March 2006 Archives

A New Pill

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The latest joke to come over the email transom:

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I Drink Alone

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Michael couldn't make it over last night, so I was forced to entertain myself. Oddly enough, I did the same old things - play computer games and try a new drink. I didn't watch anything afterwards, though, so I'm not completely a creature of habit!

For the cocktail, I tried a variation on my favorite "simple" drink, the rum and coke. Normally, here at Chez A-n-A'ze, we use either Bacardi White rum or Captain Morgan's Spiced rum, depending on the mood and sometimes merely which bottle is easier to reach. Much like vodka, certain rums hit that sweet spot between being rotgut and being too fancy to mix, and for us Bacardi and Captain Morgan do the trick. Anything cheaper, and it begins to taste pretty awful. Anything more expensive, and it tends to sweeten up and not really mix well with coke.

The other day I noticed a new kind of Captain Morgan, called Tattoo. It is, I believe, a dark rum (or rums) given the "spiced" Captain Morgan treatment. I thought it would be fun to try, so I picked up a bottle. And so I figured last night would be a good chance to give it a try. My recipe, such as it is: fill a big glass full of ice cubes, pour in about 1/3 rum and top with Coca-Cola Classic (not Pepsi, or any variation on Coke here). Plop a lime wedge in there, drop in a bendy straw, and you're good to go.

And I thought the Tattoo worked very nicely. It wasn't too sweet, although it came close enough that this would probably be something I would start the night with, before swapping to one of the regulars. It stood up very nicely to the Coke and will remain in my liquor cabinet.

For gaming, I've been hooked, as I mentioned earlier, on The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. It's bloom has faded somewhat, though, as I'm not sure my character is going to work out in the world. And I'm not sure I'm gung ho enough on the game to begin anew with a new character. But still, I've been playing it pretty much any time I have a bit of free time, and it has been pretty fun, so I guess I can't complain yet. I played until about midnight last night, actually getting partially through the first major quest.

Life, Forgetfulness and Oblivion

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Not too many updates lately. I've been sucked in by a new computer game - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a vast computer RPG. It's not that I haven't been writing, as I've been blogging my experiences in the game in Yet Another Blog, called From Here To Oblivion. I've always written better with a nudge in a particular direction. I used to be aces when it came to my high school compositions, which required us to use the words from the spelling list. On more than one occasion, I would whip one up for a classmate before class started! So this gives me a hook to write about. Check it out!

On a more depressing note, I had intended to go to see Spider (aka Jane Herships) last night at the Lily Pad, but completely forgot about it. So sad indeed. So I've been drowning my sorrows in Bitter Lake all day instead. It's an awful thing, this getting older and even more scatter-brained than before, something I never thought possible (getting more scatterbrained, that is).

Next week, I'm going to see Coldplay up in New Hampshire with a friend. I'll be sure to put that in my Palm, or I'll forget yet again. I'm not really all that familiar with Coldplay, but I'm willing to go to a show. It'll be opened by Richard Ashcroft, former lead of Verve. I talked about their awful copyright battles here.

I did finally get a new set of headphone for the computer. For some reason, the mic on my fancy Plantronics USB headphones, which I really liked, just stopped working. The sound worked okay, but no voice. Kind of important in my line of work (video conferencing software). So I picked up a pretty expensive Logitech headphone last week but, just like the previous Logitech headphone, it was dreadful. So uncomfortable, squeezing my ears with hard plastic. Yech! So I returned them today, and ordered a Sennheiser PC160 late last week, and those just happened to arrive today as well. Wow, what a difference! The sonic quality is spectacular in these, and yup, they are even comfortable. Not as comfortable as the Plantronics, though. And they use the olde fashioned plugs, just as I was getting used to using USB. Now I have to get a switch that switched between the headphones and speakers.

I also picked up a new Toshiba portable DVD player. For Father's Day last year, the girls bought me a Nextbase tablet DVD player. It worked really well, especially in the car on long rides to keep the girls entertained. Best Father's Day Present Ever. But just before our last long journey, it stopped ejecting the dvds. The tray just won't come out. And with another trip planned to NH this weekend, I needed another one!

So I picked up this Toshiba 8.5 in. player for less than US$200 at Best Buy. It isn't a tablet player, but I think it might actually work out better, as it can sit on the tray between the front seats. And with two headphone jacks, my wife and I won't be forced to listen to the Care Bears' theme music any more! It's almost like cheating, to let them watched "tv" for an hour like that, but it is worth it for the peace and quiet!

Pimm's No. 1A couple of unusual drinks from my Step by Step : Fantastic Cocktails & Mixed Drinks magazine. It is a pretty, full color glossy magazine with lots of drinks and pictures of all of them. No attempt is made at being "classic", as there are plenty of drinks in here I've never heard of, including these two.

    Pimm's Reef

  • 1 oz Pimm's No. 1
  • 1/2 oz Blue Curaçao (my Curaçao of Curaçao of course!)
  • 1 oz cream

Put the ingredients all together in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

I'm not sure I've ever seen any recipe for Pimm's No. 1 besides a Pimm's Cup, which is probably my favorite summertime drink (just Pimm's & ginger ale). It's a wonderful tasting gin-based "tonic", that really hits the spot. But in this drink, the cream (yes, I used real, light cream this time, not whole milk) overwhelmed pretty much everything, leaving just the barest hint of the Pimm's and the curaçao. Maybe it would work better for my spoiled palate if I used milk instead.

    Fruit Tingle

  • 1 oz Midori
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz blue curaçao
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • dash lemon juice
  • dash grenadine

Put everything into a blender and blend well (I used my new hand blender, of course). Pour into a large goblet or highball glass. Serve with a straw.

This was a pretty good drink. In fact, it would make a perfect summertime drink - very fruity and refreshing. The problem I had with it was the Midori. I just can't take too much of that cloyingly sweet melon liqueur. However, both Michael and my wife enjoyed it very much, so take that as you want. Another interesting note about this drink is that the picture did not at all match the final product. In the magazine, the drink is a dark purple, while this drink comes out more of a sea-green. I'm not sure what they were taking a picture of, but it wasn't of a Fruit Tingle!

The different color in the picture prompted me to try a couple of variations on it, replacing the Midori, but neither of which were very successful. First I made one using crème de mûre, a blackberry crème. It has a nice purple color to it, but combined with the blue curaçao, it came out more of a purplish-gray. It tasted okay, but not fruity enough.

The second variation was using crème de cassis. The color was a little better, but still looked muddled. And, again, it wasn't really fruity enough, although the fact that I was using the last of the pineapple juice, which I failed to shake strongly enough at the start, meant it was very thick too. I think I may have to try this with Parfait Amour, which is a purple colored curaçao flavored with rose petals and the like.

kahlua.jpgBoth of the drinks we had last week are from my New Classic Cocktails book, and are the "twist" recipe. And both use Kahlua, which isn't something I'm normally crazy about. Too heavy and cloying for me, as I prefer a sharp, clean drink (like, say, a martini). But these turned out to be excellent drinks, ones I will be sure to revisit in the future.

    Dark Knight

  • 1 oz. Kahlua
  • 1 oz vodka (Stolichnaya)
  • 1 oz espresso coffee
  • 2 tsp. sugar syrup

Just shake them all together over cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Yummie! I dropped Michael an email, asking him to make up a batch of espresso for this drink, and it was worth the effort. I don't usually do espresso, but he does, so that was handy! It was a twist, obviously enough, on a Black Russian, which is just vodka and Kahlua. This one is better, as there are more liquids in there to cut the Kahlua down to size. In fact, I'd probably add a little more vodka next time, to cut it even more. I like to use Stolichnaya in mixed cocktails, as it is a very good compromise between taste and cost. Much more expensive and it would be a waste to water it down with other mixers, especially something as powerful as Kahlua. But much less and it would wreck the drink.

