Friday, December 30, 2005

Back home again

I got back to NYC on Thursday evening after two days in Reading, PA, visiting with my uncle and his family (they live in Boston but go to PA to visit my aunt's parents; it's a long story). Everything was in order at home, as I have a reliable cat sitter who makes sure the cats don't destroy the house. Since I'd missed a night of Hanukkah, I lit the candles for the fourth night and then immediately lit them again for the fifth night. Now I'm back on track.

I had a little adventure on Friday tracking down a UPS package that my friends in Pittsburgh had shipped to me before Christmas. I had tried to get the package re-routed to my office, but due to the strike or incompentence on UPS' part the re-routing never happened. However, the ZIP code in the tracking system did change, because last night the phone operator told me the package was at the UPS depot on West Houston Street. I went down there around lunchtime, but there was no package. The guy behind the counter told me to go to 180 Canal Place, which he said was in Manhattan, and gave me a phone number (with a non-Manhattan 718 area code) to call to confirm the package would be there. I tried the phone number, which of course didn't work, then called the UPS operator again to try to figure out just where the package was. After arguing with her for five minutes, she finally noticed the ZIP code problem and sent a message to the other depot to check for my shipment. While I waited for a call back, I stopped at Barnes Noble, checked a map, and confirmed that in fact the address was in the Bronx. A half-hour later, after UPS actually did call me to confirm they had my package, I was in the south Bronx at another UPS depot. Thankfully, they had the box, which turned out to be small enough they could have just left it next to my mailbox at home in the first place. I share this story with my few readers as a reminder: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send any packages for me to my work address, not my home address. As a working man, I'm never home when FedEx, UPS, or the US Mail try to deliver packages. If you're sending me something you'd actually like me to receive, the office is the best place for me to get your valuables. E-mail me if you need my office address.

The weirdest thing so far about living the bachelor life is that I talk to myself all the time. I'm getting self-conscious about it now. I'd like to think that I'm talking to my cats and that they're listening, but I'm talking when they're not in the room, and even if they were, they're cats and so they're not listening to me anyway. I'll have to find some way to break myself of this habit, because I don't want my neighbors to think I'm the crazy guy who always talks to himself. Although this is New York, and there are plenty of people in this town who mutter, shout, or yammer on when no one is listening, so if I joined them it wouldn't be a problem.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

new pictures are up

They're photos of my visit with my friends in Pittsburgh and family in Reading, PA, at the Flickr site. I'll update the link on the right when I get back to NY.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

the news at home

I'm on day 3 of my holiday visit to Johnstown. It's been all sorts of fun so far. My parents and my brother were all here on Christmas Day for presents and a Hanukkah dinner of brisket and potato latkes. Yesterday we went to Pittsburgh, where we visited with some of my friends and stopped to see an elderly relative, then we braved a Best Buy for a little after-Christmas shopping. We're just hanging out at home today, then tomorrow we're off to Reading, PA, to see my uncle and his family.

Last night, after Monday Night Football, the late local news came on. My mother warned me that that particular news was horrible, and she wasn't kidding. The anchor flubbed her opening, then she threw to a reporter in the field, reporting that "a crime has been committed in Blair County." Since this reporter didn't have a camera crew, she was on the phone. And she had no idea what was going on, only saying that there might have been a homicide, but the police weren't providing any details. I don't think she even said what part of Blair County she was in. The worst part was that the station didn't have a decent graphic to put on screen while she talked. Usually, when you have a reporter on the phone, you see their picture in one part of the screen and a map of their location in another part. The station's graphic did show the reporter's photo, although it was a terrible photo that looked like it was cropped out of a candid at a happy hour. The rest of the screen said "ON THE PHONE" and showed a picture of a cell phone. I'm not kidding. I guess that was the picture in case you didn't know what a phone was. We had to change the channel after that. The other local news stations here aren't much better, but that was one of the worst I've ever seen.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

so much for the strike... now it's time to go home

I'm surprised the strike ended so quickly. After hearing all the rhetoric on the news Wednesday night I was certain the dispute would last through Christmas and into next week. When I arrived at the shuttle van stop on Thursday, one of my colleagues said that he thought it would be over that day, and I disagreed. It's a good thing we didn't make it interesting. Now I don't have to walk to Penn Station tomorrow morning to catch my train; it should be easy to get a cab at 8:30.

I'm blogging instead of packing, although I've got all my clothes in the bag already. I'm still thinking about DVDs and my usual assortment of tech gear, and I'm sure I'll forget something I'll want later. I'm only traveling for five days, so it's not like I need to pack for a month. And I finally received all of my gifts today, so I have at least one present for everyone in my family. I'm looking forward to my mother's cooking, seeing old friends back home, and just getting away from New York for a few days. This has been possibly the most difficult holiday season of my life, and in fact I'm looking forward to seeing it end. Many things in my life are going to change in January and I'm anxious to start making those changes. 2006 will be vastly different from 2005, and in a sense I'm ready to tackle that now. But first I've got to get through Christmas and New Year's Eve.

I didn't intend for this to be an end-of-the-year post. I will be online at my mom's house -- I'm taking my D-Link wireless router with me to hook up to her broadband connection so I can surf anywhere in the house. I am a geek. There may be some holiday blogging. If I haven't wished you a happy holiday in person or in your own personal e-mail from me, consider this post to be your holiday message. Have a safe and happy Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you're celebrating.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thursday commute report

Wednesday night's ride home was better than Tuesday. I got into a van at 4:45 and we drove up through SoHo, the East Village, and then took Madison Avenue from the 30s up to 85th St where I got out. It was about an hour, as opposed to the two hours it took on Tuesday night. I was able to stop at the bank, buy another holiday gift, pick up my laundry, and get some much-needed groceries.

This morning was the worst commute so far. I arrived at the shuttle stop at about 8:20 to find six other people already waiting. A few more showed up until there were about 10-12 of us. We all waited over an hour for the shuttle to arrive. Four people bailed out and took a cab around 9:20, so when the shuttle did show up just after 9:30, we had 10 people to squeeze into a 7-passenger SUV. And we did it. We had two people up front (the driver and one passenger), four people in the middle two seats (no bench, just 2 seats, so they were sitting on laps or armrests), three on the bench seat in the back, and me and another guy riding in the trunk space in the rear. It was by far the least comfortable ride, but at least it was much warmer in the car than it had been outside. I've been here almost an hour, and my feet are finally warming up.

Thank God I don't have to work tomorrow -- the conditions are really starting to piss me off. The more I read about my fellow cyclists' commutes on my NY cycling e-mail list, the more I think about riding my bike to work. I'd have to get some new cycling clothes and a warm pair of shoes or boots to wear, and a light for the ride home, but I could do it. If the strike is still going on when I come back to work in January, I think I'll try riding to work. I'll miss out on the social aspect of the shuttle commute (getting to meet fellow Firm employees) but I'd rather spend an hour riding to work and freezing my ass off than standing around waiting for a shuttle van that might not even have enough room for everyone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

the trip home was not so much fun

I spent most of my day wondering how the firm intended to get us wayward Manhattanites home after they got us to the office this morning. Around 4 PM I got the e-mail saying that the first shuttle buses were leaving at 4:30 and the next ones at 7 PM. I got my boss to let me leave at 4:30, promising him that I'd work from home when I got there. I grabbed my stuff and hustled out the door to the designated waiting area on Broadway. But no one told me or the other few commuters that they'd moved the vans around the corner to Liberty St. Luckily I noticed one of the firm's office managers directing people to the vans and found the right one for my neighborhood. I had been chatting with one of my co-workers who also lives near me, and he and I squeezed into the back seat of the SUV, with a few other people already waiting to leave. We sat until 5:15 and then finally pulled away for what turned out to be a two-hour ride home. We took 3rd Avenue all the way north, and it was stop-and-go, but mostly stop, until we passed the Queensborough Bridge at 59th St. After that, it was a breeze, but getting to that point sucked. I was tired, starving, my left leg was cramping up, and all I wanted to do was get home. I walked in the door about 7:20, and we went right back out to Pizzeria Uno for dinner. I hadn't planned to go there for my birthday dinner, but when I saw on my walk home from the van that it was open I figured why the hell not. (In an odd coincidence, Liz and I had had dinner at a Pizzeria Uno in Washington, DC's Union Station exactly 10 years ago on my 22nd birthday.) It was the tastiest suburban restaurant food I'd had in a long time. Finally, I came home for good around 9 PM. I got to open a few birthday cards and presents (Master and Commander on DVD [I know it came out two years ago] and the deluxe edition of Who's Next) and try to get a little work done.

Now it's 12:30 AM and I have to decide what I'm doing tomorrow. I would dearly love to work from home, but I think I'll end up taking the shuttle van service again. The good thing is that I only have to do it for two more days, then I start my vacation and I can worry about walking to Penn Station on Saturday to catch my train.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"How'd you get to work today?"

That's the big story here in New York, where the transit union went on strike at 3 AM this morning. Wow! I never thought the union would give me such a great birthday present. Hell, I didn't realize they even knew it was my birthday. Anyway, I took my firm's shuttle van service near my apartment and rode downtown with five co-workers I'd never met before. The driver must have been a livery cab driver under normal circumstances, because he drove that SUV through traffic like it was a 4-door sedan. We all buckled up as soon as we passed the police checkpoint at 96th St. and the driver floored it for about five blocks. The commute took about an hour and 15 minutes; normally, the express train subway ride is about 20-25 minutes. So far I haven't heard how the office intends to get us upper Manhattan dwellers home tonight. I assume it's going to be the same system in reverse, but they could do something else with cabs if they can get enough. Tomorrow I might have to work from our midtown office, and I can just walk there. My holiday vacation starts on Friday, so I only have to worry about getting to work for two more days this week. Then I have to figure out what to pack and plan how I'm getting to Penn Station on Saturday morning for my train ride to Johnstown. Right now I think I'll be walking there and wearing out the wheels on my suitcase.

