Monday, May 31, 2004

This will be a quick post, since it's late. I'm planning to write about the rest of the Cooperstown trip on Wednesday morning on the train. However, I wanted to talk a little about today's Red Sox game.

I took J. to the game with me today. It was his first game at Fenway Park, so it was a big deal for both of us. A couple of notable things happened. First, J. scored some of the game in the program. He seemed fascinated by the idea and after I did the first few innings he took over for a bit. I basically told him what to write down, but he was really into the whole concept and kept it up for about and inning and a half. Second, despite the fact that the Sox got their butts kicked by the Orioles 13-4, J. insisted on staying until the bitter end of the 3 hour 31 minute affair. It reminded me of a Patriots Day game that I went to with my father and brother when the Red Sox got beat by the Brewers by something like 12-0 and we watched the whole thing. History repeats itself, I guess...

Oh, and do you think Derek Lowe is regretting not taking that 3 year, $27 million offer from the Sox yet?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Greetings from Cooperstown!

We're here for my 40th birthday trip. When A. asked me if I wanted to go away for my birthday, I told her that I wanted to go somewhere, but I wasn't sure that she would want to go. I told her I wanted to go to Cooperstown, since I hadn't been here since the weekend before J. came home. She said that was fine, "as long as we stayed somewhere nice." So here we are at the Inn at Cooperstown bed & breakfast.

I discovered the Inn at Cooperstown has wireless Internet access. So before we left, I re-installed the Airport card that came with my iBook. After we got here I booted up and the thing works like a charm. I didn't even have to configure anything. Apple's Rendezvous technology got me right in without a hitch.

The inn itself is very nice. It's was originally built in 1874 and was rebuilt as an inn in the 1980's. It's about 3 blocks from the Hall of Fame, which is very convenient. I don't have to worry about parking my car or any of that stuff. We also get breakfast in the morning, which I'm expecting will be good based on the quality of everything else so far.

On the way to dinner we wandered by Doubleday Field, the site of the annual Hall of Fame game, and the legendary site where Abner Doubleday supposedly put together the first baseball diamond. There was a game of some kind going on - maybe some kind of semi-pro league. We watched for a half-inning, which I really enjoyed. There are games all day tomorrow, so I'll probably stop by and catch a couple of innings.

We just had dinner at the Hoffman Lane Bistro, which was excellent. I had an extremely good pasta dish, and A. had salmon which she said was very tasty. I had a couple of Old Slugger beers, from the Cooperstown Brewing Company. I couldn't resist trying it because of the name. It was a very nice pale ale, not too bitter like some pale ales are. The brewery is only about 8 miles from where we're staying, so we're going to go check it out tomorrow afternoon after I get done at the Hall of Fame.

The other big baseball event of the week was my second trip up to the Monster Seats on Wednesday night. The Monster Seats are, without a doubt, the best seats I've ever watched a ballgame from. I went with my friends Dave, Bill and Karen and we had an amazing time watching the Sox beat the Oakland A's 9-6. The key play of the game was a bases clearing error by the A's shortstop Bobby Crosby. With the bases loaded, a routine ground ball was hit to Crosby that would have ended the inning. He bobbled the grounder, then hurried his throw to second and the ball went sailing out into right field. All three Sox runners came home and that play really broke open the game for the Red Sox. Jason Varitek hit a massive home run right over our heads to really put the game on ice.

The other highlight of the game was the fact that we got on the Jumbotron. When the P.A. system played "Sweet Caroline between halves of the 8th inning, the four of us were swaying to the music and we were shown on the big screen in center field. Only Dave saw it, but then a friend of ours called on Bill's cell phone and told us that her husband had seen us! That really just topped off the experience.

That's it for now. More tomorrow if I have a chance.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

On the train back from New York...

Well, the seminar wasn’t bad. I learned some stuff I needed to know, but one of the speakers had a family emergency and didn’t show. One of the other speakers tried to fill in a bit, but it was obvious she wasn’t prepared for all the material she tried to present. I give her an “A” for effort, though.

I had a quiet evening last night. I walked from Penn Station to my hotel, the New York Hilton (about 20 blocks) and checked in. New York City is an amazing place. It’s just so dense with humanity. Walking though Times Square on my way to the hotel was like walking around Fenway Park before a Red Sox game - there were just people everywhere.

Then I grabbed some dinner at a place called Schlotzky’s Deli. It’s a chain that used to be in the Boston area (including a store in Framingham), but didn’t do well. I loved the sandwiches, though. So, when I saw one about two blocks up from the hotel, I couldn’t resist checking it out. After dinner, I stopped at what in Manhattan they call a supermarket, which is equivalent in size to about two rows at the Super Stop & Shop at home. I picked up some chips and a big bottled water and returned to the hotel. I wasn’t really in the mood to wander around Manhattan myself, so I watched some TV, checked my email and called my brother.

