Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm about ready for 2005 to be over.

It was a tough year for us on the medical front, of course. With R.'s foot surgery plus my two surgeries and the radiation treatment, more than three months of the year were far from normal for us. My major hope for 2006 is that no one in our family has to see the inside of an operating room.

Work was difficult as well. All the changes that the company has undergone in the last couple of years have made things much more stressful. I still enjoy what I do and the people I work directly with, but it just seems to be more difficult to get anything done. I did get assigned a new group in November that has me very excited, and I'm looking forward to taking on some new challenges next year.

My great-aunt's passing and the difficulty in dealing with her affairs in Memphis from 1,300 miles away added to the stress in 2005. My own health issues made it much more difficult to get things done, but I think the end of the tunnel is in sight on this one. I made the commitment to my aunt to take care of her estate about 15 years ago, before I was married and had children. I really didn't give it much thought over the years. It was only when she became ill that I started to think about what I had gotten myself into, and at that point I couldn't in good conscience go back on my word. Fortunately, the lawyer and real estate agent I worked with in Tennessee were very helpful and we have been able to slowly but surely get things taken care of.

The year certainly wasn't all bad, though. We had several very nice trips to Florida, Seattle and New Hampshire. I saw a lot of ball games this year, including two in the Monster Seats. I also added three new ballparks to my list, Safeco Field in Seattle, Campinelli Stadium in Brockton and Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett, WA. The Patriots won another Super Bowl and the Red Sox made it to the post-season for the third year in a row.

The kids continue to do very well in school and are very into learning. They both like to read, which I consider a blessing and a bit of a miracle in this age of 200 cable stations, the Internet, Playstation and Gameboy. I think the fact that A. and I have shared our love of reading with them since they were babies has had something to do with it.

Goodbye, 2005. Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out. To all of you who come here and read my ramblings, thanks, and I wish you and your loved ones a healthy, happy and successful 2006.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Greetings from sunny Florida.

Just a quick post here. I'll write up a more detailed trip report when I get home.

We have been having a great time. The weather has been very nice, although not particularly warm (high 60s/low 70s during the day). Much warmer than in New England, though! A. and I had a great time in Clearwater Beach, and the whole family had a wonderful day at Epcot today. I also got to rent a boat yesterday at Downtown Disney, which may be my favorite thing to do here.

That's it for now. Hope everyone is having a great holiday week!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hail to the Idiot.

Johnny Damon is gone. In a move that took most of Red Sox Nation by surprise (including, apparently, Larry Lucchino, Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington), the Evil Empire signed Damon to a four year, $52 million contract. The Sox brain trust was under the impression they were still negotiating with Johnny as late as 7:00 last night, when Hoyer had spoken with Scott Boras. They didn't even know about Damon coming to an agreement with the Yankees until they heard about it from the media late yesterday.

It sounds to me like the Red Sox weren't pursuing Damon aggressively enough. Based on what I heard at the press conference, it sounds like they got a bit complacent on signing him and the Yankees swooped in and grabbed him. Apparently, Damon even called Terry Francona and said that the Red Sox better get down to business. Whatever happened, it sounds like the new chain of command on Yawkey Way didn't get it done.

In the short term at least, this is a bad thing for the Sox. Damon is a huge upgrade for the Yankees in the leadoff spot. This deal weakens the Red Sox and strengthens New York next season, which is never a good thing. Long term, you have to wonder what kind of shape Johnny will be in by the fourth year of the contract.

This now leaves the Sox with a huge hole to fill in center field, adding to the needs that already exist at first and shortstop. The new co-GMs have a lot of work to do.

Paling in comparison to this news, but interesting nonetheless, was the signing of Nomah by the Dodgers. People have been speculating for years that the Garciaparra would end up in LA, and it finally happened. I think Nomar will be much happier playing in LA. He's going to be a small fish in a very large pond celebritywise there. He was obviously never comfortable being a superstar in Boston. The keys for him being successful will be how well he adapts to playing first base and whether he can stay healthy. I think he can still hit if he has his health.

I have to say that I'm very tempted to take a road trip to Shea Stadium or Citizens Bank Park when the Dodgers play there next season. With Nomah, Derek Lowe, Bill Mueller and He Who Must Not Be Named, the Dodgers are starting to look like Red Sox West.

From the new toy department, I picked up a pair of noise cancelling headphones from Cambridge Soundworks. While I would have preferred the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones, the fact that they cost about 8 times as much as the Creative headphones made me try the cheaper pair first. I got them for the plane trip, since it is very difficult for the kids to hear the DVD player with standard headphones over the engine noise.

