Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome, TiVo!

Okay, so the FiOS picture is indeed great. And no real concerns with the internet yet though I'm still tweaking the wireless stuff. But as feared the Verizon DVR software, well, SUCKS! No nice way to put it. Still, it's functional, and since TiVo reportedly has a lot of problems working with Verizon cable boxes it still is the way to go, no matter how painful and limiting it is compared to TiVo.

The other thing I used my TiVo for was for streaming home media... I could, through my TiVo and some agent software on my PC, listen to all of my music (I've ripped all of my CDs onto a PC in my basement) and view all of our photos (on that same PC) through my living room TV and stereo. Sweet.

I hesitated on switching to Verizon since I didn't want to lose this functionality, but they offer it as well (at extra cost), so that led to me finally deciding to make the leap.

So yeah, the Verizon DVR software sucks, but functions. But their home media option... oh my freaking word, it's worthless!

TiVo simply "publishes" the folders on your PC you select, just presents them as if they were shared Windows files on a network, leaving your own file hierarchy intact. So I know where everything is, as it's organized the way I organized it on my PC.

Verizon is like so many of the newer MP3 players... it's helpful. In the worst possible way! It scans every file within the folder(s) I specify, and then it sorts them by artist, album, genre or folder. But not any combination of those categories! So, I spent five minutes trying to find a Blues Brothers song, and failed. Let's see, I've got roughly 6500 songs... 600-700 albums, 400-500 artists... 35 genres. Looking in each of those categories it's still almost impossible to find a particular song. I can't look under "Blues Brothers" and see the Blues Brothers albums... I only see every song with the artist tag "Blues Brothers". But based on the id3 tag, not on where the file was found... so I have songs from the same Blues Bros album that will show up under different artists... such as James Brown or Aretha Franklin. Ugh!

So I had to find another way. I started looking at other media server options... D-Link makes one, for instance, though it gets mixed reviews. Then I realized that hey, I have a perfectly good media server box right here, my old TiVo! Sure, I gotta pay for service again ($13/mo), but then again I don't have to buy any new hardware and I know it does exactly what I want. Plus, I'll be saving almost that same amount by canceling Verizon's home media service.

So today I renewed my TiVo service. No, I'm not canelling FiOS, other than their home media option. I won't even have a cable signal going into the TiVo box! But now I can again find any song I'm looking for in seconds. View my photos just as easily. And as a bonus I can still use a lot of TiVo's other unique features... as I type this, for instance, we're listening to NPR's "Science Friday" podcast streamed through TiVo. It's also busily downloading video podcast shows that we can watch.

God Love TiVo!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

TiVo, Adieu....

Just made a very tough phone call, when I called to cancel my TiVo service. I've been a loyal TiVo-ist for about 6 years now, but today we made the move from Comcast cable to Verizon FiOS (following in the footsteps of my friend Dog Rat!). The switch was fairly painless (despite a one-day delay in the scheduled installation), and as there have been a lot of reported problems with TiVo users hooked up to FiOS so, since my TiVo box was very old anyway, I decided to just cut the cord and go with Verizon's own DVR instead. We'll see how that goes... my very, very early impressions are that the DVR will certainly be "good enough", though I've already found it more clunky than TiVo. And one of my most-used TiVo features was the ability to view photos and listen to music from my PC. Verizon has this but it looks vastly inferior... sigh! But we'll see as I get more used to it.

At first glance picture quality does look much much better, though I haven't spent any real time with it yet... ask me again after the weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Some Blues, and Catching Up....

I had quite the post-vacation crash last month, and haven't been keeping up with the blogging thing. So some quick notes just to catch up a bit... I'll have a couple of different posts here in rapid (but "correctly" reverse-chronological order) succession.

Most recently first, Buster and I put on the Blues suits (well, the concert-going version, no ties or hats!) this past weekend to see B.B. King again in Lowell, MA Saturday night. As many times as I've seen B.B. over the past 25 years these were about the best seats I think I've ever had, fourth row center, courtesy of early ticket sales through the B.B. King Fan Club. We had a great time. Buster wasn't sure he wanted to go again, he enjoyed seeing B last year in Springfield but three hours in a concert is still a lot for a ten-year-old. But he ended up going and enjoyed it much more than he'd expected.

A few other photos from the show are here.

The highlight was when Buster went up towards the stage to take a couple of pictures of B (that alas came out a bit blurry as they were without flash and we're still getting used to the new camera)... as he walked up B saw him, stopped playing for a moment and tossed Buster his guitar pick! The pick itself, a personalized BB pick, isn't that unusual as he tosses them out to the crowd by the handful after the show, but this one was personally tossed right to Buster and during the performance. very nice!

And also very nice: when deciding what to do with it Buster decided he would like it if I used the pick when playing my guitar... as long as we were both clear that it was still his pick! Ah, gotta love it! So yup, I'm using it now to practice.

What, you didn't know I played guitar? Well, saying I play guitar is at the least a gross exaggeration, but yeah, I've been trying to teach myself a bit and indeed, just two weeks ago I bought myself a "real" guitar instead of the $90 beginner's rig I've been messing around with. The new one was still under $200 but I'm mighty happy with it, a similar style to B.B's own "Lucille", though a much cheaper manufacturer of course... An Oscar Schmidt/Washburn OE30 "Delta King". But sounds and plays much better than my first one, a much cooler sound and of course doesn't hurt that it's pretty!

Lastly, though the pictures of the BB concert were pretty blurry, I did at least get a decent (if brief, about a minute) video clip from the show!

Old Marines (Don't) Fade Away....

