Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

2008 ends. 2009 begins. With an extra second to boot. Happy New Year to the readers and visitors of this BLOG, wherever you happen to find it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

He Made Off

I can't get enough of the Bernie Madoff story. He's the financier who somehow swindled hundreds (thousands?) of very rich investors by an elaborate Ponzi scheme. There are so many angles to follow. His own sons turned him in (or have they been acting along with him?). Luminaries in sports, entertainment, and academics have been damaged in the wake of his scheme. And on top of these is the most important angle of them all: where's the money?

While the simple answer is that the money's "gone", one lawyer says "there are funds to be found and captured." My wife says that people at the beginning of the scheme get paid first, but I think she's confusing Madoff's "fund" with a pyramid scheme.

Part of me revels with schadenfreude. Madoff's funds are not for "ordinary investors" (i.e. you've got to be "connected", or "introduced" to the fund), certainly not for people like me. There's a feeling of people being taken down a notch or two that's grimly amusing to me.

Another small part of me is thinking "I'm not caught up in this, am I?" Madoff's funds relied on "feeder funds", and who's to say that my money hasn't been bundled up with other people's money to be fed into Madoff's scheme. Maybe I'm being paranoid. Or not.

Forensic accountants say it will be months before the full extent of the fraud can be known. With every new prominent victim that's announced, the story becomes more and more compelling. How did Madoff get away with this? And even though he got caught (he confessed to it, actually), how did Madoff run this ruse for as long as he did? I'm waiting for the answers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Learning Snow Lessons

Today, all of Greater Boston and points West are bracing for the first Winter Storm of the year. And all forecasts seem to be pointing to a doozy. Last year, I was stuck in a snow storm trying to get home. A 30-40 minute commute became a four hour ordeal of frustration. When my wife announced to me yesterday that the snow storm would be just as bad as last year's, she looked at me expectantly. "I'm going to work from home," I said. Snow lesson learned.

Follow the storm by subscribing to my twitter feed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Folding Fitted Sheets

I fold laundry. I happen to like it. It's one of the small ways (emphasis on small) that I can contribute around the house. But the one thing I can't fold are fitted sheets. I usually get frustrated, and then make up some technique. The result? Puffy and a messy corners. My wife folds fitted sheets perfectly. Too proud to ask her how to do it, I always think that I can figure out how she's done it by staring at the perfectly folded sheets that she's already done. Instead, I happily toss them into the closest, grateful that I don't have do it for one more week. Not tonight. Tonight I reached deep into the Internet, and found a video explanation for how to do the folding correctly. Folded fitted sheets, FTW!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buckling Down

I took a drive around Sun Microsystem's offices in Burlington this morning. The company announced last week that it will lay off 15% to 18% of its workforce, which translates to roughly 5000 to 6000 people. It's becoming a tough time out there. The headlines on Friday were along the lines of "high tech sector now feeling the pinch of the economy."

I drove around looking for clues in the parking lot: how many cars were here? Who was working? I somehow thought the parking lot would be full, a buzz in the air. People were going to be let go, and middle managers needed to be working. Instead, the parking lot was empty. It was a quiet Sunday morning. Nothing was stirring except for a few landscaping vehicles. As I circled the large campus, all I was left to ponder was the general vulnerability of any kind of job, including my own "high tech sector" job. The economy isn't taking prisoners.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting: An American Experience

On November 4, citizens of the United States of America will elect their next president. I think electing our president is one of the most uniquely American experiences there is. Two men, Barack Obama and John McCain, have been barnstorming this great nation, exhorting us on national television, in rallies, in town meetings, in stump speeches, to vote for one of them. They're working hard not just for my vote; they're working hard for our vote. It's awe-inspiring to me that after all their work, after all their pleadings, it's simply up to the voter to decide. Sure, there's the electoral college, and the battle ground states, and all that campaign money, but in the end, it all boils down to each of us getting into a booth, and inking in our choice. There are countries around the world that do not give their citizens a choice in this matter. We do it every four years. Go out and vote, you American citizens. I'll be right there with all of you on November 4, engaged in this thrilling American experience. Vote!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Blog is Dead...Long Live the Blog

