November 2005 Archives

Free Software

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I've come across a couple of great lists for free software. As a real "application-aholic", who can't resist installing new software, these are real shots of opium for me!

The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

Pricelessware 2006

Some cool stuff - some things I know about and some things I've never heard of. Sometime soon, I will put together a list of all the Windows software I use on a regular basis. It includes several things from these lists (like 7-Zip and especially PowerPro, which I've been using since it was called Stiletto.

Protect your data

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A very nice list of easy things to do in order to minimize the amount of your data getting out into the wild. Ten things to do that aren't all that hard.

The only one I would quibble with is #8, having to do with the supermarket "loyalty" cards. Up until recently, the idea of swapping my card with others in order to confuse the data collection seemed like a sweet idea. You are supposed to be able to opt out of the data collection part, but I haven't seen any results from doing that. In fact, they proudly crow how much I've saved, so I know they are still keeping track. But even if they didn't do that, I would never know if they kept quiet about it.

But lately I've been finding that it is useful to me to have them track my purchases, despite how "Big Brother"-ish it feels. Now they can send me a personalized web circular, that lists everything that I've bought that is on sale. And as I've started to use Peapod, their online delivery partner, that too can show me all my purchases in one big list, making it very easy to buy all my regular stuff. So I suppose as long as I'm getting value for my data, I'm okay with that.

Still, the rest of the things in the list are fairly easy to do. It seems almost pointless, these days, to try and safeguard your social security number, as it gets used all over the place. I did opt-out of having it be my Massachusetts drivers license number. So I guess every little bit helps. It's like the old joke about two guys getting chased by a hungry bear. One turns to the other and asks if he thinks he can outrun the bear. The other one says probably not, but I don't need to outrun the bear; I just need to outrun you! So if you can make your data a little bit harder to get at then the next person, perhaps that will save you some headache down the road.

EPIC West: Electronic Privacy Information Center West Coast Office: Hoofnagle's Consumer Privacy Top 10

Cocktail of the Week - Rain Drop

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Rain DropI had to do my own thing for a cocktail "party" this week, as my friend Michael was away on a family trip and my wife Gabrielle was too busy. I had picked up a couple of "premium" vodkas during the week - Tito's Handmade Vodka (an annoying, Flash-only site) and Rain Vodka (site under construction), so I decided to try and make something with one of them. I didn't like the recipes on the Tito's web site, so I tried the one that came with the Rain vodka:

    Rain Drop

  • 3 oz. RAIN vodka
  • 2 oz Blue Curacao
  • 2 tsp superfine (or bar) sugar
  • 1/2 a lemon (sic) and its juice

One problem with vodka is that pretty much any mix will completely overpower nearly tasteless vodka. And Blue Curacao, to be honest, is a pretty dreadful cocktail mix. I'm sure there's probably a "premium" brand that actually tastes like the orange liqueur it is supposed to be, but all you ever find in the stores are the bottom shelf brands like Leroux, Mr. Boston and Arrow (the one I have). And its really overpowering and artificial tasting, so I'm not sure why I did this. I did see, after a Google search, an interesting sounding premium brand called Newport Blue Curacau that sounds like they might even make it with real ingredients, but unfortunately I don't see a distributor anwywhere in New England. I'll have to continue my search for a better tasting Curacau.

But it sure does look purty, as long as you don't actually taste it. It tastes okay at the start, but as Gabrielle said, the finish is awful, due to the artificial taste of the Blue Curacau. For my second attempt, I added more lemon juice and only enough Curacau to give it the cool blue look, and it was much more palatable. And yes, the recipe did say "1/2 a lemon", so I threw the lemon right into the cocktail shaker. I don't see why not, and it worked out fine.

I suppose I probably should have just made a vodka martini. I'm not a big fan of vodka martinis, much preferring to use Bombay Sapphire (another damned Flash page) and just the barest hint of Noilly Prat dry vermouth. But that might be the only way, besides as a shooter, that you can actually taste vodka. I did find an interesting looking site with lots of cool martini accessories, Swank Martini Company. You can see my favorite martini glass in the picture. It's got a big bowl, easy to handle, fits nicely into the door shelf of most freezers and has a nice heft to it. And, most importantly, it is clear. Colored martini glasses don't make much sense to me, as you either want to see the crystal clear perfection of a great martini or you want to see the neat color of your latest cocktail creation. But I'll have to check this site out for other cocktail glasses.

For entertainment, I watched Sideways. It was a fun movie even if, like most Alexander Payne movies, there were very few likable characters. But it was an enjoyable couple of hours anyway, despite having our dog Spenser curled up next to me. His close encounter of the skunk kind the other night has left him with a nose-curdling smell, despite it not being a direct hit and him getting a full groomer's treatment.

Thanksgiving Play

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Squaw AdrienneIt was the annual kindergarten Thanksgiving Day play today, and Adrienne played the same part that her sister did last year - an Wampanoag squaw who shows the Pilgrims how to pick fruits and berries. She looked remarkably cute in her little Indian costume, if I do say so myself!

We definitely need to take a trip to Plimoth Plantation, the "living museum" for the time. It is one of those places I have been to since I was in grade school. Along with Old Sturbridge Village, it is a mainstay of historical class trips for any school kid south of Concord NH. I'm sure the girls would be fascinated with both, as they are very curious about history. And that opens up lots of places we should go that I've never been to, like the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument.

Anti-religion Bumper Stickers

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Some very funny bumper stickers. If I put bumper stickers on my car, these would be some of them:

" So Many Right-Wing Christians So Few Lions "
" God: A Make Believe Friend For Grown Ups "
" Evolution is a FACT God is just a theory "
" MILITANT AGNOSTIC I Don't Know And You Don't Either "
" Don't Pray In My School And I Won't Think In Your Church "
Check'em out!

