Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where's the Luck??

I usually get off the subway one stop early so I can stroll through Boston on my way to the office. I love Boston in the morning. All the sidewalks have been scrubbed clean, the stench of exhaust and diesel from all the construction sites is still a few hours away, and the air is cool and fresh.

While my stop would be Downtown Crossing, I get off at the State Street stop. If I’m feeling especially ambitious (Note: never) I get off at Haymarket and enjoy a leisurely stroll through Quincy Market. Haymarket to Downtown Crossing is a haul, but if the mornings are cool and it’s early enough, the walk is enjoyable.

Disembarking (I was tired of writing ‘Getting off’) at State Street means I only walk a few blocks, but it takes me through one of my favorite spots in Boston. A small back alley with random bricks in the walkway paying tribute to the historic events or places of the city. The bricks are made of (I think) bronze and signify things like the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s ride, the Molasses Flood, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Pops, the Swan Boats and a bunch of other things I have yet to figure.

I’ll take some pictures next time I’m there and post some up here. They’re pretty diverting once you notice them. Most people tend to bustle on through.

Once you pass out of this charming, little alley you enter Winthrop Square. A tiny, concrete island that hosts some benches, some lovely trees, a small army of bike messengers and – most important to this story – flocks of pigeons. For reasons I will never understand, one lady occasionally shows up with old bread and scatters crumbs all over the sidewalk. This, as you would imagine, creates a free for all with the pigeons who could care less that people are walking by. I’ve been hit more than once by a frantic pigeon as it flew by my head on its way to free food.

SIDE RANT: Why do people feed birds? It never ends well for any people in the general area. At the beach last Saturday, some brainless bitch decided she would toss her remaining chips to the seagulls. The end result was a scene from Hitchcock. People scurrying for cover, seagulls swooping in from every conceivable angle, kids cowering under their parents legs. One even hovered long enough to grab a sandwich out of an unsuspecting woman’s hand. It was chaos!!

Thanks, brainless bitch. You ruined the beach for everyone.

Where was I?

Oh, right. So yesterday I’m walking through this little park and notice there are no pigeons. Not one. What the fuck? They’re always here. Always. I glance around and see nothing. I hear one of those gargling ‘coos’ come from above me and realize they’re all perched in the trees. Uh oh.

I didn’t have time to fully form the thought of ‘I’m going to get shit on’ before I got shit on. Big, wet, dripping pigeon shit plopped on my right pectoral muscle (I was going to say ‘massive, rippling pectoral muscle’ but I’d only be fooling myself). The best (worst) part was I had on a navy blue shirt. Ever seen white bird crap on a dark shirt? It stands out.

I get to the office, head straight to the men’s room and get it nearly all off. Feeling bitter, but better, I head to my office. Now, my office locks because I don’t want anyone stealing my toys….er….expensive equipment. As I’m rummaging in my pocket for my keys (what? It feels good!) I notice brown on my fingers. I look down and sure enough, I have more shit on my pants; just above the pocket.

Now, I’m pissed. Back to the men’s room, clean up again. Heading back to my office I pass one of the douchebags that most would call a coworker if I did any actual work. He sees the wet spot on my pants and shirts, gives me a questioning look and, coming from the men’s room, feel the need to explain: ‘Bird shit on me’.

‘That’s good luck!’

I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, too, but coming from this dickweed, it was especially annoying. I say nothing, finally get settled in and over the course of the next hour have 4 different people say the EXACT same thing about the bird poop.

‘That’s good luck!’ Exactly. Same phrasing, same bizarre level of excitement. One woman actually perked up when I told her I was shit on. ‘OHHH, that’s good luck!!!’

Really? Well let’s put this to the test, shall we?

Oh, we shall.

I will set aside that I have a faint, white shit stain on my navy blue shirt for the rest of the day; that’s the price I pay for having all sorts of good fortune following me around. I guess….

First thing I do is head to the common kitchen. On a good day there will be some breakfast food left over from a client meeting. There is nothing.

I walk down to where one of my favorite people sits and discover she’s not in and may not be in until well after lunch. Fucking great! The gray cloud hovering over me just got a little darker.

I’ve got it!! I have a lottery ticket on my desk that I have yet to cash in. I paid $10 for the initial one, won $20 and got two more. Won $20 again and got two more. Won $10 but never got a chance to cash that in. Off I go to the lobby shop to trade it in for another. If I’m going to win that million dollar prize it’s going to be today. No doubt about it.

Result: Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Big, fat, fucking zero. Just like me and my pigeon shit stain.

Conclusion: Being shit on by a bird does not bring good luck. The best thing I could say about yesterday was I survived it. I guess in a round about way that’s kind of good luck, but that also means I’ve had good luck every day of my life before this, too.

Not buying it.

My guess it that the good luck theory was developed for the sole purpose of making someone who’s been shit on by a bird feel better about being shit on by a bird. Why is stepping in dog shit not considered good luck? How about getting stuck in a monsoon with no rain gear?

When I arrive home, I point out the stain and tell wifey what happened.

‘That’s good luck!!’

I glare at her.

‘Did you play the lottery today? You totally should have played the lottery!’

Thanks, dear. What would I do without you?


Today’s distraction: The basics of bird photography. Pay particular attention to the 'Know Your Subject' section. You definitely want to know what a bird looks like if you want to photograph them. Big step!

I'm off tomorrow, so will catch up next week. Enjoy the celebration of work by not doing a damn thing! God Bless America!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Training Wheels

I need to lay some ground work before I get to the point of this entry.

I work with a younger girl who at times is…well…she’s fucking loud. Often jarringly so. Don’t get me wrong, I like this person. She can be funny and is a very warm hearted person.

She can also be grating as hell. She is the prototypical ‘party girl’ who is often unaware of how her gyrations are being perceived by the males around her. The main problem is she maintains this part of her personality in our office. At times it can be charming, but mostly it’s annoying and completely inappropriate.

I’m convinced her personality developed in many ways due to her good looks. She is five ten with a good body and beautiful face. Normally, this is great. In her case, it seems to have protected her from any sort of criticism; especially from the male population who are most likely trying to score with her. She has been groomed to believe she can say anything (it’s nearly stream of consciousness with her, at this point) or act in any manner and it will be forgiven.

Anyway, Friday night was a company outing and I met her new boyfriend for the first time. Good looking guy and surprisingly down to earth. I say surprisingly because I picture anyone dating her to have the same devil may care attitude as her. It’s the only way to survive.

I made one of my usual smart ass comments about dealing with her outbursts (for lack of a better word). As annoying as she can be, she is fully aware that she needs to tighten the filter and often makes jokes about it. She can laugh at her own obnoxiousness, if you will. New boyfriend says ‘Yeah, there are times I need to remind her of her surroundings’, which is a great way of phrasing it. He then says, semi-jokingly, ‘Just got to train her a bit.’

I was with two other women – both married – when he said this, but neither one said anything at the time.

Flash forward to Monday at lunch. I’m sitting with these same two women and when I brought up the new boyfriend they both gave each other a look.

‘What’s that about?’ I asked.

‘I wasn’t too happy about the "training her" line. You don’t tell a woman you need to train her. It’s not like we’re dogs’ The other, married woman angrily agreed.

‘Wait a second,’ I say, ‘Women talk about training their husbands and boyfriends all the time. How can you possibly be offended by that?’

Their answer? ‘Yeah, but you’re guys. It’s totally different.’

Really? A woman ‘training’ a man is totally fine, but a man ‘training’ a woman is offensive?

Women, of all people, should recognize a double standard when they see one. They live in the land of less pay for equal jobs and deal with societal beliefs that dub sexually active males with many partners as ‘studs’ while women who act the same as ‘sluts’. Fair life is not. Man, I just sounded like Yoda there.

Granted, we men are filthy, filthy animals and do tend to improve with age and guidance. But doesn’t the same go for the lovely ladies of the world? Aren’t we all works in progress? Don’t we all improve to some degree when we meet that special someone?

