Wednesday, January 28, 2004

It's been really busy the last week, so I haven't had much time to post. Work has been incredibly hectic, so I've been getting home late. By the time we have dinner, get the kids to bed and relax a bit it's getting close to bedtime.

Speaking of work, you may have noticed that I don't talk about it much here, except in the most general terms. That's on purpose. I've heard a number of stories about people losing their jobs because they disclosed inappropriate information about their companies in a blog. Add to that the fact that I'm in a position to know inside information about the company, I've decided to avoid the whole topic by not talking about it here.

Somebody really needs to explain weather forecasting to me. Monday night, they were forecasting about a foot of snow for central Massachusetts. Then last night, they were talking 6-10 inches with the storm due to start around midnight.

So, what happens when I get up this morning? I look outside to see how much snow I have to shovel before I take my shower, and I notice there is NO snow on the ground. Not a flake! It did start snowing about when I left for the train, but we only ended up with about 2-3 inches of light, fluffy snow by the end of things.

So, with all the satellites and doppler radar and supercomputer models, why is it that weather forecasters aren't more accurate? Long range forecasts are even more of a joke. I often say that I know as much about the weather 5 or 7 days in advance as these people on TV do.

Not that I'm complaining we didn't get a foot of snow, mind you...

Sunday, January 25, 2004

One week until the Super Bowl. Are you excited yet?

Friday, January 23, 2004

We had our first visit from the Tooth Fairy last week. J. lost his first baby tooth and quite a bit of excitement ensued. R. really wanted to see the Tooth Fairy. When I told her that the Tooth Fairy wouldn't come if she was awake, R. suggested that she could hide under a blanket so she wouldn't be seen. I told her that the Tooth Fairy was magic, and would know if she was awake even if she was hiding. :-)

We discovered by asking around that the Tooth Fairy gives a bonus for the first tooth. $5 seemed to be the going rate, with a buck for every tooth thereafter. I remember getting a quarter for each tooth, and my father says he got a nickel. So, it seems that tooth prices go up 400-500% with each generation.

I went to the Bruins game last night. Hockey really isn't my sport anymore, although I do enjoy watching it in person. I couldn't have told you the name of one player on the Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins opponent last night, before the game.

The main reason I went was because I was invited to the John Hancock luxury box at the FleetCenter. It's tough to go back to sitting in regular seats after being in the box. Food and drink are provided, there are big, comfortable leather seats to watch the game along with a small living room area behind the seats. There's even a private (clean!) bathroom.

The Bruins played pretty poorly and lost 3-2. They started out really slowly in the first period and didn't really look like they were playing well until the end of the game. Of course, it was fun being with some of the folks from work and it was free, so I can't complain too much!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Bring on the Panthers!

What a great win by the Patriots. All the credit goes to the defense, for just shutting down the previously unstoppable Payton Manning. Four interceptions (three by Ty Law) and they held Manning to a 35.5 passer rating for the game. For the first two games of the playoffs, Manning had a 156.9 rating. The offense, as has been the pattern all season, did just enough to win. Vinatieri once again came up big with five field goals. The Brady near-fumble at the end of the 4th quarter did cause a few moments of anxiety, but once again Walt "Tuck Rule" Coleman came to Tom's rescue, overruling the fumble on the instant replay review. Coleman may be the only referee to have his number retired by a team someday!

Carolina looked really tough against the Eagles. Their defense reminded me of the stategy employed by the Pats in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Panthers defense just made the Eagles receivers pay with hard tackling every time the got near the ball. I think the Pats can take them, though, as long as they stick to the tough style of play they've gone with all season.

I watched the game at home in HDTV. It really does look great, but it seems that CBS hasn't quite figured out this HD thing yet. There were lots of technical glitches coming in and out of commercial and the sound kicked out for a few seconds every so often. I won't be home for the Super Bowl, but hopefully CBS gets the kinks worked out before then.

