Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Holidays!

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, spending Saturday, Christmas Eve, at my parents' home in western MA as is our custom. It's always a very pleasant evening to gather with most of the immediate family and enjoy a holiday dinner and exchange presents... I think we may end up with more gifts Christmas Eve than on Christmas morning itself! But the highlight of course is spending the family time, and we're very lucky to be blessed with a great family at that.

This gets us home usually fairly late Christmas Eve; this year was actually earlier than most years, we got home around 10:30pm Saturday night. Fortunately we're all night owls and with no travel or visitor plans for Christmas day there was no need to worry about when we got to bed. Our street has a tradition of leaving small gifts at each others' doors on Christmas Eve each year, anything from a bag of home-made cookies to a bottle of wine may show up on our steps before we get home! For ourselves we leave a Christmas tree ornament and some cookies, so once getting home from the grandparents C and I grabbed up our own "Santa" bag and hit the neighborhood to leave our own gift bags at each house.

As mentioned last year (hear the exciting story again here!), C is "in" on the Santa story, and he actually enjoys Christmas even more now as he himself loves playing Santa. His original thought of putting out the gifts after The Momma & I went to bed for the night didn't last long, as he was too excited to wait! After finishing the neighborhood rounds and grabbing something to eat he took charge of filling the stockings and putting the Santa gifts under the tree.

The Momma & I woke up a little after 11am on Christmas morning; the living room looking every bit of Christmas except for one missing element: a child! C of course was still sound asleep. We let him be for a while as we sorted through the gifts from the night before, then woke him up a little before noon to have our own family holiday. (Yup, that's life with us... the parents anxiously waiting on the child to wake up so we could enjoy Christmas morning!)

C's "big" gift this year was a Nintendo DS videogame system, and a couple of games, which of course he loved. He also got a bunch of modelling clay and tools (something new he's really getting into), a couple of magic sets (something else he's really getting interested in!), two seasons' worth of the old TV show "MASH" on DVD, and about 70 new Pokemon figures for his collection (thank you, eBay!). He was delighted with it all.

The Momma & I both got some great gifts this year as well. The highlight for me was probably the new book, "Belushi", a photo-filled, large-format biography about John Belushi authored by his wife, Judith Belushi Pisano. I've only read through the first chapter but the book is very nice, and the introductions, one from Judy and one from Dan Aykroyd, easily brought a tear to my eye. I'm looking forward to reading it through and checking out the wealth of personal photographs Judy has included.

So another year is essentially passed... on Saturday we'll be spending New Year's Eve with some old friends in New Hampshire, that should be fun and fairly relaxing. Then it's on to planning 2006... The Momma & I have already agreed, incidentally, to "officially" move our January 4th wedding anniversary to February to allow some time for the budget to recover from the holidays. Here's hoping your holidays were just as good... and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Death - And a Reminder

Richard Pryor died today.

Now, I've never considered myself a Richard Pryor fan, per se, but I've usually laughed with or at him, I've enjoyed his work, and I've respected him. I liked - and hated - him in "Superman III". But never felt a huge personal connection with the man.

But he was "our" generation. Though (and selfishly I'll say) happily still OLDER than me, in general I consider him a "contemporary". He was part of OUR generation's entertainment and pop culture.

Yet, he's dead at 65. Sure, many reasons why that may not be a surpise... but, a cultural contemporary dead at 65. Somehow, this one bothers me, more than perhaps I think it should.... more than even the death of Jimmy Doohan, De Kelley or the Great Bird of the Galaxy, all of whom I've felt a closer bond with (and two of whom I've met personally, all of whom I've met).

Not closely as much as John Belushi. Or John Candy.


Shit, getting older brings some keen sense of mortality with it, doesn't it? I mean, 65... I can see that now pretty easily.

Pryor had a tough life and pushed past the edge a few times. But still, this feels a bit personal.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Herbert's NOT Rolling Over....

Finally watched the latest version of "War of the Worlds", and surpringly (to myself) I'm putting myself in the group that LIKED it! I very much appreciate the homage to the original Wells (H.G., not Orson!) story here and liked that this BIG movie was told on the small scale of a single family's viewpoint. I've seen some of the criticisms and certainly don't disagree with all of them... the cellar scene was too long, the Robbins character was too weird, the just-too-smaltzy ending when Robbie re-appears (but not as bad as I'd expected from some hints I'd heard)... but overall this was probably the most honest version of the story yet made and appropriately scary!

Nice homages also to the Pal version (still a favorite as well), especially the classic climactic shot of the dying alian's arm emerging from the crashed war machine. (I also really liked the vines dying on the Minuteman statue, great touch.) The effects also were awesome, and the DTS soundtrack on the DVD one of the best-sounding movies I've heard in my living room. Kudos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving, America

Halloween was fun - Like father, like son!

C sure is an interesting kid, he's decided his favorite show now is "MASH"... it's one of my all-time favorites too but I wouldn't expect an 8-year-old to so readily take an interest in a show dealing with some sometimes heavy morale and ethical questions (especially in the later episodes), but he loves it and there's certainly some life lessons to be learned by watching it together.

It also has been fun watching these episodes again myself, it reminds me of just how good the show really was, and how well it holds up... frankly, better than "Star Trek", which has always been my favorite show of course. Certainly current events make "MASH" sometimes very apropos and poignant again now as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

So Whaddaya Say, Is It the New Bluesmobile or What?

Yup, been a while... but hey, at least there's some news! Since the end of September I've been working on an eBay car purchase, which was finally consummated about two weeks ago. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, allow me to present the new Bismobile!

It's probably no surprise that I went looking for a new ride after my kvetching over several Saab repairs this spring and summer. Yet ironically, it's our VAN that we're retiring... though the Saab has been a money pit in the worst way, it's still the more reliable and safe vehicle at this point. Our '95 Ford conversion van, which has been an absolute soldier and family member for us since we bought it used in early '98, has earned a peaceful retirement though after seven years and over 100,000 miles with us (and 10 years and 155,000 miles overall). So we've turned in the plates on it, and this month we'll be cleaning it out and donating it to a worthy charity. It still runs strong, but the brakes and suspension are weakening, and the oil pan and the radiator is starting to corrode through (both of which will be big ticket repairs on an old engine).

So behold the Bismobile, a '91 Ford LTD Crown Victoria police special. She's got 66,000 original miles, and has been owned solely by the Santa Cruz, CA Fire Department these past 15 years. Once (eventually) a little black paint is added she'll instantly be a replica Bluesmobile Mark II - the Bluesmobile from "Blues Brothers 2000", the second BB film from 1998.

She drives great, has a new stereo CD/mp3 player installed (hopefully next year I'll upgrade the factory speakers but it'll do for now), and cruises beautifully.

Many readers of this blog are aware that some years ago... okay, quite a few years ago - alright, a long time ago on an interstate far, far away! - my Blues Brother Jake & I ran a '74 Dodge Monaco (original generation) Bluesmobile and achieved some serious notoriety with her. Those freewheeling days may be largely behind me now, but this car does parallel the Blues Brothers in the movie as in the 1998 film Elwood also dealt with growing up and accepting responsibility for family. C loves the car and we put together a great "Buster Blues" outfit for him for Halloween, which we'll probably find other occasional uses for as well!

I had fun keeping this quiet from many of those who know me for several weeks (a few others I let in on it early though!), so I could surprise them with this updated "blast from our past". Certainly the most fun was pulling up to The Hey's house last weekend and surprising him... I also presented him with a new Blues Brothers hat for himself as a birthday present. It was fun to spend an afternoon cruising again and hopefully from time to time we'll manage a few road trips!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

How PC is PC?

Every now and then I realize that as worrisome as things are in America and in the world right now, there was a time when things were worse... a time when there was no debate over a government's actions, for instance, or over the extent our liberties could be restricted in times of trial.

For instance, last weekend we rented a DVD of the 1943 theatrical serial films "Batman"... back in the before-TV generation, a good old-fashioned episodic (20-30 minutes each) serial that you'd see in the theaters before the main feature. This was made in the middle of World War II. In the second episode the camera is panning down a deserted street, past shop windows featuring signs written in Japanese, to where a criminal hide-out is. The narrator explains (slight paraphrasing from memory but pretty close to verbatim) -

"This is a section of town that could easily have been lifted right out of another country and put here... Little Tokyo. This street was bustling until a wise government rounded up all the shifty-eyed Japs."

Needless to say I had to stop the DVD and go into a history lesson with C. Yay, wise government. Thanks for rounding up your citizens and putting them in concentration camps! And yay Hollywood for playing along. Gives new respect for the "liberal media" and the "conservative right" administration at least trying to meet in the middle... though the conservatives would be wise to pay attention to the past.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Won't Miss This Summer

It's been a tough summer and that's a big reason why I haven't been blogging much. The Momma's had some health concerns, that has also led to some fiscal issues as she missed a lot of shifts and she works per diem. And the money was tight after the Great June Car Saga.

Oh, and guess what? My car is back in the shop again! Wouldn't start when The Momma left to go to work this weekend. So she drove the 14mpg full-size van instead for her 90-minute communte.