    Red Star Alexander

  • 1 oz vodka (Stoli again)
  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • 1 oz dark creme de cacao
  • 1 oz single cream
  • grated nutmeg on top

Again, just shake them all up over cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This was truly a winner! Although I do have to fess up to a couple of changes. First off, I didn't have dark dark creme de cacao, but rather the clear one. No difference there besides color, I don't believe. Of course, it was one of the bottom shelf brands (Arrow), as anything else is impossible to find. But the drink stood up to artificial taste very well.

I also didn't use light cream, but rather whole milk. As a skim milk drinker, I think whole milk is thick enough; not sure I could have done light cream. And Michael said he could do without the nutmeg, although I like it, especially on my eggnog. This one really went down easily. I could see several of them going down and man, the pain the next day would be a brutal reminder of the overdose! This one is a twist on the White Russian, which is basically a Black Russian, with milk or cream. I can envision several variations on this. Maybe adding the milk/cream to the Dark Knight. Or even a splash of an orange curaçao.

We then finished up the next two episodes of Nowhere Man, #2 and #3. They weren't too bad, although the premise in general requires a huge suspension of disbelief, and so far there seems to be too many "Now why the heck would he|they|them do that?" feelings. Like in the 3rd episode, where for some reason, while on the run from some rogue military unit, they headed back to some old house in the swamp where Thomas Veil had almost been gunned down, only to hide in a hidden cellar. Very weird. But maybe we'll try one more DVD worth.

I've been doing that MP3 thing lately, downloading various (purportedly legal) MP3s. There's a cool blog from The Boston Phoenix (the local alternative rag) called OTD (On The Download), which highlights various Boston-area bands and their MP3s and streaming songs. I've come across some pretty good stuff, and I thought I'd share it for today, to start off the Random 10:

  • Dresden Dolls - "Sing" (Yes, Virginia [2006]) : Coming out next month, this CD will go to the top of my want list, just as their self-titled debut album has. A duo (piano & drums) who play something of a cross between goth rock and 1930s Weirmacht cabaret music, some good stuff there. I particularly like Coin Operated Boy. Amanda Palmer, lead singer, songwriter and piano player, maintains a cool blog at Dresden Dolls Diary.
  • spidersongs.jpgSpider - "Don't Be Afraid, I've Just Come To Say Goodbye" (The Way to Bitter Lake [2005]) : In that way of the web, once I started clicking here and there, I came across Spider. Spider is Jane Herships, and this is some good stuff (shoutout to rbally for the pointer). Folkie, with some great lyrics. She's playing locally at a few spots over the next couple of weeks, so I'll have to make some time to see her.
    and should I beware
    your nights and your mares
  • *AM Stereo - "Drink Club" (Can't[2006]) : nice pounding jangly rock. There's a few more linked here.
  • The Lot Six - "Strange Pains" : another cool indie rock song from OTD.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled ripping. I got my new MP3 the other day from Woot and so I'll give that a try.

  • Sully - "Ethyl" (I have much to report [1998]) : essentially their debut album, this Canadian group is very reminiscent of, say, This Mortal Coil or the Cocteau Twins. This CD is another one of those I have no idea why I picked it up, or even when. There must have been a song that I enjoyed enough via WZBC (the Boston College radio station) to make me pick it up, but I have no idea which one. None of them sound distinctive enough, although this is one pretty song. It's funny how my musical tastes have changed over the years; in some ways, they've "regressed". When I was college age (many years ago in a galaxy far far away), I hated the local college radio stations, because I didn't recognize any of the songs. Now, that's the best feature of them, because "big" radio stations play the same old crap, over and over. If it isn't the exact same song, it's one of a dozen tiny variations on it. Boring Boring Boring. Now I listen exclusively to college stations like WZBC, WERS (Emerson College - great reggae show in the afternoon), and WMBR (MIT), although mostly 'ZBC. I used to be a WFNX listener, a bigger alternative radio station from The Boston Phoenix, the alternative weekly here in the Boston area. But they've regressed into mostly headbanging, macho rock crap that I can't take for very long. It's alternative mainstream Boring Boring Boring. I do listen to the "Leftover Lunch" show, which is an oldies radio show for us 80s and 90s indie rock fans.
  • Bruce Springsteen - "Cover Me" (Born In The USA [1984]) : once again, the CD cabinet yields up a treasure trove of inconsistencies. One entry, I'm lamenting boring Mainstream Rock, and the very next one I'm espousing the virtues of one of its icons, Born In The USA! But at least it is hardworking, despairing Mainstream Rock, and not some lollipop crap, eh? And he certainly rocked the house when we saw him play at Fenway Pahk a few years ago. In connection with the above entry, he played my college in the late 70s, before he had hit iconic status. My friends there were neatly split into two camps. One was agog that the mighty Springsteen was playing there, while the others thought him already passe. Myself, I never saw the attraction back then, although I can see it now. This CD coughed up seven Top Ten songs, and this one rocks the hardest.
  • Beatles - "Help!" (Help! [1965]) : From big to biggest! If I was forced to pick one Beatles song to take with me, I think it would be this one. I'm not sure why exactly, but I find the lyrics and vocals snappy, and the beat irresistible. A later song on this CD, "I've Just Seen a Face", is a very similar song, with quick singing and fast guitars.
  • Sam Phillips - "Out of Time" (Indescribable Wow [1988]) : What a wonderful album! Sam Phillips' major label debut (she spent several years as a Christian music star, if you can believe it), this CD has all kinds of great songs. The way I heard it, famed producer T. Bone Burnett went into the record company offices, totally hungover, threw the demo tape down, said "You gotta hear this", and collapsed on the couch. Soon thereafter, Virgin Records signed her and Burnett married her! She's got a great, plaintive voice, with lots of emotion. Interesting sounds going on here; some call it "Beatle-esque", especially late Beatles. I stopped buying her stuff after the second (Cruel Inventions) for no particular reason, besides I just stopped buying CDs in general. But reading more about her later stuff on AllMusic.com makes me want to run out and pick up a couple of her newer CDs.
  • Swans - "God Damn The Sun" (The Burning World [1989]) : Perhaps my first 'zbc inspired purchase. I just love this song, with its combination of dark lyrics, overarching guitar and the lead singer's impossibly deep voice. It's a song with a much more upbeat sound than the lyrics would indicate, always a favorite feature of mine:
    When, when we were young
    We had no history
    So nothing to lose
    Meant we could choose
    Choose what we wanted then
    Without any fear
    Or thought of revenge
    But then you grew old
    And I lost my ambition
    So I gained an addiction
    To drink and depression
    (They are mine
    My only true friends
    And I'll keep them with me
    Until the very end)
    One of the few songs I've ever called in as a request even. Several of the other songs on this CD are pretty damn good too, including their cover of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home".
  • Depeche Mode - "Stripped" (Black Celebration [1986]) : Perhaps the archetypal arena synth-rock group and one of their top CDs, they are not entirely my style but I love this song. When they press the right buttons for me (like this song and "Personal Jesus"), I can't get enough of it.

BostonFest tournament, game 3

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Dawn Patrol Fall To Cutting Edge, 4-1

Dawn Patrol Fall To Cutting Edge, 4-1 Matthews Arena, BOS - The boys in gold gave it a valiant effort, but in the end fell just short, losing to Cutting Edge by a misleading 4-1 score. As in the opener, the game was much tighter than the final score would indicate. And it was also a very physical battle, with three matching penalties dealt out, as well as numerous power plays, especially by the Dawn Patrol. But they are unable to capitalize on the extra man, and had their championship game hopes dashed on the rocky shores of reality.