Religion (Anti) Bumper Stickers

Red Sox / Yankee joke

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A forwarded Red Sox / Yankee joke (thanks, Mom!). Warning - offensive to young ears and Yankee fans (don't care about the latter!):
A New York family of Yankees fans heads out one Saturday to shop for the youngest boy's birthday. While in the sports shop, the son picks up a Red Sox jersey and says to his older sister, "I've decided to become a Red Sox fan and I would like this Boston jersey for my birthday."

His big sister is outraged by this and promptly whacks him upside his head and says, "Go talk to mother!"

Off goes the little lad with the jersey in hand and finds his mother. "Mom?"

"Yes, son?"

"I've decided I'm going to be a Red Sox fan and I would like this jersey for my birthday."

The mother is outraged at this, promptly whacks him around the head and says, "Go talk to your father!"

Off he goes with the Red Sox jersey in hand and finds his father. "Dad?"

"Yes, son?"

"I've decided I'm going to be a Red Sox fan and I would like this jersey for my birthday."

The father is outraged and promptly whacks his son in the back of his head and says, "No son of mine is ever going to be seen in THAT!"

About half an hour later they're all back in the car and heading towards home. The father turns to his son and says "Son, I hope you've learned something today."

The son says, "Yes, Dad, I have."

"Good, son, what is it?"

The son replies, "I've only been a Red Sox fan for an hour, and I already hate you Yankee bastards."

Reading List

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I've got quite a stack of books to read! When I see something interesting on the 'net, I put in an "order" from the local library. Here's a list of recently, currently and see to be read books:
    Recently Finished
  • Reversing The Curse : inside the 2004 Boston Red Sox by Dan Shaughnessy [ISBN 0618517480] : This book sucked the joy out of a grandiose happening. While the beginning of it got some of the feelings right, CHB (Curly Headed Boyfriend, as my buddies on the BoSox mailing list are fond of calling him, using "Jurassic" Carl Everett's term of derision) spent far too much time on the peccadilloes of the various players, like Nomar's sulkiness, Pedro's prima-donna act, and Curt's self-aggrandizements. It was a struggle getting through it, and nothing should tarnish the unmitigated joy of the entire 2004 season like this book does.
  • Captiva by Randy Wayne White [ISBN 0399141405] : I often go in and browse the new books at the library. I'll scan through the new mystery books and see if there are any interesting looking series that I haven't read before. I saw the latest one by this author and so I wandered down back and grabbed Captiva. It isn't the first in the "Doc Ford" series, but oddly enough it seems to be the first one written from the first person perspective (mainly, anyway). The first two I saw were third person, and for my mysteries, I much prefer a first person narrative. Despite the blurb on the front of the book ("The best new writer since Hiassen!"), I didn't see the connection. It was okay, but a tad pedestrian. Enough so that I probably won't seek out any of the others.
  • Mind Game / by the writers of Baseball prospectus, Steven Goldman, editor [ISBN 0761140182] : Now this is more like it! Subtitled "How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning", it chronicles the season in a very detailed, statistically-oriented way. Using a method very similar to the Bill James Baseball Abstract, each part of the season is examined from a Sabermetrical standpoint. Some fine, opinionated writing, if sometimes a bit dry. Still, a real eyeopener and I enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended if you are at all interested in the numbers behind the story.
    Currently Reading
  • Spring Forward : the annual madness of daylight saving by Michael Downing [ISBN 1593760531] : A look into the social roots of Daylight Saving (not with an 's'!) Time. Not too much mention of the pros and cons, just how it came about, and a general history of time, especially in the United States. Hard to believe just how fractured it was in the beginning of the 20th century, with cities, towns, states and regions all going their own way. It's a little heavy on the quotes and sometimes hard to follow for some reason, but still it tells a fascinating story.
  • Freedom Of Expression® : overzealous copyright bozos and other enemies of creativity by Kembrew McLeod [ISBN 0385513259] : a very funny yet chilling account of the stifling effects on creativity by bean counters and other copyright police. A truly remarkable look into reuse, mostly of songs, but of other material too, and just how bizarre the whole thing is. One of the most fascinating aspects is that, by law, you have the right to record a cover version of a song, with the rates specified by an early 20th century law. But you cannot re-use even a snippet of a song without opening you up to a whole host of lawsuits. The most chilling story was of Verve's mega-hit Bittersweet Symphony. They used a five second sample from an old Rolling Stones B-side, that they actually negotiated the rights to. However, an old manager successfully sued them, even though you can hardly hear it, as it is buried underneath the many layers of the song. They lost 100% control over their song. To make matters worse, another old manager sued them for the song recording, while the first one got them for the songwriting! To rub salt into their wounds, when the song was nominated for a Grammy, because Verve had lost all rights to the song, it was credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards! Read the whole sad story here on Wikipedia. But the book is rife with infuriating examples just like this; for example, the descendants of Woody Guthrie, one of the most liberal borrowers and donators in all of folkdom, aggressively protecting any re-use of "his" songs. Don't read this if you want to keep your blood pressure down!
    In The Queue
  • Curse of the Narrows by Laura M. Mac Donald [ISBN 0802714587] : the story of the disaster in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Dec. 6, 1917, when an freighter loaded with ammunition blew up in Halifax Harbor. The resulting firestorm and tidal wave killed over 1500 people and obliterated much of downtown Halifax. It's a compelling story, made even more interesting to me because of a local angle - due to Boston's immediate response to the disaster, sending a train load of help and supplies through a raging blizzard, the good people of Halifax to this day donate a huge Christmas tree to the city of Boston.
  • In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen [ISBN 0670836176] : Matthiessen is one of my favorite authors. His Killing Mister Watson trilogy is a fascinating look into early Florida history, and he writes some incredible travelogues. This book is a 600+ page behemoth on the '75 shootout at Wounded Knee between the FBI and the American Indian Movement. It was suppressed for over 8 years due to pending litigation, all of which were thrown out, costing over US$2 million dollars in legal fees. This examines the dubious motives of the FBI, as well as making a compelling case for Nelson Peltier's innocence. A little too "spiritual" at the start, from what I've read - sorry, but I don't have a spiritual bone in my body! But we'll see what happens once it gets past the American Indian background and gnaws at the bones of the case. Makes a good companion to the book on tape I'm listening to, The journey of Crazy Horse, written and read by Joseph M. Marshall, III. I tend to shy away from these things, as everyone knows it'll end in tears (very much like I'm skittish about Holocaust movies and books), but this has been a fun listen so far, as it details the life and times of Crazy Horse, the celebrated Lakota warrior and leader. The author is a Lakota Indian himself.
  • The Republican War On Science by Chris Mooney [ISBN 0465046754] : I read his blog The Intersection (link found on the left), and here he documents the unprecedented misuse of facts and science by the current Republican administration. Another book to raise my blood pressure!
    Non-library books to be read
  • The Ancestor's Tale : a pilgrimage to the dawn of evolution by Richard Dawkins [ISBN 0618005838] : One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read, it uses an amazingly simple conceit - work backwards through history and use various "Rendezvous" where our lineage meets another branch on the tree of life, and then use that meeting as a springboard to discuss something about evolution. I started to read it after taking it out from the library and realized I absolutely had to own this book. Now I've got to get started back on it. Simply a fascinating work on a variety of subjects, from evolution, to gene theory and biology. You have to read this book.
  • Seabiscuit : an American legend by Laura Hillenbrand [ISBN 0449005615] : the celebrated book on the celebrated horse. I buy my mother-in-law a bunch of books every year for Christmas. She's a voracious reader and it's nice to try and get her some interesting books, as she is very willing to read most anything. So I've confiscated this one back from her now that she's done with it.
  • A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin [ISBN 0553801503] : book four of the immensely popular fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I'm not normally much of a fantasy fiction fan. I recently tried a couple after seeing a list of fantasy authors on Pharyngula, but none of them really grabbed me. But this series of George RR Martin's about the land of Westeros has grabbed me every since I picked up the first book when it first came out. Maybe it is the realistic setting, with a minimum of magic with plenty of medieval bloodshed. He's very willing to kill of any of his characters at the drop of a hat! I even reread the trilogy just to be ready for book four. I've had this book on pre-order for more than a year and it finally arrived the other day. But I hear it really is book 4a, as the book grew too big for a single printing. So I think I'll await A Dance With Dragons and let my sister, who is also a huge Song fan too, and is patiently awaiting the birth of their second child, read it first. As for medieval books, I can also highly recommend the Dorothy Dunnett series, The Lymond Chronicles. The six books were recently (well, within the last 10 years!) republished in a handsome set of trade paperbacks by Vintage. Really top notch writing, with intricate royal stories. Great stuff!
Phew! It is quite a pile of books, and I hope I can slog through most of them. I don't have nearly enough time to read, but I try to get up into bed well before 11pm, and settle in with a good book. I put the TV onto some sports contest, almost certainly a hockey one this time of year (let's all hear it for Center Ice!), and read my book. Or books. Or fall asleep.