Seems likely the car problem this time may be the fuel pump, as it cranks fine but doesn't catch and I ain't smellin' no gas. There's a few other possibilities to of course but that's what I'm guessing, I should no by Thursday night.

In the meantime the above-referenced van is also on its way out, structurally. No complaints, it's ten years old (we've had it for over seven), and has over 155,000 miles, but we're definitely looking at one vehicle due for retierment and another going through its 100,000-mile midlide "replace everything" period... with veryhigh repair costs. Somehow we'll need to come up with some serious car changes in the immediate future... sigh!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Still Ain't Dead....

Just busy with a lot of distractions lately, and no muse at a time when I have time to blog! Many things to say about James Doohan, the space shuttle, and baseball... if I get myself back in the writing groove. In the meantime keep hailing the Tiki for me....

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No Headstone on my Grave

So, I made it to Shore Leave after all! I found I was able to make a very abbreviated trip down, a single overnight with no hotel reservation, mostly a quick trip down the road to have a few pints with some friends. Just throw a sleeping bag and an overnight bag in the car, grab some beer money and hit the road south. I had a great time, very low-key and relaxing but an opportunity to get together with friends I usually only get to see at the Hunt Valley Inn each July now.

I had to wait until Friday afternoon last weekend to make the final call, so we could find out The Momma's work schedule for the weekend. Once that was settled and I realized I could go it was a question of driving down Friday during the overnight hours, or leaving very early on Saturday morning. I quickly realized I was pretty tired and not up to a 7-hour drive that night, so I determined to do my best to get to bed early so I could be up and on the road by 6am.

Well, going to bed "early" is tough for me in any situation. I work an evening shift, usually getting home after midnight or even 1am, so most nights I don't go to bed until 3am or even later. But after the Sox game Friday night I went to bed, around 11pm, and much to my pleasant surprise I was asleep by 11:30.

And awake by 12:30am... an hour later. At 2am I was still lying in bed awake, and, though tired, not feeling like I was going to get back to sleep. Sigh... I got up, threw my stuff in the car and hit the road a little after 2:30.

While exhausted, I've always enjoyed driving and I tend to do pretty well with long trips... I thought I'd push to get at least as far as New Jersey and then catch a nap in a rest area if possible. I actually drove straight through, and at 8am I was pulling into a rest area in Maryland less than 45 minutes from the Hunt Valley. I realized it was too early even for me to go to the hotel bar, and that my friends would all still be sleeping, so after grabbing a bite to eat I tried to nap in the car for a few hours. This was largely unsuccessful, especially now that it was daylight and getting hotter by the minute, but I was able to doze a bit and at the least got a few hours of downtime. I hit the road again around 11:30am for the last push.

The toughest part was, realizing I was doing this trip on the cheap I wanted to eat something at a fast food joint before getting to the hotel so I wouldn't have to pay hotel prices on lunch, I got off the highway at noon and had to drive past the hotel entrance to go to McDonald's down the road. But I managed it, crammed a few greasy burgers down and by 12:30pm I was walking into my beloved Paddock Bar. Success!

I ran into my friend Anne right away, who was shocked to see me as word had apparently spread that I wasn't coming this year. (I guess some folks do read this space!!) She asked if I had a place to crash yet and offered me a bed in the room with her and her husband Rick... Thank you, that was very much appreciated! And a load off my mind in my now over-tired but excited state. After getting me a room key she took me up to say hi to Rick, who was also happily surprised. Along the way I saw The Little Guy and wife The Maggie and said a happy hello to them... ah yes, this place is home the second weekend in July every year as it has been since 1980!

As the afternoon went on I met up with others one by one, each more fun to surprise. Kevin found me in the bar soon enough (he'd been looking for me in my "office" Friday night as well!), and I also found Hypersue and John M, and Joan & Rebecca and kids in my wanderings around the hotel. After picking up my membership I was coming back up the escalator when Bon Bon, going down the other side, saw me... she was yelling at me about what a sneak I was and I couldn't tell if she was delighted or angry at seeing me! (She was happy.)

I'd seen about everyone except for Towaway, and I'd been hanging in the bar for a while (watching the Sox game, as they were in town playing the Orioles) without seeing him. Thursday night he'd called me at work, when he first got to the hotel, for the traditional "ribbing" call that he was there and I wasn't going this year. He gave me the cellphone number of a friend that was with him as I told him I'd probably call over the weekend; I called that number and left a voicemail saying I was in a bar watching the Sox play the O's and I was thinking of him down there, and as I imagined they had it on at the hotel bar he should go give me a call from the bar so we could say hello while the game was on.

About 20 minutes later I'm sitting at the bar and hear him roar, "You son of a bitch!" (Naw, when Towaway says it it's a term of endearment!) The look on his face was itself justification for the whole drive... not that I'd minded it anyway!

I also had a great time watching the ballgame Saturday with a new local friend. Bruce was from the Baltimore area but it was his first Shore Leave, and as he digs baseball, SF and beer we got along great and passed a few fun hours together through the afternoon and evening.

Don't ask me how, but I made it to 1am before finally going to sleep despite my one hour of sleep the night before. That's probably the earliest I've ever gone to bed on a Saturday night at Shore Leave (and Towaway let me hear about it the next day!), but I was pretty content under the circumstances! I slept until noon on Sunday, thanks to Rick and Anne getting a late check-out.

After getting myself together I was back in the bar at 1:30pm Sunday for the last Sox game (we lost both the Saturday and Sunday games, alas, but the company and the location were great so I didn't mind that much). During the game I had lunch and said goodbyes to folks as they rotated through... I'd originally hoped to stay through the end of the con Sunday but that would make it at least 7pm, and I figured I'd get tired early again so instead I left right after the ballgame ended. By 4pm I was on the road, and despite some nasty traffic through Jersey and New York I was home by midnight.

Though much shortened it was a very enjoyable get-away, and well worth the effort. I can thank The Momma for putting up with me going (a belated birthday present to me, she said, and ironically her birthday was that weekend as well!). Also many many thanks to Rick and Anne for the bed, and to Bon Bon for treating me to a great dinner Saturday evening at Padonia Station, a restaurant we both really love down there.

I understand I missed some of the real excitement of the con, as they had a tornado warning on Thursday night and actually moved all guests from their rooms into the basement ballrooms as a funnel cloud may have been spotted in the area; and the art show room was flooded; and they had a last-minute scheduling problem with their main media guest. But as always happens everything worked out and most everyone had a good time... and I haven't attended much in the way of programming there in quite a few years anyway!

I heard rumors there of Shore Leave as a possible site next year for a 20th reunion for the USS Christa McAuliffe, our local SF fan group, and that'd be a great place for it if enough folks could go. Certainly I'll be looking to drink a few more brews in the Paddock about 51 weeks from now... Kungaloosh, and Hail the Tiki!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy Birthday, America!

We had a very enjoyable holiday weekend. Independence Day has become "our" holiday to host for my extended family, with my folks and siblings getting together for a late afternoon cookout at our place. We rent a fairly small but serviceable single-family house, and though small it's got a very nice, big yard in a great location.

Our gathering was followed by an evening trip for most of us to see the Natick fireworks, conveniently launched from the shopping mall right across the street from my office building (about 25 minutes from home) so we get a nice semi-private viewing party there with other folks from my work. C & I have been watching the fireworks here for many years, and it's been fun to bring along the whole family and a few friends in more recent years. They put on a great show there, and it's quite a shame that I've heard this is the last year they'll be able to stage them there (rumored to be due to construction changes at the mall). Next year we'll likely try the "local" fireworks in Milford, the next town over from us; our friends Elliriel, Taz and family went there this year and Taz says it was quite good.

On the Fourth itself we relaxed. C, The Momma & I went out to dinner in the late afternoon, then watched the Boston Pops concert that evening. And such an awesome fireworks display in Boston again this year!

One thing The Momma and I realized yesterday. We are not Bush people. (No, we knew that before yesterday, but I'm going somewhere with this!) We've never liked him as a president, and don't like most of his policies. We don't really approve of the direction the country is moving in under this administration. But we do love this country, and we know attitudes move in waves... we're not looking to move to Canada, for instance! But we realized yesterday that our grumblings may have had too much of an adverse affect on C, who hasn't heard us talking enough about all the positives of this country amidst our grumblings and so didn't see why we were still so excited about Independence Day. We'll be working to correct that, try our best to find a balance, as much as one can exist for any particular point of view.

Got the car back last week, magic alternator and all. The alternator seems fine, but while the car sat on the lot for over a week the emergency brake apparently rusted On... sigh. I wasn't happy, and they could clearly tell as they didn't even hint at charging me for pulling it back onto the lift and removing the wheels to bang it free. Even I can see it wasn't a related problem but I was in No Mood. Ah well, I'll be passing on using the e-brake as a parking brake from now on I think! At least I know it will stop me should I need it as an actual emergency brake!