I took a few pictures of the traffic on Lexington Avenue this morning on my way to the commuter van stop. They're over on my Flickr site.

Could this be the worst birthday ever? 21 would be hard to top

It's December 20, which means that I'm 32 today. Happy birthday to me!

Once again, I'm waiting for word of a transit strike in New York, which would mean that the 7 million people who usually get around in buses and subways would be above ground trying to walk, take cabs, or bike to work. My firm has set up a shuttle van service from about 10 blocks away from my apartment, so I don't actually have to walk halfway to lower Manhattan tomorrow morning if there's a strike. On the other hand, I'm not looking forward to the fistfights and potential rioting at 96th St, where the police will have checkpoints to make sure that any cars going downtown from that point have at least 4 people in them. I have a feeling that it will be like the last chopper out of Saigon over there, with people fighting for cabs and offering huge sums of money to drivers to get them downtown. I'm bringing my camera to get photos of the chaos. At least it will be another uniquely New York experience to share with my family, friends, and this blog. But I'd prefer if the union stayed on the job. I'm a liberal Democrat, but I've been anti-union since high school. After enduring a divisive and disruptive "selective" teachers' strike my senior year (the teachers decided each day whether to strike or not -- we'd have school for a week, then no school, then back in school for a few days, then a strike day, etc.) I decided that unions were no longer necessary. This is the third potential transit strike I've been through in New York, and I'm getting tired of it. These are public employees, and it's against the law for them to strike. They face fines and possible jail time for striking, and I hope the state enforces those fines. If they're going to make the city suffer, I want each and every one of those workers to feel the pain too.

Adding to the troubles tonight was a sudden, late-night leak in our bathroom. I was just settling in to watch "PTI" when Liz hollered about a ceiling leak next to the bathtub. Our superintendent came right over to check it out, and it had already slowed by the time he appeared, but it was more excitement I don't need right now.

And, of course, there's the BIG reason why this might be the worst birthday of my life. If you haven't heard the news yet, e-mail me and I'll fill you in.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Dr. Phil sez "You don't need to go to school to find your inner moron."

More (fake) quotes like this one can be found at this wonderful site. Like

"You don't need gonorrhea to poop on a cracker."
"You don't need a sense of moral decency to watch Spongebob Squarepants."
"You don't need to watch my crappy show to rock me like a hurricane."

Some of them sound real enough that Dr. Phil might have uttered them.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

waiting on a transit strike

Like clockwork, another three years goes by, and it's time for another possible strike by the transit workers' union here in New York. In December 1999, they threatened a strike up until the last moment, when they agreed to a contract. And again in December 2002, the strike talk and plans went on until and after the deadline, when the negotiations produced an agreement. Now it's December 2005, and the current contract expires at midnight tonight. Given that there hasn't been a strike here in 25 years, I shouldn't be too worried, but the rhetoric coming from the union doesn't make me feel good about the situation. One account of the union rally at Grand Central Station earlier this week noted that when the union head asked the crowd "what do we want?" many voices could be heard shouting "strike!" instead of "contract!" That's not what I had hoped to hear. As of last night negotiations hadn't made much progress, but since the last two contracts resulted from last-minute bargaining I expect this one to be the same. So I'll stay up until midnight tonight and see what happens, and if there's a strike I'll find some other way to get to work. It's supposed to rain and snow overnight and into tomorrow morning, so it will be wet and icy on the roads. If the weather were clear, I'd ride my bike to work in a heartbeat, but since it will be wet, I'll probably walk to 34th St. and take either the PATH train to the World Trade Center stop or take the water taxi to Wall Street. That's almost 60 blocks for me to walk, but I think I can manage it. It's about two miles -- not a fun walk in any weather, especially winter, but it's doable.

Monday, December 12, 2005

one holiday party down, one to go, and Tuba Christmas

We held our holiday party for our friends on Saturday evening at our apartment. The guest list swelled to 25+, which is about 10 more people than we've ever had here before, so I was apprehensive about how we'd get all these people in here and keep them happy. Luckily, as with most parties, not everyone stayed the entire time and some people arrived late, so it worked out OK. We supplied the drinks and a dessert (cupcakes from Eleni's Bakery) and our friends brought the food. By keeping the food in one room, drinks in another and people in the living room, we managed to keep the traffic flow under control. We had promised that there would be games, but with so many people spread all over the apartment, we ended up talking most of the time. I think near the end of the night a few people got a card game going, but I preferred to stick to polite conversation and working on the medium-strength hangover I had on Sunday morning. After everyone left, we threw out most of the leftover food, except for some of the cupcakes, and stowed the leftover alcohol for next time. Then we crashed and I slept off that hangover until late this morning. Monday night is the office holiday party, so it's a good thing I got my tolerance back up this weekend. I'd like to enjoy a Chimay or two without becoming the drunken life of the party.

On Sunday afternoon I went to Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center. I went last year but since I arrived just before it started I didn't have a great view of all those tubas and euphonia. This time I got there about 30 minutes early and found a spot near the ice rink with a good view of the musicians. I was jammed in with some parents whose kids were playing, including a woman whose 10-year-old was one of the youngest participants (his tuba was almost as big as he was). The music was just as enjoyable as last year, even with the conductor's loud, braying, off-key renditions of the words. I might have to find a friend in the group for next year, so I don't get into trouble with the stage moms. One of them actually said "I think that if you don't have a kid in this thing, you shouldn't get to stand down front." Yes, there were people in front of her blocking her view of her son, but if she wanted the best spot, she should have gotten there earlier, like I did. Next year I'll invent a cover story about my half-brother or cousin or someone who plays the tuba. I don't think mentioning my grandfather's tuba career or my father playing the euphonium back in college will curry much favor with a stage parent with a video camera.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Child's Play 2005

For the third year in a row, Penny Arcade is conducting their Child's Play Christmas toy drive for childrens' hospitals. This year, they've expanded the wish lists to 18 hospitals in the US, two in Canada and one in the UK. You can order a gift from and have it shipped directly to the hospital of your choice. Or you can donate money directly to the campaign via Paypal or check. I don't usually push charitable giving on my readers, but I think that sick kids are a worthy cause and I like to help out the guys who create one of my favorite webcomics. So if you feel like doing something special with your holiday bonus, send a few bucks their way.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm a "Stalker!"

My Jay Mohr sighting at Sweeney Todd on Saturday made the Gawker Stalker post today. It's about halfway down, and reprinted verbatim from what I sent in.

I will now return to blogging about sports, technology, and occasional happenings in my personal life.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sweeney Todd

Saturday night's entertainment was a performance of Sweeney Todd at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. I got the tickets a few weeks ago after reading the review in the Washington Post and figuring that we couldn't miss Patti LuPone playing the tuba and singing. We weren't disappointed. The show is staged without a pit orchestra; the actors not only sing their roles, but play multiple instruments when they're not singing or acting. Michael Cerveris, who played Sweeney Todd, also played guitar, LuPone played tuba, and several others played cello, violin, accordion, flute, piano, bass, and percussion. I'm not a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim's music, but the performances here really brought out the energy and excitement in his songs. LuPone was terrific, of course, but the real star was Michael Cerveris. He was menacing but soft, tender but vicious. And the staging was simple: a backdrop of shelves with pots, pans, and other knickknacks, and just chairs and a large black coffin on the stage itself. The coffin served as a table, platform, podium, and occasionally a coffin. It wasn't my favorite of the Broadway shows I've seen (that would still be 2000's The Music Man with Craig Bierko) but it was definitely one of the most creative shows I've seen.

Also, at intermission I was standing at my seat thinking "I wonder if there are any celebrities here tonight." Just then, as if I'd conjured him out of the air, I saw Jay Mohr walking up the aisle. He was wearing a zip-up gray hoodie sweatshirt over a yellow T-shirt and jeans, and on his way back from the concession stand looked a little wobbly. I sent the sighting to Gawker, so hopefully I'll make the Gawker Stalker column this week.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A visit to "The Colbert Report"

Not long after "The Colbert Report" premiered on Comedy Central in October, I requested tickets to a taping. We went to last night's show at the studio on West 54th St. in Manhattan (the old "Daily Show" studio). The routine was the same as when we went to a TDS taping back in November 2000: we waited outside in line for about two hours, then went into the waiting room for another 15 minutes before getting into the studio itself. The stage manager made a few jokes and let us know how he would cue us to cheer during intros and commercial breaks. Then the warmup guy came out and made fun of some of the people in the audience and used a few jokes from his usual standup set. Finally, just before the taping, Stephen Colbert himself came out, running around the set and milking us for tremendous applause. He answered a few questions, staying in "character" the whole time, then they started the actual taping. If you saw the show Thursday night, we were sitting two rows up, directly behind Rick Springfield when he made his quick appearance to help Stephen get "Jesse's Girl" out of his head. But they used a camera angle that didn't have us in it, and it was dark where we were sitting anyway. After the Herb Alpert reference mid-show, when they played part of "Spanish Flea," the in-studio commercial break music was all Herb Alpert, and Stephen sat at his desk miming the following: playing a trumpet in time with the music, mixing himself a drink, and a little dancing. It was fantastic: I could practically see the shaker and tumbler in front of him. He flubbed one line in the last segment (about the face transplant) and they had to start over, which meant we had to laugh at the same jokes twice, but otherwise it was a fine show. I figured out why they leave all of Stephen's prompter mis-reads in the show. Each act is one continuous take, and if he messes up part of the "Word" segment (for example), they have to redo the show from the beginning of the segment, which might be five or six minutes. It's hard to laugh at the same jokes a second time, so I think it's a wise production decision to go with the flow the way they do. And he's making fewer mistakes, so it's becoming less of an issue. We would have loved to see the "On Notice/Dead to Me" list make another appearance, but that's probably a once in a while gimmick. Still, it was great fun, and I'll have to think about going to another TDS taping sometime just for kicks. I still want to be in Conan O'Brien's audience, too. I've got until 2009 to do that one (the show might move to LA after that, when he takes over Leno's job).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

overdue Thanksgiving weekend review

On Thursday, we went to see Walk The Line, which was a good movie made better by the strength of the performances in it. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are clearly the early Oscar front-runners. And the music was just excellent. I might have to see it again. We went to Virgil's in midtown for Thanksgiving dinner with friends, and had some delicious smoked turkey, stuffing, potatoes, biscuits, and dessert.