I don’t bristle when someone says to my wife ‘He’s clearing the table! You’ve trained him well!’ She does, but I don’t. I know having her in my life has made me a better all around person. The fact that I cleared the table as a kid is beside the point. Men strive to please the ones we love. As I’ve written before, we don’t change because women want us to, we change because we want to please them.

‘Training’, when used in this manner, shouldn’t even be considered offensive. Part of falling in love and becoming intimate with another person is learning their dislikes and likes. We test boundaries, figure out what turns them on and what drives them insane so we can then use those aspects to manipulate the other person into doing whatever we want. What? Don’t pretend you don’t intentionally annoy your significant other at times. We all do it.

‘Training’ here implies you are making the other person better. This isn’t about getting a specific Pavlovian response to a ringing bell, although we all expect to be rewarded when we buy the perfect birthday gift. It’s about evolving and maturing. We don’t live in a vacuum. Everything we’ve learned – good and bad - is because of other people. Family, friends, random strangers, and that special someone have all shaped how we think, act and view the world.

If anything, ‘training’ should be considered an affectionate term. Two people simply making each other better. Besides, in the case of this guy, he definitely has some training to do.

I would have mentioned all of this to my two lunch mates, but they do what all women do when they’ve lost an argument.

They changed the subject.


Today’s distraction: Husband training tips. Some good ones, including how to hold off passing on a juicy gossip tidbit until you hear ‘Can we discuss something?’. That said, if any guy ever answers with ‘You know why I get so upset over (favorite sports team)? It reminds me of when I was little and my father used to...[insert moving memory here; relevance not important]’ Your manhood card will be instantly revoked.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fantasy vs Reality

Another fantasy draft in the books and I’m kinda, sorta happy with my team. Need help with my receivers, but other than that I think I’m in good shape. I have a few returnees that treated me well last season, but a lot of new faces.

A few things first.

- We had a whopping 17 rounds this year with 10 guys. To say it took a while is an understatement. That we finished in less than three and a half hours was quite an accomplishment. This really needs to be trimmed down to 15 rounds. Max!

- Once again my mind set was blown out of the water in the first round. You’ll see why soon enough.

- We all ate like fucking pigs in the pre-draft cookout. Bubba burgers (no, thanks) and bbq chicken (yes, please!) with pasta and potato salad.

- I lost count of how many beers I had, but I do know that I packed my cooler with 15 beers and there were three left by the time everything was over. I don’t think I had all 12 of the ones that were missing, but it’s definitely possible. In fact, it’s probable. See? Already I’m getting into my football terminology.

- Last year I got the third pick in the draft. This year I dropped to 6. There is a running suspicion about the numbers though as one guy has bagged the first pick in the draft three years running. Three years. I should point out that his brother is the one putting the numbers in the hat. I wasn’t the only one questioning this outcome.

- We can play one QB, two receivers, two running backs, a tight end, kicker, defense/special teams then either a third running back or third receiver. Your choice.

Alrighty. Remember, I’m picking sixth here. I’ll explain my thoughts for the early rounds. Things changed quickly thus so did my thinking.

ROUND ONE

Brian Westbrook: That’s right, I got the third most productive back with the sixth pick. My buddy took Tom Brady with the third pick (Tomlinson and Peterson went 1-2) and the guy in front of me took Stephen Jackson saying ‘This is going to be a huge year for him!’.


ROUND TWO

Drew Brees: Brady going third set off a panic regarding QBs. Peyton Manning and his bad leg went 10th and Tony Romo went two in front of me. I was left to decide whether to take another running back (briefly considered both Willis McGahee and Ryan Grant) and hope that Brees was still there when it came back to me. Now, I had Brees last year and, despite an off year, he treated me well. That Brees was the only quality QB left, I had to take him.

ROUND THREE

Willis McGahee: And it’s a good thing, since McGahee was still around for me. My pick of Brees made the other guys panic into picking a second rate QB for their teams. Also, my buddy’s brother took Larry Johnson in the second round and someone else picked up Frank Gore. Not terrible picks, but I think McGahee will have better numbers this season. Having a decent QB and new coaching staff will hopefully see to that.

ROUND FOUR

Edgerrin James: I decided to go with a third, reliable running back here. Most of the top notch receivers were gone and I wanted a third just to cover my ass. James isn’t what he used to be, but figure him for 1000 yards and double digit TDs. I’ll take it.


ROUND FIVE

Wes Welker: At this point Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston, TJ Houshmandzadeh (or however the hell it’s spelled) and even Andre Johnson were gone. Might as well take the guy that led the league in receptions last year. Plus with Stallworth gone, he may get even more looks this season. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

ROUND SIX

Santonio Holmes: Another high quality receiver that doesn’t get the recognition he should. I was torn between him and Anquan Boldin here, but with Boldin holding out I wasn’t taking any chances.

ROUND SEVEN

Dallas Clark: Needed a tight end and he was the best one left. Plus he treated me well last year. I should point out that a lot of guys take tight ends real early. Personally, taking one before round six is jumping the gun.


ROUND EIGHT (AKA, covering my ass rounds)

Jay Cutler: Anyone still surprised he was here this late? Me neither. Although he did well for me when Brees was on his bye week last season, so figured I would repay the favor.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the rounds as they were table scraps for the first half. Here are some other notables, though.

Defense/Special Teams: Indianapolis Colts

QB – Aaron Rodgers. He was available in the second to last round and figured what the hell? The Packers obviously see enough in him to rid themselves of Favre, so what’s the risk? If he turns into a superstar all the better.

WR - took a gamble on Marvin Harrison in the tenth round. I kept putting it off until I was shocked he was still available. If he’s 100%, I just got the steal of the draft. I also picked up Roddy White from the Falcons on the off chance Matt Ryan can throw the ball to him.

RB – I picked up one of my favorites in Ahmad Bradshaw. It’s his second year and there is a good chance he could bust out and become a full fledged stud. Fingers crossed! Also, I grabbed Chris Brown from the Texans in a later round. The Denver Broncos offensive line coach is now with Houston, so expect those ‘from our of nowhere’ running backs from Denver to start appearing in Texas.

Other draft notes: QBs were worth their weight in gold, but taking Peyton Manning with all the concerns surrounding him seemed a bit premature. Especially considering both Tony Romo and Drew Brees were both still on the board. I would think Romo would have been a safer bet as he’s healthier and entering his third season (generally the time QBs put it all together). Just my opinion.

My buddy’s other brother fucked me over not once, not twice, but three times. Taking Jerricho Crotchery way too early (was hoping he’d fall to the second half of the draft) and Julius Jones just before I was thinking about the same move. But the killer was him picking Chad Pennington. I was hoping he would fall to me because I think he’s going to have a decent year, but alas, he screwed me and I wound up taking Aaron Rodgers instead.

Bastard!

I think that’s it. I picked up receiving help with DJ Hackett from Carolina, but the odds of him actually playing are slim.

Oh, we’re doing weekly payouts this year, too. The high score for each week will get $50. That’s in addition to the usual head to head matchups, playoffs and standard winner. I suggested everyone getting together at the end of the year to watch the final games and have another excuse to get drunk.

This was met with overwhelming approval.


Today’s distraction: An example of how one mishap can ruin a draft. One guy took the Giant’s Defense in the eighth round because he was convinced it would be smothering and potentially record breaking. Whoops. Chances are they’ll still be decent, but the D/SP section can usually wait until the last round. Unless you’re drafting the 1985 Bears defense, you can hold off.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lackadaisical

I’m going to muddle my way through another half assed entry. In all honesty, I can’t think of much to write about. Summer is quickly slipping through my fingers. My kayak hasn’t touched water all season, weather wise the weekends have been a crap shoot (at best) and, until this week, August has been down right shitty.

But I will push on. Clinical depression be damned. Some random thoughts for a lovely week. Let’s hope this lasts through the weekend for a change.

- When I was in Philly, wifey called to tell me the dog was sick. Not your average ‘he’s just lying there’ type of sick, either. This was a ‘he just did bloody diarrhea all over the back deck’ type sick. Turns out it just had a stomach infection that was fixed with antibiotics, but I was secretly hoping he was dying of some rare dog disease. That’s how much I hate this fucking thing. Here’s another glimpse. Below is an actual transcript from an IM I had with wifey. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Wifey: ‘I just want to be clear on the limit you want to spend on the dog’

Me: ‘You mean the vet bill?’

