Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Comic: Presidential Debate

9-28-08: Decision Time...

I'm still debating going to tonight's game. The weather forecast is a bit more promising than it was yesterday, but it's still not a guarantee. I still have a few hours to make the final decision, but as of now it's still sadly a no.

According to Extra Bases - The Red Sox Blog on, the forecast calls for the weather to clear up a bit within the next couple of hours and conditions should be pleasant tonight. I haven't seen a game at Fenway this year, and I spent quite a bit on tickets, but I'm really debating whether or not it's worth the overall cost.

I'll make my decision by 2:30PM.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Follow-up: Sox-Yankees Game (postponed...)

Alas, the game was postponed until tomorrow night at 7:35PM. I'm seriously debating going to the make-up. These are my concerns:

  1. It's a meaningless game, and star players might not even play.
  2. It's a 3+ hour trip (including drive and train rides)
  3. I'd be getting home no earlier than 2:00AM Monday morning if the game is played in a relatively normal length of time (and isn't delayed)
  4. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow.

So, with that, I will watch the weather and make the call by 2:00PM tomorrow. Most of the reason why I wanted to go to today's game was to take my dad to Fenway, and he's not planning on going back up tomorrow, so that's the #5 reason against going. Oh well, it was still a pretty good trip.

9-27-08: Sox-Yankees Game (hopefully)

I was lucky enough to come across a pair of tickets to this afternoon's Red Sox vs. Yankees game up at Fenway. They weren't cheap, but it's always great to see a game there. I'm taking my dad, who had seen at least one game in Fenway from the early 1960's up through 2006. Last year he couldn't even find tickets because so many games were sold out. Part of me sort of wants to see them lose a bit again just so I can see a game!

The biggest concern today is obviously the weather. It has rained quite a bit in the last 24 hours, and they barely got in last night's game. Hopefully they'll find a window to get a game in today. Worst comes to worst, we at least get to spend an afternoon and evening in Boston. My family's from there, and it's always nice to go back. Maybe we'll eat at Fire and Ice. Delicious.

Friday, September 26, 2008

9-26-08: Yankees Building New Vacation Stadium In The Hamptons

Sometimes you really have to hand it to The Onion.

Yankees Building New Vacation Stadium In The Hamptons

On a separate note, I didn't listen to this song for a while until today (probably 6 or so months since I last heard it). Great song:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

9-24-08: Being Catholic Now

I heard an interesting podcast last week that discussed being Catholic in today's society. It featured Kerry Kennedy, one of Bobby Kennedy's daughters, who recently wrote a book on the subject.

When I began listening to the podcast and learned that Kerry Kennedy was the featured guest, I cringed at the cliche that they'd put a Kennedy on the air to explain the general feeling about being Catholic. But, after listening to some of her points, I found them to be pretty interesting.

As a young Catholic, I agree with most of her points. I feel that the reason the Church has had difficulties (outside of the immensely disgusting sexual abuse scandals) in recent years is that it has become too politically involved in areas that young people just don't care all that much about any more. Take, for instance, abortion. A lot of people my age don't see anything wrong with it. Personally, I don't feel it's my business to tell some one outright "You just can't do that" without knowing their story a little more. The Church is getting too stuck in its ways and has lost focus a bit.

I still consider myself Catholic, though, and don't plan on converting or leaving the Church out of spite. I think its core values are very strong, and my lifestyle is centered around the good principles I learned growing up in a Catholic family. I just think those things just need to be strengthened in a child if he or she is to grow up and help the world. Making them militant isn't going to help anything.

Have a listen:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

9-23-08: Cool Pics of the Scottish Highlands

I found some pretty impressive pictures that some guy has of the Scottish Highlands. Check them out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

9-22-08: Driving and Gender, the Myth

I was driving back from lunch today and thought of something that I've been formulating for some time. It's about how a lot of men think that men, as a whole, are better drivers than women. I think this is quite misleading, and hope this is taken more as an observation of one driver and not a sexist argument. In fact, it's hardly sexist, since I don't agree with the philosophy.

