Wednesday, March 31, 2004

OK, I know it's been over a week since I updated my blog. Things have been busy lately, what with birthdays, the merger heating up and the annual charity auction gala for R.'s nursery school coming up. So here's a short update, including my 2004 baseball predictions.

I turned 40 yesterday. I'm feeling a bit depressed about the number, but when I look at my life so far I feel pretty good about it. I've been married for 11 years to a woman I love, I have two wonderful kids, a job that I like working with good people for good money. My parents, in-laws and my brothers family are all in good health. My finances are in good shape and if all goes well I can look forward to a comfortable retirement in 20 years or so.

Regrets? I have a few, but then again, too few to mention (sorry, couldn't resist the Sinatra reference, there). I guess if I had to point at one major thing I wish I could go back and change, it would be that I went for a career that I was passionate about. Accounting was the safe choice when I went to college. Looking back, maybe I should have gone into sports management or broadcasting, both of which I considered. Could I be Theo Epstein or Don Orsillo now if I had pursued a different course? Maybe, but we'll never know.

Not that I hate what I do. My work is challenging, usually interesting, occasionally frustrating and financially rewarding. I'm sure lots of people wish they had jobs like mine.

Anyways, enough of that. For the past few years I've run a baseball pool where I ask a few friends and co-workers to pick the division and wild card winners; the pennant winners; the World Series winners and the MVPs and Cy Young winners in each league. Here are my picks for 2004:

AL East champion: Boston Red Sox
AL Central champion: Kansas City Royals
AL West champion: Anaheim Angels
AL wild card: Oakland A's

NL East champion: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central champion: Chicago Cubs
NL West champion: San Francisco Giants
NL wild card: Houston Astros

AL Champion: Boston Red Sox
NL Champion: Chicago Cubs

World Series Champion: Boston Red Sox

AL MVP: Vladimir Guererro
NL MVP: Albert Pulhols

AL Cy Young: Barry Zito
NL Cy Young: Eric Gagne

I wouldn't ordinarily pick the Sox, but in my opinion, this is the best Red Sox team of my lifetime. It's because of the starting rotation. The Sox have never had a top three to match Pedro, Schilling and Lowe. The closest teams are probably the '78 Red Sox with Luis Tiant, Dennis Eckersley and Mike Torrez or the '86 pennant winners with Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst and Oil Can Boyd, but I don't think either of those teams match this years big three.

You all can check this out in October and see how far off I was.

Sunday night is the first game, and it'll be in HD on ESPN. I can't wait!!!

Monday, March 22, 2004

First, and most important note of the day, Happy Birthday to my daughter R., who turns 5 years old today. How can it possibly be five years already?

Spring is finally here, although you could hardly tell it by the temperature. It was well below freezing when I left my house this morning, and it’s not supposed to get out of the mid-30’s today. Spring in New England is an odd thing. You never know what you’re going to get. Snow at this time of year is far from unusual. In fact, I can remember at least two snowstorms in my lifetime that occurred in May. Last year’s spring was very wet - it seemed like it rained every weekend. Hopefully we’ll have a nice spring this year. J. starts T-ball this year and I can hardly wait for that.

Tomorrow I start on a challenge. As some of you may know, I wear a pedometer on my belt that encourages me to exercise. It’s called a Sportbrain, and I upload the data it stores periodically to the Internet. From there I go to the Sportbrain web site ( and see my steps, an estimate of how many calories I’ve burned, access a bunch of other statistics and participate in a very supportive online community. Seeing my “score” at the end of the day really helps to keep me walking. My goal is 12,000 steps a day, and I typically average about 13,000.

One thing you get with the Sportbrain service is a series of reward challenges. If you meet a certain steps goal for a specified period of time, you either win a small prize or you are entered into a drawing for a larger prize. They have goals for all levels of ability, from around 8,000 steps per day to almost 18,000. I’m going for a Sportbrain fleece jacket. I have to average 15,000 steps a day for the next 45 days, or 675,000 steps in total to get entered into the drawing. This is about 15% over my usual average, so I think it’ll be challenging without being undoable. The next level up was 17,777 steps per day to win an iPod mini. I don’t really think I could maintain that level for a month and a half.