Wifey: ‘Yeah, what’s the cap?’

Me: ‘$5. Anything more than that they can keep him.’


- Due to me being a complete fucking moron, last weekend was not my fantasy football draft. It’s this weekend. I misread the text my buddy had sent me and thought it was a week early. So, Sunday morning I text him asking if he needs me to bring anything. I get no response. An hour later I call and leave a voice mail. Nothing.

I start preparing by gathering my materials, stop at the ATM for cash, stop for beer and ice to go in my cooler. Still no call back. I call again. No answer, no call back. After 30 minutes and near the point I need to start heading up in order to be there on time.

I call again.

No answer, no call back.

Decision time. Do I head up or do I wait to hear back? I hedge my bets and head to a halfway point so I can be there quickly if this thing is on. I wait and wait. I make another call. No answer and I leave this message ‘Dude, you know what would be helpful? If you answered your fucking phone once in a while!’

No call back. It’s now past time the draft should have started and I figure something is fucked up (at this point I didn’t know it was me). My buddy’s brother is the one organizing things and he is notorious for making last minute changes and not telling everyone or deciding it should be pushed back an hour by simply showing up an hour late. Everything he touches turns into a clusterfuck, basically.

Anyway, this was not the case this day, but you can see how I would think that way. I call again and still no answer. I leave this voice mail: ‘Dude, what the FUCK? Where the fuck are you? What the fuck is going on? Call me back, you prick. I have a lot of other fucking fuck questions!’

He called me back 3 hours later. ‘I had my phone on silent’. Look, I don’t care how your phone was set. You don’t check your cell phone for 8 hours during the day?? I pick mine up and glance at it once every 2 hours on the weekends. At least. It’s probably more often than that. 8 hours on a Sunday morning? No, would never happen.


- My company is squashing spending like campers stuck in a swamp squashing mosquitoes. What? That doesn’t work? Whatever. They’re cutting back on shit. That’s what I’m trying to say. They just told our department that we can no longer accrue any over time. In fact, my boss isn't even allowed to approve any OT.

Now, if you’re familiar with what computer people do for a living, you’ll know what a tall order this is. I average 45-50 hours on a slow week. Just yesterday I had to travel to Hartford (The City of Lost Souls) to install some new equipment. I wound up working 14 hours. This means I have to take half days today and tomorrow so I don’t go over 40 hours total.

Yeah! Bite me! Sure, it’s nice to have the time off, but if I’m putting in 14 hours in one day I want to be paid for it. Fuckers!


- Work has been good news/bad news lately. Bad news first. Three of my favorite coworkers have left the company. One is moving back home (to LA of all places), one decided to travel South America for three months, and one got a better job at a nice place.

Good news? I’ve had liquid lunches for three weeks straight. In fact, just got back from one today! Love liquid lunches. These have been bittersweet, however, as they are goodbyes to people I enjoy.


- Speaking of people I enjoy, I got a call from an old friend (who, oddly enough, also abandoned the east coast for the City of Angels). Me and this lovely lady have a superstition that started nearly a decade ago. She just happened to be the first person I told when I found out wifey was expecting the eldest. Things went so well with him, that I tell her every big event first so they go as well (she was also the first one I told when son number two was in development).

She adopted the same when she invited me to her marathon and she won her age division.

This unexpected call came Tuesday morning and went like this:

Her: ‘I’m driving to work and realized I had to call you’

Note: I haven’t spoken to her in almost 2 years.

Me: ‘What’s going on?’

Her: ‘I just needed to call you because I’m getting married Saturday! I would have kicked myself if I didn’t tell you before it happened.’

Few things in my life have changed my mood so instantly. Never mind that this beautiful, intelligent, funny woman finally found a guy worthy of her, but I’m her good luck charm!

By the way, I thought back to when we bought the dog and I did not call or email her to let her know that big news. Superstition? Or something more? You decide.


- You looking for a surprise player that could effect the outcome of the American League playoffs. Look no further. Anyone want to bet he gives up 5 runs in 4 innings? Anyone?


- Saw an ad by McCain’s group criticizing Obama’s economic plan. ‘He’ll Raise Taxes. Higher gas prices. More Government Spending….which leads to fewer jobs’.

Uh, what? While the first three things may be true (and how does anyone expect to get out of this crushing deficit without higher taxes?) how does more government spending lead to fewer jobs? Wouldn’t it lead to more jobs? When our government spends money, it’s usually to create agencies which create jobs.

This ad in a nutshell is what’s wrong with our political process. It’s getting more and more difficult to figure out just what one candidate stands for. Negative ads and spin doctors constantly distort views and platforms until you can’t figure out which end is up.

One more question for McCain’s camp. When you say ‘More Government Spending’ what do you refer to? More than who? More than the current administration?


- I don’t usually condone any type of torture, but I’d make an exception in this case. A Lynn man is refusing to cooperate with police as they frantically search for his missing five year old boy. He obviously knows something and isn’t talking while the clock ticks on the safety of his own son. ‘Bring in the water board!’


- After reading about that cop that stopped a speeding couple who were trying to get their choking dog to a hospital, I had two thoughts. The dog wound up choking to death while the cop was recorded saying ‘Calm down, you can get another dog’.

1: Yes, the officer was a dick, but a choking dog is no reason to be risking the lives and safety of every other human being unfortunate enough to be in your way. This couple was traveling at 90 + while weaving in and out of highway traffic. I know people consider their pets to be part of the family, but once again, we’ve crossed some invisible sanity line.

More and more people are more concerned about the safety and well being of animals than they are of human beings. Often to the detriment of both species. They are pets. You love them but they don’t live forever. The couple that got pulled over seemed more intent on saving their dog than the safety of every human being that was driving on that road. How many vehicles carrying small children did they fly by before they got pulled over?

2: Since there is no way in hell the over zealous animal lovers are going to calm down anytime soon (Michael Vick, anyone?), I offer a solution.

Why not create an animal 911? It doesn’t have to be a formal thing, just a generic number (like 611) that people can call when they have a pet or animal emergency. It can be manned by volunteer animal lovers and vets from across the country who would be on call for any urgent matters. This way pet owners don’t have to throw their pets in a car and drive like they’re auditioning for ‘Death Race’. The call center can get them in touch with a vet in their area who can either walk them through solutions or stop by to assist (at fee, of course).

I’m just the idea man. You guys take it from here.

Later folks. My time is (literally) up.


Today’s distraction: Two guys that I think ARE funny. That anyone is upset about this says more about them then anything these guys did. As one says, ‘It’s Bigfoot. Bigfoot doesn’t exist!’ Translation: Lighten up, you idiots.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fantasy Life

This Sunday is my fantasy football draft. That’s right, while the sun is still shining and we’re grilling up some dead animals and sucking down some hops and barley football season officially starts.

Now, since I’ve barely been following things, I need to put down some thoughts and get myself organized. Last year was a last minute thing and I went in woefully unprepared.

Not this year. This year I’ve actually read up and shit. I kinda know what I’m doing which can only mean I’m going to do a lot worse than I did going in blind.

Some thoughts for your consideration.

QUARTERBACK

Cream of the Crop

Tom Brady
Peyton Manning
Tony Romo
Drew Brees

Notes: Obviously everyone wants Brady, but you can’t go wrong with any of these four. Romo proved doubters wrong with last year’s spectacular season and Brees now has Shockey joining him.

Take It and Like It

Phillip Rivers
Ben Roethlisberger
Matt Hasslebeck
Jay Cutler
Marc Bulger
Matt Schaub
David Gerrard
Jon Kitna
Kurt Warner
Jeff Garcia

The big issue with this group is Warner. Will he even play if Leinart is the starter again this year? Warner kicked ass the second half of last season, so if this is an open competition I would risk a late pick on him.

The Question Marks

Brett Favre – new team, new system, new crappy receivers.

