Friday, December 31, 2004

We got back from Florida last night and were greeted with about 6 inches of snow in the driveway, leftovers from a storm that occurred while we were away. So the first thing I had to do upon returning home was shovel out my driveway, all the while thinking, “Why is it I live here again?” After all, we had just left a sunny, low 70’s day down south.


The weather wasn’t all great, unfortunately. We arrived Christmas afternoon about a half-hour late due to a rainstorm pelting the Orlando area (this storm would provide the moisture for the snow mentioned above). We got off the plane, recovered our luggage and picked up our rental car from Dollar for the drive to my parent’s house.

After we arrived at the house and brought the bags in, we relaxed and waited from by brother and his family to arrive. Mom was cooking up a big Christmas Day feast (despite the fact that we don’t celebrate Christmas) for us all to enjoy, including her famous latkes (those are potato pancakes for those of you not in the know).

My brother arrived with his wife and two kids around 5:00. The kids played together. R. and my niece are only four months apart in age, so they get along great. It’s really cute to see them together. My nephew is 3, and he followed his older cousin around. They all get along very well, especially considering that they only see each other a couple of times a year.

Dinner was ready and we all put the feed bag on. It was great having all of my immediate family there in one place. The food was great, and the company was very enjoyable. After dinner my brother’s family headed home and we got the kids off to bed with little complaint, since everyone was tired after a long day.

The iMac upgrade project

My project for this trip was to upgrade my parent’s iMac to Mac OSX. They had purchased the computer when they moved to Florida so that I could send them pictures and such and they could keep in touch with friends via email. The computer came with Mac OS9 installed, and they had AOL for an Internet service.

After a while, the situation went downhill. As Apple moved away from the “Classic” operating system, no one was upgrading OS9 applications any more. My parents were having trouble accessing some Web sites that demanded more modern browsers. So I decided to upgrade them to OSX version 10.3.7 and switch them to NetZero. They weren’t using any of the exclusive AOL content, so why pay $24/month for Internet service when they could pay $10?

So I loaded up a CD with everything I thought I would need and picked up a copy of Panther. I quickly found out that this was going to be more difficult than I anticipated. When I tried to run the OSX installer, it informed me that I would need to upgrade the iMac’s firmware. No problem; I went to the Apple Web site and downloaded the necessary file. I ran the firmware installer, and discover that you need at least OS version 9.1 to run it.

I find the file for the OS9.1 upgrade on and discover that it’s 71MB. My parents have a dial up connection, which meant it would take about four hours to download. It was also available in 15 pieces of about 4.6 MB each, but obviously bringing down the entire file in one shot was preferable.

I started the download before bed and went to sleep. I got up a few hours later an checked on the download progress, only to discover that there had been a connection error and I had only gotten 12.5MB of the file. I decided that this wasn’t going to do and formulated another plan.

I knew there was an Apple Store in the Orlando area and I had the bright idea of stopping in the mall that housed it and seeing if either they had a MacOS9 upgrade disk I could use, or if I could get them to download it to a CD for me. So, Sunday afternoon on our way home, we tried to stop at the mall.

Sunday was the day after Christmas, and apparently EVERYONE in the Orlando area was either shopping the after Christmas sales, cashing in gift certificates or returning stuff. The mall parking lot was a nightmare and we quickly made the decision to get out of there. Trying to get out of the parking lot the way we came also looked like a bad idea, so we tried going out the opposite way. This didn’t work so well, either. We eventually ran into International Drive, in the middle of the shopping traffic there. Finally, after 20 minutes or so of inching through traffic, we got back to Interstate 4 and made our escape.

With that idea down the tubes, I embarked on the task of downloading the 15 parts of the OS9.1 upgrade. They took 15 minutes each at dialup speeds, but finally I got all of the parts. I then performed the 9.1 upgrade, then the firmware update. After all that, I was finally ready to do the OSX upgrade.

