Rick's Ramblings

You have found Rick's Ramblings, a Web Log.

I have been writing in this space for a few years now. Visit the archives to get a feel for my style.

Thanks for visiting one of my creative outlets! Please send me an e-mail, or add a comment to any post.

More Rick Umali web sites at:

Yahoo! Geocities
Lycos Tripod
The World
My Own Domain

Email: rickumali@gmail.com

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Thursday, October 25, 2001
I finally went through all the pay-stubs from my first job (a little over eighty stubs), entering the salary changes in an Excel spreadsheet. For the entire year of 1992, I didn't get a raise. But in 1992, I was probably having so much fun, it didn't matter. There's no way this could happen to me today, which has to be some commentary on 'growing up', or 'learning priorities', or something like that. I'll try to make a connection back to this later.

In 1999, Cameron Barrett wrote that he got tired of posting to his BLOG every day. He wrote "CamWorld is an experiment in self-expression." Prior to this realization, his earlier web pages were short riffs on interesting links that he found, or were mailed to him. Now, his posts are more 'meaty', more thoughtful. His rant (and change) in 1999 mirrors closely my own approach to this BLOG.

I am using this corner of the web to post my thoughts, to express myself. To write. To convey. To essay.

Regarding the current news around Anthrax.

I'm not sure if statistics are kept on this, but I doubt many Americans receive enough personal mail to warrant fear. Most mail we receive at home are catalogs, and form letters from solicitors, credit card companies, and other advertising. With the first Anthrax exposure and death in Florida, I think everyone by now is checking for a valid return address. (Note to you letter writers: add a return address!) If ever a terrorist or terrorist group figured out how to distribute Anthrax into the big solicitor mailings, then I'd be worried.

Television news and our leaders say don't live in fear, yet the one thing we keep telecasting and reporting on is fear.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001
As I write this, I'm logged into SPACE.com, watching the mission control room of the Mars Odyssey space craft. The space craft is in the midst of a very tricky procedure: it's trying to become the first artificial satellite of Mars. I've been reading about this story in the newspapers for the past few days. As a college co-op, I worked at JPL (Pasadena, California), home of Odyssey mission control.

I'm now watching people on the screen hugging each other, as the space craft reacquired planet earth (acquisition of signal) after going 'behind the planet' for almost ten minutes. This is a big success, but still the first steps.

The verification of 'planetary orbit' won't take place for another three hours or so. I'll be asleep. But it's thrilling to report this news. The work of Mars Odyssey is testament to the collective will of mankind. Some facts:

  • Odyssey travelled 286 million miles over six months to get to Mars
  • Communication with Odyssey takes place over microwaves, taking nine minutes to reach Earth
  • The goal of Odyssey is to study the planet (i.e. find potential water)

    Past missions to Mars have usually met failure: 65% of the past 30 space craft sent to mars have failed, including two drastic failures in 1999. But the deputy project manager at JPL, Roger Gibbs, said these failures invigorated JPL to perform unprecented testing and fault analysis. And here we are.

    I read an editorial today about a Baltimore Oriole who was blown off its southern migration: it ended up in Ireland. Bird watchers there were amazed. Sometimes it takes pure chance to reach an incredible distance. And other times, it takes many years of testing and analysis.

  • Monday, October 22, 2001
    Last Sunday, the NY Times ran an article in the Business section about language translators. Language translators were in the news because firms that hire translators are looking for people who could read and write Arabic, as well as the languages in and around Afghanistan (Pashto, Dari, Uzbek). Apparently contractors who can do language translation can charge between $150-$220 per 1000 words.

    When I was growing up, I relished the idea of mastering French so well that I could pass for a native. In high school, the teacher who taught French spoke Spanish, Italian, German, and could read and write Latin. I would learn Latin, but I would fall in love with French.

    I studied French all through college, and two of my colleagues spent time in France studying computers and living and breathing French. One of my best roommates was French.

    It was with great happiness that Jenn and I finally managed to visit Paris in 2000. I knew that I could have picked up French if I stayed there even a few weeks (we were there only ten days). By the last day of my stay, I was able to blurt out some French cordials, and ask decent questions (even though I didn't necessarily understand the responses).

    Becoming a French student was definitely a road not taken. But something I would pursue if I couldn't fail.

    Yankees 3 Mariners 1.

    I rooted for Seattle. Yes, I stood up and raised my arms when Bret Boone hit his solo homer. And yes, I slumped with dejection as Mariano Rivera needed only three pitches to kill off Seattle's top-of-the-ninth order. When rookie Alfonso Soriano hit his two-run game-winning homer, I thought: maybe I better read up on the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    I'll have more to write about baseball and these playoffs; you'll understand that as a Red Sox fan, a Yankee win is simply a frustrating way to end the evening.

    Cindy Curling wrote a super article on Weblogs, of which what you're reading is an example of. She categorizes the different kinds of BLOGs, their history, as well as the services that provide BLOGing "platforms".

    She also provided a lot of cool links to some "old" BLOGs, including CamWorld (by Cameron Barrett) and Noise (by Doug Kaye).