvard can break into the national sports consciousness), golf, tennis, the Olympics (summer and winter), and everything in between. And if you scroll down a little bit, there on the left is a nifty ticker so you can see what's in my sporting mind. Go Boston!

Monday, October 8, 2007


Since 2005, I have been traveling for work. Over the past few weeks, I discovered FlightMemory, and it's a little delight. I've learned that my smallest flight was between Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wisconsin (85 miles). I've learned that I've flown almost 45,000 miles over eight different airlines. I've also been reminded that I took one "international flight" to Toronto. I wish I could map my travel over time, because it's increased over the past year, much to my immediate household's dismay. Next week offers more travel; check the map next week to see where!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Top Chef: Season 3

I'm enjoying Season 3 of Top Chef, the reality television show/cooking competition. A full season has nearly finished, and we're down to four contestants: Hung, Casey, Dale, and Brian. My money is on Hung, and my wife has picked Casey. All I can say is thank goodness my wife roots for the same sports teams as I do!

One of the things that make watching Top Chef so pleasurable is the "additional content." The judges on the show have blogs that are lucid and helpful in understanding what happened during a particular show. It's must reading for fans. And Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential, has been writing about Top Chef, which is the equivalent of reading how Curt Schilling might break down your favorite baseball game.

Bravo constantly replays episodes of Top Chef. I encourage you to watch and get on board!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Last month, my office building held a mandatory fire-drill. When the insistent alarm began its ringing, it took some of us by surprise, and people had to be reminded that this was a mandatory drill. Everyone located the stairwell exit, and my floor began to descend down the stairs.

I work on the fourteenth floor, with only four more floors to the top. The stairwell was filled with office workers making the usual jokes and remarks. I was no exception. I quipped that the exit stairwell should have murals to break the monotony. The buzz of people talking seemed louder in the enclosed space. In a few minutes, the slow-though-steady walk took me down a few flights.

I think it was around the tenth or ninth floors that I had a flash recognition: this is what it was like in the towers, in the World Trade Center, on 9/11. Once that thought entered my mind, my imagination filled in the rest: How silent the stairwell would be. How quickly we'd be walking. Maybe we'd hear the building beginning to groan under the strain from the crash.

At this point, I couldn't get out of the stairwell fast enough. All of a sudden, I felt slightly claustrophobic. What floor was I on? These floors need some labels! The narrow stairway opened up to a slightly larger hallway. More floors. Then the first floor. Then outside.

I stepped away a few steps, then looked up. Of course the building was still there, intact. I was reminded of that terrible day, which has its sixth anniversary tomorrow.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Daze

I hope everyone out there takes a brief break from all the hard work they've been doing. In America, it's well documented that people take fewer vacation days, and work longer hours than many many other nations. It's downright frustrating. In my line of work, it's easy to overwork, to "over"-produce. I have to remind myself that rest is just as important as work. There's a balance that needs to be kept. I have to remind myself to take the break. Take the rest. I hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Big Mac

A few weeks ago, while eating at McDonald's, I had received a Big Mac sandwich by mistake (I had ordered a Quarter Pounder, my "usual"). It was my first Big Mac in many many years. With the line at the McD's too crowded to try to return it, I decided to just eat it.

As I bit into the Big Mac, the sandwich felt too 'flavorful'. Compared with the Quarter Pounder, with its sparse condiments, the Big Mac is a flavor explosion, and not necessarily the good kind. The sandwich also seemed overly filling. I stopped eating Big Macs after receiving the results of a cholesterol exam many years ago. My numbers were high enough for me to try to make some change. Jenn suggested that I stop eating them, and I haven't had one since. In the end, it was tasty reminisce, but next time, I'll make an effort to return it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Ben Stein wrote a nice article in today's New York Times. He sets the stage by saying that he's flying first class from a movie shoot, and then he writes a quite loving reminisce about how he owes his entire success to his parents and, more broadly, to the professional "connections" that his parents helped him make.

Ben's got one of those non-linear lives. An economist by schooling, a lawyer by trade, he quickly gained traction as a writer. Parlaying his connections as a speechwriter for the Nixon administration, he ultimately landed a role in that cultural touchstone of a movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (Ben's famous line is him calling "Bueller?... Bueller?...". You'll know it when you see it.)