Last week, Wired magazine published an essay stating that blogs are dead. The author Paul Boutin says don't even think of starting one. He even suggests that if you have a blog, you might kill it in favor of your Twitter, Flickr, or Facebook pages. Posts from blogs are no longer "first page results" on search engines; Wikipedia and "professional blogs" now dominate that first page. Why bother, he asks.

Why bother, indeed.

As I read the article, it's clear that he is speaking of the blog as "soap box", the blog as an attention gathering device. I can imagine him giving the same argument about writing novels, or making music. "Don't bother. It's been done already. Today's creative works are cranked out by pros." Forget your voice. There's no more room for it on the web.

I reject his thesis, partly out of self-defense. I write mostly to serve my own muse, to serve up my own musings. I don't write to be paid, or to get "mass" attention. While at one point I wondered about page views, I no longer care.

I care about having the ability to write on the web, in a format that people have come to accept, even though these people are quickly moving to other formats. I care about producing meaty writing, not these so-called tweets or status updates. I care about connecting with people, even if they turn out to be only my family and friends, and the occasional stranger. I care about blogging, and I hope for my own sake that it's not dead.

And as for anyone who's thinking of starting one? I say go for it. Paul's right that your posts probably won't merit mass attention. But if you have an angle or a point of view that you want to express, I think there's plenty of room in the blogosphere. It's hard to express your thoughts with just photos and tweets. Getting your writing out there is sure to satisfy at least one reader: yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The New Kids

I was waiting for a cab outside the airport last week, when two people next to me struck up a conversation.

"Yeah, noticed you on the flight. You're at the Intercontinental?"
"Yeah, here for the same deal."
"Did you get an agenda?"
"Not yet."

I glanced over, and noticed that the two people were college aged kids. As they spoke, it was pretty clear they were here for some company recruiting function.

Companies will do that when recruiting college kids. They'll bring a whole bunch of them over, and interview them together. They'll make a day of it for these kids. Nice hotel. Nice meals at the corporate office. Companies trying to woo fresh blood.

The two men conversing next to me traded woes about the job scene ("it's tough") and about the trials of modern recruiting ("that was me who asked that question in the chat room"). They impressed me. I had the bizarre thought that someday I'd probably be working for one of these people.

Hello, you new kids. Good luck getting hired.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Night Grill

Jenn and I have been grilling our hot dogs all Summer. It's a new thing with us. We used to boil our hot dogs before eating them. After a barbecue this Summer, it seems as if we've switched to grilling these. The taste and texture of a slightly blackened hot dog cannot be beat. It's now a matter of course.

Tonight was hot dog night. As I went outside to grill, I realized it would be a slightly different experience, since it was night. As Summer marched on, I grilled in fading light. Thanks to Fall, or the Equinox, or some combination, it was dark by the time I got to the grill tonight. "Use a flashlight," Jenn said.

Getting the grill turned on was tricky, but the front door light helped. However, once I got the hot dogs started, I found that I liked the light turned off. The glow of the fire seemed magical. The heat and the smell of the food whisked away the slight chill. I turned the hot dogs, but I couldn't see them, so I couldn't tell whether they were getting blackened the way I like them. I found I didn't care. I sat there in the night, me and the grill. This must be what a campfire meal must be like. I haven't been camping since I was in school.

I eventually turned on the flashlight. I shut everything down, and went back inside with my food. The hot dogs were blackened perfectly.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Clive Thompson's NY Times article about Twitter and Facebook shows how online social networking has somehow expanded people's concept of their "social circle." Through a steady diet of short "status" messages (e.g. "Having a pizza dinner", "I'm watching the US Open now") that eventually become a stock ticker of your real self, Twitter enables people to follow other people's lives in a strangely more intimate way than they might "in real life." Thompson is careful to point out the drawbacks to virtual friendships, but as a whole, it seems positive.