On Friday, we saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was a fair and accurate retelling of the book, though not as well done as Azkaban was. Brendan Gleeson was especially entertaining as "Mad-Eye" Moody, and we loved the ball scene during which Filch danced with Mrs. Norris, his cat. As usual, we can't wait to see the next movie.

On Saturday, we had dinner with some friends at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem, then went home to watch the Transformers movie on DVD. Why, God? Why do the Autobots breakdance to Weird Al Yankovic's "Dare To Be Stupid" halfway through the movie, when they think their leader is dead? And who was the music editor for the movie? The soundtrack is all synthesizers and rock songs, most of which are upbeat and don't suit the action (robots being killed while happy music plays). We think that his voice-over role of Unicron, the planet that eats other planets, was what killed Orson Welles.

And on Sunday, we relaxed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I've got that holiday feeling

In the "I can't believe it's already Thanksgiving" department:

I had expected the subway to be relatively commuter-free this morning, since today is the big travel day, etc., etc., but instead, I had to wait longer than usual for a train, and then it was even more crowded for a typical Wednesday morning. Work has been about what I figured, though: most people are out, so the only big issues are coming from our foreign offices, who don't know what this "Thanksgiving" holiday is all about. I had a busy morning working with one of our offices, trying to get one component of our now mixed Windows 2000/XP/NetWare/Active Directory environment to function. It's still broken, and they're going to reboot their servers tomorrow evening instead of tonight and see what happens. I guess I'll be doing some work on Friday morning now, though at least it will be from home if needed.

And now that the boss has left for the day, I think it's safe for me to do the same. (Of course, this is usually the time when I get an urgent call from the help desk to work on something that will keep me here until my usual departure after 6 PM.) If I think about it, maybe I'll try a little liveblogging about the Macy's Parade tomorrow morning, assuming I wake up early enough to see any of it. I'm making French toast for brunch, then we're going to see Walk The Line and have dinner with some friends at Virgil's in Times Square. Maybe I'll even get to watch some of the Broncos-Cowboys game, which should be better than the Falcons-Lions crapfest earlier in the afternoon. Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to passing out in a food-induced haze around 10 PM. Good times.

Protect yourself from the robots

Last week, the author of a new book on robots and the coming robot uprising chatted with Washington Post readers. I can tell you it's one of the top chats ever on the Post web site, rivalling even the zombie protection chat (the link to that one is at the end of the robot chat transcript). Of course, the whole thing reminded me (as well as one of the participants) of SNL's commercial for robot attack insurance for seniors, featuring Sam Waterston. Remember:
"You need to feel safe . . . because robots may strike at any time."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Christmas music?!? Already?!?!?

I know it's cliched to bash all things Christmas when they appear before Black Friday, but I'm still moved to write by the onslaught of Christmas music in the past few weeks. A few weeks ago, when we went to New Jersey for a wedding, my parents mentioned that they found an all-Christmas music station while driving to the wedding. That was November 4. On Sunday, my local pizza joint was playing Christmas carols while I waited for my order. That was November 20. Today, our cafeteria had Tony Bennett singing some holiday classic or another, and then the immortal "Feliz Navidad." I have never wanted to pop my own eardrums so badly. Then Liz called me from Macy's to tell me that they were having some kind of Christmas serenade near Santa's workshop/photo studio. It's too much. I had to cleanse my musical palate with Mozart and Bach, and I can still hear those holiday tunes in my head.

I know that the holiday is little more than a month away. I'm willing to get into the holiday spirit starting Friday or even Thursday while watching the parades. And I can understand Macy's turning on the Christmas charm this early (Liz says that the only reason they hold off until now is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade). But can we hold off on the Christmas music in every other public space until the end of the week? Please? I swear, if I hear another Christmas song before I go home on Wednesday evening, I just might crack. Woe be unto the wayward waif who tries to squeeze a few more dollars out of my fellow commuters by subjecting my subway car to "Jingle Bells" before Thursday.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Scene: Last night, around 2 AM, in my apartment building's hallway. Girl who lives two floors up from us is coming home, talking to someone she's brought in with her.

"Those people have three cats. Not that apartment, THAT one." [Her voice is louder as she's walking past our door, heading upstairs.]
"And I bet that all their names are the names they'll give to their kids."

For the record, our cats are named Vladimir, Magenta, and Mr. Starlite.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Theismann play, 20 years ago today

Deadspin, along with other news sites, notes that the most famous injury in NFL history happened 20 years ago today. Lawrence Taylor hit Joe Theismann's right leg in the 2nd quarter of a Giants-Redskins Monday Night Football game, breaking the leg in two places and ending Theismann's playing career. I remember watching that game and seeing that hit. My parents were divorced and on Monday nights, my mother had orchestra rehearsal, so my brother and I would spend the night at my dad's apartment. Dad and I are both football fans, so MNF was a must-watch in our house. I don't remember my reaction to seeing the injury on live TV, but I think ABC played it over and over. It was definitely the worst thing I'd ever seen in a football game to that time. I'm a little surprised HBO didn't make this into a segment on "Inside the NFL" this week, though I'm sure they've covered it in depth before. (The "On the Road with Peter King" segment on Wednesday night was excellent, and they don't really need to rehash the Theismann injury anyway.) Anyway, I'm reminiscing, mostly because that's what I like to do. And I'm about to head out for the weekend, so blogging seemed like a good way to pass a few minutes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Extreme book sale

The entire ExtremeTech line of books is on sale this month at Barnes & Noble. If you've been itching to buy a copy of my book or any other in the series, shop at B&N in November and save 40%.

While I'm here, I'll toss in a plug for
Build the Ultimate Gaming PC, by my colleague Kerry Bourgoine. I've worked with Kerry on a few projects at the office, and late last year his wife put me in touch with the editors at Wiley who needed authors for Hacking Firefox. As the lead author on his book, he'd benefit more than I would if you bought his book, so please take a look if you're thinking about building your own monster gaming rig. I cannot imagine who might read this blog and fall into that category, but you never know.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

wedding photos are up

I'm jumping on the Flickr bandwagon, so you can find the wedding photos here. They uploaded in the wrong order, so I'm still working out the kinks. The photos from the wedding itself come up first, then the ones from the party the night before the wedding. But I've never been crazy about Webshots, so I'll see how Flickr goes over with my audience of three.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Best. Cheerleaders. EVER.

It's like a scene from a Skinemax movie, up until some punches were thrown. Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested early Sunday morning after getting into an altercation with other patrons at a Tampa nightclub. But the reason they got into a fight in the first place was that the cheerleaders were in the nightclub's bathroom, holding up the line outside while they engaged in, let's say, the pleasures of each other's company. I'm sure these ladies won't be employed by the team much past this afternoon, but I bet they'll have offers from Playboy and Maxim by Tuesday morning.

Here's my issue with the story: in the late-night movies and other films I've seen where people get their freak on in a restroom in a bar, restaurant, or club, the bathroom is always enormous and immaculately clean. Apparently movie producers know that it's impossible to show an actual bar bathroom in a movie. Some of them are so small there's hardly room for one person, let alone two, and there's nothing clean or sexy about the typical bar bathroom. I'd avoid them completely if it weren't for the fact that you only "rent" beer. I guess the fact that one of the women in the story was so drunk she could hardly walk helps to explain why she thought that sex in the nightclub's bathroom was a hot idea.

I think I need to write another tech post now, to compensate for this one.

quick weekend report

We spent Friday and Saturday in southern New Jersey at a friend's wedding. My stepmother and father were there as well (since they're friends of the bride as well) so it was great to spend some time with them. Pictures will be posted tonight or tomorrow or whenever I remember to do it.

Yesterday we watched the NYC Marathon from our apartment and briefly from the street outside. I saw one of the two runners I was watching for, though I don't think she saw me or heard me cheering for her. I did see "Mr. Testicles" late in the race, though, and cheered him on. We love being able to watch the marathon from our windows, and that event combined with the traffic problems in the city and in New Jersey for the Jets game factored in our decision to come back from the wedding on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning.

