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Matt McHugh
Matt McHugh.com - Blog - October 2005

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SUBJECT:
My Last Daily Blog Entry for a While
DATE:
October 12, 2005

This is officially my last daily blog entry. I'm going on a blog-sabbatical, at least in terms of the one-per-day compulsion. I want to spend my precious free time on some other projects for a while.

I made this decision a week ago and, now that it comes to it, it's harder than I expected. I can't tell you how many times in the last 18+ months I dreaded having to sit down to write my daily entry (or a week's backlog of entries) and wished I could just give it up. But, I didn't give it up then and I'm having trouble giving it up now for exactly the same reasons. It's become a personal outlet for me, a way to force me to collect and express at least one semi-coherent thought per day. It's a chance to vent, to muse, to joke, to record. But, as much as anything else, it's become a habit. During the day, I'll see something or think something and ponder how I'd approach it in my blog. Several times today, my line-in-the-sand last day, I had the "I'll have to blog about that" thought.

I let it go. As we all will with all things someday, I must let it go and content myself with an unfinished ending. If that sounds a bit melodramatic, forgive me. Try doing anything everyday for a year then stop abruptly. No matter how arbitrary or pointless your daily rituals may be, they have a sticky quality that doesn't peel off without scraping the skin a bit.

Anyway, as I've said before, I may still make an entry from time to time, so consider this down but not out.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Counting a Billion Beans
DATE:
October 11, 2005

I had to take a Financial Management class at work. The intention was not to make me a number-crunching machine, but just to try to get me to look at the annual report as something other than terrifying gibberish to be shunned. After two days of listening to the retired CFO (a pretty interesting and affable guy, actually) wind his way through Assets and Liabilites and Capital Expenditures and Operating Income and Gross Profit Margins and Internal Rate of Return, I can honestly say I understand not a lick of it, but I feel much, much more comfortable with the fact that it does mean something to somebody. I consider that an accomplishment.

Finance is huge gap in my eduction. While there are many (Calculus, Chemistry, Particle Physics, Domestic Engineering, etc., etc.) having little grasp of how money works is one that really does have an impact on my life. Not so much professionally since I don't live in that world--though, of course, I'll never be promoted to it--but simply in everyday transactions. I got a mortgage, and I consider that enough, thank you very much.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
The End of the World?
DATE:
October 10, 2005

The death toll of Friday's earthquake in South Asia is being estimated to approach 40,000. Earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, wars, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, floods, etc. etc. etc. All these tragedies seem to resonate with any regular news reader and get one to wondering. Are these the fabled signs of the End Times foretold in the Bible?

There as some who say so. Of course, the vast majority of them are raging crackpots.

I remember as a teenager being fascinated by this topic. I read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey; I watched the movie narrated by Orson Wells--and the Nostradamus movie, again with Mr. Wells (not to mention Transformers: The Movie, Mr. Wells' last living role). However, the more of this stuff I digested, the more it tasted fishy. There were contradictions, extrapolations, and out and out fabrications that, even at 13, were pretty obvious to me. More than anything, though, it seemed that the people who believed that end of the world was nigh wanted to. Regardless of any external facts, it was their desire to fit pieces together into the desired shape. Like looking at clouds or tea leaves or Tarot cards on ink blots.

What you see as the signs of the end times most likely says a lot more about you than the end times.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
The End of the Blog?
DATE:
October 9, 2005

I've made a decision. I'm giving up the daily blog. It just takes too much time, too much of mental energy, to keep up with day after day.

It's surprising how much work three little paragraphs a day can be. On average it takes between 30 minutes and an hour to write and entry. That involves thinking of something to write, doing whatever little bit of research necessary, writing it, tinkering with the phrasings, proofing it (which, believe it or not, I do do...no pun intended there), and uploading. Typically, when doing one day's entry, I'll read back of the last few as make some edits (the stuff that misses the first go-round is always shocking), then re-upload. Anyway, all this takes time and concentration that I've decided I want to put elsewhere for a while.

I'm not giving up the blog entirely. I'll be sure to have at least one entry per month to keep the file structure intact. Besides, there will always be some news event, pop culture travesty, domestic tidbit, or random thought about which I will feel compelled to yawp my two bits out to the wwworld. I just won't feel the pressing need to crank something out on a daily basis, which was something I arbitrarily placed upon myself a year-and-a-half ago and can drop on a whim as well. So there.