While reading this piece, I kept thinking about a recent lunch my wife and I had with a nearby friend of mine. We met with our families, and had an entertaining time catching up, laughing, telling stories, and minding our children. I kept thinking "this is so nice!" Now, weeks after that lunch, I wish that my friend had a Twitter account (I searched; she doesn't have one that I could find). However, since it's a Web 2.0 thing, I'm pretty certain that her children will end up with Twitter accounts someday.

Won't they be surprised when they find out that they can follow my tweets?

If you want to follow me, check out the sidebar of my blog for my Twitter updates, or visit my Twitter page.

Friday, August 29, 2008

7 Little Habits

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has written a list of 7 Little Habits that can change your life. I love his list of habits, which include developing positive thinking, and practicing kindness. Go to his site to read the others.

Let me give you my take on two of the habits on his list: "focus on one goal", and how it relates to "eliminate the non-essential." I've lately been refocused on guitar playing. Big time. And I don't have a lot of time. In fact, I don't play/practice until well into the evening. However, I've been so focused on it that when I went to see a movie last week, I was surprised to find out that it was the first movie I saw in a theater this year.

My take on "focus on one goal" is that a good goal eliminates the non-essential things. So don't ask me if I've watched a lot of Red Sox baseball. Don't ask me what books I've been reading. Don't ask me about what I'll be blogging about next. I've been playing the guitar. That's what I've been doing.

Of course, you can always reconnect with your other goals. The list recommends breaking up big goals into mini-goals. Since I've done that, and have achieved some "success" with these mini-goals, I can step back from this big goal and focus on other "big" goals.

This advice probably sounds trite, but it is surely the key to big goal "success". I think back to the days when I was consumed by learning to play ice hockey. When I think about the progression of events that led me to playing in a recreational league, I can now see all the mini-goals: buy some ice hockey skates, join an ice skating class, practice ice skating incessantly, learn about local rec leagues, buy equipment, hang out at ice rinks and make connections. I couldn't have focused on guitar playing then (and I didn't). Staying focused on one thing and eliminating the non-essentials worked. It really did. Conversely, I no longer play ice hockey anymore. It's become non-essential.

The "7 Little Habits" list is terrific for all goal-setters. Check it out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Going to the End of the Line

The New York Times published a multimedia look at the NYC train stations that are marked "last stop." These are stations at the end of the line, and there are some fascinating places to see there. Among the many places, there's a restaurant by the water, a monastery, and a cemetery. There's an incredible variety in the various stops. The photography and the live interview pieces are all worth checking out; I was dazzled.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Funnies

Somehow, I've gotten out of the habit of reading the comics in the newspaper. In the Globe, the comics are part of the Sidekick section, but that section is not part of their main broadsheet, so I end up not looking at it. What's replaced print comics for me are a handful of webcomics.
  • Wondermark - This is my favorite one. David Malki ! has just the right amount of off-beat humor for me. Totally LOL territory. Check out how he creates his strip.
  • Sheldon - A delightful family comic featuring a boy billionaire, his various pets, and his cranky grandfather. Recently, the artist, Dave Kellet, made a video of how he draws his strip, and it's great to see some old school artistry.
  • xkcd - The newest on my list. Cutting and edgy.
If people have other comics to suggest, please add a comment. I'd love to hear about more (and I know there's plenty out there).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bonus Track: Wonderful Tonight

This is me singing Wonderful Tonight, the classic song by Eric Clapton from his Slowhand album. Yes, it's a little fast. One of the things I learned in trying to put this together is just how difficult it is to sing, play, and keep time. It's almost as if you have to pick two out of those three things to keep track of.