The last weekend of October I journeyed to Missouri to attend my brother Jake's retirement from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service. I was there when he graduated as a raw recruit from Parris Island in 1987 so it was pretty emotional to be there for this. (And apart from Jake himself, I was the only one both at graduation and retirement!) It was an honor to attend, and a challenge... Jake's wife flew me out as a surprise for this, as Jake thought none of his friends or family would be able to attend. (And he was pretty pissy about that, too!) Made for an interesting couple of months of not mentioning this to him, as his wife and I started plotting on this even before our Chicago trip back in August!

But we pulled it off... his family picked me up at the airport Thursday afternoon while Hosehead... uh, Jake... was still at work. When he got home that evening, I was nowhere to be seen, hiding out in the back yard. (Damn it though, why'd it have to be rainy and in the mid-40s?) After he's been home for about 10 minutes and they were getting ready for dinner, I planted myself outside their kitchen door and started blowing harp, quietly at first and then louder. Only took a minute or two before he opened the door... "...I don't know what that is... ELWOOD?!!!!" It was beauty, eh?!

The retirement ceremony (and follow-up party) were Friday, then Saturday was a day to hang out, mostly riding around in Jake's car, "Christine", a '75 Plymouth Fury (sister to the Dodge Monaco Bluesmobile we used to have). It was during this drive, incidentally, that we stopped by Jake's local music shop where he introduced me to the guy he recently started taking guitar lessons from, and showed me the guitar HE was considering buying... the exact same model Delta King I ended up buying! No coincidence, as I got a chance to play his blue one for a few minutes and we both agreed if he got that one, it'd be cool if I could find a black one for myself! When only days later I came across one on eBay at a great price it seemed like karma, though I still thought about it for a week before finally jumping in. (And yes, he ended up buying his as well!)

Now, if only one or the other of us can actually learn enough to really play these things!

Here's more photos from the trip:

Oh, I do still play the harp though and that's certainly still more to my style. Here's a brief video Buster took (unbeknownst to me at the time!) while I was on the phone with Jake one night about a week after my MO trip.

Sox Win!

And lastly in this series of catch-up posts.... RED SOX WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!

It sure was different this time than that amazing sensation in 2004 when we broke The Curse. Not only was the 86 years of pent-up frustration (okay, for me personally maybe only 20 years at the time!), but I wasn't actually able to see a lot of the Series this year since it coincided with my trip to Missouri. I saw all of the first game but only pieces of the others, and indeed the clinching Game 4 was played largely while I was in the air on my way home that Sunday night. I did walk in my front door in time though, around the middle of the 8th inning, to see the end and the celebrations. Wow!! And with so many of our key players returning next year (word just came out this afternoon that Mike Lowell has also now agreed to a new deal with the Sox), and some amazing young players coming into their own (see Misters Pedroia, Ellsbury and Youkilis, along with Papelbon, Lester and Buccholz, not necessarily in that order), it should be fun to be a Red Sox fan for many years to come!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Unlimited Mileage!

I've finally got myself settled in again enough to write a bit about our trip. This year's vacation was certainly a special one, as we toured many spectacular areas in and around Arizona. We flew in and out of Las Vegas, from where we rented an '07 Dodge Charger (no hemi, alas) that took great care of us for almost two weeks.

Somewhere in northwestern Arizona.....

We took tons of photos on this vacation, many of which I'll hopefully get posted to my Flickr site in the next few days. Indeed, halfway through the vacation our camera fell of a restaurant table and broke, so we actually had to buy a new digital camera in the middle of the trip. Ah well, we'd been hoping to buy one before this trip anyway before deciding to hold off for a bit longer, so it wasn't bad karma.

I'm going to break this up into a few posts, but I'll post them chronologically reversed starting(/ending) here so that the trip can be read in order top-to-bottom from this post down.

Leaving Las Vegas.

We started off on September 19th with two nights in Vegas' Mandalay Bay resort, and that was wonderful. We aren't into the gambling thing at all, we just wanted somewhere fun to stay while we got acclimated where we'd all have something fun to do. The Vegas House of Blues is in the Mandalay Bay resort, so my first beer of the vacation was of course served there. Not a great assortment, unfortunately, but a couple of bottles of Sam served me just fine. Momma and Buster went back upstairs after dinner while I stuck around for an hour to listen to the first set of that night's blues band. I regret I don't recall the name but I saw a Swedish guitarist who used to back Junior Wells late in his career, playing there with his own band. Good stuff!

Another unexpected treat was the aquarium in Mandalay Bay, "Shark Reef". Most of the newer resorts have some family friendly features, from the mid/late 90s push to making Vegas more of a family destination. That never really caught on but there's some cool things to do there. This aquarium was actually much better than we'd ever expected it to be, frankly rivaling if not surpassing the Living Seas pavilion at Disney's Epcot. We had a great time there, and we almost had to drag Buster out as he was having so much fun petting the sting rays!

Friday the 21st we hit the open road, bound for Sedona, AZ about 4.5 hours away. The drive took us over the Hoover Dam so we stopped there for an hour or two... we didn't do the full tour (down inside the dam) though we did check out the exhibits and viewing areas along the top. Mighty impressive!

The drive south down through northwestern Arizona was fun, with long stretches of flat highway going through dustbowl-like landscapes. At one point we drove through a small dust storm, complete with dust devils (small tornado-like dust swirls) running through the adjoining fields. Very surreal and very cool! We also found a bunch of large locusts (I wouldn't call them a swarm, though there were a few dozen around that we saw) at one of the restaurants we stopped at during the drive.

