Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of course, I saw this!

One of the famous lions of the New York Public Library. I'm pretty sure this is Fortitude.


Friday, March 27, 2009

An outlander in the big city

I am writing from the big city. Yes, here I am in the Big Apple, New York City, heart of the Evil Empire. I'm here with my three sisters and two nieces, in honor of a big occasion. My birthday!

So far it's been fun! I arrived eight hours ahead of them, so I was able to spend a rainy Thursday afternoon at the Met. I hate to be so EuroCentric, but I spent all of my time with the American and European masters. I could look at those impressionists and John Singer Sargent all day! (Which I did). Okay, I did see the Egyptian and Asian art on my way to the bathroom.

Today (Friday) started with a long, brisk, highly intensive walk from our flat in Soho over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful sunny morning - fantastic views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The afternoon was spent on a walking tour of Greenwich Village with a tour from New York City Food Tours. What an awesome way to see this area. We heard about the history of the area while tasting some incredible foods. Murray's Cheese Shop! Cookies & Milk Bakery! O&Co olive oils! Snacks at the restaurant run by Leah, one of the Top Chef finalists! After all that, I needed to take a long walk through Washington Square Park, listening to future Bob Dylans strum their guitars.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring - but I know it will end with dinner at Craft, run by Tom Cocchlio, one of the Top Chef judges. Perhaps a visit to Madame Tussaud's, M&M World, some shopping...

Spending time with my sisters here in NY, well, it's a special birthday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cutting the Comcast Cable Ties - or at least trying

One of my frustrations during the heady post-World Series victory days of 2004 - well, really my ONLY frustration! - was my lack of access to every bit of information on the Red Sox victory. My local cable only offered ESPN and ESPN 2, so I couldn't watch the post-game interviews, couldn't see the craziness in Boston. The only way I got to see the victory parade was on my sketchy Internet connection at work. So, as the 2005 season began, I knew that I had to have more.

The solution seemed obvious: the MLB Extra Innings package. I knew that I'd have to upgrade to digital cable (meaning a cable box) to get it, but I decided I'd deal with that. So I dragged myself down to Comcast HQ, and got the process started. I literally had the digital box in my hands when I asked - almost as an afterthought - about adding the EI package. The clerk looked dumbfounded and made a call. Let's see. Our cable company offers all the football and NASCAR you would want, but no baseball package. What?? The clerk admitted that, in our area, EI is only offered through DirecTV. I handed the box back to her, cancelled the order, went home and called DirecTV. Within days, I was all set up - NESN, movies, and even local channels. Yeah!

But I kept the cable. So I had DirecTV on my baseball tv (near the computer) and cable on the main tv. And, of course, two bills to pay each month. That's the way it's stayed since. Until earlier this month.

Our lovely little city has many wonderful things to recommend it. Our cable is not one of them. Specifically, the cost. I believe studies have shown that it is the most expensive in the country. Our "full basic" cable is $54.95 per month. Slowly, steadily, they have moved many of the "basic" channels (the History Channel and the Cartoon Network, for ex) over to digital. As a result, our service has been greatly reduced - without a matching reduction in price. Now, they're offering a special deal - you can get digital for the same price as the basic! Oh, well, not really, since you have to pay a monthly leasing fee of $6.99 for each box. And an installation fee...Oh, you want a DVR, too? Ca-ching.

That was the last straw for me. For only $4.99 per month, I could add a second DTV box - with DVR and High Def. Oh, and because I'm such a good customer, the box is free. Oh, and free installation. Where do I sign??

But Comcast gets you any way they can. If I drop the cable totally, my Internet service goes up $15. However, if I keep "limited local" for $10, there's no change in the Internet. Fine. Oh, and don't forget to add $25 as a "change of service" charge. They are unbelievable.

Even as I write, our local Electric Power Board is laying fiber optic cable, and hope to compete soon with Comcast. I can't wait!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

End of an Era

Photo from my files...

Some sad - but not surprising - news this morning on Curt Schilling's blog. He officially announced his retirement from baseball. After his injury struggles last year, and his increasing involvement in his video game ventures this year, I wasn't shocked by the announcement. I'm also happy that he's quitting before he becomes a shadow of what he once was, desperately tying to stay in the game. Still, to hear it officially does bring some sadness, appreciation and affection.