Friday Random 10

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Well, the ripping is up to 128 tracks. And I'm sure my MP3 player is around here somewhere.
  1. Four Piece Suit - "Bombasteroid" (Matinee Idylls) : more swingin' goodness from the local boys.
  2. The Smiths - "How Soon Is Now?" (Newbury Comics: The Early Years) : I love the way The Smiths use depressed lyrics with poppy music. Their Strangeways Here We Come is one of my all time favorite albums.
  3. The Church - "The Unguarded Moment" (Of Skins and Heart) : a favorite 80s New Wave song. I'm not sure I've ever listened to the entire album, just love this song.
  4. Bob Dylan - "Tangled Up In Blue" (Blood On The Tracks) : the best song on one of the best albums of all time. Some amazingly intricate rhyming goes on in this song, as with Simple Twist Of Fate. Each of the songs on this album is a story in itself. Turn it up!
    I had a job in the great north woods
    Working as a cook for a spell
    But I never did like it all that much
    And one day the ax just fell.
    So I drifted down to New Orleans
    Where I happened to be employed
    Workin' for a while on a fishin' boat
    Right outside of Delacroix.
    But all the while I was alone
    The past was close behind,
    I seen a lot of women
    But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
    Tangled up in blue.

    She was workin' in a topless place
    And I stopped in for a beer,
    I just kept lookin' at the side of her face
    In the spotlight so clear.
    And later on as the crowd thinned out
    I's just about to do the same,
    She was standing there in back of my chair
    Said to me, "Don't I know your name?"
    I muttered somethin' underneath my breath,
    She studied the lines on my face.
    I must admit I felt a little uneasy
    When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe,
    Tangled up in blue.
  5. Depeche Mode - "Personal Jesus (Kazan Cathedral Mix)" (Just Say Da) : Not my favorite mix of this song, but the only one I own, as part of the Just Say Yes series. A longer instrumental version of this toe-tapping 80s hit. No idea what it means!
  6. Frou Frou - "It's good to be in love" (Details) : Another smooth vocal from Imogene, with a clever beat. Most every track on this CD is solid.
  7. Richard Barone - "Love Is A Wind That Scream" (Cool Blue Halo) : Wondefult live album by the former lead of The Bongos, this is my favorite original song. He does several great covers, along with an eclectic version of The Bongos hit, Numbers with Wings.
  8. Dead Can Dance - "Indus" (Spirit Chaser) : I've been a huge DCD fan since their first album, back in the heyday of 4AD Records. Back in my wild and carefree single days, I used to pick up just about everything from their catalog, reveling in the wonder of it all.And Dead Can Dance remain a real favorite. My girls really enjoy the strange sounds Lisa & Brendan can generate, and yet dig the rhythms too.
  9. Queen - "She Makes Me So" (Sheer Heart Attack ) : My favorite track from this CD. I wore this album out, back in the vinyl days. And the rhythmic stomping in this love song just slays me.
  10. Cruel Sea - "Seems Twice" (The Honeymoon Is Over) : instrumental time from the blues-rooted Aussie band. You know, I'm not even sure why, when or where I picked this CD up, but it sure has some great songs on it.

