Thursday, August 30, 2007

Craig-mire

A few days ago the media broke a story about Idaho Senator Larry Craig being arrested and charged with lewd conduct. This actually happened on June 11th, but Craig quickly pled guilty to the charge and paid a fine of $500 in, what I assume, was an attempt to keep it from the public. Good call. Effective, too.

According to the police report, Craig made sexual overtures towards an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport men's room. These signals included tapping his foot on the floor, brushing his foot against the officer's, 'swiping' his hand under the separating stall wall, blinking his left eye 13 times and humming 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' while wiping his ass.

Apparently these (ok, ok, I made up two of them) are known signals that a guy wants to have a sexual encounter. Combined with the placing of his rolling suitcase against the stall door (stupid question, but where else would he put it?) while he did his business led the officer to suspect that Craig was attempting to participate in 'lewd behavior'. In a fantastic move, the officer dropped his badge on the floor for Craig to see and motioned to meet him outside the stall.

Craig freaked, as you can imagine, and initially resisted until the officer said he didn't 'want to make a scene'. Making a scene seems to be the only thing Senators fear. I laughed when I heard about this because I had a mental vision of two sets of hands silently arguing under a men's room stall. The officer's hands sternly ordering Craig out of the stall, Craig's hands respond with the 'no fucking way' motion, the officer making a gun with his thumb and forefinger at which point Craig's hands dangle in defeat.

You know the rest - calls for resignation, Craig saying his actions were 'misinterpreted', a barrage of calls from George Michael.

I'm not going to get into the hypocrisy of Craig's actions. Even if he is a main opponent of same sex marriage, the weekly scandals of holier than thou politicians has numbed the American public of proper outrage. It's standard operating procedure in DC now. A lowly blogger like myself doesn't have enough clout to fire them up, either, so I'm not even going to try.

Instead, I'd like to ask more pertinent questions.

The main one is - how does a certain segment of the population decide on what subtle codes and signals are to be used in order to participate in a 'lewd' act? What gay guy (or guys) decided 'Hey, if you tap your foot while you're taking a shit, that will let me know you want me to blow you and we'll signal where to meet'?

More importantly, how did they spread the word of this signal to the greater gay community. It can't just be word of mouth (pun intended), can it?

Is there an underground newsletter?

Do gay websites post these Morse code signals?

If you tap your foot quickly, does it mean you're really horny or just constipated?

Is there a hidden meaning if one guy asks another in the next stall for some toilet paper? If so, this is going to lead to all sorts of embarrassing moments. Well, more embarrassing than running out of toilet paper in a public stall.

Can we make up some foot tap signals for 'Please flush your toilet because the stench of your shit is asphyxiating me'? We really should. Although I guess if you see the feet next to you convulsing like the guy is having a seizure, you should probably flush.

Did you ever think you'd be fondly recalling the days when men's room stalls were strictly for shitting while trying not to have your ass touch the seat, snorting coke or whacking a mafia guy?

Unfortunately for Craig, nobody seems to believe his claims of 'having a wide stance' or that he was reaching for a piece of paper. The creepiest part of the police report is Craig peeking in at the officer through the crack in the door while waiting for the stall to open up. The officer even writes 'I could see Craig's blue eyes as he stared through the crack'. It would have been great if the officer added 'His blue suit superbly complimented his eyes, his belt matched his shoes perfectly and, while older, his gray hair lent a highly dignified, yet sexy aura'.

This leads me to another question: How low on the police totem pole do you have to be to land this job? Hanging out in men's room stalls waiting for another guy to come on to you doesn't sound like the path to Detective. Or maybe it is. What the hell do I know?

Exactly. Nothing.

Today's distraction: Some much needed bathroom etiquette for the workplace. The men in my office offend the first one all the time. And the second, too. Disgusting pigs.


Quick note: I won't be posting this weekend (which is fine since my only readers will be busy moving) and may not be posting much next week, either. The powers that be are shipping me off to Phoenix. That's right the record breaking, 110 degree capital of the world. They might be trying to kill me. If they send me to California during the wildfires, I'll know something is up.

I'm hoping I'll be able to write a week's worth of entries during the friggin' five and a half hour flight. Shit, I'll be going out of my mind. Hey, if anyone has any Phoenix hangout recommendations, let me know. Enjoy your weekends!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Animal Cruelty

Since I don't have a ton of time this morning, I wanted to cop out and reference another man's writing. The following is from Tuesday Morning Quarterback (aka Gregg Easterbrook). I referenced a quick article he wrote about Vick last week, but this week in his yearly NFL preview (which itself is well worth reading) he takes us to task and the hypocrisy of the so called 'animal lovers' who are asking for Vick's head.

As he always seems to do, Easterbrook provides an alternative perspective that, hopefully, expands minds and provokes more intelligent and in depth debate. This from a football column. Go figure.

Since I don't have the intelligence or talent Mr. Easterbrook has, I hand the floor over to him.

"The disgusting thing about dogfighting isn't that animals battle and die -- after all, animals fight to the death in nature, tearing each other's flesh with heartless violence. The disgusting thing about dogfighting is that supposedly intelligent members of Homo sapiens add sadism to the natural equation by starving dogs to make them extra aggressive, filing their incisors to make the fights bloodier, and engaging in other acts unbecoming any man or woman of ethics. What Michael Vick confessed to Monday ought to disgust you, regardless of whether you are a dog lover. Include me. The Official Dog of TMQ -- a Chesapeake retriever, noble state dog of Maryland -- slumbers happily near my feet as I write this.

But the punishment expected to be imposed on Vick -- one to two years in federal prison, and perhaps never playing in the NFL again -- seems out of proportion to his actions and his status as a first-time offender. The situation is confusing because the federal crimes to which Vick pleaded guilty turn as much on gambling and racketeering as dogfighting; gambling and racketeering concern federal prosecutors because of their relationship to organized crime. Racketeering can lead to jail terms even for nonviolent first-time offenders not involved with drug sales, such as Vick. The NFL, for its part, has very strong reasons to detest gambling, and elaborately warns players they will be harshly penalized for associating with gamblers. Yet I can't help feeling there is overkill in the social, media and legal reactions to Vick, and that the overkill originates in hypocrisy about animals.

Thousands of animals are mistreated or killed in the United States every day without the killers so much as being criticized, let alone imprisoned. Ranchers and farmers kill stock animals or horses that are sick or injured. Some ranchers kill stock animals as gently as possible, others callously; in either case, prosecution is nearly unheard of. As
Derek Jackson pointed out last week in the Boston Globe, greyhound tracks routinely race dogs to exhaustion and injury, then kill the losers, or simply eliminate less-strong pups: "184,604 greyhound puppies judged to be inferior for racing" were killed, legally, in the past 20 years.

Hunters shoot animals for sport. They do so lawfully, while the manner in which Vick harmed his dogs was unlawful. But from the perspective of the animal, there seems little difference between a hunter with a state game license zipped in his vest pocket shooting a deer as part of something the hunter views as really fun sport, and Vick shooting a dog as part of something Vick views as really fun sport. In both cases, animals suffer for human entertainment. The animal-ethics distinction between Vick's actions and lawful game hunting are murky at best. A first-time offender should go to prison over a murky distinction?

Much more troubling is that the overwhelming majority of Americans who eat meat and poultry -- I'm enthusiastically among them -- are complicit in the systematic cruel treatment of huge numbers of animals. Snickering about this, or saying you're tired of hearing about it, doesn't make it go away. Most animals used for meat experience miserable lives under cruel conditions, including confinement for extended periods in pits of excrement. (Michael Pollan, who enthusiastically consumes meat and fowl, describes the mistreatment in his important new book
The Omnivore's Dilemma.) Meat animals don't magically stop living when it's time to become a product; they suffer as they die. One of Vick's dogs was shot, another electrocuted. Gunshots and electrocution are federally approved methods of livestock slaughter, sanctioned by the Department of Agriculture for the killing of cows and pigs. Regulations under the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 give federal sanction to shooting cows or pigs, or running electrical current through their bodies. Shooting and electrocution are viewed by federal law as humane ways to kill animals that will be consumed. Federal rules also allow slaughterhouses to hit cows in the head with a fast-moving piston that stuns them into semiconsciousness before they are sliced up. Being hit in the head with a powerful piston -- does that sound a bit painful, a bit cruel? It's done to tens of thousands of steers per year, lawfully.