It’s now less than two weeks until the Red Sox opener in Baltimore, and the injury bug that the team mostly avoided last season has started to rear it’s ugly head. Trot Nixon is out for six weeks with a herniated disk in his back, Byung Hyung Kim is out with some soreness in his shoulder and Nomar has a sore Achilles tendon. It appears that Nomar should be ready for Opening Day, but the other two will miss the start of the season. It seems like the Sox should be able to survive the short-term loss of any of these guys - after all $130 million should buy you a bit of depth!

Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia was imploded yesterday. I made two trips to the Vet, and I’d rate it as the third worst among the 17 Major League ballparks I’ve seen, behind only Shea Stadium in New York and Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It was a hideous, astro-turfed bowl, which was ill suited for baseball. The good seats were separated from the field by acres of foul territory; the bad seats were practically in orbit they were so high up. It emphasized everything that was bad about ballpark architecture in the ‘70’s. It’s a good thing that it’s gone.

Interestingly, of the 26 teams that were in existence on Opening Day 1984, only 10 are playing in the same stadiums today:

Boston Red Sox - Fenway Park
New York Yankees - Yankee Stadium
Minnesota Twins - Metrodome
Anaheim Angels - Edison International Field (formerly Anaheim Stadium)
Kansas City Royals - Kaufman Stadium
Oakland A’s - Oakland Coliseum
New York Mets - Shea Stadium
Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field
St. Louis Cardinals - Busch Stadium
Los Angeles Dodgers - Dodger Stadium

It’s an amazing amount of ballpark turnover. Only 1/3 of today’s ballparks existed in 20 years ago. There probably hasn’t been this amount of change in the homes of Major League Baseball teams since the first building boom of steel and concrete stadiums in the early 1900’s.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

It was six years ago today I returned from Seoul, South Korea to pick up my son.

J. had been assigned to us by our adoption agency a couple of months earlier. All we had was a picture and some basic biographical and medical information. We then hunkered down and waited for the call to go to Korea and bring him home.

The call finally came on a Thursday afternoon. We were told that we should be at the agency in Seoul on Monday to meet J. and his foster mother, along with the Korean social worker who would help us through the process over there. In order to do this, we needed to catch a Korean Air flight on Friday evening. With the time change and a 20+hour flight, it would get us into Seoul on Sunday morning. This would give us time to check into our hotel, get some sleep and acclimate to the time change a bit before meeting J. on Monday.

Obviously, this didn’t leave us much time. Thursday evening, I went to a travel agent in Brookline who had been recommended to us as having experience with getting adoptive families over to Korea quickly. She booked us on a Korean Air flight at a discount that the airline gives to adoptive families and booked us at the Koreana hotel, which was not far from the US Embassy in Seoul. Meanwhile, A. started packing and making arrangements to have our cat looked after while we were away.

Friday morning dawned and I went into work for a few hours to clear up some loose ends before leaving for over a week. I then went on what turned out to be a futile search for some Korean Won so we would have some cash to spend when we got there. After trying three banks, I finally found a banker of Korean descent at the Fleet Bank branch on Boylston St. She very helpfully told me that Won would be difficult to find in Boston, but that we could just exchange our money at a booth when we got to the airport in Seoul. Once she heard what we were going to Korea for, she was very helpful and gave me some good tips for our trip.

After finishing packing and a futile effort to take a nap, we headed to Logan to catch our plane. The flight was to be about 22 hours, including stops at JFK in New York and Anchorage, Alaska. The flight passed without any major incidents and we arrived at Kimpo Airport in Seoul early Sunday morning.

After recovering our luggage, going through customs and finding the promised cash exchange booth, we caught a cab to our hotel. The hotel was quite nice and was in the business district in Seoul. We stopped in the overpriced hotel restaurant (some things are apparently universal) for breakfast while they made up our room and settled down for a few hours sleep.

We got up several hours later and decided to do a little exploring near the hotel. One thing we were hoping to find was the Korean equivalent of a 7-11, since overpriced hotel minibars also seem to be a universal constant. So we walked around the main street and discovered a Dunkin Donuts nearby. This was to become our breakfast destination for the next few days. We also came upon a convenience store and stocked up on some supplies.