In this article, Ben says: "I write mostly about investments, and they are important. But for most people everywhere, their livelihood comes primarily from working. Their success depends largely on a combination of education, ability, work habits and connections. If you are like me and a great many other people who fly first class, you started out with some connections and made the most of them, or at least made something of them."

I was thinking about connections today, because a work colleague reached out with a "friend" request to my MySpace account. I was thrilled! As Ben says, success comes from having connections, and making the most of them.

Ben Stein's article ends with a call action. Learning about "jobbing", and making connections, is not at all obvious. He suggests forming some kind of link between helpful adults and kids to help foster this knowledge. He suggests that this would be one way to close the gap of financial inequality in this country. From one connection, you too can be flying first class, or at least be on your way.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Web Two Oh

I spent the past half hour updating my wife's blog (in which she primarily talks about knitting). She needed to add some "buttons" to her site (those little icons that reflect some affiliation). Come to think of it, I should probably add a few of those on my BLOG. "Like what?" you might ask. "Like these: LibraryThing, Flixster,, GolfBuzz, and Bloglines." Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

An old friend of mine from college just recently announced to me the birth of his first baby, a boy named Austin. Delightful news to be sure! Probably the only advice I have for him, or for any new Dad, is to remind yourself constantly that "it goes by quickly." The days (and for my friend, the nights) may seem long, but before you know it, your children are in kindergarten.

Happy Father's Day, to all the Dads who read this BLOG.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Wedding Day

I always thought that I'd remember every single detail of my wedding day. Instead, I can only recall a few moments: a brief fire alarm at the reception hotel the night before the big day; me and my friend James having a quick cigarette outside the gas station on our way to the church; the homily at our ceremony; the highly festive mood at the reception. I remember how our whole wedding day finished by 2 or 3PM, and that Jenn and I ordered room service at the hotel.

The day itself now feels insignificant, after these many years. There was a report on the news the other day about a wedding couple who got swindled out of their wedding photos by a fraudulent photographer, and Jenn jokingly asked "do you even know where our wedding album is?" (It's somewhere.) The day itself, the wedding, was just the first step of a long odyssey that finds me here, thinking about where it's led. Thinking content thoughts.

Jenn and I got married twelve years ago today.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I read an article a few weeks back about Ronald Reagan's diaries. During his presidency (1981 through 1989), he wrote a diary entry every day, in long hand. Excerpts were published in Vanity Fair, and the writing reveals a terse prose. The entry after his attempted assassination in March 1981: "Getting shot hurts."

It must be hard to write a diary when you know that scholars will one day want to read them. His diary entries were source material for his memoir, and for the press during the Iran-Contra arms sale scandal.

I've always considered diaries and journals to be private matters. I keep a diary, and I once thought I was writing it for some "future reader." Now I well understand that I'm writing only for my "future self." As such, my diary prose is often long-winded. Unlike Reagan, who didn't spell out expletives (e.g. he used "h--l" and "d---"), I use them quite liberally, and in all caps (my diaries are electronic) with plenty of exclamation points.

I'm not the president, so I can rest assured that my diary will disappear when I eventually shake off my mortal coil. But until then, I'll need to keep writing in it because "the future me" is still interested.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Marilee Jones was the dean of admissions at MIT until an anonymous tip last week led MIT officials to investigate her credentials. They sadly discovered that she did not earn a Bachelors and a Masters from Rensselaer. In fact, she only attended there for one year, in 1974. In 1979, she added the degrees to her resume when she applied for a junior role in the admissions department at MIT.

I feel badly about her downfall because she did eventually run the admissions department, when she was promoted to dean in 1997. From all reports she helped redefine the admissions process at MIT. She clearly had the talent. She spoke at conferences. She served on boards. But she didn't have the credentials. MIT had no choice but to ask her to resign. Institutions tend to frown on anything that diminishes their integrity.