I also watched the Steelers-Packers game Sunday afternoon, making it the second week in a row I've been able to see a Pittsburgh game and the fourth time this season. Last week's Monday night game was tough enough to watch (a 20-19 last-second Steelers victory) and while yesterday's win wasn't as close, the team didn't play nearly well enough for me to relax until the end. Brett Favre may be getting old but he's still dangerous, and Donald Driver picked up enough of the receptions to stay a threat all game. However, Troy Polamalu is one hell of a defender. That fumble return for a touchdown was impressive. Charlie Batch isn't about to make anyone forget about Ben Roethlisberger, though he does appear to be a capable backup until Big Ben returns in a week or two. But they could sure use Jerome Bettis in the lineup. Duce Staley looked good but rusty, and Willie Parker wasn't able to get anything going. There's always room for improvement, so maybe they'll play a little more carefully and decisively against the Browns next Sunday. I won't be able to watch the game, which is probably a good thing for my nerves. I love the Steelers, but it's too stressful to see them every weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

e-mail tech notes

I've started aggregating all of my Earthlink mail in Gmail. I've had a Gmail account for over a year, but I never had much use for it until recently. Last month I had to reinstall Windows on my home PC, and I lost a few weeks' worth of old e-mail in the process. So I set up a rule on my Earthlink account to forward a copy of every e-mail to my Gmail account. Then, on Sunday night, my home PC blew up again, this time apparently because of something that went awry during a routine "chkdsk" operation. (I'm starting to think there's a problem with the hard drive on this PC, but I'll give it a little more time.) Once again, I had to reinstall Windows, but since I'd just backed up my files the day before, I only lost a few hours of data. And this time I didn't lose any e-mail, since Gmail's keeping copies of everything.

I'm not ready to abandon my Earthlink account entirely, since I've had that e-mail address for almost eight years and everyone knows it. But Gmail lets you send e-mail with a different e-mail address for replies. So I can write e-mails from Gmail as if they were coming from my Earthlink account, and people shouldn't notice a difference. I still have to remember to check my Earthlink spam filter, as that's the one feature I can't access from Gmail. But Gmail gives me everything I need, and it's a faster, sleeker interface for e-mail than Earthlink's webmail application. I used to think I needed a desktop e-mail client, but lately I'm all about the webmail. And, of course, my constant companion, my Blackberry, which gives me access to my work and home e-mails on the same device. That's why I'm never out of touch.

Friday, October 28, 2005

What's that smell? Can't you smell that smell?

This morning, Gawker reminded me that last night most of the city smelled like maple syrup, coffee cake, or something equally sweet. I noticed the aroma when I got home, but assumed that one of my neighbors had cooked up a few short stacks for dinner. Turns out that I wasn't the only one who smelled something odd. Gothamist has 81 comments and counting from people who picked up the smell as far away as Staten Island, Bensonhurst, and Newark. While I don't think it was some sort of terrorist plot to fatten up New Yorkers on breakfast food, I can't believe that none of the authorities know what it was. Some of the commenters think that it might have been a terrorist test of dispersion effects for a future attack, but that doesn't make sense. If you were planning to disperse a lethal agent over New York, why would you risk exposing your plan by releasing a "test" agent before the real thing? You'd just wait until you were ready to release the deadly toxins and do it. Anyway, the smell didn't seem to be out there this morning, so maybe whatever it was blew away overnight.

In other news, I'm in an odd mood today. I just thought I'd share that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

more geezers rocking

Apparently Cream has been out on tour. Tickets for their shows at Madison Square Garden were selling for as much as $4000, which is about 100 times the amount I'd pay to see these old guys in person. I understand the hook: Clapton, Baker, and Bruce haven't played together in public in 37 years, but still, even $200 for a nosebleed seat is too much to pay. The review in today's Washington Post makes it sound like it was a great concert, but I like the photo that comes with the story. Talk about seeing three grandpas up on stage. I had the same thought while watching Pink Floyd playing at Live 8 this past summer. I love these bands and others like The Who and the Rolling Stones, but they're really getting up there in years. Even if they can still bring it, eventually it's like you're watching the talent show at the retirement home.

Unfortunately, my lack of interest in seeing old guys playing thirty-year-old songs in concert means there are only a few bands I'd be willing to pay to see in concert, and most of those (U2, Coldplay, Dream Theater) have come through New York in recent years and I've stayed home. Part of the problem is that the tickets for all of these shows are still outrageously overpriced. But I also think I'm getting older, and I'd rather shell out for the opera or the NY Philharmonic and hear REALLY old music live than hang out with the kids at an arena rock concert. Or go to a small club or bar and hear a local group like the Wiyos. And that depresses me a little. Maybe I need to go to another rock concert just to refresh my memory of how it feels to hear one of my favorite bands play an old gem live for thousands of screaming fans. Before I become an old geezer reminiscing about "the old days."

Saturday, October 22, 2005


By the way, the exhibit of Russian art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York is fantastic. Liz and I went with some friends last Sunday afternoon. It takes up almost the entire museum, including annexes and basements, so plan about three hours to see the whole thing. It's an overview of Russian art from religious icons through masterworks of the 18th and 19th centuries through the Communist period to today. My favorite works are the ones from the 1920s and 1930s, espousing and promoting the ideals of Communism. There's a painting of a feast at a collective farm in the middle of summer that's just amazing considering that it's hardly ever warm enough for the people to dress the way they are, and that there was never enough food for farmers to eat the way they're about to. There's another one of corrupt monks having a feast that's really funny. Liz saw some of the artwork at the Hermitage when she studied in St. Petersburg in 1995, and now they're in New York until January. It's absolutely worth the price of admission, or in my case, the free tickets (my firm has a corporate membership there). We enjoyed it so much we might just go back in the next few months to have a second look.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Two operas down, two to go

After Saturday, Liz and I are halfway through our four-opera subscription to the Metropolitan Opera. On October 1, we saw Puccini's La Boheme, and on Saturday, we attended a performance of Bizet's Carmen. Both operas were excellent, with lavish sets, fine music, and outstanding singing. It's the Met, so we knew we'd be seeing one of the best opera companies in the world. But we both enjoyed Carmen a little more. The only knock we had on was that we didn't think Rodolfo was really convincing in his heartbreak over Mimi's death at the end of the opera. As Mimi dies, Rodolfo cries out her name and the curtain falls. Compared to the recording we have of La Boheme, where Pavarotti sounds like he's in absolute anguish, the Met's Rodolfo sounded upset but perhaps resigned to her death, and maybe even a little hopeful that he'd find someone else soon. But I'm nitpicking an otherwise great production.

We both really enjoyed Carmen. All of the stars were fantastic and completely believeable, and the costumes in particular were amazing. And somewhere backstage, the Met must have an entire stable of horses, because in Act IV there were at least half a dozen horses in a parade. I knew the music of the opera extremely well, having heard it and performed it myself, but I'd never heard the music in the context of the opera. It was like knowing a movie soundtrack but not knowing how the songs or parts of the score fit into the movie. So while watching Carmen, I finally got to hear all these musical elements as they fit into the opera. It doesn't hurt at all that the music is so catchy and I'm still humming bits of the score three days later.

We have a two-month break now, until our next opera, Verdi's Rigoletto, in December. And then in January comes the opera that was the impetus for the subscription, Die Zauberflote, Mozart's last and my favorite opera. I'm already excited.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

an unexpected trip home

My stepmother's mother passed away on Saturday after a long illness. Liz and I made the quick and easy decision to go to Somerset, PA, for the service, which was today (Tuesday). My childhood home is in Johnstown, PA, not far from Somerset, so it was a chance for me to go home, even if it was just for a day. We rented a car on Monday morning for the 6+ hour drive there. We got a 2006 Chevy Malibu, with the pleasant surprise of complimentary XM Radio built-in. We enjoyed the classical and blues stations along the way, in addition to the CDs and podcasts we brought with us. (By the way, in this week's show Dave Raven read an e-mail I sent to him after we saw the Wiyos live in Brooklyn a few weeks back. Just in case anyone wants to hear my name mentioned on the radio.)

Along the way, Liz marveled at the beautiful fall foliage throughout Pennsylvania. It has been over a decade since I've been in my home state during the peak days for foliage, and seeing all the magnificent colors reminded me of the autumns of my youth, with football, school, and music all making it my favorite season. We got to my house about 4:30 PM, before my mother was home from work, so we had a chance to see some of the changes and improvements she's made to the place since we were last there (Christmas 2003). My room is still in the same condition it was then -- some things never change. We had dinner with my mother before leaving for the viewing at the funeral home, then later that night got to watch the exciting finish to the Steelers-Chargers game, as well as see the Yankees get ousted from the playoffs again.

The funeral was sad and uplifting, as a good funeral should be. Her granddaughters -- my cousins and longtime friends from high school -- wrote some wonderful memories and thoughts about their grandmother, which were read by one of their husbands. After the service we had time to eat with the rest of our family, but too soon it was time for us to get back on the road. Despite some bad weather in New Jersey, we got the car back to Hertz before they closed, almost exactly six hours from when we left Somerset. Apparently if you can go 70 mph the entire way, you can get from there to New York in that time. We'll be back in Johnstown for Christmas, so it wasn't so bad to leave so soon.