Don't say "eew, gross" about how meat animals are butchered, then return to denouncing Vick. If you're eating a cheeseburger or BLT or steak or pot roast today, there's a good chance you are dining on an animal that was shot or electrocuted. You are complicit. You freely bought the meat, you did not demand Congress strengthen the Humane Slaughter Act. Livestock can be calmed and drugged before being slain. A few slaughterhouses do this, but most don't because it raises costs, and you, the consumer, demand the lowest possible price for your meal. Now about your turkey sub or coq au vin. Federal slaughter regulations apply mainly to large animals, leaving considerable freedom in the killing of fowl. Many poultry slaughterhouses kill chickens by slashing their throats rather than snapping their necks. Snapping the neck kills the bird quickly, ending suffering, but then the heart dies quickly, too. Slashing the throat causes the bird to live in agony for several minutes, heart still beating and pumping blood out of the slash -- and consumers prefer bloodless chicken meat.

Further, the Humane Slaughter Act exempts kosher and halal slaughter. In both traditions, the cow or lamb must be conscious when killed by having its carotid artery, or esophagus and trachea, slashed. The animal bleeds to death, convulsing in agony, as its heart pumps blood, which is viewed as unclean, out of the slashed openings. The delicious pastrami we consumed at a kosher deli, or the wonderfully good beef we could buy at a halal butcher, comes from an animal that suffered as it died.

Yes, Vick broke the law; yes, he arrogantly lied and refused to apologize when first caught; and yes, his actions before and after the dog killings indicate he is one stupid, stupid man. But Vick's lawbreaking was relatively minor compared to animal mistreatment that happens continuously, within the law, at nearly all levels of the meat production industry, and with which all but vegetarians are complicit. There is some kind of mass neurosis at work in the rush to denounce Vick, wag fingers and say he deserved even worse. Society wants to scapegoat Vick to avoid contemplating its own routine, systematic killing of animals. We couldn't all become vegetarians tomorrow: that is not practical. But American society is not even attempting to make the handling of meat animals less brutal, let alone working to transition away from a food-production order in which huge numbers of animals are systematically mistreated, then killed in ways that inflict terror and pain. We won't lift a finger to change the way animals die for us. But we will demand Michael Vick serve prison time to atone for our sins.

Legal note: Vick might be compelled to repay the Falcons a huge amount of bonus money, and will lose $25 million or more in endorsement income. I have no sympathy for his loss of endorsement income: Vick was hired to bring Nike and other companies he endorsed good publicity, and instead brought them bad. But think about the income loss in the calculation of overpunishment of Vick. One or two years in federal prison, and perhaps state prison time if state charges are filed as well; plus $25 million in lost endorsement income and, oh, $50 million in lost or returned NFL income. That's overkill! Often the indirect financial consequences of legal proceedings are worse than the official ones, in the same way that a speeding ticket might cost you $75 but add $1,000 to your annual insurance bill.

In effect, the federal indictment of Vick is resulting in him being fined around $75 million, which is far too much retribution. The legal hang-up is that since 1984, federal courts have been forbidden to consider monetary loss in private life as counting toward punishment. But a year of banishment from the NFL, a guilty plea with suspended sentence and probation (meaning the sentence is imposed if probation is violated), seems plenty of punishment for a first offense by someone who has not harmed another human being. Prison time and a $75 million fine? What Vick did was indecent, but now excessive punishment is being imposed, and two wrongs do not equal one right. Justice, after all, must be tempered with mercy. That's what you would think if you stood in the dock accused.

Hypocrisy note: Look who's advertising on a Web page extolling the cruel
crossbow killing of animals for sport -- the NFL. Oh, that Michael Vick, he's evil, he's bad. But buy NFL Shop items to wear when you shoot deer with arrows so they slowly bleed to death!"


Today's distraction: Not to ruin everyone's lunch today, but here is a rather bland take on the handling of poultry from, of all places, the U.S. Humane Society. You'd think they'd be a bit more aggressive with this. Maybe they just like their chicken sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's Time

Forgive me for saying what needs to be said. After conversing with my new best friend French yesterday, I wrote something in a reply that I hadn't realized needed saying. It was an off the cuff, spur of the moment statement that upon further consideration I need to expand on.

So, on the kickoff of the Sox - Yankees series, I am here to say that it's time for Fenway to go.

I don't mean more renovations since there is only so much that can be done with the current structure. I also don't mean it needs to be razed and built upon. I consider it an historic building and part of the Boston culture. For better and worse.

What I mean is, it's time - hell, well past time - for a new ballpark. John Henry and Tom Warner have done a fantastic job getting what they could out of the old place, but there is only so much time and money they should be dumping into it. They're trying to reinvent the wheel. Unfortunately, this wheel is square and knobby and has cracks running through it. It isn't worth reinventing since everyone that uses it experiences a bumpy ride and leaves with sore asses.

I know, I know, the place still has it's charms. So did Tiger Stadium. So did Candlestick Park. So did the Astrodome....wait, scratch that one. So did...whatever the Orioles had before Camden Yards. My point is that every single one of those cities had the 'purists' that cried out at the desecration of history; that the park being replaced was sacred and tearing it down would be blasphemous. How DARE YOU!

Then Camden Yards opened and people walked into the gates for the first time and were astounded. Then PacBell or AT&T or whatever the hell it's called this week opened and people realized what they had been missing. Then the new Detroit Stadium (what the hell is it called?) opened and fans realized what a dump Tiger Stadium really was (hey, it's Detroit, it was a dump).

I love Fenway just as much as everyone else around here, but why is it impossible to build a new park? Would people really be opposed to a new waterfront ballpark that has the intimacy of Fenway without every other seat being obstructed by a steel girder? Or how about seats that actually face the right direction and not towards right field. Sure, Fenway is nearly magical, but it's was built when the average life expectancy was 35 and the average man stood 5 foot 9. I'm not sure if those stats are accurate, but it sounds right to me.

This is what will happen if and when a new park is built:

- Proposal will be poo pooed by all the politicians and newspaper sports columnists within a 100 mile radius. It won't matter how stunning or unique it might be. It will automatically be dismissed.

- The average fan - who, by the way, can barely afford to get into Fenway any more - will vent about Fenway being a 'shrine' or 'church to baseball' and vow never to set foot in the new park.

- The park, after spending years and years languishing in the quagmire known as Boston politics, construction kick backs and questionable back room deals will finally get approved, but only if they promise to add the Green Monster and that the right field bleachers be named after some dead politician that nobody heard of and was probably on the take.

- The park is finished and Fenway has one last season before being packed into mothballs and used as a museum. Every year they still play the Futures at Fenway double header with little turn out.

- The new ballpark opens. Imagine this, if you will (I really wish this blog had an option to play a song while you read. I'd have John Lennon's 'Imagine' kick in right here):

Seats that are comfortable and provide a view to every piece of the park

Aisle wide enough that two people can pass without one having to step on another seated fan's toes in order to make appropriate room.

Beer men

40,000...hell make it 45,000 seats that all have great views of the game.

Stadium seating on most levels so that doofus in front of you that gets up 1500 times won't obstruct your view.

Beer men

A water view (see below)

A high def jumbo tron screen in center field that's big enough for every single person to see the score, replays, who's at bat, who's on deck, what their stats are...oh you get the idea. A big ass, motherfucker (BAMF) screen.

Beer men

A state of the art sound system so you can actually hear what the announcer is saying.

You got it all in your head? Good. Now picture you being able to afford good seats and watching the Red Sox put another killer team on the field for our enjoyment. Only the owners would be making money and we wouldn't have asses falling asleep in cramped, wooden chairs that squeeze the knees of any guy over 5 foot 11. I'm still convinced they invented the seventh inning stretch because of places like Fenway. If they didn't make people stand at some point during the game they might never get out of their seats.

This is not an impossibility. This city is putting the finishing touches on the biggest engineering project in history and we only went over budget by a few billion dollars. And, for the record, nobody wanted that project to happen either.

The problem comes from the inbred nature of Bostonians. See, we're opposed to any sort of change. Doesn't matter if it's good, bad or indifferent. We are Boston because things are the way they are and altering any of that will be selling out or robbing us of our identity. It's why even the most benign changes are pissed and moaned about. You should have heard the outcry when the city learned Starbucks was going to open. 'This is a Dunkin Donuts city!' 'A posh place like that will never succeed in a working class city like Boston.' Right. Starbucks now occupies every other corner in the Financial District and there are lines out the door between 8 and 9 am.

There is another issue in regards to Boston. It's the very reason that the current owners have resigned themselves to vainly trying to improve Fenway. Politics. Anyone that lives in the area will tell you the backstabbing, petty, vindictive and down right childish behavior of our civic 'leaders' is comical. Progress in this city is at such a snail's pace for ANYTHING because one group will always oppose another or the mayor doesn't like a certain councilman. Never mind that the changes would benefit the entire city or that the improvement has been needed for over a decade.

There was a beautiful new ballpark already designed when the owners first bought the Red Sox. I saw an artist rendering of it and it was spectacular. They even had a site for it, but the owner of the property happened to be one of the guys that bid on the Sox and lost out to the current ownership group. He put his sour grapes to good use and refused to sell the site to the city or the Sox. You may have heard of this guy, because after squashing the new ballpark he moved out west and bought the Dodgers. Vengeance, thy name is McCourt.