I think, more than anything, age is a factor. Let's take into account driving style and/or the types of mistakes any given driving group has or makes. From my experience, the most dangerous drivers on the road are teenagers and the elderly, in a general sense. There are definitely safe drivers in both age categories, but there seems to be a bit higher concentration of bad drivers in those groups.

But what makes a driver a bad driver is also up in the air. Safe driving is often defined as the simple act of not getting in an accident. That's quite misleading. You can go your whole life and not be in an accident, but it doesn't mean you didn't make any mistakes that led to other accidents. Or, you could be a great driver and still get into an accident with an unsafe driver. Accidents simply happen and there are plenty of factors that are out of your control.

But there are bad drivers out there. And, I can't really see any set of driving habits that are exclusive to either gender. Sure, it would seem that more men are aggressive drivers, but I've seen plenty of women drive the same way. I've also seen a great number of "no turn signal necessary" drivers, and a ton of "I just want to get one car length ahead and will risk everything to get there" drivers among both genders. So, from my experience (I'm a 23 year old male that has driven considerably more than most people my age), I'd say there isn't a set methodology to accurately state one gender is better at driving than the other.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

9-20-08: Talk Like a Pirate Day (late)

Yesterday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It's a pretty important celebration throughout the pirate community, as well as many college students at technical universities. I went to a technical university, so I am reminded every year to honor the holiday.

In respect of that, here's a video guys in my Fraternity used to watch to get psyched up for the day. Yes, it's a bit creepy, but aren't most holidays?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9-18-08: Panic!

I check my finances every couple of weeks or so to see how I'm doing. I've been doing it for the past 15 months or so, since I started working full time. So far, so good. Well, with the exception of this week.

For the first time since I've done this biweekly check, I've lost money since the previous entry. This isn't because of frivolous spending; it's my investments. I lost quite a bit in the last few days because of the market "correction" following the big news about Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

The good news is I made a good portion of it back today with the stock rally. And the other thing: I don't really look at it as a loss. Sure, my portfolio's worth (I only invest in mutual funds; I'm no expert) may take a hit, but I'm not planning on selling this stuff for decades. I use the mentality that it's a discounted buying price. The longer it stays cheaper now, the more I can make in the future. It was bad timing to get into the market in the spring and summer of 2007, right before this whole crisis, but in the long run I think I'll be fine.

So, if you're a young investor like me, keep it safe and just don't panic. There's a big bright side to all of this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

9-15-08: Predicting Future Technology

I remember some time ago seeing something on either the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, or National Geographic about future technology. They had a guy who was an expert in predicting future technology talking about how things might be in the future. It was pretty neat.

Today I was thinking of that concept: predicting future technology. I've always wondered if there was some fundamental pattern in human development where some one could look at a car in 2008 and predict what that model would look like in 2012. It seems like you can find some trends here and there. But overall, it's tough.

The funniest thing is when you go back and watch films from decades ago trying to predict, probably not seriously, what life was like in 2000. Remember those films? They talked about flying cars and whatnot. But then you have films like Minority Report, which, with the exception of the fantasy element of having the ability to predict the future, seems to be more realistic in its predictions. It seems like a lot of films today are getting more realistic. But how do you tell? And, are there techniques employed by the writers of these films or books that are more successful in accurately predicting the future than what was attempted in the past?

I wonder what goes in to accurate prediction. You have to understand first and foremost the rapid growth of technology, which is difficult to predict. Then you have to take into account how much of a role it will play in our lives. Then, you have to predict human behavior. Now that is the toughest part of it all. You'd need a PhD in pretty much everything to even have a chance. And how would any one know if you're any good at it?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

LHC Video

9-14-08: Oktoberfest

Last night I spent a wonderful evening with some good friends at The Old Heidelberg Restaurant's Oktoberfest celebration. It was an evening of good German song, food, and beverages. Despite the lengthy line towards the end to buy beer, it was a great time.