We returned to the hotel and decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe, mostly because I wanted some stuff that said “Hard Rock Cafe Seoul” on it. The Hard Rock in Korea is a heck of a lot like the Hard Rock here, right down to the Pig Sandwich. We had dinner and got our souvenirs, then returned to the hotel.

Monday arrived and we prepared to meet our son for the first time. The hotel had told us that a bellman would call a taxi for us and would let the driver know where we wanted to go. So, we gave him the address that had been provided to us by our US adoption agency. He told us that the address didn’t make any sense. We gave him a phone number to call the agency. That turned out to be someone’s fax machine. Panic was starting to set in. It was the middle of the night in the US, so we couldn’t call anyone at the adoption agency there. We returned to our room to regroup and to see if we had anything else that might have some information. While we were looking, A. came up with the brilliant idea of calling the US embassy! The agency had to work closely with the embassy to process the children to come to the US. They would doubtless know how to get in touch with them.

It worked! We got a good phone number and returned to the bellman. He put us in a cab, told the driver where to take us and we were off. The day had been saved!

We made it to the adoption agency, paid the driver and walked in. We were to meet with Mrs. Shin, who spoke fluent english and would be our contact while we were there. She was very nice and helpful and answered a lot of our questions. Then she brought in J. and his foster mother. J. was a cute as could be; a very active, happy little boy who had obviously been well cared for by his foster family. His foster mother was very sweet and patiently answered our questions about J.’s habits as Mrs. Shin translated.

We then reluctantly left him back with his foster mother and returned to the hotel. We were to return Wednesday morning to take him to the airport to go home.

Tuesday was our “day off”. We decided to take a tour to explore the city. We got a pamphlet from the hotel for an all-day tour of Seoul. The tour guide and a driver picked us up at our hotel and started taking us around to see the sights. The guide was very informative and took us around to various locations, including a couple of museums, a Shinto shrine and the outdoor market that runs throughout the city. One place we went had a collection of wooden ducks, which the guide described as wedding ducks. We asked the guide which one was the female, and she told us it was the one with it’s mouth tied shut! I insisted we buy one after that. We also had lunch in a “real” Korean restaurant, outside of the tourist areas. The guide ordered for us, and obviously picked dishes that were more suited to our American palates. I did get to finally try kim-chi, a type of pickled cabbage. I had wanted to try it ever since seeing the famous M*A*S*H episode where a group of Koreans that Frank Burns suspects of planting mines are actually planting kim-chi pots. The kim-chi was very spicy, but I liked it. We also picked up a hanbok (a traditional Korean outfit) for J. while we were in the marketplace.

Wednesday dawned and we headed back to the adoption agency to pick up J. He had a preflight checkup which went well. His foster mother turned him over to us and was very upset about it. I couldn’t imagine getting attached to a little child for several months and then having to turn him over to some strangers. They gave us a package of stuff for J. and then asked us if we would bring a piece of furniture on the plane with us that would be auctioned off by our adoption agency to raise money. What could we say? Of course we took it and they gave us a ride to the airport and helped us get the item to the baggage drop off.

J. fell asleep on the way over to the airport. He woke up sometime later and decided that he wanted his foster mother, not these strangers. So he proceeded to cry. For FOUR HOURS. He finally fell asleep again and was in a better mood when he woke up.

We finally got back to Logan after a stop in New York. Exhausted after another 20 hour flight, we took our new son home to start our lives together.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Welcome to this week's edition of the "Guys who don't Get It" awards!

Our first award nominee is Major League Baseball Players Association head Donald Fehr, who got dope-slapped by Senator John McCain during testimony about steroids in front of the Senate Commerce Committee last week.

The senators were meeting with Fehr, "Commissioner" Bud Selig, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw to discuss the issues surrounding the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports. The hearing was prompted by the recent revelations that a company called BALCO provided steroids to Barry Bonds personal trainer and that MLB's own testing determined that between 5-7% of players were tested positive for these substances.

Tagliabue and Upshaw were practically holding hands, telling Congress that they were in complete agreement on the NFL's stringent testing plan. Bud Selig stated that MLB would be willing to work with the players to institute a better plan. Fehr, meanwhile, rambled on about the union being opposed to searches without cause and stuff like that. McCain and the other senators grilled him, with the best line being McCain saying that the union is "aiding and abetting cheaters."