It's time for a new era, Boston. Put an end to your old school, bitter, political thought process and revive the new ballpark plans. The new seaport district (down by the Pavilion, World Trade Center and Convention Center) is the perfect spot for it. There is plenty of land to use, there are new hotels, the park would have a spectacular view of the harbor and the planes coming and going from Logan Airport. Even better, it would stimulate an already blossoming economy in the area. It's just a short walk to the downtown area and you can be sure the Silver Line will be running. South Station is at the end of the street, as well as the Red Line.

The new hotels in the area will love it, too. There's the Seaport Hotel right down the street, the LongWharf Marriot, and the brand, spanking new Intercontinental Hotel (run by a beautiful friend of mine) that would be more than happy to accommodate the overflow of players, reporters and fans from other cities.

Personally, I don't care where the new park. Seaport would be ideal, since nobody lives in that area, the view is great and the land is there. But I'll take what I can get. Somewhere, anywhere a new park is needed. As much as I love Fenway (a love decreasing with each visit), it has outlived it's usefulness.

For you purist and Fenway Faithful, do not worry. When you sit down for the first time in the new park, your first thought will be: 'Damn, why did we wait so long?'

Quick Yankee - Sox note: This series has the 'law of averages' vibe about it. Yankees just got killed by the Tigers. Sox just crushed the White Sox. Plus some douche in the Boston media declared the AL East race 'Over' yesterday. In the old days this would mean the Yankees sweep, but this year they'll just take 2 out of 3.

Today's distraction: In last week's Contender entries I apparently left out one team. Did anyone expect this? Check out the current NL Central standings. Yikes!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fantasy Life

This past weekend was the Fantasy Football Draft Double Header. I had my real one on Friday night, then my play one on Saturday night. For the record Friday night is real because I have $100 invested in it. Saturday was a favor to my brother in law since he needed another guy.

Anyway, here are the results and I must say I'm quite pleased with my teams.

Friday Night: This was an old fashioned draft, with no computers (except mine), plenty of beers and lots of insults flying around. Me and my buddy didn't make a good impression, arriving almost 2 hours late. Once again, his fiancee (aka the bane of my existence) used her passive aggressive tendencies to manipulate her man and make me sit around while they ate dinner at the 99. It's bad enough we were going to be late anyway, but she 'didn't want to eat alone'. And yes, she said it with a pouty, whiny voice so her soon to be ex-husband would feel guilty. 'Yeah, I feel like eating, too'. So they ate while I had two 23 ounce beers and drummed my fingers on the bar.

In the meantime his brothers and friends kept calling his cell asking where we were. Not a great start.

Finally, I manage to pry him away and get moving. All the while he's bitching 'I shouldn't have eaten' or 'I don't know why I took the time to eat. I hate being late'. I don't want to be around when he realizes why this is.

Rules for this league are 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 kicker, 1 defense, then 7 reserves. We play head to head with another team and I managed to secure the number 3 pick, which wasn't as beneficial as I would have thought. I picked Joseph Addai with number 3, only because Tomlinson and Jackson were gone and I don't have that much faith in Larry Johnson. He's been run into the ground the last three years and just signed a massive contract. He has disaster written all over his face. No really, go look closely at a recent picture. Guy picking behind me was grateful for the pass over, but I feel good about Addai.

Here's the thing about getting a good draft slot. You have to wait as the draft goes up, then comes back down. When you're 1,2 or 3, it's a long wait. Especially when the Sox are on, beers are flowing, and half the guys were already picking guys that were picked.

I won't bore you with the details. Here is my Friday night team. Or the one that counts.

QB - Drew Brees
RB - Joseph Addai
RB - Clinton Portis
TE - Dallas Clark
WR - Anquan Boldin - the guy picking just after me was PISSED I made this pick. That made me laugh
WR - Marques Colston
K - Stephen Gastowski - I needed a Pat on my squad
Defense - Ravens - this pick issued more 'FUCKS!' than any other. At least 3 guys picking after me were quite upset. Pity.

Reserves:
QB - Jay Cutler - shocked is not the appropriate response to this. I picked him in the second to last round and couldn't be happier. He's great Brees insurance or at the very least great trade bait after he puts up his first 3oo yard/2 TD game.

QB - Damon Huard - my last pick, cut me some slack. I was hoping Leinert would fall to me here, but he was picked by the same fuck that took Tomlinson with #1. I actually considered Brady Quinn with this pick, but decided to take a guy that's at least proven something.

RB - DeShaun Foster - not real comfortable with Portis so this and...

RB - Maurice Morris - .... this are my insurance policies.

TE - Randy McMichael - In case Clark gets hurt again this year.

WR - Wes Walker

WR - Mark Clayton

Overall, looks like a solid team. Two things here:

1: If the Saints were a one hit wonder last year, I am fucked. With Brees and Colston on my team I'm taking a bit of a gamble things weren't a fluke. I am comfortable with this gamble, though. Their offense looks to be potent.

2: At least early, my RBs are hinging on Portis having a comeback year. I can always replace him with Foster if he looks spent and may do just that until I know he's healthy for sure. Foster falling to the 10th round helped me a lot.

By the way, this Friday night draft predictably got me in hot water with wifey when I stumbled home half in the bag at around 11pm. I had left at 5:30 with the words 'Shouldn't be more than a couple of hours'. Whoops.

Saturday Night: This was much more pleasing to wifey as I didn't have to leave the house. It was done online, which was more convenient and less fun. I did, however, get the first pick which was chosen at random by the computer. Love the computer. This draft started at 7pm and we were completely done by 8:15. We cruised.

This one is done with points only. No head to head matchups. I needed three wide receivers, as opposed to two in the other league and only 5 reserves. Here's my team for this league which will pay me nothing and most likely confuse me when I have to select my Friday night team. You'll see why in a minute.

QB - Donovan McNabb
RB - Ladianian Tomlinson - yeee hawww!!!
RB - Marshawn Lynch
WR - Anquan Boldin
WR - Marques Colston
WR - Muhsin Mohammad
TE - Randy McMichael
K - Olindo Mare
Defense - Denver - people took defenses waaayy too early in this draft. The Ravens and Bears went in the second round with the Pats going in round 3. What the hell is with that?

Reserves
QB - Matt Leinert
RB - Deshaun Foster - see what I mean about confusion??
RB - Leon Washington
RB - Michael Turner - my ultimate Tomlinson backup in both fantasy and real world life
WR - Anthony Gonzalez - who could be the ultimate sleeper

There you go. My two teams. Still haven't figured out a few things. First, what do I do with my defense when my primary team is on it's bye week? Do I pick a temporary one for that week?

Second, will I cry when Tomlinson goes down with a torn ACL in week 4? Probably not, but I will if Brees or Addai does.

That I can nearly promise you.

Today's distraction: Take the VR Quarterback Challenge. It even has commentary by Sean Salisbury. They spared no expense. Except on the actual game itself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some Clean Up

It's almost 9:30 at night and I'm bored out of my fucking skull waiting for my project to finish doing it's thing. Since my mother liked to say 'a watched pot never boils' - another in a long line of sayings that make zero sense to me - I figure I would clean up and provide leftovers for an otherwise dull Thursday morning. By dull, I mean for me, since this entry will surely brighten your day.

Not, what? 4 hours after I call Cole Hamels a stud and a key to the Phillies making the playoffs, they put him on the 15 day DL. Oh, and same for Chris Young. I really hope I'm not developing into an SI or Madden jinx. Wait.....

In my AL contender entry I completely forgot to mention what a fantastic year Alex Rodriguez is having for the Yankees. They would be lost without him. He is a stud and the key to the Yankees making the playoffs. Jeter, too. He rocks!

Remember my mourning the inclusion of David Murphy in the Eric Gagne trade? Check out his current stats. This includes 5 hits last night. Yeah, I know! But the Rangers didn't have Gagne in their nailbiter last night, did they? Fools!

Think the Ravens will beat one of the Texas teams by that same 30-3 score this coming season?


OK, here's the deal. For years I have fought joining a Fantasy Football League, mainly because I just don't have the time. So what happens? I'm now in two. My buddy called yesterday to say they needed another guy. I'm already committed to my brother in law's, too. This might be the straw that broke the camels back as far as my marriage is concerned. Oh well.

Did you know that there was a category 5 hurricane? You may have missed it, since the news didn't really pay much attention to it. Not to worry, it's been downgraded to a simple tropical storm. Carry on with your lives. Nothing to see here.