The thing with Oktoberfest is, even if you're not German, it's a great time. I really want to go to one in Germany one day. That would be incredible: Oktoberfest in Munich. Truly awesome. If it's good in Bethel, Connecticut, I can only imagine how great it is where it was invented.

But last night I had one question on my mind: why is it called Oktoberfest if it is held in September? My German buddy, Dan, then went on to tell me it was supposed to lead UP to October, and was originally a wedding celebration. Then, I went on to Wikipedia, and Dan was pretty much spot on. Good on you, buddy.

I really need to learn the songs and the toasts for next year's celebration.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

9-13-08: Burn After Reading

Last night I went to see Burn After Reading with a couple friends. It came out yesterday and features George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and John Malkovich, and is directed by the popular Coen Brothers, who had a lot of success with No Country For Old Men, which I enjoyed seeing.

Burn After Reading has to be, in my mind, one of the toughest films to go into with any real expectations. When I checked on, it had gotten around a 75% approval rating. After seeing it, I knew exactly why. The sense of humor is not for every one, and frankly, the story is just too wild in some parts. It has a few twists here and there, but, oddly enough, they stick to reality really well. It's refreshing, but it's not something I'd necessarily want to see again.

The best part about the film, though, is how they have Brad Pitt playing a moron and George Clooney playing a womanizer. It's actually hilarious to see two very well known actors, who have done successful films together, play such oddball characters. This isn't quite a spoiler, but their screen time together is limited.

This film falls into the same category as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, in that you really need to share the sense of humor with the creators to really enjoy it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

9-12-08: Age vs. Meetings

    I noticed something today regarding a commonality between old and young engineers. The subject: meetings.

    Young engineers, on the whole, dislike most meetings. Some are pretty worthwhile, but all day meetings tend to drag on into Boring Land a bit too often. For some reason, management tends to like them. I still go, but I sometimes get a bit bored when the topic strays away from anything relevant to me.

    Older engineers, on the whole, dislike having their time wasted. Today I was sitting at my desk and two older engineers (both with 30+ years at my company) talked about how they didn't feel like going to this meeting or that meeting, and flat out wouldn't go unless directly asked. One of them was skipping a meeting at the time, and really couldn't care less.

    The odd thing is, the same isn't true for the middle of the road guys who do a lot of the work. Young engineers tend to do more busywork; older engineers often serve as advisors or consultants. Neither find meetings to be all that relevant to what they are doing.

    I just thought it was interesting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9-11-08: Seven Years On

Something I think is a really fitting thing to do on a day like today, the anniversary of a tragedy, is to try to recall the day the best that you can. I think it helps to get you back into the mindset, which helps you remember what the world was like then and what it is like now.

I was a junior in high school on September 11th, 2001. I remember the day quite vividly. I was in school, and was hanging around with a few friends during the 10-minute break we got in the middle of the morning after 2nd period. One of my friends came up and said, not in a panic but more in an informative tone, "Hey did you guys hear a plane crashed into World Trade?"

At first we thought it was just a small plane. It wasn't until later in the day, after about another hour, that we found out the disturbing truth. I remember sitting through a class where the teacher just had us watch TV. We walked in and he said "This is more important than anything I could teach you today." It was surreal watching the images.

My mother worked in the city at the time, up in Mid-Town on the corner of 42nd St and 6th Ave, just over 3 miles from World Trade. She was at a meeting that morning with her boss, when some one came in to tell them that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. They went into another conference room and watched the smoke billow up from the first tower. Then, they saw another plane approaching. They thought it was a military plane, then to their absolute shock they saw it hit the second tower. She doesn't really like to talk about it.

After that happened, they evacuated her building and she walked for miles, in her work shoes / heels, all the way to Queens to her friend's house, where she stayed the night. She called home, which was very good. She came home the next day. I just remember being so happy to see her OK. We live about 40 miles away from the city, and a lot of families in town work in Manhattan. Fortunately, no one in town died in the attack, though many lost friends and co-workers.