Bizarrely enough, in my own industry, not one single person has asked for proof about my own credentials. Eventually, I suppose, the history of your work speaks for itself. I think the most anyone would do is shrug their shoulders if I announced that I did not graduate from college. Yet, I've never considered removing my degree from my own resume. I guess it pads it nicely.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Reporter: "Can you describe the scene at Norris Hall?"
Chief Wendell Flinchum: "It's one of the worst things I've ever seen in my entire life."
Reporter: "Can you describe it?"
Chief Flinchum: "Not at this time."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Those Old Houses

Living in New England, I often find myself driving by very old houses. Not fixer-uppers, or "pre-war." I'm talking historic houses. While reading an article by Peter Costa in a newspaper supplement on Patriots' Day, I learned that historic houses, circa 1600-1700s, are often built with wood that is much stronger than today's wood, because the trees that were cut for those old houses have been growing for hundreds of years. "[The wood] was much more stable than the quickly grown forest stock we have today," said Daniel Lacroix, president of the Westford Historical Society. Back then, there was plenty of that wood too. I've never thought about those old trees, and how they're still around in some of these old houses. Fascinating.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Jenn and I have lately been tuning into the Travel Channel during the weekends, and one of the shows they're promoting is 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. That's a lot of places! The show is inspired by Patricia Schultz's book with the same title.

Watching this made me ponder the list of places that I want to see before I kick the bucket. Here's some of them:

  • London - My wife and I did spend an hour or so in London Heathrow Airport (LHR), on the way to Paris. But that doesn't count. I want to drive on the left, and I want to watch a Premiership soccer match.

  • Tokyo - I was in Japan once as a 10-year old, on the way to Philippines. Even then, I remember that country's "style." After seeing Lost in Translation, it leaped back into my list. My goal: eat some terrific sushi, and maybe watch a baseball game.

  • The Grand Canyon - "Just a hole in the ground," is how some people might put it, but I want to see it for myself. No hiking, river rafting, or camping for me. Just taking pictures from the rim is enough.

  • Dubai - Tiger Woods won a golf tournament there, and the articles about the place intrigued me. What sealed the deal was seeing pictures of Tiger hitting golf balls off Burj Al-Arab's helicopter pad. I don't know if I'll be able to hit golf balls from there, but staying at this unique looking hotel will do.

  • Singapore - Whenever I see pictures of this intricate-looking city, I always think about visiting. The name itself is evocative of mystery and adventure. I am drawn to big cities, and I'd love to add Singapore that the list of big cities I have visited.

  • Cuttyhunk - This is a small Massachusetts island near Marthas Vineyard. During lunch a few years ago I was by myself, without reading material. I grabbed a tourist's brochure of Massachusetts, sat down, and began reading about all the spots in Greater Boston that I had already visited. In the middle of this brochure was a map, and I examined it. I have been to Marthas Vineyard, but not Nantucket. I have been to Springfield, but not the Quabbin Reservoir. Then I spotted this small island, with a quite intriguing name. Cuttyhunk. I dreamt about sailing from Boston to this little island. What must be on that little island? I pondered it. A year or so later, Sam Allis of the Boston Globe wrote a piece "Island Ideals" (August 15, 2004). So there it was: the island revealed. I still want to go.
  • Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Bobby Flay

    Last night, I watched the "chefography" of Bobby Flay on Food Network. The bio-pic of Mr. Flay was pretty flattering. I don't consider myself a foodie, but I do enjoy Bobby's fluid explanations when he does a cooking demonstration. (It was fun to see the early TV years of Bobby Flay.) When he was a judge during "The Next Food Network Star" competition, I found myself drawn to his steady manner. His "Throwdown" show is not so much about competition as it is about celebration, and I enjoy watching it. Out of all the celebrities on the Food Network, he's the one I'm most interested to meet.

    I haven't been to New York City in quite some time, but when I get to that great city again, I'm going to try to eat at his restaurant, the Mesa Grill.

    Saturday, February 24, 2007

    The Departed versus Infernal Affairs

    Tomorrow night, the Oscars will announce their awards, and I hope the Academy chooses The Departed as the best picture of 2006 (the other nominees are The Queen, Little Miss Sunshine, Babel, and Letters from Iwo Jima). I also hope that the Departed's Martin Scorsese (director) and William Monahan (screewriter) receive Oscars tomorrow night.