Cocktail of the week - Cosmopolitan

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Okay, so we went boring last night for our cocktail choice. We drank a classic fern bar cocktail, the Cosmopolitan:


  • 2 oz. Vodka (I used Three Olives tonight)
  • 2 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
Just shake over cracked ice, strain and serve. Not a real challenging drink, in any way; I generally prefer cocktails with a little more character and personality, but it did the job just fine. I also used a slightly different recipe, as found in The Ultimate Book of Cocktails, a big, lavish cocktail book I picked up at remainder for about US$4. Very cool book, well worth the price. I've seen it in a small version as well. Its recipe:
  • 1 1/2 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
So it steps down the tartness and ratchets up the sweetness, but to be honest, I didn't taste too much of a difference. Generally not a cocktail I make much, but still a solid standby.

Rhiannon's evening

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Rhiannon is missing two teeth now. The Tooth Fairy visited last night, coughing up an outrageous US$5 for her fourth dropped tooth. This time, like her last one, she didn't already have replacements lined up, so she got a very cute little gap. As the song goes, "All [she] wants for Christmas is her two front teeth!". You can't really get a good look here (click on it for a bigger view), but I'll try to get a better picture tomorrow This one shows her in her ballet outfit, as they had just gotten back from their ballet/tap dancing class..

She also regaled us with a couple of rhymes tonight. Not sure exactly where they are coming from...

Mary had a vampire bat
His fur was black as night
He followed her to school one day
And promised not to bite

She brought him out for show and tell
The teacher screamed and ran
And school was cancelled for a week
Just like Mary planned

And, in the same vein:

Hush Little monster
Don't you cry
Papa's gonna give you to Frankenstein
If you and Frank
Can't get Along
Papa's gonna send you to old King Kong

Adrienne's evening

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Adrienne was very quiet tonight, as she headed off to the bathroom for the nightly ritual of washing, bathroom and teeth brushing. One of us will go in with her, to help out with the brushing. They do a very good job themselves, but we like to get in a little scrubbing ourselves.

But tonight she went in herself and was in there for quite some time. And it was quiet - too quiet for our little Adrienne. I got a little worried, figuring she was up to no good - flooding the bathroom, unraveling all the toilet paper, you know, something. But when I went in, I found out she had been a busy little beaver, only it was moving all their Care Bear (tm) toys that had been on the side of the tub drying out. She set up a little bridge for them to go acroos the floor, then they climbed up onto the counter and carefully lined themselves up in matching color order:

Red and orange, yellow and green,
Shiny blue and Purple (and pink!) too.

Care Bears as a snailAnd then, because she's always thinking and her mind is going along a kerjillion miles a second, she quickly realigned them. This time, she said they were in the shape of a snail. She can be mighty tough to keep up with, especially at bed time. Her mind never slows down and it takes her awhile to get settled into sleep. Tonight, she was going and going and going until well past her nominal bedtime, which should be 7pm but is generally considered to be 8pm.

Cartoon Torture

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A couple of very funny cartoons about Dick Cheney and the despicable habit of viewing torture as justified in any way:

Dick Cheney's Guide to Solving Problems with Torture
Anti-rape is for wussies

Boston Baseball Book

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75RedSox.JPGI'm proud to have contributed to the newly published book, '75: The Red Sox Team that Saved Baseball. It is a collection of short biographies on all the members of the fabled '75 Red Sox, who came up one game short in the best World Series ever played. It is so much easier to think about them, in the post-2004 glow, now isn't it?

Anyway, I wrote the Juan Beniquez biography, and it was a humbling experience. Of course, I waited until the last minute to get started, but I did a pretty good job getting the words down, I thought. I tried to get in touch with Mr. Beniquez, having gotten a number in Puerto Rico that I thought was his. But despite leaving many messages over a period of a couple of weeks, I never did get a chance to talk to him, which was unfortunate because I was unable to add any pre- or post-baseball experience to my bio.

But I did get an extensive writeup of his baseball career and sent it off for initial editing. It came back with some excellent suggestions, so I incorporated them and sent it off again. This time, though, it went to a fact checker. And boy, was I embarassed when I got the reply - talk about an ugly smackdown! I got even the simplest fact wrong, like screwing up his major league debut (I mentioned his first atbats, when in fact, he had appeared in the game before as a fielder - doh!). It was a sobering experience, but I'm looking forward to writing some more in the future!

It was a great project, edited magnificently by Bill Nowlin and Cecilia Tan, and coordinated perfectly by David Southwick, all proud SABR Boston chapter members, as are nearly all the authors. It is fascinating reading and I encourage you all to take a look, if you are in the slightest a Boston Red Sox, or even baseball, fan. | Nowlin, Bill & Cecilia Tan - '75: The Red Sox Team that Saved Baseball

Olde Towne Team musings

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A few thoughts about the local sports teams, after a hard morning between the pipes at hockey:

Red Sox

  • Theo - it's really hard to imagine what is (or was) going on between The Powers That Be (Henry and Luchino) and Theo Epstein, ex-Sox GM. Sure they dicked him around salary-wise, but I still think Theo should have signed for a 5x increase in money (from US$300,000 to US$1,500,000 per year). I can only think that at such a tender age, Theo felt like he'd climbed the mountain and didn't really like what he saw from the peak. You can tell he doesn't have a family, because there's no way he'd turn down that kind of financial security if he had a wife and a couple of kids. But maybe that's the point - he doesn't need it (now...) so why not take advantage of it?
  • AL MVP - it really hurts to say it, but a strong case can be made for Alex Rodriquez to win the MVP over our own David Ortiz. I don't buy it that a DH cannot win the award; no one is claiming that Jason Giambi or Sammy Sosa won the award because of their strong defense. But you have to give points if the player does have a good glove, and combined with stats that match or exceed Big Papi's, I will, ever so grudgingly, accept the award going to New York. But I still would have place Papi first, but maybe that's something you can only see if you are watching the team every day. There is just no way that A-Rod was a valuable to the team as Papi. A-Rod is just a big star on a team of stars, yet Papi carries the team in a nearly spiritual way. He's the leader in the clubhouse, a magnet for the public eye and is a prodigious talent. The only knock on him, personality-wise, is his frequent displays of disgust on called strikes, even obvious ones. But he's the man here on this team and in this town, which is a responsibility that A-Rod can barely imagine. Big Papi is the MVP in my book. Can you believe that Ted Williams never won an MVP award? Not in the year he hit .406, nor in either of his two(!) Triple Crown years - a staggering thought. Now that's a ripoff!