Rob Haley made his presence felt early on, when he intercepted a clearing pass in the Cutting Edge zone. His pass found a well positioned Matt Penny, who picked his spot and buried the wrister, giving the Dawn Patrol the 1-0 lead with about 9 minutes left in the first period. Play was physical, with both sides sealing off the boards and battling hard for the lose pucks. The first period ended with the guys in gold up, 1-0, and they definitely had the edge in play, forcing the Cutting Edge goalie to make several outstanding stops.

The second period proved to be more even, as both goalies were called upon to make some good stops. Finally, Cutting Edge evened the score when the right winger fired a wrister through traffic. It somehow eluded all the legs in front and also goalie Jonathan Arnold, as it clicked off his skate and went in for the tying goal. The second period ended with the teams deadlocked at 1.

The physical play continued into the third period, and Cutting Edge began to create some serious pressure on the Dawn Patrol. They finally got the go ahead goal during a 3 on 2 rush. The winger used the other two Cutting Edge skaters as picks and came across the middle untouched. He fired the puck low and to the far side, where it eluded goalie Arnold's pad, giving Cutting Edge their first lead with about 10 minutes left in the game.

Another odd man rush found the Cutting Edge left winger cutting through the goal crease. He was able to make the corner on the Dawn Patrol defense and goalie Arnold's poke check was ineffective. The winger deftly tucked the puck between the sprawling goalie's legs, giving Cutting Edge a commanding 3-1 lead.

The final tally for Cutting Edge came on another odd man rush, this time a conventional two on one. The wrister from the right winger was blocked away by Arnold, but it went right on the stick of the charging Cutting Edge center, who one timed it into the Dawn Patrol goal, sealing the victory and a place in tomorrow's final.

It was a physical, almost chippy game, but an even one for most of it. The Dawn Patrol lost a key member of the squad, when Tim Retelle had his foot knocked from under him, twisting his back and forcing him to the locker room. There were several other titanic battles for position, but everyone felt it was a good, hard fought battle.

So the BostonFest 2006 tourament comes to a close for our gold clad heroes. They ended the tourney at 1-2, but felt each of the losses was a winnable game and are already looking forward to next year's tournament. Thanks for all the fan support, with a special shoutout to Roger Hamson for cheering us on Friday afternoon, Phil Mancuso for his 100% attendance in the stands, as his DL stint forced him off the ice this year, and to Jay DiIorio for also coming down for a game to watch from the DL. See you all next year!

BostonFest tournament, game 2

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Dawn Patrol Hold on for 3-2 Victory Over Leafs

Matthews Arena, BOS - The Dawn Patrol prevail in the matinee game, beating the Leafs by a score of 3-2. This is the second game of the tournament, and it leaves the Patrol at 1-1, in a position to win later this evening and battle for the championship tomorrow afternoon. It was a seesaw game, with the Dawn Patrol storming back from an early deficit, only to find the Leafs creep back and nearly tie the game as time ran out.

Play was pretty even in the first period, as both teams had solid scoring chances. But the Leafs got the first goal, midway through the period. Their left winger slid down along the boards, and threw out a pass to the charging center. Goalie Jonathan Arnold went out to snare it with his catching glove, only to end up deflecting the fluttering puck into his own net. This put the Leafs up 1-0. Although play was very even through the rest of the period, as the boys in gold rolled out 3 lines of 5 each, the period ended with the Leafs on top.

The Leaf lead didn't last long, as the Dawn Patrol struck early in the second period. Defenseman Michael O'Keefe pinched in and got the puck around behind the Leaf goal. Brian Godfrey snagged the loose puck and laid a perfect pass onto the stick of Joe Valente, who was standing just to the goalies right. Valente fired a quick wrister that found five hold and then the back of the net, bring the Dawn Patrol even at 1-1.

Not too long after that, Bill Berens skated down the left wing. He was looking to pass out front, but fired a snap wrister that fooled the Leafs goalie and ended up in the back of the net, giving the Patrol their first lead of the day, 2-1.

That was the score at the start of the third period, but it changed soon after that. Dan George went in on a breakaway, but the goalie stopped his first shot. But he couldn't control the rebound and George tucked in the rebound, giving the golden boys a commanding 3-1 lead.

But the leafs showed some real heart and continued to play tough. With about 8 minutes left, the right winger battled with Tim Retelle and came down along the boards with the puck. A hard slapper from goalie Arnold's left side manages to get through for the Leafs, and they had new life, pulling to within one with plenty of time on the clock.

The Leafs kept up the pressure, although the Patrol did manage a few good scoring chances. It all came down to a face off in Patrol end, with about 15 seconds left. The Leafs won the face off, and got a few good shots off in the ensuing mad scramble. Goalie Arnold went out to cut down a pass but it eluded him and went right to a Leaf standing in the goal mouth. But the Leaf shot trickled wide. The puck slid around the boards to the Leaf defenseman, who wound up for a big slapper as the clock ran down. Goalie Arnold was able to snag the bullet while he was sitting down, as the buzzer went off, giving the Dawn Patrol their first victory in the 2006 BostonFest tournament, 3-2.

BostonFest Hockey tournament

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Each year about this time, I gather together a bunch of the folks I play hockey with every Tuesday and Friday mornings and enter a team into the BostonFest hockey tournament. We've been doing this for about five years, and it is a blast. There is some really intense hockey that goes on, the only real competitive hockey I play all year, as our morning hockey is just pick-up teams. We've gone to the finals a couple of years, although last year was a bit of a downer. I write up stories after each game, and I'll post them here. Look for game 2 and 3 writeups tomorrow night. And, with any luck, a championship game story late Sunday night.

Dawn Patrol Drops Tough One to The Saints, 5-2

Mathews Arena, BOS - In the opening game of the 2006 BostonFest Hockey Tournament, the Dawn Patrol fell to the St. Catherine Saints, 5-2. A hard fought game that was much closer than the score indicated, the loss puts the Dawn Patrol at 0-1, with two more games remaining. The top two teams in the Huskie Division will battle it out for the championship Sunday night.

The game started out quite well for the gold-clad Patrol. Dick Powers, playing in his first tournament, broke down the ice and tried one of his patented roof jobs, only to have it turned aside. The Dawn Patrol remained aggressive and kept the pressure on the Saints. It finally paid off with about 7 minutes left in the period, as defenseman Jimmy McMahon started out in his own end and carried the puck down the right side. He made it to the offensive faceoff dot and dished a perfect pass to Joe Valente, parked in front of the crease. The goalie stopped the first one, but when he couldn't find the rebound, Valente gladly tapped it home to put the Patrol up, 1-0.

That's how the first period ended, with the Dawn Patrol having the majority of the offensive ice time. And that's the way the second period started as well, with play running up and down the ice. However, Mark Bourgeois was called for roughing by retaliating after getting his stick chopped from his hands, and the Saints were quick to capitalize. The face off was won back to the point, and the defenseman slapped down a shot that goalie Jonathan Arnold was able to stop. But he couldn't contain the rebound, so the center whacked away at it again, despite the best efforts of Richie McMahon. Goalie Arnold was able to stop one more shot, but the puck bounced right back on the Saints' stick and this time he was able to get it up and over the goalie, tying the game at 1-1.

