Turning 27

Today, I turn 27. Even though I was deep in the middle of a project late last night, I peeled myself away from my monitors, went to sleep, and woke up late to enjoy a day of reading outside.

Parse.ly has an official “take your birthday off” policy, so I made sure to set a good example.

I remember when I was younger, I used to look forward to birthdays very eagerly. Birthdays were when I got a new videogame or programming book. Birthdays were about stuff, and taking the day to play with new toys.

Now, over a decade later, my birthday is much less about stuff. I don’t play videogames anymore, and I already know how to program. I am fortunate to live comfortably and don’t long for stuff any longer. My Nintendo Wii gathers dust (like everyone else’s, it seems). My computer is no longer used to amuse me, but to allow me to work on my passions — building software, building a company, staying informed, informing others. I have a seemingly endless queue of books I’d like to read, movies I’d like to watch, things I’d like to write, software I’d like to build. I’ve come to realize that birthdays, at my age, are more about time.

In my ruthlessly efficient worldview — where I regularly talk of cost-benefit analysis, backlog prioritization, and productivity — my birthday has become about taking a moment to flip my prioritized world on its head. Let’s not pick an item from the top of the prioritized backlog. Instead, let me take something from the backburner, for once. Let me behave — if only for a day — as if I had all the time in the world.

I don’t need stuff. I just need time. Of course, that’s the bittersweet part of one’s birthday. That even as you come to realize the importance of time, the day acts as a reminder of how our time on this earth is limited. 1 day passes, and only n-1 left to make a difference.

Non-native New Yorkers

Nobody moves to New York because they think they’re just like everybody else. A young kid, fueled by a toxic blend of bravado and wicked insecurity, can expend a truly terrifying amount of energy trying to prove her exceptionalism, prove that she is different (read: better) than the dull hometown peers she left behind, who go to uncreative jobs in uncreative clothes, eat at Chili’s, practice monogamy.

Describes many non-native New Yorkers really well. No offense non-natives, but some of you are definitely trying to prove something! 😀 From Dirty pictures I didn’t want taken

An Empty Calendar, a Dusty Blog

I took a look at my WordPress calendar, and realized I haven’t written a post in over a month. A sad state of affairs — I guess my blog waxes/wanes in and out of popularity for me.

One thing I have wanted to do is to create a “schism” in my blog between the political and technological sections. I realize there is no sense forcing my audience to wade through technology posts to get to the political stuff they may be interested in, and vice versa.

The main thing stopping me from doing so is the fact that even as I have a single blog for these two topics, I hardly find the time to post to either of them. That isn’t to say I don’t have much to say. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about Lisp (for the first time in my life), and have interesting ideas surrounding my use of Eclipse technologies and modeling tools at work. I have been following a lot on the political side of things, from Libby’s commuted sentence to debates over globalization, to WSJ’s potential new owner. And I’ve finished a slew of books, from John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel.

But I just lack the time to write. I’m busy at work (at least 10-12 hours a day, when you include commute time), and the last thing I want to do when I get home is use computers some more. Which is sad, but an inevitable result of my situation.

I truly do not want this blog to die. How might I save it?

The Unkindest Cut

A relatively unsophisticated article on circumcision showed up on Salon a few days ago. It’s entitled “The Unkindest Cut” and is about the conflict of a Jewish father between his Jewish mother and his non-Jewish wife over the issue of whether to circumcise his newborn son. Although it mentions some of the history of circumcision in the United States, it doesn’t go into nearly enough depth about how strange and barbaric the practice is. A letter that came into Salon from a reader has some good points, however:

This is one of the hottest parenting issues (along with breastfeeding and sleeping). I am not surprised that Salon is already flooded with letters and the emotions are rising high on both sides. I am the mother of a 3-year-old boy. He is uncircumcised and the idea of having him circumcised never even crossed my mind. I am from Europe, therefore circumcision is not part of my culture. My husband is a Hindu from India, so it isn’t part of his culture either. There is more and more evidence that shows that circumcision is an unnecessary procedure. There are more and more organizations and individuals trying to educate the public about this. Two of my favorites are: www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org and www.nocirc.org.