What an incredible career this man has had. Twenty seasons, 216 career victories, three World Championships over a period of seven years, a World Series MVP. Wow. But his greatest achievement was his role in "breaking the curse" in Boston. From the now-legendary contract negotiations with Theo over Thanksgiving dinner in 2003, his triumphant entrance into Boston, to his awesome post-season appearances in both 2004 and 2007 - he secured his legend in New England, if not in baseball history.

My favorite memory took place during the 2004 WS celebration. Curt gathered the team, each raised a bottle of champagne, and he proclaimed them "the best Red Sox team EVER!" I had tears running down my face. He was right.

Good luck in retirement, Curt!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Those great 70s miniseries

One of the beauties of Netflix is their huge library of films and old tv series. It's great fun to reach back into your memories and revisit some of your favorites. For example, I recently revisited one of my favorite 60s films, "Rome Adventure." Suzanne Pleshette, Troy Donohue, Angie Dickinson... a great way to pass a rainy Saturday afternoon.

So when I read of the re-release of that classic miniseries from 1976, "Captains and the King," I knew what to put at the top of my queue. For me, this miniseries represents the pinnacle of that long lost genre, the multi-hour miniseries. Start with a cast of both fading stars and up-and-coming talents, add a script based on Taylor Caldwell's best selling multi-generational novel, and throw in a hunky lead - it is the perfect example of a sad lamented long lost type of programming.

The series had held up pretty well to the passing years. Caldwell loosely based her novel on the Kennedys - a charismatic patriarch (Richard Jordan), an immigrant from Ireland, who is determined to be the best and to make his son the first Irish Catholic president of the US. Jordan was a renowned stage actor (and grandson of Judge Learned Hand), and it looked like this would be his breakthrough in film. As Joseph Armagh, he commands attention - he steals the show. Tall, handsome, charismatic... Yet as the IMDB describes him, he was "an actor rather than a star." His film roles over the next decade were not chosen to contribute to his popularity, but to allow him to grow as an actor. Sadly, he died at 55 of a brain tumor, in 1993, a fantastic talent lost.

What a great time for epic television the 70s was! Think of some of the great miniseries that came out of that era: Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, Centennial, North and South, Holocaust, The Thorn Birds, The Winds of War, Think of the talents discovered in them: Meryl Streep, Peter Strauss, Nick Nolte, Richard Chamberlain (the true king of the miniseries)... Where are those dramas today? HBO has taken up the mantle somewhat, as has Showtime. But instead of investing in yet another reality show, it's time for the networks to embrace this type of programming again!

In the meantime, thanks to DVD, we can relive those epics once again.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Yahoo! It's Spring Break!

Pedroia has the right idea - Celebrate!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

I forgot to post yesterday and say "Happy St. Patrick's Day!" It was definitely a happy one for the green-clad Red Sox. The Sox had four home runs in yesterday's victory over the Minnesota Twins - including a 450-yarder by Jason Bay. Beckett gave up a couple of runs, but they were not hard hit and really just luck on the part of the Twins. Jason Varitek had a homer from the left side - he's been working on his left-handed swing quite a bit this year, so this was an excellent sign.

But, wait, really the Sox had five home runs - Youkilis hit a gargantuan blast in the WBC last night, with Team USA making the 9th inning comeback to win and advance to the Semi Finals.

I was really into the WBC during the first round, but once Pedroia left due to injury, some of my enthusiasm went with him. I have to admit to hoping the US would lose that last game, so we could get Youk back. I don't want him wearing himself out too soon.

The luck of the Irish was also with me. One of the traditions at the school which employs me is a springtime holiday called "Duck Day." On a random day - usually in late April or early May - it is announced during our morning chapel that it's Duck Day. The boys all change into their "play clothes" and head down to the athletic fields for a day of fun and games. They have blow-up water slides, squirt gun battles, tricycle races, belly flop contests in the outdoor pool, pie eating. Student bands perform. And food - lots and lots of "boy food." First donuts, then Chik-Fil-As, then pizza, then Subway humongous sandwiches. Shaved ice. Chips. Cookies. A Weight Watchers' nightmare!