Donovan McNabb – is he fully healthy? I get the feeling he’s going to rebound this year, but how much are you willing to risk on it?

Derek Anderson – Was last year a fluke?

Matt Ryan – Everyone loves the rookie gamble.

Troy Smith – Will this be his breakout year?

JaMarcus Russell – The biggest question mark for this entire season.

What Choice Did I Have

Vince Young
Matt Leinart
Alex Smith
Tarvaris Jackson
Chad Pennington
Aaron Rodgers
Jason Campbell

The most intriguing name here is Pennington. With Miami, he’s virtually a lock to be starter and I always thought he was better then most think. When he was healthy, he was a Brady type QB. Never overwhelming, but can pick apart defenses with accurate midrange throws. Plus he’s got Ricky Williams and (if he’s healthy) Ronnie Brown protecting him in the backfield. If you want to gamble on one of these guys, I’d go with Pennington.

I Can’t Believe I’m Stuck With This Guy

Rex Chapman
Todd Collins
JP Losman & Trent Edwards
Brodie Coyle


RUNNING BACKS

Cream of the Crop

LaDainian Tomlinson
Adrian Peterson
Joseph Addai (my man from last year)
Brian Westbrook
Stephen Jackson
Clinton Portis
Marshawn Lynch
Ryan Grant

Notes: The way Tomlinson ended last season still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. We all assume he'll rebound and have another great year, but warning flags are going up with this guy. Addai, Westbrook, and Portis are the most consistent, reliable guys.

Take It and Like It

Frank Gore
Marion Barber
Willis McGahee
Willie Parker
Maurice Jones-Drew
Fred Taylor
Rudi Johnson
Justin Fargas
Brandon Jacobs
Laurence Maroney
Reggie Bush

Notes: Do you take Taylor and Jones-Drew together? They both split playing time so much it almost makes sense to get both of them on your team and play them at the same time.

The Question Marks

Larry Johnson – Is he done or did he just have a bad year? He’s either going to kick ass to prove he is still an elite running back or he’s toast.

Jamal Lewis - Really came on at the end of last season, but was that just an aberration or a sign of things to come this year?

Michael Turner – Is he going to show he’s more than just a great backup now that he’s with Atlanta?

Shawn Alexander - he's going to wind up somewhere, right? Do you waste a late round pick on him?

Ronnie Brown – is he 100%?

Ricky Williams – is he 100% clean and motivated?

Sammy Morris – will he become the main back for the Patriots if Maroney starts off slow again?

Ahmad Bradshaw – will he continue like he played in the playoffs last year? Dude is relentless.

What Choice Did I Have

Darren McFadden
Edgerrin James
Thomas Jones
Earnest Graham
LenDale White
Julius Jones
DeAngelo Williams
Deuce Mcallister
Ahman Green
Jerious Norwood

Notes: Does Julius Jones become a star behind the Seahawks line?



I Can’t Believe I’m Stuck With This Guy

Ricky Williams (when he quits or gets arrested from trying to bring weed on a team flight)
DeShaun Foster (speaking from experience)
Brandon Jackson
Leon Washington
Ledell Betts


RECEIVERS

Cream of the Crop

Randy Moss
Larry Fitzgerald
Terrell Owens
Reggie Wayne
Steve Smith
Marques Colston (aka MY MAN!)
Chad Johnson
Wes Welker (aka MY MAIN MAN!)

Take It and Like It

Anquan Boldin
Santonio Holmes
TJ Houshmandzadah (yes, I had to look up how to spell that)
Andre Johnson
Torry Holt
Braylon Edwards (who I was tempted to put in the top section)
Plaxico Burress
Greg Jennings
Hines Ward
Calvin Johnson
Donald Driver
Roddy White

Notes: Roddy White made me look like a genius last season when I picked him up for the final half of the season. Not great, but solid and consistent. Be wary of Green Bay receivers, too. Sine we have no idea how good Aaron Rodgers is going to be, there is no way to know how those guys will be effected.

The Question Marks

Bobby Engram – how bad is his shoulder?

Brandon Marshall – talented and troubled. Can he stay on the field all season? I see suspension somewhere along the way.

Steve Smith – already suspended for one game with an injury that is usually lingering for receivers.

Marvin Harrison – is he healthy?

Jet’s receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Crotchery - Do their numbers go up playing with Favre or does Favre’s numbers go down playing with them?

Anthony Gonzalez – Does he play full time this season? Certainly looked impressive at the tail end of last season. Might be worth a gamble.

What Choice Did I Have

Joey Galloway
Chris Chambers
Bernard Berriman
Donte Stallworth
Javon Walker
Kevin Curtis
Isaac Bruce
Jerry Porter
Antwaan Randle El

How Did I Get Stuck With This Guy

Sidney Rice
Ronald Curry
Nate Burleson
Derrick Mason (although if Troy Smith comes of age, he could be a surprise)
Amani Toomer (speaking from experience)
Roydell Williams (or any of the Titan’s receivers for that matter)


TIGHT ENDS

Cream of the Crop

Jason Whitten (who could be having a career year)
Dallas Clark
Kellen Winslow
Tony Gonzalez (who has to slow down at some point, right? Right?)

Take It and Like It

Chris Cooley
Ben Watson
Jeremy Shockey (who’s playing with a real QB for the first time in his career)
Todd Heap (again, if Troy Smith comes around this guy could be fantastic)
Heath Miller
Owen Daniels

The Question Marks

Only one here: Antonio Gates who had foot surgery during the offseason. Is he healthy? If so, can Rivers get him the ball?

What Choice Did I Have

Vernon Davis
Tony Scheffler
Alge Crumpler
LJ Smith
Leonard Pope
Donald Lee

How Did I Get Stuck With This Guy

Zach Miller
Eric Johnson
Desmond Clark
Randy McMichael

DEFENSE

Hell, it doesn’t really matter. Pick a solid defensive team and you’ll be covered.

KICKERS

Pick one out of a hat. You can look smart by picking one from a high scoring team, but he’s only going to gain you 2-3 points a week on average.

GAME PLAN

Don’t have one. Just pick the best player available at the time and get solid contributors (even if they aren’t spectacular) at each position and you’ll have a shot every week. Although getting some of the guys you’re playing against rip roaring drunk during the draft is always a good idea.


Today’s distraction: 2 Minute Football. You have to install the latest Shockwave player to get this to work, but it only takes a second. Also, make sure you take the tutorial as it makes playing that much easier.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Etc

Some leftover thoughts from the week that was. I promise, this will be the last I speak of it. I should warn you I am not a man of my word.

Honor is for pussies.

Off we go.

- I had the distinct displeasure of staying for 3 nights at the Embassy Suites in downtown Philadelphia. It was right next to our building, so the commute was sweet. However, the place itself seemed like a section 8 housing unit. Reasons I will never stay there again:

1: It smelled moldy. Like there had been a flood and never completely dried out.

2: They had a happy hour between 5:30 – 7 pm every day in the lobby. Normally this would have been a big check in the PLUS column, but the staff never checked if the people getting drinks were actually hotel guests. Basically it was happy hour for everyone in the area. Construction workers (who were probably supposed to be working on the front entrance which was a mess the entire stay) were hanging out drinking beers. Scruffy looking guys off the street were lounging in the lobby chairs drinking away. What the holy hell? Is it too hard to ask to see the room keys for verification?

3: The elevators stopped working for three entire days. This would have been perfectly fine (shit happens, after all) except I was on the 27th floor. The elevators themselves were working ok, but the call buttons were not. This meant every time you had to use the elevators you had to call the front desk and tell them you needed someone to come up to get you. You can imagine the amount of people calling at 7:30 in the morning when it was breakfast time. Ugly. I wound up taking the stairs down two mornings in a row because it was faster.

4: Despite all that, I would have been fine. I basically just need a place to shower and sleep when I’m on a project. I do like to unwind before I fall asleep by channel flipping or watching SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight. The first night all was well. I get back the second night (the same night the elevators went out) and the channels were all fucked up. ESPN was snow, HBO was all squiggly, and the local channels were black. I called down and was told ‘Yes, we’re having trouble with the signal at the moment’.