The actual upgrade to OSX went fine. The iMac chugged through the necessary upgrade files and started up fine. I then upgraded from 10.3 to 10.3.7 with a file I had downloaded from home. Finally, I added MacOSX native versions of AOL, NetZero, Appleworks and Snood. We hooked up the NetZero service and my father endured the sales pitch trying to get him to reconsider dropping AOL (somebody really needs to explain why you can’t cancel online). Everything worked and the iMac actually seems to run a bit faster under OSX than it did under OS9.


Sunday was really cold (at least for Florida), with temperatures only reaching the low 50’s. Our original plan was to go to Sea World, but we postponed that to Tuesday and met up with my brother and niece at the Orlando Science Center instead. Our Boston Museum of Science memberships got us free admission and we started to explore. The OSC is a nice museum; no match for Boston or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, but we had a good time exploring. The kids had a enjoyed running around the place and checking out the various exhibits. After about three hours of this, the kids and the adults seemed like we had all had enough so we got in the car and went back to my parents house. A pizza dinner followed and we called it an early night, since we knew the next few days would be busy.


Monday started early, as we had to get the kids to a 9:30 Pirate Adventure at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World. I had read about the Pirate Adventure online and it sounded like a lot of fun. The kids would be dropped off at the Grand Floridian marina and cruise around Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon to the various resorts, where they would find clues that led to a buried treasure. The event included a snack and I had reserved a space for both kids three months before, the first day they became available.

We left the house about 8:15 and took the “back way” from my parent’s house to Disney. This completely bypasses Route 192, which is one of the main roads into Disney. During the busy tourist season, it can be choked with traffic, especially earlier in the day when the parks are opening. We made it to Disney property in plenty of time and went past the security gate at the Grand Floridian. The guard told me to go to the front entrance, but I decided I wanted to self park the car instead. This turned out to be a mistake, as the self parking lot was full. Also, self parking was across the street from the resort, so I had to go through security AGAIN and explain to the guard that I had screwed up. He was very nice about it though, and this time I had the car valet parked.

Once inside the resort, our navigation troubles continued. It took us a while to find the marina, since the signs weren’t particularly helpful. We still had about 15 minutes to spare when we finally found the place and got the kids signed up. Unfortunately, because of the cold weather (it was probably in the mid-40s at this point), they had canceled the cruise portion and had moved the whole shebang to the Mouseketeer Club. Instead of cruising around the lake on a boat, the kids would be on a hunt around the resort. They were still up for it, so we attempted to take them over to the Mouseketeer Club.

Unfortunately, we once again got a bit lost. The directions we got to the Club weren’t the best, so we ended up wandering around for about 10 minutes until someone finally gave us the right directions and we found the place. We signed in the kids, got a beeper and said we would return to them in two hours.

A. had long before planned for her two hours by booking a pedicure at the Grand Floridan Spa. I walked her over there and I planned to just walk around and hang out at the resort. I did a lot of exploring. The Grand Floridan is a really beautiful place. Everything is spotless and the place just gleams white. My original plan was to rent a boat for a while, but the cool weather kept me ashore, too. After wandering around the shops for a bit, I opted for a ride on the monorail.

The monorail took me most of the way around, past the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Hotel, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and then to the Polynesian Resort, where I got off the train to take a look around. The Polynesian is another one of Disney’s deluxe resorts, and the South Seas island motif is just outstanding. The plantings throughout the lobby and the rest of the resort are really lush and you can easily imagine yourself off in Hawaii or some other exotic destination. After wandering around the Polynesian for a bit, I walked back to the Grand Floridian, grabbed a snack and then went to pick up the kids.

The kids had a great time on the Pirate Adventure. They got really cute pirate hats with Mickey Mouse ears attached, along with their share of the “booty” from the treasure chest.

We then hooked up with A., who had finished her pedicure and went to get some lunch. We ended up at Chili’s on 192 - nothing fancy, but it hit the spot and we were anticipating a big meal at Chef Mickey’s that evening.

To be continued...

I wrote this last Saturday when we were flying to Florida, but never got a chance to post it.

Live from high above the Southeastern United States...