The Saints jumped ahead 2-1 on a perfectly played 3 on 1 soon thereafter. The winger fed a last second pass to the streaking center, who chipped it up and over the diving Arnold. A frustrating break, to be sure, but on the ensuing faceoff (the Dawn Patrol was remarkably proficient in winning faceoffs all night long), John Abruzzese was able to chip a pass over to Brian Godfrey. Godfrey broke in all alone on the Saints netminder, and his shot trickled through the pads, knotting the game at 2-2. The second period ended with both teams locked in a tie.

But St. Catherine really began to carry the play into the Dawn Patrol end, as the boys in gold seemed to tire out. The Saints went ahead midway through the period, as a pass through the crease was shot on net and a sliding Arnold wasn't able to snag it, and it trickled underneath him. This was followed up by a nice turnaround shot from in close, as Tim Retelle battled gamely but ultimately unsuccessfully as the shot hit Arnold in the shoulder and popped in.

The last Saints goal was a bit of a fluke, as a centering pass from behind the net hit goalie Arnold in the back of the leg as he went out to cut down the pass. It caromed into the net for the final score of 5-2.

A very hard fought and even game, but it unfortunately resulted in a Dawn Patrol loss. But they have nothing to hang there heads about, as the game was close and could have gone either way. They are all looking forward to avenging the loss tomorrow, as they play two games. The first is at 5pm versus the Leafs, who beat the Dawn Patrol 2 years ago, 4-0, in the championship game.

Kid books

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Click Clack Moo cover A friend of mine asked me for some kid book recommendations, so I thought I would just post them here. We have a ton of books, and story time is an integral part of our bedtime routine. My wife has been a stickler for a regular time (7pm) and routine for bed, and I think it is the major contributor to our girls' excellent sleeping habits. They tend to go to bed reasonably easy, and are usually sound asleep before 8pm. And they sleep until 6:30 or so, no matter what time they actually go out. And rarely wake up during the night. And it has been that way ever since they were very little. Can't ask for anything more!

The final step in the routine (after things like toothbrushing, bathroom, washing, and the like) is for all of us to gather together on our bed and read a book or three. We borrow plenty of books from the library, and each girl has a full bookcase. This list doesn't include any classics, like Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd), Pat the Bunny (Dorothy Kunhardt) or anything by classic authors like Dr. Suess, Sandra Boynton, or Eric Carle (you can't go wrong with any of them). These are more obscure books that I think really work well with any child up to about 6 or so, but are also interesting enough to read (over and over and over and over) again and again by adults. Often this means some good rhyming action, but not always.

  • Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. We haven't found the sequels to be nearly as clever.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. On the other hand, we've found all the books in this series to be outstanding. One of my fondest memories of our youngest are of reading this book and her answering the question "Noooooo".
  • Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night by Kathi Appelt, Arthur Howard (Illustrator)
  • Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt, Jane Dyer (Illustrator)
  • The Water Hole by Graeme Base. This one has some cool illustrations, with hidden animals on each page. We're still working on finding all of them
  • The Complete Adventures of Big Dog and Little Dog by Dav Pilkey
  • Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, Marla Frazee (Illustrator). Babies love babies and this one has a bunch of them, with some really nice rhymes too
  • Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. The whole series remains a favorite, with sparkly illustrations that really attract the eyes, and very nice fables with solid morals.
  • Sally Goes To The Beach by Stephen Huneck. All the Huneck Sally books are big colorful books on a Labrador Retriever's adventures. This one and the mountain one are favorites.
  • The Everything Book by Denise Fleming
  • Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest, Anita Jeram (Illustrator)
  • My Car by Byron Barton. Probably the best for the youngest set, very bold bright colors and easy words. A real favorite of the girls when they were younger. The author has a bunch of books and all are good.
  • Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown and Leo and Diane Dillon. Clever rhyming in this one, with typical odd Brown patterns.
  • All By Myself by Aliki. If I were forced to pick just one book, I think this would be it. Clever rhymes about growing up and trying to do stuff yourself.
  • I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose A. Lewis and Jane Dyer. A poignant book about adopting a Chinese baby
  • Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. For any parent who has tried to convince their kid about clothing choices. That means all of us.
  • When Sophie Gets Angry...really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. Very clever book about a little girl who can barely contain her anger.
  • Alpha Bugs: A Pop-Up Alphabet by David A. Carter. There's a whole series of these pop-up books, but this was a favorite.
  • I Love You, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester Clark. All of these are very cute stories about a little girl and her stuffed animal, Blue Kangaroo

As for buying these, I can heartily recommend AllBooks4Less.com and its sister site BookCloseouts.com. I think they may actually be the same company, but the prices can't be beat, although as you can imagine from the names, the selection is hit or miss. I always start with AllBooks4Less and then try the other major online vendors.

A secular Constitution

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Oh man, this is a classic quote! Follow the link for more:

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
Here's a way to frame the conflict

Chinese Menu

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Very funny dissecting of a Chinese menu, very loosely "translated" into Engrish.

rahoi.com

Friday Random 10

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More adventures from the CD Cabinet. I still haven't found my MP3 player, so I picked up a new one from Woot, some cheapo RCA ones for only US$44, including shipping, so how bad could it be?

  1. Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - "Scenes from A..." (Sonic Geology [1988]) - A local instrumental electronica group, some even call it avant-garde chamber music. This CD is a collection of their first 3 albums. A discussion on the medfordmass mailing list on local musicians reminded of them, as the boyfriend of one of the members of the group is a Medfordite. It's good to hear they are still around. I went to see them probably 15 years ago. This lineup includes Boston rocker legends Roger Miller (no, not that one, silly!) and Martin Swope.
  2. Spirit Of Eden coverTalk Talk - "I Believe In You" (Spirit of Eden [1988]) - hmm, seems like 1988 is the year for this batch of CDs, eh? Talk Talk was an influential art rock group, with this CD an amazing collection of moody, emotional, spare music. Talk Talk is most known for their indie hit It's My Life from their second album of the same title (I have that one too). There's only 6 songs on the entire CD, with the shortest clocking in at over 5 minutes and the longest, the opening track The Rainbow, clocking in at 9:05. Hard to pick just one. I don't think I have their final album, Laughing Stock, released a couple of years later, but given the raves on AllMusic.com, I think I'll have to add this to my Want list.
    Tell me how I fear it
    I buy prejudice for my health
    Is it worth so much when you taste it
    Enough there ain't enough hidden hurt
    A time to sell yourself
    A time for passing

    Spirit

    How long

  3. Steroid Maximus - "Life in the Greenhouse Effect" (Quilombo [1991]) - a side project of Aussie JG Thirlwell, better "known" as foetus, with a simply amazing discography. Truly bizarre stuff, lots of noise, feedback but more rhythm here than normal, with a big orchestral sound. This track has some huge drums. I think I heard some of it while watching Kill Bill, Vol. 1 last night, although I don't see it on the IMDB soundtrack listing.
  4. Ennio Morricone - "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" (Film Music Volume 1 [1987]) - A collection of the master film music maker's best; some great and memorable songs, including this one. I'll bet most could probably name it in 3 notes, especially if whistled. My high school English teacher, who pushed me as hard as any teacher I ever had, all for my benefit (hi Mr. Densmore!), said this was the best film score of all time, and I find it hard to disagree. Also one of my favorite movies of all time, too. Oddly enough, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 does have an Ennio Morricone song.
  5. Morrisey - "Suedehead" (Viva Hate [1988]) - Another '88 release! Morrissey's first, after his breakup with Johny Marr and the dissolution of The Smiths. I only really got into The Smiths by the time of their last album, Strangeways Heres We Come - a wonderfully quirky album, one of my favorites. I love the dichotomy of Morrissey's bleak lyrics and Johnny Marr's poppy guitar. Viva Hate was okay, but not nearly as strong as Strangeways. This song has some nice, petulant, typically Morrissey lyrics:
    Why do you come here
    When you know it makes things hard for me?
    When you know, oh
    Why do you come?