Monday, June 20, 2005

DVD Complaint

Last night I finally got around to watching the extended version of "Ray". I've had the DVD for a while but so far had only watched the theatrical cut. While there were some nice extended music scenes, for the most part there wasn't much added by the extended version; still, it was fun to watch of course.

However.... Instead of having two full versions of the film on the DVD, they had the extra scenes stored separately and so when watching that version you would pause and "jump" to the added scene whenever one came up in the film, then jump back to where you left off in the standard cut. I don't mind the jumps all that much, but what was very annoying here was that the film is mastered in 16:9 enhanced mode, but the extra scenes were not! So whenever I jump to an extra scene it isn't widescreen, and so appears squashed flat for the duration of the scene unless I manually adjust the TV out of widescreen mode for each scene.

Hard to believe in this "modern" age of videography that they'd put it together like that, but there it is. The good news again is I probably won't feel the urge to watch the extended version again as it wasn't a significant improvement over the theatrical version.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My Head Hurts

Such a day it's been, going back to last night when The Hey and I went to a midnight screening of the new "Batman Begins" film. I loved it! Maybe not quite the "perfect" Batman film but very well done, and very much Frank Miller's "Dark Knight" brought to the screen. Ah, and yes, the new Batmobile... I LIKE IT!!

After the movie I was talking with my friend Doc, now out in California, and he dropped a bombshell on me - he'd been plotting secretly with The Hey and he wanted to give me a special birthday present this year - a round trip ticket to San Diego for Comic Con! This blew me away not only in scope, but considering how much back-and-forth I'd already gone through regarding this trip. Needless to say though I conditionally accepted, awaiting only approval from The Momma, and the estimate on my poor car... in case it needed more than just an alternator for a few hundred bucks.

I talked with The Momma this morning and considering the only shill I'd need to lay out would be food money at this point, it was an easy Yes.

Then I got the call from the dealership... yup, the car only needed an alternator and a battery. Excellent. It can be ready by tomorrow. Great. It'll be on the up side of $900.


It only needs an alternator and a battery... huh? Apparently Saab must have some kind of rare magic alternator only made during leap years by leprechauns, 'cause it was supposedly that expensive and labor-intensive to replace.

I put it on hold and checked with my preferred local garage up the street. (The only reason I hadn't brought the car there to begin with was they were booked up well into next week.) I gave them the info on the car and what it needed and they came back with an estimate of about $700... considering the average dealership mark-up this actually seemed to just confirm that this mystical alternator must be held on by jewel-encrusted diamond bolts designed for the US military's most advanced vehicles. Yeesh!

I debated moving the car to the local garage to save a little, but in the end it wasn't really worth it. It would still run me $99 for the dealership for the diag work they'd already done, and I'd have to get the car moved to the other garage which still wouldn't be able to work on it until next week. So in the end I gave the dealership the go-ahead and it should be done tomorrow.

Don't know if Ill be able to afford to pick it up tomorrow, but it should be ready. I'm grumpy tonight.

Anyway, this basically runs out the small remainder of the travel fund and pretty much the entire emergency fund, so there will be no trip to San Diego - even though it's close to free - and for that matter no trip south to Shore Leave, either. Even if I could justify taking $100 and going to San Diego next month, it would still mean The Momma couldn't work while I was away. Most importantly at this juncture we need to rebuild the emergency coffers for the next disaster!

Oh, and I've hardly had time to gripe about this yet but my damned laptop died on me this week too... sigh. Not that I can complain too much, it was actually a freebie from work last year when some old ones were phased out, but still obviously not something I'll be able to replace any time soon.

And that means I've gotta read my email from the kitchen (or the basement), rather than from my comfy chair in front of the boob tube... Oh, the horror.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

South, Miss Teschmacher?

Life has a way of resolving conundrums.

As mentioned last night I was having a hard time deciding between Shore Leave in Baltimore, and Comic Con in San Diego. Well, my car broke down after posting that missive, most likely needing a new alternator. Not a huge deal but just enough of a setback to rule out any trip to California next month! And possibly enough of a dent that I might not make either trip, though SL does still remain within reach depending on the final diagnosis on the car and a few other fiscal issues to finish budgeting.

Ah, decisions made easy by the wrong means!

Monday, June 13, 2005

An Habitual Creature

I am in some ways a creature of habit.

Every July I go to Baltimore (well, Hunt Valley, MD - about 20 miles north) to the one Star Trek convention I still regularly attend: SHORE LEAVE. I've been going to this convention since Shore Leave 2 in 1980, and apart from 1981 I don't believe I've missed one.

This year the plans are getting complicated, and I'm not completely certain at this writing if I'll be attending next month. On top of some fiscal concerns and some question about roommates, I've also had the stakes raised by a couple of friends inviting me to go instead to COMIC CON the weekend after in San Diego... which, ironically due to certain incentives in the invitation, may be cheaper than going to Baltimore compared to if I were to keep my (now solo) room in Maryland. The money still may not play out for San Diego because of the timing of everything, but it's a possibility.

Comic Con is probably the biggest media-focused science fiction convention help each year, featuring tons of special guests and programming, and movie sneak previews presented by the major studios themselves. And I've never been to San Diego, which is supposed to be a great city.

I haven't attended much of the actual programming at Shore Leave in a great many years. I go because it's become a very special, nostalgic place for me personally and a place where I see a great many friends and acquaintances. And, the Shore Leave hotel's Paddock Bar is one of my favorite casual hang-out bars (albeit only during conventions there)... indeed, the photo of me at the top of this blog was taken in the Paddock some years ago!

I've often felt that I need to return to Shore Leave each year, much as a salmon must return home... or a Vulcan perhaps! This year though there won't be as many of my "hanging out" friends there as other years, though there will still be some. Still, I may find myself spending more "alone time" in the Paddock than even I would enjoy, and less "with friends" time in the Paddock. (Outside of the Paddock? Well, I do get to the pool once in a while....)

In San Diego there will be tons of programming I actually would want to see, and I'd be there with two of my closest friends and hopefully get a chance to see another while on the west coast. And it could potentially be cheaper, though that's not to say it'd be cheap. Apart from the long air trip this would be a very fun experience if the money works out.

But a part of me screams out at the thought of missing Shore Leave, one of My Places since right after I graduated high school! To not be there would be Wrong, but San Diego has more to offer in many ways.

I actually suspect the money issues will make the decision for me as the timing (of paychecks, airfare necessities etc) seems unlikely to work out to my advantage. Either way though this is a tough decision....

I am in some ways a creature of habit.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, Welcome to Fenway Park!

Last night I finally made my first trip of the 2005 season to Fenway Park, and to make it extra special we had Monster Seat tickets for the evening. (THANK YOU, Alison!!) I joined Cap'n Ho, The Hey and HyperSue, and though the night was slightly marred by the small detail of the Sox losing 9-3, it was a beautiful night in great seats with great friends and so all in all a terrific time.

Up in the Monster seats

One event early in the night threatened to ruin the fun, but instead turned out to be the highlight of the evening. The Hey & I entered the park pretty early, and we hung around for a good 45 minutes before heading up to our seats after meeting up with Cap'n Ho. Ho & I got our Monster Seat tickets stamped and went up, but The Hey called out that he couldn't find his ticket, only the empty envelope! (Obviously he'd used the ticket to enter the park.)

The "gate keeper" was sympathetic, but unwavering - there would be no Hey upstairs without the proper ticket. We figured we'd try retracing our steps from when we'd first entered the park. The Hey had to go the long way around to the gate we'd entered through, since he couldn't "short cut" across the Monster, so Ho & I went back down the other staircase and checked at a raffle table Hey & I had stopped at. No luck, of course. We figured we'd have to track down customer relations and plead our case.

The Hey came up from his long trek around the ballpark, and waved us aside. He strode unhesitatingly past us and, in one fluid motion, dipped his arm deep into a covered trash can and back out again... holding his ticket!!

This was about the coolest thing Ho & I had seen in quite some time, but despite our pleadings The Hey seemed uninterested in repeating the trick to see what else he might pull out of the can!

He'd realized while walking back that he remembered throwing the envelope away after entering the park, so when he found the envelope in his pocket later he put the pieces together! Amazingly, it was apparently still right at the top of the trash can when he went back. A little grody, maybe, but sweet! (We made him wash his hands!)

Ticket in hand we all returned to our proper place, the front row of the Monster Seats. The Hey was even rewarded for his ordeal when Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller threw him a batting practice ball before game time! (Took the guy three throws to get it up to us but he wasn't giving up!)

I also had a great time spending a couple of innings away from the game, hooking up with an old friend from work that I hadn't seen much of in recent years and chatting with him and his girlfriend under the stands for a while. I'll be seeing more of John from now forward, though, as effective yesterday he's joined my group at work!

A damned shame they lost the game though....

Wearing the Championship Ring!

Friday, May 27, 2005

New Sci-Fi

I saw a much-anticipated new SF film this week, and it was great!

We got home from Florida Sunday night at around 6:30. I knew that everyone at work would be asking me about the new "Star Wars" movie the next day (not to mention numerous emails would be waiting for me about it), so I figured I'd better get right out to see it. I went to the 9:45pm show of "Revenge of the Sith" Sunday night.