The drive into Sedona was absolutely awesome. Coming in from the north the road goes down into Oak Creek Canyon... and really down. The road down was something out of a Bond movie, hugging the side of the canyon wall and constantly switching back on itself; 15mph was pretty much tops all the way down and the scenery descending from the top to the bottom was beautiful. Then on into Sedona itself, famous red rock country with towering rock formations overlooking everything.

We had a condo here that was to be our base for the next week. The resort adjoined the Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh) "arts and crafts" village, a cool little specialty shopping village with art galleries and studios. And also, a brew pub right there, yay! The Oak Creek Brewery was pretty good with food and had some very good beers, including their Amber Ale which became my favorite for the vacation. It was also served at quite a few other restaurant in the area so I had plenty of this during the trip!

Baseball and Hot Dogs... Well, Pizza

Saturday was a bit of a get-away day... I left Buster and The Momma in Sedona for the day and traveled south to Phoenix, where I met up with my friend Doc (who "winged in" from LA for the occasion) to see a Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. Always fun to see another ballpark of course! The Dbacks were playing the LA Dodgers, who had former Sox (amongst others) pitcher David "Boomer" Wells starting for them. Boomer wasn't good. The Dbacks won the game handily, the same night that (as I found out the next day) the Red Sox came from behind (well, after giving UP the lead!) to beat the Devil Rays and clinch a playoff berth. (They would go on, of course, to clinch the division title a week later.)

Great night, even if they DID have to cancel the post-game fan appreciation fireworks show due to high winds! Doc & I had dinner at Pizzeria Uno's afterwards, then spent the night in an area hotel before I dropped him back at the airport Sunday and rejoined the family in Sedona that afternoon. Beauty side trip, eh?

Yup, It's GRAND....

Monday was a Big Day for the vacation. That morning we left the condo fairly early and drove north again, to see the Grand Canyon! We had an overnight booked in a lodge at the south rim, so we'd have a couple of days to explore. With a 10-year-old, and with never having been there before, we weren't looking to go down into the Canyon this trip (alas), but we had a great chance to hike along the rim trail, and I was able to go at least a little ways down (maybe a half mile or so) one of the bigger trails myself Tuesday morning.

Words and pictures don't, of course, express this place well but yeah, it's everything it's said to be. (Having said that we do have tons of pictures, a couple shown here and more will soon be on the Flickr site.) I'm so glad to finally get this one off the to-do list, and already looking forward to getting back in another 6 or 7 years when Buster is older and we can hopefully get down deeper into this amazing place.

It's funny how everywhere we went seemed more stunning and beautiful than the last. Vegas has its own beauty of course, at least at night on the Strip... but then Hoover Dam was cool, Oak Creek Canyon was amazing, Sedona was spectacular... then there's the Grand Canyon, beyond description. Then going back into Sedona, it seemed even more beautiful again. Great countryside down there!

Slipping and Sliding on Red Rocks

Back in Sedona on Wednesday, we went to a place just north of town called Slide Rock State Park. A small rocky area of Oak Creek that runs through many smooth and slippery rocks, creating absolutely beautiful landscapes with many different colors... oh, and the rocks make for small rapids that act as natural water slides! If you can stand the chill, hop in and slide on down... Buster and The Momma did! (I had the camera to think about, of course.. yeah, that's the ticket, that's why I didn't go in!) Momma even got in a bit of cliff-diving at one point. The place was great, and one of the (if not the) best days of the vacation!

Thursday we hit a better-known spot, Cathedral Rock, supposedly one of the most photographed landscape spots in America. And yup... beautiful. Go figure! We hiked most of the way up to the rock base, though Buster tired out before we got all the way up. Still, beautiful trails through a forest and along a creek, then up the mountain towards the rock base. We also successfully located a geocache in the area and exchanged items there.

NORTH, Ms. Teschmacher!!

Friday the 28th, time to leave the condo - and Sedona - behind. Sigh! Next time we'll devote more days exclusively to Sedona. And yeah, we're pretty sure there'll be a next time, some year in the not too distant future! This time it was another loooong drive north, heading up east of the Grand Canyon, through part of the Painted Desert (uh, beautiful!) and back over the Colorado River via the Navajo Bridge at the Marble Canyon. Uh, beeeee-eautiful!!

On Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River.

Now on the other side of the Colorado River we passed by the Vermilion Cliffs (uh, beautiful!) and into forest country, climbing up and eventually going to the north rim of the Grand Canyon! We spent a night just outside of the national park (in Jacob Lake), then another in one of the Grand Canyon Lodge's cabins, less than 50 yards from the actual don't-go-sleepwalking-out-there rim.


So we had one full day on the north rim... I will say, it was spectacular as well but unlike what I've heard from some, we thought the south rim was more stunning. In fairness though, we didn't have as much time to just explore on the north rim and didn't make it to what are considered the most beautiful overlooks on that side... both driving distance away from the Lodge where we stayed. The Lodge has two outdoor "porches", with stone wall edges hanging directly above the Canyon. In planning the trip I'd had visions of grabbing a beer at their saloon and drinking it on one of these during sunset... mission accomplished!

And bonus... the saloon had its own North Rim Amber Ale. Good stuff, and it tasted suspiciously familiar... sure enough, it turned out to be brewed by Oak Creed from Sedona, almost 300 miles south of us now... it was their Amber Ale! Yay!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One Last, Long Drive.....

Sunday it was, sadly, time to head back to Vegas in prep for our Monday evening flight home. But we managed one more side trip on the way... we hadn't been able to visit two other beautiful national parks out that way, Bryce Canyon and Zion, both in Utah. But we did find that it wasn't too far out of the way to at least drive through part of Zion on the way back, so that we did!