It's a fun tradition. It gives the kids a chance to burn off some of their pent-up energy and pre-exam nerves. A change of pace for them. Since this is a college prep school, for the most part, they have heavy duty academic schedules, as well as a full slate of extra-curriculars. The faculty like it because it gives us at least a half free day.

This year they're making one big change to the day: they've announced the date. At our faculty meeting this a.m., the Upper School head told us that they were tired of trying to keep the secret of the date, and many faculty have said they were unhappy with not being able to properly plan for their classes. So Duck Day this year will be:

April 6th.

Look at your Red Sox schedule. That date should sound familiar. It's OPENING DAY! The first game of the season - at Fenway Park - against those Devil Rays. I was trying to figure out how I could slip away from the office and watch it live (stomach virus? "woman problems"?). Now I don't need an excuse!
Lucky indeed!
Only 18 days and 21 hours!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

SATS on Sat

During the school year, our school administers the SAT about every 6 weeks. When I was younger and in desperate need of extra cash, I jumped on the opportunity to proctor. There followed a period when the test administrator could never find any proctors, so I continued to help out. Now, it's become a habit. A few hours on a Saturday morning - you drink your coffee, read the newspaper, and collect $98. A few of those Saturdays, and you've paid for some Red Sox tickets!

Usually, I administer the subject test - what used to be called the "Achievement Tests." I like that gig - I'm usually out of the building pretty quickly. However, in March the Subject Tests are not offered - so today I proctored the "Reasoning Tests" instead. As I watched these high school juniors work on their tests, I was suddenly glad not to be a high schooler any more. Imagine reporting to school at 7:45 am on a cold rainy Saturday morning, and sitting in a classroom filling in little bubbles until nearly 1 pm. The first test is an essay - they must write an essay based on an esoteric quote for 25 minutes. That's followed by 5 more 25 minute tests on math or English - with some random 5 minute breaks scattered in there. The final three sections are 20 minutes, 20 minutes and 10 minutes. As you can imagine, by test number 7, you're starting to see some glazed eyes. By test number 10 - the ten minute test - most are tossing down their pencils after 2 or 3 minutes.

The question you have to ask is: how well do these test assess ability? Should someone's high school career be summed up in one morning's test? Should someone's admission to a college hinge on this one morning?

Some colleges have jettisoned the SAT as the sole factor in admission. Many more are making noises that they might follow suit. I think they should look at the whole picture. What extra curriculars does the student have? What makes them special? Maybe the student only had an average score, but spent their weekends volunteering at Habitat or for the Food Bank - does that make them a better candidate?

I am a product of the public school system, and was happy with the education I received. Yet I remember my college guidance sessions - when the councilor suggested I look at nursing or teaching, which he saw as perfect careers for a woman. And I look at how the councilors at my independent school work with each student, discerning their interests and calling colleges to "sell" that student. Yes, that's what our parents pay for - but shouldn't every candidate for college admission get that consideration?

And, randomly, what are the odds that out of 15 students, I would have TWO named Jasmine?? Clearly, we have some lovers of Disney's "Aladdin" around here!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Baseball - tonight!

Yes! Live baseball tonight! On my television! Lowell at 3B! Ortiz at DH! Bay in LF! Remy with the call! Playing the Yankees! Sure, it's only a meaningless Spring Training game, but I'll take all the baseball I can until Opening Day.

Yes, life is good!

On a side note, I finally caught an episode of MLB Tonight on the MLB Network this morning, and I have to say, I really like the Al Leiter-Sean Casey combo. They played off each other really well, had a lot of insights, and just made for an enjoyable show. Another nail in the coffin of ESPN's Baseball Tonight, IMHO.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Welcome Back, Big Papi

Globe photo from Spring Training 2008

Another shocker in the WBC last night. The Netherlands accomplished what was seemingly impossible: they beat the all-star team from the Dominican Republic for the second time. Last night, it took 11 innings - and the Dutch looked like they'd blown in the top of the 11th. Yet, they came back and won, sending a nation into a frenzy of clog dancing and tulip tossing.

I know Big Papi is sad over the results of last night's incredible game. The DR had been one of the favorites going into the tournament, but the Dutch seemed to have their number from the first inning of game one. SportsCenter had a side by side comparison of the two teams. The DR had 23 major leaguers with a combined income of $84 million. The Dutch had 2 MLB players, whose income is $400,000. Of course, the Dutch had Burt Blyleven as their pitching coach!