Roz Savage isn't having much luck rowing to Hawaii. According to her blog, the wind keeps blowing her back towards the California coast. She also spent an eventful night when her boat was capsized twice. Fortunately, the boat is 'self righting' and she just hangs on while the boat fixes itself. Much easier than having to do it yourself. Discovered two things about dear Roz. First is that she also does a Podcast from the boat. Second is that she apparently spends time rowing naked. In her August 17th entry she casually mentions an encounter with a Navy ship and how she didn't want the ship to spot her because....well....here's Roz: 'I didn't want to have to interrupt my stride to go and put clothes on'. I love her more every day.

As part of my occasional public service announcements, you should not jump into a bear cage. I find it strange that the article only briefly mentions the multiple cell phones, stones and bricks found in the bear's cage. Was this dope throwing things at the bears before climbing in? Was this 'suicide by bear'?

Is it too early for the Patriots to buy the rights to Tom Brady's newborn son?

Bachelor party update - His fiancee has once again put her two cents in, emailing me that he 'really had his heart set on a trip to Foxwoods'. I find this troublesome for two reasons. First is that if this is true he would come out and say so. He's a big boy and I've told him several times this is his party so we'll do what he wants. Second is that Foxwoods was HER idea and I know she's pushing it so she can 'accidentally' bump into us down there or have some control over what we do. I really need to get him alone to hash this out. Oh, she also wrote this in her email 'Strippers = no wedding'. I resisted the urge to ask if that was a threat or a promise.

If ever a headline got a story wrong, it's this one. We don't WANT to think about it. La la la la...I can't hear you!!!

So, I got a grand total of 2 hours of sleep last night. I was working until 1 am, then 2 year old decided to wake up for milk. Then 7 year old decided he wanted water. Then 2 year old started crying for some unknown reason. Then 7 year old crept into my room to tell me his legs hurt. Conclusion? I'm sleepy.

He may only be 7, but it's still unsettling to be half asleep, sense a presence standing next to your bed, then open your eyes to see the silhouette of a person 3 inches from your face. Scared the living shit out of me. Fucking kids!

I have just learned the BeachBum Goodwill Tour will be making a stop in Phoenix the week after Labor Day. As my boss says, 'It's going to be hot there, just so you know. HOT!! Like 100 degree hot'. Thanks, boss! On the bright side, I've never been to Phoenix. On the dull side, the flight is nearly five and a half hours and I may be pulling a D.B. Cooper somewhere over St Louis. Hey, maybe I can hit a Diamondbacks game! I feel better already.

For those of you thinking 'you should hit one of the thousands of golf courses in the Phoenix area', I give you this story. Senior year in high school. First time golfing outside of Hago Harrington's Mini Golf. First swing off the tee I hit the ball approximately 15 feet. Very next swing with my buddy giving me pointers, I hit the ball 150 yards....in the completely wrong direction. In fact, it went in a direct 90 degree trajectory away from me. Completely perpendicular to where I was aiming. The club must have hit the edge of the ball and sent it screaming at this guy's head on the next fairway. Staring after the ball in utter astonishment, we both realize it is heading directly for this guy's noggin. We both scream and yell and he moves his head at the last second as the ball whizzes by the exact space his surprised face occupied less then a second before. The entire incident took less than 5 seconds, after which we stood there looking after the ball for another minute. Finally, my friend, who has been golfing since childhood, says, 'I have never seen anything like that before. I didn't even know it was possible.' I retired from golfing on the spot and we went to the beach.

Alright, that's it for today. I'm tired and cranky and want to take a nap. If I don't get an entry in tomorrow, you all enjoy your weekends.


Today's distraction: If you haven't this before, it is quite entertaining. It's Animator vs Animation. There are a whole series of these, but I believe this is the original.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Contenders - NL Edition

On to the National League:

New York Mets (71-53) 5 game lead in NL East

Strengths - The best lineup in the National League, even with DoLuca going down with an injury. Wright is on pace for 30/100 after a slow start, Reyes is Reyes, Beltran is hitting again, and Delgado may never have the average, but you wouldn't want him up with the game on the line.

Weaknesses - Pitching has been inconsistent at best. Maine has been up and down, Glavine hasn't been his best and Billy Wagner is a walking heart attack for Met fans. To put things in perspective, their most reliable starter has been Orlando Hernandez.

Worry For Rest of League - The return of one Mr. Pedro Martinez.

Summary - Unless something goes horribly wrong, they should be National League World Series representative.


Arizona Diamondbacks (71-56) 3.5 game lead in NL West

Strengths - Pitching, clutch hitting, nobody seeing this coming from hundred miles. Eric Byrne and Orlando Hudson bringing AL batting sensibility to the NL.

Weaknesses - Having to put an under achieving Drew in the lineup nearly every night. Wait,what team is this again?

Worry For Rest Of League - That the clock won't strike midnight on this Cinderella team. Seriously, what the fuck?

Summary - I was tempted to sum things up with the last sentence above, but thought better of it. A shockingly well rounded team that nobody saw coming and nobody has answers for. When the season began I had the Dodgers pegged as the main threat to the Mets, but this is the team that should worry the rest of the NL. Like the Mariners, they just have that look.


San Diego Padres (66-58) 3.5 back in NL West. Tied for wild card lead.

Strengths - Pitching. Between Chris Young, Jake Peavy and shedding David Wells 330 pounds of dead weight, this is a team everyone hopes misses the playoffs by thiiiis much.

Weaknesses - Everything but pitching. Their lineup is spotty and that's being generous. Anemic might be a better word. Their MVP is Gonzalez and he's struck out 108 times already and only hits .270. Defense is just decent, which for a pitcher oriented team such as this, could be the kiss of death.

Worry For Rest of League - Please reference Peavy, Jake and Young, Chris then add Maddux, Greg to a playoff team and you can see the cause for concern. Especially in a 5 game series.

Summary - Their pitching might get them over the hill, but it's a big 'might' for a team that has this much trouble scoring runs.


Chicago Cubs (64-60) First place tie with Brewers in NL Central

Strengths - The three headed monster known as Soriano-Ramirez-Lee that has combined for 180 RBIs. Add DeRose, Jaque Jones and little known Ryan Theriot and there isn't much breathing room. Solid starters with Zambrano, Hill, and Lilly.

Weaknesses - Despite the lineup, it seems to be feast or famine for scoring runs. They either get 1 or 8 and there's little in between.

Worry For Rest Of League - Lou Pinella's head exploding after another tough loss and ruining a bunch of bats in the visiting dugout.

Summary - Seem to have all the ingredients, but just can't put any distance between them and the rest of the division. Might come back to bite them in the ass as they probably won't have the record to claim the wild card.


Milwaukee Brewers (65-61) First place tie with Cubs in NL Central.

Strengths - Prince Fielder and home cooking (40-25). Decent secondary starters like Jeff Suppan (no really!) and Claudio Vargas have been trying to plug the damn until Sheets gets healthy.

Weaknesses - Decent secondary starters like Jeff Suppan (no really!) and Claudio Vargas have been trying to plug the damn until Sheets gets healthy. When your pennant race depends on Suppan and Vargas, you're in trouble.

Worry For Rest Of League - That Fielder won't level off and hits 80 home runs. That Sheets comes back better than ever.

Summary - Nice story, but even if they make the playoffs I can't see them doing much damage. Teams will start pitching around Fielder in the playoffs and force the rest of the mediocre lineup to beat them.


Philadelphia Phillies (66-58) 5 games back in NL East. Tie for wild card lead.

Strengths - Besides the Mets, the best lineup in the NL. Ryan Howard has been a force of nature since June 1st and even Pat Burrell (yeah, Pat Burrell) is holding his own. Outside shot that five players could get 100 RBIs.

Weaknesses - Cole Hamels aside, their pitching is suspect. Jamie Moyer (or as I like to call him Grampa Walton) has an ERA of nearly 5 yet still has a winning record. Adam Eaton has an ERA of 6.36 and is 9-8!! Their closer is Brett Myers and his 4.85 ERA.

Worry For Rest Of League - Jon Leiber comes back healthy and effective. That Burrell keeps it up and any time they have to pitch to Howard.

Summary - I love watching Howard play and Hamels is a stud, but they just don't have the pitching to make a run in October.

Atlanta Braves (66-60) 6 games back in NL East. 1 game back in wild card

Strengths - Since making the Teixeira trade, the entire Atlanta lineup has been on fire. Chipper Jones is still tearing it up and even with his well publicized struggles (.214 average) Andruw is on pace for another 30/100 year. Smoltz and Hudson are the best 1-2 combo in the league.

Weaknesses - Bullpen. Wickman is a decent closer, but he gives the Braves fans just as many heart palpitations as Wagner does for Mets fans. Need reliable starters for end of rotation.

Worry For Rest Of League - They pull another starter out of their asses....er...farm system like they do every year or Andruw Jones goes on a monster tear like he did last season.

Summary - Still one of the elites and should be in it until the final few days.


LA Dodgers (64-61) 6 games back in NL West. 2.5 games back in wild card

Strengths - Brad Penny is a Cy Young candidate, Derek Lowe is having a solid year despite a losing record (9-11, 3.45 ERA), and Chad Billingsly gives them a chance most nights.