    Tonight, however, I watched the movie Infernal Affairs, the original Hong Kong movie from which "The Departed" is based.

    I was struck by how close the movies matched one another. (I heard they were close, but seeing is believing in this case.) Both movies shared a lot of touchstone scenes (cops following bad guys on the highway, rooftop confrontations, and a rendezvous in a movie theater). But both movies also differed in key areas (the relationship of the psychiatrist being one of the bigger ones).

    The American version packs the punch with star power (it's hard to compete with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen). However, the Hong Kong version packs as big a punch with two strong performances by Andy Lau (the Damon character), and Tony Leung (the DiCaprio character). Because Lau and Leung looked much older than their youthful counterparts in "The Departed", "Infernal Affairs" had a weightier feel. More pathos.

    The climactic scenes and the incredulous reveals seemed tighter in "Infernal Affairs". Whereas Scorsese goes over the top with the violence, the violence in "Affairs" felt more vicious, more cold-blooded.

    So what's "better?" I'd probably give a slight nod to the Hong Kong version, but in the end, both movies made me appreciate the other. So when you're in the DVD store, or browsing through your NetFlix queue, get both of them. And tomorrow night, root for the American version of "Infernal Affairs".

    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Scene from a Marriage

    This past week, a small Nor'easter blew through. The mixture of icy rain and heavy snow produced a thick layer of ice on my driveway that I had to pick apart. The ice was quite hard and thick, and with the vicious cycle of thaw-then-freeze, I was picking at the ice all week. I used a heavier and older garden shovel. It has a solid steel blade, and its true purpose is for moving soil. (My snow shovels are all plastic.) I worked the ice by reversing the blade, and driving it into the ice, breaking the ice apart. The weight and the blade make for a great ice breaker.

    One night, after dinner, after another session of ice picking, I began to feel a small sharp pain in my right hand. When I turned it over, I saw it. Somehow, while working the old shovel, I managed to get a small splinter in my right hand. My gloves didn't prevent the splinter from piercing me. It was a burr, no larger than a thorn of a small rose. It was in the fleshy part of my palm, under my thumb. It seemed to get more painful now that I knew what it was.

    We have a first aid kit, and I found some plastic tweezers inside it. I worked without glasses, wishing that we had one of those magnifying monocles. I couldn't get it out, despite my careful work. If I pinched the area where the splinter was, I saw that I might be able to get it, but I'd need a third hand. Would I have to peel back my skin, like an onion, to get at this sliver of shovel wood?

    I went to Jenn, and told her my woe. She was in bed, reading. (She goes to bed earlier than I do, so I was glad she was still up.) She took my hand, saw my splinter, made a face, looked at my plastic tweezers, and said "get the ones that I use." I fetched hers, and gave it to her. She pulled my hand close to her face, and she worked the wound.

    I remember that she had picked out a splinter from our daughter's hand one summer. Mia was crying, no doubt from this new feeling of pain, but Jenn was gentle. I felt like Mia just then. Minus the crying.

    Jenn peeled back a bit of the flesh, which stung a bit. Then she squeezed the tweezers, trying to clasp the splinter. She got it out in a few tries. My hand felt immediately better. Funny how a foreign object in your body makes you uncomfortable.

    "Go wash your hands," Jenn said. I kissed her goodnight again. "Thank you," I said.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007

    Your Super Bowl Pick

    Rick the Flip says take the Colts!

    The line on the game shows the Indianapolis Colts favored by 6.5 over the Chicago Bears. But it's hard to pick against the team with the better quarterback (and that would be Peyton Manning). Sorry, Chicago! You all should know that my wife (Happy Birthday, Jenn) is rooting for Chicago, which means I'm on my own for Super Bowl dinner.

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    Big Game Predictions

    Rick the Flip here. Sorry if your bookie got to you already!

    NFC Championship, New Orleans at Chicago, Chicago by 2.5 - Take ChiTown. Yes, the entire world seems to be betting on a New Orleans win. But I'm different.