A lot has changed since then, but I try not to let the change get in the way of remembering that day. It caused a lot of people to look inward and realize how patriotic many Americans are, and how lucky we are. But nothing can ever wipe away what those monsters did, and I hope to God that they're burning in Hell.

Monday, September 8, 2008

9-8-08: VICTORY!

Earlier in the evening, my softball team was crowned champion of our division. Sure, it was the bottom division, but we are nonetheless champions. We pulled off a big upset to win it all.

In the process, while pitching, I suffered what one might call a "leg dent" on my shin. Basically, I pitched the ball, a guy hit the ball, the ball hit my shin, my shin now has a dent. I have a feeling I'm going to be in considerable pain in the morning. But, the post-game celebration and the feeling of victory may help heal the wounds a little faster.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

9-7-08: LONG Day

Today was one of the longest days ever. Well, in reality, it was as long as any other, but for me it was really long.

I had never arrived at a Dunkin' Donuts before it opened, until this morning when I showed up at one about 10 minutes before. I waited for the coffee to finish brewing before I could get any. It was almost a religious experience.

I was up at 4:15AM this morning because I needed to be in Charlton, Massachusetts for a golf tournament that I was playing in, which started at 7:30AM. I made it right on time with little issue. I played surprisingly OK; not bad but not really that great, and really had a blast. Right now it's 10:30PM, and I'm about ready to pass out. Can't wait to fall asleep.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Portland, Oregon: A Game of Chance

I'm a bit of a history buff. It's an interest of mine. I often use Wikipedia as a first source, then go into more reputable sources if I want to learn more.

About five minutes ago, I looked up Portland, Oregon. I've heard it's a great city to live in, but not necessarily to visit. My aunt and uncle are thinking of moving there in a few years. But the funniest bit of history about Portland (from a New Englander's standpoint) is that it was founded by two New England natives: Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove. Pettygrove had actually bought his share from a man named William Overton, who is believed to have been from Tennessee. Loveyjoy was from Boston, Massachusetts , and Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine. Two cities that I have been to many times.

In 1851, Lovejoy and Pettygrove got together to decide on the name of their new city in the northwest frontier. Both wanted to name it after their respective home town. So, what did they do? A simple coin toss. Pettygrove won the best of three tosses, and Portland, Oregon got its name. It's considerably larger than Portland, Maine, which begs the question: would it have been as big had it been named Boston? And... would Boston, MA have grown differently? Who knows. But the neat thing is that the coin they used to determine the city's name, the Portland Penny, is on display for people to see. You don't see that too often.

In case you were wondering, Boston, Massachusetts got its name from a town in England, which got its name (allegedly) from its founder St. Botolph ("St. Botolph's Stone" -> "Botolphs stone" -> "Boston"). Portland, Maine (which was the arrival port of my great grandfather who immigrated from Ireland) was called Falmouth before it was renamed by residents.

Are you impressed yet?

9-6-08: High School Reunion

Tonight is my high school reunion, marking the fifth anniversary of my class' graduation. It's at a bar in South Norwalk, and I plan on attending.

There are several motivations for attending the reunion (in no particular order):

  1. To see my high school buddies. I haven't seen some of them in a few years.
  2. To see how many people have died. So far the count is one.
  3. To see how many are employed and where. Apparently one guy I didn't even know went to school for engineering is working at my company. He just started back in June.
  4. To point out to all the New York Yankees fans how successful the Boston Red Sox have been since our graduation. This is a sore spot for me. I was the only Red Sox fan in my high school class, and was constantly reminded by these Yankees fans of how well the Yankees were doing during our time in high school. It's a bit bitter, but I subscribe to the "don't get mad, get even" mentality. This time, I'm just adding interest to the balance.
  5. To see who is still in the area.
  6. To see who got married. No idea what the count would be on that one. My guess is pretty low.
  7. To see how many engineers there are in the class. I believe there are only a handful.