Go Pats!!!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Here's the question of the day, from Page 2's Bill Simmons ( for the whole article):

That reminds me: When you order a large coffee at Starbucks here in sunny California, and the smarmy wanna-be actor behind the counter corrects you and says "You mean venti?" -- well, is it legal to lean over the counter and punch him in the face? Can I get a ruling on this? Sooner rather than later?

My opinion? Probably not legal, but certainly justifiable. :-)

Friday, January 16, 2004

Cold, cold, cold.

A record was set in Boston today for the coldest temperature recorded on January 16. It hit 7 below zero this morning. It was the coldest day in Boston since 1980.

Most school departments cancelled school today because they were concerned about the kids waiting for busses or walking to school in the extreme cold. J. didn't have school today, since it was a professional day. R.'s preschool cancelled.

Unfortunately, they don't cancel work for cold temperatures. I left the house this morning bundled for the elements - TWO coats (a fleece jacket under the overcoat I usually wear in the winter) over a T-shirt, long-sleeve button-down shirt and a sweater. A hat, earmuffs and gloves.

I drove to the train station and called Smartroutes, which gives MBTA schedule information. As soon as I heard "trouble on the Worcester line", I headed for the Green Line in Newton. Getting on the train wasn't bad as one showed up almost the minute I got to the station. The walk from the Hynes/ICA station to the Pru was brutal. The wind was whipping up Newbury St. and it was hard to catch a breath. I was never so glad to walk into a mall in my life when I finally made it to the Prudential Center.

All in all, it was a day for the record books.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I finally got around to watching the Pete Rose interview from last week's Primetime on ABC. I haven't read the book yet. I refuse to give Rose my money, so I'm going to put it on reserve at the library.

Pete lost me right from the start. At the beginning of the interview, Charles Gibson quotes Rule 21 (the rule prohibiting gambling) to Rose and mentioned that it is posted in every Major League clubhouse. Pete immediately says that "lots of ballplayers don't read that stuff." He got defensive right off the bat. You knew it was wrong, Pete. Whether you ever read one of those signs or not, you knew it was against the rules to bet on Baseball.

The next strike against Rose, for me, was this foolishness about denying that he ever bet on baseball from the clubhouse. First of all, what does it matter? The rule doesn't say anything about where you place your bets; whether he did it from his home, a payphone, the clubhouse, or the Commissioner's office is irrelevant. He broke the rule. Also, the Dowd Report (check out for more) has gobs of evidence that Rose made calls to gamblers from the Reds clubhouse phone. Why would he come clean on the fact that he gambled and still lie about making the calls from the clubhouse? Does he think it's more noble somehow if he used another phone?

Strike Three for me was the fact that Pete still doesn't seem to recognize that he has a problem. Charles Gibson asked Rose if he thought gambling addiction was a sickness and Pete said "For some people it is." Yes, Pete, and you are one of those people! Even worse, he is part-owner of a race horse and still goes to the track.

I had two conditions for letting Rose back into Baseball. First was that he had to come clean on the gambling issue. He's done that. Second was that he had to beg for forgiveness and show that he's a changed man. I didn't see any of that in the interview. As far as I'm concerned, this is all about Rose selling books and getting into the Hall of Fame so that the autographed junk he sells is worth a little more money.

As far as I'm concerned, MLB should continue Rose's banishment from the game. He still doesn't get what he's done and why he's being punished. After 15 years, you would think it would have sunk it.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Is this what it's come to? What happened to our Patriots of yesteryear? The Patriots of Rod Rust, Billy Sullivan, Chuck Fairbanks announcing he was leaving the team on the eve of a playoff game. The Patriots who wandered Boston and Cambridge, playing games at Fenway Park, Harvard Stadium and Nickerson Field before finally landing in Foxboro? They played there for 30 years in a glorified high school stadium that had three names (Schaefer, Sullivan and Foxboro), before finally being put out of it's misery after the legendary Snow Bowl game in 2001.

Now, everything has changed. The Pats are actually EXPECTED to win the Super Bowl. Anything less, even reaching the AFC Championship game would be a huge disappointment! They play in a state-of-the-art stadium to sold-out crowds and have a 40,000 person paid waiting list in case anyone decides to give up their season tickets. They have the Coach of the Year and their director of player personnel, Scott Pioli is widely regarded as one of the best in the game.