    AFC Championship, New England at Indianapolis, Indy by 3 - Rick the Flip spent a the past seven days glued to Boston sports radio. This means I've got all my shouting points for the AFC championship game. I've listened to and read and seen all the analysis. I spent time deconstructing the Peyton Manning press conference. I spent time watching the grainy digitally enlarged video of Rodney Harrison practicing (or not practicing) with the Patriots. Mostly, I thought about the game, and whether or not it'll be a good one. Here's the deal: it's NOT going to be as great as the game last week between the Pats and the Chargers. But it'll feature the same result. Take the Pats.

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    NFL Divisional Playoffs

    Rick the Flip here. Yes, I was one for three last week, but that won't stop me from making your picks this important NFL weekend. Again, the lines are from

    Indianapolis at Baltimore, Baltimore by 4 - You're kidding right? I just finished reading Next Man Up, in which John Feinstein follows the Baltimore Ravens. It's a great book, and it made me appreciate Brian Billick (coach of the Ravens) and the sport of football in general. Go ahead and read it. And then take the Colts. Sorry Baltimore!

    Philadelphia at New Orleans, New Orleans by 5.5 - Take Philly. I have no basis for this. It's your money, OK?

    Seattle at Chicago, Chicago by 9.5 - Jeez, take Seattle. Maybe Seattle will finally break down, but Chicago could revert to some bad habits too. That's too big a spread.

    New England at San Diego, San Diego by 5.5 - The brain over the heart? Or the heart over the brain? I take the heart this time. Last week I picked against the Patriots using my so-called brain. This week, I'm picking the Pats using my Patriots heart. Sunday can't get here soon enough.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Review: Mountains Beyond Mountains

    Mountains Beyond Mountains is about Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH). PIH is an organization that provides health care for the poorest in our world. The organization is based on the values of Dr. Farmer, who says "I feel ambivalent about selling my services in a world where some can't buy them. You can feel ambivalent about that, because you should feel ambivalent."

    Dr. Farmer is a medical doctor and a medical anthropologist who operates in the realm of the ideal. He is sincerely conflicted about acquiring any financial gain as a doctor because there are sick people, who are poor, who cannot afford his services. So he gives his services away to the poorest of the poor. To people living in Haiti, Cuba, Peru, and Russia. To "farmers" who scratch a meager subsistence off inhospitable land. To prisoners contracting diseases. To people living in shanties.

    When we give money to the poor, through church or charities, we give money to organizations like Partners in Health. That money ultimately goes to people who are moved to give their time, their effort, their blood, sweat and tears. And among those good people, those saintly people, Dr. Farmer would be considered an inspiration. Dr. Farmer has built a hospital in Haiti to treat her poor. He renovated the medical world's view for treating resistant tuberculosis in Peru (with the very able work of Dr. Jim Kim, a co-founder of PIH). He has done all this in the most demanding way possible: by personally touching those patients, and being attentive to their care. "If you focus on individual patients," Jim Kim says, "you can't get sloppy."

    If Farmer's life is a call to action, then such a call to action would be hard to digest, and the author, Tracy Kidder, often suggests this. "Farmer wasn't put on earth to make anyone feel comfortable, except for those lucky enough to be his patients," Kidder writes. Jim Kim said Dr. Farmer "is a model of what should be done. He's not a model for how it has to be done."

    Dr. Farmer admits that his methods are somewhat unappealing. During a long hike with Dr. Farmer to help some patients, Tracy thought the good doctor would say "...if you say seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patents, you're saying that their lives matter less than some others', and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world."

    Living a life for others at this level is hard, and it's often a losing battle. Farmer calls this kind of work "the long defeat", and it's an appropriate description. Serving the sick poor is extremely trying; there are just too many of them. But Dr. Farmer is not without hope: "I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I'm not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don't dislike victory." And winning would be a world filled with health for everybody. That's a world I'd love to be a part of, and Dr. Farmer is going to get us there, one patient at a time.

    Tuesday, January 9, 2007

    Review: Night Fall

    Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille, is a classic murder mystery, with the murder being the calamitous TWA Flight 800, which crashed off the coast of Long Island in 1996. Detectives John Corey and his wife Kate Mayfield dig past the "official report" which declared the crash an accident, and discover a potential conspiracy of the highest order. The ending is completely unexpected but thoroughly recognizeable. I read this at a frenetic pace, and its final images are haunting. This is a great piece of fiction. My father-in-law got me started on Nelson DeMille books, so I was happy to give my copy to him during the holidays. I am certain he will enjoy it.