It was beautiful.

We didn't get a chance to really explore it but the drive through the main road (cutting through the south end of the park) was fantastic, and we stopped at a few spots for photos and a better look-see. Also hit their visitor center for a bit.

Got back to Vegas around 4pm, and spent that night in the Monte Carlo... it was okay, but only just okay, especially when compared to Mandalay Bay the week before. And naturally after all the nature we'd seen it was almost wrong to now be back in that bright lights/big city environment now!

Incidentally, I titled my lead post on this trip "Unlimited mileage"... I imagine the reason is obvious by now! That quickly became our catch-phrase for this entire vacation as we drove from one incredible place to another, with the drive itself being nothing short of spectacular. (Well, okay, Buster got a bit bored with all the car time.) By the time we returned our Charger in Vegas, we'd logged over 1500 miles on it! But no problem of course... Unlimited mileage, baby!! I'd have to say that the driving itself probably left the biggest impression on me from this vacation. I've always loved driving, and going from one type of climate to the next so frequently was just fascinating and beautiful.

One more post to go....

Leaving Las Vegas?

We checked out of the Monte Carlo around 11am Monday, and my last order of business for the vacation was to check out the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. This I did solo, which I'd later regret, but it was a fun take... a great little museum of props and costumes from the various Trek series and movies (going all the way back to the 60s), and two shows. The first - older - one was Klingon Encounter, a "Star Tours" style motion simulator, aboard a Starfleet shuttle as the Enterprise-D battles a Klingon warship nearby. Though the sim was no big deal, the ending was cute as they bring you "back in time" to present day Vegas and the starship battle continues in the skies over the Strip hotels!

The best part by far though is the pre-show, where you get beamed up to the Enterprise-D. Neat effect as the waiting room you're in suddenly, after a flash of bright light and then a few seconds of darkness, morphs into the Enterprise transporter room! They escort you through an Enterprise hallway and onto the bridge itself, where you get a briefing from Commander Riker on the main viewscreen. Walking these sets are by far the best part of the whole experience and worth it on their own. They then take you in a turbolift down to the hanger deck where you board the shuttle for the actual sim ride.

The other show is "Borg Invasion", an immersive 3D Voyager-era movie. Also not an overly exciting concept, but the movie itself was very cool and the effects were terrific, especially when the Voyager drives into and through a Borg cube... nice! (And nice work by my friend Mojo, who worked on that project.)

After seeing the shows and the museum I stayed for lunch in Quark's restaurant and bar. Great food and a fun atmosphere, and, uh, good drinks.

Ah yes, the drinks... I had too many good drinks! I generally stick to beer these days, but here I had several "James Tea Kirks", basically a very yummy, blue take on Long Island Iced Tea. (I STILL think it should have been called Romulan Ale, which everyone knows is blue! But the Romulan Ale they had was beer.) I was talking with others in the bar (Klingons, Romulans and others roam the bar from time to time to chat, and there were some other fans there as well) and enjoying the blue brew, not really paying attention to how many I'd had.

I guess I had five of them! I completely let my guard down and by the time I left, I realized, oops...! This wouldn't be a problem normally but I definitely wasn't going to be in good shape to fly. After hooking back up with the family we decided to suck it up and spend an extra night, and we ended up coming home Tuesday night instead. We got a fairly inexpensive room in the Imperial Palace, though of course changing the airfare ran me a pretty penny! Ah well, The Momma wasn't upset about it as I was at myself for getting caught offguard like that. And we did get home fine the next day (despite a delayed flight). No trip is perfect, and hey, at least I got my Vegas story! (And yeah, I was tempted to leave it there but what the heck!)

So that was the trip. Except for that extra day lay-over at the end it was pretty damned near as perfect a vacation as you'd ask for, and I'm sure we'll get back to that area again. Though, lots of other places to see as well! Our next family vaca is expected to be next summer, an extended family cruise (extended family, not extended cruise!) to Bermuda to celebrate my folks' 50th wedding anniversary. Should be fun!

Having a beer after leaving Zion Nat'l Park, Sunday 9/20.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Back from Vacation....

We had an incredible time, now back and settling down into life again. Stories to follow over the next week or so I hope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sam Adams Brewery Night

Last Thursday evening we had our long-awaited, contest-winning tour of the Sam Adams Brewery in Boston. While low-key this was a lot of fun, as I was able to bring three friends with me for the tour, followed by dinner while we watched that night's Red Sox game on big-screen TVs.

My brother Bob came with me, and also my friend Cap'n Ho. The Hey was going to go with us as well but got bogged down with an overloaded schedule so I was able to bring John, a friend from work, along in his stead. I stopped to pick up Bob at his apartment in Brookline, and after playing with his two young kids for a while (my back and legs reminding me of that the next morning!) we turned the Bluesmobile towards the city.

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to drive a Bluesmobile in the heart of Boston! With our Monaco 20 years ago Jake & I almost lived in the city, where there were at that time still several great blues clubs, and I also worked in Cambridge back then. Nowadays the good clubs are mostly in the suburbs, and my office is long since moved out west of the city, so I rarely take the time or have reason to venture into town. I definitely need to do that more often, Bob and I had a great time cruising the streets to the brewery with shades on, the windows down and the blues cranking.