My complaints about the last two "Star Wars" films wasn't that they were bad movies... they weren't, I liked them both in a casual way. They were beautifully made, and told great stories. They just didn't tell the stories well, being very dispassionate with very little emotion to them and very poor character development.

The first third or half even of "Sith" impressed me much the same way. Yes, yes, very nice, but I don't feel anything watching this, I'm thinking. But somewhere in the middle of the movie it seemed to find itself! I need to see the movie again, as I noticed at the time that one particular scene clicked really well and it seems it held that level from that point on. I just can't recall exactly which scene it was now!

But from that point on it seemed to play out much more passionately, and the characters actually started to feel alive for the first time. This movie also did a much better job - from the beginning - of establishing a real relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The second film failed miserably in setting up the friendship that was supposed to exist between the two. This one recovered that fairly well so by the time of the inevitable "falling out" (to describe it with a slight understatement!) the betrayal felt by Obi-Wan felt real.

Spoiler in the next paragraph....


The infamous "Noooo" scene... oh good grief. As Mojo said, this was inexcusable. The only way I would see that working would be if the charred Anakin, lying on the table but not yet in the helmet, asked about Padme and heard the news. A "Noooo" while strapped to the table, and as the helmet then came down to seal him into the suit, might have worked well dramatically. But once Vader rises from the table he needs to be Vader... Anakin must be totally gone at that point.


End spoiler! Overall though I was very happy with the movie and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again.

Yup, as mentioned I saw a great new SF film this week. Character-driven, clever, exciting... I saw it Thursday night and it was called "Serenity"!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

WDW Trip Wrap-Up - Intro

I've finally got a chance to get the rest of our trip logged here, and there's actually a lot of it! So in fairness to folks who ain't gonna read any of it, or who might prefer to read it a little at a time, I'm going to post it here in multiple parts broken down by day. That way you can chew and digest it a little at a time, or even just ignore it. (Awwww....) In typical blog style though I'll post it oldest day first, and this intro will be at the top of the last (and most recent) blog entry, so scroll down the page and read the older entries first if you want the right chronology!

A Toast in Mexico!

WDW - Thursday 5/19

Thursday was to be our check-out and go home day.

But it wasn't... by Tuesday we had decided to stay an extra day. Unfortunately there was no more room in the inn... our hotel didn't have availability to stay the extra night, so we transferred over to the All-Star Music resort, right next door, for our one last stand. Despite a brief snafu with our new room (they checked us into a room that hadn't been cleaned, so we were moved to a better location) this was painless; C & I spent a couple of hours at the new hotel pool while The Momma caught a nap. Then we went to Epcot for our last night; Epcot was open until midnight for guests staying in WDW hotels that day so we got there around 5pm and stayed through closing. I rode Mission: Space once more at 11:45pm, coming out right at midnight.

C spent a few minutes running through a fountain and we started to head out...

...When we realized we had left a bag in the Mission: Space play area. (I'd bought a neat new nicely Bismo-themed Tiki shirt that day; it'll show up for its first public appearance at Shore Leave in July!) We went back over but found it had already been turned into Lost & Found so we had to wait for it at Guest Relations in the middle of the park. It took quite a while to get there (apparently someone collects all this stuff from different areas and brings it back there) so by the time we were leaving it was about 1am.

Leaving Epcot at 1am... sweet!! We were certainly about the last ones out of the park; they'd even asked what gate we would leave through so they could keep it open for us. There were about half a dozen not completely happy looking cast members waiting for us as we finally strolled out... a fine way to end our vacation! We were on the road around noon Friday afternoon.

So that's about it, if you've stayed with me through this lengthy trip (and with many details not even mentioned here of course). As good a vacation as we've had and it has left us all in a fine mood. It did us all a lot of good, and C actually showed a lot of much improved independence and personal initiative during the trip, a developmental improvement we greatly welcome. We're already back to the grind at work, at home, at the various doctor offices and at homeschool, but with many warm memories that has us all smilin'. Hail the Tiki!!

WDW - Wednesday 5/18

Wednesday was my special day, my long-anticipated early morning (well, 9:30am - very early for me) Segway tour at Epcot! They take you into a (surprisingly small) room and spend about 45 minutes getting you used to riding a Segway... mounting/dismounting, starting/stopping, simple movements, then slaloms and ramps. Then it's out into the World Showcase for about an hour of zipping around the different country showcases! This was really, really fun and I'll recommend it to anyone. I thought the $68 price tag wasn't too unreasonable, though that's a AAA rate; I believe it's $80 without AAA so a noticeable discount.

The coolest thing about this tour is that although they do have the guest Segways regulated to a top speed of only 5-6mph, they really do give you a chance to play with them. They take you into most of the countries and around some of the coolest walking paths like through the side gardens in China, or up over the bamboo bridges in the multi-level Japan gardens. They even had us slaloming through the pillars fronting the main building in Italy... this was fun!!

The tour also gave me an excuse to do something I hadn't done in many years, show up at the park in time for the "rope drop". When the parks open each morning they let folks into the front a little early, and they have a rope (okay, more like that police tape stuff) strung across the front of (in the case of Epcot) Spaceship Earth. A busload of characters comes out on the other side of the rope and they have a big countdown with the crowd, and then Mickey cuts the rope and you're in! A small ceremony but it's really fun to be there for it.

C & The Momma slept in that morning and then we all met at Mission: Space at 3pm that afternoon. This gave me the chance to enjoy a few hours alone in World Showcase after my tour ended at 11:30am; first stop of course being the Rose & Crown pub in the united Kingdom showcase, where I was happily the first bar customer of the day... tee-heee!! Then I wandered the rest of the way around the World Showcase lagoon just enjoying being there, before heading back to the front part of the park to meet the family. I rode Mission: Space, a great ride simulating a flight to Mars, at 2:45, coming out into the play area at exactly 3pm where the family was waiting for me.

WDW - Tuesday 5/17

Tuesday was the Big Day - C's 8th birthday!! This was to be a Magic Kingdom day, which thus far we'd only spent a couple of hours in on the night we arrived. We got there fairly early by our standards - around 12:30pm - and went straight to "Town Hall" to get C his large white "TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY" pin. All day Disney cast members would shout out "Happy Birthdays" to him, even from some distance away, when they saw it! He also got a nice free desert at the lunch counter, which I ended up eating; it was yummy! But he thought it was great.

The best birthday moment was while we were buying some batteries (for The Momma's electric fan/water bottle thingy), the cashier saw C's pin and asked if he'd had his birthday call from Goofy yet. Saying no he called C over and told him Goofy had been trying to reach him. He handed C a phone from the desk and dialed a number, and C's face lit up as he (reportedly) heard Goofy singing a very silly birthday song to him!

This moment was made even better as we left the shop (in MK's Town Square). Just as we came out the front door, a side door opened and out came Goofy himself, on his way to a character greet! Pure coincidence? C yelled Hello at him and thanked him for singing him his birthday song, and the Goof gave him a quick high-five!

Soon we were on our way to the day's "main event", dinner at Chef Mickey's (a character-filled buffet restaurant in the Contemporary Hotel). This place is great for seeing the "classic" Disney characters (Mickey and his immediate friends), without having to deal with lines or heat as they come to you, visiting from table to table. C had a special peanut butter sandwich they made for him using this really - interesting! - rainbow-colored bread, and he couldn't have been happier. We had a grand time here, and C was recognized (along with a few other kids) for his special day. Mickey came over to the table and helped C blow out the candle on his birthday cupcake... great fun, and many smiles for everyone!

After dinner we went back to the Magic Kingdom, and our now 8-year-old son announced he was ready to try Splash Mountain, one of the bigger rides there! Once again he had mixed reviews... it's a very tall water flume ride, and though he said he didn't like the drop down the flume, he liked the rest of the ride and was glad he'd ridden it. Still, Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean and Small World remained his favorites at the MK. The whole day was great and a birthday I hope he'll long remember.

WDW - Monday 5/16

Monday was our day for the MGM/Disney Studios, and this day it was just C & I. The Momma used this day for her own WDW tradition, afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian Resort. Though she wasn't feeling that well later in the day she enjoyed her peaceful tea very much.

C & I had a great day as well, with C really enjoying the Great Movie Ride and the Backlot Tour (featuring "Catastrophe Canyon"). He also tried "Star Tours", and though he didn't really enjoy it that much, still a bit intense for him, he said he was very glad he'd tried it because he liked the idea of it. He's growing up! No Rock'n Roller Coaster for me that day, though, as I didn't have anyone to watch C and it wasn't worth making him wait at the loading area for me to ride alone. Too bad as that remains my overall favorite Disney ride, but I was there in September so I can't complain!