Last night's epic 17-14 win over the Tennessee Titans was one more example of the Patriots new magic. The Titans were called for penalties at critical moments. Their team is the one that couldn't stop the Pats when it counted. And at the end, in a quote that could have easily been attributed to a bitter Patriot in years past, Titans guard Zach Piller said, "Everyone was talking about their defense. I thought it sucked." It was good enough to send your butt home on the next flight to Nashville, Zach. Have fun watching the rest of the postseason on TV.

Of course, what more can be said about New England's hero, Adam Vinatieri? The hero of the Snow Bowl and Super Bowl XXXVI had appeared to lose it a bit this season. He wasn't as automatic as he used to be. But when the game was on the line, tied with just over four minutes to play, Vinatieri kicked a 46-yarder through the brutal single-digit cold and once again provided the winning margin for our team.

One more thing about the game. I want to salute the Patriots fans who sat out there at Gillette Stadium in the worst cold snap New England has experienced in a decade. While I watched the game in the comfort of my friend Bill's house, those lunatics sat outside for hours, cheering on the home team. The amazing thing was that no one seemed to leave! The stadium was just as full at the end of the game as at the beginning. And I'm sure that those of you who dropped a bundle on cold weather gear this week will be glad you'll have another chance to use it next weekend at the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Got a few topics to cover today...

Last night I ran into this bizzare snowstorm. I was driving from the train station to my chiropractors for my regular Tuesday evening appointment. As I was driving up the road, I ran into this WALL OF SNOW. Literally, one second everything was clear, and the next second I'm in the middle of what appears to be a blizzard. Visibility went down to practically nothing. I was just following the tail lights in front of me and hoping he knew what he was doing. I made it to the chiropractor in one piece, but the conditions made for a few minutes of nervousness. When I left after my adjustment, the snow had stopped and the skies were clear again.

Later on New England Cable News I heard the weather guy talking about the storm. He described it as a "mini-blizzard", which swept across the region from west to east and dropped about 1/2 an inch of snow in 15 minutes before moving on. I've never seen anything like it. If I do again, I hope I'm not driving in it!

Second bit of news - I got an email from one of my all-time favorite writers, Jim Bouton, today. Bouton, of course, wrote the legendary baseball book "Ball Four" and more recently wrote "Foul Ball" about his struggle to bring a minor league baseball team to Pittsfield and save Waconah Park (see my 10/24/03 blog entry for more detail). Well, it turns out that the guy who Bouton's group lost out to, Jonathan Fleisig, moved his team to New Haven after only two seasons in Pittsfield. I wrote to Bouton through his Web site to give him the news and he wrote back to thank me! It was a big thrill.

Finally, I wanted to say how happy I was to see that Dennis Eckersley got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Eck really had two careers; first as an All-Star starter with the Indians, Red Sox and Cubs, then as one of the all-time great closers with the A's. I heard Eck's press conference at Fenway yesterday after the announcement was made, and it was fun to listen to the sheer delight in his voice at having been elected to the Hall.

On the opposite side, Jim Rice was once again shut out, getting about 54% of the writers votes (75% is required for induction). I still think Rice is a Hall of Famer, even if he is a borderline one. He was a dominant player in the league for a long period of time, but once his skills started to decline he went downhill fast. He went from being third in the MVP voting in 1986 to being out of the game after the 1989 season. Longevity counts when it comes to the Hall of Fame. How is Tony Perez in and Rice is out? Perez played 7 more seasons and had fewer home runs than Rice. His OPS was 50 points lower. Is he in the Hall of Fame because he hung around longer, or because he was a good guy and friendly with the media, while Rice wasn't? It just doesn't seem fair.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

"Rose he knows he's such a credit to the game, but the Yankees grab the headlines every time."

- Billy Joel, "Zanzibar", 52nd Street, 1978

I was listening to that song on the iPod in the car yesterday. Think Billy regrets that he wrote that line?