Of my step-grandmother, I will say this: she was a part of my life for almost twenty years, and during that time she always treated my brother and I as if we were her own grandchildren by blood. She came to our high school and college graduations and to my wedding, as well as many other concerts and events. She was a truly special person that I am glad to have known for as long as I did. I will miss her, but she is in a much better place now.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bob Dylan's electric performance

Liz and I finished watching No Direction Home last night. We watched part 1 last week, then had to wait a week to see part 2. The movie itself is fantastic: excellent interviews, restored concert and archival footage, all edited into a great four-hour film. The thing that struck me about the movie is that until last night, I had no idea why people were so upset and offended when Bob Dylan "went electric" at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Liz's aunt, who's a big Dylan fan and lived through that time, argued that we couldn't understand it because we hadn't experienced it directly, that you had to see Dylan before and after the "electric" transformation to see what a big difference it made. Well, this movie presents that, by showing him onstage at the 1964 Festival performing acoustically and then again a year later with a blues band playing electric instruments. After seeing those two performances, I have a better idea why people were so irate. The movie highlights Dylan's place in the folk community and his role in the protests of the day, and when he got away from that to play more bluesy songs, his folk audience didn't know what to think. I'll never really understand why people couldn't just appreciate his music for what it was, instead of trying to ascribe all of these folk ideals and principles to him. But I have a better idea of the way people saw him at the time and Dylan's response to the attention after seeing the film. And it's a treat to see Dylan and guys like Robbie Robertson and the other members of The Band way back in the day, before they went on to success in their own right. I strongly recommend the soundtrack of the movie, which has some of the film's performances on it as well as some other gems from the same period in Dylan's career. I never thought I'd be a Bob Dylan fan, let alone a completist well on the way to owning all of his albums.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm still here

I just haven't had the time or inclination to write anything lately. Which will disappoint me a few months from now when I'm re-reading old entries and come across this lonely stretch. Anyway, I haven't stopped blogging, I've just been busy with other things.

L'shana tova, to all my fellow members of the tribe.

Monday, September 26, 2005

weekend report: Wiyos, Scarface, and the Cyclone

After work on Friday, Liz and I met at Junior's in Brooklyn for dinner. She'd never been there before, so of course we had to have a slice of cheesecake for dessert. Then we went out to Park Slope, to Barbes, a little acoustic music club on the ground floor of an apartment building. We were there to hear The Wiyos, a vaudeville blues/hillbilly swing/old-time country band we've both gotten into after hearing them on Dave Raven's Raven & the Blues podcast. They weren't supposed to start until 10, and the band from the early show was still playing when we arrived around 9:30. When they finished up, we squeezed into the performance hall space in the club (the bar took up the rest of the club) and managed to find one seat, which I gave to Liz. The band started playing around 10:15 and performed for over two hours, playing some of their "hits" from their first CD and many new songs they're about to record for their second album. Most of the crowd were fans of the band and knew the songs, so sometimes it was a singalong. The best part of the show was seeing just how they create some of the unusual sounds in their songs. The lead singer plays the harmonica, kazoo, washboard (with a variety of horns and bells attached to it), and occasionally sings through a megaphone to recreate the sound of an old Victrola record player. Nearly every song features some vaudeville-style theatrics from the bass player and the singer, most notably one song where the bass and singer had a bit of a duel with their instruments. It was an immensely entertaining evening and we're already excited about seeing them again in November.

On Saturday night I finally saw Brian De Palma's 1983 remake of Scarface, with Al Pacino. It was a good movie, though not Pacino's or De Palma's best work, but thoroughly entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Pacino's reading of "cockroach;" it sounds more like "cock-a-roach" and made me laugh every time he said it. Liz and I also got a kick out of the movie's title song, "Scarface (Push It To The Limit)," which sounded like the template for every '80s movie montage song. It has to be heard to be believed. You could substitute the words "you gotta have a montage" for "push it to the limit" and it wouldn't be any more ridiculous.

We met some friends and went out to Coney Island on Sunday afternoon. We saw the freak show on its last day for the summer season, complete with the guy with the iron hand, the guy who lays on a bed of nails, the girl who walks on swords, the girl who eats fire, the electric girl, and even the mummy. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but it was a good show. Five bucks gets you ten unusual and sometimes amazing acts, and the best part was that the freaks look just like people I've seen in the East Village or on the subway. Assuming they're covered in tattoos, that is. After lunch at Nathan's, we went on the Ferris wheel and wandered through the other rides until Liz and I were ready for the Cyclone. The Cyclone is an ancient wooden roller coaster. It's been a part of Coney Island for about 80 years. It wasn't the scariest roller coaster I've ever ridden, but it did give me a few moments of near-panic. The drops are steeper than they look from outside the coaster, and the thing is so old that you feel every bolt and nail in the frame. It was quite a bumpy ride, and we both loved it. After we rode the Cyclone and we were walking past it, the cars swooped by us and I could see the wooden frame shaking from the stress. I'm glad I went on it, but I don't think I'll be going on it again. There are talks these days of renovating Coney Island and updating it to make it more of a tourist destination. I'm not sure that's a good idea. Part of the appeal of Coney Island is that it's outdated and rundown. You can't see a freak show or ride old roller coasters like the Cyclone anymore. There's a charm to the place that would likely be lost if the old amusements were replaced with modern games and restaurants. Any effort to update Coney Island would have to carefully preserve the old look and feel of the place, and I don't think that would be possible. I say keep it as it is, warts and all. There has to be some part of old New York that people can still visit, to relive how things used to be.

my "new" cubicle

On Friday I packed up all the stuff in my "office," and over the weekend it was moved across the hall to my department's new (to us) office space. The help desk moved downstairs a few weeks ago, and after some renovations, their old space was ready for us to move in. The cubicles are the same ones that were here before, and I'm not sure the work crew did anything other than wipe them down. When my boss gave us the chance to pick our cubicles, I took the one in the back corner so that once again I'd have a wall behind me instead of another cubicle. I hadn't seen the actual cubicle until this morning when I got to work, so I was slightly upset to see that the shelf unit is tilted. I can't put any books on it before someone fixes it, so my crate of tech books will stay packed up until that happens. There are a few other cosmetic issues, but it's in good shape. By midafternoon I had all of my computers and accessories hooked up the way I like and most of my desktop tchotckes unpacked. There are a few things about the new cubicle that I really like. One is that I have a metal divider between my cube and the one across from me, so my neighbor and I can hear each other but we don't have to see each other. There's a fabric board and a whiteboard on the other cube wall. And we all got new Aeron chairs to go with our new desks. The springs in my old office chair were completely shot, so when I sat down I felt like I was a little kid at the grown-ups' table. The Aeron chair is brand-new with all the adjustments you could ask for. We've all coveted the lawyers' Aeron chairs for years, and now we've got them. Of course, I joked with my boss that since the firm was good enough to buy us the new chairs, they'd have to take away one of our benefits. He said that they're not going to pay for chiropractors any more.

I took a few pictures of my new cube, and I'll see if I can post them later tonight when I get home.

Friday, September 23, 2005

computer woes

I was going to write about my busy days at work this week, but I've got computer troubles on my mind. On Monday, I had to re-install Windows on my work laptop, so I lost all of the applications but none of the data I had there. The laptop is working again but it's not quite the same yet as it was. In the process I did get a replacement T41, so at least the hardware I'm using is new, if not state-of-the-art. Then today, the hardware group at work took away my office desktop PC and this evening replaced it with a Windows XP test system for our BIG project. Tomorrow morning I'll have a brand-new system on my desk that I won't be able to do much with since I won't have admin rights. But that's why I have the laptop.
Here's the big problem, and the reason I'm writing this entry on Liz's laptop instead of my desktop PC. Tonight, my desktop came down with some sort of evil virus, Trojan horse, or other vile ailment that forced me to reinstall Windows to get rid of it. System Restore didn't run. A repair installation of Windows crapped out. At least I was able to save a few files out of My Documents, like my Grand Theft Auto save games (so I shouldn't have to play the entire game again). I have recent backups of my digital photos, and my music collection lives on my iRiver player primarily, with the PC as backup. So in the end, all I've lost is some junk I've been carrying around on my various PCs for about seven years, most of which I haven't looked at in at least four or five years. I guess that's why when it came time to reformat the hard disk, I wasn't that upset. It's a cleansing feeling to get rid of all that old data. Tomorrow morning I'll start putting some things back on it, and I'll continue that work tomorrow night and over the weekend. By Monday, it should be back to something resembling normal, albeit with much more free disk space than there was before.

Earlier tonight, Liz and I went to the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy. We had dinner at one of the many fine restaurants there, and then we enjoyed dessert from one of the vending stalls. We had a funnel cake and something else that I didn't think existed. In fact, it's something of a food abomination. Eating it made me feel so guilty that I thought I needed to go to confession. I present: fried Oreos. Six cookies, dipped in funnel cake batter, deep-fried, then tossed in a paper bag with powdered sugar. Such a treat is not normal, and upsets the fabric of space-time. But Einstein himself would have been powerless before the mighty fried Oreo. My God, they were delicious. The cookie softens in the fryer, so the entire treat is a soft, sweet taste that man was not meant to experience. This is a concoction from the devil himself. In fact, it occurs to me now that my home computer troubles are directly related to my excessive consumption of fried Oreos (I had five, Liz had one). I committed a sin against cuisine, and now I suffer the consequences. Woe is me! Oy vey! I repent! I won't do it again! Nevermore!
(At least not until next year's festival.)

Friday, September 16, 2005

the Nokia 6620

At long last, here are my thoughts on the Nokia 6620.