WDW - Sunday 5/15

Sunday then we packed up from the wonderful La Quinta Inn, and as we were up "early" anyway (checking out at 11am) we used that day to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom, which doesn't stay open late. We really like this park, though I know it's not a favorite of a lot of people. It was one of our few tougher days though, with The Momma not feeling that well and it was one of the few days that was hot and humid. (We had great weather on this trip, with other hot days, but most days humidity wasn't a big problem.) So we didn't really last too long there but we enjoyed most of our visit.

We had a nice Disney Moment during lunch though. We weren't able to find anything there that C would eat, so we had a Pediasure for him to drink. (A nutritional supplement that he uses to boost his caloric and nutritional intake.) But in our haste of packing up that morning we had forgotten to pack straws in our backpack, and the AK is the one park where they don't stock straws (for animal safety concerns)... we were aware of that but simply forgot to pack appropriately! And C has issues drinking Pediasure without a straw, although he was doing his best (though only with some severe prodding).

Still, being Disney, I asked a passing cast member, busily cleaning the restaurant, if anything could be done. He returned a few minutes later with a large plastic straw from some souvenir drink cup that was available... C could not have been happier and we were very appreciative!

Michael saved the day by finding a simple straw!

After leaving the AK we moved on-property to Disney's All-Star Movies Resort. It's Disney's version of an Econolodge (or a La Quinta Inn, I guess!), and it's a very nice, clean property with some fun amenities but more limited than the more upscale resorts. The rooms were also notably smaller than the La Quinta... also, the La Quinta had offered free broadband internet and had a decent-sized fridge in the room, and a coffee maker, none of which the All-Stars offered. (Though small fridges and coffee makers can usually be had on request... we didn't really need them though.) So a fine place to spend our next four nights, and there are always service perks when staying in a Disney hotel, but in some ways it was a step down from our week at La Quinta... which was less than a third the cost thanks to our Hotwire.com deal!

WDW - Saturday 5/14

As planned we met up with some old friends on one of our "off" days from park-hopping, and our dinner with Leslie & Admiral Dave last Saturday (the 14th) was terrific. I must thank them for unexpectedly picking up the tab (something I'd been thinking I'd offer to do myself but Dave beat me to it)! We still harbor some hope of making another trip to our condo in the fall (though iffy, as we certainly spent the vacation budget on this one!), and if so we promised to try and visit them where they live in Tampa.

Saturday night I returned to the Adventurer's Club for the night, solo this time and not getting there until later (around 10pm), but I had another fun time even so.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Back Home at Last!

We're home! We returned Sunday evening after leaving Orlando Friday early afternoon. On the way down we drove basically straight through, in about 22 hours. Coming home we kept a more leisurely pace, no need to get all knotted up after our vacation! So we made overnight stops in South Carolina and in Maryland (at the Delaware border) on the way home.

After arriving home around 6:30pm Sunday, and taking a bit of time to settle in, I went back out myself to catch the 9:45pm showing of "Revenge of the Sith"... I knew I wouldn't be able to read my email or show up at work the next day unless I'd seen it first! I very much liked it, though I still was skeptical during much of the first half. But it finally found some passion and an emotional core during the second half. More on this in later posts most likely! (I still haven't seen the last few episodes of "Enterprise"... I'll catch up on that next weekend!)

I wasn't able to do any further blogging while we were still at Disney after we checked out of the La Quinta Inn. Our great, $29/night hotel offered free internet access; our very nice, but $99/night Disney hotel did not of course! Just as well, as we stayed pretty busy that second week down there.

I'm writing up some more entries to cover the rest of our stay, with more photos to be posted. So stay tuned (if you care, that is)!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

WDW Update - Saturday

G'day, and Welcome to Day.. uh, day... 6? I think!

All is very well, today (Saturday) we're taking another day off, this one much needed after a lot of running around! Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the 13th were all Epcot days, as we all enjoy that park the best down here. (Why three days? We're late sleepers and saw no need to change that because we're on vacation! So we tend to get to the park around 2pm most days, and take everything pretty slowly with lots of food/drink stops.)

We're collecting flag pins and books for C as part of his home-schooling, and that's made the World Showcase countries very enjoyable for him, though he got tired out on us yesterday evening. We've only spent a little time in Future World so far but will be back later in the coming week to remedy that. Last night I made a return trip (solo this time) to the Adventurer's Club on Pleasure Island, and though nothing is as much fun alone I had a great time there... Hoopla!!

This evening we're getting together with some old friends, Dave & Leslie, for dinner at Giordano's, a Chicago-style pizza restaurant we really like down here but haven't been to in several years. (Coincidentally enough our hotel is almost directly across the street from it!)

Then later tonight we've got to pack up, as tomorrow we change hotels and move into Disney's All-Star Movies resort for the rest of our stay. Sadly this does mean waking up somewhat earlier than we'd like tomorrow, but as we haven't been to the Animal Kingdom yet and that closes early, we'll combine getting up early for check-out with going to the AK (waking at the ungodly hour of 9am, heh-heh!).

Tuesday is C's 8th birthday, and we'll be dining at Chef Mickey's restaurant that day (chock full of charactery goodness and fun!). Gotta make a few arrangements for that still too....

Finally, some more photos to share today. Here's an obligatory character shot, C & I with the Goofster -

Here's C outside one of our favorite restaurants, and home to my favorite meal in all of Disney, Le Originali Fettuccine all'Alfredo... fettuccini Alfredo at Alfredo's Restaurante!

C & The Momma enjoying a peaceful break in the gardens of the Japan Showcase -

And lastly, The Momma & I enjoying some delicious Chinese Wine in the China Showcase (photographed by C)!

That's all for today... Kungaloosh!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Proud Adventuring Papa!

Just a very quick entry (to hopefully be embellished later) for those who understand... C was the hit of the Adventurer's Club tonight, not only being sworn in as a member (along with everyone else) but making his own mark with the cast there, drumming, yam-handling and representing Massachusetts! He earned his own Club membership pin (not available to everyone else), presented by curator Fletcher Hodges, for services rendered! (For those who don't understand, well, again with luck I'll embellish in a later entry!) Kungaloosh!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

WDW Update 1 - Mon.PM, 5/9/2005

G'day from Disney World, eh!! We left home in central MA Thursday night, hitting the road at 10:45pm. 10:30 Friday night found us patrolling the strip at Daytona Beach, and by 11 we'd settled on a Travelodge mini-suite location (Ocean Jewel or some such!) that we scored for about $53/night. We stayed there for Friday and Saturday overnights, giving us all day Saturday to rest up from the drive in Daytona. Slept nice and late, then played in the surf the afternoon and evening before going to bed early... a very nice transition day!!

Sunday morning hit Denny's for breakfast, one of The Momma's favorite restaurants, to start our Mother's Day, then headed SW down I-4 to Orlando. Checked into our Kissimmee hotel, the La Quinta Inn Lakeside, around 2pm Sunday afternoon, and such a deal... thanks to HotWire we scored this place for $29/night for the next 7 nights, and it really is as nice as its website makes it look! At least as nice and maybe even nicer I'd say than Disney's All-Star Resorts, where we'll be moving next weekend, though of course there are many perks involved with staying "on property" that we're looking forward to with that final part of our trip.

Once settled we set out for the 2-mile pilgrimage to the Magic Kingdom, and after pausing to pick up a Pal Mickey for C, we paid our respects to the Enchanted Tiki Room (Hail the Tiki!!). The Tiki Room ain't what it used to be, but Faith is Faith so respects must be paid. C liked it - and I don't hate it, I just miss the religious purity of the original rites there :-) and we left with some true Tiki blessings... tail feathers from one of the resident Tiki birds themselves! (Okay, it was from Iago, kind of an interloping Tiki bird, but a resident none the less!)

We also managed a couple of rides on Aladdin's Magic Carpets, another one C really enjoyed, and of course Pirates of the Caribbean which we all love.

As we didn't get to the park until after 4:30pm that was it for rides Sunday, but it was all bonus... our real reason for going to the MK Sunday was for The Momma's Mother's Day dinner, 7:50pm reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table, a fairly upscale restaurant inside Cinderella's Castle. We had a wonderful meal with a truly terrific server, Gustavo... truly terrific servers are not a rarity at WDW (Walt Disney World), but that doesn't make them any less appreciated. C had his pirate hat and sword ("swag") that he appropriated after the Pirates ride, and Gustavo made a great show of trying to take our order from several tables away when he noticed C was holding the toy sword at the dinner table.

The food was great, the service awesome (C even was able to eat there, and none of what he ate or drank was on the menu, it was all courtesy of "The Fairy Godmother"... according to Gustavo!). But the timing was perfect, as we'd hoped....

The nightly fireworks show, "Wishes", started at 9pm. Our 7:50 reservations had us leaving at precisely 9pm... the clock was just beginning to chime as we came out into the (closed-off) castle passageway. We walked down the (closed-off) front walk, were let through the rope that had closed it off just as the clock struck the final chime of 9, and able to sit down on the ground of the castle fore court at the very front of everyone as the show started... spectacular, and very special!! A beautiful ending to Mother's Day and our first WDW day.