I learned the song from Desi Serna's on-line guitar lessons, but I was inspired to try the song thanks to covers by strawbfan and chewwinggum.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sounds Bad

Last year, I was going back and forth to Minneapolis for what felt like several weeks on end. (On paper, it was actually three weeks.) In the rental car that I had there, I threw in a CD that I dedicated for my trip. After my work during the day, I'd drive around greater Minneapolis listening to this CD. The music was by a fast guitarist named Sergei Alexeev. He's one of those musicians who play at the train station (I bought the CD from him at South Station). The music had the effect of reminding me of home in an unique way. No words; just a great wash of electric guitar playing.

On the flip side, I didn't listen to Sergei's music when I got back to Boston. In my car, I made sure the CD was cued up to my "welcome back song" at the time: Sounds Bad, by T-Pain. The song's opening piano notes, giving way to some good "mmm, mmms", then T-Pain's Auto-Tuned voice properly drained the travel strain out of me. By the time the car gets rolling towards home, I'm singing to the chorus, parts of which are delivered in an attractive staccato: "I know it sound like, I wanna die, And I know I'm so miserable, But this just so happens to be the best day of my life."

The song is about some guy trying to cope with his life. No food in his fridge. House running on a generator. Late for work. And yet even though things sound bad, it's still the best day of his life. The "self-medication" may have something to do with it. I loved listening to this song after the four hour travel from Minneapolis.

Note: This month, I will be writing about songs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Song Remains the Same

When I was in high school back in the 1980s, a bunch of us went into New York City to see the laser light show at the Hayden Planetarium. Gosh, who was there? I know James went. Maybe Arnel? Did Ramsey come? Noel? Anyway, it was a night out.

The audience in the planetarium buzzed with excitement. The house lights went dim. The dome darkened. In complete simulated night, the music began with a sonic bang: The Song Remains the Same, by Led Zeppelin. The song was an electric guitar assault that had me asking "What is this? I want to hear it again!" I don't remember too much else from that show, but that song stayed with me.

In the weeks or months that followed, I learned that this song was "hard rock," so I wasn't going to be hearing it on my usual Top Forty/Casey Kasem approved pop-music station. I had to listen to WPLJ. I hung by the radio until the song came on (this is how we dealt with music back in the day!) and when it came on again, I committed to memory the band and the song once more. Led Zeppelin. The Song Remains the Same.

Maybe within the next year I dished out a whole bunch of money for the double-album "The Song Remains the Same". I didn't realize at the time that a) this was a soundtrack album off their ill-received concert movie, and b) the song was on their fifth album, "Houses of the Holy." I probably only played that one song off that double record, but it was worth it.

The song is a layered guitar masterpiece, with accompanying drums and bass to match. Jimmy Page's guitar rocks with a fierce but exciting and invigorating sound that drives upwards and upwards until it reaches a quieter section, the upper atmosphere of psychedelic rock. Robert Plant wails. Page jams a solo, then ratchets up the song again, upwards through some power chords, to a thrilling finish. Think of the theme to Rocky or Star Wars, but faster, and with guitars blazing.

The song was released in 1973. At this point, the band was at the height of their powers. I was only five years old then, but the fact that this song rocked me in high school, and can still rock me today is a testament to Led Zeppelin's unquestioned musicality, and their legacy in rock music. Fans of today's music would do themselves a favor by checking out Led Zeppelin's rich catalog of songs. They can start with "The Song Remains the Same."

Note: This month, I will be writing about songs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

San Diego Serenade

In my last year of college, I was a DJ for my college radio station. One evening, a DJ was complaining to me that she had the next day's morning shift. "No one listens to WRPI in the morning," she said. I believed her. It was early summer, and most of the students had fled for vacation. I told her I'd get up and tune in to her show.

