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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