    Monday, January 8, 2007

    Best Books Read in 2006

    My Previous Best Books: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.

    I only read nine books this year. Of these, Mountains Beyond Mountains is my top pick for non-fiction, and Night Fall is my top pick for fiction.

    I'll review these two books in separate BLOG entries over the next few days.

    Saturday, January 6, 2007

    Wild Card Weekend

    The NFL begins post-season play with Wild Card Weekend. Eight teams. Four games.

    Here are Rick the Flip's thoroughly uninformed picks "against the spread" (lines from

    Kansas City at Indianapolis, Indy by 7 - Take Indy. Home game. Manning. Team with something to prove. C'mon. This is a no-brainer. Yes, Indy's run defense is weak, but Manning's going to have the ball a few times, right?

    Dallas at Seattle, Seattle by 3 - Take Dallas. I'm predicting that the Tuna will turn on that magic thing he turns on for the playoffs.

    NY Jets at New England, New England by 9.5 - Tough one. Take the Jets. The Pats will win, but by 9 points? I think this game will be more of a grinder than the line suggests.

    NY Giants at Philadelphia, Philadelphia by 7 - Take Philly. The Giants have stumbled into the playoffs, and the Eagles will have to escort them out. Sorry, New York!

    Wednesday, January 3, 2007

    Best Movies Watched in 2006

    (This is my sixth such list. I have done this for my movie viewing in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005.)

    As I look at the list of movies that I watched in 2006, I'm feeling satisfied. It was a good movie viewing year (nineteen in all; six of them in the theater). And almost every one of them was a super movie.

    My top three movies this year were United 93, Hoop Dreams and Miracle. My favorite of these: Miracle.

    Miracle tells the story of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, when the United States beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. After reading "Boys of Winter" last year, I knew I wanted to get to this movie, but after a few weeks, it slipped off my radar. Truth be told, the book was so good, I didn't think a dramatic movie could do the story justice. Heck, I didn't think any movie could do the sport of ice hockey justice.

    With some skepticism, I watched Miracle during the last weekend of 2006. Instead of being disappointed, I was elated and enthralled. This is a great movie. Predominantly a character study of coach Herb Brooks, the movie also honors this fast game that I love. The hockey players are truly hockey players, and their "action" scenes were shot with a style that brings home the speed and skill of this awesome game. Kurt Russell's performance (his hair, his accent, his presence) is astounding. Patricia Clarkson, who plays his wife, is quiet perfection. Noah Emmerich, who plays Brooks' assistant coach, Craig Patrick, is terrific support.

    At its simplest level, this inspirational movie is a story about the very hard work that has to be done to achieve great things. The hard work done by this young hockey team will have you thinking that your own miracles are within reach. You just have to keep at it. It's the perfect movie to watch at the turning of a new year.
    • Best DVD Commentary: Arthur Agee and William Gates in Hoop Dreams. When I acquired this movie earlier in the year, it stayed in my DVD player for nearly a month. It's an incredible and important documentary, and I watched much of the movie's key scenes over and over again. But primarly, I listened to Arthur Agee and William Gates (the documentary subjects) comment over the movie. They have a natural rapport, and they filled the commentary with lots of great stories and conversation. This is a great movie, and this DVD commentary makes it worth owning.
    • Favorite Male Acting: Pierce Brosnan (The Matador)
    • Favorite Female Acting: Patricia Clarkson (Miracle)
    • Favorite Soundtrack: "Invincible"
    • Not So Good: "The General's Daughter" (book was exponentially better); "Thief"
    • Finally Glad I Watched: "Thank You For Smoking", "Invincible", "The Big Lebowski", "A History of Violence"

    Tuesday, January 2, 2007

    Jenn's Resolve

    My wife Jenn just posted her 2007 New Year's resolutions. One of them is to read 60 books. Last year, I read nine. But Jenn typically averages a book a week, so 60 is going to really test her. What will also test her is that five of her books must be classics.

    As for me? One of my resolutions is to get more sleep. I should try to start that soon.