We’re on our way to Florida. The flight has been uneventful so far. We drove down to Green Airport in Rhode Island (actually leaving the house on time!) with almost no traffic on Christmas morning. There were stretches along the Mass Turnpike and Route 495 when I actually couldn’t see another car! We parked at the off site parking lot we tried last year. We tried it because we could get a reservation and we were concerned about parking at the airport on a heavy travel holiday. This place worked out very well. They park the car for you and take you right to the door of the airport in a shuttle van. No driving around the garage looking for a parking space then schlepping all of the bags over to the airport. To top it all off, it’s even cheaper than the airport parking!

The weather in Orlando isn’t looking great. The captain told us that it was only 52 and rainy when we took off, although that’s still about 30 degrees warmer than it was up north. I’m hoping things will clear up by tomorrow, since we have our day at Sea World planned. If it’s raining, we’re going to have to juggle our plans a bit. Right now, we have Sea World on Sunday; the kids Pirate Cruise at Disney and our annual Chef Mickey’s excursion planned for Monday; hopefully a day at my brother’s house on Tuesday; and Downtown Disney and a visit with the former CFO of my company at his new house in Celebration on Wednesday. There’s also a possibility that we’ll hook up with my cousin’s family during the week sometime. They’re vacationing in Florida as well.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas to those of you out there who celebrate. Hope you have a great day tomorrow and that Santa is good to you!

We'll be flying down to Florida tomorrow for our annual trip to see my family. We've got a bunch of activities planned, including a trip to Sea World on Sunday. We're all looking forward to the trip and I mostly can't wait to see my neice and nephew.

Red Sox Nation got it's Christmas present a couple of days early, as the Sox announced the re-signing of Jason Varitek to a 4-year, $40 million contract. In most observers opinions (including mine), Tek was the most important of the "Big Four" free agents for the Sox to sign. I'm glad they were able to come together on a deal.

That's it! I'll try to post from the sunny South if I have a chance.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Still reeling here (and a bit sleepy from staying up for the bitter end) from the Pats 29-28 upset loss to the lowly Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football last night. Amazingly, Tom Brady ended up wearing the goat horns (although Richard Seymour might deserve a pair as well for a pass interference penalty late in the game). Brady threw two interceptions late in the game that led directly to the Pats loss.

Hopefully the loss will be a wakeup call to the team and they will get their act back together before the playoffs start. If not, we won't be having another parade this winter.

We had a good weekend. I took Friday off and got some stuff done. Saturday included a Hanukkah/birthday celebration with my in-laws. I got the Stephen King Red Sox book, which I'm looking forward to reading.

After that, I headed off to a baseball card show in Marlborough. I don't typically collect baseball cards or autographs anymore, but I do make one exception. A few years back, the Pawtucket Red Sox had the fans vote for their all-time team. I was at the game when the team was introduced and the Pawsox handed out a card set featuring the players on the team. I managed to get an extra copy from a friend of mine who works the beer stand at McCoy Stadium. On my way out of the ballpark that night, I saw Rich Gedman, who had made the team as the starting catcher, signing autographs. I asked him to sign one of my sets and thought it would be cool to eventually get all of the cards signed.

Since that night, I've accumulated eight of the 30 players, including Rick Burleson, who was at the card show on Saturday. The Rooster was a very nice guy, shaking my hand and taking a look at the cards. He noted that his current boss, Tim Naehring, was right next to him on the sheet of cards. It was great to meet Burleson, one of the mainstays of the great Red Sox teams of the '70s.

Arriving at the show just as I was leaving was none other than World Series MVP Manny Ramirez. They were charging a whopping $179 to get Manny's autograph, with extra charges to take a picture with him or or get an inscription with his autograph. Yes, that's right, if you wanted your autograph made out "To Joe" or "World Series MVP", it would cost you an extra $49. The prices were outrageous, but there were certainly plenty of people lined up to spend the money. I did get to see Manny close up though, which was kind of cool. And it didn't cost me anything!

After the card show I had a "boys night out" with my friends The Hey and Steve. We had dinner and then saw Ocean's Twelve. The movie was OK - maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had gotten around to seeing Ocean's Eleven.

Sunday was the annual holiday party for the crew of the USS McAuliffe, also run by The Hey. It was at Spumoni's restaurant in Pawtucket, and a great time was had by all. It had the feel of a family reunion, including a kid's table for the seven little ones we had running around at the party.