First of all, the phone sound quality is about the same as my old 3595. I think that's the function of the cell towers near my apartment. I've had some long conversations on it and they sound fine to me. No one has complained about the sound at the other end, unlike my old Treo 600, so I think it's a winner there. After all, if it doesn't work well as a phone, it doesn't look good for the device's other features. Also, the speakerphone is convenient, although it's a little tinny. But it's fine for listening to a conference call or enduring hold music.

I love the 6620's camera. I realize the cell phone cameras are a goofy toy, and that the quality of the photos leaves much to be desired, but it's fun to take quick pictures with it. I'm not ditching my digital camera (in fact, I'm about to buy a new camera) but it's cool to have this one along as well for quick photos on the spur of the moment. I will have to remember to bring along my old phone anytime I'm going somewhere where I can't bring a cameraphone.

The other major function I use is the PDA one: storing my contacts, notes, and maybe calendar items. I exported my old contact list from the Palm Desktop, imported it into Outlook on my home PC, then installed the Nokia PC Suite and used a Bluetooth adapter to synch my contacts with the phone. It's a bit unwieldy to scroll through 150 contacts when I'm looking for a number, so I've been using the keypad to narrow it down. I have to list people first name first, otherwise contacts look like "Smith John" instead of "John Smith." That makes it harder to scroll through the list to find someone.

I've sent a few text messages with the phone, but my fingers don't like the shortcomings of typing text on a numeric keypad.
I'm really used to the Blackberry thumb keyboard when typing on a mobile device. Even though it's possible to send and receive e-mail on the 6620, I'm not going to ditch my Blackberry anytime soon. The phone is capable of web surfing, but I haven't tried it since I don't have a data plan from Cingular right now. Maybe when I get out of my contract next year I'll add data in a new plan.

I like the little joystick for navigating the menus and scrolling through text. Newer versions of the phone have a rocker pad which is probably easier on the thumb over the long term, but the joystick will do.

I don't like the ringtones on this phone. In fact, they suck. The only musical one is the "Nokia tune," also known as that dinky waltz that every Nokia phone plays. The rest are sound effects or beeps. I've set mine to "desk phone" which is about as boring an actual ring as the phone has, but it's better than anything else on it. I'd like to get a better ringtone, but I'm philosophically and financially opposed to paying $2 for a 15-second song clip from Cingular, when I could get a complete song on iTunes for $1. I'm disappointed the phone doesn't play MP3 ringtones, as I'd love to rock out with "Inna Gadda Davidda" every time someone calls me. I also don't like that the phone comes with trial versions of all of its games. You can only play them twice and then you have to buy a license to keep playing. Most of them are dumb, but the graphics are cool. I downloaded a free version of Tetris for Nokia phones but it nearly crashed the phone so I deleted it. It's probably for the best that I don't have any decent games on this phone. I'm already tempting fate on the subway by carrying my MP3 player in my hand instead of my bag and reading e-mails on my Blackberry. If I whipped out the Nokia and started playing games I think I'd definitely get mugged, even at rush hour.

Last, the look and feel of the phone is great. It's a little shorter and wider than the 3595, and maybe a little heavier. But it doesn't feel any bigger in my pocket than the 3595 does. The color screen is just beautiful, and my cameraphone shots look fine on it. I don't notice the quality dropoff until I look at the pictures on my PC. I'm a little worried about scratching the camera lens in my pocket but considering the overall photo quality it wouldn't make much difference.

So for what I paid, I have a phone that looks like a phone, sounds good, and keeps track of my contacts. I'm happy with it and it should get me through to next summer when I can figure out my next cell phone move.

another try at the seared steak

On Wednesday night, I made another attempt at cooking seared steaks in my cast iron skillet. This time, I used better beef, and I used canola oil instead of olive oil. Liz's steak was a little thinner than the one I had, so hers came out medium well, but mine was perfectly medium. It was much better than the first time I made the steak. The baked potatoes weren't bad either. We had the steaks with the rest of a bottle of pinot noir I bought last week and all in all it was an excellent dinner.

I've been so busy lately I keep forgetting to post this. I'm still planning a quick review of my new phone, if I can remember to write it when I have the time. I'm working a late shift at work tonight, and hoping (but not expecting) that I'll have some free time. Maybe I'll be able to at least get something written.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Marshaling the Century

Sunday's NYC Century bike tour was my sixth time on the ride but my first as a marshal. Last year, after seeing a few "bad" marshals who rode past cyclists with bike problems or who appeared lost or led riders the wrong way, we decided that we had to step up and volunteer for this year's ride. Also, to avoid the problem we had last year where James didn't get to the Central Park start until almost 7 AM (thus preventing us from completing the century and forcing us to do the 75-mile route instead), James stayed over at our apartment on Saturday night.

Even though I jumped out of bed at 4:40 AM when the alarm went off, somehow we were still late getting to the start and arrived right at 6 AM instead of 5:45. We signed in, got our bright orange marshal vests and our packets of first aid supplies and injury forms, and barely had time to stow everything before they called our start time of 6:15. I hadn't even stretched when James said he was leaving and he wasn't waiting for me. So my warmup was the first 10 miles of riding in Manhattan. Because the NYPD wouldn't let the bike tour use Fifth Avenue this year to get to the Brooklyn Bridge, the ride route went north out of Central Park and west to Columbia University, down Riverside Drive to 72nd Street, then south on Ninth Avenue to Broadway at 14th Street. After that it was the usual route to Brooklyn and Prospect Park. The Krispy Kreme donuts were back this year at the rest stop, so of course I had one (along with some real food).

The next rest stop was Floyd Bennett Field near the Rockaways, once one of New York's main airports. It's been closed for years and exists now as a minor tourist attraction. I was disappointed that we couldn't ride on the old runways, but we did leave the rest stop via an old runway or taxiway as we headed for the major new point of interest for this year's tour: the Rockaways. Previous tours have taken the Brooklyn waterfront to Canarsie Pier and then north into Queens, but this year's tour took us to the boardwalk in the Rockaways and along a long stretch of near-beachfront property before going into Queens proper. Since the next rest stop was thirty miles from Floyd Bennett Field, James and I stopped about halfway along and took a short break in Forest Park. We rode a lap around the Unisphere in Corona Park and rode to the Kissena Park Velodrome. Unfortunately we couldn't ride a lap around the velodrome itself (as I did on the pre-ride) because there were actual bike races going on. But I'll be back to ride some laps another time. Maybe it was the experience of the pre-ride two weeks ago, but the long rolling hills getting to the Alley Pond Park rest stop weren't as bad as I thought they would be. Normally the Alley Pond rest stop is roughly 50 miles into the ride, but with the Rockaways and the extra miles in Manhattan it was at the 62-mile mark.

The route from Alley Pond to Astoria Park and the next rest stop was only 18 miles, but there was, as always, a nasty hill about a mile out of the rest stop that forces most riders into their "granny" gear. Despite our plan to try and stay close together, James and I got separated at a stoplight and the next thing I knew, he was about 20 minutes ahead of me. I rolled into Astoria Park (the 81-mile mark) at about 3 PM and took about 20 minutes myself to refuel and relax before going to the Bronx.

To get to the Bronx you have to take the Triboro Bridge, which has a narrow bike path and concrete stairs you have to climb to get to the path. It's always a choke point and this year was no exception. But everyone was in good spirits and didn't mind waiting their turn to hike up the stairs and inch along the path. On Randall's Island and the 75-mile/100-mile split we didn't hesitate and immediately took the 100-mile turn for the Bronx. The Bronx itself was largely unmemorable. About half the route doubles the Tour de Bronx route and goes through some bland residential neighborhoods. The good and bad part about the Bronx on this tour is that only the most experienced riders go there, so you get some extremely good riders, but there aren't many of them. Once again I got separated from James and got to the Van Cortlandt Park rest stop (98-mile mark) about 10 minutes after he did, around 5:10 PM. He was anxious to leave and get back to Manhattan by 6 PM, and even though it was only 9 miles away I needed a few minutes to rest my sore ass and tired legs. Around 5:30 we left the rest stop and met up with about 30 other riders at an intersection at the edge of the park. The direction arrow on the ground indicated that we were supposed to ride up the hill in front of us, so we all slogged up the hill, many of us in "granny" gear. When we got to an intersection near the top, I saw the entire group of cyclists looking lost. Another marshal looked at the cue sheet and figured out we were supposed to turn left at the bottom of the hill instead of riding up it. So we all coasted back down the hill and took the correct turn. I felt particularly stupid, as I could tell from the cue sheet that we weren't supposed to go up the hill, but I saw the arrow and followed everyone else knowing that we weren't getting any closer to the Broadway Bridge and Manhattan by going up the hill. But the rest of the ride back to Central Park was easy, and I pulled into Central Park at 6:20 PM, 12 hours and 5 minutes after we left. We turned in our vests and injury reports (nothing to report, thankfully), got our free t-shirts and water bottles, and went home. It wasn't my best time on a century, and I felt worse when I got home than I have after previous rides, but after 8 hours of sleep last night I'm feeling a little better. My quads and butt are still killing me, so it will be a few more days before I get back on the bike. Just walking up stairs right now is painful.