The tour itself was a bit over half an hour, taking us through the brewing process and letting us taste and smell some barley, and handle and smell some hops. Then into their tasting room (a very nice wood and brass bar with tables) for dinner and the ballgame. They had four beers on tap that we could sample (a pint at a time, unlike the normal 4oz samples they give out on standard tours!)... Cherry Wheat, Cranberry Lambic, a local-only brew called Alchemist's Ale, and of course their name brand Boston Lager. Yum! The brewery is very small and mostly it's their R&D facility, where they prepare and test their recipes for each season's upcoming brews (hence the Thanksgiving-themed Cranberry Lambic on tap now), and some small batches of specialty brews for the local market (such as the ale brewed just for the nearby Alchemists Pub, which was quite good!).

The food was modest, just ballpark fare (sausages and dogs, nachos, wings, brownies etc), but satisfying. Most importantly, the Sox won the ballgame behind Tim Wakefield, yay! We also got some good swag... we all got T-shirts, and as the contest winner I also got a pair of Sam's new beer-geekish drinking glasses and a wall-mountable bottle opener. As the driver (and therefore being more moderate on drinking, at least in theory) I also got a huge glass Octoberfest mug with the Sam logo on it. Nice stuff!

The four of us had a great time, talking baseball, beer and whatever else came to mind for a few hours. I shuttled everyone home (or near home) in the Bluesmobile and got home myself around 11:30, earlier than I'd normally get home from a night of work anyway.

Now we're starting to gear up for our big family vacation later this month... No Disney this year (sigh)... but we've got a great trip lined up to Las Vegas, NV and Sedona, AZ (via a couple of days at the Grand Canyon), and also including an Arizona Diamondbacks ballgame in Phoenix. Hopefully I won't be too tardy with posting the stories from that trip next month.

Lastly, a word of congratu-frakkin'lations to my friend Mojo, who just (co-)won his second Emmy for his special effects work on the Battlestar: Galactica series. Very well-earned, Mojo... So say we all!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Baby, Don't You Wanna Go?

Last Thursday (16 August) my Blues Brother Jake and I met up in Chicago for a blues pilgrimage weekend. (Jake and I are old Blues Brothers partners, brothers since 1980, though we're now separated by about 1300 miles and only see each other maybe once a year.) The plan was simple, hit as many blues clubs as we could in our 4-night stay. And the more local talent we saw, the better.

Thursday night was easy, as we'd picked a hotel only two blocks away from Buddy Guy's Legends. (We stayed at the TraveLodge on E. Harrison.) Jimi "Primetime" Smith was playing there that night, and he put on a great show, playing guitar and a little harp with a full band and one of the best keyboardists we'd seen.

As luck would have it we were there on a night when Buddy himself came in and hung out at the bar, and we were able to chat with him for 10-15 minutes before other folks noticed he was there too. We'd seen Buddy play with Junior Wells several times in the Boston area back in the 80s, and he seemed to enjoy reminiscing about one of the blues clubs that used to be there (Nightstage in Cambridge) with us.

We also were blessed when he got up on stage and did a song with the band (singing, no guitar) before he left for the night. Even the band seemed pretty blown away by that!

(Buddy Guy on stage at Legends... Sorry for the crappy picture, just had the cellphone with me in the clubs.)

Friday afternoon we had a great lunch at the (original) Pizzeria Uno... something I never miss when in town, so much better than the chain (which we love too)! After that we were able to get together with ChiTown John, whom we'd hooked up with through an online forum... the man told us to stay put in front of Uno, and he'd pick us up. We saw him coming from a block away as that beautiful, low-slung beat-to-stuff black and white sedan rumbled towards us! I'm sure there were a few looks of envy as we hopped into his '74 Dodge Bluesmobile. We spent a couple of great hours cruising around Chicago, taking some photos at Legends and at the House of Blues, then spending some time at the Navy Pier (where they had some good beer and another blues band was playing), and then had a cruise up and down (well, down and up actually) on Lower Wacker Drive.

(Jake, me and Chitown John in front of Legends with his Bluesmobile.)

After John dropped us off so we could peruse the Jazz Mart record shop, Friday night we went to Blue Chicago where we saw John Primer playing with his "Real Deal" blues band. Primer had played with Muddy Waters and was true old school, and we had a blast again! He also had a female blues singer with them for parts of their set, "Peaches", and she really knew how to work a crowd and belt some blues. We had a chance to chat with both Peaches and Primer during the evening.

(John Primer, far left; Peaches center stage at Blue Chicago.)

A great egoboost for me was, after hearing me quietly blowing my harp along to a juke box tune between sets, Primer came over and asked if I was a musician. I said no, really just amateur... he said, "But you do play, right?" I admitted as much and he said I should come back Monday night for his open jam session! (We were leaving on Monday but I thought that was pretty cool coming from one of Muddy's guys.)

Saturday it was up north to Kingston Mines, one of the better-known clubs with a 4am liquor license. We got there at 8:30pm, and left at about 4:45am... sweet! Eddy Clearwater was the main stage entertainment (alternating with Linsey Alexander on the back stage), another very high-powered band that kept the place hopping throughout the night. We made some friends there and had another great time. Earlier Saturday we'd found a brewpub we really liked (and would revisit on Sunday), the Rock Bottom Brewery, and it turns out there's a couple here in Massachusetts as well if I can ever get 'round to tracking them down! We also found time to share some sake in a small Asian lounge, and then took a stroll around the Grant Park fountain. Best known from the opening f "Married: With Children", it was also the location for a car chase scene in the original Blues Brothers movie that was filmed but never included.

Sunday night it was B.L.U.E.S... a surprisingly small club considering its reputation but another great spot. It was pouring rain that night, so we decided we would be smarted to just walk back over to Legends rather than go all the way up to B.L.U.E.S... a lengthy train ride followed by a 6 block or so walk at the other end. Yup, that's what we decided as we just marched right back onto the train anyway! We arrived at the club soaking wet but delighted to see a new (to us) club. They waved cover for us going in, just 'cause, "You guys are cool." We also scored a couple of free whiskey shots from the waitress.