I can't finish this entry without addressing Pedro's comments at his first press conference as a Met, and in a Boston Herald article last week. I don't understand why Pedro felt the need to trash the Red Sox, particularly Theo Epstein, Curt Schilling and Terry Francona. His behavior has really tarnished his legacy here in Boston. What would have been wrong with saying, "I'm sorry I couldn't reach an agreement with the Red Sox, but I'm happy to be here in New York and I wish the Red Sox nothing but the best and hope to meet them in the World Series next season."? He felt the need to burn the bridges on the way out for some reason, and it's too bad. Now, along with all the great pitching performances we'll have his childish exit scene to remember as well.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Interesting week for the Sox. First Pedro makes it official that he's going to spend the next four years at Shea Stadium. Now that Olympic Stadium is (apparently) out of the league, he'll be playing half his games at the absolute worst ballpark in baseball.

True to form, instead of saying that he went to the Mets because they made a better offer than the Red Sox, he actually claimed that it was "God's will" that he play in Flushing instead of in Boston during an interview in the Dominican.

This is one of my pet peeves. You will often see athletes saying that their team won because "God was on their side, or words to that effect. Seriously, does anyone really think that God is worried about whether Pedro plays for the Red Sox or the Mets? Does anyone think He cares if the Giants or the Redskins won Sunday's game? And if God is supporting one team, what does that say about the other team?

I don't have any objection to athletes who thank God for giving them the physical gifts to excel in their chosen sport. This gives God some credit for the success without making it seem like He's choosing sides.

Anyways, back off that digression. While I would have liked to have seen Pedro back in Boston for a few years, I think the Mets are taking a huge risk by guaranteeing the 4th year of the contract. Even the Red Sox expanding their offer to a third year was more than I would have liked to have seen. Pedro, as everyone knows, is fragile and his performance has been declining over the last few years. His arm could easily go before the end of the contract, and that would leave the Mets holding the bag.

Of course, he could be another Roger Clemens, but I tend to doubt it.

The other big Red Sox news of the week was the Red Sox signing ex-Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria. Renteria is a top flight shortstop. He's probably a step below Tejada, Jeter and A-Rod, but he's certainly among the best of the rest. I think he's an upgrade over Cabrerra; not as flashy a fielder, but more steady and a more disciplined hitter.

Next up on Theo's agenda: a number 2 starter and getting Jason Varitek signed.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Big weekend for free agent signings, with lots of ballplayers finding new homes. Here in Boston, the biggest news so far is the signing of David Wells to a two year contract. Wells will replace Derek Lowe as the Sox number 3 starter next season. This sounds like a good deal for both sides. Wells signed for a low base, with lots of incentives if he can make all his starts.

Of course, I thought that Theo Epstein had intended to tone down on the "Idiots" theme from last season. Now he's brought in the biggest idiot of all in Wells. At least with Schilling and Boomer in the clubhouse, the writers won't be hungry for quotes.

Of course, this news will pale in comparison to the media storm that will occur if Pedro Martinez signs with the Mets. According to reports in various places on the Web, the Mets have offered Pedro a 4 year, $56 million contract (that's $14 million/year, for those of you keeping score at home.) The Sox have offered a comparitively paltry $38.5 million over 3 years and don't appear to be willing to go to four years.

If Pedro goes to the Mets, good luck to him. I won't hold any hard feelings against a guy who takes a better deal. All I'm asking, Pedro, is that you are honest about it. Just say you went to the Mets because they offered more money. No one is going to hold it against you if you tell the truth.

Speaking of telling the truth, I was in the room while A. was watching the end of Survivor last night. I never watch these reality shows, but I was watching the last "Tribal Council", where the last two players apparently present their case as to why they should be the winner. Both of them were going on about how sorry they were that they hurt the other players feelings during the game and such.

I found the whole thing very amusing. Here's what I think they should have said, "Listen, we were playing a game here, and I wanted to win the $1 million. I did what I had to do to win. Nothing personal against you, OK?" I mean, it's pretty evident from what little I know about Survivor that you've got to lie to someone to win the game, right? If you can't handle that, don't play!