As for the actual marshaling of the ride, I didn't have too much to do. I answered questions from other riders, most wanting to know how far it was to the next rest stop and how long the entire ride was. One group of riders wanted to know how to skip about 20 miles of the ride and I told them to cut across Corona Park. Another guy had a problem with his back wheel and needed directions to the subway. James supplied his bike pump to a few riders with flats and gave another guy his spare inner tube. We both stopped at a few intersections to point out the turns to other riders, but most of the time we just rode and tried to look like we knew what we were doing. We had a good time as marshals, so we'll probably be back next year to do it again.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

new junk for my desk

We had a "kickoff" meeting for "The BIG Project," the worldwide upgrade to Windows XP and Active Directory (along with a host of other systems) that my firm is starting this fall. There was the usual PowerPoint presentation and a continental breakfast. At the end of the meeting management sent us off with what they called "toys." We each got a 30-oz ceramic coffee mug, a computer-shaped foam stress reliever, and the biggest novelty pen I've ever seen, each item emblazoned with the "BIG Project" logo. I guess they're serious about the "big" theme. The pen is at least 12 inches long, about 3 inches around, and it's so large it's utterly impossible to write with it. I can't wait to bring it to a meeting with the project managers. The coffee mug is a good try, but someone else pointed out that your coffee would get cold long before you could finish it. I'll stick to my Novell mug, even though I dropped it in the office kitchen yesterday, breaking off the handle and cracking the plastic exterior. At least it has a lid.

Here's a picture of my new acquisitions:

I should have included a normal pen in the picture, because I don't think you can accurately gauge the size of the novelty one without it. I'll have to get some oversize sunglasses for the project meetings to go with my pen.

By the way, I hate the name "The BIG Project." I realize that to refer to it by any of its component items (the XP rollout, the Active Directory deployment, the switch to Microsoft SMS, etc.) doesn't reflect that each item depends on the others, but couldn't anyone come up with a better name? And what happens when we have another massive group of projects all coming together at the same time? Will that be "The BIG Project II?" "The BIG Project Strikes Back?" "Revenge of the BIG Project?" I've got a million of 'em, folks. Every one a Maserati.

Yes, you can play with the New York Philharmonic!

I got out my viola for the first time in two years last week. I surprised myself by sounding better on the instrument than I thought I would. Now comes word that the New York Philharmonic will let anyone perform with them. I've always wanted to play Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, and now I'll have that chance. Thanks, NYPhil! I'll start practicing, and I'll see you in November!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Two opinions of New Orleans

Bill Simmons' column today is a reflection on his visit to New Orleans three years ago for the Super Bowl. I liked his idea for another column that New Orleans had overtaken Las Vegas as the party headquarters for America. I've been to both places, and I'd have to agree that pre-Katrina NO was more fun than Vegas. But just by a hair. LV has its own charms.

And because I feel like re-running it, here's my recap of our New Year's Eve trip to New Orleans from nine months ago. Liz and I had such a good time and we were looking forward to going back. I'll say it right now: we WILL go back once they've gotten back on their feet down there. I can't wait to have another muffaletta from Central Grocery and some coffee and beignets from Cafe du Monde again.

Katrina's aftermath and the thoughts of WonkDad

There's nothing I can say about the situation in New Orleans and Mississippi that hasn't already been said. I can't look at any more pictures of the disaster or read any more stories with bad news. The government needs to get some help to those people NOW. The "Today" show showed footage of the NO convention center and the cameraman who got the video said he was there with Harry Connick, Jr. If Harry Connick can get there, why can't relief workers get food and water to those people?

Wonkette's father (WonkDad) posted this bit of commentary that sounds about right. Why is the president talking about helping people when he could just land his helicopter at the Superdome or the airport and actually pitch in for a photo op? As I recall, he visited Ground Zero just a day or two after the 9/11 attacks despite security concerns. And his approval rating after his impromptu speech to relief workers was sky-high -- even I sort of liked the guy after that. I realize things on the ground in New Orleans are much more volatile then New York was back then, but even so it's a Republican opportunity for major political gain that they're missing completely.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

lots of catching up to do

Has it really been a week since I posted something? Oy vey, I've been busy. For the past two days at work I've been in a conference room with two Microsoft engineers reviewing our Active Directory environment. It was equal parts analysis, education, and quiz, and by the end of yesterday I felt like my head had been squeezed in a vise. Today wasn't as bad, as I rounded up a few other people from our office to answer questions. Now we have to fix the things they identified as broken or misconfigured, and wait for their final report in a few weeks.

On Sunday I rode the marshals' pre-ride for the NYC Century. I skipped the Bronx part of the route but still put 86 miles on the bike. The ride route is different from last year, as it goes out to the Rockaways for the first time that I know of. Despite some rain at the beginning and end of the ride I really enjoyed the course and I'm excited about riding it again on Sept. 11. I'm a little apprehensive about being a marshal but I think I can handle it. The only part that really worries me is whether I'll be able to finish the entire 100-mile course in 12 hours. Marshals are supposed to take it easy and ride slowly, and if I have to stop too many times or ride too slowly, I'll run the risk of not getting back to the Central Park start/finish line by 6 PM. But my worst century time was 13 hours, and that was three years ago when I wasn't as fit as I am now. In 2003 I managed the century in just under 11 hours, so I should be able to do the ride this year in 12 hours.

Finally, the cell phone saga is over. Last Wednesday I decided to take the plunge again and I bought another Nokia 6620 from eBay, from a vendor in Queens. The phone arrived on Friday evening and doesn't seem to have any problems with it. I bought a Bluetooth adapter yesterday and last night I was happily synching information between my phone and my home PC. My only real complaint is that the built-in ringtones suck ass. I'm using the "desk phone" ringtone right now because there isn't a decent musical one in there. Since the phone doesn't appear to accept MP3 ringtones, I'll either have to buy one (which I hate, as they cost more than songs on iTunes) or figure out how to make one on my computer. But otherwise, it's great. Now I can post my cameraphone photos to my blog again, something I haven't been able to do since I got rid of the Treo 600 in January.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

MD weekend report

Readers who check the Photos link obsessively might have noticed already that there are many new photos available now. I've posted pictures from the Pittsburgh trip a few weeks back as well as some photos from last weekend in Baltimore and Bowie. Read on for the details of my brief visit with my family.

I took the train to Baltimore on Saturday morning and my brother met me at the station. The plan was to go straight to the B&O Railroad Museum, but we were a bit early (or my father was running late) so we went to my brother's apartment first. He showed me some pictures from his two-day trip with my dad and our cousin Gibson (visiting from London) to Strasburg and Scranton, PA and filled me in on Gibson's eccentricities (i.e. "he's a complete nutter"). More on that later. Shortly thereafter we went to the museum and met up with my father and stepmother. Gibson, they said, was already exploring the museum's collection of locomotives and rolling stock, so I'd have to wait a while longer to meet him. (I guess I should have mentioned earlier that I'd never met Gibson before, despite three trips to London in the past five years.) We finally caught up with him in the roundhouse, which he was just passing through on his way to take pictures of the train cars outside the museum.

The B&O Museum consists of an old railroad roundhouse, several train platforms, a train car repair shop (closed for renovations and due to reopen next month), and a few hundred locomotives, train cars, and other assorted railroad equipment. The roundhouse's roof collapsed during the blizzard of February 2003, and the museum itself was closed for 22 months while the roof was repaired and some of the damaged exhibits were restored. The roundhouse holds about a dozen steam locomotives of various sizes and types, and several other old train cars used for baggage, passengers, mail, etc. Outside, on the platforms and in the parking lot, they have the more modern diesel-electric locomotives and newer examples of train cars. There's an excellent glassed-in HO scale model railroad in one of the old train cars. I got a few pictures of that where the glass didn't reflect too badly. Outside the museum, in the parking lot itself, sits one of the locomotives for the 1976 America's Freedom Train, which toured the lower 48 states as part of the bicentennial. It's hidden between two other rows of train cars and is in terrible shape. You can see the Great Seal and some graffiti written on it in a few of my pictures. Gibson was disappointed in the museum as a whole (not enough steam locomotives) and in particular by the condition of the Freedom Train. But I learned all sorts of things about steam trains during my visit and found out firsthand just how much of a freak my cousin is when it comes to trains.

Now a few words about Gibson. He's my father's first cousin; his mother and my grandfather were siblings. He's in his sixties and teaches music at a school in England. He's been a fanatic about trains for most of his life, and knows more than I could imagine anyone knowing about the subject. He'd never been to America before now, and he came with a list of things he wanted to see and do, nearly all of which were train-related. He and my father and either my stepmother or brother (depending on the trip) went as far south as Roanoke, VA and north to Scranton, PA to various train museums and exhibits. On these trips, he would disappear for up to an hour, photographing trains. He wanted my father to pull off the road at one point so he could get a picture of a tar-laying road work machine. When he got back to my dad's house, he buried his nose in my dad's collection of train books, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else. Yes, he's a bit odd, but he's family, and quite pleasant if you don't mind all the train stuff.

Back to the weekend recap: We went back to Bowie for a steak dinner at my father's house. The steaks and vegetables were delicious, but we had to eat quickly because we had to get to a church in Glen Burnie for my brother's string orchestra concert. He's a member of several orchestras in the greater Baltimore area, and this one is a summer string orchestra comprised of members of various other groups. For a summer group having played only a dozen rehearsals, it was a good concert. They played a Mozart divertimento, a few string suites (including a piece that everyone recognizes as the DeBeers diamond commercial music), and a Vivaldi guitar concerto. Gibson is a music teacher and accomplished pianist and organist, and he loved the concert. Afterwards, he introduced himself to the conductor, the church organist, and a few of the performers. Somehow we were among the last to leave, and I'm sure that Gibson wouldn't have noticed if he'd been locked in the church accidentally.