There are also some political things, like how Bush won again in 2004, but that's not exactly something to gloat about right now. Too much going on with the Obama-McCain matchup, which I don't feel all that strongly about either way. I'm looking forward to it, even though I have to be up at 4:30AM tomorrow morning to head up to Mass. for a golf tournament.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

9-4-08: The Dems’ Legal Eagles

Here's an interesting editorial that was sent to me from a co-worker today:

The Dems' Legal Eagles
Want real change? Quit nominating lawyers!

By Victor Davis Hanson

The 2008 presidential campaign is supposed to be a referendum on "change" — who brings it and who doesn't.

Real change, however, hasn't yet proven to mean new politics.

The "hope and change" Barack Obama sounds like a traditional Northern liberal who always wants to raise taxes on the upper classes and businesses, expand government services, and provide more state assistance to the middle class and poor.

"Maverick" John McCain talks like a conventional Western or Southern conservative in favor of spending cuts, across-the-board lower taxes, and smaller government.

This year the media seem to think change means race and sex — whether Barack Obama's background of mixed racial ancestry or the gender of Democratic primary candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

It's certainly true that either the next president or next vice president will not be a white male. But does that mean de facto that the country will be run any differently?

There is, however, one area where we might have seen real change. The Democrats could have not nominated another lawyer. This may partly explain why former military officer John McCain and working-mom Sarah Palin are polling near even with Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, in a year that otherwise favors the Democrats.

A snowmobiling, fishing, and hunting mom of five who was trained as a journalist seems like a breath of fresh air — and accentuates the nontraditional background of former naval officer John McCain. If the Republicans win, it may well be because — like George Bush and Dick Cheney, or Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush — they weren't members of the legal culture.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama got out of Harvard Law School, worked for a firm, offered his legal expertise as a community organizer, and went into politics. Joe Biden graduated from law school and almost immediately ran for office.

In the Democratic primary, winner Obama, runner-up Hillary Clinton, and third-place finisher John Edwards were all lawyers. In 2004, both Democratic nominees, John Kerry and Edwards, were lawyers. Al Gore, who ran in 2000, left law school without a degree and went into politics. His running mate, Joe Lieberman, was a Yale-trained lawyer. Mike Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, was a Harvard-trained lawyer and ran with lawyer Lloyd Bentsen.

In fact, every Democratic presidential nominee for president and vice president in the last seven elections — except Gore, who dropped out of law school to run for Congress — has been a lawyer.

What saved Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 was the presence in the race of third-party conservative candidate Ross Perot — and the image of Clinton as a Southern moderate, which seemed to reassure voters that this particular Yale-trained lawyer was nevertheless not quite another Democratic nominee like Walter Mondale or Dukakis.

Of course, there have been Republican nominees and presidents who were lawyers — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Bob Dole — but recently far less so than the Democrats, as the administrations of Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes attest.

So, what's wrong with the Democratic nominee once again being a lawyer? After all, legal minds are trained to think precisely and evaluate both sides of an issue.

The problem is that lawyers usually do not run companies, defend the country, lead people, build things, grow food, or create capital.

If this year Democrats were looking for populist candidates from diverse backgrounds and training who talked and thought differently from those of the past, then why didn't they nominate someone who was not trained in writing legalese and working the government legal labyrinth?

Instead, they needed different sorts, candidates who might have sounded a little rougher, a little less condescending, and a little more like most voters. Most Americans have never been in — and never want to be in — a courtroom.

In the past, law school has not necessarily been considered ideal presidential training. Harry Truman was audacious perhaps because he had tried and failed as a haberdasher. Dwight Eisenhower learned about leadership from his years as a general. George H. W. Bush was a businessman and Ronald Reagan an actor. Even unpopular presidents like Jimmy Carter (farmer) and George W. Bush (businessman) brought different perspectives to the job.

Change for Democrats this year was not a new strain of liberal politics or a different race or gender. Instead, they needed to have run candidates who talked, thought, and acted differently from their usual run-of-the-mill sorts.