Note, we were in street clothes all weekend... well, club clothes, jeans and button-down patterned shirts, but of course we always had the shades on the entire weekend. So I guess two Hawaiian shirt-wearing, shades-wearing guys in pouring rain at 9pm was "cool".

We were, incidentally, identified at pretty much every place we went all weekend as the Blues Brothers... John Primus was especially into it, and indeed they closed their gig with The MG's "Time is Tight"... the bass and organ lines used in the "I Can't Turn You Loose" Brothers intro. We certainly got a lot of dancing in! The other interesting part of that is at Kingston Mines, a college-area club that was filled with, to use the Aykroyd term, "foxes", the ladies were all very intent on borrowing our shades all night. Now there ain't much on me I'm not gonna let an attractive lady in a blues club touch... but the shades gotta stay on MY face!

Monday morning it was time to check out, though we both had fairly late flights that day. So we went back over to Legends for lunch, and hung out there for a couple of hours as they had a live solo guitarist entertaining. I never got the guy's name but he played a variety of styles and was very good, and it was a nice, low-key way to end the weekend as we were definitely feeling the blues about leaving by that point.

(More photos available at my Flickr site.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet

Ssshhhhh! I'm sleeping (apparently)........

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Close Encounter

A friend & I just took a brief break from work here and climbed up onto the roof... and saw "Atlantis" and the ISS zoom over! Not too often that we get a really good sighting opportunity this far north but they were at a near-90-degree elevation and not long after sunset, so they were very bright... one trailing the other by maybe 10 degrees of arc, taking about four minutes to cross the sky. Beautiful! (We'd tried last night, but it was overcast... they were much lower in the sky last night anyway so tonight was perfect!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Sunday at the Ballpark

(Edited Tue.6/19 to add photos. More photos from this day available at my Flickr site!)

A near perfect Father's Day yesterday! Buster and The Momma took me (well, okay, let me take them!) to a Brockton Rox baseball game. The Rox are an independent league team and Campanelli Stadium is one of my favorite ballparks to go to these days, very nice yet roomy and not overcrowded, with good food and beer (yay, beer!).

The game itself was great, a pitcher's duel which the home team lost in the 10th inning, 3-2. We weren't sure who to root for though as they were playing the Nashua Pride, who, when we lived in New Hampshire during the first 5+ years of Buster's life, we would often go see at their home ballpark! It was also a bonus that we got to see former fan favorite Red Sox relief pitcher Rich "El Guapo" Garces, who now pitches for the Pride (and is still, uh, larger than life!). Guapo came in to close in the bottom of the 9th, with the Pride winning 2-1, but he gave up the tying run forcing extra frames. After the Pride retook the lead in the top of the 10th Garces came out again to this time successfully close the door and get the win.

The Rox do a great job of upholding the minor league tradition of making a day at the ballpark fun for the whole family. Before the game Buster was able to get a free horseback ride (he was psyched to be first in line, our timing was perfect!), and then they let us go down on the outfield and play catch for about 20 minutes before clearing the field for the game. After the game we all went down again to run the bases and touch home... naw, I ain't too old for that!!

The day was very, very hot though, which led to a couple of interesting moments. While Buster was waiting to go into a kids' bounce house at the ballpark I went to buy him his ($1) ride ticket. The kid (alone) at the ticket counter was weaving, holding himself up with his arms, frequently wiping his face... obviously in severe distress. He insisted (without much focus) that he was fine, and when I insisted he needed to drink some water (offering him ours) he said he had his own. Without really seeming to know what he was doing he reached under the counter and pulled out an unopened bottle of water, put it on the counter and instantly forgot all about it.

I called The Momma over (she's an RN) and she was on the case, getting the kid into the shade and getting the staff to call for medical help. I've seen her step in like this before and it's always a proud moment, and I was glad I had a chance to help in this case as well.

Then the shoe was on the other foot... Buster hadn't worn shorts (long story) so was spending about every other half inning staying up on the shaded concourse rather than in our (excellent but very hot!) field seats. We'd go check on him every now and then and he had a comfortable spot against the wall of the concourse, sitting on a small ledge ("lip" might be a better word!) near the bottom of the wall and enjoying the gentle but pleasant breeze up there.

The Momma came down at one point after she had been up there and was upset that they had told him he couldn't sit there! Now, I doubtless overreacted a bit (but really, just a bit) in the heat out of fatherly concern (and testosterone), but I went and talked to the person that had told him he couldn't stay there and after asking if she'd really said he couldn't stay there, basically opened the discussion with asking her if she was aware that we had just saved the life of one of their employees (and hopefully that was an exaggeration, but there was definitely truth to it as well) and now my sweat-pants wearing son couldn't sit in the shade? (I didn't quite raise my voice but it was implied... again, yeah, I probably overreacted a tad!)

She handled this excellently though and comped us some passes to an air-conditioned luxury suite they had set up for just such heat-related situations in the extreme heat. Apologizing and thanking her I went up there with Buster and The Momma, then seeing they were all set went back down to our field seats. The box was very nice, including outdoor seating in the shade right over home plate, but I still preferred the field seats myself. The family came back down a few innings later feeling much better, and really the whole thing just made for a better day. (And we were quite friendly with the security attendant for the rest of the game as well.)

They'd given us a cool parking spot for the Bluesmobile, as well, by herself at the front of a lot on the street and therefore visible to everyone going in and out. Yay.