    It was because
    Everything that I did
    I wrote it down
    On the wall

  6. Bangles - "Walk Like An Egyptian" (Different Light [1986]) - One of the best female rock groups of the 80s, nearly in the Go-Go's class, albeit in a much lighter vein. Oddly enough, one of the Bangles, Vicki Peterson, filled in as lead singer for the Go-Go's a few years later. Lots of great pop on this CD. I picked this song for my girls, who just love to do the walk. Listening to this CD now reinforces the feeling that it is a true guilty pleasure, with lots of happy, frothy-light tunes, making the feet bounce. Hey, not so bad for a sunny, warming Friday afternoon, right?
  7. The Alarm - "Sold Me Down The River" (Change. [1989]) - ooo, more late-80s pop rock! The Alarm's big US hit, this is one great toe-tappin' song! I'm not even sure I've ever listened to any of the other songs. But this one is worth it.
  8. December coverGeorge Winston - "" (December [1982]) - back to the instrumental side of things, with this wonderful collection of piano solos, the album that put "new age" music on the map. AllMusic.com calls it "[t]he mother of all solo instrumental albums". I used to be a huge Windam Hill Records fan, although I can't say as I've bought any in quite some time. Just checked the Windham Hill web site, and right there on the front they are talking about "... 24 years after he began to record what is now recognized as his signature style of melodic folk piano", in regards to his latest release, Montana. Other favorite Windham Hill artists included Mark Isham, Janice Ian and Liz Story. Wow, does listening to this bring back memories. I'll bet it hasn't been played in 10 years! Wonder what my girls, budding piano players both, will think of it?
  9. AC/DC - "Hell's Bells" (Back in Black [1980]) - nice segue! Hard to tell what order they will come out of the CD cabinet in, but going from George Winston to the Young brothers is quite a shock to the system! This is Brian Johnson's debut effort with this Aussie (yup, my Australia lovin' ways continue...) band, after Bon Scott drank too much and keeled over. Lots of great anthem rock songs, one of the top rock albums of all time, with the best song being "You Shook Me All Night Long", but this is another solid rocker, as is the title track. Heck, listening to this now, man there's lots of great headbangin' goin' on here. All this air guitar is wearing my arms out! I might have to go downstairs and pop this onto the big stereo and see how it feels Real Loud.
  10. The Beatles - "Please Please Me" (Please Please Me [1963]) - I am not a huge Beatles fan. I only have a couple of their CDs, like this one and Sgt. Pepper, and have never listened to any of their later albums all the way through. I probably should though. I like their early stuff, for its infectious bounce and effortless simplicity. But I do need to try and expand my horizons a bit, and listen to some of their later work, beginning with Rubber Soul.

Getting Things Done

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Getting things done - or not, as the case is here. I've been casting about for a 'task management system' to use, but haven't settled on anything. I'm going to use this post to explain what I'm trying to do, and what I've looked at so far.

There is a GTD cult out there, based upon the bestselling book, Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Search the web for it, and you'll see plenty of posts, applications and ideas on how to use it. I don't have the book, but I like what I've taken to be the basic tenets of the process:

  1. As soon as you think of a project, get it written down and forget about it. Don't let your mind get cluttered up with a half-remembered ToDo list. Have a minimal number of ways to record these thoughts. One low tech way is to just carry around a stack of 3x5 cards, write down the idea and drop them into a box. The GTD groupies call it a HipsterPDA.
  2. Once a week or so, go through all your notes and categorize them, gathering them together into one place. Give the note a "context", something I'm a little unclear on, but what I choose to think of as a mindset. Usually, when you are thinking of what to do next, you have some general category of things you want to work on; say, for your job, work around the house, a computer project. This is what I call a "context".
  3. Second in importance only to jotting down the project is to decide on the very next action you need to do on it. I like to think of it as the most encompassing amount of work you could imagine doing as an atomic action. Something you are sure you will finish once you start. Around here, with two active kids, a dog, and lots of interruptions, that's a pretty small work unit!

There, that's it. Pretty simple stuff. And simplicity is an important selling point in any organizing process. Like working out, everything that complicates matters makes it less likely it will actually happen. So the process sounds very workable to me, and I like lists. But I haven't settled on a real process here yet.

To go along with the simplicity of the process, there needs to be simple data entry. Preferably, something very easy to learn, requiring few steps, and easy to get nice ToDo lists. I suppose I could handle a reasonable learning curve, if I felt the end result was going to be easy, but I'd rather not.

One Really Cool Technology that I've talked about here before is TiddlyWiki. This is a single HTML page (for better or for worse) that contains all your info and displays it in a very friendly fashion. I'm not sure why I find this work so fascinating, but I just love it, even if I haven't found a real application yet. There are a couple of nice looking GTD implementations: GTDTiddlyWiki Plus and MonkeyGTD. While the technology and the GUI are really neat, I feel the data entry is too clunky. I have to fire up my browser, click a few dozen times and enter in the data. A few too many steps, and I'll tend to let things slide. It does have a nice portability option, in that you can throw the HTML page onto a USB data stick, along with a simple browser, and you can look at it and enter data on any computer.

There are plenty of Windows-based note taking apps out there. I've mentioned a few of them in my web links posts. But they all have GUIs that I need to learn and are too tied to Windows and/or my computer. I just don't have the patience to learn them, or to integrate them into my own personal process.

I decided I wanted a simple text-based tool. I spend probably 80% of my time at the computer while in Emacs, a venerable text editor that has been expanded to do most everything. I like using it because it is available on many different platforms, and so I don't need to learn a new set of keyboard commands as I move from one platform (Windows) to another (FreeBSD) to another (Linux) to another (Mac OSX). It has saved me countless hours with its consistent UI. So I'd love to use something based on Emacs. It is always running on my computer (in the Startup folder) and has nice stuff like spell checking, indenting and the like.

But upon further investigation, I found two serious problems with a text-based GTD scheme:

  • The text markup is necessarily weird. You have to mark certain info as the importance, how long it will take, the context, etc. So you need to mark up the text, or flag it or something. And so it gets weird and ugly in a hurry.
  • It is hard to get a quick, easily digestible report showing what I need to do today. You have to go looking for a file or files, open them up, etc. And again, if there are too many steps it ain't gonna happen. And by too many steps, I mean like more than one or two things that I have to do.

One option available to Emacs is Planner Mode. It is a big Emacs package, with a ton of options and lots of possibility. But I found it hard to get started, the text markup was mysterious, and it just seemed like too big a deal. They make a big point about how flexible it is, but if you can't figure out how to use it, maybe it is too flexible!

Another option I've looked into is PyGTD, a Python-based script that parses text files and puts out a todo file. While the markup is a little strange, a few Emacs macros could fix that. But the process to go from adding a task to getting a nice ToDo report is too convoluted, with inconvenient output. Not sure how I can get a nice, easy to read report every morning. Plus I've run into a couple of serious bugs, like it seems to insert a bunch of blank lines at the top of each of my context files. And it is very very picky about the markup, even going so far as to be case-sensitive, so "T=1h" (for a task taking one hour), results in a strange stack backtrace from the Python interpreter. It's easy enough to fix, I guess, although I'm quite a Python-noob. But so far it is taking me more work than I want - I don't want it where getting a GTD process to work is the number one project! Still, it has some potential. I've already written a few Emacs things to make working with the files a lot easier, and can envision a bunch more. If I also wrote a simple program that read in my ToDo files and displayed them in a nice window, maybe that would fix the reporting problem too. But again, I have enough projects already!