That ‘moment’ lasted for two days. Between the cable signal and the call buttons, that building is wired to blow. Or would be if the wiring worked at all.

After I checked out and had to call down to get an elevator to get me the hell out of there, I asked the guy operating the elevator how long it would take to get the call buttons fixed. I quote: ‘Well, they can’t find the short so they’re talking about rewiring the entire elevator system.’

‘How long will that take?’

‘At least a month.’

Embassy Suites. 1717 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Philadelphia. Stay away for at least a month. I’m staying away for the rest of my life.


- What started out as a simple Amber Alert (if there can be such a thing) regarding a father kidnapping his own daughter has turned into the next Lifetime movie and a legitimate international incident. Clark Rockefeller grabbed his own daughter off the streets of Boston and took off in a yacht to Baltimore to ‘start a new life’.

Turns out Rockefeller isn’t his real name and he’s from Germany and may have killed two people in California back in 1985. Well, hell, I don’t have time to go into the details. Check this insane timeline of his life. Makes you dizzy, huh?

What isn’t being addressed is something that intrigues me. Namely the devotion of a father to his daughter. This is a guy that cultivated a detailed persona for over a decade and so completely took on the character that even his best friends and ex-wife had no idea he was nothing close to what they thought. He was a con man. And such a good one, people that know him are still reeling.

Now, I’m not condoning kidnapping by any means, but I want to point out that Rockefeller (or whoever the hell he is) risked – and blew apart – his carefully constructed lie of a life because he wanted to be with his child. Granted his love is misguided, deranged and slightly dangerous, but it says a lot about what he was willing to risk in order to be with his daughter. Rockefeller is going to jail for a very long time (possibly the rest of his life) because he missed his little girl.


- I’ve been watching Michael Phelps this past week (hell, how can avoid him?) and my teeny little mind is still trying to grasp the utter dominance I am witnessing. This isn’t a high school swim meet; he is competing against the best swimmers in the world and he’s crushing them with an ease I have never seen before. The best swimmers in the world! These guys are the best of the best and they have no chance. I am watching him the rest of the way, too. We may never see an Olympic performance like this again in our life time. Hell, it may NEVER happen again in history.


- While we’re talking about the Olympics, one of the events flying under the network radar is our softball team. The adorable Cat Osterman pitched a no hitter yesterday that extended Team USA’s Olympic winning streak to 16 games. What’s confusing is the Olympic committee voting to remove both baseball and softball as an official sport. While at the same time synchronized diving is sticking around. What the fuck?


- I saw ‘The Dark Knight’ in IMAX and while I’ll wait to review the actual film (Hint: it was really good) I must admit I didn’t like the IMAX experience. I’ve been to them before, of course, but they were films designed for IMAX. ‘The Dark Knight’ was basically just stretched to fit the huge dimensions of the screen. This made the tops and sides of the film distort with the curved screen and made close ups of the actors nearly unbearable to watch. I don’t need to feel like I’m kissing close to The Joker, thank you very much. More problematic for me were the action scenes, which were tough to follow on such an enormous screen. I’m going to see this again in a standard theater.


- Part of the misery of business travel is making sure you have everything you need before you go. On this trip I forgot my belt. You know, so my pants stay up? Fortunately I was in downtown Philly with plenty of options all around me. I went with my coworker and spotted a men’s shop. I made straight for it and stumbled across the owner as he was locking up for lunch. He sees me and immediately opens it up again. ‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘I just need a brown belt real quick.’

‘Absolutely, sir, not a problem,’ he replies as he unlocks the door and ushers us in. That should have been a warning sign.

He shows me three possibilities and I select one. As I’m trying it on I ask ‘How much for this one?’

‘That is four fifty’

I stop and look at him. ‘Four hundred and fifty dollars?’

‘Yes, sir. It’s genuine ostrich skin.’

Very carefully I take off the belt, wrap it up and hand it back to him. ‘Sorry for wasting your time.’

‘You know, that’s the real mccoy

‘I’m sure it is,’ I say as I back out of the store.

Coworker took me to a discount place around the corner where I picked up a standard brown belt for $9.99.


- I’m familiar with most of the people in the Philly office as I have worked with them before. The head of our office there is a likable guy who is always stuck in overdrive. One of those guys that thinks he’s much funnier than he really is (like me) and thinks it’s a good idea to be as loud as possible about it. Good guy, but man alive, tone it down a bit, will ya?


- The gas companies have finally reached the saturation point with the prices. Apparently, anything over $4 is the tipping point for drivers. This past June driving took a nose dive. On what I’m sure is a completely unrelated note, prices have been decreasing since July 1st. Go figure. I noticed a gas station across from my gym that was down to $3.57.


- Lastly, did anyone catch the Red Sox – Rangers game last night? 19-17 with the Sox finally winning, but this was after blowing a 10-0 lead after the first inning. While Papi looks like he’s getting back into form, our bullpen is quickly becoming a concern. What a disaster last night was. Let’s hope it was a one game aberration.

By the way, I like the Byrd pickup for basically nothing, but we’ll see how much help he turns out to be. Can't be any worse than Bucholz lately. What the hell is up with that kid?


Today’s distraction: Draw and play your own golf course. Much harder than it sounds.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Curious George

My first full day in Philly was spent unpacking boxes, preparing for the coming week’s project and figuring out what to do with the rest of our night. Our options were a showing of ‘The Dark Knight’ and the IMAX theater down the street (sold out), hitting one of the many pubs in the area (colleague is not much of a drinker), or just relaxing at a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

This particular place is called Maggiano’s and is across the street from the Marriot in downtown Philadelphia. I’ve been to the Maggiano’s in McLean, Virginia a few times and have never had a bad meal. Their chicken parm plate is out of this world and they have the best friggin’ cheesecake I have ever had. Yeah, that includes you, Cheesecake Factory. It’s light and fluffy and is a little slice of paradise on earth. With a strawberry on top.

At the mention of Maggiano’s my mouth started watering and the rest of the day was a build up to our dinner.

As is often the case, reality is a far cry from fantasy. The meal was as delicious as ever, but we had to wait an hour for a table. They told us a 45 minute wait when we got there, so we cozied up to a table next to the bar and settled in. The Stellas were flowing while my colleague kept refusing drinks until she ate (her loss).

In the meantime, a lovely woman from Sweden via Seattle sat across from us and chatted for a bit about the wait (misery loves company) and why she was visiting the city (trade fair involving arts and crafts). After having her fill of us (less than 5 minutes), she pulled out her paperback and started reading. If I could think of another sentence that included parentheses, I would be using it right now. I was on a roll.

Another few minutes pass and an older, bearded gent (guessing early 50s. Hey, I did it again!) comes up and asks if the seat directly across from me is taken. After gaining permission, he sits and casually mentions the wait (a common bond for us all) and sits quietly for a bit.

My friend and I are discussing the coming week and what the plan of action is for a few minutes. During a lull, the man across from me asks ‘Can we order food here?’. Ah, the question of the day. There was enormous confusion about the table we were using as it was separate from the bar, but had no wait staff. He asks one of the waitresses walking by and she says ‘No, sir. There is no service at this table. You need to order from the bar’ and she points to the bar. The only bar in the place that he is facing and is barely 3 feet from.

This quickly became the running joke of the night. Later on a girl sat down and asked if a waiter came to the table. I answered ‘No, you have to order from the bar’. I stop and point, ‘That bar. That’s the bar you have to order from. Right there. See it?’ While everyone else thought it was funny, the girl just glared at me.

But I get ahead of myself. The elderly gent politely introduces himself as George. When I ask what he’s doing in town, he explains that he is attending a sculpture class at the art museum down the street. ‘I worked with nudes today’.

I turn to my work friend, ‘Now see. THAT’S a cool job!’

Back to George, ‘Did you finish or do you have to go back tomorrow and finish up the details? And if so can I come along as an observer?’

This cracks George up and we are instantly getting along famously. He possesses one of those devilish glints in his eye that I relate to very well and he is a heavy, social drinker having already sucked down two Black Russians in the first 15 minutes of sitting down. We discuss nude models in great detail. In 10 minutes I learned the following:

- Nude models are not paid very well. Most earn $10-$15 an hour.