Finally, I took the kids to see The Polar Express in IMAX 3D at Jordan's Furniture yesterday. The movie was OK, and the experience was certainly greatly enhanced by the giant screen and the 3D effects. I didn't think the story held together particularly well, and I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much in a regular movie theater.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

We were spectacularly unsuccessful at getting Red Sox tickets today. I was in the "virtual waiting room" for hours and both Sox Paks (a grouping of four games the Sox sell as a package) I tried for were sold out.

After winning the World Series, the Olde Towne Team is apparently hotter than ever. I kind of miss the days when you could show up 15 minutes before game time most nights and get a pretty good seat. Of course, I miss $2 bleachers, too...

A. and I had a babysitter to watch the kids and went to the movies tonight. We saw Closer at the Embassy Theater in Waltham. I had been looking forward to seeing a "grown-up" movie for a change, but I just couldn't get into it at all. The four main characters, played by Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen were such repellent individuals I found it very difficult to give a damn about any of them. It was very well acted, written and directed, but not my kind of movie at all. The one saving grace was seeing Natalie Portman, who played a stripper, wearing very little, but it wasn't nearly enough to save the movie for me, though.

The Embassy theater was wonderful, though. It's a relatively new place, but it has the feel of an old time downtown movie theater. Part of the reason for that is that it IS right in downtown Waltham, surrounded by restaurants and shops, instead of being surrounded by acres of parking. The popcorn is served with real butter instead of that butter-like substance you usually get. I'm kicking myself that it took me this long to see a movie there, but I'm sure we'll be back. After the show we had dinner at the excellent Watch City Brewery. I've yet to have a bad meal there, and the beer, a winter ale they brew on the premises, was excellent.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Well, I’ve now been sitting here for nearly and hour and a half in the Red Sox “virtual waiting room” trying to get a Sox Pak. No luck so far. And now (10:26AM) the Opening Day Paks have sold out.

Hanukkah started a few of nights ago. The kids, naturally, look forward to it and were pretty excited with their first presents. I’m pretty excited with mine, too.

I got a new 40GB iPod Photo It’ll replace my 5GB 1st generation iPod, which was rapidly running out of space. I only had room for about 50-60 more songs on it (I’ve got 1,200). I’ve also got a bunch of stuff on CD that I would like to have on my iPod that I didn’t have space for. The new iPod will hold up to 10,000 songs, so that should keep me going for a while.

The other thing about the iPod is that it displays photos on the color screen built into the device, or you can hook it up to a TV. You can even do photo slide shows set to music. The color screen also really makes the interface come alive as compared to the black & white screen in the non-photo iPod models.

The iPod needed to be charged last night, so I haven’t tried out any of this yet, but I’ll write more about it when I’ve had a few days to play around with it.

My surprise gift was a set of Topps Red Sox World Series Champion commemorative baseball cards. It’s a really nice set with cards for each post season game, regular season highlights and cards for each player.

Thursday was my Dad’s 70th birthday. He and my Mom went out to Vegas to celebrate and are returning to Florida today. I consider my family truly blessed that my folks are both healthy enough and have the means to travel and do the things they want to enjoy their retirement. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Lots to talk about today.

Topic 1: Yesterday when I brought the kids home from Sunday School, J. saw one of his classmates who lives up the street from us riding his bike. His friend asked him if he wanted to come to his house and play.

That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Well, in this day and age it is. My kids rarely play with anyone on the spur of the moment. Everything is scheduled through playdates or structured activities.

When I was a kid, of course, there was no such thing as a “playdate”. If you wanted to go play with someone, you called friends on the phone or you knocked on the front door to see if they could come out to play. More often than not, you would find someone.

Of course, 30+ years ago, you didn’t have to keep your eyes on your kids every second. Child abductions, molestation and other concerns simply weren’t even something my parents thought about. When I was J.’s age I went outside, unsupervised, without even giving it a second thought.

So yesterday was a nice throwback. Both kids have friends living on our street, so maybe this won’t be the last off the cuff playtime.