The next morning, I got up and put on the radio. This could have been a Saturday morning, this could have been before 8AM, I no longer remember the details. But I did remember her cheery voice saying "Rick? You up? You should get down the station because there are all these dogs at the door, and they look like they want to have breakfast. Enjoy this one."

The next song she played was Tom Waits' "San Diego Serenade". The words washed over me like a gentle shower. The lyrics were sentimental and plaintive. "Never saw the morning until I stayed up all night. Never saw the sunshine until you turned out the light. Never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long. Never heard the melody until I needed the song." With those words, Waits launches into a list of laments, each making sense, each seemingly profound though simple.

People get attached to songs, as if the songs speak to them specifically. When I heard San Diego Serenade that bright morning, it crystallized my feelings going into that odd summer. It's a song about getting older, and about the circle of life. It's a song about taking the good with the bad. It's about love and heartbreak. I was 22 when I first heard it, and the song made me think about being an adult. It still tugs at my heart almost twenty years later.

Note: This month, I will be writing about songs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Luka was one of those stellar songs from the 1980s, 1987 to be specific. I'm a child of the 1980s, and specifically I was raised on 1980s pop music. When Luka hit the charts, it was just one of those superbly "catchy" songs, with a seemingly important message. I gave it no further thought beyond that. In 1987, I was in college, where I was discovering Eric Clapton and Tom Waits.

A few weeks ago, the NY Times published a blog by the songwriter Suzanne Vega, who wrote Luka. In her post, she describes the genesis of the song, and how the ear-catching sound for her song was produced. She also talked about the lyrics of the song, and how warily they were received in her early performances.

I gave the song a listen again, and I was blown away. I was amazed at the power of those lyrics, hearing them seemingly for the very first time. It brought a lump in my throat, tears to my eyes. The music was the same from 1987, but now the words were hitting me with their full force, and I was swept up in the emotion of the song.

Suzanne wrote about how the song eventually became overplayed, drowning out the words and its message. I guess like it did with me. Thankfully, distance and time allow all things to seem new again. I'm glad they did their work for this wondrous song.

Note: This month, I will be writing about songs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father Daughter Talk

My daughter has been listening to the Beatles. She likes many of the songs, and during the song I Want to Hold Your Hand, she said: "It's a song about somebody who wants to hold my hand, but not me, because there's no grown up who's in love with me." I said: "Well, I'm in love with you." And without missing a beat, she said: "Of course, you're my parent!"

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Balloon Flew Away

I first posted about Michael Fournier in 2002. He's the retired French Army officer trying to set the world record for the highest free-fall. The record was set by American Joe Kittinger back in 1960.

A few days ago, Fournier attempted another free-fall. He needed to climb into a capsule/gondola attached to a helium balloon. This balloon would take him to the height of 25 miles above earth. At that height, he'd see both space and the curvature of this planet.

Unfortunately, something happened during his balloon launch. The balloon flew away. The news report explained that perhaps a charge went off, inflating the balloon ahead of schedule. Still, it's a blow to his attempt.

When I first saw the headlines about this mishap, it had that "my dog ate my homework" sense. He said next time he'll bring two balloons. I say he should maybe bring some tethers as well.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Daily Walk

Since the ice rink where I used to skate at lunch has closed for the season, I've slowly begun taking walks at lunch. Call it a nod to exercise, of which I get very little. It's been a good daily routine, and I've rarely missed it.

I take a left out of my office building, and walk across the Longfellow Bridge. In my routine, I walk to Boston on the west sidewalk, which is the narrower sidewalk. When I get to the other side, I walk back on the east sidewalk, which is the wider sidewalk. The views are gorgeous, even when the weather isn't ideal.

Mileage maps show the distance to be under a mile (.88 miles, to be exact). I get the whole thing done in about twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some days I'll walk briskly, but mostly I walk normally, affecting no rush. Sometimes I'll even stop along the way and take pictures.