There is lots of very useful information regarding this topic. There are a few points I’d like to make for the sake of argument against it. Some fathers say: I want my son to look like me. So if you had a finger, a hand, or an arm missing from birth or as a result of an accident would you want to chop off your child’s corresponding body part just to make him look like you? (Sorry this is not my own idea but I like it a lot). The other point is my original thought: we, as Western society are outraged by the practice of female circumcision (mostly practiced in Africa and some predominantly Muslim areas elsewhere). What is the difference? That female circumcision is not a tradition in our culture. So it’s O.K. to keep mutilating our boys as long as we leave our girls alone… How hypocritical! And on top of that both traditions originate on the same basis: to reduce sexual pleasure and the desire to masturbate and enjoy sex.

As per some first person accounts from men who grew into adulthood intact and then got circumcised, they tell exactly how much less pleasurable sex is afterwards… Do a search on your favorite search engine for more info on the topic.

So as a parent of a boy I will leave my son’ penis alone and will make sure that everybody else does until he is old enough to make a decision about having his own body part cut off (which I think would only occur if he ends up having problems with having foreskin and sex would be unpleasant or painful).

I am not condemning people who think differently. I simply feel sorry for their baby boys… I hope one day we’ll come to our senses about this painful and inhumane practice.

As for the author, I feel sorry for him too, that he had to go through this emotionally painful experience to come to understand that he made the wrong choice.

I have a lot more to say on this topic (in fact, in college I wrote long research papers on the topic, including some original research into grotesque Victorian age masturbation control techniques, which were the precursors to routine circumcision), but probably won’t get the time to write it up. If you’re wondering about it, drop me a line.

“The Good Shepherd”: A Good Film Concept, but Lacks a Pulse

I have to agree with Peter Travers’ review of The Good Shephard. The movie is not a complete failure: it’s beautifully made, and beautifully acted. Unfortunately, it is just not well-written.

We go through three hours of meeting character after character, in different time periods, sometimes the same character appears twice with different names (due to double-agentry), and at the end of it all you feel that the only character who got a bit of development was the leading one, Matt Damon’s, who hardly spoke a word throughout the movie.

I tried hard to like this movie, I really did. But I think it’s a crime to employ this much acting and cinematography talent, and end up with a movie that says little else about life inside the CIA but the spy cliche, “trust no one.” The movie is full of visually memorable scenes, but absolutely no memorable dialogue.

The movie should have been more focused, had less characters, and covered less ground. DeNiro: either you make a seven hour epic, or you make a Hollywood two hour film. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, I’m afraid.

The Working Life

I never knew working all day would be so draining. Don’t get me wrong: I love my work, I love working on software projects with smart people, but I get home and just want to hack around on UNIX, read a book, or watch some Bill Maher and I haven’t even the energy for that.

Tonight I violated my own rule (hence the 2am post), but will probably pay for it tomorrow in coffee during the day.

I need a kick-ass job that’s only part time but pays full time salaries.

p.s. been using the Spring Framework extensively on a project at work. All I can say is, “Wow.” I’m finally enjoying Java development again. The framework truly rocks, but you just need to give it some time. Once it grows on you (I suggest Manning Press’ “Spring in Action”), it becomes like a fungus that permeates the way you think about software design. Really cool.

p.p.s. it fucking rocks, btw, that the Dems won the House and Senate. Bill Moyers 2008?

My Italian Restaurant

I recently did a vanity search for “Andrew J. Montalenti” on Google, only to find the prestigious travel site “MyTravelGuide.com” had usurped my personal website for the #1 hit. In particular, the developers of this site seem to be convinced that “Andrew J. Montalenti” is an Italian restaurant which happens to have my address and phone number. You can post reviews, photos, whatever you like.

I did think it kind of odd when I started receiving letters in the mail offering me things like ice sculptures at wholesale prices, china with my restaurant logo imprinted on it, and kitchen supplies. Clearly, someone was told that my name was simply the name of a badass italian restaurant in Manhasset, and it’s stuck.

Well, every time someone has posted a profile on my “restaurant,” I’ve requested it be taken down. But the folks at MyTravelGuide.com are basically unresponsive. So, I decided to post a photograph of the restaurant, since I know it better than anyone else.

Does anyone know how to find out what marketing database thinks I am a restaurant, so I can purge this misconception once and for all?