Topic 2: We checked out a new ice cream place nearby. Friends of ours told us that half the proceeds from their opening day would benefit the Southborough public schools, so we thought we’d check it out and get a little cash to a good cause.

The ice cream shop, Cold Stone Creamery, is part of a chain of similar shops that is just making it’s way into Massachusetts. They make their own ice cream in the store and serve it with “mix-ins”, candy, nuts, fruit and such that is mixed into the ice cream on request. Those of you who are long-time Bostonians may remember Steve’s Ice Cream, which pioneered the concept years ago.

So we picked out our ice cream flavors and mix-ins and gave it a try. I have to say, Cold Stone serves up some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s creamy, full of flavor and it has a texture unlike any store bought ice cream. My chocolate/peanut butter combination was delicious. I also had a taste of J.’s strawberry ice cream and it was probably the best I’ve ever had.

I don’t know if Cold Stone is good enough to dethrone my long time favorite, Ben & Jerry’s , but it’s right up there. Try it out of there’s one near you.

Topic 3: After Sunday School, but before J. hooked up with his friend, I took the kids to McDonalds for lunch. McD’s is having a new promotion with their Happy Meals this month. They’re giving away these little handheld video games. If you get a silver game in your bag, you win a prize. The grand prize is $2,500 to build the “ultimate video game system.” We were talking about this and the kids were speculating as to how they gave you the money. I said that they probably give you a gift card or a check. R. said, “Maybe they give you a bag of cash.” She even thought it would come in one of those big canvas bags with a dollar sign on the front, like you see in a cartoon. Where the heck does she come up with this stuff?

Topic 4: Anyone who was worried about a trap game for the Patriots in Cleveland on Sunday needn’t have worried. The Pats beat down on the Browns 42-15 in a game that saw Brady resting on the bench by the middle of the 3rd quarter. Bethel Johnson ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, the Browns went 3 and out on their first offensive series, and that was pretty much it for Cleveland.

Have we ever seen a Boston team this dominant? Other than the Pittsburgh game, it hasn’t even seemed like the Patriots have been threatened very much this season. They only have one game left on the schedule that even remotely looks like they could lose it (against the Jets at the Meadowlands). The last local team I can remember being this good was the 1985-86 Celtics of the Big 3, Bill Walton, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge.

Topic last: We got the kids a Sony Playstation 2 for Hanukkah (which starts tomorrow night), but it wasn’t without some work. I went out last Thursday to go pick it up and discovered there wasn’t a P/S2 console to be found in the town of Framingham. I checked Walmart, CompUSA, Toys R Us and Best Buy without success. I finally found one in the Gamespot store in the Prudential Center mall on Friday. The guy there told me that he had just gotten a shipment of six a half-hour before and he had already sold three. But I got mine!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Steroids, steroids, steroids.

The news broke today that Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi admitted to using illegal steroids to enhance his performance to a grand jury investigating BALCO. Giambi said that he had gotten the steroids from Barry Bonds’ personal trainer.

The question is, what should happen to players records when it can be proven they cheated by using illegal performance enhancing drugs? Should Giambi be stripped of his MVP award? What about Bonds’ 73 home runs? What about Mark McGuire’s 70, for that matter? What happens if Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s record?

Here’s my opinion. Awards should be stripped from players found guilty of using steroids. Players who cheated should be ineligible for the Hall of Fame. If Bonds used steroids (and the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming), he should not be allowed into Cooperstown without a ticket.

Records are a different story. Home runs have been hit. They’ve been recorded. You can’t “un-hit” them. If Bonds hits 756 home runs, then he’s the all-time home run king, even though he broke the rules to get some of them. It’s a tainted record, but a record nonetheless.

Think about this: if Bonds is excluded from Cooperstown because of using steroids, it’s possible that the all-time hit king and the all-time home run king won’t be in the Hall of Fame.

WEEI was rerunning Game 5 of the ALCS tonight. I have to say, it's much less stressful listening to the game when you know how it's going to turn out.

We're getting the kids Playstation 2 for Hannukah. Unfortunately, no one in town seems to have it. Everyone claims they're getting more in, though, so I'm pretty sure I can pick one up before we were planning to give it to the kids next Friday.

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