So I still haven't found the perfect tool. I envision a perfect set up to be something like this:

  • Show up at the keyboard in the morning (luckily, as I work from home, my work keyboard and my home keyboard are the same!). Quickly generate a report, listing in descending importance, the tasks for my three contexts - Work, Home, Fun.
  • As I complete a task, make it very easy to remove it from the appropriate ToDo list. Maybe keep a record of it as Done.
  • Without needing any thought, make it easy to add a new project, or add another Next Action task to a project.
  • Easily add uncategorized projects as I think of them, or enter them from my 3x5 cards. A couple of keystrokes should generate a basic project or Next Action, complete with reasonable defaults.

So I'll probably continue to work on PyGTD, and see how that goes, until I find something better. Unfortunately, I think it isn't under development any more, which isn't surprising for a personal project. You get it working well for you, and that's where it stops. I think the last post on it was from January 2005, and my email about it went unanswered. Oh well, a chance to brush up on my Python skills, as I delve into the twisted, uncommented code!

Today's Fortune

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From today's fortune:

Velilind's Laws of Experimentation:
        (1) If reproducibility may be a problem, conduct the test only once.
        (2) If a straight line fit is required, obtain only two data points.
Cocktails of the Week - Golden Tang and Gloom Chaser

Now that Michael is back from vacation, we're back on schedule and we have a couple new cocktails. I wanted to try and use my newly acquired creme de mure, but I didn't find anything too interesting. So I went with some orange drinks.

    Golden Tang

  • 2 oz. vodka (Stolichnaya in this case)
  • 1 oz Strega
  • 1/2 oz creme de banana (LeRoux - yech!)
  • 1/2 oz orange juice

Interesting drink, but ultimately I think doomed due to the LeRoux. I'd like to try the 99 Bananas brand, which probably would taste much better and, again, much less artificial tasting. Another problem was probably that I used freshly squeeze blood oranges, part of our Boston Organics delivery from last week. Not only is it not "golden" or even orange (rather, as you might expect, a pretty deep red), but they are more sour too. So all in all, not a very good mixture.

    Gloom Chaser

  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz orange curaçao
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz grenadine

First off, I screwed this one up and used the Strega again, although it wasn't too bad in the end. I did get to use my fancy Curaçao of Curaçao orange curaçao, so that wasn't too bad. I also used some lemon juice from the freezer. I received so many delicious Meyer Lemons for my birthday (thanks Mom!) that I tried their recommended method for saving them - squeeze the juice and freeze it in an ice cube tray. It seemed to work pretty well. You just have to remember to melt them before you can use them. But a quick few seconds on Defrost in the microwave did the job nicely.

I also tried a new grenadine, called "Giroux", but now that I look more closely, it is certainly not the mythical brand I've been looking for ever since I finished the bottle and foolishly threw it away. No mention at all of pomegranates in the ingredients. And made in NJ, whereas I'm positive my number one brand was a French grenadine. I still have to make my own.

It turned out way red from the picture. But it still tasted pretty good, so I think we may have to try this a few more times.

Weapons of Math Destruction

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Latest joke to come over the email transom:

At New York's Kennedy airport today, an individual later discovered to
be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while
in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a setsquare, a slide rule, and
a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General John Ashcroft said he
believes the man is a member of the notorious al-gebra movement. He is
being charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a fearsome cult,", Ashcroft said. "They desire average
solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a
search of absolute value. They use secret code names like "x" and "y"
and refer to themselves as "unknowns", but we have determined they
belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with
coordinates in every country.

"As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, there are 3 sides to
every triangle," Ashcroft declared.

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had
wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have
given us more fingers and toes.

Word of the Day - lucubrate

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Just came arcross an interesting word : lucubrate : To write in a scholarly fashion; produce scholarship. Some synonums include elaborate, expound, expand and flesh out. Who can use it first today?

March Book Reading

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I've been reading at a fairly reasonable clip these days.  I try to get to bed by around 10pm, turn on a hockey game (thank Zeus for NHL® CENTER ICE® that's all I can say!), and try to get some reading in. Still, progress has been slow through my library list.

    Update from last month

  • Blink : this book made for some truly fascinating reading. It dragged in a few spots, where Gladwell went on too long with some particular example, but perceptive insights into how we "thin slice", or make snap judgments, abounded. Here's just a few examples:
    • Vic Braden, the famous tennis pro, could tell with astounding accuracy when a player was about to double fault. During one match, he was correct 16 out of 17 times, as he was able to pick up tiny clues he couldn't later even articulate.
    • A pretty scary section on how the brain can be "primed". In one study, researchers would give users lists of words and ask them to make sentence fragments. By using particular kinds of words, people would act accordingly. For instance:Blink cover
      1. him was worried she always
      2. from are Florida oranges temperatures
      3. ball the throw toss silently
      4. shoes give replace old she
      5. he observes occasionally people watches
      6. sky the seamless gray is
      After being asked to make 4 word sentences out of a long list of similarly scrambled words, you would actually walk back down a hallway slower than you walked in, because these words all bring out "old" feelings! A similar study was done using "polite" and "rude" words, and the subjects were asked to walked down a hallway and talk to another person. This second person was involved in a discussion with someone who wouldn't stop talking. The "rude" primed people would interrupt after less than 5 minutes, but the "polite" primed people never interrupted!
    • In another study, one group was asked to take 5 minuets beforehand and think about what it would be like to be a professor and to jot down their thoughts, while another was to think about soccer hooligans. The "professor" group answered 55.6% of Trivial Pursuit questions correctly, while the "soccer hooligan" group only got 42.6%.
    • In a truly scary study, using black college students and questions from the GRE, one group was asked to identify their race on a pretest question, while another was not. Test scores for the ones asked about their race were cut in half, due to being primed with the negative stereotypes associated with African Americans! Yowza.
    • The book opened with an interesting study involving two decks of cards, a blue and a red one. Each card turned over either wins you alot of money or loses money; only the decks are rigged and the red one is a losing deck while the blue one is a winning one. Most people would begin to notice the difference after about 50 cards and be certain by about 80 cards. But most amazingly, if the body's response was measured (like sweat glands), the unconscious mind begins worrying after only ten cards.
    • Researchers hung two ropes down from the ceiling and asked groups of people to figure out how to grab onto both of them, as they weren't long enough to reach easily. Most figured out three ways (move one rope closer and tie it to something, use another rope or cord tied to one to pull it closer, and to stretch as far as possible holding onto one rope and use a pole or something to grab the other). But a fourth method, to start swinging one until it swings out far enough to grab when holding the other, occurred to very few until the researcher would casually brush a rope, causing it to begin a slight swing. Suddenly, most people would come up with the fourth solution. Most surprisingly though, none of them would later say that seeing it swing caused them to think of the answer, preferring instead to say that it just popped into their heads. Funny how we can deceive ourselves!
    • In another racially charged study, selecting words for two competing lists tells us alot about how our minds are subtly conditioned by society. You can even take this test yourself here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/. It is called an Implicit Association Test.
    • I was amazed to find out that only 14.5% of American males are my height (an even six feet) or taller. I was even more amazed that nearly 60% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are 6' or taller. And while less than 4% of the population is 6'2" or taller, nearly 1/3 of the CEOs were! One study came to the conclusion that each 1" in height was worth $789 in extra annual salary.
    So yeah, this was a pretty interesting book. There were a couple of long passages about military exercises and facial muscles that I found a bit tedious, but definitely an eye-opener. So next time before you take a test, think smart thoughts!
  • Fer-De-Lance : my first Nero Wolfe novel, it was pretty good although it took me too long to read it. It was actually more of a "howdunit" rather than a "whodunit", as about half way through the book, the narrator (Wolfe's right hand man, Archie Goodwin) says something like "Now that we know he did it, you might think my thoughts are done in hindsight, but I truly didn't like him from the start", which was quite startling! There were some nice turns of phrases, like Goodwin's surprise at seeing one of the women witnesses all dressed up:
    Well, I thought, they're all different in the bathtub from what they're like at Schraft's
    I also learned a new word when Wolfe accused someone:
    Your tone is minatory.
    Which means "having a menacing quality". I'll have to remember that one! I will probably try a couple more, as I work on my own ideas of a mystery novel.
  • The Kalahari Typing School For Men : As good as the other one I listened to. Lots of fun. Pretty light stuff but a nice view of a different culture, incredibly well narrated.
  • I returned Voyage of the Narwhal and Uncommon Clay as I just didn't have time to read them. I figured I can always get back to the latter one, as I enjoy the Deborah Knott mysteries.