Rose's new autobiography, "My Prison Without Bars" comes out this week. Cry me a river, Pete. Supposedly, Rose admits to having gambled on baseball in the book. I've long said that if he admits that he did it and begs for forgiveness, he should be reinstated for eligibility for the Hall of Fame. I want to see what he actually says in the book, but I still stand by that position. He's also supposed to be on Primetime Thursday this week at 10 PM and will admit to the gambling.

More on this later.

Friday, January 02, 2004

We had a great trip to Florida. Here are some of the highlights in roughly chronological order:

- Late Friday afternoon we headed over to the Contemporary in advance of our reservation at Chef Mickey’s. The kids love riding the monorail as much as any other ride in the theme parks, so we got there early to go for a ride. We rode over to the Grand Floridian to see the full sized gingerbread house. So we go over there and check out the gingerbread house (which was very cool) and bought some extremely overpriced gingerbread ($7 for two cookies?). Then we headed up to the monorail stop and I noticed that the front of the monorail, where the operator sits, was empty. I asked the attendant if we could sit up front and he told me to ask the operator. She says, “I can only take four of you.” I say, “There only are four of us!” So we get on.

The front of the monorail is, by far, the best place to sit because the operator has this huge window and can see out the front, not just to the sides. I hadn’t sat in the front of the monorail since 1980, on my first ever trip to Disney World, so I’m not sure who was more excited - me or the kids.

The trip ended as we returned to the Contemporary and met my parents and my brother and nephew for dinner. Unfortunately, my niece was sick so she and my sister-in-law didn’t make it. The kids had a blast meeting up with Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy and Chip & Dale. The food at Chef Mickey’s is quite good. It’s served buffet style and there were lots of good choices. My favorite is the parmesan mashed potatoes. The deserts are good, too. They’ve got a make-your-own sundae bar. J. and R. decided to bypass the ice cream and just fill their bowls with the candy toppings!

- Saturday morning brought a trip to Downtown Disney. We stopped at the Lego store first. J. is very into Legos and, in fact, any building toy. One of his favorites is the Bionicle series. Bionicles are robots that you can put together and have adventures with. There was even a direct-to-DVD movie earlier this year that J. has watched about eighty times. We had promised them each a souvenir, so J. got more Bionicles and R. purchased another stuffed horse. The Lego store has a play area out front with a play structure and big bins full of Legos to play with, so we hung out there for a while.

We moved on and A. did a little shopping while the kids and I investigated the answer to a question that had bothered us for quite some time: why are Donald Duck’s eyes blue and the rest of the Disney characters eyes white? Nobody actually knew the answer, so we had been planning to ask at the Art of Disney store at Downtown Disney. We go up to the counter and ask the Cast Member standing there our question. It turns out that he doesn’t know! I’m going to have to write to the Disney Animation division or something. There has to be a reason, right?

The kids played around a fountain that shoots up water at random intervals for a bit and then we went to lunch. Our first thought had been Planet Hollywood, but we were right near the Rainforest Cafe and we thought we’d see if there was much of a wait. There wasn’t - they could take us right away. So we were led to our seats. The Rainforest Cafe is themed like, well, a rainforest. There are plants and fish everywhere, along with animatronic animals scattered about. A. and I both had salads, which were huge and quite good, while the kids had chicken nuggets. The only thing that was a small drawback is that the Rainforest Cafe has a “thunderstorm” break out every so often. R. doesn’t like thunder and lightning so there were a few moments of stress, but she recovered quickly.

From lunch we headed over to the marina to rent a boat. This is one of my favorite Disney World activities. We usually get a 10-person canopy boat and take a little trip up the river. The river leads to the Old Key West resort, where we stayed last year. It’s an incredibly relaxing time and I really love driving the boat around. It was a bit windy, so the boat was a little harder to control than usual, but we all had fun.