Today (Monday) was Blizzard Beach day, probably C's favorite destination (and hence our second stop!). I've always liked the water parks here but it's much more exhausting with C, as we of course focus on activities for him and it takes a lot of management for water, food, sun... oh, and he can't swim, so safety! But we had an overall great afternoon (with a few crash and rest moments mixed in). After that it was over to Downtown Disney and dinner at another of C's favorite places, the Rainforest Cafe. A great dinner, then some early souvenir shopping before coming back to the hotel tonight.

So tomorrow I'm thinking it's my turn... EPCOT! But C now is announcing that he wants a day off... sigh! We certainly do need to build a few of those into our almost two-week long trip so if he still feels that way in the morning and The Momma agrees I likely won't worry about it, we've got time. But there's a Bass Ale waiting for me at the Rose and Crown pub, and some sake at the Matsunoma Lounge... well, it'll still be there Wednesday! And I haven't made it to the Adventurer's Club yet, a morning of sleeping late might make tomorrow a good night for that... it's all good!

Signing off for now... Hail the Tiki, and KUNGALOOSH!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Vacation After a Busy Month

Yup, it's been a while, and quite a month at that. We've had a lot going on involving health and school issues, but all is moving along well enough at this juncture. For the moment our focus is on... VACATION!!! Next week we're leaving on a (close to) two-week trip to Disney World, probably our favorite destination. Though I was able to make a trip down there with my sister last fall (made memorable by Hurricane Jeanne), C & The Momma haven't been there in two and a half years (since C was still in kindergarten). Now that we're homeschooling C we're able to make a trip down without having to worry about the crowds of school vacation or the heat of the summer.

C is really looking forward to this trip. Though he's been to WDW many times before, as we own a timeshare nearby for a week each September, it's been so long that he doesn't remember a lot of it that clearly any more. And of course he's seven now (and in fact we'll be celebrating his eighth birthday while we're down there next month!), and a much more, uh, sophisticated kid than the five-year-old that he was last time he visited. He made himself a countdown calendar at home several weeks ago, a poster board covered with numbered Post-It notes, and he loves removing a number each day as we get closer to our trip. (The number now: 8!)

Also over the past month we've seen the Red Sox get off to a very inconsistent start, and the news today has Curt Schilling joining starters David Wells and Wade Miller on the disabled list... not good news. Nonetheless, Curt put it all on the line last fall to win the championship, and we can be patient with him this spring. After all, the Red Sox won the world series!!! Hopefully they'll be back to the post-season dance this fall, but at this early point in the season I'm not too worried about it yet.

Speaking of the World Series champions, The Trophy visited our home town earlier this month. I'll try and get a picture or two posted here later this week... seeing it in person was indeed a wonderful experience for the soul!

I've been to a couple of games already at Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium, once for their opening night with The Hey and Cap'n Ho, the other time with C when they were displaying The Trophy there. Both games great fun! Opening night got cold by the end, but the Sunday afternoon game C & I went to was in the mid-70's and couldn't have been a more pleasant day. (Helped by our seats, second row behind home plate... have to put a picture up from that too!)

I can't promise another update before our trip, but hey, it may happen. At the least though I'll try and get a photo or two posted this week.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Play Ball!

It's been a very, very long winter this year, and spring still feels just slightly out of reach, but Baseball Season begins anew tonight. Each season I find opening day one of the most exciting days of the year... second perhaps though to Opening Day, when baseball comes to Fenway (the Red Sox play in the Bronx tonight, so it's just "opening day")... that happens next week. (Though apparantly without us in attendance... but that's a whine for a different time.)

So as always I can't wait for tonight's game, to have baseball to watch again. Like many I'm a bit bummed out that Curt Schilling won't be able to start for the Sox against the Yanks' new hired gun, Randy Johnson... but big Curt owes us nothing, he put it all on the line for us last fall (and indeed you could argue he knowingly put his entire remaining career on the line). So yeah, he's entitled to an extra week or two to be back in playing shape!

However, I also find this opening day somewhat bittersweet. This was a long winter, but it was also the offseason that I was in no hurry to have end. The memories and emotions of the Sox winning it all last October haven't dimmed a bit. Indeed, any time over the past five months when C has noticed I'm in a bad mood or upset about something, he has come over and either told me or even written me a little note reading, "Remember, Dad, the Red Sox won the World Series!" Without fail it would instantly bring a smile back to my face, in part because it made me feel good to know he realized how special the event had been, and mostly just because, well, THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!

But tonight, sometime around 8:10pm EDT, the Red Sox are no longer the World Series champions. Oh sure, they're certainly the defending champions, but as of that first pitch tonight they're just a team with an 0-0 record trying to get to the 2005 World Series.

I can't wait for the game, I can't wait for the season. But I'm not, on a gut emotional level, as excited about that first pitch tonight as I usually am. Of course, once the season is underway and I've myself dealt with putting last year really in the past, it'll be as much fun as always. And possibly more... I do feel I'm going into this season hoping they'll again win the Series, but I don't feel it's necessary... I'm looking forward to just enjoying some great baseball this season. Oh, and C is genuinely very excited and looking forward to the baseball season for the first time in his young life too this year... Play Ball!!

On another note, happy birthday to my friend Doc today!! And happy 19th anniversary to the USS Christa McAuliffe, the Star Trek fan group I've been fortunate enough to be a part of for almost all of that time!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Passing Legends to the Next Generation

Yesterday the family and I returned to that hallowed hall, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The Momma and I hadn't been there in almost 7 years, and this was C's first time there. You can click the photo above to see more pictures from the trip.

Overall the trip was a nice break, although it was marred somewhat by illness. On Thursday & Friday of last week C had been hit hard by a nasty cold and fever, and The Momma had it Sunday and Monday while we were in NY. Still, they were troopers and we didn't cancel the trip, though it did limit our time in the Hall to under three hours. But it was enough to give C a good exposure to it before he pooped out, and he enjoyed it. The Momma also enjoyed it despite not feeling well, and found a new baseball hero herself in Ila Borders, a professional woman BASEBALL (not softball) player from the 1990's.

I also of course saw what I most wanted - needed! - to see, the display case from the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Oh, in case I haven't mentioned it here before, the Red Sox won the World Series last year! It was a nice collection of memorabilia from the Series (though none from the ALCS), including bats from HR-hitting Johnny Damon and MVP Manny Ramirez, jerseys from David Ortiz and Derek Lowe, a cap from the now-departed Pedro Martinez, a glove from Orlando Cabrera, spikes from closer Keith Foulke, an admission ticket, program book and some lapel pins, and Curt Schilling's bloody sock.

Yup, perhaps the most disturbing and the coolest artifact I've ever seen at the Hall, Curt Schilling's sanitary sock made famous in any number of close-ups during World Series Game 2 as blood seeped through his stitched ankle and created the ultimate Boston Red Sock. Cool... but weird! There was also a jar of dirt taken from the pitcher's mound in St. Louis following the final Series game. I don't know why that seems important... but it does.

We also checked out the new kid's area at the Hall, the Sandlot Kids' Clubhouse, but we frankly found this pretty lame. It's a very small room with a few chairs and benches in it facing a video screen with some nice clips available to watch, like "Who's on First?" (one of C's all-time faves) and the Babe teaching kids to hit. There's a nice assortment of kids' baseball books, a few nice artifacts, and some very minor activities like measuring your kid on a height chart that also shows the heights of modern MLB players like Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson. (Hmmm, 7-year-old C still isn't as tall as the Big Unit... but what do we learn from this?) No place to run or climb or burn off the extra energy though, so we found it disappointing. It doesn't help that the Clubhouse is located in the library wing of the museum, and so is only accessible by passing through the Hall of Fame Gallery room itself.

Still, that's a minor quibble, we felt no need to spend time in the Clubhouse anyway. In the end this was a Rockwellian "father taking his son to the Hall of Fame for the first time" trip, and it was not disappointing from that angle. C had legitimate interest in many of the players and even records that I showed him, and listened to a lot of the stories I could tell - at least for the first hour or so! And he loved the interactive computer terminals where he could call up stats and especially video of any of the inducted players. He left with a true appreciation for the likes of Jackie Robinson, Cy Young, Hammerin' Hank and Yaz.

For souvenirs he picked a souvenir baseball bat featuring a likeness of Nomar Garciaparra (still in a Red Sox uniform), a blue Pyrex pint glass featuring a picture of Abbott & Costello in baseball garb and the entire text of "Who's on First?" printed on the back, and an Uno card game deck themed to the 2004 Sox. He also picked out 8 Hall of Fame player's plaque postcards. He was disappointed that they didn't have kid sizes of some very cool "Who's on First?" T-shirts, as he really wanted the one that had the name "IDONTGIVEADAMN" on the back over the number 4!

Ah, baseball... only two more weeks for the new season!

(You can also click here to see more photos.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Monster Passes...

Dick "The Monster" Radatz died yesterday, and I found myself greatly upset by this. The Monster was a great Red Sox relief pitcher from the early to mid 1960's, and he retired from pitching in 1969. I never saw him pitch myself, but I knew him as a tremendously knowledgeable and fun baseball commentator on TV and radio for the past decade.