And that meant someone other than the same old, same old legal eagles who appear glib — but so often manage to lose in November.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal and the 2008 Bradley Prize.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

9-3-08: The Limits of the Two Party System

I'm a bit confused when I hear the following statement: "Well, if that's the case, I'll vote for the other candidate." It's usually more specific, such as if you don't like Barack Obama, you're going to then vote for John McCain. It's one or the other.

But why? What is the logic behind just automatically switching to the other candidate?

The strange thing is, it seems that this sort of mentality is used by people who don't vote based on relevant issues. It's usually something like (and I've heard this): "I won't vote for Barack Obama because he smokes cigarettes." Is it valid? Perhaps, but I don't see how it's any reason to automatically switch to McCain. Whether he smokes or not really doesn't make him a better or worse candidate for President.

But what I want to discuss is the very nature of the two party system. Throughout American History, there have been many prominent political parties. First there were the Federalists, the Anti-Federalists, then later on came the Whigs, the Bull Moose Party, then finally the modern Democratic and Republican Parties. But it seems that, for the most part, we've always been a two party system. Why is that, exactly?

I think it comes down to people reverting to the two-sided approach to any problem. It's a popular way of thinking, so it should make sense that our political system reflects that. I'm not sure why then so many European nations have far more than two major parties, but that's another debate. Let's just stick with American politics for now.

Two parties. Two different agendas. But people still switch from one to the other relatively regularly. Instead of doing a bit of research, a lot of people ignore other candidates entirely. They're afraid they'll "throw their vote away." What kind of rationale is that? If it's your vote, vote how you wish based on what's important to you. But be mindful of why you're really voting for some one. Frankly, I'm going to vote for the person whose ideals and principles are closest to mine. That's far from throwing a vote away.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

9-2-08: Job Satisfaction

Yesterday I had lunch with a high school buddy who I haven't seen in a while. It was nice to see him. He's a medical student up at UConn, and is doing well.
We mostly talked about sports and other things. He's a Patriots fan like me, so we talked about how they'll do this year. We also talked about some of our buddies and how they were doing. We talked about our upcoming reunion on Saturday; fortunately, he can go.
Then, the topic of school and work came up. I told him how my job was going, about life as an engineer, and how I was going to school to get my Master's. After a few minutes, my buddy said something that surprised me:
"You know, of all the people our age that I've talked to, I think you're the only one who seems to be happy with their first job out of school. Everybody else says they hate their job."
I then thought of two possibilities:
1. People are exaggerating and really don't hate their jobs that much.
2. I seem to enjoy my job and/or pretend better.
The first possibility is likely; I'm sure people just like to complain about their jobs. It's acceptable social behavior, since it's something people often have in common.
The second possibility isn't likely. I don't complain about my job that much in a serious manner. Sure, I complain, but it's often said with a smile or a smirk. Most of the time it's entertaining, though I do some serious complaining from time to time. My buddy Scotty knows that. I make lunch almost unbearable some days with my complaints. But most of the time, it's for fun.
So it surprised me, then, that my high school buddy thought I was the only person who liked their jobs. I won't dispute the fact that I don't hate my job. I'm not infatuated with it, but I'm proud of what I do and I do enjoy my work. It's not the most noble work; I don't save kids from trees or cats from fires. But it's better than 90% of the jobs out there that I could be doing. I just don't find it worthwhile to complain in a social setting. I find it more entertaining to describe what I do. I think it's an ego thing.
And I can't wait to gloat about it at my high school reunion on Saturday.

Monday, September 1, 2008

9-1-08: In Bruges

I decided to rent a couple movies from Blockbuster. I had a two-for-one coupon, so I picked out In Bruges and There Will Be Blood.

I picked In Bruges (Bruges is pronounced "Brooge") because I had seen the trailers before it came out earlier this year, and it looked funny. It turned out to be quite funny and quite entertaining. I wouldn't say it was the best film I've seen, nor would I really consider it a comedy. Colin Farrell is great in it, and the plot and characters are quite interesting. There's great interplay between the cast, and it's worth renting.

I have yet to watch There Will Be Blood. I'd imagine it's good since it won some Oscars.