So even apart from the heat and indeed because of it to some extent, a terrific day. We were mighty exhausted when we got home, and pretty grungy from sweating and pouring water on ourselves throughout the afternoon, but it was a terrific time. (I'll try and get this blog entry updated again in the next day or two with some photos from the day.)

Less of a fun day today though, as before going into work I attended a memorial service for a good friend's mother. I didn't really know her (had met her only once or twice and a great many years ago) but I've known her son and his wife for a very long time and they were hurting... my sympathies and prayers go out to you, Dave and Leslie.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A-Rod's True Colors Showing Again

There's been some controversy regarding a play in Toronto earlier this week, where Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees reportedly yelled - something - as he was rounding second behind a Toronto infielder lining up to catch an infield pop-up. Jays say he yelled "Mine!", so the fielder backed off thinking it was his teammate coming in to make the catch. A-Rod claims he just yelled "Hah!", hoping it would distract the fielder.

Either way, the ruse worked and the ball dropped for an infield hit and ultimately, a couple of runs. Opinions around baseball are split on if A-Rod broke the "unwritten rules" of baseball, or if he was just pushing the edge. He himself admitted they were playing desperately.

I find the idea of the play pretty Bush League, as the Jays manager called it, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it absolutely shouldn't have happened... I gotta think it's not beyond what a desperate team would do. (And let's face it, we can happily label the Yanks as a "desperate" team for the time being.)

But the arguments all miss the point of why this upsets me. I am angry that A-Rod would resort to this tactic, sure, but I don't really blame him for it.

But, what really pisses me off at him is that I strongly believed he lied about it afterwards... and that's pretty pathetic. Unfortunately it appears the clip has been pulled at the request of MLB so I can't link it here, but there was a clip on YouTube showing the play with a close-up on A-Rod, and even very limited lip-reading abilities make it seem pretty clear he said "mine", not "hah". Mmmmmm-i-nnnnnne. The consonants were pretty easy to pick out! But I can't back it up here now with the clip removed so just call it my strong opinion.

So if he said "Mine", why cover up by claiming to have just made some random verbalization? That's what's so amazingly sad about this guy. He'll "cheat"... even if within the "unwritten rules", but then just try to cover it up rather than just owning up to an attempt to gain an advantage by Any Means Necessary.

What a loser.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


My heartfelt condolences go out to our friend Betsy tonight. I just heard that Betsy's husband Jim passed away unexpectedly yesterday (Memorial Day). We've know them a long time and they're good people. Jim will be missed and both of you will be in our thoughts.

(Jim playing with"Buster" when he was two... Buster was, that is, not Jim!)

When It Was a Game

It's obviously a fun time to be a Red Sox fan. We're 11.5 games up on second-place Baltimore, and better still 13.5 games up on the Evil Empire, with the Yanks now tied with the D-Rays for last place. There's actually been a couple of moments in the past month when I actually felt a twinge of sympathy for the Bombers, especially when they lost two pitchers that were hit by batted balls up the middle. Still, I got over that quickly, and here's why... their fans need a reality check.

Last week I ready an article in one of the NY papers, I unfortunately wasn't able to find the link today so I'll have to paraphrase. But it was the night after the Yanks lost a game despite threatening in the 9th inning. The article was something like this - The situation is so familiar, Yanks down by a couple of runs but with runners on second and third with Jeter at the plate we just knew what would happen, we've seen it so many times before... but it didn't happen, and the Yanks lost.

What amazes is is the expectation of winning over and over again, year after year. From today's Globe is another excerpt along the same lines -

(Begin quote)

One now former rooter over the weekend announced she was "divorcing" the New York Yankees due to their losing ways. Here are a few gems from Jane Heller, whose declaration was published in the "Cheering Section" of the New York Times:

# "The grounds for the divorce will be mental cruelty. I mean, I made a commitment to these guys, emotional and financial, and they betrayed and humiliated me by allowing the Red Sox- the Red Sox! - to run away with the division."

# "I will tell you how [the Yankees] treated me - as if I were a Kansas City Royals fan."

# "When, exactly, did I fall out of love with the Yankees? (To clarify: I will always love them, but I am no longer in love with them. There is too much anger, too much baggage between us now.) "

# "As for the Yankees, if they suddenly start winning and somehow become not only the American League champions this season but the World Series champions, I will take that as a sign that they want me back and I will give them serious consideration.”

(End quote)
Original post here

Y'know, Sox fans have, by and large, been loyal fans through years and years (how many was that again? 86?) regardless. In fact, current NY fans' parents went through similar stretches with the Yankees. But the Yanks' dominance over this past decade, despite their post-season woes, has their fan base very, very spoiled. Win, or else you're not my team? Please.... Just enjoy the game, enjoy your team and enjoy baseball! Winning is only special if you know what losing feels like too.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spring Update

Obviously I haven't been blogging much in recent months. Last year was a busy one with the resurrection of the Bluesmobile (Mark II) and the reunion of the Blues Brothers (with my brother out in the midwest). This year's been more peaceful, but it's been good so far.

I'd mentioned some potential big Bluesmobile news in my last post...

...Never mind. We had a line on a former House of Blues Monaco but it didn't pan out, the owner was waffling on if he was really going to sell (and if he did he was probably going to jack the price up over what we were originally told), and the car had some pretty severe rust issues that would have required considerable further money to fix up (if it could be completely restored at all). But I had fun driving it around for an afternoon at least!

In the meantime, my own Bluesmobile is running great, though I just dropped some bucks into her to replace the radiatior and the intake manifold gaskets. I'd been hoping to upgrade the stereo system this year, not sure if that'll happen now. (By which I mean, the money really isn't there for it to happen now but that don't mean it won't!)