I tested them out on the train (another noisy environment) this week and they worked remarkably well. They probably cut out about 75% of the background noise as compared to regular headphones, and I was able to play my iPod at a lower volume level. They sound pretty good as well. I'll be really interested to see how they work on the plane, but from my initial tests if you're looking for a pair of noise cancelling headphones and don't want to drop the $300 on the state-of-the-art Bose set, these are a pretty good alternative.

We're off to Florida tomorrow! I'll try to post once or twice from there, but if not I'll put up a complete report when we return.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Now that's more like it.

The Patriots showed yesterday that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the NFL Playoffs, as they rolled over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-0 in Foxborough yesterday. The Pats looked a lot more like the dominant team we have gotten used to seeing the last couple of years. Despite convincing wins over the Jets and the Bills the last two weeks, a lot of fans were still in "look who they beat" mode. Beating the Bucs (9-4 coming into the game) made believers out of a lot of people.

The fantasy scenario around here is that the Indianapolis Colts maintain their unbeaten streak into a playoff game against the Pats. New England beats the Colts in Indy and dashes their Super Bowl hopes yet again. At that point, under NFL rules, I think Peyton Manning would be required to commit ritual suicide.

Just kidding.

I wouldn't have had much confidence in this happening a few weeks ago, but as the Patriots get healthier and some of the replacements get used to the Belichick system, the team is starting to look like a real contender again.

Now that they've clinched the division, the Pats can continue to get people healthy and tune up for the playoffs.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's been way too cold the last couple of days.

On Tuesday I got up and checked the temperature on the Weather widget that comes with MacOS X and it said it was 2 degrees outside. This morning I heard on the radio that it was 9 degrees. And tomorrow we're getting some kind of rain/snow/ice mix that should make getting around the city a really fun experience.

Even though I'm a native-born New Englander, I really don't like winter.

Last Sunday we had the annual holiday party for the USS Christa McAuliffe, which was organized by The Hey. The party was really great, and we had a fantastic turnout that must have been close to 40 people, including many of our kids. It was really nice to see so many members of my McAuliffe family, and I can't wait for the big 20th anniversary celebration at Shore Leave next year.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Just a quick note tonight. I had my ultrasound and an appointment with my endicrinologist today. Everything went well - there are a couple of spots on the ultrasound he wants to keep an eye on, but nothing to be really concerned about. I'll have another ultrasound in the spring. I also had some blood work done, but I won't get the results for a couple of days.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It never gets boring here in Red Sox Nation, does it?

First, of course, we have the Edgar Renteria trade to the Braves. Edgar never really got it going in Boston last season after being the Sox top free agent signing last winter. His defense was atrocious, leading the league with 30 errors, and he didn't make up for it with the bat, either, falling to well below his recent average production.

I don't have much of a problem with Edgar being shipped away after one season. He may flourish again in Atlanta, where it's warm and the fans there might not even realize Rafael Furcal is playing for the Dodgers until mid-May. I think Edgar fits better into the National League game as well, where his bunting and baserunning skills will be more appreciated. In fact, Edgar will probably be remembered best for his two-out bunt base hit against the Orioles last season prior to a Big Papi walk-off home run.

In return for Edgar the Sox get hot 3rd base prospect Andy Marte. Marte basically replaces Hanley Ramirez in the Red Sox farm system. He is projected as a 25-30 home run guy and has been voted the top fielding 3rd baseman in his leage the past four years. At this point I think he'll start the year in Pawtucket, but he might move to the outfield or 1st base depending on what other moves play out.

No sooner does Edgar go to the Braves than Orioles superstar shortstop Miguel Tejada pipes up that he doesn't like the direction (or lack thereof) in which the O's are heading and he wants to be traded. Baseball brains all over Boston started churning with thoughts of Manny for Miggy. It would work really well for the Sox. Tejada would fill the hole at shortstop, nearly replace Manny's production and would protect Ortiz in the lineup. Papi and Tejada are also best friends dating back to their childhood. The dollars left on their contracts are nearly the same, so in a lot of ways this is a perfect trade, at least from a Boston perspective. I'm not sure it would work so well for the Orioles. While Manny is a better hitter than Tejada, he is nowhere near the defensive player. The rumors have already started that the O's have asked for a pitching prospect in addition to Ramirez, with Johnathan Papelbon's name coming up. This would be a deal killer for me, although I would consider a second line pitching prospect like Abe Alvarez instead.

Finally, the rumors continue on the Return of Theo. The Globe said today that he would be coming back as a consultant, with Jed Hoyer and Ben Chernington sharing GM duties. The best part was when cartoonist Larry Johnson had this exchange on WEEI with Peter Gammons, courtesy of

Larry Johnson: If Theo were still running the show, do you think he would have operated the same way in terms of endorsing...