    Currently Reading

  • The Last Best League : a very good book on the Cape Cod Baseball League. I'm enjoying this quite a bit, although the way the author quotes the internal thoughts of others has me a little uncomfortable.
  • 1776 by David McCullough : a book on tape read by the author. I just started this, as I only recently got my Explorer back from the shop. Did you know that it is nearly impossible to get a tape player in a car these days? I was looking around at new cars, and none offered a tape player. That is a shame, as I find books on CD to be far less useful than books on tape. The problem is when you eject a book on CD, you lose your place, whereas the same isn't, obviously, true of a book on tape. My Explorer has a 6 CD player and a tape player, so how hard is that?

    In the Queue

  • A Tale Of Two Cities : the 2004 Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry And The War For The Pennant by Tony Massarotti and John Harper : Still looking for the perfect book to match the perfect 2004 season. This one looks pretty good, co-written by a Boston and a New York beat writer.
  • Why Black People Tend To Shout : Cold Facts And Wry Views From A Black Man's World by Ralph Wiley : A collection of columns from a very opinionated African American columnist.
  • The Long Season by Jim Brosnan : Purportedly one of the best "written by a player" books on baseball. I'm doing a short bio for another Boston SABR book project, this time on the fabulous 1967 Impossible Dream team. I'm doing one on Don Demeter, and I guess he is mentioned in this book, written by Brosnan during the 1959 season while he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Somehow, I resisted the urge to buy any new books, always a good sign!

Blog to riches

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Interesting story about trying to make money while blogging. Doesn't matter to me, I'm very happy with my job, but it is pretty interesting nonetheless. I remember reading a case story from Google Ads about a guy running some home improvement site, and claiming to make like US$10,000 a month in just Google Ads. Amazing!

Blogs to Riches - The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom -- New York Magazine

Web Links of the Month

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This is The web link of the month: Zillow.com - Your Edge in Real Estate - data gone crazy. Put in your address and see a quick map view of all the houses in your neighborhood, overlaid with their estimated value.  Click on a house and get all the tax info imaginable - how big, last sales, estimated price history, everything. Scary and amazing.

More links:
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation Store : Buy some cool stuff, including a pocket-sized, metal edition of the Bill of Rights.
  •  A life online: living decentralised (Mercurytide) : links to cool "Web 2.0" technology
  • Bootdisk.Com : All kinds of cool PC boot disks, support programs and nice utilities.  Good if your computer is in serious trouble!
  • Scanning Basics 101 - All about digital images :Good page with lots of excellent advice for using your scanner.
  • Microsoft Linux - the premier linux distro :Yup, it's a joke. But a pretty funny one!
  • The Why Files | The Science Behind the News : Just what it says - an in-depth look at the science in the news.
  • World's Smallest Political Quiz : where do you fit in on the political spectrum? Not surprisingly, I'm a flaming liberal:
  • NewspaperARCHIVE.com
    : A premium site, but it has lots and lots of data, including plenty of newspapers to search, all at a pretty reasonable price. Let me know if you try this and how it works out.
  • Gas Prices : enter your zip code and find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood. Not necessarily 100% complete, but it at least gives you some good ideas, especially with the rapidly changing prices these days.
  • Traffic Reports and Alerts : generate your own personal traffic reports. Pretty cool stuff. Ain't the web grand?
  • Convert files and data online : drag and drop files to convert them. Useful for line-ending conversions between DOS, Unix and the Mac, as well as converting PDFs and Excel files.
  • BookFinder.com : Very similar to Abebooks - search booksellers for out of print books.
  • FCKeditor - The text editor for Internet : put these web pages on your web site, and, voila, you have your very own online editor.
  • Identifont - identify fonts and typefaces : answer a few questions about a font and it will try and guess the name of it. Good if you see a font you want to try and use, but you don't know the name. Or type in a name and see a sample.
  • When The Long Tail Wags The Dog : you hear alot about the "long tail" these days in regards to Internet commerce.  Here, Dan Bricklin, a god among software entrepreneurs, tells you all about it.
  • Who's on First : the full transcript of the classic skit by Abbot & Costello.  Still funny after all these years.
  • Microsoft Interview Questions : a list of actual Microsoft interview questions. Many of them are dumb and I just don't see the relevance. Glad I've never had to answer these!
  • The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project : Tests With Inorganic Noxious Kakes In Extreme Situations
  • PDP Planet : Microsoft mega-billionaire Paul Allen's tribute to the PDP
  • Book-A-Minute Classics : dozens of classic books, boiled down to a one minute synopsis. Very funny stuff.
  • : buy more of these for your car at EvolveFish.com
  • Gelf Magazine: 'Bad Movie, Good Actors' : Examines the "critical" blurbs found on movie ads.
  • NNDB: Tracking the entire world : I'm not sure what this is.  It's a massive, interlinked "Who's Who" of some sort.  You could browse for hourse, I think.
  • A couple more editors for you to check out, following up on last month's links:
    • ConTEXT Programmers Editor : freeware editor with lots of syntax coloring options. Recommended by some as a Javascript editor.
    • Boxer : Text Editor for Windows : an old friend of mine wrote and sells this editor. It's got a million different options, has been around forever, and Dave Hamel is a fanatic when it comes to software, so it is good stuff. I'm an GNU Emacs man myself, so I've never felt the need to move on. But if I did, and I worked solely on Windows, I would probably use this one. Also, be sure to see the wicked cool Text Monkey product while you are there. It massages badly formatted text into usable forms, working seamlessly with the Windows clipboard. I've been using the Lite version (very slimmed down feature set) for a couple of days now, and am ready to pony up for the Pro version. It's that good! If you've ever gotten one of those gazillion forwarded jokes and would like to nicely pass it on, this will do the job for you.
  • Brilliant Button Maker : easily and quickly make those little "brilliant buttons", found on many web pages, that look like this:
  • And a couple of links to help keep Google's prying eyes off of your computer:
    • Scroogle : a web page that "scrubs" Google's prying cookies clean
    • Anonymizing Google's cookie : remove private data from Google's cookies, making you more anonymous to the ever-present Google eye.

Sports Blather

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I figured now that Spring Training (yes, it deserves capitalization!) is here, I should pontificate on some sports subjects once again. I think I'm getting through to the girls anyway! Rhiannon mentioned they played some sort of floor hockey at gym the other day, and that she scored 3 goals. Adrienne piped up to say that she scored a hat trick! Smart kid, and it is surprising what they remember some time. We talked a week ago or so while watching a hockey game and that was one of the things that came up.