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I really didn’t enjoy traveling alone. I missed my family, missed being in my own bed and I felt kind of lonely. I guess if the trip were for more of a fun reason it might have been better.

The conference ended about 45 minutes early, so I had some time to go have dinner at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. It’s a cool place, with the requisite TV screens all over the place (including in the bathrooms). The food isn’t bad either, although a bit pricey.

I hadn’t really intended to, but I picked up a few little gifts for the family. I got A. a mug from “The Apprentice” at the NBC store at Rockefeller Center. She really liked the show, so I couldn’t resist. It says “YOU’RE FIRED” in big red letters on the side, after Donald Trump’s famous line - there was no way to replicate the little hand movement he does, I guess. The kids each got these cute Hershey’s trucks from a Hershey’s themed store in Times Square. The trucks are filled with Hershey’s Kisses and I thought they looked cool.

The train ride back has been uneventful. We left Penn Station about 1/2 hour late, so it’ll be a bit of a later night than I was expecting. I should still be home by a bit after 11 PM, though. I finished watching “The Right Stuff”, and I’ll probably throw in one of the Marx Brothers movies after I finish writing this.

The rest of the week should be pretty quiet, but we’ve got a lot going on next week. I have my game in the Monster Seats next Wednesday. Then A. and I leave the kids with their grandparents as we head off to Cooperstown on Friday for the weekend for my belated birthday trip. Then I take J. to his first game at Fenway Park on Memorial Day, as the Sox make up one of the rainouts against Baltimore from earlier in the season.

We just left New Haven, so I guess we have another hour and a half or so to go. If the change I made to the Blogger settings worked, you should be able to leave comments here, so I invite you to do so. I’d love to see if it works!

UPDATE! Just caught the last two innings of Randy Johnson's perfect game on TBS. It was truly amazing. The Braves just couldn't touch him. Not that the Big Unit being untouchable is that unusual, but not usually to this extent. A great game from one of the great pitchers of our time.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Live from the Acela Express to New York, New York (the city so nice they named it twice...)

I’m taking the train down to NYC to go to a Sarbanes Oxley seminar. The Sarbanes Oxley Act, as I’ve mentioned here before, was a law passed in the wake of the Enron and other corporate scandals. One of the sections of Sarbanes Oxley requires companies to perform a quarterly review of their internal controls. We spend an astounding amount of time each quarter doing this review, so I’m going to the seminar to get some helpful hints that will hopefully help us streamline the process a bit.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to have time to do much else in New York. I’m on the 3:14 train from Route 128, which gets into Penn Station at 6:42. Then I have to check into my hotel and grab some dinner. The seminar runs from 9-5:15, then I have a 7:00 train back to 128. So, I’ll basically see the inside of my hotel room, Penn Station and a couple of restaurants.

If nothing else, the train ride down is nice. The Acela is a beautiful train, with comfortable seats, lots of legroom and a cafe car. I have a couple of movies to watch on the iBook on the way down and back, including a couple from the new Marx Brothers boxed set I just got. I’ve been a long time fan of the Marx's, and this new boxed set seven of their later films - A Day at the Races; A Night at the Opera, Room Service, A Night in Casablanca, Go West, At the Circus and one other I can’t think of right now. Two of them, A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera, can rightfully be said to be brilliant. The others are weaker, but still have some funny moments - Groucho’s rendition of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” in At the Circus is one of my favorite bits. I’m looking forward to a collection of the films from their Paramount years, which would include my personal favorite Marx film, Duck Soup. Hopefully if this one sells well, the new collection will be coming soon.

I used to enjoy business trips, but now I don’t enjoy leaving the kids. I see little enough of them during the week, so I hate to give up some of my weekend time. It would have been nice if this seminar had been during the week and I could have just gone down to New York from work, but it didn’t work out that way.

We’re passing through Providence now. I can see lots of familiar landmarks from the train: the North Main Street businesses, the main Post office and coming up on downtown Providence and the mall. It’s only taken 28 minutes to get here, so that seems like pretty good time.

Of course, the Providence train station is not the one I grew up with. When Buddy Cianci pushed through the redesign of downtown, a new train station got built and the old train station was changed into offices. I was actually inside there once for an interview. You would have never known it was a train station!

Anyway, I think I’ll sign off here. I’ve got the rest of The Right Stuff to watch (I started it on the commuter rail last week) and then maybe I’ll grab a snooze. I’ll try to write again on the way home.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

I’ve really got to do this more regularly...