Here's why Fehr doesn't get it. His position is to look exclusively after what he thinks is the short term benefit of the players. He doesn't seem to grasp that what is good for the game of Baseball is in the long term interest of the players. He doesn't seem to get the fact that people are laughing at Barry Bonds as he goes after one of the greatest records in sports. He doesn't seem to get the concept that the integrity of the sport is being undermined, because the fans don't know who is cheating and who isn't.

Baseball needs to get with the program and implement a serious steroid testing policy similar to the NFL's, or even the policy baseball has in place for minor league players. Donald Fehr and the players association need to start to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Our second nominee this week is New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law. Ty complained in today's Boston Globe that the Patriots latest contract offer to him was a "slap in the face". Law currently has two years left on his current contract. That contract, when he signed it, made him the highest paid cornerback in football. Now Law wants an even bigger contract and claims that the Pats aren't showing him respect by granting him whatever he wants. He's also said that he doesn't want to be a Patriot anymore since the team didn't grant his request.

My suggestion to Law: shut up and play. You signed a lucrative contract that will pay you over $7 million this season. When the contract is complete, or when the Patriots release you, you are free to seek out another deal. Until then, no one wants to hear about how awful it is that the Patriots are paying you more in a season than most of us will see in our lifetimes. And then he claims it isn't about the money. One thing about pro athletes: when they say it isn't about the money, it's most definitely about the money.

I love Ty Law as a player. He's one of the greatest Patriots ever and will no doubt have a spot waiting for him in Canton when his playing days are over. But no one wants to listen to him whine about his contract.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Bose Corporation made a customer for life today. Last year A. bought me a set of Bose Triport headphones for my birthday last year. I use them with my iPod and they sound great. They were pretty expensive as headphones go, but, hey, it was my birthday. I love Bose's stuff, although it tends to be on the expensive side. Along with the headphones, I have a Wave Radio, which also sounds terrific.

Well, last night I was reading stories to the kids in my room and J. got his little mitts on the headphones. I didn't realize what he was doing until I looked over and noticed that one of the earphones had been separated from the rest of the headphones! I got thoroughly annoyed at him, but it was at least partially my fault for letting him get near them.

This morning while A. was at physical therapy I went to our local Bose store and asked them if there was any way to repair them. The guy I talked to took my name and address, asked me when and where I purchased the headphones, and proceeded to replace them with a new pair! I couldn't believe it. I had even told them that J. broke the headphones, but that didn't seem to matter.

This is the kind of customer service that garners repeat customers. I tend to be very loyal to companies that treat me like I'm important and make great products, and I drop companies that don't do these things like a hot potato. So, thank you Bose!

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I've nearly made it through my Mr. Mom week. It's been interesting and fun being part of the kids daily routine for a week. Usually when I take time off we go away somewhere or it's during school vacation. I'm not normally part of the get up, go to school, go to afternoon activities grind that A. goes through every day. Anyone who says stay-at-home parents don't work is kidding themselves!

A.'s recovery from surgery is going well. She gets a bit better every day, and she started physical therapy yesterday. We're going to have some after-school help in the house next week, so hopefully she'll be OK when I go back to work.

Other than making lunches and such, I managed to get out to vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. I voted for John Kerry, not because I'm a huge Kerry fan, but because I think he has the best chance of defeating President Bush in November.

Got our first taste of spring baseball tonight, as the Sox took on their Fort Meyers neighbors, the Twins. The Sox got off to a good start, with a 4-3 win tonight. I didn't see many of the regulars play, since I didn't turn on the game until after I got the kids to bed. It was good to see the Olde Towne Team out on the field again, though!

Monday, March 01, 2004

Had A.'s surgery today. It went as well as it could have possibly gone. It was an arthroscopic procedure in her shoulder for a partially torn rotator cuff. The good news is that she's only in a sling for two days and starts physical therapy on Wednesday. It's amazing what they can do with these arthroscopic procedures today. You see professional athletes get their knees "cleaned out" and they're back on the field in three weeks.

So, I'll be playing "Mr. Mom" for the next week. I'll get the kids off to school, wait for them when they come home, make lunches and such. It should be an interesting time!

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