Weaknesses - Can't score a run if their lives depend on it. Only four teams in EITHER league have scored fewer runs than the Dodgers (for the record, they're all in the NL, which is why I can't take this league seriously). Lowe's record makes sense now, doesn't it? If he had that ERA on the Sox or Yankees, he'd be considered a Cy Young finalist.

Worry For Rest Of League - None really. This team doesn't scare anyone.

Summary - Unless something miraculous happens, this team should sink fast. That they're even this close at this time of the year should tell you everything you need to know about the NL.

Colorado Rockies (64-61) 6 games back in NL West. 2.5 games back in wild card

Strengths – Surprisingly potent lineup with Holliday leading the way and Helton, Hawpe, Tulowitzki, and Atkins all having a shot at 100 RBI seasons.

Weaknesses – Not one starter has an ERA under 4. I could elaborate, but that pretty much says it all. Especially considering they play a ton of games against the Padres and Dodgers.

Worry For Rest Of League – That the pitching somehow improves and success at home translates to the road.

Summary – Don’t count on either of those things happening. Will spoil a few other contenders’ season, but that’s about it.


St Louis Cardinals (60-62) 3 games back in NL Central. 5 games back in wild card.

Strengths – With Rolens, Pujols, and Edmonds shaking off the rust or hangover or whatever it was, they’re finally scoring runs again.

Weaknesses – Their rotation consists of Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, and Kip Wells. They were so hard up for starters they plugged Joel Pineiro in and he’s actually done well. Go figure. Still, if that’s your solution, there ain’t much hope for you.

Worry For Rest Of League – That Chris Carpenter comes back healthy and effective for the stretch run.

Summary – No, I can’t believe they’re still in the race, either. Despite his DWI nap, this has to go down as one of La Russa’s best managing jobs. That they’re even in this discussion after the first half of the year is impressive.

Predictions: Mets win the East, Cubs the Central, Diamondbacks the West. Wild card goes to Braves.

Today's distraction: This is purely for Red Sox fans. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Contenders - AL Edition

I wanted to toss together a quick summary of all the baseball teams left contending for the playoffs. There are surprisingly quite a few remaining. For the record if a team is 10 or more back in the Wild Card race, they aren't on the list. Sure they could make a September run at it, but I think we can all agree they would have shown signs of life by now.

Anyway, American League today.

Boston Red Sox (75-50) 5 game lead in AL East

Strengths - Pitching. The best starting ERA, the most shutouts, the fewest blown saves (pre-Gagne), lowest bullpen ERA. Pitching has kept this team on top all season and, barring injuries, should keep them there. They come at you with Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling (the BIG question mark of the rotation), and Lester. Then throw in Wakefield, who looks like he's on one of his famous streaks at the moment, and Tavarez, who gives the team a chance to win most starts, and you have a tough rotation to face in October. And if you manage to get past them, Okajima, Timlin (who is looking healthy for the first time all year), Delcarmen, and Papelbon will be anxiously waiting to greet you. Yikes!

Weaknesses - Clutch hitting. Besides Manny and Papi and Drew and Lugo all having subpar years, this is still a good hitting team. And yes, that was a joke. It's been frustrating watching potential rallies killed because Drew swings and misses at yet another slider or Lugo dribbles to the shortstop AGAIN. Granted everyone except Youkalis appears to be getting on track, but is that a sign of things to come or an abnormality?

Worry For Rest of League - Both Ortiz and Manny look like they're hitting their stride at the same time. The grand slam Papi hit off Weaver was one of the hardest balls I've seen hit all year and Manny leads the AL in RBIs since the All Star break.

Summary - Anyone else surprised this team still has the best record in the majors? Just think where they'd be if they didn't pick up Gagne!



LA Angels (73-51) 2 game lead in AL West

Strengths - They have the best home record in either league at a whopping 41-17 (including last night's win over the Yankees, thank you very much). One of the toughest bullpens in the AL and a lineup that everyone fears. Well, a top of the lineup that everyone fears, anyway.

Weaknesses - Did you know they have a losing record on the road? It's true. 32-34. Sorry, but if you going to contend for a championship, you need to produce on the road. Starting pitching seems to come and go, too.

Worry For Rest of League - Everytime they have to face the top half of this lineup. Figgins, Cabrera (seriously, for $10 million less than they paid for Renteria he could still be with the Sox), Vlad, Matthews Jr, and even Casey Kotchman and Willits are an imposing bunch. Good luck making your way through that crew.

Summary - They'll be there at the end, but don't expect them to go very far in the playoffs. Especially if they don't win home field advantage throughout. Puzzling they didn't trade for some pitching help.


Seattle Mariners (70-52) 1.5 games up in wild card, 2 back in AL West

Strengths - Clutch hitting. Let's go back a few months when they won 5 - yeah 5 - straight games in their last at bat. When your cleanup hitter is batting .209, yet still has 20 homers and 60 RBIs, something strange is going on.

Weaknesses - Besides Hernandez, is there one starting pitcher on this team you would feel comfortable with pitching for your favorite team? And even King Felix has had his share of trouble. Maybe Washburn, but his ERA is over 4 and is 8-10 and certainly not Jeff Weaver, despite his recent success. Batista? No thanks.

Worry For Rest of League - It might just be me, but this seems to be a team that's greater then the sum of it's parts. They never seem to get blown out and Ibanez has been on a tear for two straight months.

Summary - This team scares me. Nothing particular about them, just the vibe. Honestly, I don't know how they're doing it. There is just a 'destiny' feel to this group. Ask yourself this: Would you rather this team make the playoffs or the Yankees?


New York Yankees (70-55) 5 games back in AL East. 1.5 games back in wild card

Strengths - Hitting, hitting and more hitting. Have already scored nearly 750 runs and could reach 1,000 by mid September if this keeps up.

Weaknesses - Pitching, of course. It's been better, but can they expect it to keep up? Plus the usually potent lineup tends to disappear against the better pitchers. A lot of their runs have come against the Kansas Cities, Tampa Bays and Rangers of the league.

Worry For Rest of League - That Clemens, Pettite and Mussina get their shit together at the same time. Just think how good this team could be if they had the Red Sox rotation. Hell if they had the Angels' rotation.

Summary - Sure, every team has peaks and valleys, but has any team had lower valleys and higher peaks than this one? The question is can their current peak continue?


Cleveland Indians (68-55) 1.5 game lead in AL Central

Strengths - Tough lineup from top to bottom and three starters the give them a chance to win every time out. Carmona, Sabathia and Byrd are a combined 39-18.

Weaknesses - Not many, but bullpen is a major concern. Could be their downfall come playoff time.

Worry For Rest of League - That Hafner and Sizemore break out of their season long slumps. Sure Hafner has 18 homers, but he's only batting .253. If these two get going, forget it.

Summary - I would hate to see the Sox meet this team in the playoffs and I'll bet every other contender feels the same way. A team built for October if they can get that far.


Detroit Tigers (67-57) 1.5 games back in AL Central. 4 games back in wild card.

Strengths - Power. Sheffield, Grandison, and Guillen have a combined 55 home runs and 205 RBIs. Then you have Magglio Ordonez hitting .351 with 22 homers and an astounding 110 RBIs. While A-Rod is getting all the publicity, Ordonez is winning the MVP.

Weaknesses - Injuries are killing this team right now and there is no way to know when things will get better. Especially troubling is that the injuries are effecting the pitching staff.

Worry For Rest Of League - That they get healthy.

Summary - Hard to figure we're they'll end up. If they get healthy in the next few weeks they still have a chance, but considering the state of their starters, I can't see them getting too much farther. Still, that lineup gives them chance every night.


Toronto Blue Jays (63-61) 11.5 games back in AL East. 8 games back in wild card

Strengths - Surprisingly well rounded team. Injuries at the beginning of the season all but doomed this team, but they've held on with solid pitching and a determined lineup. Even with Vernon Wells having a sub par year, there isn't an easy out on this team. Hell, Frank Thomas is on his way to a 25 homer, 100 RBI season. No shit!

Weaknesses - Depth. See injuries in May.

Worry For Rest of League - That they go on a run. Not that it's likely considering they have two reliable starters and a bunch of fill ins.

Summary - They should feel good about themselves for getting this far, but don't expect much more than pride at the end of September.


Minnesota Twins (62-62) 6.5 back in AL Central. 9 back in wild card.

Strengths - Defensively one of the best teams. Santana. Decent, but not great lineup.

Weaknesses - Besides Santana, who else is there? Losing Liriano last season killed them.

Worry For Rest of League - None, really. Cleveland and Detroit will have to worry about them playing spoilers, maybe.

Summary - Despite solid years from Hunter and Morneau they don't have the pitching to keep up.