- The models are usually paid by the professor of the class and not by the school itself.

- Not all nude models are what you’d call ‘pretty’. I learn this when he tells me that the nude model that day was a 65 year old grandmother. Yeesh….

- The reason nude sculptures are so common is that artists always try to find universal themes. ‘Right’, I chime in, ‘What’s more universal then naked women?’

Why do artists try to find universal themes? Why money, of course. As George told me, if you find a universal attraction you can sell your art all over the world and not limit it to one part of the world or certain countries. That’s why a lot of sculptors will make the faces of their subjects generic. So people from all races can relate to it.

‘Wait a second. I thought artists were about principles and not selling out and about creating art for art’s sake?’ I asked.

George says ‘That’s bullshit! We have bills to pay, too. In fact, I’ll sell you my sculpture from today?’

‘How much?’

‘Thirty five hundred!’

‘Dollars??!!’

‘Yeah, but since I like you and it’s wet I’ll drop it to three hundred.’

‘Christ, George. It’s a good thing you’re an artist cause you’re a shitty salesman.’

George laughs and studies me for a minute. ‘You can’t afford $3500?’

I’m dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, wearing my ‘Where’s the Love?’ baseball hat. I ask him ‘Do I look like I have that kind of money?’

‘I had you pegged for some corporate executive,’ George replies which sets off much laughter by me and my coworker. This then kicked off a game of him trying to guess what we do for work. He lost miserably.

When he finds out, he rolls his eyes and groans. ‘Computers! Man, I never deal with those unless absolutely necessary.’

‘Why would you,’ I say, ‘You have naked women around you all the time.’

‘Nudes! I deal with nudes.’

Me and my friend look at each other. ‘Um, naked? Nude? What’s the difference?’

‘According the Oxford dictionary,’ George informs us, ‘Naked means you could be wearing a g-string.’

At the mention of the word ‘g-string’ our Swedish/Seattle woman’s head snaps up. She looks around at the three of us with a vaguely confused look; trying to catch up on the conversation as quickly as possible.

As we fill her in, her friend arrives and proceeds to question the difference between naked and nude. ‘But both mean having no clothes on!!’ She seemed a bit more passionate about the debate than it really called for.

For the record, here are the definitions:

Naked (Adj):
1.
being without clothing or covering; nude: naked children swimming in the lake.

2.
without adequate clothing: a naked little beggar.

As you see it can mean nude or semi nude. Without adequate clothing implies you have some clothing on, just not much.

Nude (Adj):

1.
naked or unclothed, as a person or the body.

Again, one word uses the other in it’s definition. It seems both arguments are correct. Naked doesn’t necessarily mean nude. Maybe this is where the term ‘buck naked’ (also George Constanza’s porn name) came from.

Swedish/Seattle woman recounts a funny story of when she was in an art class and painting a nude model in the class. The model's time finishes up and she walks off to get dressed. At the same time the girl directly next to our Swedish friend puts down her paint brush, disrobes and walks up to the stand to be the next nude model. The woman immediately thinks 'Oh, shit. Are we taking turns posing in the nude? I didn't sign up for this!' As it turns out, that wasn't the case, but if it were that art teacher would have to be inducted into the male hall of fame for ingenius use of an art class.

After we couldn’t settle the naked/nude argument in rational fashion, I bought a round of drinks. George, on his fourth of fifth Black Russian (while he was with us, at least) began telling me I had a great face that he could ‘sculpt in 30 minutes’. Now, I take this to mean he is either really accomplished or I have a face that resembles a lump of clay. Forgive my assuming the first option.

Finally our table is ready. We ask George how long he has to wait and he says ‘Oh, I never put my name in for a table’.

That George! He crazy!!

If you must know the meal was fantastic. I had the lobster raviolis and, of course, cheesecake for desert. The only down side was them running out of Stella. ‘Of course they’re out,’ my friend says, ‘You drank it all.’

Funny girl.

On the way back to the hotel, we encounter a homeless guy who asks for change and oddly enough tells me I have a ‘beautiful face’. So twice in one night another man has complimented my looks. The tone is set for the week. I continuously tell my friend that she’s just jealous and really doesn’t deserve to bathe in my handsomeness and glowing beauty.

‘Maybe I should have my face sculpted. I really need to share my good looks with future generations. I should be immortalized.’

I think she’s still laughing.

One final note: When my friend recounts the story of George wanting to sculpt me, she adds in that he wanted to sculpt me nude. Oddly, this is readily accepted without much question. What the hell?

Today’s distraction: The basics of sculpting. Check out the tools used and note how they become powered the lower you go. Sculpting with power tools. Now we’re talking!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

#1 With A Bullet

With the airline prices skyrocketing or their added ‘fees’ and my company urging everyone and their pet to save money, I decided to give the Acela train service a try.

For those unfamiliar, the Acela is the (fairly) new high speed train servicing the northeast. It runs from Boston through Providence, New Haven, Stamford, New York, a couple of seedy New Jersey towns (redundancy alert), Philly, Baltimore and finally DC to turn around and do it all over again.

Only – you know - from a different direction.

A few notes before I get to my experience. There were two reasons for taking the train:

1: The best price I could get for an airline ticket was $575 round trip to Philadelphia. I should note that the flight time between Boston and Philly is maybe 90 minutes. That’s a big maybe. I’ve flown twice to our sister city and on both occasions spent more time in security and waiting to board than I did in the air.

This wasn’t a last minute thing, either. I wanted to fly out on Saturday night and was booking more than two weeks in advance. 18 days to be exact. So either fuel is causing massive price hikes or the airlines don’t want people flying to Philly in August. Either reason is understandable.

Since I am a company man at heart (and they pay me to travel – score!) I researched cheaper options. One was the high speed train for $355 round trip. That’s right. I saved my company more than $200, which I promptly rung up in overly expensive meals consisting of many beers.

2: A coworker swears by the Acela since he takes it between Boston and New York frequently. I decided to test his advice giving abilities.

You know what? Let’s break this baby down old school style. Pros and cons of the Acela.


TRAIN

Pros: Clean and efficient. I rode in the business express car (which is slightly more expensive than coach) and, much to my delight, each row has it’s own AC outlet. I was able to plug in my laptop and watch ‘Vantage Point’ and some of ‘The Ruins’ before I realized there was some small children around and thought it a good idea to shut it off. No need to fill up the nightmare tank for some unsuspecting parent.

Also, they have a ‘Quiet Car’ where no cell phone conversations are allowed and they make sure nobody talks above a whisper. It was a thing of beauty.

Cons: The term ‘high speed’ is a bit misleading. There are parts of the track this train moves so fast I felt a bit queasy trying to watch the scenery. There are other parts where it crawls or is only able to do the standard speed due to incompatible bridge structures or heavily populated areas. Also, this tends to share tracks with other, older (and slower) trains, so we had to stop on occasion due to ‘congestion ahead’.

Still, Boston to Philly in 5 hours is nothing to sneeze at. It really cruises between New York and Philly, by the way. I got to Penn Station from 30th Street Station in less than 2 hours. That included two Jersey stops, too.


PEOPLE

Pros: Extremely helpful and friendly employees from Amtrak. All had a smile and hello for me and made sure I knew what to expect when I got on. Other passengers kept to themselves and only one elderly gentleman attempted to initiate a conversation with me.

For whatever reason, there were a pleasing number of good looking women going both ways (pun intended, thank you very much). No idea why, but I don’t question certain gifts from the goddesses.

Quick side story: On the way down there was a sultry looking brunette who kept glancing in my direction. She was ahead of me and on the opposite side of the aisle, so her looking back was making my self conscious. I thought I may have a booger hanging out of my nose or something. After a half hour of this I finally decide to stare at her until she does it again. She turns, smiles and motions to the sleeping man next to me and taps her shoulder. I look over and see a huge drool stain on the dude’s shoulder. I mean huge. I had my iPod on and also didn’t realize the guy was snoring so loudly it should have been shaking the seats.