The walk is good for the heart, supposedly, but I've been finding that it's good for the mind. The work that I do is quite immersing, so the walk clears my head. A little brain reset in the middle day. I recommend it, highly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

100 Things About My Wife

My wife put together a list titled 100 things about me. I found the list insightful and fascinating, and it made me feel nice and warm when I saw myself mentioned. I told her that I would have to put together my own list now. When she was putting her list together, she said she had pretty good momentum up through 70 items, but after that things became harder. Of course, now that her list is publicized, she now has thought of other things to add to it.

Let me point out two things of note on her list. Item 15: Her dedication to giving up smoking was one of the hardest things she's gone through, and one for which I'm immensely proud. Item 71: The match was Italy versus Spain.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Forty is the "new thirty." This means I should be feeling thirty, but I promise you, I don't feel thirty at all. I feel exactly forty. And it's not just physically feeling forty. It's emotionally feeling forty. There are people where I work who graduated from college in the past two years. Me? I am looking forward to my twentieth college reunion in the next two years.

While filling out a survey earlier in the week, I noticed that this would be the last week that I could check off the box next to 35-39. Starting tomorrow, I hit the 40-44 check boxes. Mental note: Stop filling out surveys.

Long ago, when I was in high school, or maybe even earlier, I had a vivid dream. I was driving a car, and it was a hatch back of sorts. I stopped in front of a house in the suburbs, and I got out, unlocked the hatch, and in the back were bags of groceries. I remember the hatch tugging my arm up, and I remember looking around. I woke up, not finding out where I was going with all those groceries.

Sometimes, when I find myself in that exact situation (which isn't often, since we don't have a hatchback, and I don't often get the groceries), I say "I'm living the dream." Tomorrow, on my fortieth, I'll have to remind myself of this. Often.


Sunday, March 30, 2008


I took a peek at some of my daughter's homework the other day. The class is learning how to count coins. For some reason, this seems advanced to me. I don't remember knowing about coins and money until I was much older. Mia is somehow picking this stuff up.

Of late, Mia's been obsessed with her Nintendo (she's really become adept at Mario Kart DS) and WebKinz. I don't remember playing video games when I was her age, because they weren't invented yet. I certainly didn't know or remember passwords when I was her age, yet here is Mia, carefully instructing me not to reveal her WebKinz password.

I take her to school every morning that I am able. I've looked on at the parents of her classmates, and I sense the same feelings: warmth; pride; love. Raising a child is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. One minute I'm blinking tears at her sweetness, and the next minute I find myself yelling at her to get dressed for school.

Mundane. Profound. And she's now seven.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


A few months ago, I received my first text message spam. I thought somehow my wife learned how to text. But instead it was spam, so I deleted it. Over the next few days, the spam began to increase in frequency. I learned to mass delete the text messages on my cell phone, after quickly scanning their obvious subject lines. As the weeks went by, I was doing this more and more, until Jenn asked "what's up with your cell phone bill?" Sure enough, I was getting billed for each of these text messages. Every one of these messages took 15 cents out of my pocket, and after thirty or forty a week, it was beginning to add up. After trolling through Google, I found two sites ([1] [2]) that showed me how to turn off the ability to receive text messages. I did it, and now I'm spam-free. I'm sure when I get another phone, or my daughter discovers texting, I'll be inclined to turn this back on, but until then, just send me e-mail.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pull Here. Hold Here.

I marvel at today's packaging technology. Tonight, for dinner, I had to open up a package of Sargento Cheese (shredded mild cheddar). The bag itself is sealed entirely, so normally I pull out some scissors to open the top. However, in the top-left corner of the bag was the direction: "Pull Here". Pulling there with one hand, I didn't see how that would help me at all. But then I saw another direction on the bag: "Hold Here." Holding there with my other hand, I saw immediately what had to be done. I pulled with my first hand while holding with my second hand, and the top-most part of the sealed package cut open cleanly. Dairy treasure! Of course the bag had its own resealable Ziploc. I stared at the bag like it was some magic trick, which I got right the first time. Marvelous.