Predictions:

Red Sox win the East, Seattle the West, Cleveland the Central. Angels are wild card.


Today's distraction: A fantastic article about the Michael Vick saga. Agree with much of what is written here, especially the discrepancy between how we view people that mistreat animals and those who mistreat other humans. Neither is acceptable and the dog fighting is downright reprehensible, but I find it strange the outcry for Vick's head when Ray Lewis, who was involved in a double murder and numerous football players who have been convicted of domestic abuse are still admired. The lesson appears to be it's ok to hit your wife, but don't you dare hit your dog.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vacation Wrap Up

I would ask if you missed me, but I'm not sure I want to know the answer. Some thoughts from the week(end) that was:

-StoryLand wasn't nearly as much of a nightmare as I expected. Whenever I hear about a park designed for kids, I immediately envision a bunch of screaming, ill behaved, spoiled brats throwing temper tantrums when they don't get ice cream for lunch. However, since this is a park designed for the younger ones, it wasn't nearly that crowded or noisy. Even my two year old could go on most of the rides. I may have even (gasp!) had fun.

- Speaking of rides, we went on the antique cars, the tractors that looked high, the dutch shoes (my seven year old's favorite ride), the whales, the raft ride (Dr. Geyser!), and the Crazy Barn which was a bit surprising in that it lifted off the ground and spun around like you were in a tornado. Seven year old loved that one, too. One disappointment was not getting the oldest to go on the roller coaster. He stood there watching it and I could see the anxiety on his face. Not sure why he would love the Crazy Barn, but wanted no part of the roller coaster. Maybe because it was called the Polar Coaster?

- The cell phone was a huge hit, by the way. Seven year old had no anxiety at all about being in the park and never once held my hand. Damn kid should be grateful he has such a smart father. Of course, halfway through the day he looks at the phone and asks 'Dad, what does No Network mean?' Turns out the Firefly coverage doesn't work in the White Mountain area, so the phone was useless. I didn't have the heart to tell him, though and said it must be interference from the rides. Parent - just another word for liar.

- We stayed at the Red Jacket in North Conway and I can't recommend it enough. It is the perfect place for kids with an indoor and outdoor pool, a game room on the first floor and, most importantly, sound proof doors at intervals throughout the floors so the sounds of all the other kids never reached your hotel room. Great planning. Plus the in house food was really good. They had a waffle station for breakfast with fresh strawberries and blueberries and homemade whipped cream. Mmmmmmmmm!

- We'll be going back there at some point because they are in the process of building an INDOOR water park. Can you say February vacation? It would be perfect! All the beauty of the snow without me getting cold or having to leave the hotel. I can look at the mountains through steamed windows while my boys frolic in the water park. Oh, they'll frolic! Believe it!

- On the way home we took the Kangamangas Highway back to I-93 and stopped at one of the scenic parks. My seven year old gets out of the car and promptly gets stung by a wasp. Is that what people mean when they say 'communing with nature'?

- There seemed to be an inordinate number of construction sites along the way. Both on the Kangamangas and on the White Mountain Highway (which I think is Route 16, but could be 16A). But in New Hampshire they have guys holding stop signs at each end of the construction site. They then communicate with each other over radios to stop one side of the traffic and let the other side go. At this point they wave the traffic through and spin the sign around so SLOW shows instead of STOP. Wifey asks, 'What kind of degree do you need for that job?', to which I answered 'Engineering'. I crack myself up.

- Since we got back on Friday night, I got to relax at home and spend time watching Gagne blow another game for the Sox. Not the best way to end you vacation. Strange thing I realized watching yesterday's game. I watched most of the games and didn't see the Sox score one run. I watched the game Saturday and they were down 5-0 when I had to put the boys to bed. When I get back they're up 10-5. What the hell? I watched yesterday's game and stopped watching when they were down 3-0. The lesson? I shouldn't watch.

- Maybe it's the vacation afterglow, but the Sox' lead is down to 4 games and I'm not that worried. Could be denial, too.

- Bachelor party followup: I still have no set plans in place. The Patriot game which showed a ton of promise fell through because there were too many guys planning on coming. I couldn't get that many tickets and, more importantly, both preseason games at home are during the week. Not sure how many guys would be able to take the day off from work to tailgate with us and, most likely, take the next day off for recovery purposes. Leaning towards the pool hall/bar hopping idea at the moment.

- I'm getting ready to say goodbye to what's left of my sanity. I have signed onto a Fantasy Football league with my brother in law. Like I don't have enough to do with my time. Now I'm sucked into a weekly addiction that will most likely leave me frustrated and angry.

- Even though it doesn't effect me that much, is there a more depressing time of year than the two weeks leading up to back to school? Even my seven year old is moaning about summer being almost over. He's only going into second grade! Christ, he's going to be suicidal when he hits high school.

- Filed under 'W' for 'what the fuck?' is my youngest sleeping all night during vacation, then waking me up twice last night when I have to get up early for work.

- Quick scheduling note - this week is going to be absolutely insane at work. We're in the middle of a huge migration project of which I'm in charge (Ha! That looks funny in writing!), so not sure how often I'll be posting this week. Hopefully, things will stay on course.

Today's distraction: Play Stacktopolis and build your own city! I like making my skyscrapers enormous and ruining everyone else's view.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jealous?

I have good news and bad news....then more good news.

Good news: I am taking a much needed break from the daily rigors of work life today through Friday. That's right, I'm getting an actual vacation and will be away from my evil office phone, email and my coworkers who have been more cranky than usual lately. Sure it's only for a few days, but I'll take what I can get.

Bad news: This means no fascinating, highly entertaining, intelligent, yet redundant entries for the rest of the week. Yeah, by bad news, I meant for you.

Good news: You aren't coming with me. No, that isn't a slight on what company you might be. It's because I am going to spend three days in StoryLand. Yeah, by good news, I meant for you. For you are not me and poor me is going on a slow descent into parental hell. Somehow even my vacation time is focused on the little ones. This is the one thing they never prepare you for when you have kids - that your time is no longer your time. It's theirs. You don't take work off to go and relax anymore, you take it off 'to spend time with the family'. Translation: You do what your kids want to do in order to ease your guilt at having been working so much.

Nobody told me and I'm a touch bitter about it. So I'm telling you. Don't expect much of a life when you become a parent. You won't believe me when they're babies and confined to a stroller, but you will when they are suddenly involved in two different Little Leagues and you get that look from them when you tell them you're going away on business for a few days. 'Will you ever come back?' or 'Don't you love me anymore?' the look seems to say. I'm convinced the little buggers know how to exploit guilt. It's inbred. If you knew my wife, you would agree completely.

But I'm not going to be a scrooge about this. I'm going to have fun and take this as a positive. Take a little tour with me. Please? No seriously, I can't go through this alone. I need support, nurturing and massive amounts of alcohol to get through this nightmare. OK, so I'm not completely agreeable at the moment, but let me get in the proper frame of mind.

StoryLand seems to have a ton of stuff, after all. How bad can it be? After all the website claims 'Story Land's 21 rides generally are designed for parents and children to enjoy together.' Sweet. Things are looking up already. Let's take a look at some of the rides I will be enjoying this week.

Flying Fish: At first I thought his looked pretty cool. Like those rocket ships dressed up like a fish. Then I noticed what looks like a 5 year old girl sitting in there with her mother. I'm guessing this isn't the intense rush I was looking for.

Crazy Barn: Now we're talking. Kids have to be at least 3 feet tall, which means there is the real possibility of death or dismemberment on this ride. I'm not sure what it does, but it has 'Crazy' in the title and claims to be the only Crazy Barn in the country. I mean, just look at the thing. It even looks crazy:


It must be fun. It just must be. Please, let it be fun.

Farm Tractors: Come on! Who hasn't, at one point in their lives, wanted to drive a tractor around? Exactly!! Nobody! It concerns me these particular tractors look baked,


but they could just be worn out after a hard day entertaining the masses. Besides, these aren't just any tractors, they're 'Eggs-traordinary'! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

The Swan Boats: No mention of whether or not these are the only Swan Boats in the country (ala The Crazy Barn) but they've got to be. We could never get anything as delightful as these around Boston, that's for sure.

Antique Cars: These beauties ride around on rails and go at least 5 MPH. Kids that get on these things must have a serious death wish.

Cinderella's Pumpkin Coach: Whoa, wait a sec, does Disney know about this? Considering I have two boys, there is zero chance we'll be stopping here.

The Buccaneer Pirate Ship: This is a life size replica of a pirate ship that will take you around the calm, soothing lake and very slow speeds. Doesn't sound all that exciting. By the way, by life size, I meant for a pygmy.

Huff and Puff Whistle Railroad: This is how you get around in the park. They even have stations. Great, just what I want to be doing on my vacation - fighting other people to get on a train. Fucking fantastic!