And here I thought I still had the magic touch. Reality does bite!

Cons: The number of other passengers. Both ways this thing was completely sold out (please refer to airline ticket prices at beginning) and there was a struggle to get a good seat. This wasn’t that big of a deal as the business class seats give you plenty of room. However, the elderly gent mentioned early promptly fell asleep next to me and I wouldn’t have been able to get up without waking him. Still, it’s better than coach on an airplane.


SCENERY

Pros: Between New Haven and Providence is spectacular. We skimmed what I assume was Long Island Sound and the many marinas and views. I actually stopped my movie to take everything in during this stretch.

Cons: If you’ve ever taken a train, you are more than aware that it’s tracks are the nation’s dumping ground. I spotted mattresses, tires, old toilets (Note: I’m assuming the toilets are old as new ones should be put to use), car fenders and bumpers and, yes, even a kitchen sink. New York was the main offender in this area. Does that really surprise anyone? Didn’t think so.


SCHEDULE

Pros: The stretch between New York and DC has the best options with trains running nearly every hour during the weekdays. Not sure about the weekend runs, but there were plenty of times available when I wanted to change my train home. Both trains were also on time to the minute. Lot to be said for that.

Cons: Unfortunately, I live in Boston where I had three choices to get to Philly. 11 AM, 2:30 PM and 6 PM. Not exactly a bunch of options. This was the Saturday schedule, so maybe there are more during the week.


FOOD

Pros: Now we’re talking. In the middle of this train is the snack car that offers hot dogs, pizza (although it’s the lame microwavable kind, but still), a bunch of different sandwiches and of course….wait for it….

BEER!

Not just any beer, but you had your choice of Beck’s, Heinekein, Sam Adams, Amstel Light, Bass as well as the usual Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light. Add to that my company was basically paying for everything, it was glorious.

Cons: The prices. If I were paying for it myself I would be aghast. Aghast, I say!!


MOBILITY

Pros: Even with the seat in front of me reclined I had a good 18 inches of space between that seat and my knees. Anyone six feet and over knows that is the key to riding in comfort. It also means you can get into the aisle (in case you want to get more beer) without forcing the person next to you to stand.

Cons: The aisle is slightly wider than your standard airplane. That’s not good. Better, but not good. Plus when the train is really moving it’s tough to keep your balance, although to be fair, there may have been other factors impairing my balance.


RESTROOMS

Pros: Surprisingly, these were clean and large enough to fit comfortably. Well lit and easy to get to. They were even placed away from the rest of the passengers and kept separated by automatic sliding glass doors.

Cons: Other than it being a public bathroom, I can’t think of one. Well done, Amtrak. Well done.


LUGGAGE

Pros: Plenty of overhead space for larger cases, but more importantly there are racks just as you get in the door, so if you have a full size case, just tuck it in there and you’re good to go.

Cons: There were no instructions on what size suitcase goes where creating a free for all when many people boarded at once. It was suitcase anarchy at times.


SECURITY

Pros: No security lines at all. I left my house at 10:30, got dropped off at 10:45 or so, printed out my tickets via the many kiosks and got on board for my 11:05 train. Piece of cake.

Cons: The reason there were no security lines was because there was no friggin’ security. Considering 9/11 originated in Logan, you’d think South Station would trying to prevent the same thing happening on one of their trains. There were bomb sniffing (or drug sniffing or glue sniffing) dogs roaming around, but I got off at the curb, walked up to an outdoor kiosk and went straight to the train with barely a glance from anyone. As far as anyone knew I could have been rolling a suitcase full of C4 onto the train.

Um…YIKES?


Some Suggestions: Just a few for Amtrak’s consideration to improve the quality of the ride.

- Cut down on the number of stops. Do you really need a stop at Back Bay when it’s a two minute ride from South Station? There are three stops within the first 10 minutes when leaving Boston. You can’t eliminate one of them? I’m sure Back Bay passengers can jump on a subway and make it to South Station without much of a hassle.

- While I’m not sure of the logistics, wouldn’t it be possible to offer wireless internet service? I’d even pay for it. Think how much money Amtrak could make with that deal.

- A dedicated track. It makes no sense to make this high speed bullet train make frequent stops because a standard train is in front of it and slowing things down. Get the hell out of the way so we can fly!


BOTTOM LINE

I would recommend the Acela on the condition you would be saving a large amount of money and could set aside half a day to get where you’re going. It’s much more comfortable and less stressful than flying while carrying an entire car full or beer.

How can you go wrong?


Today's distraction: Build your own train. I know, it's for kids, but be a kid for a while.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Reminders

Just some things I need to tell you all about when I get time. I wanted to write them down so I wouldn't forget. My mind ain't what it used to be.

Keep in mind these each may get their own posts.

- 'The Dark Knight'. In IMAX no less!

- Embassy Suites in downtown Philly. Stay away. While that sums it up, I'll explain in more detail.

- George, the artist, who 1: offered to sell me a nude sculpture of a 65 year old woman, 2: dropped his price from $3500 to $500 in about 3.5 seconds and 3: offered to sculpt me because I 'have a great face'. Yes, alcohol was involved.

- Adventures in buying a belt.

- The Acela

- Movie reviews: 'The Ruins', 'Vantage Point', '1408', and others.

- Maggiano's. Mmmmm, good....

Heading to the 'burbs of Philly today, so I'm sure there will be more to discuss.

Later!

Friday, August 1, 2008

New England Trip

My work often takes me places I would otherwise never visit.

I mean that in the worst way possible.

Yesterday I had to drive to Manchester, New Hampshire to visit one of our other offices. On the drive back I had a million jokes on how to describe New Hampshire running through my head. I realized, however, that many of the readers of this space (by many, I mean one or two; that’s many for this space) wouldn’t get these jokes since they don’t know New England very well.

Fuckin’ A, brothers and sisters. That’s where I come in. I’m nothing if not educational and learned and shit like that. Below is a brief rundown for all five New England states. What? There’s six? Oh, right. Rhode Island. I always forget about that bastard.

MASSACHUSETTS

Founded: 1620 or so. Puritans were kind of sketchy when it came to record keeping as they were busy trying to prevent people from having any sort of fun.

Name Comes From: An Indian with serious depth perception problems. Massachusetts comes from an Algonquian Indian word meaning ‘great mountain’. We can only assume the Indian who dubbed our fine state was four foot two and was looking at the Blue Hills of Dorchester. Or maybe he was drunk and was referring to his wife’s massive bosom.

Yeah, but what’s it like?: Progressive and not afraid to tell you. Massachusetts is the first state to abolish slavery, allow same sex marriages, establish free public schools (and, by extension, wedgies and swirlies) and consider the Kennedy family something above drunken fools.

Family relation: If you consider New England a family of brothers who have lived way too long in the same house together, then Massachusetts is the eldest, wisest and most respected brother who likes to rub it in all the other brother’s faces that he is the eldest, wisest and most respected brother. Prick!

Bottom Line: Generally the first state you think of when you think of New England with Boston the defining city. Lesson? Boston rules!!


NEW HAMPSHIRE

Founded: 1623.

Name Comes From: Um…England? Like New England. Hampshire is a southern county in England and a lot of English chaps came over and named this state NEW Hampshire. Like NEW England. Get it?

Yeah, but what’s it like?: Ever see the movie ‘Deliverance’? It’s like that only urban. Like they took all the rednecks of the north and put them in one place. They have no sales tax, no gun laws, no motorcycle helmet laws, no school budgets and no future. Nashua, Concord and Manchester are the major cities that nobody wants to live in.

Family Relation: The black sheep of the family. You want fireworks? Go to New Hampshire. You want guns? Go to New Hampshire. You want to ride free and risk crippling brain injury? Go to New Hampshire. New Hampshire is the ex-con of the brothers who ‘knows people’ and can get things done in a way the other brothers don't want to think about.

Bottom Line: There is a game wifey and I play and I win nearly every time. Whenever the local news has some bizarre story about how one person brutally murdered another because one owed the other $50 or how a woman drove over a group of people because they’re Yankee fans (understandable) we try to guess which city the live report will originate from. I always guess either Manchester, NH or New Bedford, MA. 80% of the time, it’s Manchester. Live Free or Die, Motherfuckers! Don’t think they don’t mean it.