Still, in reading about him I realize that probably the main reason that I was so moved by this, a player I never saw pitch in his prime, was in reading about him and what a great story-teller and a funny guy he was.

A great story-teller. A funny guy. These seem to me to be attributes that one can be proud of. He not only lived, he knew how to help others enjoy their lives through his own wit and intelligence. This is certainly a great way to pass along your own life, your own legacy....

Dick Radatz will be missed by those of us who knew him only as a personality, just as he'll be missed so much more by those who knew and loved him personally. He was just a few weeks shy of his 68th birthday; he died unexpectedly when he fell down the stairs in his Massachusetts home. 68 doesn't seem as big a number to me as it once did, and reminds me again that what we always heard when we were younger becomes more and more true as we get older, every day is a day not to be taken for granted.

I heard today that a friend of mine got some unpleasant medical news himself this week. While not expected to be serious in the long run, my thoughts are very much with him... best wishes through the [hopefully brief] gauntlet ahead of you and speedy recovery on the other side!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


The new "Battlestar Galactica" is certainly a great show to this point. The Momma and I both watch it regularly and it's been a while since we've found an SF show this engaging. (See the middle years of "Babylon 5" for the last that comes to mind.)

But one thing has bothered me from the beginning, and it annoys me further each episode... their use of the oh-so-cleverly disguised cuss word, "Frak".

In the original "Galactica" I thought it was great that they had their own swear words. "Frak", and my personal favorite, "felderkarb" (well, how the frak do you spell it then??) To this day I use both of these words commonly (although admittedly more often when I'm alone or muttering under my breath!). Both are strong words that feel like they get the job done when you just need to let out a little curse. (I've always equated "frak" with either f**k or sh** as the mood seemed to fit, "felderkarb" I've always loved for a situation where "You've gotta be kidding me!" would be more appropriate.) They stood alone and proud.

But the new series doesn't use the words this way; they use "frak" as an adjective, verb, or adverb in any given sentence so any thought of it meaning anything other than our own f**k is out the window. "Frak me". "No frakking way". This isn't clever, it's just a cheap way around the censors and makes it seem like they think they're just trying to get away with something. I find it neither clever nor amusing; and while I'm not one to at all mind harsh language, I would frankly (frakkly?) just as soon they say f**k than frak and be done with it!

Taken as a stand-alone epithet, "frak" is a great word. But used as a simple substitute for f**k? Ah, felderkarb....

Thursday, March 10, 2005


From SciFi Wire:

The Latino Review Web site reported that Superman Returns director Bryan Singer plans on using stock footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El, which was originally shot by director Richard Donner for 1980's Superman II, but never used.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

23 Years.....

John Belushi, "Joliet" Jake Blues: January 24, 1949 - March 5, 1982. Keep the Faith....

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Naw, I Ain't Dead....

It's just been a very busy and hectic month! The short version is we're looking at home-schooling now, and have been spending a lot of time working through that. Also had a nice mini-vacation in Boston last week to check out the Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium (jellyfish is cool!) with C. A good month, but life's a bit overwhelming at the moment... more to come!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

War of the Worlds

I've been very ambiguous about Steve Spielberg's upcoming remake of "War of the Worlds", but I'm very encouraged by this report - maybe the film will have some unique, worthwhile identity. Other details mentioned in the linked articles also sound fun!

Sci Fi Wire -- The News Service of the Sci Fi Channel: "Speaking to reporters during a break in filming, Spielberg said that the movie holds special resonance in these unsettled times. 'I gave the benevolent aliens a couple of shots [in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.],' Spielberg said. 'And now I'm going to try my hand at the worst kind [laughs]: ... the kind that's just bent on ending civilization as we know it and beginning their own. If you read the original book, you know they terraform the planet. They reap and sow. ... And I think in the shadow of 9/11, there is a little relevance with how we are all so unsettled in our feelings about ... our collective futures. And that's why I think, when I reconsidered War of the Worlds, post-9/11, it began to make more sense to me, that it could be ... a tremendous emotional story, as well as a very entertaining one, and have some kind of current relevance.' "

Recreational Musings

Yup, I'm still here! It's been a busy couple of weeks and when I've relaxed I just haven't, uh, felt my muse to post. But all's well... went to my favorite blues jam last night in Ashland at Stone's Public House, this absolutely awesome 160-year-old pub. I had an epiphany there, I usually go with my friend Bon-Bon but I've been wanting to bring The Momma there sometime too. I've also been wanting to bring C to a live blues show sometime, presumably a family-friendly summer blues festival.

But last night a mother had her two young kids with her, wearing hearing protectors... I checked with the waitress before leaving, "That's okay here?" Some bars may permit this, others frown on it; the place is also a restaurant so it's okay with them, and hearing protectors we have! So we're already thinking next Sunday night, being the beginning of school vacation week, may be an opportunity for a family blues outing... here's hoping!

We're also planning an overnight in Boston next Monday night, a mini-vacation to check out the Science Museum and perhaps the Aquarium. If I can manage it I'll make a push for taking a Fenway tour also, of course...!

(I hate Internet Explorer. Just lost four paragraphs because of its feeble attempts to handle pop-ups when I started the spell-checker. It thinks it's trying to help! But Firefox doesn't work properly with some of the intricacies of our company intranet so I can only use that at home so far. So to retype maybe some of it.... grrrrrrrr!)

Anyway, we'd originally thought we'd go to Florida during vacation week, as C hasn't been to Disney World in a couple of years now. (I was fortunate enough to get there myself at least last fall, along with my sister, and our friend Jeanne - Hurricane Jeanne, that is!)

But ultimately the timing didn't seem like it was going to work well this month. So we're now thinking we'll try a Florida trip at the beginning of summer, hopefully right after school gets out in late June. Add to that our planned trip to the SHORE LEAVE Star Trek convention in early July, which we're planning to bring C to with us for the first time, and it could be quite the busy summer vacation!

I'm working overnight shifts at the office this week... sigh. Did that for 15 years and enjoyed it, but I don't tolerate it as well these days as when I was a younger blues lad! Still, half of my staff works this shift so every now and then it's good to have the boss (ha! ha-haa!!) hang out and scope the sitch, so this week will give me that opportunity. I'll be tired, but hey, it'll be like old times!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Blue Jays to [...] rename SkyDome

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Blue Jays to increase payroll, rename SkyDome and buy new turf: "The Toronto Blue Jays will have a higher payroll, a new ballpark name and a new artificial playing surface that's more like grass.
Team owner Rogers Communications renamed SkyDome the Rogers Centre on Wednesday, two days after the company completed the acquisition of the ballpark. "

The "Rogers Center"? I've been to SkyDome a couple of times and found it one of the most detached, impersonal baseball experiences ever with its domed roof and fake turf. But "Rogers Center"? Now it REALLY seems more like just an office building where they happen to play indoor baseball!!

Having said that, if they get more money for payroll theoretically it IS a good thing for that team over the long run. I don't disagree with selling naming rights on stadiums and ballparks... I just don't necessarily LIKE it!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

2 Short Years Ago....

Rick Husband, Willy McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown,

Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, Ilan Ramon

- STS-107 Columbia, 1 February 2003

Friday, January 28, 2005

19 Years Ago....

"Dick" Scobee, Mike Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnick, Christa McAuliffe

- STS-51L Challenger, 28 January 1986

Thursday, January 27, 2005

38 Years Ago....

"Gus" Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee

- Apollo 1, 27 January 1967

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Halle Berry in Leather

I watched "Catwoman" tonight, and I'll give them this....
They tried, they REALLY tried, but they just couldn't quite manage it.

It still wasn't as bad as "Hulk".

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Note About Johnny

I've never regularly watched "The Tonight Show". I've worked 3rd or 2nd Shift pretty much my entire post-high school life so late night TV has always been catch-as-catch-can. (Until "The Daily Show", that is, which I TiVo and watch every night!)

Nonetheless, I'm definitely saddened by the passing of Johnny Carson today. Carson certainly created the template for late-night TV in the modern era. Also, I have tremendous respect for how he's lived his life since his retirement in the early 90's. In other words, the fact that we have very little idea of how he spent those years. It was his life, and kudos for him taking it and leaving us out.

Most of all, I admired his taste in cars! As a fellow [former] Delorean owner, Johnny, I wish you well and drink the last toast left in this bottle of Highland Park scotch to you!

Me & My Delorean

Superbowl Coming?

I'm watching the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate their pending playoff win to advance to the Superbowl, with the Patriots' playoff game less than an hour away... Very exciting, and it makes me think of one thing over and over...

The Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Still Snowing....

12" more inches this morning, bringing the total to 20" here so far... it's still coming down though showing signs of tapering off so hopefully not much more to come. It's might purty out there, though!

It's Snowing....