Slipshod Safari: As a marketing ploy, naming anything 'Slipshod' seems a bit dubious, but this one promises to be 'bananas' and actually encourages us to 'Go bananas!' and that the safari is 'a bit bananas'. There better be some free bananas daiquiris on this safari. Or at the very least a poop flinging monkey.

Dutch Shoes: I have no fucking clue what this is supposed to be. Apparently you fly around in a Dutch shoe. I wish I were making this up. Here, see for yourself:





Dr. Geyser's Remarkable Raft Ride: Besides doubling as a great porno title, this promises to be the most fun. It's one of the water rides where you go down a river and get soaked in the process. If nothing else, we'll be able to cool off if it's hot out.

Silver Mine Tour: I was hoping this might be a way to recoup our vacation money, but my hopes were quickly dashed when I saw a picture of the donkey.


Unless that's some new robotic ass, I think it's just another kid's ride. Dammit!

That's some of the highlights. Others include a pool at the hotel which I'm nearly positive will have some infant's shit floating in it before we leave, free breakfast and sleeping in the same room as our two boys. Oh, boy! Can't wait.

One more item before I'm fighting my wife for control of the razor blade: Our neighbors are going to be in the same area at the same time and want to meet for dinner one night. Wifey has already made plans to meet them the night we get up there. We're not even up there 5 hours and we're seeing the same people we see every other day of the year. Nothing against them personally, but isn't vacation time to get away from everyone involved in your daily routine?

I say yes.


Today's distraction: A map of StoryLand. I give you this so you can track my murder spree after having to spend $6 for a bottle of water and getting zero sleep for two nights straight. 'Look! There's the lighthouse BeachBum burned to the ground! And there's the Imagination Shop where he told kids to imagine him a better life before committing Hari Kari.'

Don't say you weren't warned.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Savage My Heart


I would like to introduce the new woman in my life. She's a lot like the rest of the women in my life for two reasons:

1: She doesn't know I exist

2: She has a strong thread of insanity woven into her double helix.

Her name is Roz Savage and she is courageous, strong, daring and, well...I'll say it....downright adorable. She also appears to have a bit of a death wish. See, Roz just launched her boat, 'Brocade', out of Crescent City, California in an attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean. That's right, ROW. Not sail, not motor, not float, ROW! She plans on rowing (yeah, rowing!) the over 7,000 miles over the course of 3 years and 3 stages.

Stage 1 - Summer 2007 (just underway): San Francisco to Hawaii.
Stage 2 - 2008: Hawaii to Tuvalu. No, I don't know where Tuvalu is either.
Stage 3 - 2009: Tuvalu to Australia.

Imposing task to say the least. What's even more amazing is Savage already rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 2006. She's effectively rowing herself around the world! See what I mean about insane? At least this time she has planned it out a bit. The Atlantic Ocean trip seemed to find her in over her head, with her portable camping stove and satellite phone breaking along the way. Think she isn't tough? She managed the last leg of the Atlantic Ocean trip after having broken all of her oars. Two while rowing and two when her boat got swamped by 20 foot waves. Instead of surrendering, she patched the oars together and continued on her way.

This time she's rowing in this MOFO:



Not exactly the Ritz, but she could do worse. What's really impressive is the boat has self sustaining solar panels and a wind generator. I think she'll find plenty of wind while paddling around the middle of the Pacific. It's also been equipped with the latest tracking devices (you can track Roz's progress here), a TOPP (Tagging Of Pacific Pelagics) program so marine biologists like George Costanza can gather data about turtles, sharks, whales, seals and other water life, and satellite television so she can get the Spice Channel during those lonely nights. OK, that last one is just my fantasy.

Still not impressed? Well, then how do you like that Ms. Savage is actually blogging from her boat during the row? Seriously. I have a hard enough time blogging during my daily routine. I can only imagine how I would find time while tracking whales, fighting 30 foot waves and sharks, and trying to stay alive. If you click on the link that's attached to her name above there will be a BLOG tab that contains the entries.

Hell, she's even posted her musical playlist, which provides the first chink in the armor. I mean, Wham? C'mon now. I do like that she has Monty Python's 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' from one of my favorite movies, but she is British. It might be a national requirement.

Things haven't gone completely smoothly for lovely Roz. From yesterday's entry:

'I rounded the corner, trying hard to look good.. And promptly ran aground on a sand bank lurking just under the surface of the water. The hazard of leaving at low tide. So ten minutes into my big adventure I was standing in shallow water with my leggings rolled up above my knees, trying to heave the Brocade off the sand bank. After a bit of a struggle I succeeded and we were on our way again.'

She goes on to tell how sea lions were keeping an eye on her during the first few hours of her trip. I'll be keeping track of dear old Roz and keep you appraised on her progress. Keep in mind it's 2,327 miles to Hawaii, so it may be a while before she gets there.

Maybe I'll time it to meet her at the finish line. I'm sure it will make the entire trip worth her while to have me waiting for her when she arrives.

What?

Today's distraction: Here's a taste of what Roz will be experiencing during these next 2300 miles. What the hell is she thinking?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gag-Nee With a Spoon

I'm on record as not understanding the Gagne (officially pronounced GagNee, now) trade from the beginning. Or, to be more accurate, somewhat understanding it. The Sox basically traded away one of their young, promising pitchers (lefty, at that!), one of the more promising outfielders in their system, and a hot shot named Elvis for a past-his-prime, injury prone reliever to bolster an already stellar bullpen.

They were already leading the league with fewest blown saves and bullpen ERA, but they wanted more. I can see the reasoning and I can almost hear the conversation. 'Look, Okajima has thrown more than ever this year, Timlin is basically useless to us, we need some insurance and he's the best insurance there is. Plus we'll be making sure the Yankees don't get him. We can't lose with this deal!'

Two choke jobs later and the Red Sox and their fans can only hope this is just a blip on the radar. That he was due for a few bad outings and will right the ship and we can all sail happily onto the World Series. Hope. That's, sadly, all we have right now, because Gagne looks horrible. What I don't understand is pulling Okajima - by far the most effective reliever in the majors this season - to allow Gagne in to throw a meatball my mother could have hit out. There's a saying in baseball that usually applies to the postseason: 'You go with what got you here'.

Grady Little learned that the hard way when he refused to pull Pedro in Game 7 after Embree and Timlin had pitched lights out all postseason for him. There was a rhythm to the bullpen in that series. Embree to the lefties (you know, like Matsui who would up doubling off Pedro after killing him all season - AIIIEEEEEE!!), Timlin for the eighth, maybe part of the seventh, Foulke in the ninth to finish things off. Somehow Grady's brain locked on how things had been working all series and farted his way into baseball history. I still remember screaming at the television (and I wasn't the only one) 'Take him out!! What the fuck are you doing???!!!' Sorry, it still stings even after 2004.

Now Francona is pulling the same stunt. The reason the Sox have the best record in the majors (surprisingly, this is still the case) is because there is a rhythm and routine to the bullpen. Everyone knows (or knew) their roles. Hopefully, the starters get you to the seventh or eighth inning at which point either Delcarmen (struggling, too, I might add) or Okajima comes in for an inning. Then Papelbon for the finish. If the starter shits the bed, then get Mr. Everything (Tavarez) in to attempt to keep us in the game. Seems to me it was working, no?

Add Gagne to the mix and suddenly everyone in the bullpen is questioning their roles. Sure, it's a learning process, but why mess with a good thing? Is Gagne now supposed to be the eighth inning lead in to Paps? Where does that leave Oki? Is he now the lefty specialist? I say screw that idea. Leave him as the eighth inning guy and let Gagne take over the sixth - seventh stretch. This will leave Delcarmen as mop up man for bad starts.

Which brings up the idea that Okajima is tiring out. The main reason (or one of them) the Sox picked up Gagne was to ease the workload on him. Fine, but why bring him in to face two batters yesterday and yank him? He's walked guys before and been fine. Plus, it doesn't seem to me (and I am a novice, keep in mind) that batters have figured him out or he has lost anything on his pitches. I'm still amazed he's as accurate as he is considering he doesn't even look at the plate when he throws. You can't tell me Tejada - known for crushing fastballs - would have had success against Okajima's offspeed delivery. I refuse to believe it.

What's done is done. It just puzzles me how the people that get paid for thinking and planning these things out don't see beyond the name. How they don't or can't see how it can affect the team in general. Did the Sox over pay because he's Eric Gagne? Did they just want to make a move? I thought they over paid in this trade before, but it's now looking like they got fleeced by the Rangers.

Calm down! I know it's early and this might just a transition phase while the bullpen figures things out, but there is another saying that keeps popping up in my head everytime I see Gagne cursing to himself after Tejada's laser:

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'


Today's distraction: Take your aggressions out on the popups. A fun, stress reducing little game. Let's hope it helps soothe and calm the nerves of Red Sox Nation. It won't, but I can dream.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Women Are From Mars....

