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January 31, 2009


I’ve received three different forms for our annual municipal census. (Failure to respond gets you marked as “inactive” in the voter rolls.) Two were essentially addressed to “occupant,” so I have no idea how many people the town thinks live here.

On the one with our names, the column for “occupation” is blank next to A’s name.

Next to my name is the block-letter word “UNKNOWN”.

I had no idea my work was so sinister.

Posted by pjm at 3:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2009

It pays to be nimble

As I’ve mentioned before, my primary outlet as a freelancer is the IAAF website, iaaf.org. Their sane and fair assigning policy for event coverage is this: as long as you’re competent, you will always be first in line for the events you covered last year. This is great when you have an event (I’ve had the Boston Indoor Games for them for five or six years) but it can sometimes mean it’s hard to add new meets to your schedule.

This year I decided I would go to Millrose again (I’ve been away for a while) even though it’s not “my” meet. I put it on the schedule I sent around to various editors who sometimes send me assignments. And lo and behold, about 36 hours before they get underway, I get email from the iaaf.org editor: the Millrose guy can’t make it. You said you’d be there. Can you send a report?

I don’t know if this means Millrose will be “mine” next year. I’ve reported on another event when another reporter couldn’t make it, and willingly given it back when he returned. But it really underlines how for me, committing to being at the event is the biggest part of getting the assignment.

And then it turned out it would come in handy for me to be in New York to meet with a client for an hour or so, just as an extra bonus.

Maybe Kurt Vonnegut had a point?

Posted by pjm at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2009

Unusually retrospective

My brother’s not-really-Christmas card (“Better late than never”) arrived today, featuring photos of him and his daughters in several not-snowy-and-cold contexts. One of them was Fenway Park.

And that reminded me of something else. Specifically, that for all the big things that happened in 2008, and it was a pretty big year, this is the one I’m still kind of surprised I actually saw. And it still makes me grin when I remember it.

I love a good track meet, and I have several on the schedule for 2009 (including at least one in Eugene and a big one in Berlin) but I wonder what I could find that I’ll be looking back on like that in January 2010.

Posted by pjm at 9:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2009

Cats are better

I returned from a bitterly cold run yesterday to find Iz basking in front of my parents’ woodstove. He didn’t even get up to come greet me.

“Iz,” I said, “On days like today, I’m glad you don’t need to be walked.”

He looked back at me with a level glare which said, “Bub, on days like today, I’m glad you can run by yourself.”

Posted by pjm at 12:04 PM | Comments (1)

Everything in one big feed

I realize I haven’t been writing here much, but rather than come up with a litany of excuses or promises to improve (who says you want to hear from me that often?) I’m going to explain what’s changed about the way I publish online.

  • The big one: I’ve concentrated all my running-themed weblog publishing on Flat Hills Road. The design still isn’t where I want it, and I have inchoate ideas of incorporating multiple sources (e.g. appropriately tagged Flickr photos) but writing about running is in fact being committed there.

  • Random stuff I find on the Internet is most likely to turn up with a brief comment on delicious.com. I actually annotate what I’m posting there, and while much of it relates directly to whatever I’m currently working on, you can use that to get an idea of what my mind is focused on at any given time. This seems to have taken the place of short posts here centered around a single link.

  • More concrete thoughts about work turn up at the Common Media blog. Recently that’s included overriding the faulty default styling of the a tag in HTML and CSS and some stories about our recent clients. I’m brewing a thought about interchangeable data stores modeled on Apple’s iTunes library, but that’s as yet unwritten.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: I used Yahoo Pipes to publish a single feed which contains all of the posts on this weblog, all comments on posts here, all my Flickr photos, all my delicious.com bookmarks, all Flat Hills Road posts, and all the posts written by me on the company weblog. So if you’re really determined to follow everything I write, subscribe to that feed and keep life simpler.

Posted by pjm at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

January 5, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

I saw this movie last night. It’s had a lot of buzz and, in my opinion, justifies it; it’s a story that’s both very old and told in a very new way.

A day later, the thing that’s sticking with me now is the two boys who are the center of the film. Actually, it’s one, Jamal, in the center, and his older brother Salim, who is a supporting character in the movie’s story but his own action hero in his own mind.

These kids come from nothing—in one scene they are sleeping in a garbage dump—but throughout the film, from start to finish, they’re never down. They’re either running a scam (generally Salim’s idea) or in full retreat. They never seem to have anything more than the clothes on their backs (in one scene, Jamal gives away a stolen $100 bill, apparently unaware or careless of its value; $100 is pretty close to 5,000 rupees today). And because they have nothing to lose, there’s nothing holding them back; they’re almost always on offense, capitalizing on where they are and seldom, if ever, looking back.

A movie about that kind of grinding poverty could easily be depressing, but this attitude, just a slight twist on the depressive attitude which so often keeps real poor people poor, makes it refreshing. And by the end, the game show Jamal is on looks like a pitiful toy of a contest after what he’s already been through—no wonder he has such contempt for it, and for the money it offers. It’s never been about the money for him.

The rating is R for “some violence and disturbing images” but for me, the most disturbing image was Jamal and his brother wandering around the upper floor of a high-rise under construction, with no railings. There’s no violence in this movie you won’t find on TV if you stay up after 9. There’s language, of course, and not just English.

Posted by pjm at 11:33 PM | Comments (4)

January 3, 2009

Airline reservation systems make no sense

I’ve mentioned this before. But earlier this week I made reservations for a flight using frequent flyer miles. (Yes, JohnL, you may assume I’m headed your direction again.) I have enough miles for a cheap ticket on three different airlines, assembled over the last six or seven years. (Mergers may bring me another ticket sometime soon.)

I checked Delta, which offered to sell me a ticket on the right dates, but with lousy travel times (arrive at 11 PM, depart at 6 AM). Before committing to this, I tried my other two airlines, and sure enough, Continental would do the same dates for the same price (miles plus fees) with better travel times.

Of course, Continental barely flies out of one of my departing city and doesn’t go to my destination at all. The flights I’m booked on all have Delta numbers. It seems bizarre to me that to get the better flight times on the same airline, what I needed to do was use Continental miles, not Delta miles.

Posted by pjm at 9:24 PM | Comments (2)