On Sunday morning Gibson practiced the piano for about two hours, playing Bach, Chopin, Schumann (I think), and a few pieces of his own. The impromptu concert reminded me of my grandfather's practice sessions when we visited my grandparents in England in 1989, and the music was just wonderful to hear. Over lunch we shared stories of crazy conductors and performers we knew, like my old college music director Patricia and musicians in the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra back home. It was a quick trip, but completely worth the effort to meet Gibson and get to know him a little. Next time I'm in London I'll have to get in touch with Gibson and treat him to a good meal (ah, the privileges of business travel).

Best Engadget post EVER

Take a trip all the way back to 1985 with Engadget. My favorites items are the Commodore 128 (I still want one, 20 years later) and the Tapecast. I think I may have recorded some tapecasts back in the day. And maybe I should look on eBay for a Nokia Mobira Talkman to solve my cellphone problem. It only weighs 11 lbs!

Friday, August 19, 2005

cell phone saga update

I returned the defective phone for a refund. The seller was willing to send me another one but wasn't sure if he had any in stock. Rather than draw out this ordeal any further (at least with this vendor in LA) I opted to get all of my money back. Except for the $10 I spent to ship the bad phone to California, but I got back the cost of the phone and the shipping. So all is well on that front. Meanwhile, I'm back to square one. I did find another eBay vendor who has a store in Long Island City just across the river and has the same Nokia 6620 phones in stock. There are other stores in Manhattan that sell unlocked phones but their prices are $100-$200 more than I paid in this auction. So I guess it's still eBay or nothing. I'm going out of town for the weekend so it looks resolution will have to wait a few days more.

Monday, August 15, 2005

life update; weekend report

Work has kept me busy lately, so that accounts for the lack of posts. (Work is always a convenient excuse.) I've also had a few really crappy days lately, so I've avoided posting because no one wants to hear how pissed off I am at the forces arrayed against me. The eBay cell phone purchase is one such source of aggravation, and I'm hoping against hope that I'm not getting taken for a long, slow ride to the land of disputed purchases. The phone I received on Friday didn't ring, at least not audibly, and the speakerphone didn't work either. This afternoon I sent it back to the vendor for a replacement. However, there's a minor issue with the address I used for shipping, and the phone number he gave me for "customer service" is disconnected. All signs point to trouble ahead, but I'm giving this guy and his 99% feedback rating on eBay the benefit of the doubt. At least I still have a working phone (knocks on wood).

The boss is out in training this week, and so far things have been easier than expected, but I doubt that will keep up. I'm nominally in charge of my group this week, but all that means is that I'm the point man for any major issues that come up, like irate partners, major equipment failures, and rollout troubles. Lucky me.

Liz and I had a fantastic time on Saturday celebrating our 10th anniversary as a couple. We had a picnic in Carl Schurz Park near our apartment, with homemade chicken salad, cheese, fruit, and bread. It was fun despite the brutal heat -- at least we had a breeze where we were sitting. That evening we went to Morton's for steaks. I chose Morton's in part because it's one of our favorite fancy restaurants and we hadn't been there in at least a year. I also chose it because it was one of the first restaurants we went to after we had graduated from Georgetown and had the money to afford it (or the credit card to charge it). The Morton's in Georgetown looks mysterious, like a secret club, and it was a big deal for us to be able to eat there and feel like real adults. Unfortunately, we ate there on a Friday evening after work and before a National Symphony Orchestra concert. After eating bread, appetizers, steaks, and sides (I think we skipped dessert that time) we had a tough time staying awake through the concert. (It wasn't until a few years later that we figured out it made more sense to skip the huge fancy meal before a concert and just eat something sensible. That way, we were able to enjoy the concerts instead of counting the movements until the end.) But that first Morton's meal was amazing, and last Saturday's was no disappointment. Instead of my usual porterhouse, I tried their new Chicago-style ribeye, and it was as delicious as the porterhouse. The upside-down apple pie dessert was no slouch, either. That ought to hold us until our next visit, sometime in 2006 or 2007.

Yesterday we checked out the Mapplethorpe exhibit at the Guggenheim, and we really enjoyed it. It's a juxtaposition of his photos and classical drawings of the human figure. If all you know of Mapplethorpe is his controversial works like the cruxifix in urine, this exhibit is worth seeing. Liz was upset that the museum has posted signs saying "Please be advised that this exhibit contains graphic nudity," arguing that no European museum would think it necessary to post such a notice. I tend to agree, but I don't think that Europe is as litigious a place as the U.S. Without the signs, I'm sure the museum would be subject to all sorts of lawsuits from idiots who were shocked (SHOCKED!) to find nudity in an art museum. Yes, we're a nation of dumbasses.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pittsburgh trip review

We left for Pittsburgh on Thursday morning, August 4, around 9:30 in our rented Mazda. We had hoped to get as far as Harrisburg before stopping for lunch, but traffic and hunger dictated that we stop at the first Cracker Barrel we found in Pennsylvania. We had an even longer accident-related delay near Somerset, when a nasty multiple-car wreck stopped all westbound traffic on the PA turnpike for 45 minutes for us. We finally got to Pittsburgh about 7 PM and found our way to Todd and Kitten's apartment on the North Side of Pittsburgh, near PNC Park. They live in a great loft in the School House, an old middle school converted to apartments. We had dinner at a restaurant across the street from their building and Liz had the job of keeping all plates, silverware, and glasses out of the reach of their 15-month-old son Hunter.

On Friday we went to the Mattress Factory, Andy Warhol's one-time workspace and now a showcase for room-sized art environments. One exhibit was a funhouse mirror-like room in black light, another mirrored room had mannequins covered in large red dots, and the works by James Turrell were light- and darkness-based, exploring the boundary between what we see and what is real. Check out the descriptions on the site. That evening, we went to a seafood restaurant on Mount Washington, which overlooks the city from the hills to the south. We had a fantastic view of the downtown skyscrapers and new stadiums, and enjoyed some amazing fish. I had a blackened Cajun-style mako shark steak, which was like a firmer, moister salmon. Hunter was the hit of our section, and had several members of the wait staff fawning and cooing over him. He even tried to pick up the check at the end of the meal, but somehow had forgotten his wallet.

We drove out to Mount Lebanon to see the house Todd and Kitten are in the process of buying, and to check out their new neighborhood. On the way back we stopped at Primanti Brothers to pick up sandwiches for lunch. I hadn't enjoyed one of their creations for a few years, and eating the cheesesteak sandwich was like tasting a little bit of Heaven. I felt like a pig when I was done, but it was a glorious sensation. Partly because of the heat, and partly because of the torpor induced by so much meat and French fries, we decided to stay in for the rest of the afternoon. My mother arrived just in time for dinner, which was Todd's now-famous enchiladas and pico de gallo.

We went to a German pub for Sunday brunch. The buffet was an assortment of typical breakfast foods (sausage, bacon, eggs, pastries, etc.,) as well as some sort of German farmer's breakfast (eggs, three kinds of sausage, and German potato salad all in the same dish), beef stroganoff, chicken parmigiana, and potato latkes. The other notable aspect of the meal was the endless loop of German oom-pah music, which reminded me of some of my father-in-law's favorite cassettes and made me want to put on lederhosen and dance around like Clark Griswold in European Vacation.

The real highlight of Sunday was the Pirates-Dodgers game at PNC Park. I hadn't been to the new Pirates stadium before, so I was understandably excited all weekend at the idea. I wasn't disappointed. PNC Park lives up to its reputation as one of the best ballparks in baseball. The stadium faces the downtown skyline, so fans get to see the beauty of Pittsburgh's buildings and bridges just over the outfield fences. We had seats about 30 rows up from the Pirates dugout, just under the upper deck, so we were in the shade for the entire game. But the sightlines were excellent, and we didn't suffer at all for not sitting out in the open. We were just a few seats too far over to catch any foul balls, which was probably a good thing since I would have had to sacrifice my camera to snag one. The concourses are wide, the bathrooms plentiful, and the lines at the many concession stands blissfully short. I had to wait about 10 minutes for hot dogs during the 7th-inning stretch, but that was because everyone in front of me wanted ice cream and the soft-serve machine was slow. The game itself was a disappointment, though. The pitcher subbing for the injured Kip Wells gave up four or five hits in the top of the third inning, and the Dodgers may have batted around -- after the Pirates pulled him for Ryan Vogelsong I got up to get some drinks and missed the rest of the half inning. Down 6-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates did mount a brief comeback against the Dodgers closer (the forgettable Yhency Brazoban), but ultimately couldn't finish them off, and the game ended 6-4. But we did enjoy the pierogi race in the fifth inning, and I appreciated the lack of other loud between-innings music and entertainment. And I even liked the fans sitting around us, even the loudmouth drunk lady who kept shouting at her companions next to her. At least we didn't get any profanity like we've heard at games here in New York. Since Hunter is too young to appreciate it (or care), I got to take home the day's giveaway: a ceramic bobblehead doll of Cheese Chester, one of the participants in the pierogi race. It's now on my desk at work, next to my Chuck Tanner statuette.

We decided to try to get home earlier on the way back, so we left at 8 AM instead of the planned 9 AM departure. We had to drive through rain nearly the entire way back, but luckily there were no accidents or traffic delays. We dropped off the rental car around 3 PM and went home to three cats who were happy to see us.

I'll have pictures posted as soon as I get a free moment to get them online. There are a lot of game photos, so I'll have to pick out the best ones.