Peter Gammons: You don't think he is?

LJ: I'm sorry...

Gammons: You don't think he is?

LJ: I don't know, is he?

Gammons: (four seconds of silence) Umm, yeah, he definitely would have operated the same way.

LJ: Do you think he still has some contact with them with input?

Gammons: Yes. I don't think there's any question... of course he talks to them, he's very good friends with them all.

Like I said, it never gets dull.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Make sure you click over and read this post from Scott Adams' Dilbert Blog. Laugh-out-loud funny stuff about the best and worst jobs in the world.

Everyone deserves second chances in life.

The Los Angeles Dodgers gave one to the most reviled Red Sox manager since Don Zimmer. The Dodgers hired Grady Little to fill their vacant managerial position yesterday. It's an interesting choice. Can you think of a guy who is less "Hollywood" than He Who Must Not Be Named?

The Dodgers new GM, Ned Colletti, seems to be going a little nuts. Aside from hiring You Know Who, he threw $13 million a year at Rafael Furcal to get him away from the Braves. Now, I think Furcal is a good player, but $13 million? Considering that the Dodgers already had Cesar Izturis, a decent shortstop (although admittedly not at Furcal's level), I don't think that position was their biggest problem.

Another team that has opened the wallet wide in the hot stove season is the Toronto Blue Jays. They signed B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett for five years each at a total of $102 million. Pretty good money for starter who has never won more than 12 games in a season, and a relief pitcher with exactly one year of closing experience. However, assuming these guys live up to their potential, the Blue Jays are going to be a force in the AL East and have a good shot at breaking the Yankees and Red Sox stranglehold on the first two spots in the division.

We're only two weeks away from our desperately needed vacation to Florida. This has been one heck of a year with all the medical stuff and all the changes at work, so I'm really looking forward to getting away. What I'm really looking forward to is a 2-night getaway A. and I are taking while my parents watch the kids. It's been a long time since we've had some "grown-up" time together for more than an evening.

We also have scheduled some fun stuff with the kids, including a day at Epcot, my favorite Disney park. The kids are also going on the Albatross Cruise (the Albatross was the name of Captain Hook's boat, in case you don't know), and of course we have our annual family dinner at Chef Mickey's.

One more Disney related item: the former CFO of my company got a new job. He retired last year and moved down to Celebration, FL, which is the town Disney built on a portion of the land Walt originally purchased back in the '60's. Well, he went out and got a commercial drivers license, joined the Teamsters and is now driving a bus for Disney between the Magic Kingdom and whatever resort they need him to go to. Of course, he's the only $9.25/hour bus driver who comes to work in a red Corvette!

I think this is amazingly cool. Not so much that he's driving a bus for Disney, but that he has the freedom to take the job just because he thinks it would be fun to do. I'm hoping I'm in that position when I hit my late '50's. I could see spending the summer as an usher at some minor league ballpark.

Late note: The Sox traded Doug Mirabelli to the Padres for 2nd baseman Mark Loretta. Loretta was injury plagued last season, but he had a great year in 2004. My only reservation about trading Mirabelli is that he had a great rapport with Wakefield. Wake had his worst stretch of the season last year when Mirabelli was on the DL and Varitek caught him for the most part. It seems like Kelly Shoppach will get a chance to win the backup role, although I expect the Sox will invite some other veteran catchers to spring training to compete for the job as well.

Of course, this begs the question of what happens to minor league prospect Dustin Pedroia, who looked very impressive at 2nd for the Pawsox and Portland last season. Even more oddly, the Sox offered arbitration to Tony Graffinino, who played 2nd much of the second half of last season after Mark Bellhorn's strikeouts got to be too much to take. I'm not sure why they need Graffinino if they have Loretta, but perhaps they think he'll end up getting signed elsewhere or they will offer him as trade bait in a later deal.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I finally got the last piece of unfinished business done with regards to the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. Yes, I got my picture taken with the trophy. It was at the local Barnes & Noble store, so the kids and I trudged through the snow to get our picture taken. Needless to say, it was a big thrill to see the trophy up close and personal. I may have been the last person in New England to have my picture taken with the trophy, but I finally got it done.

We got about 3 inches of snow here today in the first substantial snowfall of the season. Lots of spin-outs and fender benders on the icy roads. Can someone explain to me how people who have lived here all their lives forget how to drive in the bad weather when it starts up every winter? Slow down, and leave plenty of space between your car and the car in front of you. How hard is that to remember? It seems like there are way too many people who think they can drive the same way on a slick December day as they can on a sunny day in June.

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