  • Year to Date - it's been a real struggle for the defending Super Bowl champs this year. I think we are really seeing just how important Rodney Harrison was to this team. Exhibit A was the last part of Super Bowl XXXVIII, when Delhomme started throwing the ball all over the place after Harrison left the game with a broken arm. I'm not so concerned about the running game. Some years it is an integral part of the team and other years it isn't; neither seems to be indicative of a Super Bowl victory. I believe in Belichek!
  • Bruschi - incredible what he is doing, isn't it? He's just now beginning to make a real difference, as he was a force to be reckoned with against the Dolphins. The defense in general did what Patriot defenses have done over the past few years - bend but not break. Get turnovers, especially in the red zone. And make big plays at the end of the game.


  • Struggles - this team just has not jelled. The defense has been suspect, finding themselves standing around flatfooted too often. They just don't seem to be fast enough for "Today's NHL".
  • Thornton - Jumbo Joe does alright, but he just doesn't seem to be taking real advantage of the new refereeing. He complained mightily a few years back about all the clutching and grabbing, but now that it has slackened, it doesn't seem to have changed his game. Someone of his talent should be driving the net, and shooting a lot more. He'll either score, get a great scoring chance, or draw a penalty. Instead, he sets up behind the net and tries to feed others. Not what we need from our superstar.


It was a good season, coming up just short once again. I was wondering what kind of parade, if any, the Revs would get if they actually ever won the final game. But they give up an easy goal in overtime, and for the third time, come away losers. Maybe they're the ones to take over the Red Sox crown as the ultimate heart breakers?


Sorry, don't watch basketball.

I'm hoping to get to a few college hockey games. I try to bring one of my daughters to one every year, as I have friends that have Boston College hockey season tickets and I can usually get a pair. It's a real good time. I haven't been to a Bruins game in quite some time. Pretty expensive. But we are going to the December 17th Patriots game versus the Buccaneers.

Update: Excellent post by Jayson Stark on that says what I was trying to say: Big Papi should've been the MVP! Stark: A glove story

Interior decorating

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Phew! These blogs sure suck up a lot of time! I just spent several hours on this blog, trying to clean up the formatting and add a couple of things. Didn't seem like it would be all that much work, but before I knew it, time had just slithered on by! Here's a short run down of the changes:
  • Biggest one - I got the formatting of comments working! I've gone away from the "deprecated" popup comment window, and now you just do comments right on the individual entry page. I've also added links to sign in via either TypeKey or OpenID.
  • I went to the three column listing on all the archive pages: monthly, category (see right sidebar for these two) and individual.
  • I added a "Best of..." collection in the left hand sidebar. Just a few posts I'd like to highlight.
  • Our weather sticker in the lower left. This shows our current weather conditions, with a link to our page on Wunderground and a direct link to the fancy weather page.
  • I tweak the format of the title bar a bit too, plus some other minor formatting fiddling.
And that took like 4 hours worth of fiddling, and I still have some more to do. Double phew!


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The big project for this weekend, besides the ongoing interior repainting, was the installation of a new weather station. My wife Gabrielle is a real weather weenie. She used to be one of those that had the Weather Channel running all the time. We had a Weather Monitor ][ for many years, but the rain gauge hasn't worked since we moved, the temp gauge was badly installed and the anemometer seemed to have died.

She's trying to raise a new generation of weather weenies, and Rhiannon in particular seems to be getting the weather bug. So as a sort of early Christmas present, I picked up an Oregon Scientific WMR968 wireless weather station. It includes the 3 basic sensors - temp, wind and rain, all connected to the touch screen base station via wireless technology. I bought it from, a very good site selling lots of different brands, with lots of good info too.

I haven't had all that much luck with wireless technology here. Not sure if it is because of the big antennaes just down the road, other interference or a too-solid house, but wireless computing technology has been a dismal failure, unable to connect two rooms away. So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I installed the sensors and was gratified to find out they connect just fine with the base station.

The software worked out very well, and in includes pieces to add updates to, as well as to create an entire weather web site with one click. So now you can find out exactly what the weather is here in Paradise, otherwise known as Medford, Massachusetts!

Medford,MA 0155 Local Weather Conditions

Cocktail of the Week - Jack Rose

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The cocktail of the week is yet another classic cocktail. It is an especially appealing Christmas time drink, looking very cheery:

Jack Rose

  • 1 1/2 oz. Applejack
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine syrup
Just mix it all together in lightly crushed ice, and strain into chilled cocktail glass, decorating with a lime slice. Now you have a very pretty red and green drink. I should've taken a snapshot of our drinks, as they came out very nice.

Some notes on this very delicious cocktail:

  • You can make it with any apple brandy, including Calvados, a French apple-based brandy. But I find the Lairds to add just that right touch of sweetness and stick with that.
  • You can make it with lemon juice as well, just shrink the amount to 1/2 oz. But the lime juice version tastes and looks best to me.
  • Don't use Rose's Grenadine. It's truly awful. I had a very delicious French (I think) grenadine syrup, but unfortunately I didn't keep track of the brand and I've been on a fruitless (ah!) quest for it ever since the bottle ran dry. My current favorite is the Fee Brothers brand, but it is still just a pale imitation. But please, do try to find some other brand besides Rose's. It'll ruin this wonderful drink. It'll require some work, but trust me, it is worth it.
We also started season three of The Sopranos. The season opener lack a strong hook, which we both found odd.