MAINE

Founded: There’s some confusion about this. Some French settled in the area around 1604, but since the French don’t count the British officially list it as 1620 something.

Name Comes From: Uh, yeah…that’s another source of confusion. Most think it was named after the French Province of Maine, but again, the French are involved so that’s been questioned. We do know the first documented proof is on British papers, so fuck you, French people.

Yeah, but what’s it like?: To put it simply – rural, snowy and oceany. Maine has some of the most spectacular coastline in the country. Portland’s harbor is still hustling and bustling. Forget visiting in the winter as I’m pretty sure they don’t have snow plows. The people who live near others (approximately 8% of the population) are very friendly and many live in sprawling mansions with no discernible means of income.

Oh, they like snowmobiles and hunting. Often at the same time.

Family Relation: The autistic brother nobody talks about.

Bottom Line: Very schizophrenic. If you live along the coast, life can be sweet. If you live north or west you might as well be a hermit. Normal Rockwell’s America still lives and thrives here.


VERMONT

Founded: Yeah, no clue. It was officially founded by the British in 1724, but Samuel de Champlain (another irrelevant French dude) explored the area as early as 1608. Interestingly, the state was originally claimed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York at different times and all of them relinquished their claims. That’s right. Vermont is the state nobody wanted.

Name Comes From: The Green Mountains. Supposedly, Champlain dubbed it Vert Mont (which is French for Green Mountains of all things) but it got fucked up, as tends to happen, when the British took over. For the record, Vermont translates to Worm Mountain.

Yeah, but what’s it like?: Tranquil. It really is one of the most beautiful states in the country. Open land, mountain views, enormous lakes. The people are liberal and very friendly. Probably as close to a fully crime free state as is possible.

Family Relation: The hippy brother who accepts everyone for who they are and loses sleep over why the family just can’t get along despite their differences. Probably smokes a lot of weed and drives a VW van, too.

Bottom Line: Look at it as Colorado in the east. Only with way more drinking. Fantastic ski resorts make this a popular winter destination and the more bearable summers make it just as popular. Oddly, it’s more a vacation state than a ‘let’s move there and raise our kids’ state as it’s the second least populated state in the country.


CONNECTICUT

Founded: 1630s by the Dutch.

Name Comes From: The fact that it’s only purpose is to connect New York to Boston. No, not really. That’s just how I view it. It actually originated from the Mohegan word ‘quinnitukqut’ which means ‘place that connects New York to Boston’. Fine. It really means ‘Place of long, tidal river’. Rock on!

Yeah, but what’s it like?: Due to it’s ‘connecting’ status, Connecticut has had a bit of trouble establishing it’s identity. The western and southern parts of the state is considered part of greater New York. But, a lot of Boston residents are transplanted Connecticutians (????). It likes to think of itself as affluent suburban, but Hartford and New Haven are it’s biggest cities and it’s tough to take that claim seriously when you’ve visited either of those.

Family Relation: The middle brother who can’t figure out where he fits or what he wants to do with his life. Think Jan Brady with a bigger Marcia complex.

Bottom Line: Seems odd that the majority of people that live in that state tend to work in others. For example, a lot of people that work in New York will buy houses in Connecticut or that people that already live in Connecticut will find jobs in Boston. Actually, that doesn’t seem odd at all. Put it this way, the biggest draw in Connecticut is either University of Connecticut or ESPN’s studios.


RHODE ISLAND

Founded: 1614 or maybe even as early as 1524.

Name Comes From: Long story short, it was accidentally renamed by the Dutch from ‘Luisa’ (no, really!) to Roodt Eylandt meaning Red Island. So named due to the red clay that lines the shores. Or the blood that was spilt trying to reserve a hotel room on Block Island in July.

Yeah, but what’s it like?: Pleasant, but rarely note worthy. Picture Cape Cod with more history, less people though more expensive (although the Cape is rapidly catching up in that department). It’s the prototypical vacation spot with some huge mansions lining the shores where retirees and/or rich motherfuckers spend their mornings checking on their investment portfolios and drinking coffee on the waterfront porch. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Family Relation: The runt little brother that’s mentally tougher then all the others combined and a scrappy, at times, dirty fighter. All the other brothers make fun of him for being so short, but they all secretly wish they possessed his best qualities.

Bottom Line: If I ever hit the million dollar lottery, I’ll have a summer home on the shore in Rhode Island and most likely wind up spending winters there, as well.

There you go. A poor man’s lesson on New England. You can see why I hate going to Hartford and Manchester when my normal port of call is Boston.

Today’s distraction: It’s a quiz on New England. I scored perfect, but that’s because it’s super easy. No genius am I.

L.A. Story

Well, they did it. I really didn't think they would, but after Manny's lunatic fringe where he said 'The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me' they shipped him off to Joe Torre and the Dodgers. Could Manny have asked for a better landing spot? Suddenly he's the least insane person in the city. That has to be a first for him.

(Sidenote: How do you think Nomar feels about being reunited with Manny? How about Derek Lowe?)

In exchange the Red Sox get Jason Bay from Pittsburgh and while most of Boston is left wondering what's to become of the rest of the season, I think this is a pretty good deal. Manny is obviously past his prime, became way too high maintenance for even the teammates that love him, and we're getting Bay just as he's hitting his peak.

We just traded a 36 year old left fielder for a 29 year old left fielder and in the process swept out a season's worth of smelly baggage. Even better, Bay will bust his ass on every play. Unlike....well, you know already.

I should note that the Sox have Bay under contract through next season, as well. As I wrote earlier this week, this means the Sox will have some cash ready to throw at Matt Holliday when he becomes a free agent. Just pointing it out is all....

Don't fault the Sox for this one, Boston fans. Manny left them no choice. This is eerily reminiscent of Nomar's final days where he sulked in the Boston dugout in Yankee stadium. Like Nomar at the time, it was obvious Manny wasn't going to be invested in this team if they kept him around.

So they did what they had to. Let's keep in mind that Jason Bay has Manny like numbers this season, but he's been playing on shitty Pirate teams most of his career. I, for one, am excited to see what he does with legitimate on base machines in front of him and someone like Mike Lowell and JD Drew coming up behind him.

Don't get me wrong, I'll miss Manny, but his off field rhetoric (including his disgusting shoving incident with the 63 year old travelling secretary) and on field half assed play of late was more than 'Manny being Manny'. This was above and beyond his usual ditzy, absent mindedness and quickly became hurtful and dangerous to the rest of the team. Both mentally and physically. Just ask Kevin Youkilis.

Just look at how the Sox played their last series. Don't tell me Manny wasn't effecting the mood in the clubhouse. They played like they wanted to be anywhere else.

Don't misread this as me saying the Sox are a better team without Manny. If he were happy and hustling they'd be the team to beat. Bay is no Manny, but if he can keep close to what Manny did number wise (and look at the stats side by side, so far this year) and be a good guy in the clubhouse (and by all accounts he is) the this is the best possible scenario for the Sox.

One thing I didn't like was them throwing in Brandon Moss in the deal. Why was that necessary? I liked that guy and something tells me he'll be tearing up the NL in the next year or two with everyone asking 'How did the Red Sox let this guy get away?'

If you're wondering - and I know you are - my eldest boy was more upset than I thought he would be. Asking 'Do we play the Dodgers this year?', 'Why did they have to trade him?' and heartbreakingly 'Will Manny ever come back to the Red Sox?' Welcome to the real sports world, kid. I am pleased to note that he asked about Jason Bay and wondered 'Hey, will he take Manny's number? Maybe I can get one of his shirts.'

Kids! So damn resilient. I'm still recovering.

Today's distraction: I'll post one a little later. I actually have another entire post nearly done and will include the distraction on that.

Quick note: I'm heading to Philly for work next week so may not be posting much. I'm taking the Acela Speed Racer Train and will definitely let you know how that goes. My first time. Hope they're gentle with me.