Winter Olympics

Yeah, I know, folks like Bill Simmons whine about the tape-delayed Winter Olympics, saying things like "how can you watch something delayed by 8 hours when you already know what the results are?" It seems to me to be a contradictory whine. First he says that they don't matter, and then he says he already knows the results. Well, if they don't matter, then why does he know the results? And if you don't know the results, why does it matter that it is tape delayed?

France's Antoine DeneriazPersonally, I'm a huge fan of the Winter Olympics. The sports just seem to be more real and daring than the Summer games. I think the alpine downhill race is the perfect Olympic sport. You just have one run, to ski as fast as you possibly dare - no judges, no whistles, no artistry, just ski fast, one and done. As someone who loves to ski fast, I really can enjoy it watching it. I'd also love to give one of the track sports a try. Bobsled, luge, skeleton, you name it. I loved sledding as a kid in NH, and I'm sure it'd be a blast to go 80+ mph in a bobsled!

I also love the speed skating, especially the wild and woolly short track stuff. Fast, physical, and random, real exciting stuff. And of course the hockey, although I don't think it was played at the same level as in years past. Very few of the games were that close. Even the one goal losses by the American team were mostly played from behind, and only late rallies made it close. Oh, and the ski jumping! How could I forget that. What fun that would be, just sailing out over the crowd. They had some real nice shots of the ski jumping this year.

I am not a fan of the judged sports. Figure skating, not surprisingly, does nothing for me. It's a backwards sport, sort of like NASCAR racing, where you are waiting for failure, and not really so much for a spectacular play. Nor am I a fan of all the fancy schmancy snowboarding events, where they are just trying to do tricks for the judges. I'd rather see a race against competitors, not judges. Only snowboardcross did it for me when it came to the boarders. Now that was fun to watch - 4 snowboarders racing down a twisty course, just trying to come across first.

And as for the Jacobellis brouhaha, where the press (and even some teammates) got all over her for hot dogging it a little and entering the pantheon of sports losers by getting "only" a silver medal for it when she hit the ground and let her follower slip past her - who cares? C'mon, give it a rest. A silver medal is real nice too, and it isn't the end of the world she came in second, like some of the more stuffy local columnists would have you believe. I was reading somewhere about the sad emphasis on winning gold, like no other medal, or even competing hard, mattered in the slightest, and it made me shake my head in wonder. Some of these reporters seem to have the wrong idea about competition, and I'm glad most of the competitors seemed to take it on a more level field.

Curling is an interesting sport. There isn't much action, but there is plenty of strategy. I wold also love to give that sport a try, although I don't think there are any venues around here. My wife wanted to know what exactly makes curling a sport. Not sure really, any more than billiards is a sport. Do you have to be out of breath for it to count as a sport?

Baseball

Boys of Spring

It sure is nice to read about the boys playing baseball again. A true sign of warmer weather ahead, although it is still several months from now. I'm looking forward to the first few games showing up on the radio. I like nothing better than to listen to the calming rhythms of Joe and Jerry (when he isn't wildly exaggerating a pop fly into a deep home run or vice versa) calling a game on the radio. The annual game against the Boston College Eagles is coming up tomorrow, the real start of spring training baseball.

I like the looks of the team. They got younger, have some nice arms, and still have Big Papi and Manny to hit the ball a long way. I know Manny is infuriating in his antics, and I worry about the effect he will have on the younger players when they see his special treatment. But I'm still willing to cut him some slack, especially as long as we have the anti-Manny in David Ortiz. The Yankees are older and more brittle (Pavano is already shelved), and Toronto still doesn't have all the pieces, especially pitching. Maybe we can finally breakthrough and come in first this year!

Hockey

The Bruins are doing what the Bruins have done for the last 20, no 30, years now - cruising along at an high level of averageness. Usually just good enough to make the playoffs and never good enough to go very far. This year, with the salary cap, the brain trust has nowhere to hide. Before, they would say that the other teams were buying a Stanley Cup (ignoring ridiculous outlays for stiffs like Marty LaPoint), but now everyone has the same money and the Bruins are still remarkably average. They are battling it out for the eighth(!) and final playoff spot, but even if they make it in, they'll probably just lose in the first round. They are trying to get us to come into The Vault to watch though. I just received an email from them with an offer of $10 tickets. You can find out more here.

Tim Thomas, goalieThere is the nice story of Tim Thomas, journeyman goaltender. A University of Vermont Catamount, he's 32 years old and is finally getting his big chance, thanks to injuries and the general ineffectiveness of 2004's Rookie of the Year, Andrew Raycroft. Thomas was solid, even spectacular, in the couple of weeks before the Olympic break, leading the Bruins back into contention for a playoff spot. His buoyant disposition has reportedly been a real boon to the clubhouse, and he seems to be enjoying his time in the limelight.

But I wonder if he has hit a wall. His last few games before the break were a little shaky, and I was hoping the two week vacation would help him out, both physically and mentally. But his play wasn't that inspiring last night against the powerhouse (!) Carolina Hurricanes, now leading the Eastern Conference. The Bruins were actually ahead in this one, but typically let it slip away, losing 4-3. And a couple of the goals looked very stoppable, especially the second one, a slapshot from outside the faceoff circle. I don't think it was tipped by his defense on the way in, so it should have been stopped.

As a goaltender, I know how responsible I feel for every goal that gets by me. I put them into three categories:

  • Oh Well : sometimes, they're just gonna score. I move out to cut down the angle, and instead there's a nice pass over for an easy tap in. Or, like I saw happen to Medford's own Oiler, Mike Morrison, in last night's game against St. Louis, someone winds up for a big shot from inside the face-off dot and drills one up under the crossbar. Oh well...
  • Coulda Had It : these are goals that probably would have happened no matter what I did, but I still feel like I should have given a better effort. Maybe I didn't react fast enough to a rebound, or I get my skates tangled up, or my positioning is off just a tad. These are also the goals scored most often by my more gifted opponents, who have an uncanny knack for finding that hole.
  • Shoulda Had It : these are the worst, the ones you know you are 100% responsible for. Generally long range shots that get by me somehow, or ones I misjudge and slip behind me. If I can get through a game without giving up any of these, then I'm pretty happy. And I think there were one or two of these that happened to Tim Thomas last night.

I have to say, being a goalie has really help in my maturing as a person. I've only been doing it seriously for about ten years now. Growing up, I was never involved in any sort of organized hockey, just groups of all ages playing on a local pond. Even then, I was the crazy one who played "goalie" with nothing but a regular hockey stick and a smile. I'm surprised I survived! I wanted to be a goalie in soccer, my high school sport of choice, but there was a pretty good goalie who was one year in front of me, so I never got the chance. I did play goalie on a club hockey team at RPI, where there were plenty of teams playing, but as I only lasted part way into my sophomore year, that wasn't a real long term experience.

But when I was working for Interleaf, they had a group who played a Wednesday lunch hockey at a rink just down the road. Lucky for me, they had goalie equipment and a need for a goalie, so I volunteered. I was able to slowly upgrade my goalie equipment, rather than having to splurge whole hog for the entire set. So I improved it, piece by piece, until now, when most of my equipment is pretty good.

But there's certainly nowhere to hide as a goalie. You really have to learn to step up and take responsibility when you don these "tools of ignorance" (to borrow a phrase from baseball). You also have to be able to shrug off adversity and move forward, and to learn from your mistakes but not to dwell on them. At this point, I consider myself a pretty good average-level goalie. It's fun when things start clicking. You get a real feeling of invincibility, that you can stop anything.

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