Here we are almost two weeks into May and this is only my first blog entry of the month. I’ve been meaning to do this more often, but the way things have been going at work, most nights I’m too beat to sit down and put coherent thoughts together.

The biggest event of the last few weeks was the consumation of the merger between John Hancock, the company I’ve been working for the last 12 years and Manulife Financial. As is my policy here, I’m not going to say much about it, but the amount of additional work I’ve had to do has been substantial. Once we get through the second quarter reporting, I’m hoping things will slow down a bit.

The next big event was the purchase of our new car, the Honda Element. The negotiation process with the dealer was much less unpleasant than I had been anticipating. He actually came back with a price that was $200 less than I was willing to pay! This was mostly made up by the fact that they gave me $150 less than I wanted for the trade-in of the Grand Am, but I figure I came out fifty bucks ahead. Things got a bit hairy when I discovered they had messed up the paperwork on the car loan, but since I had all my documents with me, they straightened things out.

I’m very happy with the car. This has been the first car I’ve ever owned that I am actually excited to drive and I feel like it reflects my personality a bit. For one thing, it’s very practical: the floors have no carpets, substituting an easy to clean plastic, and the seats are covered with what Honda calls it’s “Extreme Conditions Fabric”, so it’s also really easy to clean. These are both key points with two young kids. Also, the back seats flip up to the side (or come out completely) to give you a large cargo area in the back. The Element also has some nice, fun touches that I like: a sunroof, which I’ve always wanted but never had in a car before; a jack so that I can plug my iPod directly into the kick butt sound system instead of relying on a casette adapter or an FM transmitter. I also love the fact that it doesn’t look like every other small SUV on the road - ever try distinguishing a Honda CR-V from a Toyota RAV-4 from a Ford Escape from a distance? It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’m really looking forward to taking this car on several road trips in May and June.

On the sad news side, we came to the decision with my father-in-law to sell our house in Vermont. My father-in-law, who pays the expenses, barely goes there, and we only spend about 10-14 days a year there. The expense to maintain the place just didn’t justify the amount of time we spend there. So we’re going to be going up there the first weekend in June to talk to some realtors, with an eye to start selling it after our last week there in August.

I’m a bit sad about this, but I see some upside as well. While we all love going to Vermont, we’ve sort of been locked into going to Vermont and Florida for our two big vacations each year. Florida won’t stop as long as my family is down there, but not having the house in Vermont gives us the freedom to try some other things with our summer vacation - we’ve already come up with a bunch of ideas for 2005. The hardest part of all this is going to be telling the kids. They love it there, and they’re not going to be happy about this - heck, they were upset that we were getting rid of my crappy old car! We’ll be trying to present this in as positive a light as possible, and we’ll be reminding them that this doesn’t mean we can never go to Vermont again - it’s just that we’ll be in a different house next time.

I did see my first Red Sox game of the season against Tampa Bay on April 29. The Sox beat the D-Rays 7-3. It looked a little scary there as Dere Lowe gave up two runs in the top of the first. Happily, the Sox followed up in the bottom of the inning with seven runs, including a three run home by Jason Varitek off Damian Moss. Moss looked like he was throwing batting practice, as the Sox rocketed hits all over the yard.

Why is it that every team Alex Rodriguez leaves gets better? Seattle won 116 games the year after he signed with the Rangers. Now Texas has played very well for the first month of the season. You almost have to wonder if his teammates start to rely on him subconciously. Do they think, “Well, if I don’t get the big hit, Alex’ll get it.”I don’t know, but it’s an interesting phenomenon.

The other amazing story of the year so far is Roger Clemens 7-0 start. For a guy who said he was going to retire at the end of last year, he looks pretty good. Why can’t the Sox get guys like that? Seriously, though, could you make a case for Clemens as the best pitcher ever? I think so. Even though guys like Koufax and Pedro may have been better for short periods of time, I can’t think of may guys who have put together sustained excellence the way Roger has. Pitchers like Cy Young and Walter Johnson put up their astounding win numbers in such a different era, it’s difficult to compare them to guys today. Roger is 2nd all time in strikeouts, he has six Cy Young Awards and he’s certainly been one of the dominant pitchers of the last 20 years.

I was watching the Brewers-Braves game on TBS last night. It was from Milwaukee and apparently they had some kind of “Turn Back the Clock Night.” So, what were the Brewers wearing? Braves uniforms! Milwaukee Braves, of course, but the Milwaukee uniforms of 50 years ago look a lot like the Atlanta uniforms of today. So, it got really confusing at times to keep the teams straight.

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