We had a very fun Mother's Day weekend, as The Momma ended up not working. As a present she decided she wanted her own Nintendo DS, so she and Buster can play head-to-head and she can play some games herself in waiting rooms, etc... neat idea for a mom, so we got that for her Saturday evening.

We did dinner out both Saturday and Sunday, very fun, and Sunday afternoon we dug out the GPS receiver and went geocaching in a couple of beautiful wooded areas. We started doing this back in January (when it was warm!), and now that warm spring weather is here for good we'll hopefully be doing a lot of this over the summer. It's a lot of fun, and gives us an excuse to explore new trails and parks. Only bummer is because of our schedules, it'll be fairly rare for all three of us to get out on the trails together. Usually it'll be The Momma and Buster if it's during the week, and I'll go out with him if it's on a weekend.

Coming up this week Buster turns ten.... Oh my. We'll have a fun family day during the week on his actual birthday, then a small party with a few friends and relatives over the weekend.

Well, at least he's now officially going to be the same age as "Buster" in "Blues Brothers 2000"! Gotta get him a new suit though, he's outgrown his from last year.

We're also busily planning this year's vacation trip, no Disney this year (darnit!) but we've got a pretty ambitious trip out to Arizona (via a few days in Las Vegas) planned for the fall that we're very excited about. Also still chatting with my brother Jake about a hoped-for blues get-away towards the end of the summer, most likely to Memphis. Here's hoping!

Yay, vacations...!

Monday, March 26, 2007

New (Old) Photos Added

PS... I've added a couple of new photo sets to my Flickr account, one is a group of photos of Jake's 1975 Plymouth Fury, his ride out in Missouri... the other set ("Nostalgia Blues") is a fun little collection of our old Blues Brothers photos, from the 1980's.

Spring Is In The Air

Interesting weekend... thanks to The Hey, it looks like I'll be able to go to Opening Day at Fenway next month for the first time in three years! Yay!!! I'm doing something I tend to avoid doing, paying above face value, but it's been a long time and I couldn't resist. My thanks to The Hey for the opportunity and for doing the legwork. Should be a very fun season this year the way the Sox, Yanks and Blue Jays are all constituted. I've got tickets to another game just a few days later, the first weekend of the season, after that though not sure if I'll get to more yet.

The Bluesmobile's still running great but I am losing coolant on her, similar to last year (but no where near as bad) when the heater core failed on me. Hopefully this won't turn out to be more than a bad coupling somewhere... no leaks when she's parked, just blowing it out under pressure it seems. Gonna bring her in in a couple of weeks to get the snow tires pulled off anyway so I'll get her checked then.

I've also been talking with a guy in Florida who recently bought one of the original filming cars from "Blues Brothers 2000", it's been fun chatting with him and comparing notes. He was from MA originally, so hopefully we'll be able to hook up some time either when he's up here or I'm down there.

We're likely not going to Florida this year as we plan to visit The Momma's brother and sister-in-law (and brand-spanking new nephew) in California this spring/summer instead. Though I hear there's now a possibility that they may be moving over the summer, ironically enough to Florida, so we'll see what happens!

Oh, and stay tuned, there may be more big Bluesmobile news on the near horizon, depending on how a couple of things pan out over the next two weeks or so...!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bluesmobile Scare... But No Worries

Winter finally caught up with the Bluesmobile Thursday night... after 4-5 days of high temps in the 20's, and lows in the low single digits with heavy wind chill factors, she wouldn't start for me when I went to leave work Thursday night (actually about 1am Friday morning). Cranked like a champ, but no fuel. Hoping it was a frozen fuel line (I'd filled the tank on the way in that afternoon) I left her be, got a ride home from a co-worker (thanks again, Bek!)... and let her sit there through the last sub-freezing day yesterday.

Today we hit 50 degrees, so I asked a friend at work go try turning her over and she started on the first try. Yay, Spring(ish)!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Uh, Noooooooooooo.......

This leaves me almost speechless... For those that have read my posts from/after our Disney trips, you know this has been my favorite restaurant on the planet for about the past 20+ years! No, I don't think it likely I'll get there before closing. Have to book a trip to Italy instead....


Get your Le Originali Fettuccine All'Alfredo while you can

In news that will thrill some and traumatize others (people either love or hate this restaurant), L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante will be the first of the original table service restaurants in Epcot's World Showcase to disappear from the park. The restaurant will close at the end of its current contract on August 31, to be replaced by "a new Italian restaurant concept."

Disney has not released any details of what the new restaurant concept might be, only that they are "currently finalizing negotiations with a strategic partner." They have confirmed, however, that the new "dining experience" will continue to have International Program cast members staffing the location. That would seem to rule out the fears expressed by some that a domestic Italian-American chain would move into the location.

Alfredo's has not announced any plans to open another location in the Central Florida area, so if a trip to Rome is not on your itinerary, you'll need to head to New York City for the only other location in the United States. (Another location is planned for Las Vegas, though.)

It's not known why Disney and Alfredo's are parting company, but it's a pretty sure bet that Disney either made the break or created a situation that led to the break, as the location was certainly not a money-loser for Alfredo's. In fact, for the year 2004, Alfredo's was number 13 on Restaurant and Institutions Magazine's Top 100 Independent Restaurants listing in terms of food and beverage sales. It's not likely that the restaurant would look to leave with that kind of income rolling in.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Still Ain't Dead....

Just lost, as happens from time to time, my muse again for a while... hey, it's winter, alright?