Cool Flash animation


Not like I can get Flash to work in my Firefox browser, but by using a couple of extensions, I can easily view a page in either Opera or (shudder) Internet Explorer, so I can view this incredible Flash show. It is a recording of someone drawing a reclining woman, from the inside out (brief nudity):

Friday Random 10

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I'm up to 104 ripped tracks on my hard drive. I still don't know where my MP3 player is thougt :-(

  1. Gordon Lightfoot - "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (Summertime) : as my friend Mark told me, it was the 30th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald's sinking yesterday, so I promptly went over to Rhapsody and bought myself a copy (from the Gord's Gold 2 cd) for US$0.99. Many years ago, Mark and I went to see Gordon Lightfoot at an outdoor concert, only to have him be a no show. It was still a pretty good show, with the late Steve Goodman headlining the terrific show. I enjoy Lightfoot's Gord's Gold (which doesn't have Wreck) , even if I am disappointed they removed "Affair On 8th Avenue" from the vinyl(!) version. Didn't realize there was so much echo in the song.

  2. Yo La Tengo - "Autumn Sweater" (Prisoners of Love, disc 2) : I've become a huge Yo La Tengo fan, and this is a favorite song. I like their "softer" stuff, not so much the jangly guitar side, but these folks really explore lots of territory, and this 3 disk collection (including the bonus disc) has a great sampling of this vastly underrated band.

  3. Four Piece Suit - "El Nino" (Matinee Idylls) : Cool local swing band, plays lots of fun stuff; you can hear some of their songs on Sex in the City. This one is a beach song.

  4. The English Beat - "Twist and Crawl" (Newbury Comics: The Early Years) : jumpin' early ska beat. The feets be dancin' right now!

  5. Midnight Oil - "Arctic World" (Diesel And Dust) : Aussie band well known for its political stance; D n D is a great album with a conscience, with the hit Beds Are Burning leading the charge.

  6. Frou Frou - "Let Go" (Details) : Another solid effort from Imogen & Guy, from an all-around excellent album - "beauty in the breakdown..."

  7. Randy Newman - "Short People" (Lonely At The Top) : Anyone remember what a controversy this song created when it came out? I remember the superstation WBZ-AM playing a "censored" version of this wonderfully kicky and sarcastic song. And Little Criminals is a great album from top to bottom, too.

  8. Queen - "Killer Queen" (Sheer Heart Attack) : I was a Queen groupie, at least until they hit it big. Their first two albums are very interesting exercises in "art rock", telling cool stories. This was their first popular effort and has lots of great cuts. It's produced by Roy Thomas Baker (of The Cars producing fame), who was still able to reign in their excesses, a process he continued in their real break out effort, Night At The Opera. Once he left, I lost interest in them, as their efforts strained to become FM radio hits, with no soul.

  9. The The - "Uncertain Smile" (Soul Mining) : One of my all-time favorite songs. I was disappointed with the remastered efforts found on the 45 RPM singles collection. Matt Johnson downplayed my favorite part, the long piano solo, in favor of flutes and the like. Oh well, I'll stick with this version.

    A howling wind blows the litter as the rain flows,
    As street lamps pour orange colored shapes through your windows,
    a broken soul stares from a pair of watering eyes,
    uncertain emotions force an uncertain smile...

  10. The Cure - "The Perfect Girl" (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me) : Great double album from the kings of depression rock. This song is a bit perky for them, although Robert is talking about a "strange girl":

    you're such a strange girl
    i think you come from another world
    you're such a strange girl
    i really don't understand a word
    , so for him a strange girl is a perfect girl, I guess.

Questions to ponder

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(yeah, some email humor - a cheap way to get new postings!)

1. How do blind people know when they are done wiping?

2. Could it be that all those trick-or-treaters wearing sheets aren't going as ghosts but as mattresses?

3. If a mute swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

4. Is there another word for synonym?

5. Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do practice?"

6. If the "black box" flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole airplane made out of that stuff?

7. If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

8. Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

9. Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

10. If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

11. Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machines?

12. [... edited out ...]

13. How do they get the deer to cross at that yellow road sign?

14. What was the best thing before sliced bread?

15. If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?

16. Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

17. If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

18. Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have a "S" in it?

19. Why are hemorrhoids called "hemorrhoids" instead of "asteroids"?

Oxymorons for fun

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20. Government Organization
19. Alone Together
18. Personal Computer
17. Silent Scream
16. Living Dead
15. Same Difference
14. Taped Live
13. Plastic Glasses
12. Tight Slacks
11. Peace Force
10. Pretty Ugly
9. Head Butt
8. Working Vacation
7. Tax Return
6. Virtual Reality
5. Dodge Ram
4. Work Party
3. Jumbo Shrimp
2. Healthy Tan
1. Microsoft Works

Global Test

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Friday Random 10

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My Friday Random 10 of songs I've ripped to my hard drive so far:

  1. Gang of Four - "Anthrax" (Newbury Comics: The Early Years): Pounding base line is featured in this classic punk song from this compilation cd. Generally not a fan of distorted, squeaking guitars, but the base rescues it for me.
  2. Frou Frou - "Psychobabble" (Details) : One of my favorite albums of all time; lots of great songs and this one has some cool lyrics as she tries to dump an old lover:
    Do just what I tell you
    And no one will get hurt
    Don't come any closer
    'Cause I dunno how long I can hold my heart in two
  3. Richard Barone - "Tangled In Your Web" (Cool Blue Halo : Front man for the short-lived and greatly missed Bongos, this is his first solo album, and this is my favorite song from it (even more than his version, heavy with cello(!) of the Bongos hit "Numbers With Wings")
  4. Primal Scream - "Loaded" (Just Say Da) : From yet another compilation, from a Sire series, Just Say Yes, this is number IV. Probably my favorite of the series. This should probably be titled "I Don't Want To Lose Your Love" - lots of sampled bits in it.
  5. The Sisters of Mercy - "More" (Vision Thing): kings of goth rock, this album has lots of great cuts and some serious politics. An anthem for the Gordon Geckos of the 80s, all 8:23 of it:
    Learning to cry for fun and profit
    I�m not done yet
    Counterfeit dollars or the english zloty
    Anything I can get
  6. Big Audio Dynamite - "Around The Girl In 80 Ways" (Megatop Pheonix) : Mick Jones' post-Clash group, some poppy songs on this album, very much in the Clash Combat Rock mode. Light stuff, but still good listening.
  7. Randy Newman - "Mama Told Me Not To Come" (Lonely At The Top) : one of my favorite sarcastic song writers (right up there with Loudon Wainwright), this version is better than 3 Dog Night's later cover.
  8. Dinah Washington - "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" (Ultra-Lounge 15) : nice torch song from a solid lounge song collection.
  9. Ofra Haza - "Wish Me Luck (Karamazov Mix)" (Just Say Da) : popular 80s Israeli singer, she put out some great dance numbers and this is my fav. Nice Laurie Anderson sample
    This is how you can be walking and falling at the same time
  10. The The - "This Is The Day" (Soul Mining) : Another one of my favorite albums from the 80s, Matt Johnson's first effort at the tender age of 18 still knocks me out. Already he's pining for a life gone awry!

For music information, I really like the AMG AllMusic Guide. Tons of information on bands, songs, reviews, links - great way to investigate new sounds!

We had two different cocktails last night. First up is one from the Pick of the Week list found on I used to check out the drinks at Cocktail, but that site has fallen into disrepair. It's really unfortunate, because the writing was fun, and The Alchemist told some great bartending stories, recipes and hints. Each week, there would be a new cocktail to try, with suggested recipes for accompanying food and the works, but no longer. Oh well....

So now I check out DrinksMixer. The proposed drinks (there are three cocktails each week) are not quite as sophisticated, and there is little or no accompanying commentary, but it's a push into a new cocktail sometimes, so it's worth a visit. The drinks are often not that interesting, like two of them this week are for some kind of frozen mudslide thing and another concoction with 5 different liquors, topped with 7-Up - yech! But the first one in the list I decided to try, and Michael is always willing to join in.

The Jolly Rancher

  • 2 oz. Vodka (Three Olives)
  • 1 oz Midori
  • cranberry juice

It's a little sweet and the color is unappetizing (a light brown), but it went down smoothly. Midori is a typical ingredient in many of the DrinksMixer cocktails, and to me is indicative of its lack of sophistication. It is a vibrant green liqueur, tasting of sweet melons and tends to overpower most cocktails. I use it sparingly, but it worked pretty well in this cocktail. But I could only take one of them, so we moved on to another one, this one a classic from the Cocktail site, suggested in the Cosmopolitan recipe (which again, given the disarray of the Cocktail site, you can't get to any more), where they said that it was a fine standby, but why not choose other, more modern cocktails, like the Lemon Drop, Petit Zinc and the one we tried:

The Evan

  • 2 oz. Citrus Vodka (Ketel One)
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • splash of cranberry juice

This is a really good cocktail, one of my favorites. I like the sweet and sour cocktails that use lemon juice and Cointreau, and this one is very pleasing to the palate, and not nearly as overpowering as The Jolly Rancher. I highly recommend it.

After playing an XBox game for a few hours, we wrapped up the night with the season 2 Sopranos finale. There were a few too many dream sequences in it for me. I really don't like reading or watching dreams - they are often licenses for excess to the author or filmmaker. They get to do all kinds of symbolic voodoo that never seems to resonate with me, and instead comes off as awkward or just plain dumb. These weren't too much better, I'm afraid, but so far, The Sopranos on DVD has been a real winner.

Here's an interesting bit of foodlore I just came across while reading the Cocktail entry for The Evan - they like to make their own citrus vodka by steeping 100 proof vodka in lemon rinds, and they like to use the rinds of Meyer Lemons, which are a variety I've never heard of. I'm going to have to see if I can find a source here in the Northeast for these lemon/tangerine crosses.

Ahhh, coffee

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Ahh, coffee. Here I am, sipping that first delightful cup o' joe, a little after 6am. The sun is rising, the coffee is piping hot and it's going down smooth. We make a good strong cuppa, using some lightly roasted beans, not the overcooked ones found at your local Starbucks (Charbucks to us!). I can highly recommend Armeno Coffee Roasters Ltd. They are just down the road in Westborough Mass, but I do mail order with them and they make some great coffee beans. I used to order beans from Coffee Revolution in Ottawa Ontario, but I started to have some problems with the order, so we tried a bunch of other mail order and local places and settled on Armeno..

I didn't really start drinking coffee until I was in my mid-20s, when I worked at Compugraphic. The whole software crew would head down to the cafeteria for a morning break, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze. So just to have something in hand while we were doing that, I started to order my own coffee and the addiction was born.

At that time, the by now mythical Coffee Connection chain was at its peek. Started by coffee connoisseur extraordinaire George Howell, Coffee Connection was a New England institution, teaching millions in the area what good coffee really tastes like. He coined the term Charbucks to described the overcooked, burned beans popularized by Starbucks.

But the Starbucks money and competition was too much for George and he sold the chain to them for mucho dinero. All us CC aficionados were horrified, despite their claims to keep Coffee Connection as a separate brand. As we feared, things quickly changed and Coffee Connection first lost its name over the door, then even the Coffee Connection brand beans disappeared, leaving nothing but a dark oily stain on our memories.

He had signed a non-compete agreement and when that finally ended, he began Terroir Coffee. I have tried a bag of these beans, but haven't really dived into them yet.