I think I'll make Wednesday my last mandatory daily. Wind down a bit.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Gambling For Recovery
DATE:
October 8, 2005

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has outlined a plan to try to speed the recovery of the city by expanding casion-style gambling. In the proposal, which is in the earliest stages of consideration by city and state officials, would permit about half-a-dozen large hotels in downtown New Orleans--specifically excluding any within the French Quarter itself--to convert to casinos if they wished. Mayor Nagin expressed some reservations about his own idea, saying he'd love to have some alternate way to quickly revitalize the city, but can't come up with anything better. He basically said desperate times require dramatic measures.

My knee-jerk reaction to that is that it's a bad idea. Casinos generally provide only low-income jobs for locals and create avenues of financial addition that can ruin people's lives. All the profits goes to the owners. But, as I think about it a little more, I start to think maybe it's not such a bad idea. The other organization that gets a decent chunk of revenue from casinos is the government. Lord knows New Orleans and Louisiana could use the money--and tourism provides one of the most lucrative and reliable streams of income any city can enjoy. Why not let tourist schmucks blow some dough at the tables to help rebuild the town?

I'm with Mayor Nagin: I don't really like it, but I've got nothing better to offer. Anybody?

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Super Size Me
DATE:
October 7, 2005

Rented Super Size Me tonight. Man, that'll put you off McDonald's.

For years--basically, from college to about age 36--I barely touched fast food. Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch two times a month, tops. Otherwise, I couldn't take the stuff. Now, I probably each McDonald's Chicken Selects once a week, and go with the kids to a Burger King Play Place with the kids at least once every two, and that frequency will likely increased as the weather gets worse and outside play grounds become inaccessible. It's exactly what it seems like: me slipping into bad habits out of convenience. It's just quicker and easier to eat inexpensive crap sometimes. I don't even like it all that much--though, I'll admit to the occasional craving. I can actually remember when I used to forget to eat. That hasn't happened in quite a while.

I won't say I'm going to change all such bad habits or mine immediately, but this movie sure gives one pause to reconsider them.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Up Your Vertical Markets
DATE:
October 6, 2005

Today at work, I had to sit through a webcast presentation by some guy from some big CRM (customer relations management) solutions company drone on about the best way to foster synergies between Sales and Marketing in Vertical and Flat Markets. As far as I could tell--I tuned out at the first 3D bar graph--it had something to do with getting good leads to Sales quickly and having a good follow up policy. There was also stuff about keeping close tabs on how much you're spending to acquire and pursue leads and making sure your return on investment make it worthwhile. All sound advice.

Yet, so dull! These simple, sound principles were padded with slide after slide of charts and graphs of vague detail that reiterated the point in supremely unilluminiating ways. Yeah, yeah... we get it. How about some real--or even hypothetical--case examples. And, of course, the big question is how does all this apply to my business? I'm sure the guy would be happy to tell me, in great detail, how his company's CRM solutions would be a perfect companion to my job.

Ah-ha. That's how they maxmize their ROI synergies. Clever little buggers.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Life Without the Possibility of Death
DATE:
October 5, 2005

A recent NY Times article described the reactions of death row inmates to the Supreme Court's suspension last March of the juvenile death penalty. Immediately, there was a predictable burst of celebration, followed by a kind of profound despair. These condemned prisoners, many of them in their 20's, once marked for an imminent death now face life in prison without the possibility of parole. The question of which is worse becomes a heavy reality.

I generally oppose the death penalty--though not out of compassion. I oppose it because I believe incarceration without hope of release is a much worse punishment. In my more surly moments, I imagine a system where violent offenders get life in solitary. Not a cold, concrete box, mind you--but a relatively roomy and comfortable cell, about the size of a moderate hotel room, with bath facilities, a bed, a table and chair, maybe a treadmill or stationary bicycle... and that's it. Boom. Door closes. Till death do you part. How you live till then is entirely up to you.

Meals would be delivered via a locking portal. Maybe you could get mail or books or magazines once a week. Heck, I'll even let you have an hour of TV once a day. But no visitors, no conversations with guards or other inmates, no human contact at all. Just you made comfortable with yourself for 40-50 years. I suppose most prisoners would eventually take their own lives.

That would be something that, in my view, at least begins to approach the elusive concept of "justice."