The upside for RS fans is that Big Papi is now headed back to Fort Myers. Word is that he'll be in the line-up Friday night for the first ST game vs. the Yankees. Coupled with the return of Jason Bay and Mike Lowell, the team is starting to look a little more familiar!

And one other key player will return for Friday night's game. From the Remy Report site this a.m.:
Over the last several weeks, Jerry has received countless emails wishing him well and asking when he will return to the booth. The good news is that Jerry is not only feeling much better after his bout with pneumonia, but he is finally in Florida and will broadcast the game on Friday! He has asked us to say "Thank You" to all of you who have sent in emails and well wishes.
Yeah, Remdawg is back and healthy! Can't wait for Friday night.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome Back, Jay-Bay

Globe photo

I guess Pedroia was right: you only needed to pack one pair of clean undies.

Sorry about Canada's elimination from the WBC. But we're glad to have you back with the gang in Fort Myers.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

WBC reconsidered

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
I've never been a huge fan of the World Baseball Classic. Some of it is the timing. At this time of year, our guys should be with the team for Spring Training, doing the kind of work needed to get ready for the season. Instead, they're having to go full out for the tournament. It also has felt like an "artificial" event, manufactured by MLB to sell tickets. On the other hand, it's a great opportunity for baseball players in places where baseball isn't a big sport to play in an international tournament (for a fantastic look at such teams in Ireland, see the documentary "Emerald Diamond"). And it can showcase up and coming players, players perhaps destined to be in the Majors.

Honestly, I don't think I watched any of the games during the first WBC in 2006. It didn't help that the USA got eliminated early in the tournament, which killed any interest I had. But I was determined to give it a try this year, especially since the one of the first games was the USA v. Canada, a game which took place yesterday at the Rogers' Center in Toronto.

What a game! The Red Sox on the team certainly did their part - Youk with a home run, Pedroia with a double, and both flashing the leather big time. The USA team itself looked a bit shaky - they had the bases loaded twice and couldn't get a run across. But they held on and won, 6-5. It was really fun to watch a game that sort of counts for something, where all the "name" players played almost the whole game, and that literally went down to the last out.

What's interesting is how Dustin Pedroia is emerging as a national figure. We've loved him, his feisty nature, his will to win, his sense of fun - but now the rest of the country seems to be catching up. His series of commercials for the MLB The Show video game are really funny - has he taken acting lessons since those dreadful Sullivan Tire Commercials? And listening to the announce crew on yesterday's game, they talked about how Pedie is the spark on the USA team. His intensity, his desire to win, is what seems to be fueling the team. They quoted coach Billy Ripken saying how Pedie is becoming his favorite guy on the team. All the attention would make me nervous if we were talking about another player, but Pedie seems pretty grounded, able to tune out the distractions - even embrace them. I have a good feeling about his 2009 season!

And on the topic of our great young players, great news today the Sox have agreed to a five year deal with pitcher Jon Lester. It'll be worth $30 million for Jon - which may turn out to be a great bargain for us!

Looking forward to seeing this for the next five years!

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Good news!

File photo
Good news about Mike Lowell. His rehab continues to go well, and Tito says we could see him back in the lineup in a limited role next week. Yeah! We really need him to be healthy and to play well if we hope to contend this year. His off-the-field leadership is also really important to the Red Sox. So, keep up the good work, Mike!

Some bittersweet news out of San Francisco this week. Dave Roberts was let loose by the Giants - they are apparently going in a "younger" direction. What this will mean for Roberts' future, I'm not sure. There's a terrific look at "The Steal" on SF Gate - it always give me chills to remember that incredible moment in the run to the 2004 World Series Championship. The photo above was taken when he played for the Padres, during a series against the Braves. I was standing by the dugout during BP and called out to him. He saw my Red Sox shirt and came right over to sign for me. He went on about how great RS fans have been to him, how they always came out to see him play and thank him for that great moment. What a great guy, a total gentleman.

One other bit of interesting news. According to today's New York Times, Alex Rodriguez will almost certainly by undergoing surgery for his torn labrum. Estimated time on the DL: four months. At least he'll be back in time to choke in the playoffs again.