Aremeno is a great roaster and makes some great beans. When we first started ordering from them, we sampled each different kind of bean. Here's my tasting list, with each bean rated 1-10:

Mexican Coixtepec - 6
Guatemala Antigua - 7
Costa Rica La Minita Tarrazu - 9
Costa Rica Tres Rios 7
Costa Rica Indios 6
Puerto Rico / Yauco Selecto 7
Jamaica Blue Mountain $34.95 $18.95 109 / 1095   
Colombia Supremo Narino 6
Brazil Bourbon Santos 6
Brazil Vista Alegre $13.50 $6.95 113 / 1135   
Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy $25.50 $12.95 114 / 1145   
Kauai Reserve 7
Kauai Extra Fancy 6
Kauai Peaberry 7
Maui Kaanapali Red Catuai 8
Maui Kaanapali Yellow Caturra 7
Maui Kaanapali Moka 
Kenya AA 7
Tanzania Peaberry 7
Pride of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 6
Zimbabwe Code 053 Pinnacle 6
Ethiopia Harrar 6
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe 9
Yemen Mocha Ismaili
Yemen Mocha Mattari 8
Yemen Mocha Sanani $12.25 $6.25 160 / 1605   
Zambia AA Terranova 
Papua New Guinea Sigri AA $10.25 $5.40 120 / 1205   
Sumatra Mandheling Pawani 7
Aged Sumatra Pawani $10.75 $5.60 128/1285 (V)   
Sumatra Gayo Mountain Organic (V) $10.75 $5.60 126 / 1265 (V)   
Java Jampit 7
Indonesia Java 6
Celebes Kalossi 7
India Monsoon Malabar 6
Timor Organic 7
House Blend 5
Black and Tan Blend 6

We settled on the Yirgacheffe and have been ordering it in 5 pound roasted bags for a couple of years now. We have our burr grinder set at 10 1/2, and we use almost to the 10 mark on pot for water. I usually grind just before making it, but I have taken to grinding for our first pot just before I go to bed. It's kind of a catch 22, getting the coffee ready in the morning - you need coffee to be awake enough to make coffee! So I cheat a little bit and have it all set to just turn on in the morning. I haven't really noticed any serious degradation in the quality of our cuppa, so I'll continue doing it. And we can even send one of the kids down to start it now! After it gets made, we get it out of the pot as soon as possible, and put it into a thermal decanter, to keep it from getting burnt.

So, if you don't grind your own coffee, I urge you to do so. It doesn't really take all that much more time than any other method and the taste is simply head and shoulders better than using a pre-ground coffee. We always get raves when we serve coffee, and yet I'm still surprised at how few make it from scratch.

Latest Bush joke

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The latest Bush joke that is making the email rounds:


One night, George W. Bush is tossing restlessly in his White House bed. He awakens to see George Washington standing right by him. Bush asks, "Hey Georgie, what's the best thing I can do to help the country?" "Set an honest and honorable example, just as I did," Washington advises, and then fades away

The next night, Bush is astir again, and sees the ghost of Thomas Jefferson moving through the darkened bedroom. Bush calls out, "Yo Tom, please, what is the best thing I can do to help the country?" "Respect the Constitution, as I did," Jefferson advises, and dims from sight.

The third night sleep still does not come for Bush. He awakens to see the ghost of FDR hovering over his bed. Bush whispers, "Hey Franky Baby, what is the best thing I can do to help the country?" "Help the less fortunate, just as I did," FDR replies and fades into the mist.

Bush isn't sleeping well the fourth night when he sees another figure moving in the shadows. It is the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Bush pleads, "Hey Abe my man, what's the best thing I can do right now to help the country?"

Lincoln replies, "Go see a play."


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Something I got via email. It's a little sappy, but its heart is in the right place!


When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee...

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full! The students responded with a unanimous yes." The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your God, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.

The sand is everything else -- the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups.

Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18 There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Please share this with someone you care about.

Fall Harvest

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A set of pictures celebrating Autumn in New England.

U8 Soccer, Fall 2005, The Galaxy

Galaxy Team pictureRhiannon in goal First up is the team picture for my daughter Rhiannon's U8 (Under 8) soccer team, the Galaxy. These are girls between the ages of 6 (Rhiannon's age) up to 8 years old. I'm the assistant coach, so I help out Coach Phil where needed. While the U6 level (where my other daughter plays) is co-ed, the U8 level is all girls. They play on a half-sized field, with half-sized goals, 5 on 5 with a goalie and a ref. We still don't officially keep score but the games are pretty competitive and a good time was had by all.
From left to right, back to front:
Me and Coach Phil
Bella, Olivia, Molly, Abbie, Emma
Shannon, Sofia, Sarah, Evelyn, Rhiannon

Rhiannon did very well, considering she was playing against girls up to 2 years older than her. She really loves to play soccer, to run around, and she got along great with all her teammates. She scored two goals in one game and looked really good doing it. I asked her if she wanted to try t-ball or something else in the spring, but she said she wanted to play soccer, so we'll keep at it. She played goalie the second half of the last game, and didn't get to handle the ball at all, poor kid!

Snow in October

Playing in the snowmini-snowmanIt was some cold for this last game, as you can see by these pictures, taken later that afternoon. Some heavy wet snow came down and the girls could hardly wait to get out and play in the snow. Spenser enjoyed it as well. They even got to make a miniature snowman. Of course, today it was in the 70s! Ahh, New England in the fall!!

Trick or Treat!

costumedcandyAnd finally, the finest of the fall holidays - Halloween! The girls get nearly as excited about this as they do for Christmas. They've been counting down the days to it since last week. Grammie got them dressed up and ready to go. Rhiannon is the sharp-looking cowgirl, while Adrienne is the adorable pumpkin. We were out for quite some time, collecting more candy than any of us will eat. Adrienne isn't a huge candy eater, and Rhiannon is even less so. And I always buy too much candy. Four bags was two bags too many, as we don't get all that many visitors. But nobody fell down, and they got lots of candy, so I'd call it a grand success!

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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