-- mm


SUBJECT:
At the Zoo With Some Jews
DATE:
October 4, 2005

I took the day off from work today to go with kids, wife, and in-laws to the Bronx Zoo. We'd promised the boy if he was good in pre-school, we'd take him; and with the in-laws visiting and a beautiful, warm October weekday, I figured it would be a perfect time. Not too hot or cool--and most important to me, not too crowded.

Wrong.

Turns out October 4-5 are public school holidays for Rosh Hashanah. New York City is probably the only place in the U.S. where public schools close for Jewish holidays. So, on this lovely October weekday, the Bronx Zoo was packed with school-age kids and families. It wasn't like it was a three-hour wait to get to the bathroom or anything, but it just was much more populated than I expected, and a bit more crowded than I like when visiting such places. Still, we did mostly everything we wanted to: sky ride twice, Bug carousel, kids' petting zoo, bat house, rain forest house; had to forgo the Wild Asia Monorail. Actually, the kids could give a crap about animals. They don't yet realize that seeing a giraffe or gorilla for real up close is a pretty rare and fascinating experience. Climbing on a giant rope spider web or crawling through human-sized prairie dog tunnels is about their speed. Just wish I didn't have to drive the Bronx and spend $100 (full admission for two adults and two children was $72, parking was $8, camel ride was $5... and $15 on other stuff was easy to blow) to give them that.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Foggy Morning
DATE:
October 3, 2005

Here's a perfect example of why I love October. This morning, when I went out to ride my rickety old bicycle to the train station for work, the air was thick with fog. A heavy, wet, enveloping gray fog that settles on everything in damp mist, where the visibility is maybe 100 feet. Figures emerge and melt into the fog like dark strokes on an Impressionist canvas. Cars approach as two hushing pickpricks of white light, then sail away as two red-eyed brake lights that wink out into nothingness. Outside the train window, tree shapes and telephone pole silhouettes roll past like stage craft shadows on a scrim.

I remember walking to school as a kid through such fog, an unexpected adventure to start the day. One night, down on Long Beach Island ten years ago, my not-yet wife and I rode rickety rental bicycles through an impenetrable fog, having no choice but to pedal back to our hotel three miles away after dinner. Four years later, I woke before dawn on my honeymoon and took a stroll through the dead-quiet, fog-blanketed streets of Calistoga, California, at the northen most-end of Napa wine country.

A nice veil of early October fog makes everything seem downright romantic.

-- mm


SUBJECT:
Isaiah in Hebrew
DATE:
October 2, 2005

Went to church today. First time in a while. There was no particular reason (wedding, funeral, etc.), just an ordinary Sunday (27th in Ordinary Time, for those of you who follow such things)--but the wife has been making an effort to take our 4.75-year-old boy every week (he seems to like it) and today I didn't have my usual excuse to skip (visiting in-laws were here to watch the 2-year-old girl). So, off I went.

First thing that struck me was how chaotic the congregation was. Noisy, oodles of kids, very casually dressed, etc. From my childhood, I remember church as such a solemn thing. Architecturally, this current church--a 70's rectangular box designed more like a gymnasium than a cathedral--doesn't invoke solemnity, and this particular mass is the family-focused one, which doesn't help. Still, just stuck me as a very different atmosphere. Of course, I'm a very different person.

There was one thing I did get out of the visit. During the homily, the priest (known as Father "Chuck" ... another big change from standard practice of my youth) pointed out something. The first reading was from Isaiah, some stuff about his friend's vineyard yielding only wild grapes and being trampled... I'm sure there was some sort of allegory going on in the there somewhere. Anyway, the ending seemed a little nonsensical ("He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!"). Father Chuck actually trotted out the original Hebrew for this, noting that the paired words here (judgment/bloodshed, justice/outcry) phonetically echoed each other, even fringing on punning wordplay. Actual attention to the scripture in such a detailed way is pretty rare in most sermons I've heard. I think it helps illuminate the Bible as a literary creation, which in turn helps reveal the humanity behind the constructs of faith. I appreciate that, though most "believers"--including clergy--seem not to.

-- mm

Commentary on 27th Sunday reading on americancatholic.org


SUBJECT:
October
DATE:
October 1, 2005

October is my favorite month. There are lot of reasons--most are personal and psychological--but the simplest and strongest is perhaps the most difficult to articulate. There's something in the air. A scent, a taste, a tingle. I suppose it's simply a seasonal change in barometric pressure, but it affects me noticeably. I just feel different in October. It's not even better or worse, per se... just different. Different from any other time of year. I guess I just enjoy that.

Anyway, have a nice October.

-- mm




 





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