We all know the rest of that title. The pop culture idiom that summarizes the differences between the sexes. The over simplification of why men would rather watch football while the women would rather be hitting the outlets looking for yet another pair of black shoes. It's almost like our brains are wired in completely different ways.

Well, hold on. It turns out that may in fact be the case. Researchers at UCLA have conducted an admittedly brief study on why women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men. Migraines, if you have never had the displeasure, are intense headaches that include sensitivity to light, sound and often are preceded by an aura. By aura it doesn't mean they see the essence of people (how cool would THAT be?), it just means they see shapes and outlines of light just before or at the onset of a migraine.

My wife suffers from them on occasion and they knock her out for the good portion of the day. I also have two good friends that suffer from them and they are both women. Turns out an estimated 18-25% of all women suffer migraines and it may be even higher than that as many go unreported due to milder symptoms or shorter episodes.

For years now doctors thought migraines were the result of restriction of blood flow to the brain, but recent, enhanced technology has shown that they are more the result of brain 'excitability'. Women's brains are more excitable than men's. I have about a dozen jokes for this revelation, but I don't think those that suffer from them would really appreciate them. While I've never experienced one, I can barely stand when my sinuses are acting up, never mind not being able to stand up or need complete darkness just so you don't kill yourself. I'll pass on the jokes today.

According to Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program in the UCLA Department of Neurology and Dr. Kevin C. Brennan, a clinical and research fellow in Charles' lab, people with migraines display cortical spreading depression (CSD henceforth). CSD 'is characterized by dramatic waves of activity that spread across the surface of the brain'. So women's brains are more dramatic and excitable than men's brains. Must...not....joke.....

Running off this new knowledge, the good doctors ran a study on mice and tried to stimulate CSD activity in both male and female mice. Their findings? 'The strength of the stimulus required to trigger CSD in males was up to two or three times higher than that required to trigger the response in females.' I wonder what kind of visual stimulus they used. Because I'm betting if they used topless babe mice dancing in front of them, the male mice would be CSDing all over the place. Shit...couldn't get through it....

A variety of differences between the sexes are thought to be contributing causes for the reason women are more susceptible to migraines. Hormones, genes, environmental changes in sleep, diet and stress all are factors. And, while migraines tend to be more acute during a woman's menstrual cycle, the researchers found that (at least with the mice) 'the female brain has an intrinsic excitability that predisposes them to migraine that may not be simply linked to a specific phase of the menstrual cycle'. In other words, gentlemen, stop blaming your girlfriend's bad moods and headaches on her period. Science is proving they may not be related. You sexist pigs!

Since we now know (or at least suspect) 'CSD may in turn trigger not only the pain of migraine but the visual symptoms, nausea, dizziness and difficulty concentrating so common in migraine patients' you may be asking yourself, what good does that do us? Are you asking yourself that? You better be! What it does is allow us to find ways to inhibit CSD or at least increase the thresholds so the migraines are fewer and far between. In fact - hold onto your hats - another study has found that a medication called memantine stops CSD episodes. It's currently being used with Alzheimer patients, but is now being prescribed for frequent migraine sufferers with great success.

Hope is coming, migraine people. Especially you, lovely ladies. Try to keep that in mind when the next migraine debilitates you and your selfish, insensitive boyfriend/husband is bitching about being bored. Stupid boyfriend/husband.


Today's distraction: Play Brain Splatters 2. I have no idea what the rules are or how to play. In fact, I pick a direction and wind up getting shot in the head over and over. Stupid game.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Random-ness

Some random thoughts and links built up over the past week.

- Well, Bonds finally did it. Sorry, but just can't muster up enough enthusiasm about it. Bonds' speech was a bit nauseating, as well. I really wish he would have been honest with everybody just that one time. 'I want to thank my wife for allowing me a mistress for many years, Greg Anderson for introducing me to the wonders of 'The Clear' - if you're watching from jail, Greg, you were good for 30 of those 73 home runs, and God for eliminating any overt evidence against me. He really does work in mysterious ways. THANK YOU!!!'

- It's bad enough that Nationals' pitcher Mike Bacsik will forever be known as the guy that gave up 756, but then the game stops for 15 minutes so everyone can celebrate Bonds' tainted accomplishment. Think he might have been a bit steamed about that? I didn't see the game, so could someone tell me if Bacsik got some warmup tosses before the it resumed?

- While I can't say I'm happy a Mets fan caught number 756, I thought - when seeing the Mets hat being ushered along: 'Well at least he wasn't a Yankees fan.' That would have been cruel. Plus, those soulless fans in SF didn't deserve to catch that ball.

- While there will probably never be absolute proof (unless more players fess up) here are ten players I am fairly certain have taken steroids at some point during their playing careers:

1: Barry Bonds
2: Mark McGwire (Schilling may be a blow hard, but he's right in saying that if you are being accused of something you didn't do, you deny it outright. You know, like Rafael Palmeiro)
3: Sammy Sosa (over 60 home runs in three straight seasons and we are to suspect nothing?)
4: Brady Anderson
5: Pudge Rodriguez (he was on the Rangers with Conseco and Palmeiro, so there must be some truth to Conseco's claims)
6: Nomar Garciaparra (kills me putting him on this list, but he became enormous then suffered a series of bizarre injuries)
7: Luis Gonzalez (when he was with Diamondbacks)
8: Brett Boone
9: Gary Sheffield (good friends with Bonds + same trainer = DUH)
10: Jeremy Giambi (not that anyone cares)

- Finally finished watching 'Pan's Labyrinth' over the weekend and was astounded by this movie. Let me say that it's definitely not for everyone, but if you like movies that challenge you and let you form your own conclusions, then this is one you'll enjoy. Be warned, there are moments of extreme violence.

- Took the boys to the free 'Animal Planet' exhibit at the Topsfield Fairground last weekend and we were distressed to learn our seven year old has not yet recovered from his fear of crowds. Quick backstory - wifey took him to WaterCountry a few years back and he got separated from her and his cousins for a while. To his credit he remained calm and went to security until they tracked her down. As wifey tells it when he finally saw her, he completely lost it and has yet to recover. Anytime we go any where there will be large crowds he freaks and clings to me for dear life. His problem is when he loses sight of us, he panics and starts walking around looking for us instead of staying put. I always tell him to stay where he is; that if he's wandering it makes it harder for us to find him then if he stays in the last place we saw him.

I bring this up, because next week we're going to StoryLand (woo hoo for me!) in New Hampshire for a few days and the first question out of his mouth is 'Are there a lot of people there?'. Fear not, dear readers, for his father is a genius. Behold the FireFly. I asked him if he had one of these would he feel more safe. His face lit up like a Christmas Tree. 'I'd have my own phone?!'. How it works is you pick up one of these kid cell phones, activate it online and you can program Mom and Dad's cell numbers into it. They carry it around and if they get lost they just press the Dad button and it calls my cell phone.

You can get another version of this from Verizon that includes GPS tracking (or as I refer to it 'The Stalker Option'), but I don't think we'll get that extreme yet. Just as well save that for his teenage years and not tell him.

- Remember my argument over that reality show about the bachelor choosing between 20 somethings and 40 somethings? I found out the name of it - 'Age of Love'. Plus...surprise, surprise, wifey told me this morning that he picked a 25 year old over a 48 year old. SHOCKER! Oh, shit, did I just ruin the ending for you? Sorry about that. For some reason wifey is holding my correct prediction against me.

- For the first time in years, I may be more excited for the Celtics season to begin than the Patriots. We knew the Pats would be good regardless, but the Celtics went from absolute crap to contender literally over night. One thing to keep in mind, all three of the Celtics new Trio of Terror are used to being The MAN on their previous teams. Who's going to sacrifice their game to make the team better?

- Been listening to Black Sabbath's new release 'The Dio Years', which compiles some of the best of the band's songs during Ronnie James Dio's tenure as lead singer. I forgot how good Tommy Iaommi was as a guitarist. Definitely one of the forgotten musical artists from the 70s and 80s.

- Ever wonder what happens to all the stuff confiscated from the airports around the country? Well take a look at this. I can't believe the things people try to get on planes. This would include a chainsaw and an electric impact drill.

- Back in Baltimore today. It's hot as hell and I just realized I have no idea where my hotel is. I usually stay at the one directly across the street, but that was full and I had to take the next closest which is...well, I'm not exactly sure. I may be roaming the streets tonight and asking the enormous homeless population for hand outs or directions to the nearest shelter.

- By the way, there is an ESPN Zone right around the corner here. Ran into it looking for the Best Buy. You know where I'm hanging out tonight.

Gotta ton of work to do while I'm here so I can't promise anything for tomorrow. Will try, though. As hard as I am capable.

Today's distraction: Great article from Tim Kurkijan about the Bonds situation.