Pull Here. Hold Here.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I was reading David Brin's The Uplift War. This is the first science fiction book that I've read in some time, and it's terrific so far. The aliens and humans in this book have a separate language which is interesting to read (the book provides a glossary). Of course, there are English words that I have to look up, and one of them was cachinnatous. The online dictionary I use didn't have this word, but they had a similar word called cachinnatory, which is an adjective for "accompanied by immoderate laughter". That seemed to fit the sentence (the word was used in "a gaggle of cachinnatous humans"). Humans laughing a little too loudly perhaps? I think so.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Review: Voyage of the Manteño

I can't remember when, but at one point I mentioned to Jenn that I was fascinated by adventures on the open sea. We conversed about it, and she told me about Kon-Tiki, the famed book by explorer Thor Heyerdahl. In that book, he builds a raft and then goes on an expedition from South America to the Polynesian Islands. I think I received this book as a gift, and eventually I began to read it.

Somehow, during the reading of Kon-Tiki, an e-mail arrived from John Haslett. "I was wondering if I could induce you to read my new book." His book? Voyage of the Manteño: The Education of a Modern-Day Expeditioner.

Both books describe the details of building balsa rafts. Both books describe the arcane politics of setting sail from a foreign land. Both books were about open sea voyages (in the case of Manteño, multiple voyages), and the effort it takes to make a voyage work. In each there are fascinating passages about the ocean which any sea-dreaming land lubber like me could enjoy.

While Kon-Tiki is the more popular of the two, and certainly the more heralded (it was first published in 1950), John Haslett's book comes much closer to telling me what I wanted to know. What does the ocean feel like in a storm? What are your emotions when you're adrift at sea? And what happens when you get pissed at your shipmates? (Both authors had a small crew.)

Voyage of the Manteño took on these questions and more. John describes the ocean in all its beauty and fury. He describes feelings of elation, anxiety, and abject terror. He describes the emotional fortitude required to be a true explorer. He writes about his shipmates as worthy companions, even though some of them couldn't hack the sea-faring life. His book is ultimately an adventure of great endurance.

When I finished reading it, I felt immense satisfaction that John was still out there, planning his next voyage. I hope he'll write about it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Happy Birthday to Jenn

My wife's birthday is today. Hurray!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Best Books Read in 2007

My Previous Best Books: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.

I read fourteen books last year. Surprisingly, only three of these were novels: Waiting, Bangkok 8, and Thank You for Smoking. The rest were wonderful non-fiction books, my favorites being The Looming Tower, Voyage of The Manteño, and The Smartest Guys in the Room.

I'll be writing reviews of Waiting and Voyage of The Manteño, as these my among my favorites from 2007.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I hope we're getting close.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Best Movies Watched in 2007

(This is my seventh such list.)

My favorite movie from 2007 was No Country for Old Men. A very close second was Michael Clayton.

"No Country" is a powerful movie. A treacherous criminal on the chase, a hero on the run, and an old cop on the watch are the principal characters in the Coen Brother's finest work. Perfectly paced, minimally scored, and as serious as a choke hold, the movie is just too good. Praise is coming from everywhere on this movie, and it's deserving.

"Michael Clayton" is the other compelling offering from 2007. A forlorn lawyer, played by George Clooney, has to come to grips with the limits of his own ethics, and his firm's. A criminal plot involving one of his colleagues forces him to act, but it strains his reserves. This is a dark and brooding film, the kind I like. But its touch of clarity makes it less ambiguous than "No Country", which pushes that film to the top.
  • Best DVD Commentary: Seabiscuit, Saw, Old School

  • Favorite Male Acting: Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Infernal Affairs)

  • Favorite Female Acting: Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

  • Finally Glad I Watched: "Stranger Than Fiction", "Old School", "Finding Forrester", "A History of Violence", "Saw"