Just got in from the first round of shovelling. 8" on the ground in the driveway at 11pm Saturday, another inch or more there before I'd finished tonight. I'm sure I'll have at least two more rounds of shovelling Sunday of course!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Journal Entry - Therapy & Cars

C at therapy

It's been a long week! Seems it's time for our annual car problems, as usual hitting just before company bonus time (month end), when the money's tight. Monday afternoon at 12:30 The Momma had to attend C's IEP meeting... Individual Education Plan for special needs students. IEPs are developed at least once a year for special needs students and usually involve many harrowing meetings and much negotiating. Fortunately The Momma, while prone to severe anxiety over these meetings, is a Harvard Law School grad and has a very good success rate at having these things go in a direction that suits us!

C has issues stemming primarily from Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID), a neurological disorder where his brain doesn't interpret sensory input "normally", whatever "normal" is. He has also tested as borderline autistic in some areas, though there's no diagnosis there. The primary problem C has from this is serious eating problems, as he finds most food textures and strong flavors "scary" or threatening, and he also has a very low appetite. As a result he likes very few things and doesn't eat a lot of what he likes, so his weight is at the bottom or even off the low end of the chart.

Anyway, The Momma had to be at the school at 12:30 Monday; I had to be at the doctor's office for a check-up at 1:00. Alas, when she tried to leave she found her van wouldn't start... dead battery, and no time to deal with it. So I dropped her at the school on my way to the doc's and met her back there afterwards. We had a quick bite to eat then picked C up after school and returned home. We were hoping to jumpstart the van, but unfortunately it was parked nose in in the driveway, and I couldn't maneuver my Saab and the van close enough for the hook-up as the grass all around the narrow drive was snowed over. When there's snow on the ground we park both vehicles in the driveway, when there's no snow I park the Saab in a second "driveway", a cutout in the grass at the other end of the yard with just a little paved lip onto the street.

Being already late for work The Momma pulled out her AAA card for help with the van, and I left for the office. I checked in later and they'd successfully started the van and let it run for a bit without issue.

Monday night I got home from work, but got a call from work around 2:30am as I was getting ready for bed (I usually work 2pm-Midnight). Not something that tied me up for long but it woke me up a bit again and it was close to 4 before I got to sleep; I set my alarm a bit later than usual (for 11:30a). At 8am though C woke me up (with a very sweet cuddle, at least!), with more bad news... as my car is parked closer to the street when both are in the driveway they'd taken it to bring C to school, but less than half a mile up the main street (Main Street, in fact) The Momma pulled over and parked on the side... it was making a nasty whining noise and she was smelling something burning.

They walked back to the house and got in the van... it again wouldn't start. (Though at least it was parked nose-out now after the previous day's misadventure!) So they gave up and woke me up.

I walked up to the car and saw no immediate problems (fluids good, no obvious fraying of belts from what I could see), so I drove it back to the house. I could hear the whining sound, and though it wasn't bad I could smell the burning smell when I had the hood open. So we used the Saab to jumpstart the van again, then swapped the cars around. This time I finally found that the dome light switch on the van had been left on, and as this is a full-size conversion van there's several interior lights that run on that circuit so at least we didn't have a real problem there. The Saab was a bit more worrisome, and I made an appointment for this morning (Thursday) as that was the first available at our local garage, deciding not to drive it until we could have it checked. I drove the van to work Tuesday and Wednesday, which worked out okay for us as C never got to school Tuesday, and had an early, 12:30pm release on Wednesday.

So today, after again working until midnight last night, I was up around 7:15am to bring the Saab up to the garage. I needed to know by 1pm or so if the car was drivable; I knew I likely couldn't afford any major repairs until the end of the month though. It was 2pm before they were able to tell me, no, it ain't drivable... and though I can't afford the repairs until month end at least the damage won't be too terrible (as such things go)... a bit under $300 to replace the fan belt and the idle pulleys that drive it, which were "disintegrating". Except for the bad fiscal timing the news wasn't bad, but it will leave us on one car for the next two weeks.

Thursday though is the one day I can't take the van to work, as C has his feeding therapist appointments on Thursday late afternoons each week and it's usually 7pm before they're home from these. So no work today; I drove the car back home until payday, then hopped in the van with the family to at least take advantage of the opportunity to meet C's therapist, Carol, about whom The Momma has had Many Great Things to say! The visit was mostly a play opportunity for C in their therapy room, as we have an appointment in two weeks with a new specialist and we're mostly discussing treatment strategies until we find out where that leaves. So C was able to play on the gym stuff while The Momma and Carol conferred. I snapped a few photos with the camera phone while there, click here (on the thumbnail photo at the top of this post) to see a few larger images from the session. (Hmmm, a "camera phone"... that simple SF gadget seems like it warrants its own blog post!)

We left there around 5:30, did a bit of shopping, stopped for C & The Momma's traditional post-therapy dinner and playtime at McDonald's, then got back here around 7:15.

Long day! But I'm off tomorrow at least, apart from picking up a friend's son from school in the afternoon, and it'll be hopefully a fairly peaceful weekend. Have to get C's homework done early so we can kick back and watch the Patriots Sunday in their playoff game!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Movie: Collateral

I'll probably make occasional movie comments here, though not with any regularity... "Collateral" is my most recent Netflix rental and I just have a brief comment on it. A hopefully very minor spoiler here (not given in full context).

This was a terrific movie and I enjoyed it immensely... great use of music in the soundtrack, great focus on the actors and the writing over just an action pic (making the action sequences that much more effective)... but one thing that should be fairly minor REALLY irritates me: why the hell does Tom Cruise take the time to cut the power and phones in the building when it had been fairly clearly established he wasn't overly worried about anything except getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible? A plot contrivance to give Jamie Foxx some time to play his part... but out of the character Cruise had put together up to that point.

Otherwise though, a great, smart thriller! Take out that one annoyance and probably a 5 out of 5; as it is I gave it a 4 for my Netflix rating.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Eclipsing the Curse!

Click for larger image

I've mentioned my most unique Christmas gift (from my parents) to a few friends, so I thought I'd post an image of it here. It's a framed oil painting of the Red Sox logo eclipsing the moon, a reference to the blood-red lunar eclipse that was happening when the Sox won the World Series on October 27! Very classy.

Forgive the poor image quality, as I used my camera phone to snap this and there's a fair amount of reflection from the glass as well. Hopefully, the image is clear enough to give you the idea, but not so clear that it would irritate the artist, Jennifer Barnatt, that I'm posting it here! Above is the thumbnail, click here (or on the thumbnail) for a larger image.

A DVD A Day?

Many years ago I was an "early adapter" of Netflix.com, the online DVD rental company. I loved the concept of having a large selection of DVDs to choose from, and no due dates or late fees. Just rent what you want, keep it as long as you want (great for listening to the occasional commentary tracks), and swap it in for another one. Considering at the time I lived in New Hampshire and nothing was especially convenient, this was a great move. I had a terrific experience with Netflix, great customer service, and I recommended it to any who asked.

Alas as C got a bit older and more demanding, I found I just didn't have as much time as I once did for watching DVDs and I eventually dropped out at the beginning of baseball season some years back. I found I just wasn't always watching enough flicks to justify the membership. These were Dark Days, as I also was only very rarely getting to an actual movie theater... in fact that still remains a problem to this day although the past year has been better.

Also over this past year, as C has matured more, I've found I've again had much more time for enjoying DVDs. Not only is he more self-sufficient now and happy to entertain himself with his Calvin & Hobbes or Captain Underpants books, and of course his many favorite video games, but he's also now old enough that he enjoys watching movies with me. And not just "kids' movies"... most of his favorite movies are on my list as well, such as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". Needless to say I love watching some of my old favorites with him for the first time and seeing him "get" them.

So finally this December I re-joined Netflix, and it's been a happy reunion. On the one hand, I lost my "grandfathering"... Netflix originally offered four movies out (at your home) at a time for about $15/month. Eventually they lowered that to 3 at a time (and later still they bumped the cost up a tiny bit, it's now about $18/month for three at a time). As an early member I initially still got four at a time at my old cost, but of course I lost that benefit when I quit.

But on the other hand, when I was a member before they only shipped from their base in California... two days away by post. Now they have many shipping centers, including the local one in Worcester, MA just a few miles away. So in the past it would take about 4-5 days round trip to exchange a DVD; now, it's usually less than 48 hours from when I drop a DVD into the mailbox that I have a replacement in hand. So the opportunity is actually there to see more movies in a month now than in the past, depending on how long I keep them.

So far we've done quite well, in the month since I've rejoined we've already gone through about a dozen movies. Most recently I finally saw "Shaun of the Dead", a wonderfully funny British take on the George Romero zombie films of yore that I'd been hoping to see late last summer. (Romero's not affiliated with Shaun in any way.) I suspect I'll eventually buy this one to add to my own collection and I highly recommend it... though with the serious caveat that it is a zombie movie, and while tamer than some it certainly has its share of blood and guts. However, the focus is on the humor, not the horror, and except for a particular gruesome scene near the very end the blood and guts just add to the humor by playing off of the expected cliches. It's funny and smart as well as telling a legitimate zombie story.

Now we'll see if I still have time to watch as many DVDs when the 2005 baseball season starts in 88 days!