I must write myself a note - so that I remember to change the clocks tonight! Ugh - losing an hour of sleep is not fun, especially when you have to work on Saturday and Sunday is lone day of "rest" for the week. Oh, well, I am grateful that I have a job these days...

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Friday, March 06, 2009


National Geographic photo

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The end of the latest episode of Dramirez

Manny's signed. Whoopee. For the same deal he rejected last week. Ooops.

Once upon a time I was a Manny lover. I loved to watch him hit. I loved to watch him try to chase down balls in the outfield. I loved to watch him pop into the Green Monster for a break. I loved to watch him cut up with his teammates. I loved his childlike enthusiasm for hitting, for the game, and his unique view of life.

Now, I see him as just another greedy ballplayer. There's part of me that's happy to see him get his comeuppance - and to see Boras fail. And if I had even a slight bit of admiration left in me for Manny, it was killed by this report on his press conference today. Some of the lowlights:

"I’ve already made my money." [This was repeated several times]
"Hey, sometimes it’s better off to have a two-year deal in a place that you’re going to be happy than have an eight-year deal in a place where you’re going to suffer. So I’m happy, I’m moving on with my life."
(Are you going to opt-out) “No, not yet"

At least he's not our problem any more. I think when Theo traded Manny, he added 15 years to Terry Francona's life.

And I swear this is my last post about Manny Ramirez ever.

I need something to cleanse my palate. How about this

[Sorry - "embedding turned off ;( ]

Or maybe some of the Baseball Project [I've almost worn out this CD. This isn't my favorite cut of the cd - that honor goes to "Ted F-----g Williams" - but this is a good sample


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Manny being....stupid?

It's March 3rd, and time to check in our former left fielder. At the season's end, I never would have guessed that we would get to this point in Spring Training, and Manny Ramirez would still be unemployed. The contract negotiations with the Dodgers have dragged on all winter. Last week Ramirez and his agent the Evil Scott Boras rejected a $45 million offer, mainly because a chunk of the money was deferred and to be paid over several years. This weekend, Dodger owner Frank McCourt said they were "back to scratch" in the talks. Boras, meanwhile, keeps referring to other teams that are interested. Right.

Who's to blame here? Most agree that, while he is a genius at baseball, Manny lacks some sense in other areas of his life. Still, he's an adult who has played professional sports his whole life. He has the power to direct his agent. He's had the power to accept or reject offers.

It would be easy to blame the Evil Boras. He has proven to be the puppetmaster in past negotiations. He certainly orchestrated Manny's exit from Boston, despite his protests to the contrary. His talent as an agent is undisputed. But in recent years, the size of his ego seems to be exceeding his talent. Several of his deals this off season have not worked out as he seemed to have planned - Jason Varitek can attest to that.

In this case, he decided Manny's worth and has stuck with that. He doesn't want to budge from his figure - and has stroked Manny's ego to the point where Manny believes any lesser offer is a sign of disrespect. So, this whole debacle is the perfect storm - two huge egos unable to adjust their expectations to the economic realities of 2009. Add to this the growing suspicion that maybe the Red Sox were right to rid their clubhouse of this "virus" when they did - well, I'm sure many GMs and owners are realizing they might not want to deal with the headaches this hitting savant might bring with him.

Meanwhile, as a Red Sox fan, it's such a relief not to be dealing with this. No more wondering when Manny will show up at camp. No more wondering what Manny will do next... The biggest complaint from the Boston press has been the "boring" nature of the Red Sox camp. Just a team of professionals trying to prepare themselves for another World Championship. Personally, I'm enjoying the fact that the biggest story out of Fort Myers is the facial hair of our first baseman!

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Get well soon, RemDawg

NESN photo

Although I have loved watching baseball again on NESN - they've broadcast two games so far - I really miss Jerry Remy in the booth. He and Don Orsillo make the Sox broadcasts "must-see" tv. Whether it's livening up a boring, one-sided game, sharing his insider insights, or his general silliness, the games just fly by when he and DO are broadcasting.

According to Orsillo, Jerry is sidelined with a "chest infection" he caught while on vacation. He's recuperating in Boston.

Get well soon, RemDawg. I hope we have you back where you belong for next week's gamecast!

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