To end our day, we took the kids on a couple of rides they have at Downtown Disney. First was a carousel. R. has “adopted” one of the horses and named it Diggety, so she was very excited to get on the ride. In fact, once the carousel came into view she started shouting “Diggety, I’m coming!” After the carousel they went on a little train ride. A. checked out the pin shop and picked up a gift for our friend who watched the cat for us when we go away. We then stopped at Ghiradelli’s for an afternoon ice cream break and headed back to Mom & Dad’s.

- Saturday night gave us our one grown-up outing on this trip. Mom and Dad watched the kids while A. and I headed back to Downtown Disney to catch a movie and have dinner. We saw “Cheaper by the Dozen”, which stars Steve Martin as the father of a family of 12 (!) kids. It was a cute, amusing movie. Steve Martin was great as usual. There aren’t many actors around who do physical humor as well as he does.

We then tried out the House of Blues for dinner. This was another place we had never been. They told us there was a 40 minute wait, so we decided to go wander around a bit and come back after a half hour. We had just come out of the Virgin Megastore when the beeper went off after 20 minutes. We walked quickly back to the restaurant and got seated. The service was very good, the beer was cold, the music was smooth and the jambalya was hot. I’d definitely recommend it.

-Sunday was our one day in a theme park. We went to Epcot, which is my favorite Disney park. The kids hadn’t been there before. We decided to split up for a bit, since J. and I wanted to go on a couple of the thrill rides. R. and A. weren’t interested and headed for the Land. We tried to see how Test Track and Mission: Space looked. Things weren’t promising; both rides had 2+ hour waits and all the Fastpasses for the day were gone, so I said to J. “Let’s try Body Wars”.

The one good thing about the massive lines at Test Track and Mission: Space was the fact that they seemed to drain the crowds from the rest of the park. Except for the 45 minute wait the girls experienced for The Land, we didn’t wait more than 20 minutes for anything else the rest of the day. J. and I practically walked onto Body Wars - the last time I rode it a few years back I waited more than an hour. We waited less than 20 minutes for Living Seas, Mexico and Spaceship Earth. We also saw an incredible acrobatic show at the China pavilion. The highlight was this one kid who had 16 spinning plates going at once. People focus on the rides at Epcot, but some of the live entertainment can be as good as any ride.

We had dinner at Le Cellier, a steakhouse in the Canada pavilion. This was, by far, our best meal of the week. The steak was as good as any I’ve ever had and was cooked exactly the way I like it. The cheddar cheese soup and pretzel breadsticks were very yummy. Our server, Ellissa, was terrific. She was very attentive, extremely friendly and did everything we asked. She established a great rapport with the kids. The priceless moment was when she asked R. if Santa had come to her house. R. says, “No.” Ellissa, looking confused, says, “No?!?” So R. with the perfect pause to let her confusion increase says, “Hanukkah!” A distinct look of relief came over her; I’m sure she was wondering if she had touched some nerve with us. She was great, and I left her a big tip in appreciation.

We would have liked to stay for Illuminations, but the kids were exhausted by that point (we were pretty tired, too). J. actually fell asleep in his stroller as we were returning it. We might have planned things differently if we were staying at Disney, but with the ride back to my parent’s house it wasn’t possible.

- Monday was our last full day, and a non-Disney day as well. We took the kids to the Central Florida Zoo for the afternoon. It’s a nice zoo, and the kids had a great time walking around checking out the animals. It’s certainly no match for the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, but it was a fun, low-key outing, which we needed after Epcot on Sunday. We then hooked up with Mom & Dad, my brother and his family and my cousin and his family at a buffet restaurant called Sweet Tomatoes. This was a nice reunion with my cousin, who lives and North Carolina. The kids all got on great and it was wonderful to have everyone together. After dinner we took a walk around a nearby lake that had a display of Christmas lights. The kids ran around like maniacs and burned off some energy while the grown-ups had a chance to talk. It was a nice way to end the trip, and our only chance to see my niece and sister-in-law, both of whom had been sick during our visit.

All in all, we had a great trip. It broke up the holiday school break nicely, and I think we’ll do it again next year. Hopefully, everyone will be healthy!

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